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Sunday, January 23, 2011

When emotion overrides logic and reality

It's always interesting to see what sorts of images, articles and editorials get shared by people of strong political or religions beliefs.  In some cases, it displays the willingness of the sharers to suspend logic, so long as it supports their emotionally based positions.

Take this image, being passed around by people I know on the political far left, as something that points out how /har har/ stupid and foolish anyone who disagrees with Obama is.

So what are we looking at here?  It appears to be some sort of demonstration, but that's about it.  You can't see who's holding the sign.  There's no context given.  All we have is the text of the sign.  From that, we can assume the person holding the sign is an Obama supporter, and that the sign reflects what that person thinks of Obama and those who oppose him.

Let's examine what the sign says, then.  It says that Obama is *not* a brown-skinned anti-war socialist who gives away from healthcare.  Then it implies that Jesus was all of those things.

Let's look at the first, three part statement.

Question:  Is Obama brown skinned?  This sign says he isn't, but of course he is.  In fact, the political left seems to be obsessed over his brown skin.  They also seem to assume the right is, as well, and that the right views the colour of Obama's skin as a negative.  Now, certainly there are racists, but any articles, editorials, etc that I've read from people on the right, the colour of his skin is never rarely brought up (correction: it's brought up, usually in response to accusations from the left or pointing out how the race card keeps being played, but when the authors deal with the issues and why they oppose Obama, they talk about what he says and does, not his skin colour).  Yet the left seems to assume that anyone who opposes Obama does so because of the colour of his skin, rather than, say, the fact that he's added a trillion dollars to the US debt, or any of a number of other issues people have problems with.

Curiously, this would imply that, because Obama has brown skin, this should exempt him from any criticism, and that he should be getting some sort of free pass because of it.  Which sounds pretty racist itself. 

This also calls to mind the frequent accusation from the left that the right just won't accept that we have a black president.  Again, they're assuming the colour of his skin is the only thing that matters (the frequency of this claim makes me think they, themselves, can't get past the melanin content of his skin and are projecting that onto those they disagree with), but they are also ignoring the fact that, ethnically, Obama is half white.  Why the obsession with the black half of his genetic make up and not the white?  This implies a dual racism; a patronizing racism that forgives his flaws because of the darkness of his skin, as well as displaying racism in downplaying/ignoring/whatever that he is part caucasian, as if the white half of his ethnicity is something to be embarrassed about or something.  Examining the possible motivations behind all this is an interesting thought experiment.

Next question: Is Obama a socialist?  Again, the sign says he isn't. 

First, let's look at the definition of socialism.

so·cial·ism (s̸həl iz′əm)
  1. any of various theories or systems of the ownership and operation of the means of production and distribution by society or the community rather than by private individuals, with all members of society or the community sharing in the work and the products
    1. a political movement for establishing such a system
    2. the doctrines, methods, etc. of the Socialist parties
  2. the stage of society, in Marxist doctrine, coming between the capitalist stage and the communist stage, in which private ownership of the means of production and distribution has been eliminated


adjective: communist, Marxist, Labour, red, progressive, social democratic, leftist, Fabian, Leninist, Trotskyist, syndicalist, members of the ruling Socialist party

noun: left-winger, communist, Marxist, red, social democrat, leftist, Fabian, Leninist, Trotskyist, syndicalist, Labourite, progressivist.  His views have always been popular among socialists.
So is Obama a socialist?

Is the Pope Catholic?

The fact that Obama is on the left side of the spectrum makes him, by definition, a socialist.  The real question is; with socialism being a stage between capitalism and communism, where does he fit?

Third question: Does Obama give away free healthcare?  Again, the sign says he doesn't.  At this point, one would have to argue the various points of "Obamacare" and whether or not it's really free (it isn't, of course - "free" health care isn't free; it's just paid for through taxes rather than individuals directly), and so on.  Quibbling of details aside, however, from a pragmatic view, the answer would be, yes, he does.

Now, let's look at the last part; the implication that, while Obama is none of these things, Jesus is.

Let's look at those three questions again.

First: Was Jesus brown skinned.

