O Wisdom: Occupying God’s Foolishness

O Wisdom, O Holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.

Each year it seems that Advent comes upon us more quickly than the previous one, and the O Antiphons — these last seven days of the Advent season marked by the seven antiphons prayed before the Magnificat in the Church’s Liturgy of the Hours at evening prayer (vespers) — seem to arrive like a thief in the night. These short snippets of prayerful anticipation and prophecy continue to be something I look forward to every winter as we call to mind, live out and anticipate the coming of the Lord. On the occasion of this first O Antiphon I am thinking of two seemingly different things: The insight of St. Paul and the Occupy Wall Street movements.

Wisdom is used in Scripture as another name for God. It is a symbol of Divine immanence, of God’s closeness to creation and all of humanity. It seems fitting then that wisdom is the beginning focus of these last days of our prayerful longing. In St. Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians, we read of how Paul recognizes that what has happened in the coming of God as one like us through the Incarnation (what we celebrate at Christmas), everything we have previously understood is turned upside down. And that Jesus Christ suffered and died on the Cross is even more absurd, Paul notes.

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Cor 1:18).

God’s power is found not in the “sensible” or “logical” view of the world, of institutions or of self-interest. Instead, God enters into creation as one like us to reveal that with God “nothing is impossible” — that God is in fact the God of all possibilities, even the seemingly foolish and absurd.

Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world id not know God through wisdom, GOd decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength (1 Cor 1:20-25).

Today’s antiphon announces the truth of Paul’s proclamation, addressing God’s Wisdom, which is Christ, with the recognition that it is indeed Christ who guides all of creation with strength…God’s strength, not human strength.

God’s strength is tender, God’s embrace is loving and God’s power is in fact weakness, at least as far as we can tell. God’s strength is found in the proclamation of Christ crucified, and that my friends is not the strength of the United States Department of Defense (or any other military force for that matter).

The mention of military force is but one example. That the O Antiphons, so close to the celebration of the Incarnation, begin with God’s Wisdom is no accident. It is a reminder that we need to learn to see the world in a new way, in God’s way. It is a reminder that from the moment God entered this world as one like us, the game changed and we could no longer live the way we had before.  It is a reminder that so much around us, much of which we implicitly if not explicitly permit, does not make sense according to God’s Wisdom, even though it seems to make “perfect sense” by the standards of our society, culture or even church.

This is why I’m thinking about the Occupy Wall Street movements that have sprung up this fall after that first group gathered in Manhattan back on September 17, 2011. The protest of these largely unorganized and random folks was immediately criticized by the rich and powerful of our society for being foolish, aimless and without direction. According to an MSNBC report, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg decried the activity as “not productive.” Yet, by whose measure was productivity being assessed?

We have become so product-driven and results-focused today in our society that we forget that some things cannot be measured by our own standards of sense and logic. This is in part what I believe Paul is getting at when he reminds the early Christians in Corinth to stop being so focused on the “logic” and “sensibility” to which they had become accustomed as the normative way of seeing the world.

“Things have changed,” Paul is effectively shouting through his letter! And yet neither the Corinthians nor we today have done anything about it.

We continue to live our lives as if Christ had not lived, died and is risen; we continue to judge our actions and those of others’ by standards not of God but of the world; we continue to think of ourselves before we think of others. Perhaps worst of all we are following our own way and not seeking the way to salvation as today’s antiphon reminds us in prayer.

Those people who looked around and saw the injustice of the financial system, the greed-laden structures of capitalism and the inhumane treatment of families did not ascribe to the “logic of the world,” but sought instead to follow a new way, seek a new wisdom.

I’m not going to suggest that the Occupy Wall Street demonstration and its offspring are inherently Christian endeavors, but I do think there is an allegory and a model in the action of those who are written off as foolish and absurd when fighting for the rights of others and justice in our world.

Today’s antiphon calls our attention to the wisdom of God which is more foolish than we can possibly imagine, but not so impossible that we cannot see the in-breaking glimpses of it in the preaching and ministry of Jesus Christ.

Love for the unlovable,
forgiveness for the unforgivable,
healing for the broken and broken hearted,
life for those who have died.

These things are foolish and impossible according to the logic and wisdom of the world.  However, as we are challenged today, we are not to follow the worldly directives but allow God’s wisdom to “Come and show your people the way to salvation.” 

That way to salvation is made step-by-step along the pilgrimage of life in the footprints of Jesus Christ.

It is a foolish journey, but one God has destined us to take if we are willing to accept. Perhaps the first step on the path is the occupy God’s foolishness in our own lives by learning to see the world anew and doing something to help change injustice and violence into righteousness and peace.

