October 14, 2003

One Nation, Under Something. Or Not. Whatever.

Dear Mr. Newdow,

I am going to state this once, and for your benefit, I will enunciate clearly and moderate my typing speed so that you may follow my reasoning:

You, sir, are an asshole.

Yep, an asshole. Not a principled atheist, not an ordained minister--minister of what, exactly, I must ask given that atheism tends to preclude religion--and frankly, not a very good father if you're using a nine year old girl to impose your views not only on her entire school, but also possibly upon a whole nation.

A nation, that, by and large, isn't much fussed over your cause du jour.

In your brief moments of lucidity, perhaps you ask yourself why America isn't all that up in arms over the massive daily threat posed by the Pledge of Allegiance. First of all, you don't even have to recite it if you don't want to. Secondly, last time I checked YOU weren't in fourth grade and your daughter, who is, "doesn't have a problem with it." And finally, well, because reasonable people don't REALLY BELIEVE that the words "one nation, under God" mean that if you aren't a Christian you will be put to death, relocated to Guantanamo, or that:

"Those who deny the existence of a supreme being have been turned into second class citizens by a government that continuously sends messages that 'real Americans' believe in God."

Here on planet earth, we like to call that statement "projection." Of course, maybe I'm just missing all those subliminal message billboards that read "Atheists are Big Doody-Heads." Maybe I need special glasses like yours to see them.

Or maybe, you're just mad that Everyone Hasn't Seen The Light And That Your Evangelistic Efforts Haven't Been That Fruitful, and your religious fervor to convert the unbelievers has gotten just a little out of hand. So you're attacking a phrase in the hopes that wiping it away will also erase that icky concept of God, or Yahweh, or Allah, or whoever you're getting all pissy about this week from everyone's consciousness. See, whether you're right or not isn't really the issue. The issue is your use of the First Amendment to throw a tantrum because everyone doesn't think the same way you do.

But mostly, you're just an asshole.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at October 14, 2003 11:30 AM
Comments

Man, I really wish I knew what you thought about this guy.

I think you hit the nail on the head when you said Mr. Newdow was projecting.

Posted by: LittleA at October 14, 2003 12:44 PM

American politics fascinate me. While they work like dogs to widen the gap between God and government, they pull like mad on the Entertainment world to fill the gap. American newscasts frequently headline what the Stars are doing and who they're doing - hardly newsworthy stuff. This phenomena suggests to me that in the not too distant future the States will need a constitutional law to keep Government and the Entertainment Industry separate. God and Government will just no longer be an issue, this will be the new issue. I am disappointed when I see Canada starting to do the same, or is it because our news channels are actually affiliates of an American-owned Company?

Posted by: Roberta at October 14, 2003 03:20 PM

Roberta -

I think it's because Nature abhors a vacuum. In other words, if you eliminate one God, you'll just find something else to worship. In our case, celebrity seems to be the thing filling the void.

And since you share a border with the vacuum, you get to share our weirdness, however much you may wish it were otherwise. But look on the bright side--you'll never lack for entertainment!

Posted by: BAW at October 14, 2003 04:05 PM

With Deepest Respect for Your Beliefs:

The government of a free people has no business forcing any specific ideology on adults or children.

The government of a free people do not confiscate the property of all the people and then tell some of the people to just suck up the official dogma.

No free people, respectful of cultures and religions, never demands that a member of one religion subjugate itself to the majority religion.

No free people challenges the right of parents to transmit their culture-unimpeded-to their children or place a child in the position of obeying the government authorities or their parents.

To see that extreme religious bigotry against some of the people freely and openly expressed in such an angry self-righteous tone is truly disturbing.

Your anger is not far from the kind which would lead to deaths. Many deaths.

Take a deep breath and a step back.

Sincerely
Miller T. Smith
Biology/Chemistry Instructor
Northwestern High School
Adelphi, MD
http://www.pgcps.pg.k12.md.us/~nwest/index.html

Posted by: Miller Smith at October 14, 2003 09:37 PM

>> Your anger is not far from the kind which would lead to deaths. Many deaths.

What a brilliantly slimy insinuation. How nicely set up for future denial: "not far from the kind," "would lead to deaths" Not that you're actually accusing her of advocating murder or violence, oh no, it's just the similarities, the tragic outcome.

You know what? I'm an atheist, and I don't believe the moral fiber of the republic would be undermined one whit if the words "under God" inserted in 1954 were removed again in 2003, but if I had to choose to give sole responsibility for protecting my First Amendment rights over to either her or a sanctimonious twerp who can start a post "With Deepest Respect for Your Beliefs" and end it with the nearest thing to an accusation of incitement to a pogrom, I'd pick Big Arm Woman in a heartbeat.

Posted by: Joshua at October 14, 2003 11:15 PM

Miller -

Perhaps you need to take a deep breath. I called a "sanctimonious twerp" (thanks for the phrase, Joshua) an asshole for basically throwing a tantrum. Back up and read this again:

"See, whether you're right or not isn't really the issue..."

