Standing up for what you believe isn't a virtue if what you believe in is awful.— God (@TheTweetOfGod) July 2, 2015
Like millions of Americans, I was tremendously proud of the U.S. Women’s national soccer team for their 5-2 dismantling of Japan to win the 2015 Women’s World Cup. For those around the world who don’t believe Americans can play the beautiful game…well, whaddya think of us now, eh??? The final, which really wasn’t nearly as close as the score indicates, was a masterful display of the American penchant for attacking, knocking an opponent down, and stomping on their throat. It’s a style the American men’s team has yet to establish, much less perfect, but the women rose to the challenge throughout the tournament and put the lie to the argument that what Americans call “soccer” is by rights really a European game that Americans struggle to understand but can never really come to grips with.
More than anything, I admire the American women for their commitment to play every bit as hard as men and attack, attack, attack for 90 minutes. They played hard, they played well, and the played the game the way it’s supposed to be played- cleanly, fair, and with respect for the game and their opponent. If you’re a parent and have a daughter who wants to play soccer, you couldn’t find a better, more complete collection of role models. Between the lines, the American women would rip out your still-beating heart and leaving you bleeding out at midfield as they attack the opposing goal. As hard as they play, when the moment calls for it, they help opponents up and treat them with respect…and they’re a team in every sense of the word. They play for one another, they pull for one another, and they place their self-interest below that of the team. THAT’S how you win championships, y’all.
Men’s teams the world over could stand to take those lessons to heart. You can compete hard without taking your opponent out in ways that might result in serious injury. You can be hurt without going down as if a sniper shot you from the press box. You can draw a foul without flopping dramatically. You can state your case by letting your game do the talking and treating officials, opponents, and the game with respect. You can be a winner without being an asshole (Et tu, Luis Suarez??)
It seems Americans- at least the distaff side of the population- CAN play the beautiful game…and quite well. They can do it with class and dignity. During their run to the World Cup title, they demonstrated to the world how to play the game the right way- hard, fast, clean, and respectfully. That’s something all of us should be proud of.
And while we’re at it, full credit to the Japanese women’s national team for absorbing some brutal early adversity without giving up. They played hard and against very long odds after going down 2-0 in the game’s first five minutes. It would have been easy to mail in the rest of the match, but they played hard and did everything they could to make a game of it. In the end, they couldn’t recover and on this day just didn’t have enough to keep up with the Americans…but they played hard and they played well after some early mistakes. They respected the game, the moment, and their opponent by never giving up; on this day, they simply came up short.
I suspect that little girls from coast to coast are waking up this morning and asking their parents if they can learn how to play soccer. Not a bad legacy for the likes of Abby Wambach and Christie Rampone, eh? Turns out girls CAN kick ass.
Bible believers are beside themselves about the prospect that marriage norms and laws are changing, but let me tell you a secret about Bible believers that I know because I was one. Most don’t actually read their Bibles. If they did, they would know that the biblical model of sex and marriage has little to do with the one they so loudly defend. Sex in the Bible includes rape, incest, master-slave sexual relations, captive virgins, and more. Of course, just because a story is told in the Bible doesn’t mean it is intended as a model for moral behavior. Does God forbid or command the behavior? Is it punished or rewarded? In the New Testament stories, does Jesus change the rules or leave them alone? By these criteria, the Bible not only describes many forms of sexual relationships (including sexually coercive relationships), it gives them the divine thumbs up.
No one who’s hung around these parts for any length of time will be surprised to learn that I consider myself good without God. My personal take on religion is that while its’ an interesting concept- being at its core about peace, love, and coexistence- the execution makes it a prime source of most of the world’s conflict and strife. I understand that it’s not necessarily religion that’s the problem. That responsibility can and should be laid at the feet of those whose religious practice too often devolves into a means and method for forcibly asserting power and dominion over those they consider “less than.” Still, religion provides a framework for those sociopaths determined to control those they despise.
In the case of Christianity, what’s really interesting is that, if you actually read the Bible, you learn that the “Biblical model” of sex and marriage isn’t nearly what members of the American Taliban believe it to be. Turns out you can’t really discuss sex as portrayed in the Bible without discussing “rape, incest, master-slave sexual relations, captive virgins, and more.” In some cases, behavior that today might well be considered unhealthy/immoral/illegal is not only condoned but endorsed. So how is it that so many who call themselves “Christians” reduce sex to an overly simplistic rule: one man and one woman in the missionary position? Are they just that boring and not interested in anything but getting in, getting the job done, and going back to TLC’s 19 Kids (And Counting) marathon? Or are they really only interested in using their “faith” to justify hatred, homophobia, and the sadly mistaken belief that they’re morally superior beings and therefore worthy of being in control?
Sex in the Bible isn’t at all what the good, pious, socially conservative members of the American Taliban believe it to be. The God of the Bible endorses things like polygamy, sexual slavery, and sexual coercion- behaviors that would (rightfully) have modern feminists busting an artery. Men could sell their daughters as concubines, the sexual services of women were often considered war booty, and a man was often obligated to marry his late sibling’s wife if that marriage had yet to produce a child. The list goes on, but if there’s one thing that’s crystal clear about sex in Biblical times, it’s that consent wasn’t a thing. There was no “No Means NO!” or date rape. There were merely women whose sexual capacities were considered the property of men, to be used in whatever manner a man felt necessary and appropriate. In short, women were commodities, without voice or recourse.
Yeah, I know; you don’t hear that much from the American Taliban, do you?
Erin and I were fortunate enough to get a last-minute invitation to spend Independence Day with some friends at their beach house in Manzanita, OR. Besides being one of my favorite places in the world, Manzanita is significant for being the first place I ever saw the Pacific Ocean. Growing up in the landlocked Paradise that is Minnesota, seeing the ocean- Pacific or Atlantic- was an unattainable luxury for a family of very modest means. The summer before I moved to Oregon, I came out to visit my then-girlfriend. We borrowed her father’s car and drove the two hours from Portland to Manzanita, where a heavy fog bank prevented me from actually seeing the ocean. We sat in the sand listened to the waves roll in…and yeah, I kinda thought I was in Heaven. I was 23 and finally experiencing something I’d always dreamed of. For a wide-eyed Minnesota boy that was “a big @!#$%(^ deal” (apologies to Vice President Joe Biden).
I moved here a year after that visit, and I’ve lived in Portland off and on (mostly on) for the past 32 years. During that time, I’ve been fortunate to have seen oceans in many different places around the world. While all were special in their own way, none of those experiences have ever topped being in Manzanita and listening to the waves crashing on the beach through the fog. On that day, I thought I was the luckiest person in the world.
Over the intervening years, I’ve been to the Oregon and Washington coasts on many occasions. No matter what the circumstances or reason for the visit, I always find myself traveling back in time to the day in August, 1983, when I realized a dream and created a memory that will undoubtedly be with me until my (hopefully far away) dying day. That part of my history has informed every trip I’ve ever taken to the Oregon and Washington coast, and thinking about it still brings a smile to my face.
Capitalism tries for a delicate balance: It attempts to work things out so that everyone gets just enough stuff to keep them from getting violent and trying to take other people’s stuff.
- George Carlin
Over the course of my lifetime, America has never come close to approaching the ideal of being a place of perfect- or even imperfect- harmony. Conflict- between classes, races, genders and a seemingly ever-growing number of artificial dividing lines- has been the rule of the road. My formative years were the denouement of the Civil Rights struggle, and the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy were two defining experience for me. Those murders were when I first realized that some folks are willing to kill for the things they believe or, even worse, in order to destroy the things they hate. I was eight years old when I learned that a desire and willingness to change the world, to work for peaceful co-existence and create a system in which all were valued and treated equally could get one killed.
I grew up with the war in Vietnam as the soundtrack to my childhood. My daily reality was the (completely fictional) body counts on the evening news, and I was 15 when Saigon finally fell to the North Vietnamese Army. I was in college during the early ’80s, a time when “Greed is good” became a rallying cry to those for whom too much was never enough. Ronald Reagan taught us that the rich were better, more valuable people whose success deserved to be encouraged and enabled by government- “a rising tide floats all boats.” Except that only a few boats- yachts belonging to those occupying higher rungs on the economic food chain- ever seem to be lifted by those tides. It was the first time I realize that government was for sale, that even here in America a person could grow up and through great good fortune or an accident of person have a bank account sufficient to purchase a Congressman or six. I began to understand, just as I was making my way into the adult world, that not all men were created equal, that some really were far “more equal” and blessed with opportunities that a kid from a lower middle class family like myself could never hope to be granted. I don’t want to say that I became cynical in my early- to mid-20s, but I came to understand that there existed a club that I would never be allowed to join. I saw that the opportunities some of my generation took for granted would remain forever out of my grasp. It seemed clear that the creation of “a more perfect union” by no means could be taken to mean an egalitarian one.
Over the intervening years I’ve lived through recessions, wars, moral and religious conflict, and attempts by the Far Right to create what they defined as a more perfect union by forcing their narrow moral, social, and economic agendas on Americans. I’ve seen people- astonishingly imperfect and conflicted in their own right- work to forcibly create an America that caters to their fears and prejudices and that leaves the less fortunate and less well-connected to play a game in which the rules are skewed against them.
I came to understand that the American ideal- and along with it the American Dream- had been subverted and turned into a system whose ultimate goal was to create a two-tiered system. The goal of the wealthy, powerful, and well-connected was to install a social and economic order in which the masses served the interests of wealthy captains of industry. What would come to be known as the 99% would exist primarily to serve the whims of the 1%, and they would fight for the meager crumbs tossed their way by those fortunate enough to be to the manor born. They would be valued only for their productive capacity, and once that capacity was exhausted and/or deemed no longer necessary, they would be cast aside to fend for themselves in a world in which compassion and selflessness were considered evils just this side of sloth and socialism.