Monday, November 3, 2008

Pondering The Dark Side

On this the eve of the election, I'd like to capture my thoughts before America either elects a president who its first 26 presidents could have legally owned, or brazenly subverts the very ideals it was founded upon by manipulating numbers in a final embarrassingly overt goosestep towards corporate totalitarianism.

I am nervous. And not night-before-the-swim-test nervous or even night-you-lose-your-virginity nervous, it's a low rumbling primal panic which I can only liken to Star Wars panic. Disney panic. The edge-of-your-seat-terror that makes you  wonder if Skywalker's doomed after he refuses to join Darth Vader and drops down into the abyss, if the wicked octopus or grand vizier or steroid-pumping-village-misogynist is going to wed/kill/skin the dashing prince and then evil people in dark funny costumes are going to take over the world... if it wasn't a movie of course.

And tonight it's not. It's not a movie and yet I feel like Obama might as well be wearing an American flag cape while a decaying McCain, in a high-tech robotic spider wheelchair wearing an eyepatch and stroking an evil cat, gives orders to a sexy scheming Palin who marches back and forth through their sub-terranian campaign lair in four inch thigh-highs and full-body black leather catsuit bossing around the evangelical ants with a loooooong  whip... umm... is this just me? 

Anyway, the point is that things feel weird folks. I have friends who have peed in waterbottles to keep from interrupting a Halo-playing marathon who got off their asses/couches to volunteer for the Obama campaign not once, but many times. Friends so cheap their body content is at least 1/3 Ramen Noodle who donated a good deal of their hard-earned cash to the campaign. People have registered to vote in record numbers, and yet, something just doesn't feel right. I think we should stop congratulating ourselves for just voting. To vote is a privilege which people have died for, and I think there's a whole lot more to be done for the country than to simply help win an election every 4 years.

Hundreds of millions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of man-hours spent on both sides by good-intentioned people who want to make a difference in an historic election, so many resources and voices and energies devoted to a single day. After tomorrow, half of that is going to have been a waste. And I can't help but wonder what could have happened if all that muscle had been put towards something else, and what will happen to its momentum after the election has come and gone. Shouldn't we be donating our money to good causes whenever we can? Helping people who don't have? Dedicating some of our time to  contribute to making the country which provides for us a better place? Of course a power shift is a hugely significant step on the path to great reform, but worrying about this election has been a wakeup call for me:

Even if Obama wins, we have not "won." This isn't a movie and we can't toss every greedy lobbyist oil fatcat bigot down a reactor shaft. I think if we dedicate ourselves to the ongoing welfare of the country as much as we have to the outcome of this election, we'll have a much better shot at coming closer to the overwhelming good the liberals hope Obama will usher in, but which no mere mortal could fully realize alone. 

Which brings me to the other side. I've heard a lot of people claim that if McCain wins, they're leaving. I heard the same thing about Bush's reelection, and his unelection before that, and nobody seems to be leaving. And that's fine. Because as much as I complain about certain political happenings, atrocities, etc., I really do like it here and I suspect most other people do too. We have New York and Hollywood, purple mountain's majesty and sea to shining sea, we created jazz and country music and baseball and cars and lightbulbs and computers and that movie with hundreds of animated singing Chihuahuas! I mean who among the shivering Plymouth pilgrims ever imagined ordering hundreds of animated singing chihuahuas onto a magical box from an invisible information superweb?

The point being, if things don't turn out the way I want tomorrow, I feel compelled, as a college-graduated adultish-type-person, to take a stand. And if I'm going to leave I'm going to leave. But if I'm going to stay I'm not going to sit around whining like I have for the past 8 years. It's like when I don't clean my room because it's dirty and then I blame the dirt. So in my very indecisive way, before you and your screen, I'm declaring my intention to make some kind of stand in the event of -(Ican'tevensayit)-, and encouraging you to consider making one too...

Jump the ship or grab a bucket? 
-Sigh- 
Wasn't everything so much easier back when the worst possible affront to your values was a PB&J sandwich cut diagonally with crust?

Anyways, I guess what I'm saying is that if we're going to stay on board, we should probably be generous with our time and resources when times are tough even more than when the hero saves the day. Because what if he doesn't? And what if he can't?


Hope all is well out there. Everything in NY is going swimmingly, leaves changing, Sam is much better, book is coming along... now if only we could wrangle Ohio everything might just fall right into place.

Yours Nervously,
H

41 comments:

  1. Thanks for this - unbelievably, it's the first time I've seen someone ask, 'What's next?' and wonder how the extraordinary energies of the Obama campaign might mobilize for the country's good.

    And it certainly tapped into my Liberal Jitters. Here we are, awake and fully plugged (in Ireland) and the day hasn't even started yet in the US...Q

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  2. Indeed, I've felt this way once before -- in free-fall.

    He cannot lose.

    Sleepless in Okinawa,
    E

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  3. Well said! Thanks for reminding us that this doesn't end today!

    Keeping our fingers and toes crossed in South Carolina of all places!

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  4. Hannah, I really enjoyed your post-election sad sense of nostalgia which you adequately and eloquently deliberated.

    But at this very moment, your words of wisdom don't quite register with me as the day is not over yet and many run-away emotions are still persisting in my psyche, "what if?" What if Palin is offered the key to the White House!!! Could it?

    So thank you.

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  5. Read your comment on FiveThirtyEight.

    Love your writing and appreciate your sentiment. I'll definitely be taking a stand with you whatever the result.

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  6. I read your comment on FiveThirtyEight too. Loved it. Will link to you on my own blog.

    Thanks!

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  7. Wonderful writing. I like your voice (writing, not singing, even though you provided a sample of both on this page :P). I'm a recent grad too and I feel the same way about this election. Having lived under Bush my entire voting career, I'm still not absolutely confident that Obama can bring this home. I suspect that it's more of a nervous reluctance to optimism than a realistic concern- but I wouldn't put anything past the GOP at this point.

    I especially like your comment about the amount of effort, energy, and funding thrown at this election- and the idea that diverting it towards the continued improvement of our country is the quickest way towards setting the ourselves back on track. I hope that is the case. If any candidacy can inspire such fervent (healthy) patriotism, it is Obama's.

    If I had a blog, I would link to you. :)

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  8. Hannah, you left a comment on "The Wave Crashes". That's me. I'm impressed. Would like to dialog but not on the blog. Go back to The Wave and leave me an email address. I will not post or publish it (comments on The Wave are moderated by me, not auto-posted). Look forward to hearing from you if you're interested in chatting about some of your topics of discussion.

    Off to work for me now, home tonight to watch what I hope will not be dismal election returns.

    Be well.

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  9. ditto!

    the real work begins AFTER the election..REGARDLESS!!!

    love your blog...

    peace
    alicia banks
    OUTLOOK
    http://aliciabanks.blogspot.com

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  10. Great writing, but I didn't see the need to reprint it verbatim as a comment on my post about branding and its effect on political discourse. Bon chance! jsb

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  11. Hannah,

    It's Cici again. (You may remember me, but you very well may not--it's cool either way.)

    First off, I must say you are a beast of a writer. If writing was analogous to the mafia, you would be Vito Corleone and Tony Soprano. At once. (That's meant as a compliment, in case it comes off sounding very strange.) As another aspiring writer, you give me hope that writing is indeed something worth devoting my life to, especially at the times when I imagine myself ending up as a hobo sleeping in a New York subway station armed with nothing but a pencil, used napkins, and a container a milk jacked from the nearby Starbucks. I anxiously await for your book to come out; if I'm not broke when it's published (which I can't guarantee), I intend to get a least ten copies, though I’m not quite sure to what avail.

    So, with regards to your actual post... I wrote an article with a similar tone in my school's newspaper, and I'm relieved to know I'm not the only one with near-apprehensive feelings about this whole election cycle, despite the fact that we seem on the verge of a new political era in our country. As someone who is one month shy of 17 years old, I cannot vote in this election, but I almost take a certain sense of pride in that fact, since it forces me (and hopefully my similarly-aged peers) to find more creative ways to be involved in our communities if we still want to have a voice and make a change beyond simply filling out a piece of electronic data that states option A over option B.

    Your bit about staying in the country even in the event of a McCain win (I know, I wrote the forbidden words) is particularly uplifting. In the end, I feel it's not what we can accomplish with the system, but rather what we can accomplish without the system that really counts. We can't just hope for politicians to create what we, as ordinary people and average joes, have the power to create ourselves. Your post seems to say as much, and I'm glad you, and people like you, are realizing that and speaking out (or posting on blogs or what have you).

    You'll have to excuse me for all the (virtual) space I've taken up. Brevity may be the soul of wit, but I'm not known for my wittiness.

    Most Indubitably,
    Cici D
    ca.dubose@yahoo.com

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  12. I didn't enjoy this nearly as much as the first time when you posted the whole thing as a comment on my blog.

    That’s an interesting claim - that the first 26 presidents could have legally owned John McCain. Oh, wait, maybe you meant Barak Obama. It’s hard to say, since it isn’t true of either of them. Neither is descended from slaves, though Obama’s family did own some. The importation of slaves became illegal in 1808. After all, race did not make one a slave. You could just as easily have said that Barak himself could have owned slaves. After all, just in the city of New Orleans there were 3,000 blacks who owned slaves in 1860. Charleston SC had 125 blacks who owned slaves. In both places, some of them owned lots of slaves.

    But I found your claim of the first 26 presidents interesting. That takes us up through Teddy Roosevelt. Perhaps you are thinking that this is because Roosevelt was born in 1858, seven years before slavery was outlawed by the 13th Amendment. However, Roosevelt lived all of those years in New York, a state which had already outlawed slavery.

    I counted back from there and it appears that McKinley, Cleveland, Harrison, Arthur, Garfield, and Hayes never lived in states where slavery was legal during their lifetimes. Grant owned slaves as did Johnson. Lincoln could have until he was 7. Buchanan, Pierce, and Fillmore were also from states that outlawed slavery. It is really only the first 12, plus Lincoln, Johnson and Grant who did or could have legally owned slaves, just like Obama's family did.

