6.14.2005

creeping theocracy

After reading the New York Times editorial "Zealots at the Air Force Academy", I found this story on Truthout (original from the L.A. Times no longer available).
The Air Force Academy, still recovering from rape and sexual harassment scandals, [Ed note: The Academy is recovering?? How about the hundreds of female cadets who were raped, assaulted, harassed - and then intimidated (and sometimes raped again) when they reported??] is facing charges that some Christian cadets have bullied and berated Jews and students of other religious backgrounds.

School officials said Tuesday they had received 55 complaints over the last few months and were requiring students - and eventually all employees - to attend a course on religious tolerance.

"Some complaints had to do with people ... saying bad things about persons of other religions or proselytizing in inappropriate places," said academy spokesman Johnny Whitaker. "There have been cases of maliciousness, mean-spiritedness and attacking or baiting someone over religion."

About 90% of the academy's 4,300 cadets identify themselves as Christians; the school's commandant, Brig. Gen. Johnny A. Weida, describes himself as a born-again Christian.

Mikey Weinstein, an academy graduate and a lawyer in Albuquerque, said that his son Curtis - a sophomore at the academy - had been called a "filthy Jew."

"When I visited my son, he told me he wanted us to go off base because he had something to tell me," Weinstein said. "He said, 'They are calling me a ... Jew and that I am responsible for killing Christ.'"
If the US military gradually becomes a religious organization, whether officially or surreptitiously... well, it's not hard to imagine some terrifying consequences. Onward Christian soldiers indeed.

24 comments:

Lone Primate said...

It seems to be drifting that way. It wasn't lost on Muslims that the President used the word "crusade" to describe the war on terror early on; not lost on them at all. They know it for what it really is. I'm not saying for a moment there aren't dangerous people in the Middle East, but if there are, it's partly because the West has spent the last two centuries forcing hegemony on the world. I really think the best thing we can do is give people enough space to be themselves and trust that they're not necessarily black-souled maniacs driven to murder us the first time we lift the boot from their throat.

As far as the domestic aspects go, it's really depressing. When I was a kid, I was a big admirer of Martin Luther King, Jr. I still am. I know he had flaws. But to me, he's one of the best human beings the US in particular and humanity in general ever produced. And even though I wasn't American, I was still proud of the progress the US made when it took his example to heart. But it looks these days less like a real change of heart than an effort to tread water against a flood of old prejudices, and folks are getting tired. These things are still around. I even find prejudicial thoughts creeping into my own consciousness sometimes. Maybe that's how it is, and the real issue is do you recognize that and fight down the lies, or do you shrug and wallow in them.

L-girl said...

When I was a kid, I was a big admirer of Martin Luther King, Jr. I still am. I know he had flaws. But to me, he's one of the best human beings the US in particular and humanity in general ever produced.

King is and always will be one of my greatest heroes, a word I don't use lightly. He was one of the greatest Americans that ever lived.

He was not a god, he was a man - which means he was not perfect. His humanity/imperfection shouldn't tarnish what his accomplishments. It might even serve to illuminate them further - the fact that was human, and humans are capable of such greatness.

I've read a lot about King and the civil rights movement, and the more I learned, the more I was awed.

We should never forget that King spoke out vehemently against the Vietnam war. You might want to read what I wrote earlier this year on his birthday (Jan 15). I feel the imagine the US celebrates is not the true King. (Big surprise, eh?)

L-girl said...

In case you're interested, it's here.

Lone Primate said...

There was some interesting stuff going on over there. I did find the discussion of the relative poetic merits of the constitutions interesting. The guys had a point when they said Canada doesn't see itself in the same kind of the mythic terms as the US, but I'd also say that our fundamental documents have been written largely in the recent times when purple prose is considered embarrassing. Yet there are instances that I find evocative.

The one I find most pleasing is a quote from Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, usually found as thematic anchorage at the end of the Canadian Bill of Rights, 1960 (not to be confused with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms). Diefenbaker spoke these words in the House of Commons on Canada Day, 1960:

"I am a Canadian, a free Canadian, free to worship God in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for my self and all mankind."

