Category Archives: Politics

No Hate

“God hates people that are…”

I heard a sentence that began that way on an interview with a protestor outside the Supreme Court yesterday. It is a deeply sad, and deeply wrong, statement.

If someone reads the Bible, and can come up with a word, any word, that completes that sentence, they’re doing it wrong. If someone thinks that there is anyone God hates, then I have this to say: No. Just… no.

I saw an article today, taking pages and pages to assess what the “Christian response to gay marriage” should be. I don’t need pages. It’s very simple. It’s this:

God is the God of love.

That is all. Where people are doing good, there is God. Where people care about each other, there is God. Where there are flowers blooming and trees shading and birds singing, there is God. Where people marvel in the beauty of the landscape or of another person, there is God. And where people love, there is God.

There is too much hate in the world already. Instead of adding more, let’s celebrate compassion, devotion, and peace. People that say that God is the God of hate look at the spring landscape and see only last year’s thistles.

One day soon, I hope to see everyone’s hearts set free. What a day of joy that will be! And I hope, too, that those that hate will find the peace of freed hearts, freed from hate and from fear.

Is the Roman Emperor Still Your God?

In ancient Rome, the Imperial cult was the worship of the Roman emperor as a god. It came to be at roughly the same time as Christianity. In the cult of the emperor, Caesar was revered as a deity. According to Harvey Cox, “This was what we might today call a “civil religion” — it had its holidays, processions, and holy sites throughout the empire. Adherence to it was required of all of the emperor’s subjects, wherever they lived and whatever other deities they also worshiped. It was the religious and ideological mucilage that held the far-flung empire together.”

Perhaps you see where this is going. There was a certain group that found the imperial cult, well, repugnant. They felt their own goals — bringing their god’s peace and justice to the world — were incompatible with this sort of devotion to a human institution, and the very institution that had killed their leader at that. Their reaction went like this:

Regarding worship of the emperor, Christians responded with an unequivocal “no.” They claimed that Jesus Christ was God’s kyrios (“anointed one” in Greek), but since kyrios was one of the titles attributed to Caesar, they refused to participate in the imperial cult. They were willing to pray for the emperor and for his health, but they stubbornly refused to pray to him or offer ritual tribute. They recognized that one could not be a follower of Jesus while also honoring a rival to the loyalty their faith in him and his Kingdom required; therefore, “not even one pinch of incense on the imperial altar.” This defiance of the political religion of the empire, which led their critics to brand them subversive, landed many of them in arenas with salivating lions.

— Harvey Cox in The Future of Faith

Now, you may be wondering, why am I asking if anyone still worships the emperor of a long-extinct empire? I maintain that this practice is still alive and well, just under a different name.

I have been interested in some of the debates about American institutions that choose to perform neither the national anthem nor the pledge of allegiance. Many of these institutions are Mennonite, and their reason for not participating in these two particular acts mirrors that of the early Christians refusing to worship Caesar: namely, their goal is to bring about God’s peaceful and just kingdom on earth, and no country, no human institution at all, can ever command greater loyalty than that cause.

Moreover, the American national anthem is a particularly violent one, celebrating the taking of life right there at the beginning. Not completely compatible with the ethics of a church trying to bring about a more peaceful world, right?

It is from that basis that many Mennonites, and our institutions, do not perform the national anthem or say the pledge of allegiance. For myself, when the national anthem is being performed, I will stand out of respect for those around me for whom the moment is important, but I do not sing. I am deeply appreciative that the United States, like many other countries, makes it legal to do this. I am heartened by the fact that I do not risk a confrontation with the lions over my religious stance today.

Goshen College, a Mennonite institution, recently decided to go back on a century of history (which goes back farther than the anthem itself, which was only adopted in 1931) and will now be performing the anthem, followed by a prayer, before select sporting events.

And by so doing, they fail both to act in accordance with the way of Christ, and to be a patriot. They fail to act for peace and justice by playing an anthem that supports and glorifies war and violence.

And they fail to be patriotic. Patriotism and nationalism are different things. It’s easy to be nationalistic — to get up there and sing a song that everyone wants you to sing. It is far more difficult to be patriotic. Being patriotic in the United States means using the freedoms we have to improve our country. Goshen ought to use its freedom to not observe the national anthem as a way to try to draw a line in the sand against violence, to suggest that our anthem fails to adequately recognize the character of the American people and who we want to be, and to suggest a better alternative. After all, those people who are venerated today as patriots — anyone from Martin Luther to Thomas Jefferson to Martin Luther King — stood up to their fallible human governments to seek positive change.