Photo: stock

28 Responses to “O Wisdom: Occupying God’s Foolishness”

  1. William R. Snaer, D.D.S. Says:

    It’s a little unfair to enlist St. Paul in the Occupy Wall Street Brigade without his permission. He might agree with me that OWS really is “foolish and absurd.” I tried to make that point in my November 16 Desert Sun op-ed:

    WHO IS SUPPORTING THE VAST WALL STREET “OCCUPATION,” AND WHY

    Occupy Wall Street has been in continuous operation since Sept. 17. It has gathered momentum, and spawned copies across the country. Some of the participants are mainstays for this kind of thing, others not.
    The Socialist Party USA has a Web page supporting the “occupation,” and the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, proclaims in a website headline: “Occupy Wall Street: Showdown and Victory — This Is So Not Over!”
    There is an assortment of homeless activists, community organizations, anti-Semites, tax-the-rich types, demonstrators from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU,) and even the Transport Workers Union.
    At first glance, the participation of far-left groups looks inconsequential. It’s natural that extremists would seek to gain a parasitic advantage from this exuberant democratic flowering of youthful idealism as it flounders toward some coherent expression of an actual political goal. But, a closer look reveals a more embedded revolutionary ideology in the occupation movement.
    OWS has its own newspaper, named as you might expect, the “Occupy Wall Street Journal.” One of its two main organizers is Jed Brandt. In March 2010, he spoke on a panel at the Brecht Forum, a Marxist center in New York City. His remarks on YouTube include: “ …we have to bring this government down. We have to help destroy this system, and that requires increasing the alienation that working class and oppressed people feel. The way change is going to happen in this country is the destruction of what we call the United States of America, and we’re not going to do it. It’s happening because grand centripetal forces are doing it on its own.”
    We can understand that idealistic young people with limited understanding of the big picture might unwittingly align themselves with a movement so cynically bent on destroying our politico-economic system. But, what about the grownups?
    Susan Sarandon, Russel Simmons, Princeton Professor Cornel West and Michael Moore have all expressed their support for OWS.
    House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi in an October 8 YouTube video: “God bless them for their spontaneity … it’s focused, and it’s going to be effective.” President Obama was benevolent when interviewed 10 days later by ABC’s Jake Tapper: “I understand the frustrations being expressed in those protests.”
    The California Teachers Association gave its support.
    Jim Wallis, Christian social activist and the president’s new spiritual adviser, visited the OWS encampment and offered these clarifying insights in his Oct. 20 SojoMail: “Since the Occupy Wall Street Movement began, the talk about inequality has been greater than I can remember … and in the mysterious and secret transactions between investment bankers and hedge fund traders, the profits continue to grow … my god- daughter is involved in the mushrooming urban gardening movement … imagine non- petroleum based food economies … don’t expect [OWS] … to produce a set of demands. They are instead raising some fundamental questions.
    Wallis thinks it’s reasonable to insert urban gardening as part of the grand solution, and he fails to notice that we all know the questions. It’s the answers that are the hard part.
    Do these leaders truly agree with the hodgepodge of self- serving and revolutionary goals of the “occupiers,” or, are they just too lazy to examine the ideological agenda of the mob? Worse yet, are they tolerating extremism because they think there is political advantage to be gained in November 2012?
    The rioters in Athens confronting police armed with tear gas are creating chaos to protect their welfare state benefits. The OWS protestors that blocked the Brooklyn Bridge are demanding new welfare state benefits.
    We should show some forbearance toward the OWS young, but hold the grownups who support them to account.

    • No, St. Paul doesn’t agree with you either.

      • I would agree with Dr. Snaer, and could not put it more clearly. My question further would be why is it that when the Tea Party folks rallied, they were called racists by the press and facists or “right-wing nut-jobs” by the right dishonorable Pelosi, yet she says “God bless them for their spontaneity” with regards to OWS. First, I challenge her place to even invoke God, but second, she is either for First Amendment or she is not. Please spare us all the hypocrisy, and she is just one example with all the other “hollywood-types”.

        I would suggest that one should remember the O Aniphons and this excellent reflection in January for the Right to Life March, and for the rest of the unborn who suffer at the hands of the self-serving abortionists. If I am going to be called out for my pro-military, then I will also called out the hypocrisy of the “social justice” left.

        More direct to the point, this is the season to REFLECT on the reason for the Word made Flesh – Incarnation. Thank you for the reminder.

      • Really. I agree. William R. Snaers comments just sound like another conservative rant to me. That Jesus guy was a real trouble maker, too. Apparently, it’s better to stick with the way things are, rather than overturning the money changer’s tables and causing a lot of frustration to the establishment.

