After spending the better part of the last two weeks sparring with neurosurgeons regarding degenerative vs. traumatically induced herniated discs, I’ve been ignoring anything “fun” including this website.  All these posts resurrected from the dead!  Hmmm.  Rather than comment individually, I’m gonna try to take a crack at just hitting a lot of topics in one long post.  But first, a public service announcement (click to enlarge):

Jerk Store

So Peashoot’s Canal-Pal has now crossed the line into physical contact.  Surely this constitutes assault and battery – defined in the law as any unwanted touching.  I wonder if he thought he was trying to be funny, but the tone of the post suggests otherwise.  I’m not sure exactly what advice to offer here.  Your predicament reminds me of that great line from Animal House: “This moment calls for a really stupid gesture on somebody’s part” to which Bluto responds, “We’re just the guys to do it!”  Sarcasm and name-calling come to mind, but this guy has ably demonstrated he has a short fuse.  The Jerk Store derives some sort of pleasure by harassing you so if you ignore him it might burn him more than anything else.  Or you could just trip him the next time he jogs by and explain your foot slipped.

Phelps Redux

If only this dealt with Frank Costanza’s furious outburst at Steinbrenner for trading Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps, dead son notwithstanding.  I liked the link and counter-protesters have dogged Phelps for almost as long as he’s been doing this stunt.  Certain motorcycle clubs travel with Phelps to “block” the families’ view of these people and motorcycle guys aren’t usually associated with homosexual causes.

I wouldn’t be Wild Billy if I didn’t adress a few of Peashoot and Ms. Henking’s points.  First and foremost, we need to recognize that Westboro Baptist boasts a congregation slightly larger than a Class 5A high school football team – according to Wikipedia 71 adherents, most of whom share DNA with Phelps.  This is hardly representative of Christianity in America and to suggest it does borders on slander.  Henking recognizes this in her article and employs quotation marks around the word church whenever referring to it. I was pleased to see that.

Peashoot writes, “[c]itizenship for many in this country must involve Christian ideology.”  I think “many” is a stretch; replace it with “some” and you have a fair point.  I’m not going to troll around looking for the social science data, especially since I cannot footnote a post (damn!) but I’m pretty confident that is not the view of the overwhelming majority of Christians.  That the most ardent, non-Jewish supporters of Israel tend to be Evangelical Christians illustrates an acceptance of non-Christian faiths.  While certain congregants of the more “mainstream” Christian faiths might hold that view, you would be hard pressed to cite to a Bishop or Pastor who said or wrote such an idiotic thing. 

As for the woman who adorns herself in the flag – the flag is a powerful symbol.  That’s why people burn it, salute it and lots of other stuff.  Everyone sees something in that symbol – for some it brings pride for others shame.  Symbols get misappropriated all the time.

Then we come to the contention that this type of ugly speech is a phenomenon of the right.  Peashoot hints at it; Henking gets right out in front with it, “progressives and reasonable people show some discretion in the enactment of our dissent even when we profoundly disagree with or find repulsive the perspectives or actions of others.”  Really?  Really?  I found this after searching for less than a minute online:

Before we go breaking our left arm patting ourselves on the back for being the potentates of civility, let’s see some more “discretion in the enactment of our dissent”:

How about some more discretion?

If this counts as discretion, I’d hate to know what these folks really think.  Now, the point here isn’t to get into a childish “you started it” type of row.  The point is that the far-right and the far-left are equally idiotic.  Suggesting these three images neatly summarize the views of the legitimately earnest anti-war crowd is equally slanderous.

Giving everybody the freedom of speech invariably encourages hurtful behavior sometimes.  Ward Churchill referred to the victims inside the WTC as “little Eichmanns”.  I find it abhorrent, but it was his right to say it.  The entirety of the 9-11 “Truther” movement utterly disgusts me, but again that’s their right.  Besides, I want those idiots right out in the open where I can see them.  That goes for Phelps too.

Phelps plans to picket the funeral of one of the stars from  MTV’s Jackass (http://www.nydailynews.com/gossip/2011/06/23/2011-06-23_jackass_star_ryan_dunns_funeral_to_be_protested_by_westboro_baptist_church.html).  The Jackass crew make Beavis and Butthead look like Masterpiece Theater and I’m sure they will be plotting an appropriate humiliation for the good “reverend”.  I hope they film it.   

Oh, and “Dogs love fags” made me laugh.  A lot.


I do love a good debate, but I’m tired of defending free speech rights.  Here’s some interesting – and by “interesting” I mostly mean “stupid” – stuff I’ve come across recently.  I always thought the bars turned the music up loud to drown us out when we have our liquor-fueled debates (i.e. is black a color?) but it turns out it increases consumption. http://www.spring.org.uk/2008/09/why-loud-music-in-bars-increases.php

Wondering what your favorie cartoon character’s skeleton looks like? Here’s a helpful website.  http://jamesgunn.com/2010/06/15/skeletons-of-cartoon-characters/ 

How about a beer bottle chandelier?  It will really tie the room together.  http://tabbyinc.com/store/796.html

Okay, I’m going to log off for now and start working on the periodic table posted above.

