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Sunday, May 29, 2005

Harry Potter, Bob Barr, And George Washington

One of the lesser publicized issues lately (within the 5 or 6 years) has been the recognition of Wicca — a form of witchcraft — as a legitimate religion. The U.S. military announced in 1999 that it would facilitate practitioners of Wicca on military bases. The Department of Defense has recognized Wicca as a legitimate religion, deserving the same status as Judaism, Islam, or Christianity.

This issue is further agitated by the rising popularity of the Harry Potter series by author J.K. Rowling. In it, the young wizard Harry attends a magical school where he and other blooming wizards learn spells, potions, and the art of being a wizard. There are some who claim that the series teaches children witchcraft. They believe that these books are the Devil's work. Satan is clearly among us, and he's in the "Children's Literature" section. Just ask these lords of reason. Considering that the newest Harry Potter book is scheduled to release in mid July, I thought it would be an interesting idea to look into. And by "look into," I mean I will casually reference it and then wander off on some semi-retarded tangent.

We see more and more the influence that religion has within our country. I won't say which religion in particular, but it rhymes with "Gristianity." Kind of sounds like it, too. So much so that it really defeats the whole purpose. Never mind. It's Christianity. There, I said it. Anyway....

Former Georgia Representative and Favorite Person Bob Barr says that the Defense Department's move "sets a dangerous precedent that could easily result in the practice of all sorts of bizarre practices being supported by the military under the rubric of 'religion.'" Rep. Barr, in defense of the good old days, refers to a painting which hangs in his office.

"A print of the painting, 'The Prayer At Valley Forge,' depicting George Washington on bended knee, praying in the hard snow at Valley Forge, hangs over the desk in my office. If the practice witchcraft ... is permitted to stand, one wonders what paintings will grace the walls of future generations."

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To be fair, though, it should be pointed out that Mr. Barr uses this painting to back up nearly every issue he's ever argued. You may ask how it is possible to use a painting of George Washington to argue a political issue. Let's not forget that Barr is a self-proclaimed homosexual.* Or is it Christian? I can never remember.

When the issue of healthcare came up on the floor of Congress, Barr said,

"I'm reminded of the painting that hangs above my office desk — 'The Prayer At Valley Forge' — depicting a kneeling George Washington, clearly suffering from some sort of debilitating arthritis of the knee. Would he have asked for assistance? Hell no, he wouldn't. In fact, without the help of healthcare, he went on to become the first president of the United States of America — some might say as a direct result of."

When the issue of Missile Defense was raised at a press conference, Barr replied,

"Have you ever seen the painting 'The Prayer At Valley Forge'? It hangs in my office. The painting shows George Washington kneeling in prayer. Could it be that he was praying to God for some kind of...defense. Maybe in the form of a — oh I don't know — a missile . We never had Missile Defense back then, and to this day George Washington remains dead. Coincidence? How much more persuasion does one need?"

And while being interviewed on a political news show, the issue of Affirmative Action was raised. When asked his stance on Affirmative Action, Barr replied,

"Funny story. I've got this painting. It hangs in my office, over my desk. Perhaps you've heard of it, 'The Prayer At Valley Forge,' featuring George Washington kneeling in prayer next to his horse? Great painting.

"Now I think George Washington would have whole-heartedly rejected Affirmative Action. And not just because he lived in a time when Blacks were considered property. But let's just say, hypothetically, that Blacks were allowed to go to college in George Washington's day. He surely would have wanted them thought of as intellectual equals. That's just the kind of freedom-loving man he was.

"But Affirmative Action, to Washington — again, this is him speaking — would have caused his freedom-infringing alarm to go off. To him, Affirmative Action would give Blacks an unfair advantage. It would be like chaining up the entire white race against their will. Such a thing cannot be tolerated."

After seeing Barr reference this painting so many times, I began to wonder: How close of a relationship does Barr have with this particular painting? Does he consult with it often?

The Prayer At Valley Forge

They'll never understand you the way I do, Robert.

Representative Bob Barr
I know, baby. You've been so good to me. Providing
me with the guidance I need to lead this great nation.

The Prayer At Valley Forge
The way you polish my masterfully carven oak
frame, the way you sing hymns to calm me
during a violent storm. I will always love you for that.

Representative Bob Barr
And I, you.

The Prayer At Valley Forge
"You" what?

Representative Bob Barr
You know...

The Prayer At Valley Forge
You mean "I love you"? Why you should have such
trouble mustering the courage for those three little
words is quite beyond me. I'll bet George Washington
wouldn't have had a problem with it.

Representative Bob Barr
Bite your tongue!

The Prayer At Valley Forge
Honestly! It's a wonder your third wife
stayed with you as long as she did!

