Vision of the World

Thanks for all the good wishes re. Oscar the minivan. He’s back to his usual creaky middle-aged self, much like moi.

Later today I have a telephone interview. In fact, I have two telephone interviews scheduled this week. I’m trying to construct the proper attitude for these events: External attitude: Confident and enthusiastic. And passionate. They love that. Internal attitude: Not overly invested in the outcome. You might note that the external and internal attitudes are somewhat contradictory. And that just sums up the modern condition, don’t you think?

Here’s an organization with which I do not have an interview scheduled: World Vision. Have you heard about the World Vision kerfuffle? Let me tell you.

World Vision is one of the largest Christian non-profits in the country. They do tons of critically important humanitarian work in third world countries. They are powerhouse fundraisers. So much so that when I asked an experienced development guy to point me to some resources for learning about the art of planned giving, he pointed me to World Vision. No one does it better, he said.

Since spreading Christianity is part of their mission, in addition to feeding people and whatnot, they require employees to sign a profession of faith. I’m not a fan of that policy, but eh, that’s what they do.

They also require employees to be biblically correct in their personal lives, which means no cohabitation. If you’re shacked up, you’d better be married.

Here’s where it gets interesting. World Vision is based in Seattle. I am guessing that, as in all Seattle non-profits, World Vision’s home office is full of gay folk. (If you are thinking, “but gay folk are not Christians,” let me tell you, I have been amazed by how religious gay folk are, as a group.) And this being Washington State, same-sex marriage is a thing. So, a gay-married employee is cool, right?

Last week, World Vision announced that it was now officially okay with gay-married employees. That’s the law here, they didn’t want to be “divisive,” and they sure didn’t want to be firing good employees for getting married.

The liberal blogosphere exploded with joy. Yay, World Vision! Quick, send them money to replace what they are going to lose from the gay haters!

The right-wing Christian blogosphere exploded with rage. Quick, withdraw your support from World Vision before some homo gets a paycheck!

Just a day or two later, World Vision caved and announced it was reversing its decision. The liberal blogosphere exploded with rage. The Christian blogosphere sniffed huffily. And that was that.

And that sums up the modern condition too, yes?

UPDATE: World Vision board member resigns over same-sex marriage policy reversal.

 

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Football is Stupid

I’ll tell you, friends, 2014 is a good time to live in Seattle. First, our homeboy Macklemore won himself a Grammy. What’s not to like about Macklemore? His hit song “Thrift Shop” is an ode to Seattle fashion and he loves teh gay people. Okay, there’s been some grumbling in some quarters about this straight white dude earning fortune and fame by performing an African American art form while using teh gay people as props, but never mind, Mack. Every time you show up at Dick’s Drive In for a burger and shake, 3,000 of your closest friends will be there, too, provided you issue a press release ahead of time.

Then there’s football. I lived in this town for 26 blissful years in which there was no possible way the local team was going to be anything but our city’s pet project. Then, without much warning, the Seahawks went all Beast Mode and started gobbling up radioactive Skittles in sets of 12. Or something. In any case, they won and they won and they won, and all of the affiliated citizens, and by “affiliated” I mean “the citizens who got bamboozled into buying the team a brand new sportsing palace for a bazillion dollars a few years ago,” got to feel very good about ourselves, because “we” were winning and winning and winning.

So off “we” went to the Super Bowl. The excitement was so contagious that I actually watched most of the game. This is what football looks like to me: A bunch of guys in brightly colored uniforms arrange themselves in a peculiarly ritualistic formation and the oddly shaped object gets tossed to some poor sod. He tries to run but immediately, six or eight guys in the other color knock him down and pile on top of him. Then they all do it again. Once in a while, an enterprising player manages to elude the other-color guys and makes a break for it. Everyone cheers. I cheer because I think he’s going to run right off the football field, save what’s left of his knees and his cranium, and get a nice safe job in accounting or something. Other people might have different reasons for cheering.

As you all know, “we” won the Super Bowl and a few days later, “we” had a victory parade downtown, in which our conquering heroes rode by and waved and tossed Skittles to the crowd, which numbered an astonishing 700,000 people. For perspective, that number is larger than the entire population of Seattle. Classrooms were half-sized and staffed by substitutes all over town. Some of the private schools just went ahead and closed for the day. There was a two-boat wait for the ferries, even if you were walking on, and the buses were so full they left the masses standing on the curb.

I found it disturbing, because football players are not heroes. The Seahawks worked hard and they were the best sportsers this year—good for them. But I have a higher standard for “hero.”

I know, I know. I’m a big Grinch and I’m no fun and I just don’t understand civic pride. I can’t help it; each time I see someone in a blue and green jersey I hear Noam Chomsky’s words echoing in my head.

“Take, say, sports — that’s another crucial example of the indoctrination system, in my view. For one thing because it — you know, it offers people something to pay attention to that’s of no importance. [audience laughs] That keeps them from worrying about — [applause] keeps them from worrying about things that matter to their lives that they might have some idea of doing something about. And in fact it’s striking to see the intelligence that’s used by ordinary people in [discussions of] sports [as opposed to political and social issues]. I mean, you listen to radio stations where people call in — they have the most exotic information [more laughter] and understanding about all kind of arcane issues. And the press undoubtedly does a lot with this.”

Ah, well. Fortunately, now it’s Olympics time, and thanks to Mr. Putin’s homophobic stance (perplexing in a guy who poses shirtless as often as Putin does), we can combine our nationalistic sportsing with our social consciousness. And it’s only a matter of time before Macklemore shows up in Sochi. Go Hawks/USA/whatever!

Only Earth and Sky Last Forever

Recently there’s been some hollering in my town about a muddy lot full of tents. It’s not the Occupy movement—haven’t heard much from them lately—it’s a tent city called Nickelsville.

