Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Richard Nixon, Musical Censor

John Adams (William Daniels) is displeased with the words of Dickinson (Donald Madden) of Pennsylvania in 1776.

Hello, my darlings! I've been preparing material to share with my current crop of students in Religion and Race in Revolutionary America. It's a course dreamt up by a historian who teaches at the same community college I do; he is off gallivanting out of state the final two sessions, so I get to do those.

One of my favorite tricks to avoid having to actually learn things so I can teach is to have guest speakers. It's a little tough when the course is set in Revolutionary times. I'm going to skype in some re-enactors from the east coast for some of the time, which should be very fun. And I'm going to play some film clips and some music that addresses the theme. I'll share my playlist with you over at Holly Forrest Teaches, my other blog. If you have any ideas, comment here.

But I digress. When I was researching the films, I thought of 1776, a great musical we'd seen years ago in Cedar City, Utah. I just previewed the film version and was delighted with it. Then I started looking into fact vs. fiction. Lots of the plot points were added for dramatic tension, some of the noble intent and conflict was fictionalized, but the most surprising thing was that an entire musical number was cut out of the film release, only restored after it was put on DVD.

Apparently, back in 1972, President Nixon asked his friend Jack Warner, studio head, to pull one of the numbers because he felt it was critical of the Republicans. Take a look. I think it's a pretty accurate portrayal of the right. The line that Dickinson from Pennsylvania says before they break into song rings true today. It's something that bothers me a great deal about those who criticize President Obama and his work to help the poor and middle class by taxing the wealthy; the critics are those who would be helped! He says "Don't forget that most men with nothing would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich than face the reality of being poor."

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Lesson on Proverbs 29:7 for Junior Teabaggers

Proverbs 29:7
The righteous considereth the cause of the poor:
but the wicked regardeth not to know it.

My beloved son came home yesterday extremely upset. He is in a World History class, and the teacher posed the question "Do the rich have an obligation to help the poor?" The overwhelming consensus of his classmates was NO.

What made it particularly disturbing to him was that so many of his classmates proclaim themselves devout Christians. They are all about the Jesus. In my immediate family, we believe Jesus was a great guy, but we are not churchgoers. We do not seek to convert anyone, and we sure as hell don't hold with the notion that if you don't believe certain things, you don't get into heaven. I know this bothers my mom, who has the view that if you simply believe Jesus died for your sins, you will be saved. We've gone round on this, because I think that if you're a Jesus follower, you also should at least try to live a good life and follow his teachings in order to get through the pearly gates. It seems way too easy to me that just being a believer lets you make the cut. She has a convoluted reasoning that if you believe, you will live such a life, as though it's inherently connected. Yet I know so many people who loudly proclaim themselves Christians whilst practicing extremely selfish, un-Jesus-like behaviors.

Let me quickly interject here that many Christians I know are extremely generous, loving people, who work their butts off to help others and do not begrudge (okay, they might prefer to decide how their money is allocated, but they don't complain very much) paying taxes. They contribute to causes which help the poor. Some, like our friend Isabel Jones, take it up a notch or two with ambitious endeavors to really make a difference.

My son's previously been informed by some of his more judgmental peers that he is going to hell because he's not a Christian. I am certain that many of the others privately think it, too, but at least they are classy enough not to say it to his face. Yet I'd wager that his heart is a whole lot bigger and kinder than theirs. He believes that individuals don't need enormous wealth, that they should share with the poor. After all, how many millions does one man require while others go hungry?

I found the approach he used to argue his point fascinating. He quoted scripture. I'm not familiar with the passage myself, but his father (raised in Catholic schools) knew it well.

Luke 3:11 And he would answer and say to them, “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.” 12And some tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13And he said to them, “Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.”
Actually, my son may have just used the tunic and food line. I'm not 100% sure. But I think it's worth including the tax collector lines here because the class was talking about taxation, whether the government should tax the rich to help the poor. Count me and my son on the yes side. We've read Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed; we don't believe the extreme differences of sumptuous quality of life for a relative few while others go without is acceptable.

I tried to cheer my son up and told him maybe some of the people who didn't speak up in his class felt the same way he did. He asked why they didn't speak up too. I told him I thought maybe they were intimated by the eloquence of his speech and didn't feel they had anything to add. He called bullshit on that. He was cheered that one girl did say similar things to what he had expressed. But he was really depressed about the rest of them, especially one of his friends, who twisted what he had said and spoke against it, claiming my son was extolling religious virtues and that he (the friend, a regular church-goer, BTW) was in favor of the separation of church and state. Geez, Louise. Talk about a fallacious argument. I can't decide if it's a straw man or a red herring, but either way, it stinks.

Of course, many of these schoolmates who are against the principle that the rich should help the poor also believe Obama is a Muslim. Oh, and a socialist/communist to boot. Stupid feckers. Forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they say.