Friday, January 12, 2007

Claptrap from Ben Stein

A friend of mine who is an Episcopal priest forwarded an email to me today which was a transcript of a Ben Stein piece on CBS Sunday Morning. Frankly, I'm quite surprised to get this from him if it means he subscribes to the ideas put forth in it. He and I seem to agree on a lot of issues, especially about the Iraq war and how monumentally stupid a blunder it was, so I was surprised to find he might (emphasize might) agree with the utter claptrap that Stein is spewing. Let's take them in order.

I have no freaking clue who Nick and Jessica are. I see them on the cover of People and Us constantly when I am buying my dog biscuits and kitty litter. I often ask the checkers at the grocery stores. They never know who Nick and Jessica are either. Who are they? Will it change my life if I know who they are and why they have broken up? Why are they so important? I don't know who Lindsay Lohan is, either, and I do not care at all about Tom Cruise's wife.

Ok Ben, no argument from me here. I couldn't care less about these vacuous twits either. High fives on that one.

Next confession: I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are: Christmas trees. It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, "Merry Christmas" to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu. If people want a creche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

Ok, not much to disagree with from me on this either. "Christmas" is a Christian holiday by definition. Now, let's also keep in mind that that time of year has been celebrated for millenia because it's right after the winter solstice. Ancient people who kept a keen eye on the sunrise and sunset could tell roughly a few days after the solstice that the days were really getting longer again. Whew! The sun wasn't going to completely go away after all. The Romans celebrated the Saturnalia for mostly the same reason. But, I'm not going to throw cold water on the Christians for wanting to claim Christmas. I'm ok with it, really. It's when they start extrapolating that I get annoyed. Keep reading...

I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians.

I can sure appreciate his not liking being pushed around for being Jewish. I don't like being badmouthed for being an atheist. People say things about atheists that they wouldn't dare say about a Jew, a Christian or a Muslim. But atheists are fair game, I guess. Ok, fine. Let's keep going, though.

I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat.

Here's where Ben and I part company. People who believe in God are in no way, shape or form pushed around in this country. In fact, they enjoy special treatment in innumerable ways. Their problem is that they are offended when they don't get special treatment. Tell me one, just one way in which a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, a Hindi, a Buddhist or any other religion is prevented from practicing his or her religion. The problem is that they're not satisfied with practicing. They want to harness the government to make everyone else practice their religion, too.

And the bit about you can't find it in the Constitution? Duh, Ben... it's called The First Amendment.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship Nick and Jessica and we aren't allowed to worship God as we understand Him?

I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where Nick and Jessica came from and where the America we knew went to.

Oh, give me a break. How are you not allowed to worship God? This is the same crap that the Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons of the world have been handing us. You are absolutely free to worship any way you want AS LONG AS IT DOESN'T INFRINGE ON ANYONE ELSE'S FREEDOM. But that's the bit they don't understand, isn't it? They aren't satisfied to pray, they want me and my kids to pray their prayer. They want my government to believe what they believe. Sorry, Ben. I used to think you were a pretty smart guy. Now I see you're just another rhetorical snake-oil salesmen like the rest of the right wingers.