Well, it's hard to say.  We don't know what he actually looked like.  Jesus was, however, a Jew.  Throughout their history, Jews discouraged marriage to outsiders, which is probably why the term "Jew" is both ethnic and religious.  So we can look to modern, ethnic Jews to answer this question.

The answer?

I'm not sure.  Part of the problem is that "white" has a pretty broad spectrum, too.  Usually when people say "white" they refer to caucasians.  Let's go back to the dictionary, shall we?

Cau·ca·sian  (kô-kzhn, -kzhn)
a. Anthropology Of or being a human racial classification distinguished especially by very light to brown skin pigmentation and straight to wavy or curly hair, and including peoples indigenous to Europe, northern Africa, western Asia, and India. See Usage Note at race1.
b. Of or relating to a racial group having white skin, especially one of European origin; white.
2. Of or relating to the Caucasus region or its peoples, languages, or cultures.
3. Of or relating to a group of three language families spoken in the region of the Caucasus mountains, including Chechen, Abkhaz, and the Kartvelian languages.
 So while it generally means people with white skin, the category also includes very light brown to brown pigmentation.  Oops... take a look at the thesaurus portion of that link.  It includes Semites.
Semite [ˈsiːmaɪt] less commonly, Shemiten
1. (Social Science / Peoples) a member of the group of Caucasoid peoples who speak a Semitic language, including the Jews and Arabs as well as the ancient Babylonians, Assyrians, and Phoenicians
2. (Social Science / Peoples) another word for a Jew
So not only does caucasian include Jews, but Arabs as well.

Back to the question: was Jesus brown skinned?  Being Jewish, he would be classified as caucasian, which is associated with lighter skin of various hues.  Since this is a comparison to Obama, we would have to clarify by asking, would Jesus have had a skin colour as dark as Obama's?  I think we could safely say the answer is no, though it is impossible to be know for sure.

Next question: Was Jesus a socialist?

The most basic answer would have to be no.  Socialism didn't really exist during the time Jesus.  Neither did democracy.  There was no "left" or "right," as we use the terms now.  Even the early forms of both are quite different from how they are practised and defined today.

Let's look again at the definition of socialism and rephrase the question.  Go ahead and scroll up and reread it.

Since we're looking at the modern, political definition of socialism, I think we'll have to go beyond definition number one; it's too generic for our purposes.  One of the things I note is that political socialism tends towards atheism (Marxism, communism, Leninism, etc.), at which point Jesus couldn't possibly be a political socialist.  Socialism itself, however, isn't anti-religious, and there are Christian socialists.  Would Jesus be a modern socialist?  I find it highly unlikely, simply because modern socialism relies on government to take on responsibilities that Jesus taught were the realm of individuals.  We are supposed to be charitable, care for each other as a community, etc., not the government.  When it comes to modern, political socialism, that answer to whether or not Jesus was a socialist would have to be, no.

Then there's the final part: Did Jesus give away free healthcare?

Well, the Bible does describe Jesus performing miracle healings.  That's not exactly equivalent to free healthcare, though.  He also rejected the notion of only the wealthy and important being deserving of care, as he treated the poor and nameless as those of means.  Certainly, we're expected to treat all who are in need of it, regardless of wealth or status.  But "free" health care?  I think that's a bit of a stretch. 

At this point, I think we need to examine just what people mean when they say "free health care."  This would require examining what the "Obamacare" package will actually do.  That's something even the people who wrote it can't agree on - no surprise considering the proposal is a 3000 page monstrosity.  From what little I do know about it, however, I would have to say that no, Jesus would not be giving away the sort of "free healthcare" found with "Obamacare."  I'll leave you to research it more on your own time, but for now, I'll leave you with this opinion piece I was rather surprised to find.

To bring it back to our protesters sign that my leftist friends found to be such a wonderful dig at those racist folks on the right, they've once again allowed their emotional and visceral hatred of all things right to override reality.  Even if one didn't believe in Jesus, the first part alone is completely wrong.

Obama is brown skinned, he is a socialist, and he is trying to provide "free" healthcare.

Not of that seems to matter, though, if the leftist think they're making a good dig at the right.

update: Silly me!  For some strange reason, I missed the "anti-war" part of the sign completely.  I'll deal with that in a separate post.

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