Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Exactly the Alito post you would have expected from CC

Six months ago, I wrote the following paragraph about the UUAWO objections to Cheif Justice Roberts

The UUAWO statement that basically says "We're not objecting to Roberts yet, but if he doesn't sound good to us, we're going to put out a STRONGLY-WORDED PRESS RELEASE. And we mean it!" is one of the DUMBEST things I've ever read. I'm sorry, I know UUs everywhere are delighted with their brave denomination's commitment to any social justice issue that boils down to "having an opinion," but that "thwack!" sound you're hearing is that statement hitting the trashcan of every elected official who received one.

I know my readers won't be shocked that I object to the UUA objections to the Alito nomination.

I love my civil liberties, and I recognize that Alito is not a guy I want on the court. That said, it is not the place of the church to comment on these things. After all, plenty of other organizations are doing so.

I really don't at all understand the point of us getting involved here.

The climate is getting worse and worse for abusing our tax exempt status the way we do. For example, in Ohio, there's a liberal group objecting conservative churches that preach politics from the pulpit. Well, in Ohio UU churches, I have heard sermons on the awfulness of the Republicans in Congress and (at a different church) a sermon on how Republicans are "S" Myers-Briggs types and Democrats are "N" Myers-Briggs types, which is why Democrats are visionaries and Republicans are cavemen. (Keep in mind, I've gone to church in Ohio maybe five times in the three years Linguist Friend has lived there. So for me to hit two sermons like that is pretty bad. My home church is much better, but still...)

There are going to be consequences, y'all.

And the thing of it is, we will deserve it.

The UUA has been carrying the water of the Democratic party for too long. We've never lifted a finger to change that the political rules of this country really screw third parties. Does GA vote to do something about making it easier for third parties to get public financing, or even the right to debate? Do we rally about that?

Of course not, which would leave one to believe that it is issues and values, not procedure that interests us. Which would be fair enough.

But when it is a rules question about filibustering that might help the Democrats, hell, we protest on the capitol steps. And we sent around emails full of delusional activist bull about how filibustering is about minorities' "right to speak," an issue we didn't give a damn about until said minority was the Democrats.

Once we start pretending that filibustering is about a right to speak as the email does, we ourselves reach the point of abandoning critical thinking in favor of what we want to be true.

And for what good?

I googled four times and found four organizations objecting to Alito, and doing a hell of a lot more than we are because they have the size to do so.

I do not agree with Alito on much of anything. But what we are doing in taking this stand is pointless as far as the political system is concerned and very dangerous as far as we're concerned.

We can do a lot more to help the world if we don't have the IRS investigating us and a reputation as the Democratic party's bitch. What political capitol we have we are squandering on an issue we won't be able to change.

When the Republicans say we are acting like a political organization, they will be right.

And we're so bad at it! We've done so much good raising money, building houses, and feeding the poor. But our talking and our petitions and our rallies have never done a damn thing except make us feel like freedom fighters.

It's stupid, guys.

CC

24 comments:

fausto said...

Well, yeah, but what did you expect from the UUAWO, really?

They, and the 25 Beacon brass on whom their existence depends, have no interest in promoting "this we affirm" positions or leading actions in support of such affirmations, when articulating a commonly held "this" is so difficult and whining "ain't it awful" is so easy.

I know, I know, the UUAWO folks say they derive their positions only by carefully applying GA resolutions. But (leaving aside the question of whether GA resolutions really represent a valid sense of the congregations) what is the ratio of GA resolutions that condemn things to those that affirm things? I'll bet it's very high.

The problem is, affirming and acting can change the world, but whining and bitching usually won't. Rosa Parks and MLK Jr. (for example) didn't snipe and whine about injustice, they summoned the courage to act for justice.

What the UUA and UUAWO sorely need, methinks, is for the Wizard of Oz to appear out of the smoke and give them a task of actually slaying a Wicked Witch, followed by a congratulatory speech and a medal for courage. (Yeah, sophistic UUs might importantly point out that in the movie it turns out he's not a real wizard but only a side-show charlatan from the county fair. So what, if he speaks the truth?)

Here's my modest proposal: Let's ban declarations of condemnation in all new GA resolutions, and let's ban all new "official" UUAWO positions based in old condemnatory resolutions. It would help the necessary exercise of defining who we are if we no longer can lean on the crutch of proclaiming what we're against. Give it a few years to run, and see whether the UUAWO actually finds anything worthwhile to affirm and promote. If they can't, shut 'em down, and spend the money we save on RE.

