Headline Muse, 7/29

At the site of a horrible loss,
The Memorial now holds a cross?
The community center
Was told “do not enter”—
Guess we know which religion is boss.

Four individuals, represented by American Atheists, are suing to either remove the Ground Zero Cross from the 9/11 memorial, or to force inclusion of non-Christian (including atheist) memorials of equal stature. As always, the fun reading is not in the article itself, but in the comments. I used to be astonished, now I am simply aware, that people have hugely varying ideas of what atheism is. And of what the First Amendment means. And, while it was important that a Muslim community center should not be built on 9/11 sacred ground because it would be special treatment for one religion, it is crucial (get it?) that the WTC cross remains, because it gave so many Christians comfort.

I am told that, as an atheist, my taking offense at the WTC cross shows that a) I am actually a believer, b) I am illogical, because I shouldn’t care, since I don’t believe, c) I am unamerican, since majority rules here, d) not really an atheist but an anti-theist, e) remarkably thin-skinned, f) pushing my beliefs onto other people (this last, without a trace of irony). In truth, I don’t find crosses offensive; if I did, I’d have a rough go of it, since they are all around us.

I don’t find this particular cross offensive, and think an argument can easily be made for its inclusion in the memorial–it is, after all, a huge part of the history of the aftermath of 9/11. The thing is, context matters. If this cross were, say, part of an exhibit demonstrating that religious extremism may have dire consequences, including 9/11 type events, it would be quite appropriate… but I suspect that many Christians would balk at equating their religion with [their perception of] Islam. If the WTC cross is venerated as a religious symbol, though, it is only proper (and constitutional) to demand equal treatment for other affected groups.

The 9/11 attacks were not an attack on Christianity. They were an attack on America, and were politically as well as religiously motivated. American Atheists is not going to make a lot of friends with this move (judging from the comment threads), but they are in the right. Context is everything; the cross can stay (and American Atheists agrees), if it is not exhibited in such a manner as to elevate one belief system over others.

But hey, this is Headline Muse–your comments don’t have to be about this story, if you have your own headline limerick!

Headline Muse

The requirements just get insaner,
Like a good triple twisting half-gainer
If you do a good dive,
You will surely survive—
If you don’t, then you’re “pulling a Boehner”.

(I’m trying out–subject to my time and other people’s idiocy–a new occasional feature, kinda like Ed Brayton’s “dumbass quote” and “badass quote” of the day. You are encouraged to add your own limericks in the comments. The rules are–look at the headlines of whatever news source you like, and write a limerick inspired by same. If your headline is local, small-town news, you might want to include a link, too.)

Headline Muse

The requirements just get insaner,
Like a good triple twisting half-gainer
If you do a good dive,
You will surely survive—
If you don’t, then you’re “pulling a Boehner”.

(I’m trying out–subject to my time and other people’s idiocy–a new occasional feature, kinda like Ed Brayton’s “dumbass quote” and “badass quote” of the day. You are encouraged to add your own limericks in the comments. The rules are–look at the headlines of whatever news source you like, and write a limerick inspired by same. If your headline is local, small-town news, you might want to include a link, too.)

One Last Dance

When Johnny was little, he played with his friends
As the summertime slowly would pass
They’d swim in the rivers; they’d hide in the woods
And they’d frolic and dance in the grass, oh
They’d frolic and dance in the grass

But friendship is fickle in kids of this age
So he had the occasional fight
And names would be called, and fists would be thrown,
In a world that was pure black-and-white;
Johnny was smaller than some of the boys
And the target, sometimes, of abuse
He sometimes fought back, but too quickly he learned
That his struggles were never of use

When Johnny was little, he’d played with his friends
As the summertime slowly would pass
They’d swim in the rivers; they’d hide in the woods
And they’d frolic and dance in the grass, oh
They’d frolic and dance in the grass

Johnny was lonely, and Johnny was scared;
He knew he would never be cool
He knew all the names of the popular boys
Cos they’d all kicked his ass after school
They called him a faggot; they called him a queer
And nobody cared if it’s true
Cos the summers are long and the summers are hot
And the bad boys need something to do

When Johnny was little, he’d played with his friends
As the summertime slowly would pass
They’d swim in the rivers; they’d hide in the woods
And they’d frolic and dance in the grass, oh
They’d frolic and dance in the grass

Johnny told teachers, and parents and more
That the bullies were out of control
But the teachers were fond of the popular boys
So they told him they’d pray for his soul
He heard what they said, and he heard what they didn’t,
And knew they were not on his side
He wondered if, really, they worried at all,
And would they be sad if he died?

