Eden Hill Journal

Comments, dreams, stories, and rantings from a middle-aged native of Maine living on a shoestring and a prayer in the woods of Maine. My portion of the family farm is to be known as Eden Hill Farm just because I want to call it that and because that's the closest thing to the truth that I could come up with. If you enjoy what I write, email me or make a comment. If you enjoy Eden Hill, come visit.

My Photo
Name:
Location: Maine, United States

Friday, October 14, 2005

The Virtue of Discretion

Self Discipline, Compassion, Responsibility, Friendship, Work, Courage, Perseverance, Honesty, Loyalty, Faith
Those are the ten headings listed in the "Contents" page of William J. Bennett's 1993 book The Book of Virtues: A treasury of Great Moral Stories.
Nowhere in that list, and nowhere even in the index of that book do I find the word "discretion." Why not?
Discretion - the quality of being discreet
Discretion is an interesting thing. Jeff Gannon promised to be discreet on his websites promising homosexual services in the Washington DC area for $200 an hour. Dating services that specialize in adult services including extra-marital affairs are full of ads promising discretion. This kind if discretion is merely secrecy painted with a virtuous word.
I once belonged to a Bible thumping church led by an easy-going, almost always smiling, full of humor pastor who enjoyed the confidence and the trust of his congregation up until it became apparent that he had fathered a child by the wife of a young deaf church-going man who was killed in an automobile accident. In disgrace, this pastor was made to confess what he had done to his congregation. I witnessed his confession. My impression was that he hadn't confessed to any sin. Why should he? He loved this woman and wanted her to be his wife some day. How could it have been sin? Rather, he seemed to confess to his betrayal of trust, to hurting his congregation. In other words, he asked forgiveness for the indiscretion, for allowing the truth to come out.
Donald Rumsfeld, when the abu Ghraib prison photos surfaced on the Internet and then in the news, complained about how easy it is now to get pictures like these circulated all around the world. Rather than showing concern for the abuse, his concern was over the indiscretion of the soldiers involved. I suppose that explains why only the soldiers involved in the pictures were punished.
In recent months, Americans have been asked to forgive Bill Bennett for his indiscretion in suggesting that we could reduce crime by exterminating the Black race in America. When Jeff Gannon was revealed to be a male homosexual prostitute and not a legitimate Washington journalist, we were expected to forgive the indiscretion of the White House. We have been told by Condoleeza Rice not to impugn her integrity by suggesting that she lied to us about Iraq or 9/11 or anything else that she lied to us about. To maintain respectability as a legitimate nation, we are to remain discreet about such things. The same holds true with respect to the Pentagon, Karl Rove, Bill Frist, Tom Delay, Jack Abramoff, Alberto Gonzales and the abuse of war prisoners, dual-citizenship Neo-cons in high positions in the Bush government, Bill Bennett's gambling habits, and the sexual escapades of countless Republicans connected to the White House and Congress.
The problem is that the virtue expected of conservatives is discretion, secrecy. Conservatives generally concede that their leaders can be whoever they are in their private lives and even in their public lives as long as they are discreet about it. The sin is in breaking down the walls of secrecy and letting the truth escape out into the public. Indiscretion leads to embarrassment for the righteous Right. Indiscretion is the hallmark of the Left exemplified by the homosexual rights movement and the public acceptance of abortion. Conservatives are supposed to do these things in secret while publicly proclaiming the horrors of that kind of behavior.
Out of dire need, conservatives have adopted a coping mechanism which they use to overcome the effects of all these indiscretions. That coping mechanism is forgiveness. Conservatives find it in their hearts to forgive immoral conservatives. The conservative mantra in light of these indiscretions is, "Nobody is perfect." Rush Limbaugh takes drugs? Nobody is perfect. Bill Bennett has a gambling problem? Nobody is perfect. Karl Rove is involved in a high-level White House conspiracy to falsify intelligence about Iraq and in the process endangers a CIA operative? Nobody is perfect. Bill Frist makes a bundle of money by selling stock in a family-run corporation just in time before the stock value plummets? Nobody is perfect. Tom DeLay breaks every ethics rule in the book when it comes to campaign financing and influence peddling? Nobody is perfect. Why, just look at the sleazy liberal making the charges!
The thing that is hardest for me to understand, though, is why it is so easy and so natural for conservative Christians to go along with this nonsense.