Kim said...

OK, you have stated that being negative and whining doesn't get us anywhere, but being positive does. Where's your evidence, or is this just wishful thinking? You think it SHOULD be that way, it's NICER to be that way -- but prove it!
Here's a link to a thoughtful essay suggesting that the squeaky wheel does get the grease, if it's mean enough:
http://nontrivialpursuits.org/republican_nemesis.htm

Paul said...

Will the Democrats ever get in touch with the pulse of America ? Alito will be confirmed and the Senate committee that questioned him were made to look like amateurs. Where is a Lincoln when we need him?

Steve Caldwell said...

Fausto wrote:
-snip-
" ... leaving aside the question of whether GA resolutions really represent a valid sense of the congregations ... "

-snip-
"Here's my modest proposal: Let's ban declarations of condemnation in all new GA resolutions, and let's ban all new "official" UUAWO positions based in old condemnatory resolutions."

Wow ... you don't think that the current GA business process is representative of congregational intentions but you want this business process to reform itself.

Given that the current system of denominational polity that we have in our GA business meetings has produced circumstances that you disapprove of, the odds that this business process would accept your suggestions are very small (far smaller than the odds of the Democrats pursuing a successful filibuster of Alito).

Given the current state of how GA business is run, who shows up to deliberate and vote, the current study/action issue process, etc, I don't think we'll see our GA delegates and congregations would stop doing what they're doing.

From where I'm sitting, it looks like we have some disgrutled individuals who don't like the outcomes of this open and democratic GA business process. I'll agree that the current process isn't perfect. But it is the process that our member congregations have created.

I would suggest looking for realistic suggestions for improvements to how we do social justice advocacy rather than an unrealistic suggestion that the majority of GA delegates follow the wishes of a few disgrunted individuals.

Anonymous said...

First they came for the Jews...

and I did not speak out...

because that would have been considered "bitching and whining" and not taking a stance that actually "affirms" anything.

Later I wanted to speak out again, but I was told that the GA representative process is not considered sufficiently democratic by some, so I still couldn't speak out.

So I gave up.

Chalicechick said...

Well, I'm glad all you ever planned to do was speak.

If I thought you might have taken action and actually saved some Jews, I would be disappointed.

But as you don't even have the nads to sign your post, I'm guessing speaking would have been your limit.

At best.

CC

fausto said...

Steve, "leaving aside" means just that.

fausto said...

Steve said:

I would suggest looking for realistic suggestions for improvements to how we do social justice advocacy rather than an unrealistic suggestion that the majority of GA delegates follow the wishes of a few disgrunted individuals.

We are not a social advocacy movement. We are not a political lobby. We are a religion. More particularly, we are a religion that supposedly cherishes individual freedom and and does not shrink from its corrolary duty of personal responsibility. We can find better ways than we currently have to put that affirmation into practice.

I did offer a realistic suggestion. Close the UUAWO and redirect the money to the congregations, so they can invest in RE, which is the place where we as individuals can best model and mold individual character.

In a denomination where individualism is paramount, developing strength of individual character is not only a legacy of our past but also our only hope for the future. Hiring paid mouthpieces like the UUAWO staff to speak for us, rather than speaking and acting for ourselves and teaching our young 'uns to do the same, evidences weakness of character, not strength.

Kate said...

Readers,
The core principle here should be that whatever infringes on the separation of church and state
is fair game for protest. It’s not about political parties per say. Today the Republicans have made
an all out assault on that part of the constitution that the U’s of yesteryear fought hard for. If it were another
party trying to do that then UU’s would be justified in going after them. Alito being on the court will roll back all of the gains that UU’s have supported for the last 50 years.
It’s not the responsibility of the UU’s to ensure third party election victories.
Anyone who doesn’t object to Alito is either insane or an out and out fascist or both. The Republicans vetted
Alito with Fundamentalist Churches and that has set the bar for church-state comment in this process so much higher than the
little public statement of the UUA, that it is a pebble against the size of Jupiter. The idea that UU’s or any liberal group, religious or not
would gain some theoretical high ground by remaining silent about this is just preposterous. Historically when we look at the
Catholic Church’s complicity with the Nazis in WWII, we see that it did nothing but ultimately hurt the Church.