4 thoughts on “Potpourri

  1. peashoot

    Good morning. I’m going to pass over the fun stuff and get right to Phelps, ugh, again. I know, I know, I made this bed and now… I didn’t know about the motorcycle guys blocking Westboro picketing. Interesting. But what do you mean big dudes in leather chaps aren’t usually associated with homosexual causes?

    [1] As for the placement of quotes around “church,” I’m not sure what’s meant. It seems there are multiple uses of the term in the article, all of which are not clear to me. There’s nothing in the piece itself to suggest the author’s talking about numbers needed to amount to a bona fide church (whatever that tipping point number would be – is there a number needed to have 501(c)(3) status?). I understand your interpretation, that the scare quotes are a comment on the size of Phelps’s congregation. But in the first use of the word in the piece, which is in scare quotes — “his website indicates that his ‘church’ intends to picket Sergeant Snyder’s funeral” – the author appears to be signaling not a message about the size of the church, but that she’s using the word church (or that Phelps used it on his website) in an unconventional or nonliteral manner. The church will not actually be picketing, in other words, but the members of the church will. Here, it seems the word “church” is a synecdoche. Yet, in it’s next usage, the word is not in quotes – “And, Phelps’ church itself is pretty darn sure God Hates America (for a variety of reasons like American tolerance of ‘fags’).” Why it’s not on quotes here, I’m not sure. I’ll admit this type of definitional enquiry is worthwhile, in certain situations and publications. The variable use of church in this piece is something a good editor ought to have caught, and sent back to the author for clarification, before the piece went to publication. That said, this is not a peer-reviewed, academic journal, or a major newsweekly. Online publications like this one are meant less for academic referencing and research, often go to press with less precision and technical jargon than research journals, and exist primarily as a space for op-ed style commentary and discussion promoting. Jumping on the use of words (which, I repeat, is extremely important in other venues) tends to miss, sidestep, or obfuscate the overall point of the article.

    [2] Religion is ideology. Always. Religious discourse is perhaps the oldest and most totalizing kind of ideology. Religions are humanmade systems that confer meaning about human existence in the world, and they do so as models of reality (adumbrating an “is”) and models for living therein (as well as an “ought”). As I understand it, whenever clearly demarcated conceptual divisions exist between social groups or people—e.g., this is what reality is and here’s how best to live in the world—and these ideas are understood to always be at stake, then we have are dealing with ideology. How do religious authorities support their claims to press forth their perspectives and prescriptions? Speaking very generally for the sake of this already-too-long and soon-to-be-longer reply, they cite texts that come from sources–God, Yahweh, and Allah in the Abrahamic faiths–that cannot be verified, and further claim these sources are transcendent, above human foibles and logic, and therefore cannot be refuted by humans. This gives religious authorities—folks like Phelps–great power over the people who believe the religious texts are valid and “Truth.” So, for me, it’s always useful to ask, when it comes to religious discourse (or any cultural discourse, for that matter): Who wins and who loses by saying X, Y, Z? Does a claim like “that the most ardent, non-Jewish supporters of Israel tend to be Evangelical Christians,” necessarily illustrate “an acceptance of non-Christian faiths”? Setting aside the absolutely fundamental Jewish history on which Christians base their own ideas and practices, perhaps making your example not so much “acceptance” of a non-Christian faith as it is loyalty to one’s lineage or support of one’s extended family, as it were. Yeah, fine, it is acceptance. And of course Judaism is non-Christian. But if we’re going to talk about acceptance, in the sense of openness and tolerance as means of support and acknowledgement, of non-Christian faiths, let’s talk about Evangelical Christians’ acceptance of practitioners of Islam, Hinduism, and tribal religions around the globe, or the history of Christian missionaries in India, and so on. These examples offer a very different picture than the one you present here. But I digress. Your point about ardent Evangelical Christians supporters of Israel–a country, not a religion, right?–demonstrates the very power of religious ideology in this country as a political instrument. This support might be religious yet, more likely, it might illustrate the use of a transcendentally ordained position of authority (e.g., God said to be inclusive) in pursuit of political motivations? So-called ardent support of Israel in this country sends a powerful political message and reaps certain political benefits.

    Additionally, you say that “while certain congregants of the more “mainstream” Christian faiths might hold that view, you would be hard pressed to cite to a Bishop or Pastor who said or wrote such an idiotic thing.” While you’ve exaggerated my claim that “the overwhelming majority of Christians” toe the line Phelps follows (perhaps to link up with your point about the use of “church” in quotes referring to size?), I think you’re underestimating the prevalence of the intolerance worldwide among the Evangelical Christian community toward non-Christians (or, for that matter, Catholics toward those who are not Catholic), beginning from the folks at the top in seats of power like bishops and pastors all the way down to the layfolk. The language might be different—neatly called theology—than that employed by layfolks or the Phelps crew—derogatorily called signage—but examples abound in this country and around the globe where Evangelical Christian Pastors have suggested that non-Christians (Hindus, Buddhists, Parsis, even some Catholics) will go to hell unless they convert. Troll the Internet and the newspapers of this country’s Bible Belt, and you might see things differently.

