Day 19 – What Every Politician is the Master of…

(This post is part of the 30 for 30 Challenge)

At the start of every political election year, I like to remind myself that most of what I am about to hear coming out of the mouths of political candidates is a very pure and refined form of bullshit. Bullshit is a term that has been in the lexicon for quite some time, and it is a word that is thrown around quite haphazardly. “Don’t bullshit me!”, we often exclaim. But what is bullshit, really?

To remind myself of the meaning of this word, and in a biannual effort to cope with the piles of it heaped upon my years every election year, it has become a tradition of mine during this time to read a very short, and poignant book called On Bullshit, by Harry G. Frankfurt.  This taut, well argued little book, wastes no words in getting at the crux of the matter, all while maintaining a tinge of humor. Continue reading “Day 19 – What Every Politician is the Master of…”

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Day 5 – Fear, Faith, Fundamentalism, and Doubt (part 2 of 2)

(This post is part of the 30 for 30 challenge)

Well, this post comes a day late.  Why?  Well, let’s just say that sometimes life gets in the way of one’s own creative pursuits, and we have to make time for those we love.  Now, back to the post at hand.

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As I mentioned at the end of yesterday’s post, I heard something on the radio this past weekend that really got me thinking about the whole problem of fundamentalist certainty that is seemingly awash in our current political discourse.

The radio program is the Ted Talk Radio Hour, and the subject of the show was “Faith and Doubt”.

The part of the program that most intrigued me was given be author, and agnostic Jew, Lesley Hazelton.  A self prescribed “accidental theologian”, Leslie took it upon herself to research and write a book about the prophet Muhammad, titled “The First Muslim”.  In the five years she researched the project, she looked back to some of the earliest known biographies of Muhammed, and realized that there was one very key thing about him that modern conservative interpreters of the religion seem to assert.  Namely, that Muhammed never doubted what he experienced was real, let alone Divine.  Quite the contrary.  As Hazelton puts it:

In his own reported words, he was convinced that what had happened couldn’t have been real. At best, he thought, a hallucination – a trick of the mind…at worst, possession…and when he found himself still alive, his first impulse was to finish the job himself – to leap off the highest cliff and escape the terror of what he’d experienced by putting an end to all experience.”

In short, she says, “He came down from the mountain that night not overwhelmed with conviction, but by doubt.” Continue reading “Day 5 – Fear, Faith, Fundamentalism, and Doubt (part 2 of 2)”

Day 4 – Fear, Faith, Fundamentalism, and Doubt (part 1 of 2)

(This post is part of the 30 for 30 challenge)

This past Saturday I was traveling home back west from the east coast, and witnessed a rather unsettling encounter between a Muslim woman wearing a hijab, and what I would call your typical, “angry white man”.  It was a busy day at the airport (the day after Christmas), so tensions were already a bit high, and the seating areas at the gates quite full.  The woman found an empty seat and set her backpack on the ground in front of it.  She then walked across to the other side of the terminal to throw something away.  When she walked back thirty seconds later, an “angry white man” accosted her saying, “Is this your bag?!  You should know better given this environment that people dressed like you can’t just leave things laying around like this at an airport.  You should be more careful!”  Thankfully, this incident happened near the check-in desk, so an airline employee quickly put an end to the verbal assult, and put the “angry white man” squarely in his place.  The Muslim woman gathered her things quietly and quickly, and moved to a far corner of the seating area.

I felt nothing short of mortified.  I was embarrassed both for her in that terribly awkward situation, and for myself to witness such bigotry.  I was repulsed that this is how people that look like me (i.e., white men) think they can treat a complete stranger at the airport for doing absolutely nothing wrong.  I wanted to stop the poor woman as she walked by to reassure her that, “We’re not ALL assholes, I promise.”  I didn’t go that far, but I thought about it.  All I could muster was a scathing stare towards the “angry white man” as I smoldered in my seat. Continue reading “Day 4 – Fear, Faith, Fundamentalism, and Doubt (part 1 of 2)”