A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Of Polls, Politics, and Christianity

I read the other day that “The Passion” has just come out on DVD and is doing well. One of the more striking things about the Republican convention was how muted the Christianity was in it. Word on the street is that this was quite deliberate and designed essentially to broaden the Party’s appeal.

I’m a great believer in Truth in Packaging and I think this did everyone a disservice. We need to remember the pertinent facts of the country we all live in. So I'll pass this on for what it's worth, because it seems to me to be a nice snapshot of the real interaction of politics, Christianity, and America.

I am a Buddhist of 25 years standing. I am also a registered Democrat. And, to make some needed money, I worked the polls at the last primary election as a Democratic election judge.

For the entire morning my fellow poll workers (nice retired folks, as it happens, well acquainted with one another, and not one of the scapegrace unemployed baby boomers such as myself) had a lively discussion of how moving and how sacred "The Passion" was. Of course, when I put down the Buddhist book I'd been reading to pass the empty minutes and started to go to lunch, one of the good Christian (and Republican) poll workers happened to pick it up and immediately dropped it as if it were on fire.

Nobody bothered to ask me anything about it, and the discussion of Mel Gibson's magnum opus stopped rather abruptly, I thought. Later in the afternoon, the Republican head of our team had an entertaining, and quite audible, confab with one of the voters about how the gays and the Democrats were "going too far" in San Francisco and Massachusetts.

This is, of course, a major and well-known legal no-no in a polling place, but since, as far as I could see, nobody's vote was in any way affected, it seemed impolite to challenge it. I did, however, follow the discussion with avid interest, keeping my eyes on the participants all the while.

This politeness seemed to pay off. I received, at the end of the day, very hearty and explicit wishes and hopes from my peers that I wouldn't be economically constrained to return to poll working in November.

Thinking about it later I was struck by how many Americans, usually, but not always, Christian and, more than occasionally, Republican, give one the impression that they regard the views they hold as the only ones possible for sane and moral people.

From the vantage point of those of us with other views, it is a habit which is rather unflattering to the people who have it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

TO: Joseph Marshall
RE: Volunteer Poll Judging

Susan did that this last primary. She'll be doing it for the general election too.

Generally a somewhat tiresome and usually thankless job, as I see it. So let me offer my thanks for your contribution to keeping this place going like it should be. It's that sort of volunteerism that is essential for all of us and all too often passed by in favor of watching worthless activities on the boob tube.

RE: Polling Place Activity Violations

You should probably drop a note to the County Clerk (or whomever does this sort of thing where you live) about what you observed, suggesting that they get a hand-out ready explaining such violations to all the judges who will participate in the coming general election.

RE: Christians Views

"Thinking about it later I was struck by how many Americans, usually, but not always, Christian and, more than occasionally, Republican, give one the impression that they regard the views they hold as the only ones possible for sane and moral people." -- Joseph Marshall

As I was alluding to on another thread, wherein lies the Truth?

Is there a spiritual level to this world that most do not, cannot and/or will not perceive? If so, what are the implications to the 'sanity' and 'morality' of those people? Would they not be akin to the Flat Earthers?


P.S. Care to place a little wager?

1:31 PM  
Blogger dymphna's double said...

Followed your link over from "One Hand"--I've been searching for a civil liberal and it looks like you fit the bill.

I share your experience re: Christian complaceny, or perhaps, spiritual condescension when they find themselves in the company of those who do not agree with their theology or politics. However, the better part of valor for me is to avoid discussion at all with liberals, churched or otherwise. More times than I care to remember I've found myself treated to long explanations about why my supply-side beliefs are not only wrong, but also immoral. These monologues frequently take place at church councils.

Should I persist in preferring my own intellectual constructs I will get the same argument, spoken slower and louder, as though they were forced to save a deaf, recalcitrant child whose native tongue was not English and whose soul was in peril.

Sadly, many of these people are clergy. And it is they who initiate these turns in conversation. As a conservative, I would never assume that the person I'm talking to agrees with me on matters political. The country is too polarized to think this could be the case. When the Presiding Bishop of my denomination said, shortly after 9/11, that Bush made him ashamed to be an American I knew from whence came this clerical imperviousness. Like most ecclesial issues, it's a top-down problem.

The large mistake that modern Christianity,the left and the right,has made in this century is to impugn bad motives to those with whom they disagree. God is not on their side; God has no sides, no top, no bottom, etc.

I'm not a big fan of Bush. However,being Irish,I'll stick with the devil I know. I like his tax cuts;I abhor his spending. Kerry would seem to want to reverse the former and increase the latter, so my vote this time is the(not)Kerry choice.

For the reasons stated above, I predict a Bush win. One can only hope (and pray)that the defeat is large enough to drag the Democratic party back to center, shedding its more extreme factions and fractions as it goes.

12:34 PM  
Blogger Joseph Marshall said...

"Is there a spiritual level to this world that most do not, cannot and/or will not perceive?"

My Buddhist teachers tell me that there are indeed many more "levels" to the world than we happen to perceive here in what they call the "human realm". But they assert that no one of them is more "spiritual" than another.

We have human perception because of the accumulation of karma that causes us to be reborn as human. Devas (translate it roughly as "angels") have deva perception because of their accumulation of karma to be so. Pretas (translate it roughly as "hungry ghosts") live in a preta realm for the same reasons. And so forth.

Strictly speaking, all beings live in the same basic universe, which is, as my teachers call it, "self-existingly sacred". But because of their vast accumulated confusion about it, they all see it in different forms and most of them can't see most of it at all.

Buddhist ethics assert that it takes ethical action done with the right attitude to clear away that confusion and attain, first, "basic insight" and, eventually, "complete enlightment".

Only a completely enlightened being can see the whole picture but as one's "insight" develops much more can be perceived than is normally accessible to our ordinary senses.

Now I, personally, can claim no permanent "basic insight". But virtually every serious Buddhist practitioner occasionally has temporary glimpses of what that insight might be like, and develops confidence in practice from it.

3:02 PM  
Blogger Joseph Marshall said...

"These monologues frequently take place at church councils."

Well, I can see why you would find it a bore. It seems to be that Christ was perfectly clear about politics when He spoke about "rendering unto Ceasar the things that are Ceasar's" and that "my Kingdom is not of this world." Essentially, I think, He didn't care as long as one followed God's will personally.

From the Buddhist perspective, at least, a just and good ruler or government is one who encourages ethical behavior in the governed and, particularly, religious behavior in the religious, whatever religion they practice. And my teachers would assert that there is considerable latitude in how that might take place.

They are Tibetan and they have been wholly positive about the value of "freedom", particularly in the context of American Buddhism, since, until a few years ago, virtually all of us Buddhists born in America are converts from other views.

3:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

TO: Joseph Marshall
RE: Buddhist Insights

Thanks for the information. I know someone in town here that is a professing Buddhist, but I've not had a chance to get him drunk and ask him questions. Well...maybe not drunk....

At any rate, regarding 'spiritual levels' and 'enlightentment' and lions and tigers and bear...oh my.

Out of curiosity, what do Buddhists understand about 'demons' and 'angels' and 'God' and 'prophecy'?


P.S. Feel free to take this off-line if you wish; cbpelto@pcisys.net.

5:43 PM  

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