PNAC

Some day I'll read this document dated September 2000:
REBUILDING AMERICA’S DEFENSES
Strategy, Forces and Resources For a New Century
http://www.newamericancentury.org/RebuildingAmericasDefenses.pdf
Presumably this pre 9/11, pre Bush Neo-con document outlines the need to overthrow Saddam and secure Iraq's oil for our forward military bases in that region. But if that's in there, I have yet to discover where. Any clues, anyone?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Justice(s)

I fear that some of you (probably most of you if not even simply ALL of you) aren't going to enjoy this post. But when did that ever stop me from exercising my Constitutional Rights? Eh?
With the Supreme Court turnover this year, one has to wonder what is going on down there in DC ("down" in the Hades sense of the word) with Bush's nominations of political hacks and personal friends. First there was John Roberts with all of two years' experience on the bench, a long-time political hack for the Republicans, who virtually skated through the Senate confirmation process cleverly dodging any serious discussion about how he might go about defending the Constitution. Democrats seemed worried about his lack of a record with which to judge his ability, but it didn't seem to bother Republicans at all.
Now there is the Harriet Meiers thing and the whole notion of needing to know a Supreme Court judge nominee's philosophy is turned from one ear to the other, in this case to the Republican ear. Suddenly it is the Republicans who have a need to know.
But you know, I have a different take on this thing. You see, Harriet Meiers isn't just any old Republican hack. She is President Bush's lawyer. She is a Bush hack and Bush has a very good reason for wanting her on the Supreme Court. It is almost without doubt that if Bush has been up to anything sneaky "down" there in DC, Meiers knows about it. And Bush is beginning to see the writing on the wall. Bush knows that there's a very good chance that if somehow that mountain of classified information for which his administration is known should have a landslide such as Rovegate, not only might the public insist on impeachment, but Bush and Company could easily face big-time jail time. Who better to have on the bench in the highest court in the land than your long-time lawyer friend from Texas, the lady who already knows all about the contents of that mountain?
Just one man's opinion...

Monday, October 10, 2005

Disturbing

Today I write about sex. I know, I know, dirty old man thinking about sex at my age and all that jazz... But here I go anyway. What I want to write about is the way my perspective on sex is changing and how I am discovering that I think there is a great deal about how people in this day think about sex that is disturbing to me.
My background in life is as a bit of a prude. I have heard rumors that my dad was anything but that in his first life, but I didn't get to know him until his second life as I was born when he was sixty years old. By then he was comfortably settled with his second wife, my mom, on a hillside in Maine overlooking beautiful Wilson Pond and the mountains to the east. However, as near as I can tell, my mom came from a rather prudish family, ancestors to the modern conservative Christian movement. Even though she rebelled, being among the many women commonly referred to as "Rosie the Riveter" in upstate New York during World War II and then moving to Maine on her own where she met my still-married dad, details never revealed, she still somehow managed to entrench in me a sense of prudishness that I'm sure I'll never completely free myself from no matter how I try or who I meet before I die.
Yet I was a product of the 60s and a fringe member of the sexual revolution generation. I suppose I just had a few too many hang-ups to fully appreciate the revolution. I was a virgin till I was 21. It's not that I hadn't explored my own sexuality, though. It's just that I was way too shy and ashamed to explore the sexuality of women, even though that's exactly what I wanted to do. I was never into the guy thing.
Enough of my background, now what is this post going to say?
I am disturbed about a few things I have experienced lately. I think I first realized this fact about a year ago when I went to a wedding of two young conservative Christians. I didn't know this couple well enough to know about their personal lives, whether they were virgins or not, how they thought about sex, that sort of thing. But the wedding was conducted in such a way as to present the image of them as virgins. While most weddings don't put a significant (if any) emphasis on sex, I was surprised at this wedding to find many allusions to the sexual relations these two young people would now be able to share once they had completed this marriage bond. There were giggles and murmurings from those in the church who knew this couple. At one point in the wedding the pastor, eyes bulging and a lustful smile on his face, paused and asked us all to behold this beautiful maiden, congratulating the groom on the pleasures he would soon enjoy with this young woman. To put it simply, it made me sick, disturbed, freakin' pissed off. My apologies to the couple for feeling this way, but that's the reaction I had. To be fair, it's not that the whole wedding was about sex. It's just that there was far too much subtle innuendo for comfort.
What refreshed my memory about this event was an article in the June 30 - July 14 2005 issue of Rolling Stone, page 103, titled "the YOUNG & the SEXLESS" about a modern Christian chastity movement among American singles. I'll leave it to you to read the magazine, but here's a blog from one of the people mentioned by this article:
http://www.dawneden.com/blogger.html
I think I prefer reading Dawn's blog, however, to reading young female blogs like these:
http://singleserves.blogspot.com/
or worse,
http://diaryofaliberatedwoman.blogspot.com/
Sexual liberation isn't all it's cracked up to be.
Yesterday I rented a 2003 movie called The Magdalene Sisters which is about a Catholic convent in Ireland where shamed women were committed to a life of repentance, essentially isolated and punished not for their own shame but for the shame that society would feel in their presence, shame that society and religion then forces onto these women. The movie is dark and disturbing, but again it shines a spotlight on religion's obsessions with sex.
And I think that's what I'm getting at here. Religion can and does often become obsessive about sex and when it happens, it is deeply disturbing to witness because the real obsession isn't about sex at all. It becomes an obsession about shame. Yes if somebody wishes to remain a virgin, great. That's a good choice, safe and healthy. If somebody wishes to explore sexuality, that's OK too but it is nearly impossible to do that outside of marriage without both emotional and health risks. Live and learn applies when a person takes that route in life. The disturbing part comes, though, when religion is applied to impose on society a set of rules, often breached in secrecy, which restrict and punish the innocent while liberating the cheaters. Find me a religion obsessed with sex where there are no cheaters, where the innocent and the youthful are not forced to feel shame for healthy and natural feelings. Find me a legalistic religion not darkened by the shadow of those who secretly abuse their authority.
Disturbing...

