Doc Bushwell's Chimpanzee Refuge

Monday, October 31, 2005

Not-So-Funny Pages

Every Sunday I head to the store and pick up a copy of the local paper. I quickly discard the ads I don’t need and sections I won’t read. Eventually, I get to the multi-colored jewel at the heart of the paper, The Comics. I love the comics. Well, some of them anyway. A few are simply dreadful, but the good ones, ah the good ones make me howl. Other parts of the paper can make me howl too, but in an entirely different way.

This week’s edition had a couple of major howlers in it. The first was a story concerning Halloween. The lead-in hook consisted of commentary from an Eastern European refugee family. They never celebrated Halloween in their home country, but now that they were US residents they decided to do their best to fit in. The mother of the family said she didn’t quite understand why she was dressing up the kids in costumes but she didn’t want them to feel left out. I kind of like that; the desire to assimilate into a new culture. They have no plans on going back to their old country, so fitting into their adopted home makes a lot more sense than isolation.

Following this was quite a bit of commentary from a variety of people regarding the history and the current macabre nature of Halloween. Some folks advocated getting rid of it. I rather like the idea of a Harvest Festival which some folks suggested. It’s sort of a combo of Halloween and Octoberfest: Cider, a doughnut, and a costume, with skeletons and bats optional. Anyway, the question was asked whether or not all of the death and dismemberment costumery was bad for kids. One local pastor said that he saw no problem with kids dressing up like Luke Skywalker or even Darth Vader, but he “sincerely believe(s) kids reading Harry Potter open the door to the desire to experiment with the supernatural. As long as there’s not that kind of curiosity, let them dress up.” I had to read that twice. Apparently, it has not occurred to the pastor that his entire religion is based on the supernatural, by definition. Now, that was a howler. As it turns out, in a perverse way I agree with him. I wouldn’t want the kids to take the supernatural, especially religion, too serious. Can you say cognitive dissonance Mr. pastor sir?

OK, so I turn the page and there’s a story about a Catholic/Christian “Faith Center” supported by local parishes which is located on the campus of the city’s central high school. Again, in my desire to stem belief in superstitions, particularly amid institutes of learning, I find this a bit disconcerting, but at least it’s not a case where it’s being funded by the taxpayers. The story includes a glowing narrative of how the center welcomes all students, regardless of their faith, with open arms. Yep, everyone’s equal under this roof, and equally respected. Then I got to this nugget: Referring to the varied student body, one of the sisters said “We try to get them to appreciate their religion – our Buddhist teens can become the best Buddhists they can be by honoring God.” Now isn’t that special? I’m no expert on Eastern religions, but from the handful of Buddhist texts I’ve read over the years I discovered that the typical Buddhist does not share the Western concept of God. So, these kids can become the “best Buddhists they can be” by embracing a tenet which is foreign to the very foundation of their religion. Beautiful, just beautiful! Makes me feel like a tabby hacking up a two pound hairball. There’s no disinformation going on here is there? No special treatment for the Christian viewpoint is there? Naaah, they’re too nice and holy and positively special to do that. They wouldn’t try to warp the views of kids, would they? I also got a howl (more like a screech of pain, actually) when I read the following quote from one of the students who regularly visits the center. She was describing how she has learned the meanings of lots of new words by going to the center. Take “dogma” for instance. She learned that “Dogma is laws that can’t be changed.” Poor sod. She got one little piece of it but not the most important part. Not understanding that a central aspect of dogma is its a priori declaration of truth, that is, its simple assertion of its claims as being self evident, often using circular logic in support, is a good example of indoctrination. Perhaps next the good folks at the center will tell her that indoctrination means “Teaching”.

Where’s Calvin and Hobbes when I need it?


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