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Author Topic: Something Important from "The West Wing"  (Read 811 times)

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Offline AviTopic starter

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Something Important from "The West Wing"
« on: October 17, 2009, 07:07:11 PM »
I won't say anything at all to start off this discussion, other than to say this clip is taken from the pilot episode to "The West Wing".  I find it to be quite excellent, and I think it raises a number of important issues which arise when politics, reason, and reason mix. 

A little background, first.  A representative of the White House, Josh (Dunno his last name), went onto a talk show and had an off-the-cuff remark that was taken as insulting to evangelical Christians.  A trio of their leadership has come to the White House to discuss the issue as well as that of the President's Sunday morning address.  From there... well, the clip speaks for itself.

Religious Smackdown in the West Wing

Discuss!
« Last Edit: October 17, 2009, 07:10:44 PM by Avi »

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Re: Something Important from "The West Wing"
« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2009, 07:48:42 PM »
What issues from it do you think are worth discussing?

Offline AviTopic starter

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Re: Something Important from "The West Wing"
« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2009, 07:53:35 PM »
Practicing what you preach, especially in the case of that anti-abortion group (Lambs of God is the name, I think) that sent a doll with a knife stuck through it to the President's daughter because she spoke out in favor of a pro-choice stance. 

The fact that the "righteous" preacher didn't know the order of the Ten Commandments, raising the question of hypocrisy or arrogance on the part of those who call themselves saved. 

The biggest one, however, is the evangelical woman's eagerness to turn the apology against the White house to achieve a political agenda, under the guise of a religious argument.

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Re: Something Important from "The West Wing"
« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2009, 08:31:17 PM »
West Wing - Dr. Jacobs - Bible References - Owned by Prez.

Another West Wing video concerning religion.

Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: Something Important from "The West Wing"
« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2009, 09:11:33 PM »
Not quite sure those are "discussion" topics.  They kind of seem more like loaded questions.

Offline AviTopic starter

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Re: Something Important from "The West Wing"
« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2009, 10:40:22 PM »
Then I guess another way to look at this would be to consider if this a fair portrayal of the relationship between the government and religious organizations.  It's a fictional situation, but, as with all fiction, there is likely a grain of truth to the situation.

Offline kylie

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Re: Something Important from "The West Wing"
« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2009, 12:27:07 PM »
     It's accurate to say that at least some religious movements (US evangelicals come to mind) have phrased their goals as establishing a more "family friendly" state.  In this "family" is usually code for an increasingly unpopular model grounded in things like highly selective (so-called "literal") interpretations of Bible passages,  denial or punishment of homosexuality, and higher prestige for masculinity (imagined more as "culture") than femininity (imagined more as polluted "nature").  The rhetoric of "offensive" or "threat to family values" is a certain type of identity politics appealing to cultural models of a moral society that are not explicitly spelled out nor debated at  length in public schools -- and I believe the Christian Right is desperate to keep it that way.  It's difficult to keep this tight without also hearing what sort of statement the White House aide was apologizing for in the first place.  But the rhetoric of "give us what we want or we will paint you as broadly offensive" without wishing to discuss details of the issue...  I would say that is quite characteristic.   

     For example, we've had some Florida Christian caravan picketing my university campus up here in Georgia.  They are asking not for increased funding to Religion departments (one insisted that is a matter of "a man" teaching me whereas the Bible is "God's word") nor for a non-profit liaison office of their own within the campus, nor even for the Ten Commandments to go on the walls.  While I recognize they are hamstrung in the sense that they might not be granted formal recognition at a public university...  This protest was indicating more that the society is not with them and there's nothing for them to do but warn us all that well according to them, we're doomed to Hell.  Their slogans simply denigrate by name the mere serious mention and existence of homosexuality and a host of other identities they claim lead us to Hell.  I would say this is a more annoying and less effective case of Christian moralizing upon the state of public affairs.  But the principle of setting up a dichotomy between compliance with their wishes or else invocations of "offensive" is quite the same.
   
