Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Riding my bike

So, today, as I was out riding my bike for exercise, some jerks in a gas guzzling SUV drove by and threw a plastic bottle at me and proceeded to give me the finger. I took a bit of satisfaction in the fact that they almost had a wreck as they went around a bend in the road ahead. I wish I'd had a Nalgene bottle full of water to chuck at their car. That would have been awesome! Anyway, I'm just posting to express my rage at such inane behavior. It's like I'm insulting them somehow by riding my bike, or maybe the fact that they have to slow down a bit on a residential street annoys them. I don't really understand it, but apparently riding your bike on the street is worthy of acts of aggression. I seriously wonder, sometimes, if there's some sort of collective internal aggression that's brewing under the surface of people living in the United State of America in 2005. I think Michael Moore probably gets close to the heart of the matter in his film, Bowling for Columbine, when he points out that the United States and Canada have similar numbers of firearms available to the public, yet violent crimes involving guns is way higher in the United States. There's something about our culture that begets violence. I do think that some of it is that there are a lot of lonely people out there searching for something meaningful and coming up empty handed time after time. I also think it's hard to instill values of peace, compassion, and turning the other cheek, when our government provides the examples of invading countries with whom we disagree and continuing to implement the death penalty. "Hey, I think it's stupid that that guy's riding his bike on a residential street, so I have the right, and probably the obligation to throw something at him and demean him by flipping him off." Yeah, that sounds about right.

On a not completely unrelated note. I caught a bit of the Sean Hannity show last night at the gym. Nothing like walking into the locker room and hearing his voice, but anyway. He was talking to James Dobson. Dobson was, apparently, providing an example of what it's like to be stuck in modernity. He made some broad sweeping absolute claims about the use of science throughout history. First, in the context of a discussion about abortion, he said that human life should never be ended for utilitarian reasons. Now, I don't know where he falls down on the issue of the death penalty, but regardless, he's thrown a lot of support behind a political party that is more than supportive of the death penalty. Then, he was trying to defend something he apparently said recently. In clarifying, he said that science and technology have always (did you hear that? always) been used with ethics and morality in mind, except in Nazi Germany. OH MY GOSH!!! I couldn't believe he said that. He went on to talk about how Nazi Germany was the only instance of history of people using science in irresponsible ways with no regard for morality or ethics. OK, now I know that Harry Truman and his trusted advisors took morality and ethics into consideration as they debated the use of the atomic bomb, but in the end, they...we chose to use technology to destroy thousands of lives. They...we chose to end the lives of civilian Japanese in order to spare the lives of American soldiers. I'm not in the mood to get into a debate as to whether we should or should not have used the bomb, but that decision was a utilitarian one...one most likely based on morality, but utilitarian nonetheless. Now, don't hear my saying that Nazi Germany was good...at all. It was atrocious and it was depressing that the rest of the world took so long to intervene, but let's not act like technology is always used in ways that reflect a black and white world of right and wrong. It's amazing to me how uncritical people can be of comments like Dr. Dobson's. Not that I expected Sean Hannity to point any of that out, but still. Hopefully some people watching were struck by the absurdity of such an absolute claim. NO MORE ABSOLUTE CLAIMS!!! "Only Sith speak in absolutes."

OK, now that I'm all fired up at bedtimes, I think I'd better read something soothing to calm down. Peace to you all.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

the nalgene would definately have caused damage... nalgenes dont break, heads do.


p.s. F the right


-Aaron yo

Ryan Baer said...

Alan,

So sorry to hear about your encounter with your SUV friends, and glad you weren't injured.

Your comments about violence brought to mind some things I've been reading in Chuck Campbell's book The Word Before the Powers: An Ethic of Preaching.

Chuck talks about the "redemptive myth of violence," which traces its roots back to the Babylonian story of creation. According to this myth, the way to bring order out of chaos is through violence.

Says Dr. Campbell: "Moreover, as Wink thoroughly details, this myth pervades American culture, from Popeye cartoons to children's comics to video games to popular movies (e.g., The Lion King, Star Wars) to foreign policy to the death penalty. The myth has, in fact, become the ethos of American society, into which virtually all children, particularly boys, are socialized from an early age. We should thus not be surprised when even teenagers turn to guns as the appropriate -- even the only imaginable -- means for dealing with their 'enemies.' We should likewise not be surprised when our society responds in increasingly violent ways, such as capital punishment, toward violent criminals." (page 28)

Makes our job as proclaimers of the Good News seem kind of daunting, doesn't it? It's definitely an act of non-violent resistance against the powers.

Grace and peace,
Ryan

beck said...

just check out the newest pic on my blog thingy, would ya?
sheesh.