Monday, July 27, 2009

Prof. Gates and The Man

I find it interesting the hoopla that is surrounding the arrest of Professor Gates in his own home. For the record, I am by and large, a very law abiding citizen, and believe in being deferential to everyone I come in contact with. I am also a product of a very American white middle class sensibility, and even though feel that I have an educated knowledge of the “other,” my academic knowledge can never be translated into the heart pumping, sweat inducing fear, that is often the constant companion to those who find themselves on the other side of the tracks throughout American history.

That being said, do I think this arrest was about race? Yes and no. Firstly my initial inclination is toward yes, namely because if the Cambridge police came to check out a reported “break in” and found Timothy F. Geithner in the same position, the situation would probably have never escalated. Yet, I say no, because I don’t believe that once the Cambridge police found out that Professor Gates was the owner of the home, he would have been arrested, if, and this is the key, if he would have showed the proper deference. This, to me, is disconcerting to me on a number of levels.

Let me diverge from this particular situation, and reflect upon something that I have been ruminating on about for awhile, and have only recently been brought into focus with the recent arrest of Professor Gates. I was lounging around one Saturday flipping through the stations on my television when I happened upon a spring break version of cops. This episode took place on a lake in Arizona and consisted of a plethora of drunk, scantily clad spring breakers, blowing off some steam whilst boating. The show was entertaining in that it showed how uneducated the American college spring breaker really is, and how it must suck to be a cop who is charged with maintaining safety and order in such a chaotic situation. But over and over again, the editing of the show, focused on the lack of deference that was given to the cops on patrol, with those who showed deference were treated nicely, and those who did not show deference being verbally roughed up a bit, to the camera’s delight. There were funny moments, don’t get me wrong, one of the funniest was when a teen, tried to disallow the police from boarding his vessel, as if he was asserting some sort of seafaring law he had read in Sea Wolf and thought that it actually had legal bearing. This unlucky chap was hauled off and arrested for something…, the only discernible crime to the viewer was his utter lack of deference. This whole episode was made even more interesting because the Officers could have arrested everyone on the lake for either public intoxication, or underage drinking, but those that ended up making the final edit were those who by and large refused the officer deference. Now, let me be real clear here, I am in no way trying to equate the Gates incident with the drunken spring breakers in Arizona, in Arizona the kids were breaking numerous laws, Professor Gates broke none. The thread that ties these two stories together is thin at best, but I think it highlights an interesting subject.

Now in getting back to the Professor Gates story, I want to be clear that I think civility is key to a well functioning society, but I believe that Socratic questioning is even more important. So when discussing the Gates story, I wish at least part of the public debate would be upon deference, the lack of deference that Professor Gate’s showed the Cambridge police officer, and that Police officers response. If civil servants work for the people in a democracy, should they be able to arrest someone because of a lack of deference? Do the police receive their authority based on public trust or on public fear?

Just thinking out loud…

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Jimmy Carter Leaves Southern Baptist Behind

Looks like Jimmy Carter is leaving the Sothern Baptist Church over there treatment of women...

At their most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.

Full Story Here:

Monday, July 06, 2009

Five most important primary sources for my understanding of the Bible.

In no particular order, and in no way to diminish others who have made equally convincing lists, here are the texts (primary sources) that have most influenced my reading of the bible.

1. Enuma Elish: This is great text that details, among other things, the exploits of Tiamut and Marduk. This is one of the ANET that ought to inform any reading of the Hebrew Bible, my work on the divine warfare led me to this text and it completely made me think my rather naive view of the creation myth and the exodus "event".

2. Ugaritic Ba'al Cycle: Like Enuma Elish this text is very important for understanding the gods of the ANE, here the exploits of Yamm and El are detailed, and like Enuma Elish this cycle is key in understanding divine warfare and the exodus event.

3. Galen of Pergamum: On the Passions and Errors of the Soul: This is a key text on the role of the passions written shortly after the time of Paul. This text helped solidify the importance of self mastery and its role in the cultural zeitgeist during and after the time of Paul, not to mention the fact that It is a very entertaining read.

4. Qumran Hymns: Early in my biblical studies education I determined to sit down and read through the dead sea scrolls, it was tedious at times, but the Hymns totally made up for the effort. To this day I often rather mischeviously read, or quote, a hymn in the presence of devote Christians and they always assume that I am reciting one of the Hebrew Psalms...

5. Pseudepigrapha: There are a lot of choice texts in the pseudepigrapha, so if I had to pick just one set of texts I would have to chose the Tales of the Patriarchs (I know I just grouped a bunch of texts together, but it's my list so they are to be considered one text from this point forward :) ). These are key texts in the Sin - Exile - Restoration motif that was present during the Second Temple period.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

What to do on the 4th?


What better way to spend the 4th:

Read some Cornel West: Here

or listen: here (search for Cornel West)

here is a quote:

The question is, as the American democratic experiment has grown old, the challenge is for that experiment to really grow up. James Baldwin used to say that innocence itself is the crime prior to the committing of the concrete crime. And optimism. George Santayana put it so well in his essay on William James. He said, “Americans believe they’re always already on the right track,” so even if they fear they may have done something wrong, like the prison in Iraq, it’s just an abnormal, aberrational thing that couldn’t have anything to do with who we fundamentally are. He says, “Well, you’ve got to check yourself.” That wonderful moment in Melville’s Pierre where he says, “Look at that Christian gentleman dressed so sharp and beautifully, and yet just a few weeks ago he kicked his slave in the head, and three years ago he shot down an Indian.” So you get an Indian annihilator and a slaveholder dressed so smoothly, speaks with such eloquence, hiding and concealing his dark side. You see that in the vanilla suburbs, hiding and concealing the decrepit school systems in chocolate cities, hiding and concealing the inadequate childcare, unavailable health care, shortage of jobs of any quality, and yet still the sugar-coating. That sugar-coating is associated with the optimism.