Let’s Rumble Virgil Goode

I recently wrote a post about the ascendency of the wussy in American politics. Like most bullies, these quivering mounds of Jello talk tough about chasing down every Amal, Abdul, and Hussien they can find in an attempt to stop “terrer” and avenge the victims of 9/11. But these bullies do it while hiding behind the flag and working hard to immolate or abridge the rights of anyone on the planet who happens to disagree with them.

“Ya better run away you nasty terrist. If’n ya don’t, ah’ll vote the First Amendment rat outa thuh Constitution. That’ll larn ya, ya cutthroat Islamofascist,” they yell in high-pitched and tremolos voices. “I’ll send mah big brother to kick yer Muslim ass,” they scream from an undisclosed location.

These crapweasels would literally shit their pants if faced with an actual Muslim – terrorist or not. The mere sight of a Koran sends them tumbling over a cliff in a mad rush to find a Bible to take cover behind. Yet somehow they believe themselves to be the bravest of the brave. So brave, in fact, they display it by sending other people’s kids off to get killed in a war halfway around the world.

Damn! Now that’s brave! They sure don’t come any braver than that. Real Rocky Balboas these guys are. Texas National Guard members no doubt.

So, meet Virgil Goode, a courageous Virginia Congressman whose pants currently stink with a huge, sopping-wet load because Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison wants be sworn in to Congress on a Koran.

Virgil bravely whined that no Korans be allowed unless used in a “private” ceremony. And while hiding under a pickle barrel, he defended his God-fearing constituents with a cowardly rant about how we need stronger immigration policies to protect us from them damn “Mooslem feriners”?

But Virgil? Funny thing. Ellison is a US citizen – and not one of those naturalized ones you fear so much either. Nope, Ellison was born and bred in Detroit, Michigan. In fact, he was raised Roman Catholic and attended a Jesuit high school as a kid. Oh, and his brother is a Baptist preacher. That’s sounds pretty subversive to me. You simply can’t trust those seditious Catholics and Baptists, especially if they left the bosom of Christ for the arms of Allah.

Ellison sponsored some pretty subversive legislation while serving in the Minnesota House too. Why, he supported involuntary commitment for sex offenders, pushed for DNA testing for criminals, and worked on legislation to keep kids in school. Yup, that’s one scary dude you’re up against there Virge. I can see how he could strike terror into your heart.

Now, I’m no Lou Dobbs on the matter, but I support a stronger immigration policy too, although I’m having a bit of a problem seeing why that has anything to do with a native-born American scaring the bejeebers out of a cracker from the sticks. I support it because I believe we are absorbing immigrants, especially illegal ones, at a rate faster than our infrastructure can cope. I also believe that despite what some would have you believe, some of the jobs being taken could and would be filled with Americans. Simply stated, I want an immigration policy that serves America’s needs first and I’m unapologetic about it.

However, I’m not all about cutting off immigration because I’m afraid a wandering band of Muslims will cut my hands off unless I celebrate Ramadan. I’m not about insisting all immigrants assimilate perfectly into an English-speaking culture because I’m afraid I’ll have to order my hamburgesa en espanol. And I couldn’t care less whether immigrants believe in a Bible, Koran, Torah, or a bag of celery (although I personally favor celery worship because at least you have something healthy to eat after services). I believe that way because that is the way the America I know deals with things. That is the way that a brave America behaves.

But most of all, I’m not afraid of ol’ Virge and his congregation of crapweasels. As far as I’m concerned, they are cowards of the first degree – people who are so afraid of their own shadows they are willing to pull their well-worn asshats down to their ankles in an attempt to hide from a man who wants to put his hand on a book of his own choosing and swear allegiance to the Constitution.

I have but one message for Virgil and all the other lemmings who follow his cowardly rants:

I’d be perfectly happy to come kick your cowardly asses myself. Anytime. Anywhere. No big brothers. No flag to hide behind. No black book for protection. No invisible spirit in the sky. I’ll do it as a proud American citizen who is tired of people like you giving my country a bad name.

Whatta ya say there Virge? Mano a mano? Let’s rumble.

The Gospel of the Universal Messiah

I first began to question the existence of God as an adolescent. My questions started small, but grew bigger and more complex over time. Why was it that no matter how often or fervently I prayed, nothing seemed to happen? Even though I deeply believed, how come I never felt His presence as I’d been taught in Sunday school I would? Why would the benevolent God I’d learned about allow so much suffering and hate in a world he created and supposedly loved? Why did nearly every religion claim to have the inside track on THE God and that unless you believed in THEIR God, you’d never get into heaven? The questions were endless and so was my search for answers.

As each question arose, I studied what the answer might be. Along the way, I read quite a few religious texts – the entire Bible, along with portions of the Torah, Koran, and several others. While I found much good in them and plenty of consistency between the religions about what the answers should be, I almost never found an answer that jibed with my own observations of the world.

At first, I tried squaring what I saw with what the texts laid out. I found that by taking a more universal and amorphous approach I could stretch almost everything I read to somehow cover almost every question I had.