        I’m assuming DDS has something to do with Doctor of Divinity. I don’t have a degree, but I know enough about what I’ve read in the bible to know that the apostles were at the least socialists, having all things in common.

        Hope I’m not getting too personal. But I can’t express an honest reaction to William R. Snaers comments without being upfront about my thoughts on his comments, although yours were much more concise.

  2. The antiphon assures us that our salvation is not political or economic, but spiritual. The Tea Party and Occupy groups are alike in their recognition that government and large corporations have not served the common good (which may be the only way that they are alike). I am frankly surprised that an occupy movement has not begun on college campuses. The reason houses cost so much is because the government has garaunteed loans. Banks loaned money to people whom they knew could not pay back their loans. When it became easy to get loans, hosusing costs went through the roof. Higher education is also part of this scheme. The government backs education loans, which allows St. Bonaventure, Sienna, and every other university to charge obscene tuition that people are unable to pay back. If the government didn’t back these loans, banks would not have given them so carelessly. Therefore, colleges and universities would not be paying outrageous salaries and charging people so much for a degree. The government bailed out the banks because they were the ones who pressured banks to issue these loans to people who would never be able to pay them back. The two biggest expenses I have are my mortgage and student loans. I can understand the frustration of both the Tea Party and the Occupy people. There are certainly bad eggs in both groups, but they also create a necessary tension.

    • Ahh, Jared to the rescue. Yes. Exactly. A well considered response.

      As for myself, after I read Mathew M’s statement, “First, I challenge her [Pelosi’s] place to even invoke God,” I was reminded of an unfortunate ealrier time in our history when that could be more vigorously backed up. I also thought about the obvious irony of comparing the Tea Party and the OWS movements on a blog about Saint Francis. There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind whose side he’d be on. And let’s face it, we have to take sides. As your statement seems to suggest, there are important and even existential ethical questions involved in how we conduct the business of a country that allows us both freedom of and freedom from religion.

  3. William R. Snaer Says:

    Notwithstanding my earlier remark, the fundamental question is not whether St. Paul or St Francis would support the Occupy movement. The question is whether a serious informed person should support it in 2012. I suspect that a majority of the people expressing an opinion about this have never taken a close look at the Occupy Wall Street website ( occupywallst.org ).

    Does its trademark slogan, “the only solution is World Revolution” signal a movement with which we should wish to be affiliated? Take a close look at the videos. Are these people participating in our society in a way that is likely to bring benefit to anyone.

    Everyone wants to eliminate poverty, cancer, war and sin. It is unlikely that little tents, bongo drums and anarchist slogans will get us to those goals.

    • I believe that you are incorrect about the fundamental question with respect to whether St. Paul or St Francis would support the Occupy movement, for the people we turn to as our guides in matters of ethics and spiritual matters is timeless. The fact that it is 2012 does not negate the idea that we turn to tried and true wisdom that authorities such as Aristotle and Plato have given us. My favorite passage in all the Bible is “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

      If the greed, corruption, and self-centeredness we’ve seen wrecking our generally wholesome way of life doesn’t qualify for acting upon that statement by the Apostle Paul, then I see no reason for him to have ever made it. “Revolution” can be considered a loaded word. It depends upon what the revolution is about. As of course you know, the term originated from Copernicus, and I think it is indeed a good thing that we know the earth revolves around the sun, and not the other way.

      Moreover, I believe we are witnessing a crucial moment in world history, for the self-immolation of one desperate man, persecuted and deprived of his dignity has led to the revolution that we are witnessing in the Middle East. These things seem to occur in this manner among humans. Consider how after many thousands of years of living as hunter-gatherers, civilizations began emerging spontaneously all across the world, about 5,500 years ago.

      World Revolution sounds good to me if it leads to the Brotherhood of Man. I believe in the Enlightenment and all the benefits that it has brought us. The Muslims are centuries behind us—and they have nuclear weapons. If there is anything to be truly afraid of, it’s that a death cult like the one the mullahs in Iran are a part of is determined to get those weapons. I believe most people are basically good and just want to live a decent life. Yet the principalities, powers, and the spiritual wickedness in high places are preventing them from doing so.

      I’m glad that the Muslims have turned against their torturers, tormentors, and oppressors, and I am likewise heartened by the idea that Americans are now willing to take a stand for the principles upon which this nation was founded during our own Revolution. We should not let a small group of people—the 400 people who have amassed 98% of this country’s wealth—take our fundamental rights away and in essence turn us into serfs. The Middle Ages, at least for the Western World, are over and I say good riddance to that era.

