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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

What A Mess

Monday, June 27, 2005

In two 5-4 split decisions, the Supreme Court today upheld the constitutionality of a Ten Commandments display on the grounds of the Texas State Capital, but rejected as unconstitutional a similar display in county courthouses in Kentucky. The thinking seems to be that these kinds of decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis, with the determination being made in each case as to whether or not such a display violates the "doctrine" of church/state separation. The court found that the Texas display does not violate that ideal, but that the Kentucky display does; one is on the grounds of the state capital building (i.e., a legislative building), and the other is in a courthouse (a judicial building).

Let me get this straight: it's okay for lawmakers to be swayed by the Judeo-Christian morality of the Ten Commandments, but not for judges?

Ultimately, I'm less interested in the public and political fallout of the decision than I am in the response of churches and church leaders. And here is mine: I don't care.

The state can decide what it wants to do with the country's religious and moral heritage as it wishes. As the church, I don't think that should be our main concern. There is much more important work given the church to do (telling the good news of the gospel, defending the powerless, caring for the poor) than assuring that its' doctrinal underpinnings are recognized and respected across the culture.

The argument for the constitutionality of the displays holds that the U.S. was founded upon "Christian principles," and that the order of our society depends upon the propagation and enshrining of those principles into the fabric of our common life. I think that's nonsense. Apart from being historically suspect (which "Christian principles?"), the view is just bad theology, and it demonstrates conservative Christianity's captivity to modern, Enlightenment thinking: God is the great issuer of principles, principles which, when put into practice, produce certain desireable results for individuals and societies, namely a stable social order.

But when I read the Bible I encounter a God who does relatively little principle-issuing and a great deal more creating, calling, shouting, and saving. And what is most striking, I find, is that Jesus, the centerpiece of the Biblical story of God's relationship with humanity, seemed conspicuously unconcerned about such things as "social order." In fact, the people he most vehemently condemned were those people for whom strict observance of principles in the name of social order was a controlling law.

God is bigger than your six-foot monument to your country and its' heritage. Go tell someone about Jesus or go buy food for a destitute family. And get over it.
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 9:30 AM | link | 3 comments |

A Brave New Feature

Thank you, blogger, for allowing me now to simply upload pictures onto my blog. Just for the kick of it, here's one, a picture of the front of Meredith's and my new apartment building:
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 8:32 AM | link | 1 comments |

My Big Debut

Sunday, June 26, 2005

A couple of months ago, the editorial board at the Kansas City Star put out a call for people to join an "advisory panel," made up of citizens. The panel, they said, would advise the paper's editorial board on which issues were of most pressing concern to the local community.

I applied, with about 400 other people. I didn't get it.

But what I did get as a consolation prize was the opportunity to participate in a List Serve with the editorial board. Here's how it works: someone from the editorial staff sends out an email to the list, asking for people's opinions on any given issue. People write back. Then the paper picks the responses they want to publish.

The first email solicited input on UMKC, that is, the University of Missouri's Kansas City campus. Kansas City civic leaders (and donors) have been squawking about wanting more "local control" of the university. I have a friend who is on the Residence Life staff at the university, and he told me it was a bad idea. So that's what I responded with. Two sentences: UMKC separating from the MU system is a bad idea.

And--ta-da!!--here it is (registration required).

Before you read it, an admission: the statement that UMKC already enjoys more local control in Kansas City than the suggestion to sever the school from MU suggests is made with absolutely no factual evidence with which the writer might support it. The sentence sort of produced itself, and it represents my vague sense of things from having known a guy who works in Residence Life there.

Does that lack credibility? Anyway, enjoy it.
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 8:04 AM | link | 0 comments |

Jagged Little Somethin'

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

During my freshman year in college, Alanis Morisette burst on the music scene with her album "Jagged Little Pill." The record made a huge splash in the lives of EVERYONE in my peer group. The angst! The conviction! That voice! "Jagged Little Pill" holds a special place, I believe, in the annals of rock history, because it was the first album by a female vocalist to successfully combine "I-don't-give-a-*^$#" lyricism with pop melodies and hooks, thus producing a staggering commercial success. Nothing Morisette has done since that record have quite measured up.