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  13. My compliments on your eloquence. I found your post on another blog completely on accident - oh, how I love the internet! Forgive me if I copy and paste my response:

    “we can’t toss every greedy lobbyist oil fatcat bigot down a reactor shaft”

    You ought to brace yourself, young friend. Regardless of who wins, you have a lot to learn.

    Lobbyists try to win huge amounts of money and power for oil companies, but they also fight for breast cancer research. They try to get more funding for our childrens’ schools, and try to funnel money into abused “schooling” slush funds, too. Lobbyists are your friends, enemies, and - if you remain as serious as you would have us think you are - lobbyists are YOU.

    If you, your folks, or anyone you know have retirement funds, those Oil people are your friends, too. Those billions in quarterly earnings go, in part, to dividends as well as being one of the few reliable stocks in any retirement fund. I won’t get started on the value of oil in your everyday life, from automobiles to plastics in pacemakers, lest I beckon the stereotypical “save the planet” and “freedom from the pockets of big oil” rhetoric.

    A word about those fatcats that you so love to hate: not withstanding the types that would pocket personal gains from a government bail-out or the like (I won’t defend every CEO & millionaire), you need to remember that most of those “fatcats” employ the likes of you and your friends as well as a significant portion of our nation, never mind the world. That means families that can feed their children, as well as college students that have the option of holding down a job. Fatcats can give their employees bonuses, cover medical insurance and offer many other benefits you won’t find working at a BurgerKing.

    To try and round out my rebuttal, I’d like to note that your monologue comes very close to demonizing the right side of the aisle. You called McCain “decaying” (age discrimination), and Palin a “sexy scheming” in 4 inch heels (sexism), while referring to the evangelicals as ants to be walked on. If I were to take license with your language, I’d think YOU were bigoted. Please tell me you are not another stereotypical liberal, “inclusive”, equal rights advocate that can’t stand opinions that don’t match your own. Reference here “hypocrisy”.

    I am concerned for an Obama presidency. Worried, just a bit. His devout followers are actually going to expect that he will follow through with his promises. I applaud you for your activism. I applaud Obama’s campaign for bringing out so many new voters and for truly damaging the “glass ceiling” in our society. Part of me wants to see the look on the faces of the minority that is the remaining racist holdouts in our society. I want them to face the fact that they are wrong about the significance of the color of our skin. What worries me is that Obama and Biden have promised affordable health care, college, house payments, etc. I even saw a bumper sticker that says “World Peace, yes we can!” When we don’t have world peace, you and your friends are going to need someone to blame. You won’t be able to blame Barack, for sure. I don’t believe you’ll even think to hold him accountable. What’s worst of all is that people are imperfect and world peace is not possible. You can only make enough friends to be able to rule the rest of the world by force - and that’s not peace.

    The punchline of my rant is this: Neither candidate has all the answers. Both want to help, both want to do well for our country. Neither are capable of finding the perfect answer. There is only One who can, and He is the creator of the world. Surprise, I’m an evangelical. Before you dismiss me out hand, realize this - regardless of who wins tonight, your candidate or mine, I will be able to sleep well. I will be able to enjoy myself here in America. I will continue to enjoy raising my 3 kids with my loving wife, and all because I know that God is in control. He does not know the word “oops”, and has a plan. When you realize that neither Obama nor any other human can save the human race, look me up and I’ll tell you about someone who already has.

    Sincerely,
    Chris
    30 yrs old, Minnesota

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  14. just to nit pick I think you mean first 16 presidents not 26. Unless your saying that people were still buying slaves when Theodore Roosevelt was president

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  15. Beautifully (and amusingly) written, and a potent reminder that our work towards change isn't finished, but has just begun. Kudos. :)

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  16. First of all, congratulations to Barack Obama, the next President of the United States of America.

    To sol and Staab: you misunderstand the point of what was clearly an evocative opening line. The point is not that Obama nor any members of his family actually *were* slaves, nor that the first 26 presidents were all slaveholders, nor that the slave trade was alive and well when TR took office. The point is simply this: the first 26 presidents lived at least part of their lives in a country that did not prohibit their owning slaves. Had Barack Obama been alive at that time, the law would have allowed him to be owned. Thus, the first 26 presidents could have legally owned the 44th. Not that they did, just that at a certain point in history they could have.

    To Chris: I don't think that Hannah's point is that corporate fatcats are inherently evil, just that they wield an increasingly disproportionate (and thereby undemocratic) power to unilaterally determine the national political agenda. Certainly lobbyists are useful friends to have when the special interests they represent align with your own, but special interests are by definition not collective interests. When an ostensibly democratic system allows minority concerns to be weighted above the common good, perhaps there is something wrong with that system. This is the implication of the phrase, ‘corporate totalitarianism.’ You are correct in your assertion that corporate executives are an indispensable part of the current economic hierarchy. However, the executives occupy a privileged position at the apex of the complex hierarchical structure whose base encompasses a broad swath of American society. If this position affords them the unfettered right to define the nature and priorities of our government, then perhaps we have deviated from our founding fathers’ original democratic vision. A government of the people, by the people, and for the people cannot concentrate all its power in the hands of the privileged and still claim to operate by majority rule. That money can buy political influence renders the government as ineffective as at resolving domestic issues as the UN Security Council at resolving disputes among superpowers. The executives function as de facto superpowers, but why should their material wealth earn them veto power over the rest of us? This is the way of the world, but it is anything but democratic.

    Leaving aside the fact that an omniscient God clearly knows the word “oops,” you will pardon me when I say that, centuries from now, historical records may draw little distinction between Jesus and Barack Obama. This is not blasphemy. I do not intend to contradict your faith, but you must concede that historical records alone do not positively establish the divinity of the man you consider to be your savior. Rather, historical records indicate that Jesus was thoughtful and outspoken, a talented orator who tried to lead by example and wielded great influence over the masses. His true and lasting impact was realized not by his own actions but by those of his followers. Even today, you and others who share your faith continue to do good works in his name. Thus, even Jesus did not single-handedly save the human race.

    And this is exactly Hannah’s point. You believe Jesus to be the son of God, and even he had help in changing the world. Clearly Barack Obama, mere mortal, cannot do it alone. Nor should he be expected to be. But if he is half the leader we think he is, he will be able to effect real and lasting change by spurring to action those he purports to lead. Note the plurality of his campaign catchphrase: “Yes, *we* can!”

    The great men of history are the great leaders. Hannah’s eloquent exhortation is simply to stand up and follow. No one can do it alone. No one can save the world. But together, yes, we can.

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  17. Michael,

    You misunderstood the point of what was clearly disputing the evocation opening line. Hannah's point was obvious. Actually the first 28 presidents were born before the adoption of the 13th Amendment - Taft and Wilson were actually older that TR. Any way you look at it, her triumphalism was marred by a poor command of historical facts.

    I'm sorry my point wasn't as obvious. Obama is not the child of slavery, or even of the Civil Rights Movement. His ancestors were slave owners. His heritage is much more like that of free blacks, who owned slaves in much larger proportion than their white counterparts. 1.4 percent of Southern whites owned slaves. 28 percent of free blacks in New Orleans owned slaves. That's twenty-eight percent, just in case you thought I missed a decimal point. So Hannah is skewing history to make what I think is a invalid point, and to introduce an incorrect point of view.

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  18. Thank you, Michael, for taking up the challenge of strong and hopefully constructive conversation! I must admit the majority of the banter I participate in is on fantasy sports bulletin boards :-(

    "...just that (corporate fatcats) wield an increasingly disproportionate (and thereby undemocratic) power to unilaterally determine the national political agenda."

    Whether that was Hannah's point or not will remain to be seen, assuming she responds. I'll gladly concede that you do make a very good point - a few of them, to be honest. The corporate elite wield too much power to persuade our Government, and we have strayed from the founding Father's vision. We need to get business interests off of capitol hill, and downsize our government - even the lobbyists for breast cancer and other such noble causes. The private sector can and will fund these causes. Look at what the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has accomplished. I work for a company of 250 employees and we manage to give away over a million dollars every year. Corporate power can be a great thing.

    Unfortunately, this leads me to MY second point. People can be wonderful, but humankind is corrupt. Broken. This is why our Government can't get along, why we have the "evil" lobbyists, and why you will never have to teach a child how to lie or steal. Forgive the leap I took right there, but I'm trying to illustrate the spectrum. I'll do it again: this point is why the Constitution was designed to be difficult to amend, and why the founding fathers instituted the 3 branches and 'checks and balances'. God teaches us that we are corrupt, and they knew that.

    I've only been a believer for +/- 6 years. It began the day I realized how historically reliable the Bible really is. The above point is but one example. Genuine, archaeological, historical evidence continues to buttress this declaration. Look up Lee Strobel and his "The Case For..." series if you want more apologetics, or try my favorite: www.str.org.

    Enough of that, though. Obama will never live up to the standards that Jesus did. What's more, he will never live up to the standards his followers have set. Case in point: He made the case that we can talk to our enemies unlike the Bush administration's record. The people now think he can make world peace. I'm telling you - war has always been a part of history and always will be a part of the future.

    Please understand this: I would love to be proven wrong. If in 8 years we have a remote resemblance to world peace I will eat my hat. If college tuition goes way down, life expectancy goes way up, mortgage foreclosures are a thing of the past then I hope you track me down so I can shake your hand.

    Until then you should realize: this world and the good works of Christians are not remotely related to Jesus saving mankind. Good works are evidence of God's work in the heart of his believers; Jesus changed the world and saved us single-handedly. Believe it or not, the Bible declares that our need for redemption is not in regard to this world, but regarding our separation from God. "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God", and "the wages of sin is death". We sinned and justice demands that blood be shed as punishment. Jesus died as atonement for all of mankinds' sins. He died so we don't have to. That's the savior. Obama is no savior.

    I would argue, too, that this is what Hannah coined by saying "this thing feels weird, folks". Obama has upped the ante, and he's gambling using biblical proportions.

    Ps- Sorry, but I can't help but add one more comment: You say history will compare Obama and Jesus favorably. Read Genesis chapters 2 and 3 and you will see mankind's very first mistake, nay, sin, was to try to be like God.

