America the Entertained

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We Americans are undergoing a cultural transformation. I know in many respects that is hardly news. What I’ve been observing though is a confluence of streams of those changes in ways that suggest they are picking up speed, not unlike several rain-swollen rivers coming together to create a massive flood as it works its way down-stream.

It’s difficult to characterize all the subtleties of this growing torrent, but for purposes of this post I’m going to focus on three of these streams in the context of our national demand for endless entertainment. I’ll leave the non-entertaining analysis to the sociologists.

Let’s start with politics, specifically the debates by the Republican presidential candidates.  It seems to me the behavior we have observed not only by the candidates, but the very format and “rules” for these televised events is no longer a forum in any classical sense for a debate, that is, a discussion of genuine public policy positions the candidates hold on the important issues facing the nation. Instead, they have been converted into political theater, orchestrated bash and trash sessions analogous to two teams scrambling for a fumbled football, the referee-pundits at the opposite end of the field, commenting on what they think they observe eighty yards away.

The result takes little effort to parse. Read more…

My Take: Why Rick Warren is Praying at Obama’s Presidential Inauguration

Back before the election, I wrote that Americans were going to have to get used to having a smart president, a man who thinks out of a complex frame of reference. He is unlike the current Occupant of the White House, whose thinking is at the best of times unidimensional. The past eight years clearly illustrate him at the worst of times.

Don’t expect President Barack Obama to think or make decisions like George W. Bush. The Neo-con Republicans are already gnashing their teeth over having to deal with a president who can out-think them on just about any topic. But those of us who supported Obama must also change our perspective about what to expect from this president, the president. He will think and do things that surprise us. It will take a while to adjust, but soon, I hope our unease will return to the confidence and enthusiasm we felt so strongly when we elected him to the highest office in the land.

When I heard that president-elect Obama had chosen the well-known evangelical pastor, Rick Warren, to pray the invocation at the inauguration, I was, for a moment, stunned. During the campaign Republicans had a field-day with Obama’s answers at the Saddleback Forum. No one will doubt that Warren and Obama are ideologically distant in a multitude of ways. It’s a safe bet that Warren didn’t vote for Obama.

But in one extremely important respect they are alike: they are both Christians. Why is this important? It’s the whole Barack HUSSEIN Obama issue. The Far Right fabricated accusations that Obama is an undercover jihadist Muslim, ready to lead the country down the road into the arms of al Qaeda. Through the course of the campaign they hammered on this falsehood ad nauseum, and still do, for that matter. Reality is not the issue here. Their paranoid delusion is based on the same kind of fallacious reasoning that kept the world “flat” for several millennia. Millions of Americans still believe Obama is a follower of Mohammad (with my apologies to all Muslims of good faith), even though Obama has repeatedly denied it and stated unequivocally that he is a practicing Christian .

Enter Rick Warren. First of all, Obama has said repeatedly–REPEATEDLY–he would work to bring all Americans back together, that includes those who opposed him politically–and theologically. Warren is the face of a huge body of evangelical Christians, and though he has his critics from the Far Right (and the Left, of course), none of them can legitimately dispute that he is a born-again Christian by their own definition. By itself, that could be Obama’s reason to invite Warren, and it would be consistent with what he promised to do. And it is not intended to be a slap in any of his supportive constituents’ faces.

But Warren’s presence on the inaugural platform is also a repudiation of the Far-Right’s unfounded lies. The man who will be praying for the new president of the United States is a clear signal to them: Christian Rick Warren praying for Christian Barack Obama.

Jesus said, “To him who has ears, let him hear.” Actually he said it a whole bunch of times. It is sad how many in the Far Right, who profess to believe in that Jesus, have plugged their ears so their world will stay flat.

For the rest of us: Obama promised us change. This is one of them. Get used to it.

ADDENDUM: My colleague, M.S., over at Greeningwood correctly points out that although Rick Warren is giving the invocation at Obama’s and Biden’s inauguration, the benediction will be pronounced by the Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery (b 1921), who along with MLK founded the SCLC. He is a beloved and much-honored leader of the American Civil Rights Movement.