Monday, December 11, 2006

And that's all I want to hear about it....

Respect for others is not an attack

And now we get to have a big old hullabaloo over Christmas trees in an airport.
The airport managers ordered the plastic trees removed and boxed up after a rabbi asked to have an 8-foot-tall menorah displayed next to the largest tree in the international arrival hall.

Port of Seattle staff felt adding the menorah would have required adding symbols for other religions and cultures in the Northwest, said Terri-Ann Betancourt, the airport's spokeswoman. The holidays are the busiest season at the airport, she said, and staff didn't have time to play cultural anthropologists.

"We decided to take the trees down because we didn't want to be exclusive," she said. "We're trying to be thoughtful and respectful, and will review policies after the first of the year."

The decision, made in consultation with the Port's elected board of commissioners, interrupts a decades-long tradition at the airport. No sooner had the trees come down than their removal spread something less than holiday cheer across religious groups.

Elazar Bogomilsky, the rabbi who last month asked that a menorah be displayed, said he was "appalled" by the Port's reaction to what he believed to be a simple request. There are public menorah lightings at the White House and cities across the Northwest, he said. Next week, Gov. Christine Gregoire will help light a menorah under the Capitol Dome in Olympia.
I don't know about everyone else, but I'm tired of this discussion and I imagine a lot of other people are as well.

Yes, free speech issues are important, and yes, in this particular matter it seems things could have been handled better all the way around.

There is no end to it. Certain elements in American Christianity insist on having their beliefs validated at every turn and in every place, as if an hour or two away from symbols of their faith will somehow weaken it.

On one level, it's an airport, for crying out loud. It's there to transport people, although you can probably hear the Lord's name frequently if you listen carefully in the concourse just past the security checkpoints.

Traditions are nice, and decorations are nice. Most people don't have a problem with Christmas trees or menorahs being displayed.

In a larger context, Christianity is not under assault in this country, although doubtless Worst Person in the World Bill O'Reilly and others will run their same tired play regarding this particular matter.

Christianity and Christmas have arguably never been stronger in this country. People are free to worship as they choose, when they choose and pretty much where they choose. Which is as it should be.

Of course we should respect other religions and allow them to be represented, even if the delay by the port is unfortunate. It's not just a legal matter, a long time ago it might even have been called good manners.

Instead of getting locked in media wars over cultural supremacy, our society might even have taken an interest in the beliefs and customs of other religions, especially one so closely linked with Christianity as Judaism.

But then that would require a genuine interest in and respect for others. How did we get things so wrong in this country, where trying to be polite and even (gasp!) respectful of others constitutes some kind of grave attack?

Thanks, Republican Noise Machine.

Brace yourselves, Port of Seattle officials. You have committed an offense far worse than say, launching a preemptive war, you have dared to consider how best to respect everyone, and you were slow about it.

For this you shall be dragged through the valley of the shadow of the Worst Person in the World, and then it will be Christmas, and then everyone forgets about it until this time next year. Happy holidays.

Monday, December 04, 2006

It promises to be an entertaining election season in '08

Brownback Moves Toward White House Bid


The Associated Press
Monday, December 4, 2006; 11:08 AM

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Republican Sen. Sam Brownback, a favorite of the religious right, said Monday he is taking the first step toward launching a bid for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.

A vigorous abortion opponent, the Kansas senator pledged to make "issues of life," fiscal restraint and tax reform key components of his effort to woo supporters.

"I have decided, after much prayerful consideration, to consider a bid for the Republican nomination for the presidency," Brownback said in a statement. "There is a real need in our country to rebuild the family and renew our culture and there is a need for genuine conservatism and real compassion in the national discussion."

Brownback said he has formed a presidential exploratory committee, which will allow him to travel the country and raise money while gauging support for the GOP nomination.

He also announced 20 members of his exploratory advisory committee, an eclectic mix ranging from anti-abortion activists to business executives, including: Domino's Pizza founder Tom Monaghan, former Major League Baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn, and the Rev. Frank Pavone, head of the advocacy group Priests for Life.

Brownback has openly weighed a presidential bid for nearly two years, but has struggled to build a national profile despite more than a dozen trips to Iowa and other states with early nomination contests.

Still, he could influence members of the GOP's powerful conservative Christian wing skeptical of better-known, more moderate Republicans like Senator John McCain of Arizona and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who also have established exploratory committees.

Nevertheless, Brownback's bid is considered a long shot in what is shaping up to be a nomination race led by better-known candidates.

The number of possible candidates with a claim to the GOP's social conservative wing has shrunk in recent weeks with the defeat of Sen. George Allen of Virginia in the midterm election and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's decision to forego a run for president.

Brownback said he plans to visit 10 states over the next month, starting in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Tuesday.

Brownback's chief of staff, Rob Wasinger, will take over the exploratory committee and the senator will begin building his organization and staff immediately, spokesman Brian Hart said. Plans call for Brownback to open his main offices in the Kansas City, Kan., area.

Despite his strong appeal among Protestant evangelicals and his Methodist roots, Brownback converted to Roman Catholicism in 2002 with the support of Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., another prominent social conservative. He says his faith guides his opposition to abortion, gay marriage and embryonic stem cell research.

Brownback's faith also leads him to tackle social injustice around the world. He's spearheaded legislation to fight genocide in Sudan, cut down human slave trafficking and prison recidivism. Last week, he took an AIDS test with a potential White House rival on the Democratic side _ Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois _ to encourage others to be tested.

Brownback grew up on a farm near tiny Parker, Kan., where his parents still live. After receiving his law degree from the University of Kansas in 1982, he practiced law in Manhattan, Kan., and served as state agriculture secretary.

He was elected to the U.S. House in 1994 with the wave of Republicans who took control of both the House and Senate for the first time in 40 years. Two years later, he won a special election to succeed Bob Dole in the Senate after Dole left the seat to run for president.

Brownback, who promised to serve no more than two terms, has said he will not seek re-election in 2010.

Apart from McCain and Giuliani, other potential GOP contenders for the White House include Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Gov. George Pataki of New York, Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, Rep. Duncan Hunter of California and former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson.