Monday, December 16, 2013

Thought for the Day

Sorry I've been inactive lately.  I've been reading a lot, which is good, and doing things -- such as joining some friends to sing Christmas carols at local nursing homes on Saturday.  That was an interesting experience: the irony of an atheist singing Christian music wasn't lost on me, but I was also struck by how some popular carols ("We Wish You a Merry Christmas" and "Deck the Halls") are really drinking songs.  And the nineteenth-century lyrics of some of the overtly Christian songs were weird, like

Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin's womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity ...

I hadn't really listened to the words before, since as with "The Star Spangled Banner" most people only sing or pay attention to the first verse.  It was a day well spent in many respects.

There have been a lot of things going on that I wanted to write about, without having time to write about them: more conservative Christians casting themselves as victims of gay marriage repression (plus polygamy) for example, but also some weird reactionary writing about schooling: is learning cursive writing a fundamental right?  Should the college essay be abolished?  The wack factor is strong with these young ones.

I'll try to get to some of these presently.  For now, I wanted to mention a small epiphany I had this morning, listening to Democracy Now before I went to work.  I've always been bothered by the Bush gang's use of "homeland" as patriotic, warmongering propaganda, but couldn't quite put my finger on what it made me think of.  Today the word "homeland" recurred in a DN report on Nelson Mandela's funeral.  For example, in this interview with Amy Goodman's brother David:
Qunu was also in the heart of a former apartheid Bantustan, or homeland, called the Transkei, which when I was in South Africa at the height of apartheid in the ’80s was—had actually been declared an independent country by South Africa, populated only by black South Africans. It was a way of dispossessing blacks of citizenship in their home country. And it had all the trappings of a country. I had to pass through border posts, had my passport stamped, and there was a Transkei defense force. And it—this so-called independent homeland, which no one recognized except South Africa, actually existed until Mandela became president in 1994.
That was why I had such negative associations with the word, so that when the Department of Homeland Security slouched into the light I reflexively reacted against it: it was Newspeak from another repressive regime.  There were plenty of other reasons to dislike the term, but I think the South African connection was a strong one for me.