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  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  20. I failed to say - Congratulations to Obama and Biden, indeed! :-)

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  21. Hi Hannah,
    I am 30, Indian, and don't give a rat's ass to who wins in US Elections. Seriously! But I read your post, I simply empathize with your sentiments. Not because Obama might or might not be a slave owner or anything to do with color or Civil Rights but because of your point about energy of the ordinary people and its use in the elections and the question of what next?

    I love India, but mostly because of what the country could do for me and what it has provided me (the comfort and opportunities I have been enjoying). I have traveled quite a bit including East Asia, Middle East, Europe and US (infact I have lived in US for a couple of years).

    But the problem facing us, the Indians, are the same, sometimes even worse. Why are we (people who take any amount of toil and hard work) do NOT care about what is happening around us. We do not even Vote for the people who might/might not change our lives and future.

    We do NOT spend that reservoir of energy to bring the Change that we desire. So like you said, I am making that stand (today) :

    "Be the change that you desire" - Mohandas Ghandi

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  22. Hannah,

    Yes We Can! Do you mean what you said about doing something to truly start the long journey of giving back to your own community and he country & world at large perhaps?

    Then go right now to www.FOE.com (a more than 100 year old non-profit Fraternal Organization that does more for charity than any I have ever seen and have participated in for years...mainly looking to cure some of the most horrible diseases of our time, but so much more). Read up there, find a local Aerie nearby, join up, roll up your sleeves and get to work immediately.

    One thing you can be assured of...After you help raise a dollar for research or education, for children, or the local hospice, among hundreds of other worthwhile causes...100 cents from every dollar will go toward that which you raised it for. Not one penny is used for charity administration expenses.

    Try it, you might just find that not only will you feel like we all feel tonight, you will feel like it every day of the year knowing you make a difference daily in many peoples lives.

    They could use your spirit and education, you could use the feeling it gives when you give. (Belief in Liberty, Truth, Justice, Equality, God & Country are the only qualifications).

    When we get the chance, we'll be asking our next President ~ President Elect. Barack Obama to join us also as many before him have in the past.

    Fraternal Order of Eagles ~ Founders of Mother's Day, also helped create and push the adoption of Social Security. Read the history of the organization there.

    Good luck in your quest to make a difference in the future.

    FOE AZ State Pres. Elect. 2008-2009
    FOE AZ State President 2009-2010

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  23. On the notion that humans are evil and that the only savior we should be waiting around for is Jesus: I'm pretty sure Jesus would have wanted us to pick up the slack a little in his absence. If you believe in original sin don't you also believe in our 'God'like capacity for forgiveness and benevolence? Isn't helping the helpless what Jesus was all about? I think that you are right to a point Newnik... if a person decides humanity is eternally 'broken' then it is, because they're not going to have the audacity to hope for a better future letalone work towards one.

    As for my lobbyist comment, I wholeheartedly agree with Michael's assessment of how fraught a corporate-funded democracy can be. In fact he phrased it much more articulately than I was able to. He wisely notes that when executives have "unfettered right to define the nature and priorities of our government, then perhaps we have deviated from our founding fathers’ original democratic vision."

    To be perfectly honest, "greedy lobbyist fat cat" was actually all intended to modify "bigot," meaning the people who both fund and petition for measures in which common good is the last concern, personal profit is the first, and screwing over people who don't look/talk/believe the way you do is also pretty high up there. But it's true that perhaps this was too reductive.

    And I think the hope for this new administration is a step away from political binaries of the Bush years...Godly vs. Sinful, Red vs. Blue, Terrorist vs. Patriot. I'm not naive and I know that money makes the world go 'round, so I'm not saying every person who can grease political palms is evil, just that it might be nice for once in a decade to see decisions made that benefit America more than Halliburton, for example.

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  24. So true. People among my family and friends were volunteering on behalf of Obama...now let's all go and volunteer on behalf of the issues that still have to be worked out. Last I checked, that was pretty much all of them, from the economy to the "war" to equal rights and more. It's not time to stop -- it's time to work harder.

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  25. Sol: I concede that I may have misunderstood your point. You say your intent was to dispute the validity of Hannah’s opening line. However, if this is the case, you went about it in entirely the wrong way. You disputed a counterfactual hypothetical by presenting historical facts to show that what Hannah wrote did not actually happen. In this you are correct. The first 26 presidents did not, at any point in time, *own* Barack Obama. Thanks for clearing up any confusion on this point.

    Ordinal numbers aside, Hannah is hardly skewing history to point out the landmark event that was yesterday’s election. Which point is it you believe to be invalid? Objecting to the number of former presidents who might have (but didn’t) own Obama or any other slaves does not invalidate anything. So we settle on a different number. The essential point, which you have readily conceded, is that the first n presidents could have owned the black man who has now been elected president. Race, as you point out, was not a sufficient condition to make one a slave, but it was a necessary condition, and so race and slavery are inextricably bound up in historical memory.

    Your use of percentages is cleverly misleading. Consider first that the number of free blacks in New Orleans was an incredibly small sample size. Twenty-eight percent of a very small number is an even smaller number, so small as to be practically insignificant. It is certainly worth noting that such a group existed, but citing percentages outside of their proper context dramatically overestimates the group’s actual size. It is also true that the vast majority of Southern whites were not slaveholders. However, to say that free blacks owned slaves in much larger proportion than their white counterparts is also misleading. Consider that the overwhelmingly vast majority of slaves were owned by whites. This is the essence of Simpson’s paradox, which says that it is possible to look at a data set and draw two completely opposite conclusions. The fundamental ambiguity of statistical reasoning makes it critically important that we always look beyond the numbers to get a sense of what they really mean.

    As far as your claim that Obama is not a child of slavery or the Civil Rights Movement—-I would argue that slavery is part of our nation’s heritage, and we are all affected by it. No one alive today is a child of slavery, not even the 106-year-old woman to whom Obama alluded in his speech last night. That said, the legacy of slavery is still very much with us. I am not saying that we are all affected by it in the same ways. That burden is clearly distributed unequally. But I think that your statement discounts the very real racial disparities that persist in our society.

    Hannah’s assertion was not a statement of historical fact, so you cannot refute it with historical fact. The only way to refute the validity of a hypothetical is to show that it lies outside the realm of possibility. Instead, you simply pointed out that it didn’t happen. I find Hannah’s point of view to be both insightful and thought-provoking, but I invite you to explain which point of view you consider to be incorrect so that we can continue the discussion.

    On this, at least, we agree: Hannah’s opening line was certainly evocative. She is an extremely gifted writer who, with a single sentence, has pushed you, me, and everyone who reads this to think more deeply about the legacy of slavery in America and the special challenges it poses for the incoming administration.

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  26. Indeed, Michael's 'skewed' percentage assessment is dead on. And the fact that blacks owned blacks doesn't really change the fact that slavery is an atrocity no matter who is carrying it out.

    Sol,the point is not that those presidents actually did own slaves, or that Obama is descendant of slaves. Even if they had to relocate states to do it, the fact remains that under certain circumstances at some point in their lives all of those presidents could have legally owned another person just because they had Obama's skin pigment. Of course they couldn't have literally owned Obama because they're all dead now. My assertion referred to the idea of slavery rather than the pedantic details of exactly who could own whom where and when. When we talk about how America helped to "defeat fascism in WWII," we don't talk about exactly what percentage of Americans actually set foot in Europe and for how many hours total.

    The point was simply to illuminate the drastic shift our nation has undergone, the cultural symbolism of this reversal. Makes me kinda proud to be an American for the first time in a while.

    Best,
    H

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  27. Chris/Newnik: I’m always up for a good conversation, and Hannah is very good at sparking them. I fully expect that her intellectual and literary contributions to our generation will be enormous. Perhaps the change brought about by people like Obama and Hannah will be to foster banter about fantasy politics, so to speak, instead, engendering thoughtful concern and replacing apathy with activism.

    First, I have to disagree that mankind’s first sin was to try to be like God. Genesis 2-3 recounts the Fall of Man, but Adam and Eve were not expelled from the garden because God was not flattered by their overly enthusiastic attempts at imitation. Rather, Original Sin came about when man gave in to the serpent’s temptation. Some have argued that this was the sin of pride, but in any case, it was certainly not the result of trying to be like God. Let us be clear on another point as well (though, interestingly, the second sin was using language clearly, cf. the story of the Tower of Babel): Obama has never said, at least publicly, that he aspires to be God or Jesus or any sort of savior at all. I compared the two in order to make a point—namely, that Obama shares many of the qualities that made Jesus historically influential—not to promulgate the notion of Obama’s divinity. If the sin lies in the attempt, then Obama is no sinner.

    I cannot endorse your notion that humankind is corrupt and broken. The doctrine of Original Sin serves as a constant reminder that we are not perfect, that we can and often do fall prey to temptation. Where in the Bible do you think God tells us that we are corrupt? I have always understood the New Testament to be an exhortation to do good works, to realize our fundamental capacity for good. I believe that people are not fundamentally good or bad, though capable of both great good and great evil. If God believed humankind to be corrupt, then these words would fall on deaf ears. As Hannah points out, this attitude is both self-fulfilling and defeatist.

    Lying and stealing are certainly wrong, but children do these things out of self-interest, not because they are inherently evil. They lie to stay out of trouble, not to spread malice and contempt. They steal because they want something, not because they want to hurt those from whom they steal. Moreover, most children learn that these things are wrong and stop doing them. Society holds that these things are wrong and enacts punishment for those who do. Thus, even if you believe that we start out corrupt, then you have to concede that somewhere along the way the vast majority of us become “un-corrupted.”

    You could certainly interpret the system of checks and balances as a means to minimize temptation. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The Constitution aims to prevent any one man, or even any one branch of government, from attaining absolute power. This reinforces the previous point about why concentrating political influence in the hands of a privileged few undermines the concept of majority rule.