      Regarding the musical instruments with which the participants in OCW choose to use, I see little reason for anyone to compel them to use instruments that are other than those with which they want to play. Indeed, I see good reason to resist those who would take away our inherent freedoms, bought by such great cost in blood that has made us a free people. (If indeed we are still free.) There’s the rub. Some of us don’t believe that we are any longer free, and we will resist those who will coerce us into living in fear and bondage. We’ve lost a lot of our freedoms since Osama bin Laden’s group attacked us. We are in fact at war. I for one do not intend to loss it, and I am grateful to my brothers and sisters who are forming a bond forged in courage and resistance, instead of compliance and complacency.

      What is it that the Bible says about recognizing your brothers and sisters? If memory serves me, it’s that they will love one another.

      • I would agree that we are seeing a Clash of Civilizations (Huntington). However, as for the greed and lack of moral/ethic character, I would submit that it is exactly for which the “liberal” left has asked. On one hand, we have seen decades of “social justice” at the expense of irradicating God from anything secular. If God is the perfect good, and morals/ethics are derived from the good, then, how can there be any good without God?

        Now, while the OWS on the surface may seem to be a “revolution”, I do not believe that is truly centered on the authentic or common good. I believe that St. Paul and St. Francis(although I am far from being an expert on either), would support the Christ-center premise of helping the poor, etc, but they would not support (IMHO) the envy-like approach. If we are to strive to perfection, and live a life inspired by Christ in all things, it must come from within. The Savior did not “oblige” the rich man to give up everything.

        Nor can the “lefties” spurring on the OWS, convince me that their motives are altruistic, when it seems more like a Bol’shevik revolution or the 60’s flower-power hippies. At least the Tea Party (IMHO) are trying to work within the established confines of the politcial apparatus, and not “wasting” hard-earned taxdollars to provide for security and sanitation of their “extended” sit-in.

      • I think you’re forgetting that I’m just one person you’re responding to. The loaded words you use have no merit in my way of thinking. I’m someone who respects a rational, well considered argument.

        “liberal”, “social justice”, eradicating God, “lefties”, envy-like approach, Bolshevik, 60’s flower-power hippies, wasting hard-earned tax dollars to provide for security and sanitation of their “extended” sit-in.

        None of that carries any weight with me. If you have actually read my thoughts on the issue, I don’t think you’ve deliberated on my ideas at all. The reason I say this is because your response doesn’t match up with my statements. For instance, what in the world does an “envy-like approach” have to do with the top one percent of our country controlling 99% of its wealth? That statement I made is a fact and it is indicative of a people who are in not living in an authentic democracy, nor is it the hallmark of a free people. Furthermore, you are assuming that the people involved in OWS are envious.

        I know what I believe in. It’s right there in what I wrote. I’m clueless about what your own thoughts are. I’m trying to decipher what ‘eradicating God’ is supposed to mean. If you really think about it, the separation of church and state that we have as a nation is to the advantage of the churches (note my use of the plural). We don’t need to worry about a state-imposed church. That helps make us a free people. Don’t forget that it was the religious persecution in Europe, where the Protestants and Catholics were killing each other off in great profusion that lead us to write our constitution as we did, thank God.

  4. William R. Snaer Says:

    I’m glad that I have stimulated a serious conversation here about the Occupy movement, even if there are just three or four people participating. I decline to respond to every argument, but I’ll just say that this matter is fundamentally a political/governance matter. We must be guided by our religious principles, but they do not give us clear direction to the right conclusion. That path must be chosen by blending those moral principles with the standards and procedures of our cherished governmental system. That is clearly not the path that the Occupiers have chosen.

    The community in which I lived most of my working adult life recently experienced a demonstration of the Occupy Ethic. I wrote about it in this essay:

    Wanderer Press 10/20/2011, Page 4

    CCHD Occupies San Marino

    By WILLIAM R. SNAER

    In a recent Wanderer essay (August 18, 2011, p. 1), I was critical of the Catholic leaders who aligned themselves with Jim Wallis in his Circle of Protection initiative. I wrote that Wallis’ left-of-center orientation makes his overall view unacceptable to a large percentage of American Catholics. My opinion was reinforced when I received his October 6 SojoMail in which he wrote that the Occupy Wall Street protesters “should be an inspiration to us all,” and that “they are carrying on the most interesting conversation going on in that city — or any other — right now.”

    The foolishness of that opinion was driven home a few days later when I encountered a longtime friend from San Marino, Calif. He said that on October 5, 100 protesters, proclaiming their “solidarity” with Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Los Angeles, staged a demonstration in San Marino on the doorstep and front lawn of his nearby neighbor. That neighbor, Tim Sloan, was chosen because he is the new CFO of Wells Fargo Bank. The demonstrators pounded on the front door, shouted, chanted, blew horns, and rang cowbells. Their disruptive antics are documented in videos on the web site of San Marino Patch (www.sanmarino.patch.com).