Instead of a route both religious and patriotic, Goshen College has chosen one that is neither. I am deeply disappointed that 300 phone calls have apparently cowed their leadership. What have we come to when our ancestors braved the lions, and we give up our principles over the fear of… bad publicity?

Ah, Goshen, perhaps you are thinking that you could spare a few pinches of incense for Caesar after all?

The Cynic’s Guide to American Presidents

Sometimes I’m just annoyed at politicians. Yesterday, after receiving a letter from Sen. Brownback and reading coverage of Sarah Palin, I was annoyed at them.

So, in keeping with my theme of being annoyed at politicians, here’s my cynic’s guide to American presidents. Yes, it’s biased, under-represents successes, but that’s the point.

I’ll start with FDR, because I feel like it.

FDR – 1933-1945 (D)

Took office during the worst economic crisis of the 20th century. Tried lots of things to fix it; a few of them actually worked, and the best produced social improvements that lasted decades.

Finally solved the depression by getting us into a war, but died before he could get us back out of it. In a stunning display of racial and ethnic discrimination, rounded up and jailed legal Japanese, German, and Italian immigrants and their children just because they were Japanese, German, or Italian. Presided over the firebombing of Dresden, which killed roughly 25,000 civilians in what would be called a terrorist war crime today. Formed an alliance with Stalin that indirectly led to the Cold War.

When asked if he wanted the German people to starve, he replied, “Why not?”

Had an affair with his wife’s secretary that must have inspired Gov. Sanford. FDR, however, kept it secret from his wife for 4 years and the public for 48 years.

Harry S. Truman – 1945-1953 (D)

Became vice president, but when FDR died 82 days later, didn’t want to be president. Victory in Europe was achieved shortly after he became president, but not due to anything he did. Ended World War II, started the Korean War, the Cold War, and the nuclear arms race. Saved the lives of countless Berliners, ended the lives of even more Japanese, though Stalin knew about the bomb years before Truman did.

Desegregated the US military in an early civil rights victory, but committed some of the worst mass murders in history using that same military.

Famously embarrassed the Chicago Tribune by winning re-election over Dewey.

Had the lowest approval rating for any American president until George W. Bush came along.

Dwight D. Eisenhower – 1953-1961 (R)

Before becoming president, was supreme commander of NATO during World War II, and thus also was implicated in the Dresden bombing. Reclassified German POWs, depriving them of Geneva Convention protections. Played on fear to justify building the interstate highway system, one of the largest long-term contributors to environmental and energy problems. Refused to defend people from McCarthy, despite privately criticizing McCarthy.

Integrated Washington, DC public schools. Took over the Arkansas National Guard to integrate Arkansas schools. Failed to get us involved in wars in Lebanon and Vietnam, despite his best efforts. Picked Nixon as his vice president, a decision nobody will forgive him for.

Famously warned of the military-industrial complex, a prediction that the profit motive of defense companies would lead politicians to support war for jobs. One of his most accurate predictions, ironically about a situation he created.

JFK – 1961-1963 (D)

Defeated Nixon to win the presidency, mainly because JFK looked better on black and white TV. Famously said “ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” But the country did several things for him, including providing security when he had secret meetings with his mistress. (Gov. Sanford, you have a lot to learn.)

Tried Eisenhower’s plan to overthrow Castro. Almost got us a war with Russia, and Castro captured 1189 people. Also almost succeeded in starting the world’s first atomic war, also over Cuba, which was created partly because his earlier Bay of Pigs invasion. Despite putting 16,300 soldiers in Vietnam, it would take Johnson to finally turn that one into a war.

LBJ – 1963-1969 (D)

Supported the largest expansion of civil rights in the 20th century, and also the largest chemical weapons poisoning of a people in American history. Destroyed 6 million acres of land, intentionally destroying Vietnamese food crops, and poisoned 4 million Vietnamese and countless American soldiers. Vietnam war led to the death of 2 million Vietnamese civilians and tens of thousands of American deaths.

