Saturday, October 11, 2008

Mad Dogs and Nasdaq Crawls

So I walk into my local Wells Fargo bank yesterday and they have Fox News playing on the large flat screen TV in the lobby. It hovers like the Eye of Mordor over those of us standing in line.

Fox News? Are you kidding me? McCain/Palin rallies are beginning to look like lynch mobs and these clowns are fueling the fear and hate. Am I overstating the case? I don't think so. In a little town in Western Oregon not too far from Portland, on the campus of a predominately white, conservative, evangelical Christian university, an effigy of Obama was recently hung from a tree.

The four students involved have since been suspended for one year...but not expelled. (2)

Two Pagan friends of mine live near that little town. They are a lesbian couple. One works as an executive at a large company and the other is a retired member of the U.S. military. (Thank you for your service, D.) They moved there from California in order to enjoy a more rural lifestyle with their spoiled cats, one rescued cattle dog and several plush alpacas. When they bought their little farm they thought they'd found a peaceful paradise in a well educated, green-minded state. What they really found in Newberg was a Christian Only zone. You can't spit in this town without hitting a church of some kind, a conservative, republican church, at that. My friends (who are out and proud) would be more worried about their safety living there if they didn't know that the different Christian sects in town all despise one another and they just can't organize long enough to do much harm. Let us hope it stays that way.

The Least of These
Why Doesn't This "Family Values" Town Have A Decent Animal Shelter?

George Fox University was originally founded by a pastor of the Society of Friends (also known as "Quakers"). GF was named after the forward thinking Founder of the movement. Currently, only about 5% of it's student body are Quakers and this story might be very different if there were more of these folks at the school.

The school attracted other Quaker farmers to Newberg, set as it is in the fertile lands of the Willamette Valley. The area is known for it's many prosperous farms, well heeled retirees, and world class wineries and a world famous rehab center where celebraties like Robin Williams (Goddess bless him) come for help. A local family is building an European-style hotel, spa and conference center there in order to attract more wine-loving visitors from abroad. Wealthy Christians here are active in a number of projects, most of them have to do with spreading their faith. This is typical. For all the money you'll find in Newberg, you also find a very narrow focus. My friends - both animal lovers and rescue volunteers - tell me that Newberg's "animal shelter" remains as it has been since it was built by high school students as a community project in 1975; a little tin shack, surrounded by a chainlink fence. It boils in summer and freezes in the wintertime. It can house up to six to eight dogs at any one time in an area in which thousands of dogs are homeless, lost, abused or abandoned every year. The cats sit nearby in small cages or carriers and they can see the dogs, and hear their loud, frantic barking all day long. The only Animal Control Officer there (a highly dedicated, hard working and compassionate woman in her 70's) does what she can, in a large, well populated county, one filled with farm animals, wildlife, countless stray dogs and thousands of cats. Crime and cruelty abound in this area, cursed as it is with meth addiction; animals, women and children here suffer in more or less equal proportion. The shelter adopts out as many animals as they can to good homes (click here for their available pet list). They get some help from a little pet shop in town, which helps find homes for stray kittens and cats that come into the shelter. A "Friend's of the Animal Shelter" group has tried to raise money for the shelter for years...and years...and years. I'm told that donations never quite keep up with rising costs and the dream of a new shelter for Newberg is still that, a dream. The odd student from George Fox will sometimes help out at the shelter, but it's a tough, dispiriting job, and they usually can't handle it for very long. Didn't Jesus say: "Whatsoever you do to the least of these, you do unto me"? But well-to-do Christian Republicans in Newberg just can't seem to find a way to help the most innocent and helpless among them.

The Other Is Not Welcome Here

The college where the incident occurred is now owned, run and controlled by evangelicals. They might be good people - I wouldn't know. My friends know they are not welcome there, and do not attend events on campus. In order to work or teach at this school you must sign a form declaring that Jesus Christ is your personal savior (1) - something that would have appalled George Fox himself - and as much as I love to be involved with interfaith work, I have little patience with Newberg and the insular, narrow minded attitudes one finds there. Their idea of diversity would involve a Baptist working with a Lutheran. These are people who think Bill Moyers is a radical. So it goes.

Don't Panic !!!

So, here I am, standing in line in my local bank after visiting these friends and hearing from them that the students who hung an image of Obama from a tree have not been expelled. The national and global news is also bad. I'd give this a 10 on a no good, terrible, very bad economic day and I'm not happy, not happy at all. That's when I get in line and see Fox News beaming their hate down on me and everyone like me.

Yes, I complained. I was told by a branch supervisor that "Corporate" only allows them a choice of two channels: MSNBC ("in the tank" for Obama, I'll admit) & Fox News (AKA the fanatical, hard right supporters of The Church Lady and that grumpy old guy; people who would like nothing more then to see me and mine in camps). For the record: The bank teller who was serving me said she wished they would change the channel to MSNBC. (That, in front of her uptight supervisor - You go, girl). As for me, I see no reason why either Fox or MSNBC (Love your work, Rachel) should be featured in my bank. My bank is a place of business. I go there to put money in, and, these day, to take money out.

Just why do bank patrons need a large flat screen TV in the lobby? Is it meant to distract us from the long faces of those around us? Maybe they should just put up a sign that says "Don't Panic".

The bank's stated reason for their choice is that "both stations show the
NASDAQ news crawl at the bottom of the screen". Note to Wells Fargo: So does CNN. (Not that I'm all that fond of CNN these days - Glenn Beck? What are you people thinking?).

