Monday, June 24, 2013

The Power of a Word

Have you ever considered the power of a single word? Just one adjective, verb choice, or adverb can significantly shape the message and tone of a text. The consequences are significant, particularly in the area of journalistic reporting, where a news source presents itself as factual account of an event.
For example, on Monday June 24, 2013, Reuters published a brief article reporting that the U.S. Supreme Court had agreed to hear a challenge to a Massachusetts law restricting what protesters outside abortion clinics can do. Notice how I have tried in the previous sentence to state what the law actually does, regardless of its intention. Overall the article is a fine summary, but notice the first sentence:
"The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider a challenge to a Massachusetts law that ensures access for patients at clinics that offer abortions."
Notice the word "ensures" and then consider the assumptions suggested by the word. It assumes that patients were being denied access and suggests that the law was written with the intention of correcting this. It also assumes that the law is effective. The table is tilted from the outset of the article.
The courts have upheld buffer zones around clinics on the basis of free access and safety. However, the courts have also insisted on "content neutral" statutes that do not favor any one viewpoint or kind of speech. The plaintiffs in this case argue that the Mass. law prohibits anti-abortion speech while giving clinic volunteers and employees full first amendment rights. If they can prove that the statue is not "content neutral," the Supreme Court may rule in their favor. However, if the state can prove that there is indeed an issue of "access" that needs to be addressed and that the statue is "content neutral," they may be successful in defending the law.
While I don't believe that clinic protests are the most fruitful activity in bringing about greater human rights for the unborn, I do think protecting free speech is important. If a fetus is a human life, and you sincerely believe this, it's not so strange that you might feel compelled to plead and argue with women who are about to end that life. And shouldn't you be free to do this? Hopefully love will be the rule of your actions, and if so, love will compell you to speak up but in a respectful and kind way that seeks to do good and not harm. There are other ways of doing good too: by addressing the social context of un-wanted pregancies (poverty, education, broken families, poor healthcare, violence against women, and more) you can seek the good of others.
I tend to think that the courts have gone as far as they are willing in the area of "buffer zones" and will see this law as an unnecessary widening of precedent with potential freedom of speech implications. My prediction is that the Supreme Court will strike down the Massachusetts law in a 6-3 vote.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Fifteen weeks and counting!

The clamor for more photos, or photos at all, has been heard. In fact, it was heard many weeks ago but a creaky computer, unreliable internet, and bad luck has conspired to prevent a posting until now. I think I started a draft of this post at least 4 times only to be thwarted. We have overcome! Presenting, Shadrach and Moses:

Shadrach with an early and easy smile!
Though "typically" more serious, Moses is quick with a smile too!

Though certainly a dynamic duo, the twins have yet to really recognize each other. They seem to know the other is there but they literally will not look at each other. How do we tell them apart? Well, they are different. Moses has a square-ish head while Shadrach's head is rounder. Moses is also averaging 10 ounces or so heavier since birth. The Dr. that delivered them suggested this may be because Moses was below Shadrach and his body reacted to the added stress by more vigorous growth. Interesting. Like wine grapes, improved by the struggle of hot, dry weather?
 Lot's of friends have asked how Jericho has handled it all. She is much better now than ever, and is actually becoming an amazing big sister, quick to help by re-inserting binkies, throwing out diapers, and holding the twins. It started off ROUGH however. Jealousy is a mighty powerful thing in a two year old.

 The worst part of being a big sister is being deprived of Momma when the twins are nursing. Now that Shadrach and Moses prefer to be nursed separately, this can be a full 45 minutes of jealousy! The flip side of solo-nursing is that Laura has a free hand to read a book or play home-videos for Jericho (her favorite thing to watch).

Jericho is getting better at playing with the twins and is quick with her affection now!

Parenting is tough! What Laura most needs is sleep (it's getting better now that the twins sleep 4-6 hours at night) and what Papa needs most is patience when he has nothing to really give them when they're really really hungry!

Letter to a Student of U.S. Foreign Policy

Dear Eric,

You took on a difficult topic and I commend you for that. Your argument- that the will of the people should be the moderating and mediating factor in the delicate balance of idealism and realism in foreign policy- is a good one. Since the ideals of a nation are to a certain degree subject to interpretation from one administration to the next, what better beacon of consistency is there than the will of the people? Likewise, isn't national interest best defined by the nation itself?

However, your thesis is also fraught with difficulties of its own. How do you measure the will of the people? How do you account for mass hysteria? There have been, sadly, times in our history where bowing to public opinion has been little more than stooping to the lowest common denominator of prejudice and fear. I still think the discussion of Kantian Ethics undermines, rather than strengthens, your argument...Few if any politicians are likely to re-hash university debates over Kant when deciding how to vote, and the American public is much more likely to be influenced by Hollywood or the Parish priest in their thinking on ethics. An essential American characteristic is a belief in moral absolutes, even if not particularly absolutely.

The liberal backlash against Bush wasn’t just a matter of his wars going poorly, but a repudiation of his old-school American worldview and his audacity (interestingly, that’s Obama’s word) to put it into practice. When his wars did go poorly (though I think the Vietnam comparison, while gaining some traction in the darkest hour of Iraqi Freedom, is one that already doesn’t hold water in the history books), the average American has been more than willing to go along with the anti-Bush sentiment. The average American's understanding of current and recent U.S. foreign policy doesn't extend much beyond the talking points. 

Don’t be just the average American. The Bush legacy in foreign policy is a complicated one, and one largely unrepudiated by any politician as of yet, including President Obama. Has Guantanamo been closed? The drone program restrained or ended? The “war on terror” brought to a close? A new era of diplomacy and bilateral action ushered in? A new political atmosphere of bipartisan cooperation established in Washington?

Actually, I may be wrong about this. Perhaps the only ones who have really parted with Bush in anything more than rhetoric is Rand Paul and the Libertarians. But then they are such terrible realists, they may be guilty of the most dangerous idealism of all.

Mr. Church

Monday, June 17, 2013

Anthem for Today

"Helplessness Blues"
by Fleet Foxes

I was raised up believing I was somehow unique
Like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes, unique in each way you can see
And now after some thinking, I'd say I'd rather be
A functioning cog in some great machinery serving something beyond me

But I don't, I don't know what that will be
I'll get back to you someday soon you will see

What's my name, what's my station, oh, just tell me what I should do
I don't need to be kind to the armies of night that would do such injustice to you
Or bow down and be grateful and say "sure, take all that you see"
To the men who move only in dimly-lit halls and determine my future for me

And I don't, I don't know who to believe
I'll get back to you someday soon you will see

If I know only one thing, it's that everything that I see
Of the world outside is so inconceivable often I barely can speak
Yeah I'm tongue-tied and dizzy and I can't keep it to myself
What good is it to sing helplessness blues, why should I wait for anyone else?

And I know, I know you will keep me on the shelf
I'll come back to you someday soon myself

If I had an orchard, I'd work till I'm raw
If I had an orchard, I'd work till I'm sore
And you would wait tables and soon run the store

Gold hair in the sunlight, my light in the dawn
If I had an orchard, I'd work till I'm sore
If I had an orchard, I'd work till I'm sore
Someday I'll be like the man on the screen

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Josh Garrels- Be Inspired!

At the closing ceremonies for the middle school yesterday the 8th graders played a piece called "Clave" on xylophones. The sound evokes an aura of innocence fitting for a ceremony that initiates the students into a new stage of being grown up. In this Mason Jar/Josh Garrels production, the xylophones add movement and depth to a beautiful song.