    The demonstration was such a violation of privacy and property rights that the San Marino police chief issued a public written apology that his officers had not done more to prevent the trespass.

    This is a perfect demonstration of why Church leaders should not be partners with activists like Wallis who support initiatives like Occupy Wall Street. But, there is more to this story that directly involves Catholics. The protest was mounted by Refund California and People Organized for Westside Renewal ( POWER). Refund California is an initiative of ACCE, the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment. ACCE was previously the California unit of ACORN, and like ACORN units across the country, it wanted to shed the opprobrium of its former acronym. The Alinskyan character of various Refund California protests led by community organizers including Peggy Mears, the leader at the San Marino protest, is displayed at a link from the ACCE ( ACORN) web site ( http://www.makebankspaycalifornia.com).

    POWER is a community organization headquartered in Santa Monica, about 25 miles from San Marino. Some of the demonstrators came in two chartered buses. Peggy Mears stated in a video that, in these protests, POWER is a coalition member “under the Refund California umbrella.” That means working under ACCE (ACORN) leadership.

    After granting $7.3 million, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) finally stopped giving money to ACORN. But CCHD is still giving millions of dollars to groups like POWER that have the same modus operandi, and are even cooperating with the reorganized ACORN structure.

    CCHD has made a grant to POWER every year for the past six years, for a total of $235,000. The grant has been $50,000 in each of the last two years. Do Catholics really want to subsidize chartered buses for rowdy demonstrators so they can trample the property of people like Tim Sloan?

    (The CCHD grant lists [2004- 2010] are at: http://www.usccb.org/about/catholic-campaign-for-human-development/cchd-funded-groups.cfm.)
    An amusing sidelight: POWER lists “Boaters’ Rights” as one of its four principal issues. The cost of slip fees and other burdens of boat ownership do not readily come to mind as challenges facing those in poverty. But hey, POWER is an equal opportunity agitator. For more on “discrimination” based on the size, age, and appearance of boats, see the POWER web site (www.power-la.org).

    The serious message is that, year after year, goodhearted Catholics are being gulled into contributing to a pseudo-philanthropic model they would never support if they knew the end result of their donations. It is way past time for pastors to be forthright with their parishioners about the community organization model that is the principal beneficiary of CCHD grants.

    If people still want to give, bless their hearts, it’s a free country. But misleading them by glossing over the true nature of the program is unethical.

    + + + ( William R. Snaer is a retired pediatric dentist who lives in California. Contact him at billsnaer@verizon.net.)

    All contents © Copyright 2011 The Wanderer Press

    • You’re talkiing to the wrong guy if you think the ol’ watch this video of somebody in a movement doing something–and because of this the movement itself is bad. I submit exhibit A:
      Priestly brawl at the church of the Nativity. What’s most embarassing to me about it is that the Palestinian police had to break it up.

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-16346002

      I’m still mourning the death of Christopher Hitchens. If you’ve seen those pictures of the North Koreans mourning Kim, you have an idea about how devastated we Hitch fans are. There are so many things we loved about the guy. (This despite the fact that I don’t think anyone could listen to him for any length of time without get ticked off by something he said. But that was also one of the things we loved about him. The man had no skeletons in his closet. All of them were strewn about all over the place in plain sight.)

      He and William F Buckley had many personal traits in common. One was their unique smiles. Another that Buckley’s son was one of HItchens’ closest friends. What they mostly had in common was sharp intellects. Although I think hands down Hitch was the better writer. (But that applied to everyone.) But they could both come up with a clever line.

      I’ve noticed Brother Dan mentioning on this blog foolishness versus the woldly wisdom. The reason I mention that is because I was stuck by my own — at least it seems to me — clever line after I saw that video of the priestly brawl at the Prince of Peace’s birthplace–

      The Bible says, “The fool hath said in his heart there is no God.” Yet, one must remember that back then the non-fool didn’t have access to the internet.

  5. William R. Snaer Says:

    WATCH THE VIDEO TRICK: Yes, usually someone is trying to get you to watch a clip that does not represent the person/movement/cause as its proponents would wish it to be presented. In contrast, I am asking that people view the Occupy movement as it is proudly presenting itself on its own website. That seems fair.

    CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: Although his militant atheism was annoying, there was much to be said about his insights on many other things. Lest there be any syntactical confusion, I’m sure that you intended to compare his intellect and writing skill to William Buckley himself, and not to Buckley’s son who shares the first name Christopher. All this notwithstanding, we can all regret his premature death and sympathize with his suffering from esophageal cancer.