    [3] Yes, flags are powerful symbols. That they get “misappropriated all the time,” in this case by members of the Westboro Baptist Church, bespeaks the ideological nature of religion.

    [4] I suppose you might read my use of “thankfully” in recognizing there’s another side to the rhetoric that Phelps, et al espouse as hinting at the idea that extremism on the left is better than, saner than, more acceptable than, more something than extremism on the right. I do not. The rhetoric of the far-left is the other side of the ideological coin. I wouldn’t retract my use of “thankfully” here. I used it because I think it’s important to allow as many sides as possible of an argument to be known to all people with an interest in the matter under discussion. Giving voice to the anti-Phelps campaign seems important in this regard, since I have not seen it in the mainstream TV and print media, but I have seen plenty of the pro-Phelps campaign there. Hence the post with Henking’s article. I am thankful to have the opportunity to do this here. Your photo examples of ostensible lefties showing dissent take this discussion far afield from the Phelps case. Which is perhaps why you cannot understand Henking’s claim about discretion. I cannot speak for her. But comparing what I’ve seen between the anti-LGBTQ rhetoric of Phelps, et al and the anti-Phelps rhetoric, I’d say that, yeah, there’s way more discretion and decorum among the latter than the former. But that’s just my opinion. The quote from the article you cite does speak generally about progressives and so-called reasonable people, and perhaps that’s why you moved away from the Phelps case into the far-left (and, by the way, I’m not certain we can determine where the folks you’ve put up on the site fall on the political spectrum). It’s easier to criticize. But I think we’re better off being generous in our reading of the piece and sticking to the topic at hand, which is where the article begins and ends, instead of pulling it—and us—away into a very slippery, Google-filled-photo slope of extremists who have little to nothing to say about the Phelps business.

    [5] Lastly, one correction. The dog’s sign says “Dog loves fags,” with dog, in the singular, playing off the longtime anagrammatic bumper sticker “dog is my co-pilot” philosophy. Still very funny.

    1. wildbillyscircusstory Post author

      Couple quick replies and one observation: in addition to Religious Studies, you should be mentoring those kids on the skills of composition and rhetoric because you excell at both. I found the quoting of church not to be a comment on the size of Phelps congregation but the sincerity of his theological mission. They might meet the legal requirements of being a church, but not much otherwise. At least that’s the message I took from that. Regarding point 2, I concur: religion is ideology. And religion always bleeds into the political, again I agree. But while there still remains far too much co-mingling of the religious and the political in this society, I think our Framers did a pretty good job of keeping this in check. There will always be fundamentalists who seek to impose God’s law into secular law. Thankfully, they are a minority. Pat Robertson’s presidential campaigns never really gained any meaningful traction (Thank God, no pun intended) and my point about Israel merely endeavored to evince a “growth” in Christian thought over the centuries. Let’s recall the Inquisition was only a few hundred years ago.

      Point three seems to be an area of agreement, so no further comment is necessary. (Hooray for us, woot! woot!)

      Point four I’ll concede you are correct. In the context of the Phelps counter-protesting, those folks were remarkably civil, creative and laugh out loud funny in their expression. And I believe this heightens their persuasiveness. So, yes, I did shift topics there, but the point is that the rhetoric of both fringes tends to be hateful and flavored with violent calls to arms. Both sides. Now, one can clearly feel Bush, Powell, et. al. are the biggest war criminals on earth and earnestly argue such. But calls for murder, likening the Secy. of State to a Cromagnon (with all of the unstated racial undertones) or basically saying “Fuck you” to middle America is not persuasive and Phelpsian in tone. This annoyingly unpersuasive rhetoric is not an exclusive property of either the right or left; both sides do it and I hate it.

      As for point five, yes, I caught that but didn’t go back in to re-edit. The singular makes it all the more funny. And that dog definitely looks like he has something on his mind!

      1. peashoot

        Any rhetorical and/or compositional chops I might have, I owe to you and all of the loud bar music we’ve listened to together over the years!

  2. wildbillyscircusstory Post author

    This deviates from what we’ve been talking about here, but if you have not read Washington’s letter on toleration you should. http://www.tourosynagogue.org/pdfs/WashingtonLetter.pdf
    Written at a time where Americans interpreted “Freedom of Religion” to mean inter-demoninational Christian faiths (and even then, not so much the Papists), it is still regarded as an important expansion of the 1st Amendment to all religions. Jefferson’s writings on religion and state would probably interest you as well; though he was a nominal Christian, in his heart he was wholly secular. (I’m not sure I embedded the link properly, but it’s a pretty easy Google search).


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