    This is something of an ancillary point relative to the main thread of discussion, but I have actually read Strobel’s The Case for Faith. I was given a free copy a few years ago and read it out of curiosity. The book is an affront to logic. Strobel went gallivanting around tilting at imaginary windmills. He interviewed a materials engineer as an “expert witness” in an attempt to disprove the theory of evolution, though even the pope has conceded that evolution is not incompatible with religious faith. I found most of the book to be equally ridiculous and rife with logical fallacies. That the book was ridiculous does not in any way discredit religious faith, but it is hardly a good example of Christian apology. The Bible is a fantastically rich document, and many pieces of it are supported by independent historical evidence. Even if you don’t believe Jesus was the Messiah, you have to concede that he was a remarkably influential philosopher. People endured persecution for hundreds of years because they believed so strongly in his ideas. That said, the Bible is also filled with contradictions. The account of creation in Genesis 2 appears to refute that offered in Genesis 1. The four Gospels are dramatically different from one another. This is not surprising given the manner in which the Bible was written; in fact, to me what lends it credence is that, for all the contradictions, it is still as internally consistent as it is. But it is filled with parables and allegories, metaphors and hyperbole, wild exaggerations and gross inaccuracies. It is hardly an objective historical record.

    Back to the main point: Obama is not Jesus, and nor should we expect him to be. We will only be disappointed if this is what we are waiting for. But then again, people in Jesus’ time did not simply rely on him to perform miracles. His disciples were taught to actively practice their faith. The Bible tells us that God helps us (Genesis 49:25), that through him we can do all things (Philippians 4:13). However, this is not a justification of inactivity. Interpretation of the phrase turns on your understanding of the word, “help.” To me this connotes mutual effort. The Bible does *not* say God does the work for us, that when times are tough Jesus will bail us out (apparently that’s why we have government). We have already agreed that Obama is not Jesus. Thus, if we can’t wait for Jesus to make everything all better, we certainly can’t sit on our asses waiting for Obama to single-handedly bring about radical political and social reform.

    World peace is a lofty goal, perhaps one that will never be fully realized. College tuition is largely determined by market forces outside of the president’s control. Life expectancy is mediated by a whole host of factors. Mortgage foreclosures will exist as long as there are mortgages. Obama has not promised to achieve any of the things you list. No president could. What he has promised is that he will work for real, lasting change. A step in the right direction. His health care plan, for example, will probably not result in any dramatic increase in life expectancy. But historically, improvements in health care have never resulted in a major increase in this respect. The biggest decrease in the mortality rate over the past two hundred years was brought about by public health reform, not by improvements in medical practice. Obama’s health care plan should improve access to care, however, which will go a long way toward alleviating the disparities that still exist in this regard. Better doctors don’t necessarily make for longer lives, and Obama’s plan will not make for better doctors. What it will do is make sure that everyone has the right to see the doctors we do have. This goal is both practical and noble. Achieving it would be every bit as laudatory as the items on your original list.

    You conclude by saying that Obama is no savior. I completely agree. No mortal is. And this is why Hannah’s original point is so very important. Obama’s presidency represents a great opportunity for positive change, but that change will never be realized if we wait for Obama to do it all himself, if we content ourselves to sit back and bemoan the corruption of the government or of humanity at large. Instead, we need to stand up and actively work for what we believe in. Perhaps this is the most God-like we can be. Either way, we’re all in this together. It’s about time we acted like it.

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  28. Hannah and Michael,

    Wow, folks. If nothing else, you two are terribly hard to keep up with; though, to say you are "nothing else" would definitely be a terrible insult that neither of you deserve. I continue to stand impressed by your eloquence and intelligence.

    Now, If I may clean the brown off my nose, a-hem, here I go:

    I hoped I was clear in this, but if not I'll do so now: I'm glad for all this talk of hope and change. I'm glad we can all try to achieve better and more. I know I mentioned I have kids, so you can rest assured I want better for them. I will strive for world peace. That is one of those catch-22s a bible-thumper like me is stuck in. Jesus said it's going to get much worse before it gets better. He said he came to divide, and that he came with a sword. He said there will always be the poor. I believe him and yet I work for reconciliation at the same time. I love my neighbor and my enemy. I do what I can to help. That's me in a nutshell. Oh, and I talk to much.

    One of the hardest things I've had to listen to in the realm of political banter is all the liberals over the last 4 years spewing nonsense like "he's not MY president". What did I hear this morning on the way to work? "Well, Obama's not MY president". At least Bush haters had a close election to complain about! I didn't support Obama, but I fully intend on supporting him now that he's won. I'm with you guys when you say *we* can. I'm a little more sceptical about who *we* are. I'm afraid it's just being realistic.

    As for humans being evil - I didn't say evil, but only because it's a misnomer. Murderers and rapists are evil. Kids who steal are, as we like to call it, fallen. We all are. To answer your question, Michael, Romans 3:10 says there are none who are righteous and 3:12 says there is none who do good. What's more is that they are new testament references to the old testamant, the hebrew scriptures. There: God said it in the NT and the OT. Before you get upset about the words used, go read the rest of the chapter. "None who does good" is not an earthly context. God calls us to a higher standard, to His standard. By that standard we are all fallen, thus we are separated from Him, thus we need a savior. Yes we should do good in this world, forgiving and loving and helping. Just don't assume this gets you any points toward salvation. Two distinctly different paradimes.

    Say what you want Michael, but the kid still took what wasn't his. The fact that he wanted it doesn't justify it. If he didn't know better, that's one thing. Ultimately, you don't have to teach a child how to STEAL. Stealing is wrong. No, that's not self-fulfilling prophesy. It's calling a spade a spade. If you try to raise children under the assumption that they're inherently good, or at least neutral, you will fight an uphill battle the whole way. I love my kids and enjoy them immensely. At the same time I make sure they are not hiding their broccoli under the table.

    I'm not saying we're all bank robbers and convicts waiting for sentencing. In the context of the original conversation, I'm saying Obama has a small portion of ultra-loyal followers who have their hopes way up high, and mankind will remain in the way of fulfilling these hopes and dreams. I hope this doesn't cause for more deep rifts down the road.

    To the issue of the Obama-Jesus comparison: I will continue to press the fact that you misunderstand Jesus' purpose and role here on earth. Yes, he was a good teacher. He DID teach us, as you stated, to help the poor and needy and hurt. He pushed us to love our neighbors and enemies. Obama, and anyone else who cares to try, is capable of these things. What you have failed to mention is that every thing Jesus did was to glorify himself and his Father "who art in heaven". He claimed to be deity, and the bible is a reasonable historical record of this. And, yes, it is objective historical record. Parables and hyperbole do not make a writing false or inaccurate. When these thing are applied, it is fairly apparent and not contradictory in nature. The bible's internal consistency, as you accredited, continues to astound me as I read it. I'll have to leave it at that, as this is Hannah's blog, not mine. On a side note, this has made me want to start my own blog for these very type of conversations. If that happens, I'd hope to find you both there some day.

    Now to your comments Hannah (please forgive the drive-by fashion, it's getting late):

    No one can DECIDE mankind is broken. That would be like deciding there are people in an elevator. That shouldn't impair one's ability to work toward a better tomorrow, either. It makes them better informed. It's good to know what you're dealing with.

    Regarding the lobbyist comment, we're all on the same page. My original intent was to point out that they're not all bad - a point I was somewhat arrogant in making. I shouldn't assume you wouldn't be aware of such things.

    By modifying "bigot" with "greedy lobbyist fat cat", please be careful not to let the rest of the bigots get out of your cross-hairs. They need a trip to the reactor core, too. (intended to be funny - forgive me the deadpan presentation that is the typed word.)

    In the end, I like to think the incoming administration can do a lot of good for our nation and the world, and I hope you all can come to know Jesus for who he really was and is. Let that much be understood.

    Very respectfully,
    Chris

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  29. Nice blog, and great post. Ohio came through, you must be feeling a bit better.

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  30. Hello, there.

    I find it particularly interesting that you somehow found my website, which is a niche that doesn’t often garner any commentary from beyond the World of Warcraft spectrum, and then simply C&P’d an entire entry from your blog. Publicity? While I appreciate the sentiment and share many of your well-stated opinions (particularly RE: the “evangelical ants”), I can’t imagine you’re one of my regular readers and I try to keep that site free of political diatribe. To that end, if you’d like to engage in some form of political/intellectual discourse with me, by all means—shoot me an e-mail.

    Regarding the election—it’s been quite the ride. While I’ve been a fervent supporter of Obama through and through, it’s also pertinent to mention that McCain doesn’t represent the Evil Empire (Palin notwithstanding). Throughout his career, McCain has largely been a Centrist, and that’s why (in the past) he hasn’t been able to pull past the primaries until now. His reputation of bi-partisan work, service to his country, and frank discussion with the media deserves a nod—but that wasn’t the campaign we saw him run this go around. To appeal to the base authoritarian right, we saw him compromise his personal ideals and make a series of bad choices (tacking Palin onto his ticket especially) that ultimately blew up in his face. Any of McCain’s worthwhile ideas or throwbacks to his record in the Senate were thrown wildly out of context and overshadowed by the Bush-Albatross hanging around his neck. I find it terribly sad. Had he run a campaign that smacked of his gracious concession speech rather than the vitriol of his advertising, we might have had a much closer election.

    To that end, America is a reactionary state. Few other nations could rally behind a total ideological and political reversal in only eight years, and this election was just as much about giving the metaphorical finger to the Republicans as it was about Obama himself. His campaign was very nearly flawless, and beyond his message, I think we can attribute much of his success to his ground crew’s intense dedication and organization. We can’t really forget about race now either, can we?

    It’s wildly idealistic to believe that an enormous majority of Americans will see past their own noses and devote themselves fully to a cause. I think you marginalize the incredible importance of how many people actually voted this year. Consider the demographics of who voted, the redistribution of the electoral map, and think hard about how many folks will be taking part in political discourse in the future. Obama and McCain have inspired Americans to leave their comfort zones and take a stand, even if it means they only filled in an arrow on a ballot. It’s a step in the right direction. We’re empowering voting, and by doing that, we’re telling Americans that their votes do indeed count, and so do their collective voices. I believe that this election has illustrated exactly what hardwork and group participation can accomplish, and I’m confident that Barack’s administration will be leading the charge for civic accountability and service.