Much like the Hoovervilles of the Great Depression, Nickelsville was named after a political leader—former Seattle mayor Greg Nickels—who failed to solve the problem of poverty and homelessness. This seems unfair as it’s a mighty difficult problem to solve, but the name has stuck.

Nickelsville is actually a well-organized and sensible (from the participants’ viewpoint) response to homelessness. There’s even a website: http://www.nickelsville.org/. While Seattle has shelters for homeless people, there are not enough of them and they have some major downsides. Many homeless people consider sleeping in shelters to be more dangerous than sleeping in doorways or under the freeway bridge. Shelters for families are especially hard to come by. Most of all, shelters are not homes. You have to leave the shelter early in the morning and take all of your stuff with you, and there’s no guarantee you will get to stay there again the next night. In contrast, if you pitch a tent in Nickelsville, you have a home, however crude.

The problem, of course, is that the residents of the tents don’t own the land they are using. The city owns it and so far tolerates the tent dwellers. The neighbors are Not. Amused. Even though Nickelsville is located in an industrial urban area, not in the midst of middle class suburbia, the nearby business owners want it gone. Yesterday.

And this is what strikes me. In this country it is actually illegal to exist if you don’t own a piece of land or have the money to rent one. You are trespassing everywhere you go. And that’s pretty weird, if you think about it, that every inch of ground belongs to somebody. It makes me wonder about the initial instance of ownership. Every single acre was stolen, since no one initially had any particular right to claim it as their own.

A few months ago I read The Man Who Quit Money, a true story about Daniel Suelo, who made a philosophical decision to live without money. He sleeps in caves in the Utah desert, which is illegal, but he only gets rousted once in a while. He forages and scavenges for food. He owns very little and freely gives it to others. Suelo, a deeply religious man, has rejected the precepts of our economic system and lives outside of it.

Indeed, the foundational precept—that we live in a world of scarcity—is highly suspect. We live in a world of abundance and we create scarcity through our economic activities. There are more vacant houses than homeless people in this country. Furthermore, the precept that everyone must work at a money-producing job (or enter a dependent relationship with someone who works at a money-producing job) in order to justify their existence is suspect. We create scarcity and we invent busy work to perpetuate our economic system.

I’ve also been reading some books about the Native Americans who lived on the plains. The nomadic tribes pitched their tipis in their own tent cities anywhere they wanted to and lived by hunting and foraging. Land ownership was not a thing they did. And because they owned nothing, they owned everything. In Lakota Woman, written in the late 20th century, Mary Crow Dog describes some of the long-term repercussions of taking people who lived without money, “giving” them some land to own, and expecting them to simply assimilate into a culture and economic milieu so totally foreign to them.

Crow Dog describes her years as a reservation youth. Bands of aimless young people roamed around the Dakotas in beat-up jalopies, stealing food from the over-priced stores and drinking themselves blind. She didn’t draw the connection between her roaming and foraging ancestors, but it seemed like a modern-day version to me.

The Sioux tribes of the 19th century would have understood the tent city in Seattle. They would not have understood that anyone had the right to force those people to move because the land wasn’t theirs. They would not have understood that there is no place—no place—that those people are allowed to live. What could they have done to deserve that kind of shunning?

A TALE OF ROMANCE, GRITTY STREET DRAMA, AND MURDER

Having spent a week watching me mope about, my dear husband wanted to cheer me up.  Or maybe shut me up… how much moping can a guy take?  In any case, he treated me to an evening of dinner theater last night.  We didn’t get home until early this afternoon.

No, the show wasn’t that long.

Having secured the babysitting services of the divine Gungaboy, Technogeek surprised me with a night at a swanky hotel, followed by an in-room massage in the morning.

All together now—you know you want to say it—Awwww. 

So I was in a much improved mood this morning as we were strolling through downtown Seattle, intending only to exchange an ill-fitting gift at a department store and grab a mocha.  Unfortunately, our path took us right through a gauntlet of protesters holding signs decrying the “Israeli occupation of Gaza.”

Now you might be wondering, “What possible effect could a bunch of protesters in Seattle have on the endless, pointless conflict in the Middle East?”  I cannot answer that.

You might also be wondering, “Why don’t those protesters point their accusing fingers in the faces of Hamas, which rewarded Israel for pulling entirely, completely out of Gaza with unabated violence and continuous rocket fire at civilian targets?”  I can’t answer that, either.  Or maybe I can.

Across the street stood a lone counter-demonstrator.  He held an Israeli flag aloft and shouted “I stand with Israel!”

A protester shouted back, “Go home!”

Another protester shouted, “Death to the Jews!”

At that point, Technogeek’s grip on my arm tightened and he steered me down the street at a swift pace.  “Don’t engage those people,” he told me, which is funny because that’s what I always tell him when he looks like he’s about to haul off and deck some idiot making an ass of himself on the street. 

Isn’t that what marriage is all about?  Keeping each other out of jail?

Safely in the car, we were discussing our theater experience and lamenting the lack of murder-mystery dinner events in our town.  TGeek said there might be a company that will stage one of those events at your house.

Then I had a great idea.  What if we had a party with a planned murder mystery component, but we didn’t tell our guests it was going to happen.  We would just let them think a real murder had occurred, and wouldn’t they be surprised and delighted later to find out it was all a game?

It was TGeek’s opinion that said guests would be Not Amused and would in fact Never Forgive Us.  And now, to find out the truth of the matter, we must have a poll.

If your party hosts staged a murder and let you think it was real until the “crime” was solved, how would you feel?
I might actually murder said hosts with my own sweaty, shaking hands.
I would pretend to laugh it off while secretly seething inside.
How droll!  How tres amusant! 
I’d be on to the scam as soon as the “detective” with the twirly mustache showed up.
  
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