The dilemma is now and has always been that the process of protecting the separation of Church and State is
inherently a political process. That does not mean that UU’s or any religious group should not use a political process
to ensure the constitutional intent of a secular government. It must do so or it will be undermining its own historical position.

Sinkford was right to object to Alito just as MLK was right to object to Vietnam even though it ultimately cost him his life.

The UU’s have for far too long sat back in the shadows and as the saying goes…
“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men..[people] to do nothing” –FDR
-Joyce (CyberXena)

Kim said...

why does my computer show only one comment on this post (not including one I tried to post), while Joyce's shows eight comments?

Joel Monka said...

Two comments: All the discussion about how democratic the GA votes are or aren't could be settled very easily- by being ratified by the membership as a whole. This would be a very simple procedure- a postcard attached to the UU World to be mailed back in. Or place your votes online, with your name and addressed cross-referrenced against that same mailing list. But never once has our enlightened leadership taken that plunge, despite public calls for it; one wonders why.

Two: Please feel free to ignore the above- as someone who is not particularly afraid of Alito, I am clearly an insane fascist, and should be ignored. But I do thank you for the warm welcome into the marketplace of ideas.

Chalicechick said...

Kate,
My point is that we are all about separation of church and state when it is the Republicans are the ones who must separate, yet we go to church ourselves and hear sermons about congressional republicans and lay services about how psychologically deficient social conservatives are.

This is hypocritical. And it is wrong.

Just as hypocritical as claiming we care about minority voices, but only when the minorities are Democrats.

IMHO, people who insist on comparing everything politically happens that they disagree with to the holocaust have a very poor sense of moral perspective. I hate the Kelo decision, yet I can recognize that the liberals on the Supreme Court are hardly putting people in gas chambers.

Sinkford, or anyone else, has the right to speak for themselves or join any number of political organizations.

What I don’t understand is why, with all the political organizations in the country, we have to turn the UUA into one?


Joel,

There are a lot of people here more or less on your side. No need to get quite so snippy.
CC

Joel Monka said...

Sorry- it was actually intended as humorous, but with my strange sense of humor, I sometimes forget that people actually need to see the smile on comments like that to be sure.

Chalicechick said...

It's all good.

CC

Joel Monka said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Steve Caldwell said...

Joel Monka wrote:
-snip-
"All the discussion about how democratic the GA votes are or aren't could be settled very easily- by being ratified by the membership as a whole. This would be a very simple procedure- a postcard attached to the UU World to be mailed back in. Or place your votes online, with your name and addressed cross-referrenced against that same mailing list. But never once has our enlightened leadership taken that plunge, despite public calls for it; one wonders why."

Well ... it could be a question of polity.

"The UUA" is short-hand for the "Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations."

The "members" of the UUA are congregations and not individuals.

Since neither of us are "members of the UUA," would it make sense for us to vote on this as individuals?

Shouldn't a suggested vote be done as a congregational debate and vote instead of us voting as individuals?

The AUA (one of the forerunner organizations that merged to form the UUA in 1961) started out as an organization with individual members.

By the 20th century, the AUA had morphed into an organization that served member congregations and greatly reduced emphasis on individual membership.

Today's UUA has member congregations but individuals are not members of the UUA.

Joel Monka said...

"Since neither of us are "members of the UUA," would it make sense for us to vote on this as individuals?

Shouldn't a suggested vote be done as a congregational debate and vote instead of us voting as individuals?"

Actually, GA delegates DO vote as individuals, because there is no congregational debate. There is no requirement that delegates vote the will of their congregation; indeed, there is no way they could KNOW the will of their congregation if they wished to vote that way! It would be as if I could go to congress with my sole qualification being that I could afford a Washington hotel room and registration fees, and then vote on behalf of Indiana without ever having been elected in Indiana!

If the UUA is going to be a representative democracy, they should make some attempt to assure that the members are in fact representing their congregations; if they are going to allow individuals to sign up with no requirements or vetting process, they should make it a direct democracy. Currently, we have the worst of both systems.

fausto said...