You'll note that I didn't call him an asshole for being an atheist, because I don't give a rat's ass. What angers me about this guy is actually not about religion or even the pledge at all--if you read the Yahoo article you'll see that "under God" was added during the Cold War as a poke in the eye to "Godless Communism," so it's not like there's some longstanding religious tradition here that's being undermined. No, my anger is directed at the kind of people who are only all about "live and let live" as long as we are living the way they want us to live, and who freak out about stuff that poses no demonstrable threat to their lives, liberty or pursuit of happiness while wasting taxpayer money to do it. I'd make the same points if Pat Robertson tried to sue in order to mandate private citizens saying grace before every meal.

I wondered, when I posted this, if I'd get any hysterical responses. Congratulations, Miller. You win the "calling someone an asshole leads to jihad" award.

Posted by: BAW at October 15, 2003 07:49 AM

If "under God" is something that "poses no demonstrable threat to their lives, liberty or pursuit of happiness ", then not having "under God" is something that "poses no demonstrable threat to their lives, liberty or pursuit of happiness."

Requiring all of the people to pay for what you desire IS a "threat to [our] lives, liberty [and] pursuit of happiness." You are demanding that the government take from me my property and use it to get in my child's face every morning and force your ideology on my child. Nice. Real nice.

A free country has no forced ideology. A free country does not force all the people to financially support the ideas of some of the people. But that seems to be what so many of you desire.

Hyperbole becomes you. I said it was close, not "leads to." It could "lead to," but that's not what I said. How New York Times of you.

As for Joshua the Namecaller, inserting anything into a pledge would do him about right. Any deity would do I guess. Doesn't matter to him what the government spends his and other people's money on to force on people. He's cool with it.

Sincerely
Miller T. Smith
Biology/Chemistry Instructor
Northwestern High School
Adelphi, MD
http://www.pgcps.pg.k12.md.us/~nwest/index.html

Posted by: Miller Smith at October 15, 2003 09:38 AM

Miller -

As I didn't vote for adding that phrase in 1954, I'm not taking any property from anyone to force an ideology anywhere. Are you saying that reciting the pledge costs money or property? Or are you referring to the costs of the lawsuit--which was brought by the anti-words guy. I frankly am not clear on the point you are making there.

Let's get this straight: I do not CARE about the words "under God" being the the pledge. I can see both sides of the issue, but I am well within my rights to express annoyance with someone I perceive as being a little over the top about two words in a pledge you aren't even REQUIRED TO RECITE, and particularly in this guy's case, as his daughter, for whom he is ostensibly fighting, doesn't. even. care. You can see how a reader might catch a whiff of "personal problems writ large" here above and beyond the whole "brave freedom fighter" thing, and be moved to mock him accordingly. There is an element of tantrum throwing here, and the delicious irony is that it has an evangelistic fervor. Why, I'd almost call it religious zealotry.

If you perceive that as some sort of high handed condescension from the God squad, well, whatever. YMMV.

If the existence of the words in a pledge counts as "forcing an ideology," then is the existence of "in God we trust" on our money "forcing an ideology?" Does that then mean that having clergy open sessions of legislature counts as forcing an ideology? Are people so weak-minded that hearing anything that goes against their beliefs (or non-beliefs) will immediately force them to accept an ideology?

And hyperbole? Yep, it does become me, as I am sure you knew if you read anything on this blog.

Posted by: BAW at October 15, 2003 10:18 AM

As I didn't vote for adding that phrase in 1954, I'm not taking any property from anyone to force an ideology anywhere. Are you saying that reciting the pledge costs money or property?
>
Yes is does cost money and property. To have a paid government employee say or direct a student to say the pledge over the intercom using the intercom and the electricity to do so is very much the use of other people's money to force an ideology on people.

Or are you referring to the costs of the lawsuit--which was brought by the anti-words guy. I frankly am not clear on the point you are making there.
>
If the government and the people who think the government should privilege them by honoring their ideology would realize that they are wrong and would stop it, then the government would not be spending taxpayer money defending something that is wrong for the government to do.

Let's get this straight: I do not CARE about the words "under God" being the pledge. I can see both sides of the issue, but I am well within my rights to express annoyance with someone I perceive as being a little over the top about two words in a pledge you aren't even REQUIRED TO RECITE, and particularly in this guy's case, as his daughter, for whom he is ostensibly fighting, doesn't. even. care.
>
I have kids that don't care about a lot of things. Does that mean that since they don't care I shouldn't as well?

The Congress of the United States sure made a big deal over putting those two words into the pledge, so making it a big deal about those words being in the pledge wasn't something the father started...he's just continuing. Don't blame the father for reacting to something he didn't start.

You can see how a reader might catch a whiff of "personal problems writ large" here above and beyond the whole "brave freedom fighter" thing, and be moved to mock him accordingly. There is an element of tantrum throwing here, and the delicious irony is that it has an evangelistic fervor. Why, I'd almost call it religious zealotry.
>
Indeed. His "religious zealotry" is not to be respected, but the "religious zealotry" of those who were oh so pressed to put "under God" in the pledge are to be respected. Uh huh. Yet another example of religious bigotry.