Around that time, I developed a conceptual God I called the Universal Messiah. My messiah was always benevolent. He didn’t allow suffering for anyone, believer or not. Instead of a jealous God who severely punished those who disagreed or believed differently, I wanted to see one who could tolerate discussion that would help people grow and love one another. My messiah listened to prayers and answered them in a clear voice that offered wise advice. My messiah accepted respect rather than commanded it. He was not a God to be feared, but one impossible not to love.

Then, a thought occurred to me. A thought that produced a schism so profound, it led me to not believing at all.

I had managed to create a God in my own image and if I could do that, it seemed to me that people much cleverer than me could do it too. I began to look at the cryptic messages in the religious tomes and realized that’s why the stories were so metaphorical. They were created by men, precisely because they could apply to any situation. I began to believe that perhaps the Bible wasn’t direct from the hand of God, but something concocted by man to help people deal with the harsh realities of life. A life that wasn’t powered by a God, but one that was fallible and sometimes broken.

Suddenly, I saw God as a useful construct to keep people overburdened by a harsh world on their feet. Society and the person needed to keep shuffling through their life, because if they didn’t it meant the death of both. Holding out an eternal reward was the carrot on the end of the theological stick. Something to give people hope in a frequently hopeless world.

Finally, I gravitated to atheism, although a benevolent sort of atheism that’s pretty rare.

I allow for the prospect that I may be wrong. I don’t think so, but it’s happened before. So if I am wrong, I’d like to know that all the people who believe do get their eternal reward. I’d also like to believe that all the evil people who used God as a front man rather than a savior get their just “reward” too.

As for me and my soul, I suppose that will be between God and me. I’ll lay out my case for worthiness and he’ll judge whether I met the requirements. If I get sent down to the firey pits of hell because I didn’t believe, at least I’ll be able to go with a clean conscience. I’ll know that I used my brain, I used my heart, I did my best, and I did it the hard way – without a God to help me through.

I think I can live…make that die, with that.

On Pols and Polls

If there’s anything predictable in politics it’s that when a politician’s numbers go down he’ll decry polls as worthless crap. He’ll poo-poo them as not reflective of anything other than the pollster’s obvious bias. He’ll wax poetic on his ability to make decisions – sound ones, based on only the highest and mightiest of ideals – independent of what the polls indicate. One of the most oft-repeated phrases from the politicalese phrase book is, “I never pay attention to polls. They don’t mean a thing.”

Of course, no one believes that harmless fiction, but does it even have a grounding in truth? Should it?

Most people believe that politicians should make decisions independent of polls. To them, politicians swayed by polls are weak, craven pander bears more worried about their own reelection prospects than the prospects of the electorate. But are they right? Is this just the polled thinking like the politician – the polls disagree with my position, so therefore, they’re wrong?

I’d posit that politicians who follow polls are pretty smart congressional cookies. Polls are a measurement of what the public is thinking, what they are likely to support – and more importantly – what they are likely to reject. Polls quantify ethereal emotions into trends that can help shape and inform policy. Politicians ignore this constant stream of free advice at their own – and the electorate’s – peril. Polls are actually a pretty good way of continuing to refine a policy after it’s already left the barn. It’s certainly better than the finger in the wind method.

Nowhere is this more evident than in El Jefe’s disdain for his poll numbers in Iraq. Over the course of the war, polls show – embarrassingly accurately – how little the public trusts Shrub’s conduct of the war. Rather than listen to this advice, he merely insisted he was right, thereby snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Had he paid a more attention to his tumbling numbers rather than artificially trying to inflate them, he and we would be much better off. When poll numbers look like a hole dug halfway to China, a smart man pays attention. He looks at those numbers and says to himself, “It’s embarrassing, but I must admit that I may be wrong and I’m leading the flock to a place they really don’t want to go. My embarrassment will likely treble if I don’t do something PDQ, because I’m not really leading if nobody’s following. Get me Peter Pace on the blower, will ya?”

I’ll leave it to you to decide if Bubba’s “stay the course” maxim indicates anything about his IQ. I think you’re clear on my opinion.

But a reasonable person could argue that slavish attention to polls may not be the right course either. A good politician can’t jump at every little click in the polls. This is called “chasing the numbers” in business parlance and it is almost never successful. It leads you on counterproductive inconsistencies that end up torpedoing the best of policies. A smart politician interprets the polls. For example, if the polls indicated support for an action that was clearly wrong or skirted the Constitution you’d be ill-advised to follow them. Contrary to popular belief, the public does get what they want sometimes and sometimes they really don’t like it when they do.

In my mind, polls are just one more data point. “Numbers is numbers is numbers,” as they say. Without some honest interpretation of what the numbers mean, framed in the context of what’s best for the country, they can easily lead you astray. At the end of the day, what a politician does or doesn’t do remains a subjective choice. A smart decider hedges the bet and makes better decisions with additional data. A not-so-smart one says, “I never pay attention to polls. They don’t mean a thing.”

Polls are only as good as the politicians who interpret them. They are neither good or bad, they simply are there to listen to or ignore. If I were polled on the question of whether polls were good or bad, my answer would be:

“None of the above, but I sure do wish there were more politicians who could count.”