An early supporter of the war on poverty, voting rights, and the war on crime, he nonetheless stirred up some of the biggest riots in the 20th century because of Vietnam.

Managed to win re-election in 1964, though probably only because the Republicans had nominated Barry Goldwater, who made LBJ’s war policies look mild and sane.

Didn’t bother to seek re-election in 1968, knowing he was so unpopular. Though still remained more popular than Truman and Bush, which is saying something (though not a lot).

Richard Nixon – 1969-1974 (R)

Known as “tricky Dick”, managed to live up to the nickname. Announced he was leaving politics after losing to JFK in 1960 and a governor’s race in 1962, then won the presidential election in 1968.

Secretly expanded the Vietnam war to include Cambodia and Laos, while simultaneously calling himself a peacemaker. Greatly expanded Social Security and Medicare, supported the Equal Rights Amendment, Title IX, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Act.

Went on a famous trip to the Soviet Union, where he mocked Brezhnev for not having color TV. Went on a famous trip to China, where he opened up the possibility of numerous ping-pong tournaments between the two countries.

Despite being heavily favored to win re-election in 1972, his paranoid campaign organization, called “creep” (CRP), broke into Democratic headquarters. The resulting coverup had him ordering illegal actions by the FBI, and unleashed G. Gordon Liddy on the country, which we’ll never forgive him for. His arch-nemesis — print journalists everywhere — achieved new respect due to the Watergate scandal, immortalizing an otherwise obscure porn movie by naming a secret FBI informant after it. Perhaps Nixon’s most lasting achievement.

Famously lied when he told people “I am not a crook.”

Gerald Ford – 1974-1977 (R)

Became president, and lost to Carter, because of Richard Nixon. Wikipedia wrote 2 paragraphs about his presidency, which seems about average for him. Supported women’s liberation, opposed swine flu. Both supported and opposed LSD. Best thing to ever happen to Chevy Chase’s career on SNL.

Jimmy Carter – 1977-1981 (D)

A Georgia farmer, he defeated Chevy Chase to win the presidency in 1976. Got us involved with Iran, failed to rescue the American hostages.

Dealt with an energy crisis by talking honestly about it with American people and making solid plans to deal with it. That ended so poorly that it would be 20 years before another president attempted the “honesty and planning” approach. Could have saved us trillions of dollars if he had been less honest about saving energy.

Famously built homes for the people that Reagan made homeless.

Ronald Reagan – 1981 – 1989 (R)

Despite presiding over the largest expansion of the federal debt in history, he is still well-liked by fiscal conservatives. Unlike Carter’s “tell it like it is” approach, told everybody that things were fine and getting better, and got us into $3 trillion of debt as a result.

Famously fired all the nation’s air traffic controllers, leading to ongoing problems with ATC today. Started a war in Grenada, another in Libya, and escalated the Cold War, though gave the whole country Alzheimer’s about all these actions. Famously called Nazi SS soldiers victims, but ordered generals to lay a wreath on their grave after it became too controversial for him to do it himself.

Violated US and international law by selling weapons to Iran to fund the Contras in Nicaragua. Also sold weapons to Iraq to use to fight Iran. Single-handedly saved an American jelly bean company. Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 1994, but suspected of having it during his presidency, if his answers to the Iran-Contra investigation are any guideline.

George H. W. Bush – 1989-1993 (R)

Started a war in Panama and another in Iraq, but it wasn’t until 10 years later that his son could announce “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq. Pardoned many of the Iran-Contra conspirators. Launched the careers of Dana Carvey and Bill Clinton.

He refused to take charge when Reagan was shot, throwing the federal government into turmoil during a crisis. Barely took charge even after being elected.

Bill Clinton – 1993-2001 (D)

Taught the world how to deal with allegations of affairs with mistresses. Future SC Gov. Sanford voted to impeach him for it, arguing that he broke a promise to his wife more important than the one to his country. Launched the careers of Ken Star and Monica Lewinsky, in rather different ways.

Brokered historic Arab-Israeli peace at Camp David in 2000. Despite shooting down plenty of Iraqi planes in no-fly zones, never managed to cure Republicans in Congress of their constant criticism that we should just re-invade and finish what H. W. Bush didn’t (it would take Dubya to finally cure the Republicans of THAT wish).

Had more “gates” named after him than any president (Whitewatergate, Travelgate, Troopergate). Tried to both encourage and stifle the Internet (clipper chip). Greatly helped the career of David Letterman.

