A few days ago, I was riding home from work and saw yet another of those nearly ubiquitous "United We Stand" bumper stickers. Now I've never been one for these so-called patriotic displays, preferring to spend my patriotic currency on crazy stuff like voting and speaking out against policies and actions inconsistent with the organizing document of our country (the Constitution). But for some reason on that day, I was particularly struck by the phrase "united we stand."
The way I figured it, most of the people with those stickers on their cars had never really considered the true implications of that statement in this day and age. As a bit of American phraseology, it's almost universally attributed to Abraham Lincoln (who did NOT in fact say it in the speech from which it's widely reputed to have come), in reference to the Union, and whether or not slavery would, or should be allowed to, dissolve said Union.
What Ol' Longshanks actually said was a direct reference to the biblical quotation that "a house divided against itself cannot long stand." His argument was that it wasn't as much a question of which side was right, as it was that civil war was was bad, m'kay? It was about how the Union being so divided on a black-and-white issue like slavery (sorry) was a threat to, well, the unity of the Union. This was not a speech about how everyone should have the same opinions, it was not a speech about defending ourselves from outside threats, and it was not an exhortation to blindly accept the policies of the government. It was a statement of his opinion that the country had to reach (reach, not blindly accept) an agreement on the issue, or the worst would likely happen.
It's pretty easy to see where "united we stand" (ignoring for the moment that Lincoln appears not to have made the argument in those particular words anyway, negating some of the "patriotic-ness" it might have) might be entirely appropriate when talking about the issue of preserving the country in a time of obviously-impending civil war, but entirely inappropriate in pretty much any context in which it appears today.
When this phrase rears its misattributed head these days--without so much as a hint of what we're to be united about, or to stand against--I think what it's really saying is, "America, love it or leave it." It's a call for all right-thinking people to fall into lock-step because we'll somehow fall to some unnamed thing if we don't. It's also, more subtly, a statement that the car-owner (or doggerel-spouter) feels that folks who don't unite with his or her way of thinking are a threat to the stability of the country. All I'm getting from it is fear-mongering and/or divisiveness, and perhaps a sense that too many people think a quote from a famous person is as good as thinking for yourself.
So let me lay it down: "United We Stand" is not a patriotic statement, it's a political statement, a cudgel to use against those who disagree with the speaker's politics. Threats, even veiled and cloaked as the statement of a great thinker or politician are inappropriate and probably UN-patriotic, given what the Constitution says about how this country's supposed to run. And finally, if a bumper sticker is the best argument you can make, maybe you ought to just sit quietly until you can do better in your own words. You'll likely be happier in the long run, and I assure you that I most definitely will be.
OK. This was a crappy essay, hampered at least in part by the fact that it was originally formulated based on a different theory. I originally thought that the phrase was put into the "Sayings/Inspirational/American" category during the war for independence, when it would have been a totally appropriate statement for a country facing great odds, and in reference to States, not individuals. Asking for unity of purpose within a defensive structure just makes sense. Asking for unity of thought or speech in the populace of a country unchallenged and largely unthreatened as the mightiest power in the world is a totally different thing. See? That would have been better, but I guess the facts will out.
Plus, I was interrupted like a thousand times in the course of writing it.
I just saw on the Yahoo! news feed that the Trinity Broadcasting Network, known to most of my friends as The God Channel, is going to be doing a "Christian" version of the American Idol series. I think my title would be a dynamite name for the show, so I rushed to put it on my blog and thereby reserve the rights to sue the shit out of them if they use it.
This brings me to a subject that struck me recently--why is there such a thing as Christian music, like as a specific genre? There is plenty of popular music out there that espouses reasonable Christian values and is performed by Christians, though not perhaps of the evangelical type in either case, but for some reason that doesn't qualify as "Christian" music.
"Christian" music, as she is spoke, is apparently required to make numerous references to Jeebus and Gawd and their amazing love for you, yes you, you ungrateful and unworthy sinner. Why is it insufficient to merely make a quiet good example? This conceit also reaches into "Christian" books, movies (99.9% straight to video, plus Mel Gibson and James "The Weasel" Caviezel), television and in many cases, conversation. Based on the Christians I grew up with and around, this supposedly Christian culture is decidedly unpopular and creepy to the majority of Christianity's practicioners. Let's face it, "Christian" culture is for Evangelical Christians, the freakiest of the freaky, not the great mass of other types of Christians.
I think it's pretty obvious why Evangelicals feel the need to swaddle themselves and their offspring in the fucking Shroud of Turin, blocking out any and all opposing (or even differing) points of view: Their religion sucks. It's no fun, probably scary even, and if their kids got a real whiff of secular life or worse, other religious beliefs, they'd bugger off to real rock shows or at least other less horrible religions without a second look back. Or at least that's what they fear would happen, in which case they actually think their religion sucks. Some show of faith in the power and glory of Jeebus' love, eh?