    And yet, in the wake of such a passionate and dramatic political upheaval, November 4th also saw the demise of civil liberties. While much of America looked to their television screens for the waving Obamas standing Kennedy-esque on stage, states like Florida, California, and Arkansas voted to ban gay marriage or prevent gay couples from giving unwanted children a loving home. The black community has taken a gigantic step forward, but we’ve simultaneously placed the gay community on the pedestal of “Second Class Citizenry.” How easily we’re distracted.

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  31. Chris/Newnik: Working to make things better is an admirable cause, one that Hannah is championing. I’m glad we agree on this. The point that both Hannah and I took issue with was your assessment that mankind is corrupt and the world is broken. The reason I felt compelled to object was because it is a relatively short logical leap from there to conclude that nothing that can be done to fix things. (This is what I took from Hannah’s response as well.) It seems that your faith prevents you from taking this argument to be a justification of inactivity, but I am not sure that the rest of the world would remain as committed to taking action if convinced of your position. Nonetheless, I am glad to hear that this is not the case for you.

    It’s perfectly reasonable to temper your optimism. Again, the danger lies in having your realism devolve into an unwillingness to take a stand for a change you no longer believe possible. It’s not that far of a slide. Perhaps the audacity of hope can best be described as the willingness to take a stand for what you believe in even when you aren’t sure that anyone will stand up next to you. It’s not just dreaming of change. It’s working for change even when it seems as though change will never come. Not that long ago, the idea of Obama running for president was laughable; still he stood for what he believed in. Now that we have stood behind him, we cannot content ourselves to sit back down and watch. I’ve not seen anyone phrase this better than Hannah: “If we’re serious about real change, Election Day should only be the beginning of, ‘Yes, we can,’ not the end.”

    Your position on evil is somewhat contradictory. You say that theft is unjustifiably wrong, and that we are all ‘fallen.’ I was not trying to justify theft, but merely to say that I believe the crime is mitigated by intention. This is a distinction borne out in the law; it is the difference, for example, between manslaughter and murder. You are certainly within your rights to disavow yourself of this sentiment, to call a sin a sin. However, you also hold that murderers and rapists are ‘evil,’ while kids who steal are merely ‘fallen.’ Here you draw some sort of a distinction. You shy away from calling kids who steal ‘evil,’ even though you say you think they have done something unjustifiably wrong. This was exactly my point. Although I concede the hypothetical kid in our example has done something wrong in stealing, I don’t think the offense rises to the level of ‘evil,’ because I believe that evil lies largely in the intent. Even if you are distinguishing on the basis of some other criterion, you have essentially conceded that there *is* some sort of a difference between the two cases, and that was all I was trying to say.

    While we’re at it, though, let’s delve a little further in the nature of your distinction. If it’s not the intent that keeps kids who steal from being evil in your mind, then perhaps it’s the possibility of redemption? Implicit in your use of the term ‘fallen’ is the potential for recovery. If you fall, you get back up. Thus, a fallen kid can still become an upstanding citizen. If this is the basis for your distinction, then it would seem to undermine your contention that humanity is fundamentally corrupt. And if you’re not drawing your distinction on the basis of the potential for redemption or on intent, then I don’t know what criterion you’re using.

    The argument you make with respect to the existence of two separate paradigms, one that calls us to a higher standard and an entirely separate one for salvation, is an affirmation of the doctrine of salvation by faith alone. This is the main theme of Paul’s letters to the Romans. I have personal objections to this doctrine, but on this I suppose we will have to agree to disagree. In the context of the letters, however, I think you are misinterpreting the excerpt you cited. Every piece of writing has both a purpose and an audience. In the case of Paul’s letters to the Romans, the intended audience is pretty clear from the outset. But 3:9 goes even further in delineating the intended audience of 3:10-18: “For we have previously charged that both Jews and Gentiles are all under sin, as it is written: There is no one who is righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands…there is no one who does good.” The passage you cite is a condemnation of Jews and Gentiles, not of the whole world. I suppose this should be relatively freeing for you, as I’ve just cleared you of a charge of corruption from on high. Again, I take issue with mass condemnation, but that’s a question for another time.

    I’ve not argued that children are inherently good. Rather, I’ve argued that they are capable of both good and evil but are not intrinsically good or evil. Your efforts to teach your children to do good are not inconsistent with the idea that they are fundamentally neutral. While I grant that I am not a parent, I fail to see how this position makes parenting any more of an uphill battle than it already is. (Also, I submit that the evil of hiding broccoli under the table is to be blamed entirely on the broccoli. What little kid takes an immediate liking to a food that sounds like a close relative of E. coli?)

    I understand your objection to my continued omission of any discussion of Jesus’ divinity. I understand what you believe was his purpose and role on earth, and I respect your right to believe as much. For the purposes of this discussion, though, I have been restricting my comments to the historical Jesus. I believe there was a person some 2,000 years ago who inspired people to change because we have historical record of the changes brought about by the people he inspired. As we’ve discussed, it takes a great leader to inspire people to change. I understand what you believe, and I respect it. I just remain unconvinced myself.

    The Bible is not really a book per se; it is more aptly characterized as an anthology, a collection of writings from many different authors over hundreds of years. Its writers all had their own audiences and their own purposes. Its assembly was subject to both conscious editorial oversight and unintentional historical error. Contradictions are to be expected. What I’m allowing is that any degree of internal consistency across the centuries is indicative that there is some basis in historical fact. Again, I’m distinguishing between historical scholarship and religious faith. Faith is not constrained to what can be objectively proven, and nor should it be. That’s why it’s called faith.

    To me, though, it would almost be a more remarkable story if the tremendous, world-changing influence of Jesus was brought about by a person not the Son of God. Even the Catholic Church has not always been convinced that Jesus was the Messiah; they didn’t reach a consensus until hundreds of years later, when they actually allowed a council of church elders to vote on the issue. It has been argued that the fundamental similarities between Catholicism and Buddhism could be explained if the central figures of the respective faiths were actually the same person, couched in different religious traditions. I’m not saying that this is necessarily what happened, but I’m also not saying it isn’t. Such an idea would be extremely difficult to prove and should in no way undermine your faith. If Jesus was mortal, that doesn’t preclude the existence of God. But for me, the idea that one man can change the world is much more empowering than the idea that the world can be changed through the intervention of a benevolent and all-powerful God. It gives me hope.

    Again, Obama is not Jesus. He cannot and will not single-handedly change the world. But in broad strokes, our willingness to take action will be mediated by our belief in the possibility of change. Obama represents hope for many who have but little. If we dare to hope together, to dream together, then we can stand together, we can work together. Together we can make a change.

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  32. I hoped for a McCain victory, as I believe in his policies, but there's also much to like about Obama, and I love that he'll be our first black President... I am so proud of that.

    Also, wanted to say Hannah, your writing is incredibly witty, fun and engaging!!! You have a real talent - I hope it gets "discovered" soon. :)

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  33. Runy: Your evaluation of the two-year campaign trail is astute. However, I cannot support the idea that America is a reactionary state undergoing a total ideological and political reversal. First of all, it is important to note that there has been a gradual shift in the political ideology espoused by the Bush administration over the last eight years. It’s not as though we’re coming out of a monolithic period in policy. Moreover, Obama and Bush are not completely at odds with each other. Though they certainly differ on many important issues, it is an overstatement to imply that Inauguration Day will mark the beginning of a total reversal. As you noted, politicians on both sides of the aisle tend to be centrist. Even the most ardent of Democrats and Republicans are not polar opposites of each other.

    Perhaps it is idealistic to believe that the public can be persuaded to abandon its apathy and devote themselves to a cause. But what’s the alternative? In detailing the myriad ways in which this election was, as you say, a step in the right direction, you are demonstrating that Americans *can* be convinced to take a stand. I don’t think Hannah has at all marginalized the importance of the record voter turnout. Quite the contrary, I think she is fully aware of the importance of increased involvement in American politics and is actively working to ensure that the momentum built by the campaign season isn’t lost at a time when we need it more than ever. Perhaps it is idealistic to believe that voter turnout can be channeled into continued activism, but you have effectively conceded that it is certainly not out of the question.

    I completely agree that gay rights is one of many important issues that should not be lost in the shuffle of the election. You are absolutely right that the recent legislation in effect makes gays second-class citizens, and history has taught us that this is a dangerous road to go down. However, the party that favors restricting gay rights lost the presidential election, which suggests that we weren’t entirely distracted. Instead, it seems to show that there is significant dissent on the issue, which only makes it all the more important that we not lose the idealism of which you spoke when there is clearly much work that remains to be done.

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  34. Michael-

    I'm going to try this paragraph by paragraph:

    For the first two, we're relatively concurrent.

    I agree that intent is a mitigating factor. My difference in referring to evil versus fallen stems from my young faith. In some ways, I'm still getting comfortable with my own vernacular. The bible says that sin is sin. Murder is far worse than stealing and the punishment should fit the crime. Murder and stealing, however varied in severity, both disqualify you as righteous, and keep you out of heaven (in so much as you rely on your own merit). In the eternal sense, both are evil. In the worldly sense, one is evil and the other is bad.

    The implication of fallen is not that we can be redeemed - it's that we were once 'up' and now we aren't. Yes, a kid that steals can become a fine upstanding citizen. Being an upstanding citizen does not atone for our crimes, though. I used to ascribe to the "if I do enough good things" philosophy. I will just have to be good enough. The truth of the matter is that being good does not negate the bad we've done. What is interesting about the hypothetical of our bad little boy is that the bible refers to an age of innocence. The proverbial "not old enough to know better". Now we have to move the whole context up to an adult. For that I simply challenge you with this - name one human being that hasn't broken the 10 commandments, or Jesus's 2 commandments.

    I look forward to furthering the conversation about mass condemnation. Another time...

    I also challenge your indictment of broccoli. Mushrooms. Now THERE is a food I want an explanation for.