George W. Bush – 2001-2009 (R)

Took office and promptly went on vacation. Responding to the worst attacks on American soil, started two wars, one of which actually managed to fight the people that were tangentially related to the ones that attacked us. Nominated an Arabian Horse judge to head FEMA, then famously praised him after his mismanagement led to thousands of deaths after Hurricane Katrina.

Finally invaded Iraq after his dad refused to go deeply into that country, and announced “Mission Accomplished” before the real fighting ever began. Never seemed to doubt it, either. Actively repressed science in government and supported archaic religious fundamental positions, ironically doing more harm to Christianity in the eyes of the world than any president in recent memory.

Ran for president as a “uniter, not a divider”, then proceeded to act as a divider. Criticized Clinton for nation-building, then tried to build up Iraq. Defeated the husband of a ketchup magnate for re-election in 2004. Launched the career of Jon Stewart.

Supported massive tax breaks for the wealthy, ran up the federal debt more than anyone since Reagan, supported massive deregulation. Not to be outdone by the worst response to a natural disaster in recent times, his policies also implemented the worst response to an economic calamity since Woodrow Wilson. Finished office with the worst popularity ratings in history and tried to reignite the Cold War after staring into Putin’s soul and finding it just as divine as Brownie’s.

Barack Obama – 2009-? (D)

Defeated Tina Fey and the ghost of Barry Goldwater to win the presidency. He’s trying Carter’s “honesty and long-range planning” approach to not just energy, but health care, education, Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as well. Good luck with that.

I’ll get the hammer and nails.


Our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. . . Our security emanates from the justness of our cause; the force of our example; the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

– Barack Obama, inaugural speech, Jan. 20, 2009

This, right here, is why, for the first time in my life, I actually feel good about an American president. Why I have hope about our government for the first time in years. Why I’m glad I used a vacation day to sit on the couch and watch TV yesterday.

On the occasion, once every 4 or 8 years, that is a celebration of American strength, power, and pride, we see our new president speaking of humility, of peace, of moral leadership, this is something remarkable.

Past presidents have used occasions such as these to speak of crushing our enemies, of wanting people dead or alive, of grand government promises that turned out to triple the national debt.

Obama spoke of extending the hand of friendship to anyone that would unclench their fist.

He spoke that we had kicked the can down the road too far, and now we’ve reached the end of the road. We have to stop thinking that we can have everything: low taxes, expensive programs, and a large military, simply by mortgaging our future.

And he leveled with us: we all are in this together, and all have to work to make it better.

Conventional politicians assumed it would be political suicide to say even half of what Obama has said. Yet he went out there and did it.

He was blasted during the campaign by people on both sides of the political spectrum for being just “words”. He’s the first presidential candidate that meant what he said about bringing Americans, and their representatives, together. The shock in Washington has he invited — gasp! — both an openly gay bishop and an anti-gay evangelical minister to give prayers was telling. It’s as if people were saying, “Wait, he really MEANT that?”

Yes, he did. Let’s hope he can pull it off.

And as Rev. Lowry concluded with his benediction:

With your hands of power and your heart of love, help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nations shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid, when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream. . .

Let all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen. (amen) Say Amen! (Amen!) Say Amen! (AMEN!)


People often talk about “memorable moments” — times where pretty much everybody in the country remembers where they were at that exact time.

There are probably only two of those moments I can remember: the 1989 earthquake during the World Series and the time 9/11 happened. My car was in for service that day, and I was sitting in the lobby of the mechanics watching it on TV.

So now I have a third: watching Barack Obama win the presidency.

We were installing some new blinds in the kitchen while listening to the coverage on NPR, periodically going over to the office to watch the TV coverage on the computer. (Our TV is upstairs right now, so that was more convenient.)

A few minutes before the election was called, I remember Brian Williams saying something like “We’re going to go to local stations now, but you better not walk away. We’ll have some amazing news at the top of the hour.”

We watched that announcement, then saw McCain’s speech, and finally Obama’s speech (missed the first minute or two of it actually). What an amazing evening.

Then seeing the stories of people celebrating all around the country and around the world: the impromptu party in front of the White House Tuesday night, the small gathering at the Lincoln Memorial Wednesday morning, the Obama parties all around the world. And we watched it on TV in our house while Jacob slept. I feel like I missed out somehow.