When Johnny was little, he’d played with his friends
As the summertime slowly would pass
They’d swim in the rivers; they’d hide in the woods
And they’d frolic and dance in the grass, oh
They’d frolic and dance in the grass

Johnny was tired of running and hiding
And wanted his troubles to end
Johnny might never have done what he did
If he only had talked with a friend
Instead, though, he talked with the school’s Parents’ League
(There were lies that they had to dispel)
They wanted the children to all know the truth—
That Johnny was going to Hell

They said he was sinful; they said he was wrong
They told him the things he must learn
They told him that God sends all sinners to Hell
They told him that that’s where he’d burn
When Johnny heard the things they said
He knew he had no chance
So Johnny got a length of rope
For one last, special dance

They told him they’d pray for the sake of his soul
They told him that, always, there’s hope;
But never again will he dance in the grass
Since he danced at the end of a rope, oh
Since he danced at the end of a rope.

[Read more...]

One Last Dance

When Johnny was little, he played with his friends
As the summertime slowly would pass
They’d swim in the rivers; they’d hide in the woods
And they’d frolic and dance in the grass, oh
They’d frolic and dance in the grass

But friendship is fickle in kids of this age
So he had the occasional fight
And names would be called, and fists would be thrown,
In a world that was pure black-and-white;
Johnny was smaller than some of the boys
And the target, sometimes, of abuse
He sometimes fought back, but too quickly he learned
That his struggles were never of use

When Johnny was little, he’d played with his friends
As the summertime slowly would pass
They’d swim in the rivers; they’d hide in the woods
And they’d frolic and dance in the grass, oh
They’d frolic and dance in the grass

Johnny was lonely, and Johnny was scared;
He knew he would never be cool
He knew all the names of the popular boys
Cos they’d all kicked his ass after school
They called him a faggot; they called him a queer
And nobody cared if it’s true
Cos the summers are long and the summers are hot
And the bad boys need something to do

When Johnny was little, he’d played with his friends
As the summertime slowly would pass
They’d swim in the rivers; they’d hide in the woods
And they’d frolic and dance in the grass, oh
They’d frolic and dance in the grass

Johnny told teachers, and parents and more
That the bullies were out of control
But the teachers were fond of the popular boys
So they told him they’d pray for his soul
He heard what they said, and he heard what they didn’t,
And knew they were not on his side
He wondered if, really, they worried at all,
And would they be sad if he died?

When Johnny was little, he’d played with his friends
As the summertime slowly would pass
They’d swim in the rivers; they’d hide in the woods
And they’d frolic and dance in the grass, oh
They’d frolic and dance in the grass

Johnny was tired of running and hiding
And wanted his troubles to end
Johnny might never have done what he did
If he only had talked with a friend
Instead, though, he talked with the school’s Parents’ League
(There were lies that they had to dispel)
They wanted the children to all know the truth—
That Johnny was going to Hell

They said he was sinful; they said he was wrong
They told him the things he must learn
They told him that God sends all sinners to Hell
They told him that that’s where he’d burn
When Johnny heard the things they said
He knew he had no chance
So Johnny got a length of rope
For one last, special dance

They told him they’d pray for the sake of his soul
They told him that, always, there’s hope;
But never again will he dance in the grass
Since he danced at the end of a rope, oh
Since he danced at the end of a rope.

Via PZ and others, a terribly sad story of Christian compassion, of anti-gay bullying, and the “Day of Truth” (at that link, you can see evolution at work–click on “dayoftruth.org”, and you will be brought to the “day of dialogue” website). The “Parents Action League” (weren’t they in The Incredibles?) had worked with local churches to provide t-shirts for the day.

Because of Despite the League’s work, because of despite warning gays that they were bound for hell for their sinful lifestyle, it seems there has been an epidemic of teen suicide. Nine kids in two years, at present.

Oh, yes. This is in Michele Bachmann’s district. You remember her–her husband lies about doing ex-gay therapy. Cos it’s better to make people think they are ill, broken, or sinful, than to have them love the wrong person.

Oh–this poem is not about any one kid in particular. There were names that could easily have fit, but no way in hell am I going to do that to parents, siblings, friends, etc.

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

One year ago today my brother died.

At his hospital bedside, I sang to him–music, I thought, affects so much of the brain, perhaps this will get through. A familiar song, a catchy song, one he had sung so many times. Maybe he’ll open his eyes and join in on the chorus.

He did not.

If we live on only in the memories and actions of others, he’s doing better than most.

Should I Be Cross?

I can’t really blame you; the pain is yet growing,
With so many horrible losses
But somehow it seems that your privilege is showing—
You seem to have mis-placed your crosses.

