Monthly Archives: September 2010

I Am My Brother’s Keeper

Yeah; I’m talking religion AND politics. Gird your loins!

I’ve been hearing a lot of squawking lately about the President’s faith.

Let me start out here by saying that I couldn’t care less how the President (or anyone else, really) chooses to express his or her relationship to the Universe. That’s a pretty big precept of these United States; the founding document allows that everyone exercises their religion freely (which, I don’t think it’s a stretch to continue, implies that we can exercise it not at all if that is our choice). Let’s be clear about this, because an alarming number of people clearly aren’t; it seems that, lately, to be a-religious in this country is to be equated more and more with being anti-American, and that’s an important thing to remember.

A few days ago, at a ‘backyard’ event, the President was asked about his religion. Given that a stupidly high number of Americans believe that Obama is a Muslim (and so what if he is?, I ask, but that’s another post), and the startling regularity with which his detractors seem to keep that particular misconception alive in their constituency, it seems a reasonable thing to ask. Obama answered the question thus:

“I came to my Christian faith later in life, and it was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead,” Obama said. “Being my brothers’ and sisters’ keeper. Treating others as they would treat me. And I think also understanding that, you know, that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility that we all have to have as human beings.”

A perfectly reasonable answer, I think, and one that reflects the values that the President has consistently espoused for as long as I’ve been listening to the man.  One of the things that speaks to me about the President – and always has – is this idea of how important we all are (or, rather, how important we all should be) to one another.  There is an African proverb that goes something like “I am because you are.” As a public figure, Obama has always embraced that idea and has exhorted us to do the same.  Many of his speeches remind us that everyone does better when everyone does better, so it’s in our personal best interests to help one another out.

Clearly, some people don’t feel that way.  That’s a socialist idea, they say; or, at the very least, it’s so weak and touchy feel-y as to be un-American.

Some people, though, just can’t let it go.  Witness Bryan Fischer, who attacked Obama for being totally ignorant:

According to Obama, his understanding of the story of Cain and Abel is 180 degrees out from reality, and his understanding of the Golden Rule is that he gets to be as mean to others as he thinks they are to him … the phrase “brother’s keeper” was not found on the lips of Jesus but on the lips of a murderer who was trying to dodge a felony charge from God himself. In other words, the phrase “brother’s keeper” meant the exact opposite of what the president thinks it means.

Then The One compounded his theological error by turning the Golden Rule on its head, and verbalizing a version that gives him permission to be as malicious and cruel as he perceives his political opponents to be, which could explain a lot.

I’m not even going to go into how annoyed I am with people who insist on calling Obama “the One.”  What I will say in response to this comment is that clearly, Mr. Fischer isn’t going to agree with anything that comes from Obama’s mouth.  Literally, Fischer is correct about one thing (though I can’t begin to conjecture about what he thinks the phrase means): it does occur in the bible in the story of Cain and Abel, and it was Cain’s answer to God’s query about Abel’s whereabouts.  Cain had killed his brother, and was essentially lying to God about it, saying, in effect, “how should I know where my brother is?” when, in fact, he knew full well where he was because Cain had put him there.  I may be a-religious, but I know most of the stories; I’m a literature teacher, after all….

Obama wasn’t using the quote literally, however; he was using it to convey his understanding (his correct understanding, in my opinion) of Christ’s teaching.  Christ exhorted his followers to love one another, to be kind and compassionate, and to give and help whenever possible.  Being one another’s keepers – willingly taking on at least some responsibility for the welfare of others – is an essential part of how I understand Christ’s message (which, not for nothing, is echoed in a number of other religious traditions, as well; this isn’t a market the Christians have locked).

All of this is a long way for me to say that I am consistently and sadly confounded by people who simply refuse to accept that kindness matters.  I am fed up to here with people who have decided that they only have to be nice to people who think or act or believe like they do, and that anyone who doesn’t is less worthy, less human (if, in fact, they’re seen as human at all).  I wonder why these people are so terrified of the precepts of the faith they claim to embrace.

And don’t even get me started about the idiot who proclaimed that homosexuals are a greater threat to this country than the KKK….  What the hell is wrong with these people?!


Filed under compassion and connection, concerns, dumbassery, frustrations, General Bitching, ideas and opinions, messages from the Universe, politics, ruminating, social issues, strange but true, this is NOT a drill, Worries and Anxieties, WTF?!

In Praise of Book-Banners

I’m not sure that I’m going to be able to deliver on the promise of this post’s title – my muse is being a coy little bitch lately –  but bear with me, here; I think I might just be on to something.

This is the American Library Association‘s Banned Book Week.  Each year, around this time, the ALA devotes a week to calling the attention of… well, I guess you’d call us liberals… to the fact that every year in this country, literally hundreds of books are challenged or banned from schools and libraries.