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Bennett is Back

Bill Bennett is back in the news. It seems he made an appearance in Bakersfield California at a business conference where he was cheered by 4,500 people for defending his comments about aborting the entire black race in America.
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051009/ap_on_re_us/bennett_race
What is there about these conservatives that they never have to admit to their mistakes? It's always the fault of the liberal this or the liberal that. It's never that a conservative shot off his or her filthy mouth and said something totally wrong and stupid.
But you know, what Bennett is quoted as saying on his radio program is very tricky. Expressing doubts to a claim in the book Freakonomics that the drop in the crime rate is related to the increase in the abortion of unwanted pregnancies, Bennett says this:
BENNETT: Well, I don't think it is either, I don't think it is either, because first of all, there is just too much that you don't know. But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky.
For the quote in context, go here:
http://www.freakonomics.com/2005/09/bill-bennett-and-freakonomics.html
It is worth noting that in the Freakonomics comments about Bennett in the link above, they dispute Bennett's claim, yet Bennett still holds to it, or at least hasn't corrected himself.
One might paraphrase the argument by saying that if America takes the position that abortion is morally acceptable (the liberal view) and if America wants to reduce crime, then why not just use abortion to exterminate the black race in America since the crime rate among blacks is so much higher than it is among whites. Wouldn't that be an effective liberal policy for reducing crime? The only problem is that by current conservative American standards, that would be immoral. That appeared to be Bill Bennett's argument and it's a very tricky argument.
It is clear from what he said that he personally wouldn't do what he suggested. He wouldn't abort all black babies because he is opposed to abortion. One could also argue that within Bennett's definition of "impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible" lies racial genocide, although he didn't clarify that issue. The topic at hand was abortion and Bennett's position there seems clear. He is a good conservative.
But when it comes to social class, the conservative viewpoint gets fuzzy. Bennett's claim relates to blacks as a social class in America. Bennett is saying that blacks as a social class are disproportionately represented in crime. This is the claim that the Freakonomics website disclaims. Freakonomics claims that when corrected for economic conditions, blacks in America are no more likely to commit crimes than any other race. Yet Bennett hasn't seen fit to correct himself on that.
But that's only a small part of the offense taken to his remarks. What Bennett proposed under the clever disguise of moral reprehension was the eradication of the black race in America. To me, and I'm sure to many other Americans, that seemed quite Nazi. We live in an age where the Nazi regime is condemned for the Holocaust which we view as the attempted eradication of the Jews. What we conveniently ignore is that the Nazi regime promoted the concept of white Aryan supremacy, not merely over Jews but over all other races. That concept lost its home in Europe after World War II but has managed to survive elsewhere in the world including here in the US. Talk like what Bennett did feeds that concept, feeds white supremacy, and feeds the hatred that brews wherever white supremacy is stirred up. That is the offense that Bill Bennett committed and that is the reason why he needs to not only apologize but prove to all of America that the conservative movement is not giving a home to white supremacy. Conservative rhetoric proves otherwise, so that would be a tough challenge for Bennett, especially if he harbors the kinds of ideas that his comments suggest and is not willing to admit his offensive rhetoric.
It is totally wrong to blame Bennett's problems on the liberal media or on liberals in general. It is completely right to ask if the philosophy of the wealthy American families who financially backed Nazi Germany still lives on in America and if so, why and where and how. The only way we can do that is to expose this racism wherever it shows its ugly head and Bill Bennett's comment certainly was ugly.