If you perceive that as some sort of high handed condescension from the God squad, well, whatever. YMMV.
>
According to the words of Jesus, the "God squad" isn't supposed to force a damn thing on anyone. For Christians to actually use the power of the state to attempt to indoctrinate people into their way of thinking is a serious violation of Christian ethics.

If the existence of the words in a pledge counts as "forcing an ideology," then is the existence of "in God we trust" on our money "forcing an ideology?" Does that then mean that having clergy open sessions of legislature counts as forcing an ideology?
>
Yes and yes. Why else do it? What would be the point otherwise if not to force an ideology?

Are people so weak-minded that hearing anything that goes against their beliefs (or non-beliefs) will immediately force them to accept an ideology?
>
Then let my beliefs have equal time in the pledge, on the money, and in the legislature as well. You up for that? If not, then I am right, if so, then you are. You game?

And hyperbole? Yep, it does become me, as I am sure you knew if you read anything on this blog.
>
I read your blog everyday. It is well worth my time. I enjoy it immensely. You're just wrong on this issue this time.

Sincerely
Miller T. Smith
Biology/Chemistry Instructor
Northwestern High School
Adelphi, MD
http://www.pgcps.pg.k12.md.us/~nwest/index.html

Posted by: Miller Smith at October 15, 2003 12:17 PM

Miller -

As I see it, the point at which we will disagree and continue to on this issue is on the forcing of an ideology and its constitutionality.

Gratuitous First Amendment inclusion: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

There is nothing in there about forcing an ideology--just about establishing a religion. Are these things one and the same to you? "Forcing an ideology" depends a lot more upon the personal perceptions of the folks being exposed than does an actual establishment of a state religion. Unless Newdow can prove that "under God" establishes a state religion he's probably gonna have some trouble with the real Supremes, 'cause they're a bit different than the ninth circuit.
Of course, you can argue that since the words were inserted for a particular political purpose that is no longer needed, you can go back to the original pledge. Hell, you could just trash the whole pledge, since it was created by a minister who dreamed of socialist utopia.

And I still have a problem with the idea of religious bigotry being implied because I think this guy is a tool and question his motives re: protecting his daughter (no custody, bitter divorce, daughter raised a Christian by the mother...hmmm). The facts of the case point more toward "tool with a vendetta" than "concerned parent." My son will probably be exposed to a lot of crap I'll disagree with throughout his schooling. I plan on giving him the other side of the story at home, not on suing George Bush to make everyone at his school learn what I want him to.

>Yes and yes. Why else do it? What would be the point otherwise if not to force an ideology?

And a problem here--maybe they did it because when all this stuff was established the folks in charge were Christian and sincere in their belief? And then it just became tradition? That statement assigns some pretty dark motives to lawmakers and Christians alike.

If your beliefs aren't included in the pledge or legislature or whatever, then let 'er rip. Petition for change, join forces with likeminded folks and get them included. I don't have a problem with any of that. Just don't sue the president to get it done, or I'll have to mock you.

Posted by: BAW at October 15, 2003 01:59 PM

Main Entry: es·tab·lish
Pronunciation: is-'ta-blish
Function: transitive verb
Etymology: Middle English establissen, from Middle French establiss-, stem of establir, from Latin stabilire, from stabilis stable
Date: 14th century
1 : to institute (as a law) permanently by enactment or agreement

"There is nothing in there about forcing an ideology--just about establishing a religion."

All laws are enforced by the threat of coercion.

As for consitutionality, you know very well that many things the Court has rule consitutional over the years should not have been. This is a matter of right and wrong.

In other words, *should* the government of a free people ever pass a law that puts anyone's religion into the law?

Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Would you like to see this done with a religion you're not a part of and don't respect? How about a religious group pull what the Libertarians are trying to do in New Hampshire (I think that's the state)? How about a bunch of turd worshippers end up in your juristiction and then-threw the power of their majority-pass a law that changes "under God" to "under Turds?" I am sure you would not appreaciate it.

The entire point of a consitution and individual rights is to place certain things beyond the will of the majority. Let's keep it that way.

Sincerely
Miller T. Smith
Biology/Chemistry Instructor
Northwestern High School
Adelphi, MD
http://www.pgcps.pg.k12.md.us/~nwest/index.html

Posted by: Miller Smith at October 15, 2003 03:08 PM

Note how, as predicted, the weasel words are used to deny the plain intent of the invidious comparison of BAW's anger with Newdow's pettiness and lack of sense of proportion and the kind of anger that leads to many deaths.

Miller, would you like it better if I were more mealy-mouthed and said "Why, I'd almost call it being a sanctimonious twerp?" You figure it's okay to accuse someone of religious zealotry and bigotry as long as you preface your remarks with patently insincere pieties about "deepest respect"? If name-calling bothers you, you have a beam in your eye that you might want to have looked into.

Posted by: Joshua at October 15, 2003 08:18 PM

You do not attack the substance of my comments. I will take that to mean what it does.

Thank you

Sincerely
Miller T. Smith
Biology/Chemistry Instructor
Northwestern High School
Adelphi, MD
http://www.pgcps.pg.k12.md.us/~nwest/index.ht

Posted by: Miller Smith at October 15, 2003 10:39 PM