Why I Hope

And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright, tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.

For that is the true genius of America: that America can change. Our union can be perfected.

— Barack Obama, Nov. 4, 2008

Politics and the Church

My church is one in which politics are checked at the door. Some church members wear their politics on their yard, or on their blog — and just about every opinion is represented in the church. But you rarely hear politics mentioned in church. When it is mentioned, it’s issue-oriented rather than candidate-oriented or policy-oriented — we’ll hear updates on efforts to create a peace tax fund, for instance.

But today, hearing about politics is just about unavoidable.

The relationship between Christianity and government has been uneasy and troubled all the way back to the religion’s founding. Many Christians, and I count myself in this, believe that our first loyalty is to Jesus, and on those grounds, refuse to say the pledge of allegiance. What, we wonder, would our word be worth if we were forced to disobey our government because of a law that was unjust or immoral? How could we even say the words “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all” when those words were written at a time when the KKK was active, lynchings were common, and are said today at a time when people treat Muslims and immigrants with modern disdain?

In short, we believe we are called to be citizens of a different kingdom first.

So, today, our pastor deliberately picked a difficult scripture passage for us: Romans 13:1-7, which reads, in part:

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities. . . The authorities that exist have been established by God. . . Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. . . Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.

What an extraordinary set of statements. This was written during the time of the Roman Empire, which could hardly be said to have been a just and benign government. It’s hard for me to imagine the Roman Legion being established by God.

In more modern times, it would seem to denounce the American revolution as a rebellion against authority and therefore a rebellion against God. It would also seem to denounce the protests that we see all over the world — striking workers in France, human rights seekers in Burma, war protesters in the United States. Would it even have condemned the protests in the 1960s over civil rights in this country, or the protests against war today?

One commentator notes that “Paul is not stating that this will always be true but is describing the proper, ideal function of rulers. When civil rulers overstep their proper function, the Christian is to obey God rather than human authorities” — a theme Paul mentioned more than once in Acts.

What relevance does this have for us today? It seems that we are to help our rulers act in a just way, even if we disagree with them — no matter who wins the election. It is also a reminder that a superficial reading of the Bible, taken out of context and without a deep understanding to understand the author’s point, can potentially lead to very strange conclusions.

The American National Council of Churches has issued a non-partisan voting guide, which we found in our bulletin today. It is an interesting read, and probably not what you think; it begins with, “War is contrary to the will of God.” Thought-provoking stuff.

I find it interesting that there are a lot of people out there that say that religion is responsible for a lot of ill in this country, then proceed to hold pretty much the same opinions I do for pretty much the same reasons. I just point out that the Bible is deeper than intolerance and submission.

What Traditional Values Mean to Me

A comment on Facebook yesterday got me thinking what American “traditional values” are all about. We hear it a lot, and I suspect it means something different to different people.

Here’s what it means to me.

It starts with an ethic fundamentally informed by the central tenets of Christianity — which are also excellent standards of decency by secular standards. We are called to have a relentless drive to care for the repressed, poor, downtrodden. As Jesus said, “whatever you do to the least of these, so you do to me.” It means extending the hand of friendship and compassion to all, in our own neighborhood and around the world. It means taking good care of the resources we have, acting responsibly, and affirming and supporting others so they can do the same. It means that, as our founding fathers emphasized, remembering that all people are created equal, are equally deserving of a good life, and deserve liberty and freedom. Finally, it means a constant realization that we are creating a human institution, and will always have an imperfect answer to these ideals, but that we can — and must — recognize our faults and strive to make things better.

How do these apply to our time?

We must start with the poor, the repressed, and habitually think of their situation in everything we do. That means remembering that when we drop a bomb in Afghanistan to kill a terrorist, we also usually kill 50 innocent bystanders, and devastate their families. It means remembering that illegal immigrants from Mexico come here because all they want is refuge from drug wars, food on the table, and a roof over their head. It means showing compassion in deportation proceedings: when illegal immigrant parents have a child born in the United States, the child is an American citizen and can’t be deported, but deporting the parents will create an orphan. It means actively helping the repressed people of the world, whether they be in Sudan, Georgia, or AIDS victims in Africa, Muslims in New York. It means reducing taxes on the poor, giving them the skills and tools they need to make their way in life. It means caring for those with alcohol drug addictions, helping them to summon the strength to get past those problems, rather than locking them up or throwing them out on the street. In days past, this might have meant sharing firewood with the family down the road that was at risk of freezing in winter. Today it might mean assistance with winter heating bills.