    CHURCH OF THE NATIVITY: When I visited there in September, I was shocked at the territorialism of the various Christian denominations. The other interesting thing is that the mayor of Bethlehem, Victor Batarseh, a retired otolaryngologist, is a Roman Catholic. He spoke to our group at lunch and took questions. My hope to hear a moderate practical solution quickly evaporated.
    He declined to assert his support for the existence of Israel because he believes a state should not have a specific religious identification. No one was quick enough to ask if he recognizes the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has condemned Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani to death for abandoning Islam. Iran is a major funder of Hamas with which Batarseh is allied. He also equated jihadist terror with groups in the U.S. that send money in support of Israel.

    • >>In contrast, I am asking that people view the Occupy movement as it is proudly presenting itself on its own website. That seems fair.<<

      Agreed. That's more than fair. Quite honestly, the main reason I'm in favor of the OWS movement is that finally somebody is willing to do something. I had really thought that the country had turned into a bunch of zombies, with Fox News brain slugs sapping all critical thought from them, and I'm relieved to know that isn't true.

      Oh, Christopher Buckley–William's son–was a good friend of Hitchens. Here's a link to Christopher's Eulogy of Hitchens. In fact, Hitchens went to W F B's funeral.

      http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2011/12/postscript-christopher-hitchens.html

      Alas, I'm not seeing much in the Middle East to be happy about. Perhaps the Arab Spring will be for the good. But I'm not holding my breath. Hoping for the best, though.

      By the way, nice to meet you.

      Don

  6. William R. Snaer Says:

    Thanks for replying, Don, and acknowledging my point about the difference between the image someone might try to impose on OWS and the image it chooses to present of itself on its website, http://www.occupywallst.org .

    I appreciate your praise for William F. Buckley, Jr. He was a true intellectual and a leader of political thought. I read his “God and Man at Yale ” fifty years ago, and I have subscribed to the magazine he founded, “National Review,” for about forty-five years. I had the opportunity to meet him a few years before his death.

    However, your admiration for Bill Buckley is not congruent with your crude characterization of the people at Fox News. Better to specify some specic disagreement with a particular person than to fire a cheap ad hominem broadside.

    Happy New Year!

    • Oh, I’m not the only one with a low opinion of Fox News—which in my opinion is essentially O’ Riley, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Brit Hume—at least that was the lineup of major players the last time I was over at some relatives homes. Take Shepherd Smith—someone on Fox News (and a real journalist). The video below indicates that he follows and respects the guidelines of journalistic standards, and he doesn’t think much of those who don’t—including the other networks.

      I think it’s more than obvious that Fox “News” by and large does little more than pander to their viewers, by reporting, and distorting, an agenda-driven network. Anyone who wants to get real news, untainted, has “The News Hour” available to them. (By the way, it has the lowest ratings of all the “news” sources.)
      .

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      Here’s one where he shows his opinion of Glenn Beck.
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      Most people who watch Fox News know nothing about Al Frankin, accept that they should hate him, and that’s because Bill O’ Riley hates him.

      Here’s a salient clip where Frankin teaches some college students the importance of using their critical thinking skills when evaluating what they’ve been told.

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      In short, I think that Bill Buckley’s outstanding program “Firing Line” is everything that Fox News isn’t. “Firing Line” was a program designed to make people think. There was no shouting people down, no talking over people, and no getting only one view of an issue. The “honest” exchange of diverse ideas was what mattered, and what made it such a great program. (Another show with relatively low ratings, but that’s only because shoot outs seem to be more interesting than people candidly discussing something.)

      If you only have time to watch one of the clips, I hope you make it the Frankin one. The looks on those kid’s faces when they realize the gravity of the topic says everything.

  7. Well, I see the videos aren’t embedding properly. Here’s the Frankin one.
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    Here are the others:
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  8. William R. Snaer Says:

    Don …. Thanks for replying. My point was not whether there was a segment of the population that disapproves of Fox News. My point was that the preferred approach should be to disagree with specific people on specific points. Your blanket characterization of the Fox News personnel as “brain slugs” does not encourage any meaningful dialogue between well-intentioned people who have slightly different ideological orientations. Here are a few specific comments :

    • I personally favor some Fox personalities more than others; that’s normal. It’s true that the personalities you mentioned have a conservative inclination, but it’s also true that their shows always include representatives of the Left to argue the other side. It’s worth noting that CNN now has more of this Left-Right “fair and balanced” approach than it did before Fox News.

    • You include Glen Beck on your list. He is no longer on Fox.