I think we tend to think of book banning as something that happened in another time or, at the very least, happens now somewhere else.  We can all confidently say that, sure, the Nazi’s banned books – burned them, even, just for good measure – and that it’s unlikely one can stroll into a bookseller in Iran and buy just anything off the shelves, but I don’t think that many of us realize how often this sort of thing happens right here in the Land of the Free.

I remember, a while ago, watching all the hubbub over Martin Scorsese’s Last Temptation of Christ.  Do any of you remember that?  An incredible number of people (often upset to the point of hysteria) started showing up on t.v. talk shows, radio programs, and in front of theatres to protest the content of this movie.  The film was banned in several countries, and a number of theatres in this country refused to screen it.  The National Prayer Network implied the film was a Jewish plot to defame Christ, and they certainly weren’t the only ones to suspect an anti-Christian agenda around the movie.  There were rallies and protests and petitions, and much of this craziness happened before the film was even released.

Think about that for a second.

I’ve got to tell you, all of this piqued my interest.  Long have I been of the opinion that if something stirs up that much energy in people, there has to be SOMETHING to it.  I tell my students that I’m (marginally) less interested in the books they loved than I am in the ones they hated; I want to know what pushed their buttons and why.  It is possible that I never would have bothered to see The Last Temptation of Christ (which, not for nothing, I thought was a really great film), had it not been for all the uproar.  I have no investment in the religious aspect whatsoever, I just wanted to see what all the fuss was about.  In a very real way, the protesters and picketers and hell-and-damnation people got me into the theatre and put my ten bucks in Scorsese’s pocket.  Tell me not to see something, and there’s a pretty good chance I’ll go out of my way to see it.

That’s what banning or challenging books does for me, too.  I want to find out what’s got everyone’s knickers in a twist.  What’s more, I’m a teacher, and I want to get my kids to want to know what’s got everyone’s knickers in a twist.  It is true that a number of the books on my syllabi this year have been banned or challenged at one time or another, and I’ve got a long history of including banned books on my students’ reading lists.  It is also true that there isn’t a single one of these books that I would hesitate for a second to put in front of my students.  I believe that, with the right guidance and an attitude of critical inquiry, there is precious little that is inappropriate.

I bet the people who go about trying to remove a book (or a film) from general consumption would be upset to learn that all their fussing only makes me want to read (or see) it more.  Even better, all that fuss gets me thinking about how I can get it in front of my students, too.

How’s that for some delicious irony?

image credit


Filed under art and culture, books, celebration, doing my duty, dumbassery, ideas and opinions, politics, reading, social issues, strange but true, teaching, technical difficulties, this is NOT a drill, WTF?!

Ten Things Tuesday

Ten things Mrs. Chili still doesn’t get:

1. Math. Seriously; I’m a joke at school. One boy delights in strolling up to me at random times during the day and saying “Mrs. Chili! QUICK! What’s 9 times 7” and then watching the flash of panic across my face as I struggle to remember my times tables. Little bastid.

2. Why it takes six weeks to get in shape, but only two to fall out of it.

3.  NASCAR, reality t.v., and binge drinking.

4. Why we can hurt ourselves in a split second, but it takes much longer (if ever) for us to heal.

5. Why some people cling so stubbornly to sometimes dangerous or hateful ignorance. This is compounded by those who proudly proclaim that they are uneducated.

6. Traffic jams. Seriously; every day, at about 5:30, there’s a good two-mile back-up on one of our main through-ways. The only cause I can discern for this nightly vehicular constipation is a low-grade rise over a bridge; no accidents, no obstacles, just a short hump over the bay. Yet every night, this spot backs up, often for literally miles. Insane.

7. Along those lines, I don’t get how some most people drive, especially on highways. When I know I’m going to be on a stretch of highway for a while, I’ll set my cruise control to an acceptable speed and leave it there. As I’m happily buzzing along at a nice, consistent rate, I’m being passed by – and then passing in turn – the same 7 or 8 cars over a 10 mile stretch. Ummmm….?

8.  People who eat food so spicy that they actually experience pain. One of my coworkers is a spicy food aficionado and was relating the story of a special event he went to a few nights ago with a friend.  My coworker chose the “5 bomb” menu item; his friend had the “8 bomb” dish, and was, by all accounts, in agony during the meal (and, to hear him tell it, for a significant amount of time afterward, as well).  Isn’t that akin to torture?  What’s up with that?

9.  Sleeping in the woods. I get – and respect – that a lot of people really enjoy camping, I just consistently fail to see the appeal. ESPECIALLY in the wintertime. One of my students is applying for a semester-long outdoor adventure-type thing, where he’ll hike, ski, and canoe all next semester. You know, next semester… when it’s cold outside. He can’t wait; I think he’s insane.

10. Marathon running. While I understand completely the need to challenge oneself, I cannot get behind marathon running as a means of seeing what one can achieve.  My beloved Bruder once told me that he wants to puke around mile 12, but that he powers through it (sometimes) and continues on.  My response?  “Dude!  Stop at mile ELEVEN!!  Anything that makes you WANT to puke is BAD!!!”