    As for the deity of Christ: I'm not trying to convince you of his deity, I'm telling you he claimed it himself. (oh, and of course the bible is an anthology! 66 books in one *book*) The new testament books are reliable as historical narrative as much as any other ancient writing. In them Jesus claims deity. To that, you can go one of 3 ways: call him Lord, a lunatic, or a liar. What you can't do is dismiss him as a philosopher or teacher. I encourage you to look into 'stand to reason'. It's an apologetic ministry out of southern California and they have done a fantastic job of it. You will be amazed to see how far the historical fact goes. You will also be amazed at how much the contradictions disappear. I would argue that the bible contains no contradictions that can't be explained away. People far more dedicated than you or I have tried, trust me on that one. Look up Josh MacDowell if you want an example. In all fairness, I don't know you. I am presuming you haven't dedicated a major portion of your life to disproving the Bible and you should correct me if I'm wrong. :-)

    As for the Catholic church: Her councils were to battle rising heresies. The statements declaring Jesus's deity that came out of those councils were not the advent of the church's belief. They were the first time it was put in writing.

    As for a more remarkable story, try this on for size: The Bible claims there is One true God with the ability to speak the world into existence. It claims God made mankind who, then, turned away from him. He decided to wipe them all of the face of the earth except for one family. From there mankind turned on God again! He promised not to wipe them out again, so he didn't. What's more is that mankind was disobedient for thousands of years, replacing Him in their lives with make believe gods and money and who know what else. In stead of using his Omnipotence to force us into submission or to wipe us out again (after all- if he did, who's going to know?), he provides us with a savior. He is just in punishing us all (just, as in justice), yet he takes the punishment upon himself for those willing to take him up on the offer. Now how does the story get better than that? A big musical number?

    What is truly empowering is the hope that springs eternal from knowing that there IS a benevolent, all powerful God and that he IS WILLING to intervene. On my behalf, and yours too, if you're willing!

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  35. Newnik: "What is truly empowering is the hope that springs eternal from knowing that there IS a benevolent, all powerful God and that he IS WILLING to intervene."

    Totally. That kind of hope sounds extremely empowering. But I don't think Jesus would mind if we all went out of our ways to spread a little of our own benevolence while he's taking five. Doesn't he tell everyone to love thy neighbor?

    You claim that "being good does not negate the bad we've done." Rebuilding does not negate an earthquake, but does that mean we shouldn't bother? If the whole point isn't to do "good" (whether in the eyes of God or the community,) then why is there confession or community service at all?

    Respectfully,
    H

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  36. Michael: I apologise for the delay in responding due to work committments.

    The point I believe invalid is that the presidents who lived during the time that slavery was legal in the United States could have owned the black man who has now been elected president. This is because, as you point out Race, though it was a necessary condition to make one a slave, it was not a sufficient condition to make one a slave, so while race and slavery are inextricably bound up in historical memory, they are not inextricably bound up in history.

    As pertains to the half of his heritage that is black, Obama was the son of a willing, if temporary, immigrant to the United States. When I referred to him not being a “child of slavery” I was not meaning that he wasn’t literally the first generation offspring of a former slave. I was meaning that he wasn’t any generation of offspring of former slaves and thus of anyone who struggled for civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s. The only thing he has in common with them is the level of melanin in his skin.

    I brought up the point of slave-owning blacks in the ante-bellum South not just because Obama is descended from ever-free blacks, but because he is descended from slave owners. Thus it is more accurate to say that had Obama lived in the South prior to the adoption of the 13th Amendment, he much more likely would have been a slave owner rather than a slave.

    The statistics provided were intended to demonstrate that slave ownership by free blacks was not a rare thing. I used New Orleans as an example, because it was a popular place of relocation by free blacks. Just over 4% of free blacks in the South lived in New Orleans. I disagree that to say that free blacks owned slaves in much larger proportion than their white counterparts is misleading. However, to work from your point, just like blacks owned a small minority of slaves, likewise Barak Obama is part of a small minority of black Americans who have no connection to slavery.

    If it is a matter, as you say, that we are all affected by the history of slavery in the United States, then it should not matter what race Obama is. If the legacy of slavery is still very much with us, then Obama’s lack of ties to that legacy undermines the historical significance of his election. He has not experienced (other than as a community organiser) any of the real racial disparities that exist in society. In fact, I practiced law in the inner city for much longer than Obama had any direct connection to it, so you would have to say that I have had more experience with the real racial disparities that exist in society. As the descendant of slave owners, I even have the same connection to the institution of slavery as Obama.

    The legacy of slavery does not pose any more special challenges for the incoming administration than it did for the current one. In fact, as we move further ahead from both the abolition of the Peculiar Institution and the achievements of the Civil Rights Movement, the challenges are becoming less and less, or at the very least different.

    And now on to Hannah’s comments: By calling slavery an atrocity, we have to be careful in imposing the morality and values of the early 21st century on the mid-19th. I was never suggesting that the presidents in question could have literally owned Obama. I was simply trying to play off your own words. My point was that you mischaracterize Obama’s relationship to slavery and thus the historical significance of his election because he is black.

    I am sorry that the election of Barak Obama only makes you kinda proud to be an American and that half-hearted endorsement of our country has been so long in coming and is only possible with a black president.

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  37. Chris/Newnik: I think it’s important that people have conversations like this in order to carefully consider their faith, whatever it may be, and I’m impressed that you continue to be willing to engage on this. I hope the dialogue pushes you to reflect and grow. You draw a fair distinction in positing two different categories of evil. However, your argument brings us back to the doctrine of salvation by faith alone. In your previous post you say that “[W]e should do good in this world, forgiving and loving and helping. Just don’t assume this gets you any points toward salvation. Two distinctly different paradigms.” Yet here, you say that murder and theft “both disqualify you as righteous, and keep you out of heaven (in so much as you rely on your own merit).” These statements stand at odds with each other.

    Your previous post seemed to indicate that you don’t believe one relies on the merits of one’s actions to gain entrance to heaven. Indeed, the point of salvation by faith alone is that bad deeds do not keep you out of heaven, so long as you believe in God, repent, and seek His forgiveness. (To me Jewish law makes more sense on this point, holding that you must seek God’s forgiveness for violating divine law but that you must also seek the forgiveness of the person against whom you transgressed. For whatever reason, Christianity tends to disregard the latter.) Your assertion of “[t]wo distinctly different paradigms” was consistent with this interpretation.

    Your latest post, in contrast, indicates that you do believe deeds are relevant to salvation. You could certainly reconcile your claims by arguing that, while good works are expected and do not get you into heaven, bad works are sufficient to keep you out. Your assertion that “being good does not negate the bad we’ve done” seems to align with this view. However, this means that the two paradigms you posited are not distinctly different after all. I’m not defending murder or theft here; I’m just saying that you can’t have it both ways.

    I concede that you never explicitly endorsed the doctrine, that I may be putting words in your mouth, but the contradiction between your posts has left me unsure where you really stand on this. You have argued that we can be redeemed, but that good works won’t do it, and faith alone isn’t enough. Do you believe, then, that redemption comes from faith-and-no-bad-works? You have avowed your belief in Original Sin, and you state plainly here that everyone has violated the Ten Commandments. This means that everyone has done bad works. If you believe that redemption is still possible, then where do you draw the line? God commanded us not to steal and not to kill—how do we decide which is worse if both are violations of God’s law? You have argued that we all sin, but not all of us are redeemed, so there must be some sort of metric. What is it and where does it come from? These are complex issues to unpack, and the answers only lead to more questions.

    I cannot agree that the New Testament books are as reliable as any other ancient writing, given our records of how the Bible was constructed. There was definitely editorial oversight, not to mention fierce debates over which books to include and which to leave out. The editors’ motives have to be accounted for as well. Even (and perhaps especially) if the Catholic councils were assembled to combat growing heretical sentiments in the population at large, you have to concede that they had a vested interest in proving that Jesus was a deity. My point is this: just as we have no objective historical proof of whether Christ was a deity, we similarly have no objective proof of whether he claimed it. It’s at least possible that those claims were inserted later on in order to validate the unquestioned authority of the Church and its dominion over all aspects of people’s lives. The greater the revisionist motivation, the more we have to question the accuracy and validity of an ancient text.

    I don’t think that referring to Jesus as a philosopher or a teacher is at all dismissive. Did he teach? Clearly the answer is yes. Did he advocate for a certain philosophy? Again, clearly yes. So while referring to him as a teacher or a philosopher may limit the scope of our consideration, he did fill those roles. Even if Jesus did claim his own deity, calling him a lunatic or a liar is much more dismissive than calling him an eccentric teacher. Einstein was completely wrong about gravity, but that doesn’t in any way invalidate his insights into theoretical physics. Similarly, you could doubt that Jesus was a deity without discrediting the validity of the rest of his teachings.

    You are absolutely right that the Bible tells a fantastic story, no doubt the most remarkable story ever told. In fact, it’s so remarkable that many people simply can’t believe in it, no matter how much they might want to. However, if we believe that only God can bring about real change, then we have no reason to do anything but sit around and wait on God to make things all better. Ditto for Jesus or Obama or any other figure you want to single out. As Hannah says, it’s certainly empowering to think that you have the Almighty on your side. What I’m saying is that, at least for me, it’s even more empowering to think that we can intervene on our own behalf and still make a difference. This doesn’t undermine faith in God. In fact, a belief in human agency seems to dovetail nicely with the whole idea of free will. What’s the point in having free will if we’re not actually capable of really doing anything in the first place? Moreover, in light of free will, I’m not so sure God would want us to sit around and wait for him to intervene (cf. my argument on the interpretation of “helping”). Again, why would he bother to give us something that he didn’t intend for us to use?

    You asked how the story could get any better. Let me give it a try. Let’s say that all the claims you’ve made are true. Then let’s say that this omnipotent and all-powerful God grants us free will (when, after all, he could just as easily have made it impossible to do anything but good), and then has enough faith in *us* even as we doubt his existence to go all hands-off. He’s there to help, sure, but he grants us independence and then trusts enough to do the right thing with it, knowing full well that we’re going to screw up—a lot—along the way.