    • I am surprised that you would include Brit Hume in your list of the scorned, particularly because of you expressed admiration for William F. Buckley, Jr.. Hume’s low-key, measured approach should irritate only those who don’t like the fact that he is almost always right. He has had a distinguished career. His awards include:

     The William F. Buckley, Jr.Award for Media Excellence from the conservative Media Research Center.
     Sol Taishoff Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism (2003)
     Emmy Award for coverage of the Gulf War (1991)
     American Journalism Review “Best in the Business” award (twice) for White House coverage

    • I agree that “Firing Line” was a wonderful show. It was unique partly because it was an hour long in-depth discussion, often with people who had a basic ideological disagreement with Buckley, but also because Buckley presented the conservative side of the argument so cogently. It is the same argument that National Review continues to present today.

    • Despite the fact that Fox News conscientiously includes voices from the Left in the same spirit as Firing Line, there is a constant chorus of complaint from the Left. There is no comparable whining from the Right about MSNBC or Pacifica Radio. Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz, and Chris Matthews are persistently more snarky/sarcastic than commentators on Fox, and the MSNBC panels tend to be choirs singing from the same hymnbook. You will never hear an opposing thought on Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now” on Pacifica.

    • I expect people (like myself) who have strong opinions to bolster them with as much data as they can accumulate. But, particularly when I am in discussion with fellow believers, I don’t expect name-calling in place of cogent argumentation.

    Thanks for being willing to discuss these important matters.

    • I’ve seen Fox News many times in the past. I gave you my toned-down opinion of them.

      I’m not a believer. I ended up on this site because of my fondness for Saint Francis.

      I have very high opinions of both President Obama and Noam Chomski. I was just watching a YouTube video of Chomski saying he thought Obama was worse than Bush. I’ll listen to any well-reasoned argument. But it’s clear that you and I have entirely different world-views, and niether of us will change his opinion in that regard.

      I’ll try to end this particular discussion on a positive note. Just last Friday on the NewsHour Mark Shields and David Brooks were asked what they would wish for people in the new year. Brooks went first. Then Shields said with all sincerity, “I wish everyone had as honorable and decent a coleague as David Brooks.”

      That is an opinion of Brooks that I hold myself. He’s one of my favorite people on the planet.

    • Oh. I left something out. The brain slug reference was about something on a show called Futurama. Admittedly, it wasn’t a well-chosen metaphor, due to it’s obscurity–not all that many people are familiar with Futurama.

  9. William R. Snaer Says:

    Don … Thank you. That was my point – “brain slugs” was not well chosen for this discussion.

    I applaud your interest in listening to a wide range of viewpoints. That is my own approach. I give some attention to Noam Chomsky, but I do not admire him.

    It is probably true that we have different worldviews. But, I pay attention to the views of others and engage with them because I value clarity over agreement.

    Whether we might agree in the future is not as clear. Somewhere around 1964 I was the meeting chairman of a group of health care professionals. I engaged Frank S. Meyer to speak to our group. He was an editor and co-founder of National Review. He had been an active communist, a leading political philosopher of American communism. He changed his mind and was an early “neoconservative.”

    If Frank Meyer could change his mind, there is certainly hope for an admirer of Chomsky, particularly one who also admired Bill Buckley.

    All best wishes for an interesting and Happy New Year!

    • >>The Socialist Party USA, the Revolutionary Communist Party, anti-Semites, tax-the-rich types, Service Employees International Union (SEIU,) and even the Transport Workers Union, Marxist center in New York City, welfare state benefits: It’s natural that extremists would seek to gain a parasitic advantage. <<

      I said two words that you objected to. I began listing yours: I didn't make it halfway through before I decided I'd be copying your entire "argument." It's nothing more than a long list of loaded-words/guilt-by-association. When Noam Chomsky speaks, he has something insightful to say. You managed to write 660 words without having any discernable thesis statement.

      You said, "If Frank Meyer could change his mind, there is certainly hope for an admirer of Chomsky, particularly one who also admired Bill Buckley."

      It really annoys me when someone talks down to me like that. When you get to heaven, you'll need to instruct Saint Peter on the evils of communism. (I'm not a communist; Saint Peter was.)

      Have a happy new year, and a good life.

      • Well, clearly I was a bit steamed up when I wrote the last post.

        Instead of that type of back and forth, I challenge you to a wite a 1200-1500 persuasive argument paper. (Abiding by the rules for such a paper. (I can use the practice anyway, and besides as you said OWS is an important issue.))

      • The paper’s topic would be “Is the OWS movement good or bad for America?”

    • Well, clearly I was a bit steamed up when I wrote the last post.

      Here’s my challenge.

      Instead of that type of back and forth, I challenge you to a wite a 1200-1500 persuasive argument paper. (Abiding by the rules for such a paper. (I can use the practice anyway, and besides as you said OWS is an important issue.))