Well now, check this out. The Canadian ballad-basher has run afoul of one of her biggest retailers, HMV Canada. Due to an agreement Morissete made with Starbucks to sell her re-recorded release of "Jagged Little Pill" exclusively at their coffeeshops for six weeks before selling it anywhere else, HMV Canada has pulled all--read that again: ALL--of Morisette's records from the shelves of their stores. They feel betrayed, it seems.

I have long been uncomfortable with the Starbucks music trend. The coffee behomoth's excursions into the musical world have been pioneering in the field of atmospherics, the employment of specific sensory triggers in order to create positive consumer associations. But this, I think, is the first time that an artist--from Cheryl Crowe to Sting to Tony Bennet--will get burned by their complicity in Starbucks' atmospherics.

The irony of the whole thing is unmistakable: the voice of teen and young adult independence and angst, of anti-status-quo and anti-establishment bravado, has touched off a corporate war. Maybe Alanis could re-write "One Hand in My Pocket" with this last new closing lyric: "I've got one hand in my pocket/and the other one is sipping a latte."

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 7:02 AM | link | 2 comments |

Bolivian Bust-Up

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

They're protesting in the streets of Bolivia. One president is out, and another is on his way in. Ongoing protests have forced the resignation of President Carlos Mesa, and, with his Constitutional successor, Senate President Homrando Vaca Diez, prepared to assume the office, protesters are trying to force him out too--before he even gets in.

My interest in this story lies not in the protestors themselves, or even in the things that they want (there is widespread anger at U.S. backed economic policies known as "The Washington Consensus," all of which amount to a series of free-market reforms). Rather, my interest in this story is the irony. Here and elsewhere, a traditionally "un-democratic" country has been democratically reformed by the U.S., only to have an eventual disillusionment with U.S. policies lead to a very democratic renunciation of those policies. The people are taking matters into their own hands in order to reject (one protest leader openly said that they "would not allow" Vaca Diez to take office) the interests of the most democratic country in the world.

One must, on some level, conclude that the protesters are doing what they are doing largely because democratic reforms have enabled them to do it. Which brings us to the irony: within the borders of the U.S., the world's greatest democracy, citizens are taking things into their own hands less-and-less, and putting decisions into the hand of political and corporate "professionals" more-and-more.

I mean, think about that statement by the protest leader: "We will not allow them to take power." Under what circumstance can you imagine an American citizen, particularly an American citizen under the age of 35 swearing to "not allow" the government to do something--and be taken seriously by that government?

Please, tell me. I want to know.
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 9:54 AM | link | 0 comments |

Ari's Alright

Thursday, June 02, 2005

I am no partisan, especially not a Republican partisan, so it may come as a bit of a surprise when I admit what I'm about to admit: I used to have a serious man-crush on Ari Fleischer.

The crush was at its' worst in the days and weeks immediately following the September 11th attacks, when his was the face you most routinely saw on television, his the face of calm and reassurance. I expressed the crush to some friends at the time, saying, "I just love this Ari Fleischer guy. He's made me think that my dream job would be White House Press Secretary."

Well, life being what it is (and man-crush's being what they are), everything settled down after awhile, and I pretty much forgot about Ari. Then yesterday, in the public library, I spotted his stoic-yet-smarmy face on the cover of a book--his book: Taking Heat. I immediately grabbed it and checked it out, taking it across the way to Chipotle, where I would read the first few chapters over a burrito.

The book isn't good. It's heavily-biased commentary, full of pot-shots and double speak. The press has, of course, murdered it. But that won't stop me from reading it. If only to get the inside track on how one performs the job of Press Secretary (just feel the dignity of that title!) , pinching out particles of information to a ravenous press, intoning always about "The President," who's very voice you are.

In the last couple of months I have developed a new Press Secretary crush, this one fictional. The difficulty, it appears to me, is that there's relatively little difference between my crush on Ari Fleischer, who, despite what critics say about him, appears to be mostly real, and my crush on C.J. Cregg of the West Wing, who is most certainly fictional. But why would there be? In the world of television (which is the exclusive provence of the Press Secretary), who gets to say what's "real" anyway?


posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 4:08 AM | link | 2 comments |