« Last Edit: October 18, 2009, 12:29:21 PM by kylie »

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Re: Something Important from "The West Wing"
« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2009, 01:56:30 PM »
Then I guess another way to look at this would be to consider if this a fair portrayal of the relationship between the government and religious organizations.  It's a fictional situation, but, as with all fiction, there is likely a grain of truth to the situation.

Not knowing the ins and outs of American political system, I really don't know if it's a fair portrayal of the relationship between religion and state.  However, having observed politics (both large and small) in my own country, what I can say is that this is a realistic portrayal of how pressure groups behave, whatever the basis of that pressure group.

When I watched that episode, safely over here on the East of the Atlantic, I was not alone in rolling my eyes on seeing the behaviour of that lobby group. The difference, here in Europe, is that we see such behaviour as bringing not religion into disrepute, but the nation where such behaviour is the norm.  It's sad, because the Americans I know do not conform to that stereotype, even the ones who are part of the religious right.  Somehow, I think that to assert that such poor behaviour is typical of the religious is as erroneous as saying that it's typical of Americans.

Stereotyping is fine for creating a drama but it's a lousy way of judging a nation, or a belief system.

Offline kylie

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Re: Something Important from "The West Wing"
« Reply #8 on: October 18, 2009, 05:31:48 PM »
It's sad, because the Americans I know do not conform to that stereotype, even the ones who are part of the religious right.  Somehow, I think that to assert that such poor behaviour is typical of the religious is as erroneous as saying that it's typical of Americans.

Stereotyping is fine for creating a drama but it's a lousy way of judging a nation, or a belief system.
     My understanding is that the more radical fundamentalists are indeed a minority, and that actually even many conservatives are not against say, gay marriage.  The problem is that stereotypes of the family and ideal social order have been sold so thoroughly, for so long, in our politics that they still have this weight. 

     Someone screams "offensive" or "pervert" and "average" Americans (regardless of party) often remain silent or cringe.  They may consciously be concerned about the simple cost of engaging the issue, or they may be afraid of explicit social stigma with the broad misconceptions still surrounding alternative social and private orders.  By and large, people hold onto their few excused private pleasures (some would say "vices").  They don't want to look too closely at issues of sexuality and social structure.  These things are considered muddy waters and the Reagan-Bush years have thickened the problem. Most people don't ask too many questions and risk appearing something other than liberated, happy adults who are cautious enough to keep sex "in the bedroom."  They do not speak up to challenge the mythology that more conventional "family values" are the only known or acceptable standard. 

     Dealing with fundamentalist views of sex, family and reproduction is seen as a "special interest" matter, something more eccentric than environmental legislation (which has a wider following, but not a super effective one).  That is left as something for a handful of educated, but still socially marginal gay activists to do...  It's certainly far "below" financial crises and mismanaged wars.  As a result, the effect of the fundamentalist conservatives is magnified.  The usual political calculation is that addressing fundamentalism in the open here is both too politically expensive, as well as too low priority.  The fundamentalists are often intimidating, persistent in their demands, relatively well organized/funded since at least the Reagan years, and they often threaten to upset action on other issues. 

     Partly cultural lag, perhaps?  However, it is definitely related to increasing wealth disparities: The "private life" and often, rigid gender roles are advertised as the primary means of escapism - a tiny sample of one's true, "exotic" desires - in exchange for struggling with a weakened economy, lowered standard of living, and densely commodified life. 

     The same economic policies that have actually made it increasingly difficult for the middle class to have something resembling a more "conventional," conservative family life (something of a stretch even in the 1950's) have made many people reluctant to expose home or "private" life to any debate at all.  Yet, that is precisely the genre of debate that fundamentalists often call upon when they attempt to stir public scandals and to limit sex education, contraception or abortion.  Unfortunately, for the most part, the fundamentalists are relatively more persistent about making an issue.  They're liable to lose eventually, some thousands of undesired pregnancies and hundreds of hate murders of LGBT folk later...  If they don't convince/inspire someone to start shooting and/or provoke riots in the name of one moral crusade or the other first.  (Quite possibly even if they do, but I would rather not go there.)
« Last Edit: October 18, 2009, 10:37:08 PM by kylie »