  10. William R. Snaer Says:

    Don …. I take responsibility for any lack of clarity in my Desert Sun op-ed posted above on December 17. Here is the argument I intended:
    1. The Occupy Movement is largely the predictable composite of people who show up for protests like the 1999 anti-WTO protest, “The Battle in Seattle.”

    2. It is not surprising that hard left Socialist and Communist organizations seek to take advantage of the Occupy phenomenon. It serves their purposes, and it is larger than anything those organizations can mount on their own.

    3. However, the rhetoric of some who are prominent in the Occupy movement, like Jed Brandt quoted in my essay, and the slogans, tone and artwork on the OWS website make it clear that OWS is strongly to the left of the American consensus.

    4. It’s not clear exactly why some prominent Americans have supported the Occupy movement. It could be they are actually sympathetic to this severely-left view, that they are naively unaware of the ideological context, or that they seek political advantage in an election year. Whatever the reason, they should be held accountable for their support of a disruptive and counterproductive phenomenon.

    My December 27 post on this site is the text of my essay in The Wanderer. It reinforces my argument that when well-meaning people support the Occupy movement, there are negative unintended consequences of their good intentions.

    Since those two op-eds total 1200 words, I will decline with thanks your invitation to write another essay on the subject. However, I will read with care any essay you might write on the subject .

    • I don’t think your essays fall in the realm of a presuasive argumentation, where as you recall shows that the person making the argument demonstrates an understanding of the issue in its totality. Saying that the OWS is inherently affiliated with OWS is the same as saying that because Ronald Reagan had his picture taken (unkowningly of course) with serial killler John Wayne Gasy means that Ronald Reagan was a serial killer.

      Here’s the beginning of mine. I wrote this much of the first draft since my last post.

      ~~~

      Is the Occupy Wall Street Movement Good or bad for America?

      (In the Affirmative)

      The Theft of the American Dream

      By Donald Miller

      Harvard economics professor, N. Gregory Mankiw, writes about an incident in his class that seems to capture the ambivalent feelings in the country right now. There was a well-organized walk-out in his class. Ten students walked out, while ten previous graduates came in and took their places. One of the ten who walked out later snuck back into class because he didn’t want to miss the lecture. These are smart kids. No one is pulling the wool over their eyes. They have things that they want to accomplish in life, and yet their prospects for a future of economic security are bleak. How these events occurred were beyond their control, yet how to respond to them are not. No one interested in living in a democracy of free men and women should sit back while their way of life is hijacked.

      The Occupy Wall Street movement is a loosely affiliated and diverse conglomeration of people and groups who seek to change the status quo. Some contend that this means the movement is unmanageable and fraught with insurmountable difficulties in terms of its future viability. Nevertheless, it’s the only game in town: the United States Congress has proven itself to be unmanageable and completely unwilling to grapple in substantive ways with the crisis we are facing. Also, consider how difficult it was for our founding fathers to frame a constitution that was amenable to all of the original thirteen colonies.

      The beginning of the American Revolution was a long hard slog to form—and it was undertaken by the best and brightest men of their generation. Many people think of the war as being the central focus of the revolution, and yet it was considered by those who participated in it as a side issue. What they considered the revolution to be about was a frame of mind, and a yearning to be free men, unexploited by the powers that oppressed them.

      OWS it seems to me can be viewed in the same manner. Just as it was far from certain that the revolution would succeed, it is also uncertain that the OWS movement will fare any better than our first baby steps toward independence as a nation. On more than one occasion we were one battle away from losing the military aspect of that war.

      Now, we are fighting for our future—all of us are in some way complicit in this battle—some by the sin of omission while others are actively engaged. To do nothing is to be guilty of the sin of omission, to take the position of the loyalists (those who champion the cause of those who are hijacking our democracy) is in fact siding with those who have wrecked our economy and diminished our security and the future prosperity of the country. Much is made about the “left” redistributing the wealth of this nation. It’s an all-too-obvious misdirect. When 99% of a “free” and “democratic” country’s population have abused laws and either bribed or coerced its elected officials into the untenable position we are now in, it’s clear that the wealth has been redistributed in favor of those who have the means, the lack of morality and loyalty to this country; in favor of their love for money.

      There are no easy answers to the challenges that face us, yet someone needs to do something. With a gridlocked congress and a thoroughly corrupted system, in favor of the powerful, there is no recourse to any patriot than to take a stand and to try to regain our way of life. Here are the challenges that we face:
      1.
      2.
      Etc.
      (To be continued?)

      • typo: should read: “the hard left Socialist and Communist organizations” (loaded would get an F) is inherently affiliated with OWS.”

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