One of the reasonably local papers around Cuttletown had a political cartoon today that irked me a bit. Here’s a link–I won’t show it here because, well, I’m cheap. Basically, the cartoon morphs the cross from the flag of Norway into the crosses at the graves of the victims.

It’s a clever concept, but it reinforces the position of privilege held by Christians (despite claims of persecution) in the US. The crosses represent the victims (reminiscent of Justice Scalia’s view that crosses are “the most common symbol of the resting place of the dead”), which is all well and good, except that

According to Inglehart et al. (2004), 31 percent of Norwegians do not believe in God. According to Bondeson (2003), 54 percent of Norwegians said that they did not believe in a “personal God.” According to Greeley (2003), 41 percent of Norwegians do not believe in God, although only 10 percent self-identify as “atheist.” According to Gustafsson and Pettersson (2000), 72 percent of Norwegians do not believe in a “personal God.” According to Froese (2001), 45 percent of Norwegians are either atheist or agnostic.

(source: Phil Zuckerman’s chapter, “Atheism: Contemporary Numbers and Patterns”, in The Cambridge Companion to Atheism.)

Ah, but we do know with certainty that there was at least one Christian involved. The shooter. Yes, it appears his extremist political views, not his religion, was his motivation. I’m sure American cartoonists would make the same distinction for Muslim terrorists as well.

Should I Be Cross?

I can’t really blame you; the pain is yet growing,
With so many horrible losses
But somehow it seems that your privilege is showing—
You seem to have mis-placed your crosses.

One of the reasonably local papers around Cuttletown had a political cartoon today that irked me a bit. Here’s a link–I won’t show it here because, well, I’m cheap. Basically, the cartoon morphs the cross from the flag of Norway into the crosses at the graves of the victims.

It’s a clever concept, but it reinforces the position of privilege held by Christians (despite claims of persecution) in the US. The crosses represent the victims (reminiscent of Justice Scalia’s view that crosses are “the most common symbol of the resting place of the dead”), which is all well and good, except that

According to Inglehart et al. (2004), 31 percent of Norwegians do not believe in God. According to Bondeson (2003), 54 percent of Norwegians said that they did not believe in a “personal God.” According to Greeley (2003), 41 percent of Norwegians do not believe in God, although only 10 percent self-identify as “atheist.” According to Gustafsson and Pettersson (2000), 72 percent of Norwegians do not believe in a “personal God.” According to Froese (2001), 45 percent of Norwegians are either atheist or agnostic.

(source: Phil Zuckerman’s chapter, “Atheism: Contemporary Numbers and Patterns”, in The Cambridge Companion to Atheism.)

Ah, but we do know with certainty that there was at least one Christian involved. The shooter. Yes, it appears his extremist political views, not his religion, was his motivation. I’m sure American cartoonists would make the same distinction for Muslim terrorists as well.

My Marriage Is Gay Today

Half a lifetime ago
As chronologies go
I was married, in upstate New York
There were family, friends,
And some strange odds and ends
When we, husband and wife, popped the cork

But today it feels strange
As if something has changed
Though our vows are the same, to the letter
Because, as of today,
Why, “marriage is gay”
And equality’s oh so much better

When marriage was straight
And the church barred the gate
And kept part of humanity out
They tried to define
In society’s mind
What a marriage was wholly about

Though they struggled with words
Their whole view was absurd
And historically, simply untrue—
And sanctified bigots
Just opened their spigots
Letting sewage and prejudice spew

They poured this pollution
Into my institution;
My marriage was tarred by their brush
But—long story short—
I am glad to report
They are getting their long-deserved flush.

With this change in the laws
I feel better, because
I’m not part of a bigoted order
So today, let’s have fun
But there’s work to be done
Cos equality stops at the border.

My Marriage Is Gay Today

Half a lifetime ago
As chronologies go
I was married, in upstate New York
There were family, friends,
And some strange odds and ends
When we, husband and wife, popped the cork

But today it feels strange
As if something has changed
Though our vows are the same, to the letter
Because, as of today,
Why, “marriage is gay”
And equality’s oh so much better

When marriage was straight
And the church barred the gate
And kept part of humanity out
They tried to define
In society’s mind
What a marriage was wholly about

Though they struggled with words
Their whole view was absurd
And historically, simply untrue—
And sanctified bigots
Just opened their spigots
Letting sewage and prejudice spew

They poured this pollution
Into my institution;
My marriage was tarred by their brush
But—long story short—
I am glad to report
They are getting their long-deserved flush.

With this change in the laws
I feel better, because
I’m not part of a bigoted order
So today, let’s have fun
But there’s work to be done
Cos equality stops at the border.