Brian Keaney

Tag: religion

Nine years and 15 minutes

Praise Allah.

The planned burning of Korans by a fringe preacher in Florida didn’t happen, but the lunatic who threatened to light the match got his 15 minutes of fame and then some.  When I first heard of how small his congregation is, under 50 members, I began to wonder why he was getting so much attention.

Why were national commentators writing and blabbering on about him on cable news networks?  This should have been a story that was covered by local press, and then maybe picked up by the wires.  It should have been one of those oddball stories you see in a little box to the side, not the main headline.

I think the reason it got so much attention isn’t because it was a notable event in and of itself, though when the president of the United States and General David Petraeus start talking about it, that is sure to get it some attention.  No, I think it fits into a larger narrative in the media and American society today about Islam, and that explains the way a small town preacher ended up with more reporters on his front lawn than parishioners in his pews.

Sizable segments of the American public, and Republicans in particular, believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim – with, wink wink, all that entails.  This is despite the controversy in the waning days of his election about offensive remarks his Christian pastor made from the pulpit.  Hands were wrung and teeth were gnashed over the fact that then-candidate Obama sat in this church for decades and had his children baptized –  Christened, even – by a reverend who made remarks many, myself included, found objectionable.  How soon we forget.

Part of this anger and vitriol we see being spewed towards the president, Muslims, and, before them, immigrants, I think  has to do with the xenophobic tendencies we see arise in this country (and probably elsewhere) during times of economic stress.  This being a particularly bad downturn, we see the anger magnified by that much more.

Someone has to be blamed for all the job losses and suffering we have endured over the past few years.  It certainly couldn’t be our fault for not keeping our skills current enough, or not saving enough money, or believing that dieing industries would provide stable jobs until our retirements when all signs indicated otherwise.  It couldn’t be that Wall Street bankers let us borrow too much money too easily and on usurious terms, and then gambled with the payments we made on those loans.  After all, they are mainly white men.  No, it must be the fault of other people we can’t see, who don’t look like us, don’t speak our language, don’t practice our religion, and don’t have any issues doing jobs that we are too good to do.

As we approached the anniversary of the most traumatic day in most of our lifetimes, Muslims became a focal point for all of the stress, all of the anger, all of the uncertainty in our lives.  How dare they build a cultural center on the same island as the World Trade Center?  Don’t they know this is sacred ground?  Don’t they know that this used to be a Burlington Coat Factory?

Pastor Terry Jones admitted that he’d never opened a Koran before.  He didn’t know what it said.  He couldn’t point to any particular chapter, verse, or even theme that he found objectionable.  He didn’t even care about all that love thy neighbor talk he could find in his own holy script.  No, he was mad as hell and he had to direct that anger somewhere lest it eat away at him.

I was in Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2001.  I saw the worst, and, it must be said, the best of humanity on that day.  In addition to the fighter jets buzzing over my head, I also experienced the rally around the flag sentiment that surrounded and pervaded the nation in the days and weeks that followed.

Yesterday, the ninth anniversary of that day, we saw much of the bumper sticker politics that convey trite and empty patriotism common in the days that followed the attacks.  Never Forget.  Home of the Free.  United We Stand.  Yes, united we stand, unless your president is black, you’ve lost your job, or a Mexican moved into the foreclosed home down the street.  Then it’s every man for himself.


O, Christmas Tree

I’m known for many things, not all of which I’m proud of and many of which I’m not so foolish as to put here online.  However, this morning, I couldn’t have been happier that my reputation preceded me.

Today I finally bought my Christmas tree, a week later than I normally would have.  I wanted to buy from the Dedham Community House again this year for two reasons.  For one thing, they are only two blocks from my place, so getting it back is cake.  More importantly, I wanted to support an organization that does some great work in my hometown.

I could go to a big megastore, but why send my money to stockholders in other states and countries when I can keep it here doing good work for my friends and neighbors?  Although it is only slightly further from me than the Community House, I am boycotting Lowe’s once againuntil after Christmas.  Not that I spend a lot of moeny there anyway, but it is ridiculous when they start putting Christmas items out a month before Halloween.  As Suldog reminds us each year, Thanksgiving comes first!

In any case, the Community House only sells on Saturday and Sunday, and I thought they were worth waiting a few extra days for since I couldn’t get there last weekend.  When I walked up this morning I immediately heard someone call out my name.  I turned around, and the director was asking if I was back to buy the biggest tree on the lot again.  I assured her I was, and asked where I could find it.

There were two early contenders, but in the end it was easy to choose the right one.  It’s nine feet tall, and has a terrific shape.  There was another tree that looked slightly bigger, but the shape wasn’t nearly as good.   I don’t get too particular about too many things, but when it comes to Christmas trees I am a complete snob.

Not to ruin this with a complaint, but I left off on a rather disappointing note.  As we parted ways a volunteer wished me a happy holiday.  I know people use this expression to avoid offending anyone, but for Pete’s sake I just bought a Christmas tree.  It should be pretty clear by now that I celebrate Christmas!  I think it would have been safe to wish me a Merry Christmas.

As I was bringing in my tree I put the radio on to listen to Christmas music.  The first song that came on was Adam Sandler’s “The Chanukah Song, Part II.”  Granted it’s meant to be funny, but I still took no offense at it.  Maybe that’s easy for me to say, being in the majority and all.  After all, Sandler wrote his series of songs for those kids who feel like they are the only ones in town without a Christmas tree.

However, I spent a year in Honolulu where I was an ethnic minority.  There really wasn’t a majority, but we hoales were not even a plurality.  One of the great things about that city was all the street festivals they threw.  It seemed like once a month they were blocking off streets to throw a party.  I marched in the Martin Luther King Day parade and had a blast at a Chinese New Year party.  I wasn’t offended by anyone else’s celebration, and no one was offended when I wished them a happy St. Patrick’s Day.

As I said, I wasn’t going to mention his comment as I’m sure he didn’t mean to upset anyone by it.  However, I just read about a city councilman in North Carolina whose election is being challenged because he is an atheist.

When Mr. Bothwell was sworn into office on Monday, he used an alternate oath that does not require officials to swear on a Bible or refer to “Almighty God.”

That has riled conservative advocates, who cite a little-noticed quirk in North Carolina’s Constitution that disqualifies officeholders “who shall deny the being of Almighty God.” The provision was included when the document was drafted in 1868 and was not revised when North Carolina amended its Constitution in 1971.

The vast majority of people celebrate this holy day, and only a very small percentage don’t.  Even if you don’t, the sentiment behind the greeting should be evidence enough of the goodwill towards men they intend to impart.  I’ve always wondered what those who don’t celebrate any holiday at this part of the year feel when they are greeted with “happy holidays.”  Do they get offended?  Should we instead be wishing each other “non-denominational, politically-correct, seasonal tidings of winter cheer?”  Somehow that just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

And, not for nothing, but have the good people of Ashville, N.C. not heard of the “no religious test” clause of the Constitution?  I don’t care if he Decks the Halls or spins the dradle with Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock, or doesn’t observe any religious occurrences at all (curiously, the atheist councilman not only celebrates Christmas but also attends a church).  I would much rather have an atheist who is right on the issues in office than a fellow Christian who is wrong on them.

Anyway, my tree is up, my apartment smells fantastic, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.  Merry Christmas, and God bless us, every one!