Remembering that all people are created equal means that we must provide good education for everyone, whether they live in suburban California, inner city Detroit, or rural Appalachia. We owe quality health care to everyone; those without means to pay for health care, or to pay for a car to get to a clinic, should be treated with dignity and respect, and have equal access to medicine.

Remembering that all people are created equal also means that we must provide equal justice under law, and give everyone a fair trail. We must abandon the death penalty, because we have a shocking number of people on death row — hugely disproportionately black and poor — that have been shown innocent of their crimes thanks to advances in DNA testing. We must maintain the integrity of checks and balances in government, and support judicial oversight over search and seizure. We must avoid warrantless wiretapping because it subverts judicial oversight and corrupts our justice system by making the exercise of power secret. We must denounce torture, and refuse to employ it, because no human, being created equal, deserves to be treated in such a way — and we have been applying it to innocent humans.

We owe the opportunity to grow up in a loving family, in a safe community, to every child. We must make sure that gangs no longer have the run of our streets, that drugs aren’t displacing hard work as the currency of the community, and that adoption is inexpensive and practical for more families, rather than costing thousands of dollars. Doing so will help every child grow up knowing that they are valued, are important, rather than being unwanted and therefore abused or neglected.

Extending the hand of friendship and compassion to all starts with being a good example — that shining city on a hill that Reagan talked about. We have to run an open, just, and fair society ourselves. We must not fear those that are different than us, just because they’re different. We have to recognize that citizens of Iran, Russia, North Korea, Palestine, and the United States fundamentally are humans, created equal, seeking the same thing: a safe and secure future for themselves and their families. Being able to coexist peacefully means starting from that point, and being willing to talk to them, and yes, even their leaders, regardless of how distasteful they may be.

Acting responsibly with our resources starts at home — things like not driving up credit card debt, not living outside our means. The same applies to government: massive deficits each year are exceptionally irresponsible and place us at great risk both at the present and in the future. We also have a duty to care for the planet and the environment in which we live, which means actively working to curb the things we do to harm the planet and cause global warming.

What about recognizing our faults? Perhaps the most patriotic duty asked of Americans is dissent. It is never easy, but is essential to keeping our democracy functioning. This country has a long history of successes, and also a long history of failures. We failed so many by keeping slavery legal for so long, and discrimination and lynching legal for even longer. We failed that Native Americans by forcing them from their lands and treating them with brutality. We have, to some extent, risen above these failures thanks to the ability to recognize them and try, to the best of our ability, to fix them. This is what the civil rights movement was about, and why we have a holiday for Martin Luther King, Jr. He spoke out against a society that said some couldn’t eat in a restaurant because of the color of their skin, or who were repressed because of their economic status. He recognized that problem in America, and by speaking out against it, helped to change this country for the better.

Today we have to recognize the things we are doing wrong, and try to change them. We are torturing potentially innocent people. We are discriminating against Muslims and homosexuals in our midst. We are giving extraordinary power to big media companies through changes in copyright law, to big communications companies through failure to enact network neutrality laws. And we are labeling people that disagree with war as unpatriotic.

Notice some things I didn’t mention, such as abortion. It’s not really relevant, and the lines we are fed by both sides present us with this false pro choice vs. pro life debate. In reality, it seems to me that both sides want the best for the children: for every child to grow up in a loving family, where he or she is wanted. We all know from research that laws banning abortion do not actually reduce it. So we ought all to come together and try to make it more rare by providing more support to single parents, by making it easier to adopt children, by trying to make the perceived need for an abortion to go away.

So, in this election, I look at the candidates and it seems pretty clear which one is promoting traditional values and which one isn’t. Obama is actively trying to reach across the aisle and find common ground. Even in his convention speech, he suggested ways to work together on abortion like I just mentioned. In the debate, he listened carefully to his opponent and acknowledged when he thought McCain was right. This is a necessary first step in working together to move forward. McCain subsequently released an ad mocking Obama for this.