    Having a Supreme Being trust you enough to fend for yourself has got to be the ultimate in empowerment. I can’t help but think that the ultimate way to throw it right back in his face wouldn’t be to screw up, but rather to not even try. To sit back and ask him to do it all for you. To expect divine intervention. To expand on Hannah’s point, I would argue that not only wouldn’t Jesus mind if we went out of our way to spread a little benevolence, I would argue that he expects it. You have argued this, too, in saying that God calls us to a higher standard. I should think that good works are an affirmation of your faith, whatever role you may believe they play in redemption.

    Lest we forget, the underlying point that motivated this entire thread of discussion was simply that we can effect real change in the world. Just as much as I think it would be an insult to God to disavow ourselves of our causal agency and demand a miracle, so do I think that it would an insult to Obama for all the people who rallied behind his message of hope and change to now sit back down and do the same.

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  38. Sol: You make an articulate and well-reasoned objection. However, I would argue that the association of race and slavery in historical memory was a leading cause of the Civil Rights Movement, which was not at all restricted to the offspring of former slaves. After all, it’s not as if a black man could have gotten a seat at the lunch counter in the 1950s simply by producing a family tree. Rosa Parks could not have kept her seat at the front of the bus by proving that her great-great-grandfather had once been a slave owner. Discrimination was based on melanin levels, as you say, and not on a family’s historical relationship to the institution of slavery. Therefore it is irrelevant that Obama is not descended from slaves. The association of race and slavery in the public consciousness meant that he suffered from discrimination just the same. I concede that Obama was not a child of slavery in the sense that you meant it, but your conclusion that this also means he had no connection to the Civil Rights Movement is inherently flawed.

    Your notion that it is much more likely Obama would have been a slave owner than a slave is equally wrong-headed. The number of black slave owners was miniscule, especially when compared to the vast number of slaves and even when compared to the total number of non-slave-owning free blacks. As I said before, it is significant only for being non-zero. Even though Obama’s family did hold slaves, as you point out, consider that a free black could be sold back into slavery if he did not have the proper documentation of his status as a freedman. Further, if a wealthy white land owner had a vendetta against a black man, he could simply destroy the latter’s paperwork and the black man would have no legal recourse, given that blacks were not afforded, among many other essential civil liberties, the right to call witnesses in their own defense.

    I maintain that we are all affected by the legacy of slavery in the United States. However, as I said, the burden is distributed unequally. Because race and slavery are inextricably bound up in historical memory, Obama is tied to the institution of slavery by his race if not by his family history or his personal experience. He has been subject to the discrimination that faces all blacks, even if his socioeconomic status has alleviated some of that burden. Having been privy to the racial disparities that persist in our society, as you say, surely you do not think that the effect of race is negligible. This is the reason the incoming administration faces a special challenge. No one has ever questioned George W. Bush’s ability to lead the country on the basis of his race; Obama will have to deal with issues that were never on the table during the last eight years. Certainly the remaining challenges decrease with time, but they do so because of landmark achievements like this one. To imply that the election is not historically significant because Obama is not descended from slaves is to discount the role of race in American society. Let me ask you this: do you think Martin Luther King Jr. would consider Obama’s election any less significant because his ancestors were not slaves?

    Your point about morality is a good one, but it is important to note that we can choose to condemn the institution without necessarily condemning those who participated in it. Certainly popular attitudes toward slavery were different in the 1850s than today, and so your point that we shouldn’t rush to judge is well taken. However, this doesn’t in any way justify slavery. Hundreds of years ago people thought the earth was flat. They grew up in a world that told them this was true, and so while it doesn’t necessarily make them dumb for believing it, it doesn’t make them any less wrong, either. I don’t think we’re overstepping our moral frame to say that slavery is an atrocity, no matter the context.

    Similarly, we can separate pride in one’s country from pride in the course of that country. It requires a fairly uncharitable interpretation to infer that Hannah meant the former. Voicing opposition to the current political leadership does not make one any less patriotic. In fact, it can be considered a civic responsibility, to wit: “when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” And we tend to think Jefferson was pretty patriotic. Perhaps an election is a somewhat less dramatic means of throwing off the current government than outright revolution, but it is a means of changing course no less. That we could not endorse the current administration does not mean we did not take pride in our country, nor that it took a black president to make us do so.

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  39. Michael: I think you miss the point I’m making about Obama being more likely to have been a slave owner than a slave. Regardless of how he self-identifies, Obama is half white. More importantly he has a white mother. In the antebellum South, the children of free mothers were not presumed to be slaves. The significance of Obama’s family owning slaves is not that they were black slave owners. They were white. As a result, Obama would have been more likely to have been a part of the slave-owning segment of society rather than the slave.

    Obama is not tied to the institution of slavery by his race. He’s not black. He’s bi-racial and black genetic element has no connection to it whatsoever. He has not been subject to the discrimination that faces all blacks. He was born (allegedly) in Hawaii, not a state known for its discrimination against blacks in the 1960s. He moved to Indonesia, again not known for discriminating between white and black American children. He was, after all, the child of a white American woman and an Indonesian step-father. He lived in Hawaii again from 1971-79, with white grandparents, again unlikely to face any discrimination because of his racial makeup. I have never seen him to make any claims regarding this when referring to his childhood. He then went to Occidental College, a very liberal school in LA. Discrimination? Not likely. Then on to Columbia. By now we are in the 1980s. The only discrimination he could have faced was reverse discrimination, making it easier for blacks to gain access to higher education. Given his academic success, even this does not seem likely.

    Further to his disconnection to the history of race relations in this country, his father was a voluntary immigrant to the US in the 1960s. Barack has no black heritage in the United States. Not a slave, not a lynching victim, not a sharecropper. He is related to no one who faced a literacy test or a poll tax to vote. He doesn’t even have a distant cousin who participated in a rally, a march, a sit-in or a boycott. None.

    No one ever questioned Obama’s ability to lead this country on the basis of race. Or put a different way, no more people questioned it than questioned the ability of any white man to lead it because I couldn’t understand the special challenges of black people. What would MLK have thought? We can’t know for certainty, and I would hope it wouldn’t be the same as many of those who claim to speak for his legacy, but I imagine he would have seen race over all things since his life’s work was dedicated to racial equality.

    I do have to take issue with your statement that hundreds of years ago people thought the world was flat. This is an idea that was made up in the 19th century – not that the earth was flat, but that there were people who thought that. If you read any primary sources, you can see that from biblical times (the Old Testament refers to the earth as a sphere) forward (including Eratosthenes, Strabo, Ptolemy, Seneca, Clement, Origen, Ambrose, Augustine, Isodore, Albertus Magnus and Aquinas) there was almost universal acceptance of the roundness of the earth.

    Your mention of this, however, leads to a good point. The common view in the 21st century not just of slavery in its entire historical context (in which there were many variations) but in the Peculiar Institution is as much coloured by myth as truth. Were there atrocities that happened within that context? Yes. Is the general idea of some people not being free as other undesirable? Yes. Is it a good thing that slavery as an institution has ended? Yes. As a couple of the most high profile and respected scholars in the area of slavery, Eugene and the late Elizabeth Genovese note,

    Until recently, people of every race and continent lived in a world in which slavery was an accepted part of the social order. Europeans did not outdo others in enslaving people or in treating slaves viciously. They outdid others by creating a civilization that eventually stirred moral condemnation of slavery and roused mass movements against it. Perception of slavery as morally unacceptable - as sinful - did not become widespread until the second half of the eighteenth century. Slavery, not merely serfdom, existed in Western and Central Europe as late as the Renaissance and in Russia until the mid-nineteenth century. . .

    Today we ask: how could Christians or any civilized people have lived with themselves as slaveholders? But the historically appropriate question is: what, after millennia of general acceptance made Christians - and, subsequently, those of other faiths - judge slavery an enormity not to be endured?
    (The Mind of the Master Class: History and Faith in the Southern Slaveholders Worldview, Cambridge U Press, 2005, pp. 69-70)

    Your use of Jefferson in the context of patriotism is misplaced. Jefferson was writing a document address to the King. In the view of the King or of Parliament, Jefferson was not patriotic. He is throwing off his patriotism. He is a patriot to us looking back to him as a founder of our national heritage, but he was not a patriot at the time.

    That being said, I would not want to misinterpret Hannah’s intent.

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  40. Sol: You are correct in your assertion that Obama is half-white. However, this premise does not lead to the conclusions you draw from it. You are right to distinguish between genetic makeup and self-identification, so let us set this question aside. Consider, though, that until very recently the law did not afford biracial people the right of self-identification. Instead, under the law a person was considered black if he or she had any history of African ancestry, no matter how far removed. So-called “one-drop” statutes were enacted in Tennessee, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, Georgia, and Oklahoma, with similar legislation on the books in many other states. Moreover, these laws were not struck down until 1967, when Obama was six years old.

    Your claim that Obama is not black, and by extension is not tied to the institution of slavery, is therefore false (and self-contradictory, given that you have at other times referred to him as “a black president”). He is the son of a Kenyan father, which at the time of his birth made him legally black across much of the country. You detail his peripatetic childhood in an attempt to discredit the idea that he faced discrimination. Perhaps he was spared from the worst of it, but it is na├»ve to claim that he was completely insulated from it. You say that by the 1980s the only discrimination he could have faced was reverse discrimination. However, even today that statement does not hold true. Our society is still not a level playing field. Although the vast majority of Americans endorse overtly egalitarian values, tests of implicit associations show that those same people harbor negative feelings about blacks. They more readily associate blacks with fear and threat. In interaction they are more mistrustful and experience greater anxiety. Their social attributions about blacks are generally more negative, and because of this differential evaluation, empirical studies have shown that blacks are still at a disadvantage in getting a job or a house or a loan.

    You are right that Obama has never discussed his encounters with discrimination, but from this we cannot infer that he never encountered it. Throughout his entire campaign Obama very consciously tried to distance himself from the issue of race. He never wanted to be portrayed as “the black candidate.” Rather, he wanted to be a presidential candidate who happened to be black. Any discussion of his experiences with discrimination would have completely undermined this goal.