But why do Christians of other stripes let the Evangelicals swipe their name and apply it to this mind-closing claptrap? Let's face it--religion is all about words and names, and who's in and who's out. If you're gonna do religion effectively, I think it's important to hang onto your nomenclature. Why don't non-charismatics teach their children, actively, that much of what's out there labeled "Christian" doesn't actually match with their own stated beliefs? If it were me, I'd be all over that issue, but apart from my Dad, who's a retired Episcopalian priest, nobody seems to have much to say about it.
I don't have time really to write, as you'll soon see, but I just had to take my mind off things around here.
My life continues unabated, as does the bitching, as you'll soon see.
I've got three major deadlines this month, any one of which would be enough to keep me busy the whole time. So of course the mail server just went tits up, which I, also of course, have to fix. I've called the Geeks (really, that's part of the name) and, well basically, they are so fired once this is over. Not only is our well-documented problem totally news to our usual tech, but they're also not expecting to be able to get him here until tomorrow. I suggested that this would be, ahem, unpopular around here, and they came back whining about how they're "down two techs today." Like that's my fucking problem. I suppose I should expect this from a company that answers the phone, "Hello."
Now, of course, I have to go to physical therapy with the email still down. Nothing makes me feel like an asshole like leaving the office when everyone here is twiddling their thumbs waiting for the server to come back online. Still, this is the first appointment, and it took two weeks to get it, so no way am I missing it. There's nothing I can do to fix the server myself anyway, but I think it gives that "I don't give a shit" message a little more strongly than is actually true.
Finally, and I'm sure to cover this more later, my Mom is really sick. She had a kidney transplant 11 years ago, and she's rejecting it. They think it'll be possible to arrest or slow down the process, but no guarantees at this point. So I get to spend my mental free time as an emotional basket case. Good thing I don't actually have any free time right now.
When it rains, it friggin' pours, I say. Nothing like going back to work to completely undo all the good work that a vacation can do.
The new boss, nice guy that he is, is nonetheless the king of putting the cart before the horse. He doesn't want to get too bogged down in planning, I guess, but that's no reason to do stuff like hire a TV media buyer to run online promotions, or to contract a rush job to a designer that's going on vacation sooner than the project can get finished, and returning long after the deadline. Yeah, we'd all like to get things sorted out before the big fall/holiday buying rush. But I think most of us like to think things through beforehand.
For example: The media buyer has never, not ever, done anything relating to marketing, apart from buying ad time on TV stations. Yet he hired her to do the media buying thing and run our online marketing operations. She protested that she really didn't know anything about any of that (the elementary things I've had to explain...oy), and that she needed a job description. His idea of a job description? You'll be buying media for our direct TV offers, and running the online marketing operations. Fuck detail, do you want the job or not? At this point, I think she's feeling kind of not.
Remember how I was going to finally get an assistant? Well, I did, and I even got the one I really wanted, with no outside interference in the process. I knew there had to be a fuck-you in there somewhere--it was just too easy. Well, I found it. Somehow they've managed to assign him to a cubicle that's quite literally the furthest one from my office, in spite of the fact that there are two empty ones right outside my door. I can't actually see them, but let's just say that if someone in one of them scratched his ass, I could hear it. I like my assistant--he's willing to jump right in with minimal directions and he's meticulous, or at least he is so far (I personally believe that's something you can't fake, even for a day or two)--but the walking is already busting my ass. Well, my feet really.
Remember how I was getting a brand new bike? Well, I got it, and it's super-duper-extra-groovy, but I've only managed to put 10.6 miles on it, where I would have thought I'd have more like 100 by now. How come? Achilles tendinitis. My fucking heel kills, and it just got worse over the vacation. I'm due to start physical therapy next Tuesday, but in the meantime it totally sucks, and I really can't ride. It doesn't hurt when I ride, but the next day I'm considering how bad amputation could really be. Maybe it gets a bad rap for cosmetic reasons, because I'm pretty sure it would be preferable to the pain in my heel. I feel I may have some insight into what Achilles' last moments were like--imagine your heel hurting so bad you died from it.
When it really hurts is getting up in the night to take a pee--I find myself standing next to the bed trying to figure out how I'm going to take another step with my left foot without putting any weight on the right one. Physics being what they are, I haven't found a way to manage that (if I had, I wouldn't be nearly so stressed about a sore foot, 'cause I'd be able to fly), so I opt for the weird convulsive dance of simultaneously putting down my right foot, lifting my left one, and trying to bend my upper body forward at the same time in an odd hunched-over hop, all in a gambit to somehow make myself lighter on my bad foot. I fail, of course, but thanks to the gyrations, I fail spectacularly. So far I've managed to do all this without crying out in my agony, but the Kokopelli boogie has roused Girlygirl from sleep a few times.
After a few steps, things ease considerably, but I still have some pain walking for the rest of the day--like when I have to walk all the way across the fucking office to deal with my own goddamn assistant.
I know, whine, whine, whine. I'm just annoyed and stressed because I've had to do at least two other people's jobs for the last week, and now I have to keep trying to find new projects for my assistant that don't require any training, since I don't have time to do that, and that fucker works fast.