The Cowardice of Your Convictions

April 26, 2007

I’m going to quote a lot from Paul Harris, a radio host in St. Louis and maybe one of the best radio guys in the country. He’s talking about an upcoming charity event in his town that’s threatening to evolve from a tempest into a full-on kerfuffle:

I’ve said many times that anyone who does something to help sick children is doing something noble. For 19 years, Bob Costas has been raising money for Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center here in St. Louis, with an annual fundraising concert at the Fox Theater. He calls upon his showbiz friends to line up major comedians and musical acts (e.g. Ray Romano, Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno, John Mellencamp, Tony Bennett, Hootie & The Blowfish) and thousands of people show up each year.

This Saturday, the headliners are Billy Crystal and Sheryl Crow.

Today, Archbishop Raymond Burke condemned Sheryl Crow’s participation, calling it a “scandal” that a Catholic hospital would be involved with someone who has publicly expressed her pro-choice position and appeared in ads last year supporting Amendment 2 in Missouri (the stem-cell referendum). Burke is the same religious leader who told Catholics that they shouldn’t vote for John Kerry or any other pro-choice politician.

What if this situation was reversed? Just imagine the reaction if Sheryl Crow announced “I’m not going to do a benefit for a children’s hospital if it’s associated with the Catholic church, because I don’t agree with them on abortion and stem cell research.” She’d be crushed by all the negative publicity, with people asking how she can turn her back on the sick kids and let her political agenda get in the way of helping them. It would make her “one sheet of toilet paper” gaffe seem even less insignificant than it actually was. Is it fair to treat Crow that way for her views, but not Burke?

This is the kind of situation I always think of when somebody says that organized religion is a force for good in the world. What’s really sticking in somebody’s craw here is that someone who disagrees with the church can still be a good person with fine charitable goals.

I’m going to have to give some thought to the difference between the courage of one’s convictions and cowardice in the face of criticism.

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We’re here on Earth to fart around.

April 12, 2007

CNN.com has a nice AP story about the death yesterday of novelist Kurt Vonnegut. I never knew that his mother killed herself, or that he tried to himself in 1984. Vonnegut told AP in 2005 that:

“My father, like Hemingway, was a gun nut and was very unhappy late in life. But he was proud of not committing suicide. And I’ll do the same, so as not to set a bad example for my children.”

There’s very little in the way of an intelligent comment I can make about his death, but I felt I had to acknowledge it.

I did find a lovely quote from him that highlights the way he was always resisting things that dehumanize us all.  The context here was that his wife thought he was silly to go out and make a special trip to buy one envelope:

Oh, she says well, you’re not a poor man. You know, why don’t you go online and buy a hundred envelopes and put them in the closet? And so I pretend not to hear her. And go out to get an envelope because I’m going to have a hell of a good time in the process of buying one envelope. I meet a lot of people. And, see some great looking babes. And a fire engine goes by. And I give them the thumbs up. And, and ask a woman what kind of dog that is. And, and I don’t know. The moral of the story is, is we’re here on Earth to fart around. And, of course, the computers will do us out of that. And, what the computer people don’t realize, or they don’t care, is we’re dancing animals. You know, we love to move around. And, we’re not supposed to dance at all anymore.

And now that Vonnegut’s gone, I’m not sure who to turn to for that kind of observation. There ought to be somebody.


You too can be a name-caller

April 11, 2007

Barbara Ehrenreich at Barbara’s Blog knows why you just don’t talk about people that way:

This doesn’t excuse Imus, because he misses a crucial point: That an insult, used often enough, becomes the exclusive property of the insulted. Take the word “bitch,” as applied to any woman with the guts to offend. At first it stung, but then we appropriated it for ourselves. Elizabeth Wurtzel wrote a feminist book called Bitch, and there’s a feminist magazine of the same name. I can call my sister “bitch” in a jokey, tough-gal, way. But you can’t call her that, not if you’re a guy, unless you want to step outside with me.

In other words, in a normal social context, it matters who the remark came from.  By the same token, Chris Rock or Dave Chappelle can make jokes that Imus or Leno or Letterman absolutely cannot make.  That’s not unfair, it’s just a question of keeping your footing on the marshy ground of social interaction.

But people who have too much money or status and too little contact with what’s going on at street level can fail to understand that.

And speaking as someone who’s getting crankier, older, and (weirdly) whiter by the minute, I’m entirely within the limits of propriety to call Imus a cranky old white guy.


QT and RR together again

April 5, 2007

I had to laugh at the first commercials for Grindhouse
(link points to Rotten Tomatoes review page). They all said “This Film is Not Yet Rated.” Well, hey, you didn’t have to be Jack Valenti to guess what the rating was going to be, assuming that nobody involved was going to let this one into theaters with an NC-17 rating.

Although you can never tell, at the moment GH sports a healthy 87% tomato rating, so maybe it will justify depriving your butt of blood flow for the 3:10 it will take to spool out. It sounds like a consensus to me. One repeating theme in the reviews is that, unfortunately, one of the stories just isn’t as good as the other one. But there’s little agreement over which half is which. It’s anybody’s best guess that they’ll both be good in different ways.


I am so staying out of New York

April 3, 2007

Overheard in New York highlights the heartwarming conversation that follows when “A tourist mom with three teens in tow halts in the middle of the block, causing two suits and several other people to crash into them.”

I won’t reproduce the dialogue here.  Click through if you’re in the mood for a massive dose of Noo Yawk vitriol.  I don’t know how you’d pick which of the participants here are more self-absorbed—the tourists who act like they’re the only ones on the sidewalk, or the “suits” who can’t be bothered to watch where they’re going.  I guess on that count they’re even.  But for me arrogance is a greater sin than momentary cluelessness, and I have to wonder if the suits would have acted the same way if the tourist group had included just one big bruiser of a gentleman who appeared capable of pounding a spoiled stockbroker into a grease stain on the pavement.

I believe anybody who ever lived has plenty of reason to be humble, and that’s why I don’t accept arrogance from anybody.  Not bosses, celebrities, or presidents.

Okay, one other point.  Does New York have anything like traffic ordinances that govern the use of busy sidewalks?  I’ve never heard of such, but after learning about alternate side of the street parking, I’ll believe anything.