What makes YOU scratch your head in wonder?


Filed under Little Bits of Nothingness, my oh-so-exciting life, ten things Tuesday

Monday Meme

Boosted, yet again, from Kwizgiver. She seems to be my dealer lately; thanks, Honey!

1. Where are you from?
I was born in Salem, MA and have lived in New England ever since.

2. If you could live any place in the world, where would you live? For all that I really do belong exactly where I am, I would really like to live somewhere more temperate…

3. What’s your favorite blog? I don’t know that I have a “favorite.”  I read everything that comes into my feed reader (even if I don’t comment on everything).  I get regular chuckles from and any of the fail blogs that I subscribe to, but I wouldn’t call them favorites…

4. What is your biggest blogging pet peeve? Ugh.  Wanting desperately to write something original, but coming up with bupkiss for ideas.

5. What’s your favorite TV show this season? Mr. Chili and I are loving Rubicon and Sons of Anarchy (but for completely different reasons).

6. What’s your favorite ‘down’ time activity {nothing computer related}? Reading.  Duh.

7. Are you a parent? If so, what’s your favorite thing to do with your children? I have two (not-so-little anymore) girls, and my favorite thing to do with them is dinner every night.

8. What about your blog have you considered changing? Sometimes I want a new template, but I’m too set in my ways to make a change. (that’s Kwizgiver’s answer, but it’s exactly the one that I would give…)

9. What do you do for a living (if you work outside the home or if you work at home)? I teach high school English and love every stinkin’ second of it.

10. What is your favorite song at the moment? What is your favorite song ever? I have a selection from Vertical Horizon’s Burning the Days in my head at the moment (and it’s been there all day).  I don’t have a favorite song EVER, though I do own more remakes of Ain’t No Sunshine than any other song, so one could say it’s pretty high on my list…

11. What is your favorite niche TV channel to watch? Yeah.  I don’t have one.

12. If you could have any career, what would it be and why? I know it sounds corny, but have my perfect career.  I love my discipline, I love the kids – it’s the perfect combination.

13. What is your favorite outfit? Do pajamas count?  I’d have to say that my favorite outfit is black trousers, a comfy top, and black flats.

14. If you could tell your teenage self something, what would you say? “It WILL get better….”

15. What is your favorite recipe? Oh, I have MANY.  I’m mighty fond of my grandmother’s blueberry bread recipe, and of homemade mac and cheese.  Go here to see the recipes I really love.

16. What is the funniest joke you’ve ever heard? I don’t know if anyone ELSE thinks it’s funny, but this cracks me up.

17. What is your favorite vacation spot and why? Central Florida, because we have people who love us there and it’s warm in February.

18. What are you most excited about with fall here? I like Apple Harvest Day (next weekend) and it really IS pretty here in October and November.

19. Did you envision yourself to be where you are today ten years ago? If not, what did you envision? Ten years ago?  Yes.  25?  Not a chance.

20. If money were no object, what would your dream house look like? I think it’d look a lot like it looks now, but with a bigger garage, a better entryway, and way more land.

21. What is your all-time favorite Disney movie? Do Pixar’s movies count?  I love a lot of them, but if I had to choose only ONE that I could keep out of our collection, I would probably choose Finding Nemo.

22. What blog do you think isn’t getting enough notice? I’d love for you to go and pay some attention to Gerry, and to my friend over at the Nexus.  Oh, and go to my sister’s place and bug her to start writing again, would you?

Happy Monday, Everyone!!


Filed under Blogroll, Little Bits of Nothingness, meme

Lovely Sunday

Great yoga class, quick visit with friends, completely successful trip through the grocery store. Home to do an afternoon’s worth of cooking (roasting chicken, simmering spaghetti sauce, baking sweet potatoes, mashing (and then freezing) squash – YUM!). A good few hours on the couch watching a decent football game (Go, Pats!) then a completely acceptable nap. Rounding out the day with an entirely successful trip to Barnes & Noble, something light for supper, some TiVo with the Mr., then early to bed. Ahhhhh….


Filed under Little Bits of Nothingness, my oh-so-exciting life

Six Word Saturday

Times two. Today’s going to be a busy one for the Chili family, so you get TWO Six Word Saturday entries, because I couldn’t cram our day into one.

1. Mother Chili weaves at Wool Day.


2. Honored to attend Monkey’s Bat Mitzvah!

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Filed under art and culture, celebration, Friends, Home and Family, road trip!

Help? *Edited*

A few days ago, one of you teacher bloggers posted a clip from the HBO John Adams series in which Adams was debating whether to suspend the First Amendment.  I’m desperately seeking that scene.  Does anyone remember who posted it, or can someone (Hi, KIZZ!) help me find it?

Edited to say I FOUND IT!  I went through my feed reader one by one and found that it was over at Traveling Through Time and Space!  YAY!


Filed under Uncategorized