Like I said, I was having a bad enough day already. Now I have to see both the latest nasdaq numbers (adieu 401K, hang in there IRA) and watch Fox at the same time? Harsh! I say the hell with it, put on Comedy Central. It's one of the few places you can find real news anymore.

But since our corporate masters have decided we must watch Fox while our net worth disappears and since their disinformation fuels the fires here at home, let's go with the flow, let's focus on Fox. But let's talk about things Fox doesn't want to talk about, for example, why so many veterans are for Obama, why McCain gets a D from these same veterans and why Sarah Palin looks more and more like a Mad Dog:

...watching Palin's speech, I had no doubt that I was witnessing a historic, iconic performance. The candidate sauntered to the lectern...and immediately launched into a symphony of snorting and sneering remarks...It was like watching Gidget address the Reichstag.

Right-wingers of the Bush-Rove ilk have had a tough time finding a human face to put on their failed, inhuman, mean-as-hell policies...The great insight of the Palin VP choice is that huge chunks of American voters no longer even demand that their candidates actually have policy positions; they simply consume them as media entertainment, rooting for or against them according to the reflexive prejudices of their demographic... A classic example of what was at work here came when Palin proudly introduced her Down-syndrome baby, Trig, then stared into the camera and somberly promised parents of special-needs kids that they would "have a friend and advocate in the White House." This was about a half-hour before she raised her hands in triumph with McCain, a man who voted against increasing funding for special-needs education.

Where Have All The Issues Gone?

Meanwhile, Kai Wright at The Root argues that McCain's hate filled campaign cannot be covered as mere "political hardball". The language used by McCain/Palin these days is not a debate it's an attack. The Nazi's knew the difference, why don't we? They called the effective use of propoganda "The Big Lie". So while we're all watching Fox at Wells Fargo, let's try something new. Let's call the ones who lie, liars and call out hate speech against "the other" as the racism, hatred and intolerance it so clearly is. Let's have a real election on the issues, and get down to fixing our problems. I, for one, would like put our taxes into things that matter, like good schools and animal shelters.

...and somebody please get Fixed News outta my bank.


Illustration by Victor Juhasz

Related Articles:

Jesus Was A Community Organizer

Inspiring Bigotry On the College Campus

Biography of George Fox

The Christians and the Pagans

Inclusion & Acceptance


(1) To their credit, they have sent a formal apology for this incident to Senator Obama and invited him to come speak. This prompted the Oregonian to write:

....even if the senator cannot come in person, it's possible to imagine all of this rebounding in his favor, by seeding a Democratic group on campus.

That, at George Fox, would be diversity. It's never easy to go against the mainstream, not in academia, and not anywhere else. But a few brave souls should take the college Republicans up on their challenge.

(2) Yes, the Secret Service has been to town to investigate. Trust me, these kids are now on their list and they can probably forget about ever getting any sort of classified clearance or government job.



Inanna said...

That's utterly heartbreaking about the life of companion animals in your friends' town. I wonder what the correlation is between progressive animal shelters/programs and towns with more liberal populations....

I'm trying to think what, if anything, Sarah Palin has in common with a pit bull, but I'm not coming up with a thing. If Sarah Palin were a pit bull, she wouldn't be a cruel, narrow-minded, opportunistic bigot. (Well, she might be opportunistic when it came to food.) She wouldn't care if someone were gay, or a witch, or black, or a Democrat. She'd be too guileless to lie. To anyone who was kind to her, she would return more love than they could imagine. She would love and enjoy nature without trying to dominate it. She'd be happy with a full belly, fresh air, a soft bed, and good friends.

My pit bull is a much better person than Sarah Palin.

Dj Connell said...

I quite agree :-) Calling Governor Palin a Pit Bull is unfair to a lovely, loyal and much maligned breed of dog.

Your question is a good one, I think. For what it's worth, Portland Oregon - liberal, well educated and diverse, supports one of the finest Humane Shelters in the United States. They just held a TV fundraiser and raised over $230,000 in one afternoon. They also built an animal medical facility which allows vet students to train while giving medical care to the pets that come into the shelter.

The part of Oregon can also boast of having one of the most progressive no kill, private non-profit Cat shelters in the U.S.

They house 300+ cats and kittens at a time, offer a free food bank to other organizations and rescue groups, offer low cost spay and neuter surgeries to the community, take in cats from the other local shelters (so they don't have to euthanize as many animals), foster orphaned kittens (through volunteers) and offer on-site medical care to hurt, sick and injured animals in their care. They, too, have a lot of support from the caring (and I would say diverse and tolerant) community that surrounds them, including Christians, Pagans, Buddhists and others who care about cats.

and with all that, the Portland Metro area still has to euthanize over 13,000 animals each year. The total number of companion animals euthanized in the U.S. is about 4 million a year.

Gandhi said that you can judge a culture by the way it treats it's animals. I think he was right.


Inanna said...

I live in a politically progressive town, and our SPCA was a pioneer in the No Kill movement; we take all the animals who are brought to us; we save over 90% of them, and euthanize only those who are suffering and dying or who have hopeless problems with aggression against humans. Our community is very proud of and dedicated to our SPCA.

I'd be curious, too, what the "religious" profile is of those who volunteer at or otherwise support our SPCA. It's probably pretty "standard American" -- largely Judeo-Christian. But I know of at least two Pagan volunteers (ahem, that would be us), and our town has a large Buddhist community, active Quaker and Unitarian congregations, and perhaps a larger-than-average number of folks who are agnostic/atheist (again, since we're a relatively open-minded place).... So it would be cool to know who volunteers at the SPCA.