I agree with CC that hypocrisy is a significant issue here. We cannot pretend to speak with any valid moral authority if we oppose conservative churches' involvement in the political process but defend our own. If we oppose the tendency of conservative Christians to mix religion and politics -- as some of us, together with other liberal religious groups of other denominations, are doing in Ohio right now, and rightly so -- we must do so with clean hands. If there is a legitimate reason for maintaining a barrier between church and state (and I agree with Joyce that there is), we have to be as careful to observe it ourselves as we would be in enforcing it against other religious voices with whom we disagree.

Personally, I object strongly to Alito's nomination, but I cannot agree with assertions like Joyce's that "anyone who doesn’t object to Alito is either insane or an out and out fascist or both". That may be her personal view, and she's fully entitled to express it, but even if such views are widely shared by members of our denomination, they are nevertheless personal politicval opinions, not religious arguments based in bedrock principles so absolute and compelling as to abrogate our other bedrock commitment to the separation of religion and state.

UUpdater said...

Joel - not anyone can simply sign up and be a delegate at GA. Anyone can attend GA, but that does not make you a delegate. Each congregation has a process for selecting their delegates, and yes some delegates are actually informed as to the will of the congregation. Some are simply given the delgate card because they are willing/able to go.

To correct your analogy it would be more like the state of Indiana deciding to forgo elected public officials and granting the senate set to anyone willing to live in DC.

If their is a fault in the process it is with church boards abdicating their responsibility to find adequate representation to anyone willing to go to GA.

Chalicechick said...

At every UU church I've ever been a member of, including the 700+ member church I belong to now, the criteria has been "are you willing to go?"

At my current big church, they find at least somebody to go every year. At my previous ones, there were many years when nobody went at all.

When I was planning to go last year, I made it very clear which study-action issue I intended to vote for as I thought it was the only reasonable choice. The collective response was a shrug.

CC

fausto said...

As I mentioned before, it wasn't my purpose to raise this issue, but since it's in play now I'll chime in anyway.

CC is correct to observe the general apathy toward the GA among UUs who aren't GA junkies. Those who attend the GA and pass all these resolutions may fairly represent the consensus of zealous and devoted individual UUs who groove on the GA, but may not fairly represent a more complete consensus of our 1,000+ congregations.

Joel is correct to point out that whatever flaws may exist in the GA process could easily be remedied by a simple after-the-fact ratification procedure. If it's such a problem and so easy to fix, though, why hasn't the remedy already been adopted? Perhaps the answer goes back to CC's observation: perhaps on some level GA junkies are aware that they are a self-selected and therefore unrepresentative body, and that if GA propositions were subject to ratification by a majority of congregations before taking effect, those that did not reflect a true consensus on truly significant issues would be likely to fail. Any proposition that takes power away from GA junkies and returns it to the congregations is not going to be an easy one for said GA junkies to pass.

UUpdater said...

I agree it's a general problem of apathy. But where I disagree is that I don't think a ratification process is a realistic solution. You are not going to solve a problem of general apathy by creating a more cumbersome, time consuming process. If the process is already to difficult for people to get engaged adding more hoops can only hurt, not help.

And would this proposed ratification process be applicable just to the Social Witness items or would you want it for all GA votes? For example would we need a strict majority to ratify the election of the next UUA president?

CC, yes my experience as well has been that congregations generally tend to simply hand the delegate cards to whoever wants them. A few congregations are willing to give reimbursement to help enable people to attend, but I think that is the extent to which I have heard of congregations helping enable people to attend. But the church board and I believe the minister must still approve a person to be a delegate. I can not, by simple virtue of choosing to attend GA, be a delegate. If the church board had no confidence in my ability to represent them they could say no. To say GA junkies are entirely self selected is simply wrong. If church boards are acting like rubber stamps it's an issue with the church boards, not the GA junkies.

Bill Baar said...

UUA does't serve Social Justice sounding dumb.

They have.

They've done harm to the cause and to the Church.

fausto said...

UUpdater, I don't know what final form it would take, but I think a ratification process could be designed that is not especially cumbersome, and that would further engage our congregations rather than alienate them. It would basically be a process where the votes of the GA are reported back to the congregations as proposals rather than resolutions. They would become resolutions of the whole denom when some sort of wider quorum affirms them. Whether the process becomes an impediment or not depends on what the quorum would consist of. It's not hard to think of ways to define a quorum that is both more broadly participatory than the usual GA plenary and more fully representative of the full range of opinion within and across the congregations.