    The history of race relations in this country is ongoing. Thus, Obama’s family’s heritage is largely irrelevant. Barack Obama has had the experience of being black in America. We can’t know exactly what this entails, but this is heritage enough. You have implicitly conceded that the election of a “true” black man, one with a long family heritage in the United States, would be historically significant. You don’t seem to be arguing that point, but rather that Barack Obama is not “black enough” for his election to merit the historical significance that would be accorded to the election of another, blacker man. I think this is a ridiculous argument, but consider that whether or not you think he is legitimately black, the country at large sees him as black. Therein lies the significance of his election. The black community views Obama’s election as a historical landmark, a victory in the name of civil rights. The victory is rooted not in historical fact but in popular perception. If blacks feel that the election of Barack Obama, half-white though he may be, furthers their advancement in society, then it doesn’t matter what history records of his heritage. It doesn’t matter whether you may think his election historically significant on grounds of race. The popular sentiment makes it so.

    I am glad that you apparently do not live in a part of the country where people questioned Obama’s ability to lead the country on the basis of race. However, I grew up in the South, and I encountered more such people than I care to remember who were very open in their questioning over the last two years. As the sentiment is socially undesirable, it is not one that would have ever been expressed in the national media. That you didn’t see it, however, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

    Returning to your argument about slavery, it is true that the children of free mothers were not presumed to be slaves. This is largely because, in the antebellum South, there would never have been a marriage between a black man and a white woman. A black man would have been killed for even expressing an interest in a white woman; moreover, justifications of slavery were often based on the need to “protect” white woman from the untoward advances of black men that would surely ensue were slavery ever abolished. Historically speaking, a biracial child like Obama would have been the result of a dalliance between the white slave owner and the female slave. Such unions were very common, and while the children that resulted were often treated better than their counterparts, half-whiteness was not sufficient to overcome their social station. They were still regarded as slaves.

    Putting aside the whole discussion for a moment, I think what we have to agree on is that your initial objection to Hannah’s counterfactual was based on an overly literal interpretation. Of course counterfactuals don’t make literal sense, as this discussion thread has amply proven. The point of a counterfactual is to spark thought through contrast, and, as counterfactuals go, this one has sparked an awful lot of thought. Hannah’s opening line wasn’t strictly true, but nor was it intended to be. It simply highlighted the contrast between past and present. Historical interpretation is a tricky business, but I think we can all agree that times have changed. A counterfactual isn’t at all invalidated by running counter to historical fact, and I don’t think it skews history to call attention to how far we’ve come. I understand that you hold a different point of view regarding the true historical significance of the election, but that doesn’t make Hannah’s point of view incorrect, especially given that popular opinion is on her side and popular opinion is itself historically significant.

    You are correct that my example of the flat earth was ill-founded. Thank you for pointing that out, as I did not realize this was but a popular myth. However, it doesn’t change my underlying point. You can recast my argument in two different ways: (1) Thousands of years ago people (e.g., the Mesopotamians) believed the earth was flat; they grew up in a society that told them it was and, while they weren’t dumb for believing it, they weren’t any less wrong either, or (2) I grew up thinking that only hundreds of years ago people still thought the earth was flat; I grew up in a society that told me it was, and while I wasn’t dumb for believing it, I wasn’t any less wrong, either. The point holds. People in antebellum society weren’t necessarily immoral for participating in an institution that was even sanctioned by the church, but that doesn’t mean the institution was moral.
    We consider slavery an atrocity because, even in its most benign form, it flagrantly violates many of the most fundamental human rights. It is not the case that today we find slavery an atrocity whereas it was historically accepted because of any dramatic change to our conception of human rights. Slavery stands directly opposed to the ideals of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” exalted in the Declaration of Independence. Indeed, it was the elevation of these ideals to the status of inalienable rights that so conflicted antebellum society, and led to the need for justification in the mind of the master class. When the framers of the Constitution couldn’t resolve the dilemma in which they found themselves, they merely pushed the debate back twenty years. Over time Southern society produced philosophical, religious, and even medical justifications of slavery. These arguments portrayed slavery not only as a necessity but even as a boon to the poor slaves who depended on their masters for their every need, who benefited from association with their right-living Christian plantation owners.

    As a general rule people do not go to great lengths to justify behavior with which they are already comfortable. That proslavery arguments became so elaborate and so firmly entrenched suggests that the master class was not entirely comfortable with the moral righteousness of their peculiar institution. This inference is supported by the evidence that alternative viewpoints were actively suppressed, met with moral indignation, outrage, and even threats of violence. When the Genoveses ask what finally made Christians decide that slavery was unacceptable, they are not asking what made Christians change their minds and finally decide that slavery was wrong. Ample historical evidence indicates that they were already conflicted on this score. Rather, what they are asking is, what was the last straw? What was the turning point that made them weigh their moral concerns above their economic ones and finally speak out against slavery? While this is certainly an oversimplification of a complex argument, I think you are misinterpreting the Genoveses in quoting them to support the idea that slavery was only recently deemed morally wrong. As far back as biblical times there were religious justifications offered for slavery, which suggests that as far back as biblical times there was at least some concern about the morality of the institution. We would be remiss to conflate socioeconomic entrenchment with moral resignation.

    Finally, I do not think my quotation of Jefferson was at all misplaced. You are correct in asserting that at the time he wrote the Declaration he was accused of being unpatriotic. Similarly, you accused Hannah of being unpatriotic. For Jefferson, what was considered unpatriotic at the time was seen in retrospect as the very height of patriotism. Similarly, I believe that in time, Hannah’s support of Obama’s election as a change in the public’s best interest will be proven just as well-founded as Jefferson’s call for new government. Patriotism is often proven only with time; to call someone unpatriotic in the moment is short-sighted, indeed.

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  41. Hannah and Michael,

    I'm afraid this will be my last post. I have realized that, as much as I enjoy this medium, I don't have the time to invest in it. Not at the great lengths we have delved to, anyway.

    You'll be delighted to know that true repentance naturally creates a desire to find forgiveness in the person you wronged - it's all part and parcel to the whole gig. Yes, seeking forgiveness in those you've wronged is biblical, but I'm afraid I'll have to let you look it up. As for the confusion about bad deeds, I was establishing the premise of our need for salvation, not discounting its effectiveness.

    Point of clarification: According to the Pentateuch Jewish law demands that, in seeking forgiveness from God, atonement be made for sins. Thus the whole sacrificial system. This was why Jesus died for us in the first place. The wages of sin is death. In the days of ancient Isreal, blood sacrifices on the altar were made to cover the sins of God's people. Moreover, the high priest would have to make a sacrifice to cover his own sins before he was eligible to make the sacrifice for the rest of the people. Even then, sins were merely "covered". The rite was repeated every year, since mankind was continually sinning. Jesus lived the perfect, sinless life that made him eligible to be the perfect sacrifice to PAY for our sins. Atone for them once an for all. If you're still confused, let me put this in order one last time:

    We all sin and fall short the righteousness expected of us by God; thus, we are deserving of death. Instead of giving us the punishment fitting the crime, God sent his Son to die in our place - an everlasting atonement sufficient to cover all the sins of those who would repent and put their trust in Him. Sins past, present, and future.

    Regarding the new testament legitimacy, I'll do some of the heavy lifting for you if Hannah doesn't mind my posting links on her blog:
    http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6068
    The link is to a very well written, well sourced blog on this very subject. If you really take this seriously, look it up: it's not hard to find.

    The bible was not constructed so much as it was collected. The individual books were actually written by people who experienced what they wrote, or wrote for those who experienced it themselves. These books were disseminated amongst the intended audiences, usually a particular church or people. They were then copied and passed around further. Don't think copying automatically means human error, either. In those days, copying text was a serious business and accuracy was far more likely than you can imagine. If you don't believe me, consider this: An example of accuracy quoted from here

    http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/266

    The dead sea scrolls held copies of the *book* of Isaiah that dated 1000 years older than anything historians saw prior. Texts from the DSS versions of Isaiah are 95% word for word identical to our standard hebrew bible, and that the 5 percent variation consisted mostly of obvious slips of the pen. Don't trust me, go look it up; alas, I digress.

    As the new testamant figures wrote their works, the writing were collected and assembled as the 'new scriptures'. Peter and Paul attest to one-anothers' writings as scripture in the NT (an example of the internal consistency you mentioned earlier). The church was using the collection of books we refer to as the bible long before the first councils. The councils around the 390's-400's AD canonized the bible as we know it, though historians date the oldest manuscripts back to the 2nd century:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_manuscript#New_Testament_manuscripts

    If you refuse to do the research then so be it, but you can not feign ignorance. Your talk of 'no objective proof' is patent nonsense. The fact that the church was forced to defend itself does not make it any less objective. The possibility of the claims being inserted after the fact is not possible either. There are manuscript copies of the NT consistent with the copies from the Church that were found well outside of the reach of Rome - somewhere in Africa, I'm certain. That ignores the fact that there are **25 thousand** whole or partial manuscripts of the new testament in various languages found in various parts of the world! DATING BACK FROM THE 2ND TO 15TH CENTURY! Lets see the church insert lies into all those! (all that can be found in the wikipedia link from above and further links found in the article itself - if you don't trust wikipedia, do a search for new testament manuscripts; again, the evidence is easy to find)

    Regarding the consideration of Jesus the teacher, I'll simply state this: You know where I stand. My concern is for where you stand. You are officially accepting the teachings and philosophy of a human man that considered himself the Son of God and God, himself. You are admitting your willingness to learn from a man who thinks he is God. You are willing to sit in the classroom, so-to-speak, of a man who thinks he can perform miracles and holds authority over the living and the dead, angels, demons, and the rest of creation. I will assert:

    If you continue this willingness and yet refuse to believe he is God, you are the lunatic. You have no sense of what objectivity is. Yes, calling him a lunatic or liar is dismissive. If he is not the Son of God but claims to be so (to his very demise), then his teachings are MOOT. Get the good vibes from somewhere else, cause his are stained.

    To end it, I never suggested we should stand around waiting for miracles or for Jesus. I say once again that we are to do good works. I have been saying this all along. I hope Obama's hope sees dividends and I'm willing to help. I'll be praying for it. I'll be praying for Obama and Biden - and now I'll be praying for you all, too.

    Sincerely,
    C

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