I love that quote. It manages to be bold and still shows the restaint of humility. It's a statement of the fundamental philosophy of the nation without being a charge to kick ass and take names, and yet one may hear in it resonances of the determination that sent us off to war in 1939 and made us a founding member of the United Nations. It leaves so much open without closing off alternatives; it holds so much. I wish to heaven more Canadians knew it; it's a little nugget of maple gold that could make them proud without being bombastic.

L-girl said...

little nugget of maple gold

Nicely said - and a beautiful quote.

David Cho said...

I've been digging around, though not all that hard, for an objective account of what took place at the Academy and have not been able to find one. All I have seen are accusations and I don't know what constitutes "proselytizing in inappropriate places." If you could locate one, please let me know.

Now the anti-Semitic comments are pretty interesting since Evangelical Christians (AKA born-again) have been ardently pro-Jewish and pro-Israel more so than the American Jews. Most are said to have turned their back on their anti-Semitic past (well, what they won't tell you is that anti-Semitism in the Evanglical Christian community has been replaced by anti-Arab bigotry).

L-girl said...

The article I linked to has accusations as well as the Academy's defense. I think any proselytizing at all would be inappropriate in any place connected with government or military.

While I appreciate that that the Evangelicals you know - or their stated philosophy - is "pro-Jewish", I myself have been the recipient of anti-Jewish sentiments from people who describe themselves as born-again. In my experience, all you have to do is say you're from New York and you hear it. Most of the time the person didn't seem to realize they were being offensive.

Anyone can be anti-semetic, while they believe in any given religion. It's quite common.

RobfromAlberta said...

For comparison, just as the US military is dealing with this problem of religious intolerance, the Canadian military just performed its first gay marriage.

http://www.cbc.ca/story/canada/national/2005/06/14/militarygaywedding0614.html

RobfromAlberta said...

By the way, it's purely coincidence that the base chaplain has the same name as the base.

David Cho said...

Would you say a cadet talking about his faith over lunch with another cadet is inappropriate? I would agree that if an officer talks openly about religion from the podium would be inappropriate, but then again making any statement of opinion (which includes a person's religious and political beliefs) can be deemed inappropriate and it's hard to draw the line.

The point I was making about Evangelicals being "pro-Jewish" is that recently they have gone out of their way to show how they have departed from their anti-Semitic past and as I have shared with you, they have gone completely overboard in many cases. But at the same time, the there still are undercurrents of anti-Semitism still exist. You don't get rid of those things overnight.

It's just that it's hard to believe a 19, 20 year old Evangelical kid would make such anti-Semitic comments which were more common place 40-50 years ago.

David Cho said...

Geez, runon sentences and misplaced nouns, verbs and adverbs.

I need my coffee. See you later.

L-girl said...

"Would you say a cadet talking about his faith over lunch with another cadet is inappropriate?"

Talking about his faith with another cadet who is a willing listener is not inappropriate. Trying to get other people to share his faith (proselytizing) is. When you're non-Christian and on the receiving end, the difference is very clear cut.

"It's just that it's hard to believe a 19, 20 year old Evangelical kid would make such anti-Semitic comments which were more common place 40-50 years ago."

Bigotry should never be hard to believe. It's far too common.

Lone Primate said...

By the way, it's purely coincidence that the base chaplain has the same name as the base.

Or he's really popular. :) Remember that NFB vignette they used to play on CBC where the guys at Fort Lac La Pluie (sp?) were "so overwhelmed by" Lady Francis Simpson "that they renamed the fort 'Fort Francis' in her honour..."

It's funny; it never occurred to me that there'd be gay weddings in the military. You'd think the mentality among the military would still be something like don't-ask-don't-tell no matter how officially legal the matter was. I'm glad to see we've reached this point in our evolution, though.

RobfromAlberta said...

Remember that NFB vignette they used to play on CBC where the guys at Fort Lac La Pluie (sp?) were "so overwhelmed by" Lady Francis Simpson "that they renamed the fort 'Fort Francis' in her honour..."

They probably didn't want the constant reminder of the lousy weather.

Anonymous said...

Good Morning L-Girl

http://www.thetyee.ca/Views/2005/06/13/ToryGodSquad/

Lone Primate said...