What about caring for the poor? Again, Obama’s tax policies, education policies, and health care policies take care of them far better than McCain’s. About responsibility? McCain supported these deficit-busting budgets of the last 6 years, supported the oil-centric energy policies, and has been only lukewarm towards dealing with global warming. McCain and Palin mock Obama for trying to help poor Chicago neighborhoods 20 years ago, for being willing to just talk to our supposed enemies, for actually reaching across the aisle.

So yes, I am a values voter, and that’s why I can’t possibly do anything but vote for Obama.

I should stop watching Sarah Palin interviews.

I saw the interview on ABC last night and tonight. It surprised me that she quite clearly didn’t understand what the Bush Doctrine is (Charlie Gibson had to explain it to her). She dodged and evaded too many questions to count. Every foreign policy question she turned into an oil question, citing Alaska, as if somehow Alaska has played a key part in international conflict in the last decade.

Charlie asked her about the budget deficit, the economy. He got her implied assent that Bush hadn’t done well, and asked her to name three concrete ways she’d change. She dodged for a minute. He tried again. She cited lower taxes, better oversight, and I forget the third. Anyhow, it didn’t sound very different to me — and not very specific either. It’s so general that everybody from Ron Paul to the green party can agree to it.

He asked her about the deficit, and what she and McCain would do to fix it. She stumbled for a minute, then said “I certainly wouldn’t cut veterans benefits” and spent the next minute talking about how important veterans are. Which is a whole other topic. She never did say how they’d cut the deficit, just that in some magical way, they’d find inefficiencies. McCain’s had over a year to name them, and I haven’t seen the specifics yet.

I came away feeling more concerned about her than I expected. She reminds me of Bush in 2000. Cocky, self-confident, a shallow thinker on every topic, and utterly unprepared.

This process of getting to know McCain’s unknown pick is not going so well, I think.

Political Thoughts

It may come as no surprise to some of you that I actually enjoy — yes, enjoy — watching political conventions. I’ve spent some time watching them over the past two weeks.

McCain has yet to speak tonight as I write this, but I’ve got to get out a few comments.

First of all, both parties of course were attacking the presidential candidate of the other. But did you notice a key difference? The Democrats attacked McCain on policy, while the McCain people attacked Obama on biography. VP nominee Palin even went so far as to mock Obama’s work 20 years ago as a community organizer. I think that is incredibly telling. It seems to me to indicate that the Republicans know that their policies aren’t working, and are grasping at straws to find something else. There is plenty in McCain’s biography that the Democrats could go after — his involvement in one of the worst scandals in the Senate, for instance — but they aren’t.

What about the other difference? Hope vs. fear. Obama’s speech last week was truly inspiring. I don’t think I’ve ever been inspired by a politician before. Make no mistake about it, he set the bar for himself incredibly high. I don’t think anybody since Kennedy has done that. Obama realizes that there are things we must do as a country, and he also emphasized that the “ask not what your country can do for you” theme. Watching Giulianni and Palin was an exercise in fear-mongering. It’s a constant stream of “9/11 MUSLIM OIL SHORTAGE TERRORISM NUCLEAR BIN LADEN IRAN GAS PRICES RED ALERT PANIC PANIC PANIC MEXICANS 9/11 9/11 9/11 SCARY WAR WAR WAR.” It’s as if they have discovered M-x spook RET in Emacs.

The Democrats, on the other hand, are talking about reducing health care costs, making sure everyone is covered, ending war, making the economy better for working-class people. It’s an interesting disconnect that Obama highlighted well: McCain has said that the American economy has done well over the past 8 years. And indeed, by some “traditional” measures, such as productivity or GDP, it has. But the vast majority of Americans are not better off today than they were 8 years ago. Obama argues that the way McCain measures economic success is way off; our economy is not doing well if the vast majority of regular Americans are not doing well.

Also telling was how both candidates promised to reach across party lines (Bush promised that too). One actually is working to do it. Take abortion, for example. Obama said that he doesn’t agree with the pro-lifers, but surely everyone can agree that providing better funding and support for alternatives to abortion such that it becomes incredibly rare is a good thing. Where’s McCain looking for common ground? And then, of course, we have Palin wanting her family to be off limits — but only when it’s convenient to her.

I’ve voted in the past, but usually as a vote against someone rather than a vote for someone. This year, I’ll make a single vote and do both.