Representative Bob Barr
Oh not this again! I work very hard to provide
for you and this office —

The Prayer At Valley Forge
— As if I do nothing! Not that I don't hear it again
and again from your mother. "Why is this painting
still here?" and "It looks so dreadful in this room."
She's the one whose dreadful.

Representative Bob Barr
You leave mother out of this!

It makes you wonder what other kinds of decisions are being made in Washington under the consultation of inanimate objects. Since writing this, I've discovered other political figures with similar consulting rituals involving inanimate objects. Here's a list I've compiled thus far:

Political Figure
/ Inanimate Object

Trent Lott / Cabbage Patch doll (white)
Rick Santorum / Collection of show tunes, in order of fabulousness
Hillary Clinton / Al Gore
Dick Cheney / Ronald Reagan
Strom Thurmond / Cabbage Patch doll (black)
John Ashcroft / Giant plastic penis
Tom Ridge / Duct tape and plastic wrap

* This was uncalled for. I need to apologize. So, if there are any people reading this who happen to be homosexual, I should never have associated you with Bob Barr. Please accept my humble apology.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Click It Or Ticket

There was a radio commercial on the other day about car safety belt laws. Where I live, Wisconsin, police have started ticketing drivers more frequently for not wearing their safety belts. The campaign slogan is CLICK IT OR TICKET. Catchy, I know.

The narrator of this particular commercial said, "We all know the inconvenience of getting a ticket..." and "Yeah, we all know, buckle your seatbelt, blah blah blah."

The inconvenience of getting a ticket? That got me thinking. What about the inconvenience of being dead? What about the medical staff's inconvenience as they shovel your remains off the highway? What about my inconvenience as I sit down for a bowl of maple and brown sugar oatmeal in the morning and listen to the grisly details on the radio?

The inconvenience of a ticket? No, getting a ticket for not wearing your seatbelt isn't inconvenient. But being propelled through your windshield at 60MPH would sure be a downer. Then again, you don't really have an opinion on the matter when you're dead — being dead and all. I imagine most of being dead is just one big downer.

Except for the part where you haunt the living and watch them take showers.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Speaking English Good

The other day I went to the store to pick up a few things. Walking through the aisles, I spotted a girl whom I recognized from high school. We weren't friends back in high school, but I had had a number of classes with her. She also just happens to be the star of one of the most memorable moments of my high school career. Memorable because it was so sad.

Now, I'm not a stickler, and I'm far from perfect, but I've taken pride in being able to speak and write my native language well. Grammar, spelling, syntax; these are things which we should all have a basic familiarity with. If only that were the case.

When I was in tenth grade, I took French, which I enjoyed very much. One day, in the foreign language department at Tremper High School, exchange students from a variety of different countries, who were attending our school at the time, made rounds from class to class, telling us about their experiences in the U.S. and how it differed from their native country.

My classroom hosted a girl from Germany. Her English was nearly impeccable. Very impressive, to say the least. We asked her all sorts of questions, and a good time was had by all. After about a half hour, one of my classmates — the aforementioned girl — raised her hand and said to the German exchange student, "You speak English good."

Did you feel that? That little shiver? That was your soul trying to escape your body. That was your soul trying to escape this plane of existence, perhaps for a more gooder one.*

What was more frightening, perhaps, was that I was one of the only students in the class to understand the tragic irony in my classmate's comment. I thought surely someone would call her on it, but no one did. And the shadow that crept over the classroom that day remained there for the rest of the semester, slowly eating away at our humanity.

Feel that? That's your soul trying to get back in. Don't let it. For its own good, friend. Don't you let it.

When doing a post about correct spelling or grammar, there's always the danger of misspelling a word or using a word incorrectly within the very article that you're writing. If you should find such an error within this post, write it down on a piece of paper, put that piece of paper in an envelope, then go the post office and throw it into one of their trash cans.

* I'm well aware that this sentence contains a grammatical error. That's the joke. I'm very funny.

The Main Blog

From now on, this will be my main blog. I'll keep doing the Small Town Superhero blog, but it'll be just a side thing. This one will cover a much broader range of topics. Basically, infinite.

I named it "The Hanging Stranger" after my favorite Philip K. Dick short story. If you've never read it, I highly recommend it. And, if you've never read anything, then you're likely illiterate and not understanding a single word I'm typing. Poop. Fart. Booger.

Anyway, the last thing I want is for this blog to sound pretentious. I don't know everything. I'm not the center of the universe. And I'm not this guy, nor should I pretend to be.

Perhaps my perspective will be refreshing. Perhaps it will be drivel. Perhaps it'll taste like ashes in your mouth and you'll have to choke it down with a Fresca. That's just the risk I'm willing to take. Well, not Fresca. That's crazy talk.