CC over at Canadian Cynic blog posted this link. It's to a group that wants a referendum on gay marriage in Canada. They try to be neutral with stuff like "No matter where you stand on same-sex marriage... No matter which side you think would win... Canada needs a national referendum
on the definition of marriage!" But then as you burrow down you see stuff like: "If gay marriage is defeated in a referendum, Parliament should invoke section 33 of the Charter of Rights, which allows it to override the judges' decisions in the eight provinces." So not only are these people interesting in having a vote on rights other people have that in no way impinge on their own, they're quite willing to undermine the Constitution to do so. What's next? Groups who don't think foreign-born citizens should vote? Or women? Or that certain ethnicities shouldn't be eligible for citizenship? Where does the voting on rights finally end? When only fat, middle-aged white men have the vote, I suspect; and after all, isn't that what God intended in this Christian, traditionalist country?

Do we mean what we say? The Constitution is a list of our principles. Does it mean something, or nothing?

Kyle_From_Ottawa said...

I wouldn't worry too much. They're the minority, not the majority (unlike down south).

Besides, it's too late anyway. It's legal in most Canadian juridictions regardless of what Parliament decides.

L-girl said...

They're a minority, and they're a bunch of people with a website. I see no evidence that they're a serious political force.

Obviously if I'm wrong and you do see the evidence, please show me! I'd hate to think we were caught napping.

If I may use "we" meaning we people in Canada! [she says grinning happily]

RobfromAlberta said...

Besides, it's too late anyway. It's legal in most Canadian juridictions regardless of what Parliament decides.

At this point, I would say the real fight is over how much constitutional protection churches will get in new law. The militants might still hold out hope, but people like Stephen Harper and Ralph Klein have been in this game a long time. They know SSM is a done deal. All they can do is put up a brave front for the rank-and-file and come back with iron-clad protection for religious groups. It's politics, same as always.

By the way, Laura, are you familiar with the "notwithstanding" clause in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It represents the only wild card left in the SSM debate.

L-girl said...

By the way, Laura, are you familiar with the "notwithstanding" clause in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It represents the only wild card left in the SSM debate.

Yes, several Canadians have mentioned the infamous notwithstanding clause. I've gotten a few ominous "warnings" about it. The clause, the unelected Senate and the no-term-limits prime ministership, adding up to a fake democracy. They seemed just a tad alarmist to me, but hey, what do I know.

Lone Primate said...

The notwithstanding clause is something I (and I gather Pierre Trudeau) would rather were not in the Constitution, but nevertheless, when one reads it, the balancing act between parliamentary supremacy, a written charter of rights, and judicial review, is striking. What it comes down to is that a given legislature (federal or provincial) may pass a bill giving force to the operation of one of its laws, even if the Charter or the courts make it unconstitutional. But it can only be made against certain sections of the Charter (sections 2, and 7-15), but not others, and there's a time limit on it: five years. It's renewable, but what it means is that that in order for that law to remain in force, the legislature in question has to renew the notwithstanding provision at least every five years, forever. It's clear that changes in ruling parties and the chaffing of the people against the use of the notwithstanding clause -- an unpopular proposition in English Canada -- would probably mean that almost no such provision would last too long. It seems to me to have been designed as a pressure release valve to allow for changes in attitude to evolve to meet the implications of the Charter.

Lone Primate said...

Speaking of which, I always wondered what would happen if a court ruling came down that troubled me. Would I change my tune on the notwithstanding clause?

Green Leader Harris: Invoke Notwithstanding Clause to Save Health Care

Well, not so far. I'm troubled by the potential implications, but I don't agree Quebec should use the clause to get off the hook. If the system needs to be better funded so people have reasonable access, then that's what Quebec has to do. Either that, or open the flood gates. But just hanging up the phone on the courts accomplishes nothing.

RobfromAlberta said...

The clause, the unelected Senate and the no-term-limits prime ministership, adding up to a fake democracy.

The "notwithstanding" clause and the Senate are abominations. However, I always thought term limits were anti-democratic. If I want the same PM for 20 years, why should I be denied by some arbitrary term limit. I'm sure if it weren't for term limits, Bush would have been soundly defeated by Clinton in 2000. What a different world we would be living in today if that were the case.

L-girl said...

Rob, another point on which we agree. I'm anti- term limits too. Limiting terms should be strictly up to voters.