Saturday, April 30, 2005

Religion and Politics: Redux

So yesterday while going on a campus coffee run I ran into a Christian faculty member. Knowing that I have an interest in religion, politics, and all things secular, she started to complain to me about the recent filibuster flap (Note: I have already commented on the filli-debacle HERE and HERE). Top on her list was a lengthy rant about James Dobson and how the Religious Right™ has an "agenda" which is intentionally designed to portray liberal Christians as "un-Christian." Naturally, as a self-described (at least to me) "liberal Christian", she was quite upset.

Inwardly I sighed because I predicted that the various groups and news organizations would continue to carp about this. Outwardly however, I was unsure how to respond to her. On the one hand I was flattered that she trusts me enough to consider me a neutral sounding board--especially when the outward display of religious convictions on some campuses often gets faculty into hot water. In fact, this particular faculty member works in a school that is traditionally conservative, so part of the reason she was so upset had to do with some of her conservative colleagues and their views on this topic.

Now I don't know if my answer alleviated any of her angst but here is what I basically said:

Dobson does have an agenda--he always has. However, not all "conservative Christians" have an agenda. In fact, I really think that Dobson has over-reached himself and is fast becoming a liability to the White House and to conservatives (this is why I suspect Bush has distanced himself from Dobson) . Finally, (and unbeknownst to her) I paraphrased something Lee once said in his writings: "Nothing is so permanent that it will never change." However, I suspect that my comment fell on deaf ears because she kept venting.

Interestingly, this morning as I skimmed the news I came across this article from the Denver Post.
Political experts say Dobson's influence on moderate and independent voters is limited, however, and that he and other social conservatives run a risk, with their more confrontational rhetoric, of spurring a reaction against Republican rule. "This is such an overreaching by Dobson, I expect a backlash," said Norman Ornstein, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. "Dobson is now a problem (for Republicans)," said John Podesta, a former Clinton White House chief of staff who heads the Center for American Progress, a Democratic think tank in Washington. Recent polls show a large majority of Americans oppose changing the filibuster rule.
So, this confirms what I hinted to in an earlier post. Moreover, it's a nice seugway which I can use to introduce my Yin/Yang Theory of Politics®:

The Chinese use the Ying/Yang symbol to illustrate the balance of life. Yin (gentleness) and Yang (firmness) are often seen as separate entities. However, this is not the correct interpretation of this symbol. Yin and Yang are part of the whole and it is wrong to separate them. How I had this explained to me is through the metaphor of the willow and the oak: "The firmest tree is easily cracked by the storm while the willow bends and survives."

For Yin and Yang to function properly balance is needed. Nothing survives very long by staying in one extreme. If this notion is correct, then Dobson et al will lose momentum because they are all Yang (firmness).

Now if I only could have conveyed this notion to my colleague! This, of course, leads to my digression of the day:

My employer has a technology support department that constantly annoys me. Granted, in the four years that I have worked for this university, the department HAS made some improvement.

However a recent example should explain why I get so annoyed with this department: A few months ago the entire network went down after 6 PM. Naturally, tech support had gone home for the night and they do not publish the number of their on-call person. So, after one full hour of not being able to work, I followed the instructions in the sacred "computer manual" and called the name listed. After explaining my problem this person asked me if I consulted the manual. I replied: "Yes, it tells me to call you."

His reply: "shit."

So after another 40 minutes of monkey football this person finally gets me the number of the on-call person. Upon hearing my description of the problem the on-call person asks me: "So, do you want me to come in?" Sigh. "Well," I replied, "that'd be nice considering that students have been complying for over an hour. In addition, we cannot check out books or access any documents on the server--much less use the Internet or do our jobs."

So another 45 minutes go by and at approximately five 'til the hour the whole net comes back on line--this, after having been down for at least two hours. The best part: five minutes later the on-call guy arrives and cannot find any problems! (It that isn't an example of karma I don't know what is)

Now initially when dealing with this department I was all Yin (gentleness). However, this approach led to my problems not getting fixed and the technicians blowing me off. So, after about a year I strove for a balanced approach which led to moderate success in problem resolution. Four years later and I suspect that I am losing my patience. Granted, "nothing is so permanent that it will never change", however it sure would be nice if the change would happen before I die!

So, during the last year I've taken the Yang approach--at least when it comes to the computer that I need functioning in order to do my job. So, this is as close to balance as I can come with this problem. The more it affects me the more Yang I rely on, however the less I am impacted I strive for Yin. I suppose this is better than simply doing nothing at all; or, for that matter, going over to this department and recreating the copier scene from the movie Office Space!

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