The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on May 31, 1998 · Page 4
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 4

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Sunday, May 31, 1998
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SUNDAY, MAY 31, 1998 THE SAUNA JOURNAL George B. Pyle - editorial page editor , ^ Opinions •;» -expressed on ;- this page are '<'. those of the ',' identified ; : - writers. ; r TO join the . * conversation, ; write a letter to the Journal at: P.O. Box 740 Salina, KS 67402 Fax: (785) 827-6363 E-mail: SJLetters® saljournal.com Quote of the day "Nothing in the Constitution requires schools to be religious- free zones, where children must leave their faiths at the schoolhouse door." President Clinton arguing that the Constitution already protects religious freedom in schools and no admendments are necessary. T BY GEORGE By GEORGE B. PYLE / The Salina Journal Which God? THE ISSUE Religion in public life THE ARGUMENT Don't burden faith with power A s the role of government shrinks and the fear of violence or, perhaps worse, aimlessness grows, more and more people look for some new force to shape our lives. For many, the answer is God. But, before we accept that God is the answer to our problems, we would have to settle one crucial question. Which God? The one worshiped by the Jews for centuries? The one that is represented by the pope? Or the pastor? By the peacemakers? Or the hate-mongers? There are as many images of God, as many paths He, or She, supposedly wants us to take, as there are people. Certainly as many as there are religions. There are more than 20 separate denominations listed in the Salina Journal's weekly church directory, and those are all subdivisions of the Christian faith. There is no representation there of the Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Shintos, Jews and countless others that hold sway across the nation and around the world. As long as religion is not expected or allowed to dominate our public life, that doesn't really matter. Any person may join any church, sample several, or just stay home. It is an important, but strictly personal, decision. Were the question of our civil culture ever to shift from "God or no God?" to "Your God or my God?" the days of personal religion would be over. So would the relatively peaceful nature of life in America. Americans have always found it surprisingly easy to accept that one's candidate for president or governor or mayor was defeated. We grumble and go on. It would be an altogether different matter to see our God rejected at the polls, or in Congress, especially in favor of someone else's deity. Anger is certain to result. Violence is almost as sure. And religion, given power, would almost certainly lose its ability to do good. Once responsible for everything from national defense to highway maintenance, it would be difficult for priests and pastors to keep their focus on matters of the soul. Religion is deeply important to a great many people. It informs their priorities and their judgment, as it should. But it should never be used as a club to bend others to one's will. Losing an election should not mean risking one's soul. Talk to God, if you wish, in your house or in His, and bring what you learn to the Public Square. But don't expect anyone else to take it as gospel. The truth about sex GEORGE B. PYLE The Salina Journal Gays can't lie about their humanity the way straight people do T he problem with homosexuals is that they are so damn honest. Americans can look at a heterosexual couple — married, cohabi- tating or just dating — without necessarily thinking about that pair's sex life. It seems strange in this sex- obsessed culture, but it is true. Maybe it comes from our early practice of denying that our parents ever did anything like that. Or that, if they did, it was strictly for the purpose of producing us, and they didn't enjoy it. Gays don't have the luxury of that lie. If lesbians or homosexual men form couples, for the night or for a lifetime, everyone knows why. Yes, love, companionship, common interests and the deep need for someone to scratch that spot on your back are all factors in gay relationships as much as in straight ones. But nobody who thinks about it can avoid being aware of the fact that single-sex relationships are, to some degree, about sex. Or, to put it another way, sex is as important to gay people as it is to straight people. And, when we are talking about two-sex sex, we are not just talking lie-back-and- think-of-England sex for the purpose of reproduction. We're talking messy, leg-cramping, up-against-the-wall, moaning, groaning, have-to-change-the- sheets-afterward sex. For sex. With no intent, even no possibility, of progeny resulting. In the fax assault leading up to his touch-and-go landing in Salina Saturday, a certain self-appointed moral paragon from Topeka tried to make the case that gay sex is bad by listing some of the specific methods and positions employed. But he couldn't name one that isn't being done, right this minute, by countless inventive heterosexuals all over the world. Straight people are not sexually superior. We are just better at lying to each other about how luxuriously human we are. We pretend that we pair off for high- minded purposes such as raising children or, well, tax deductions. If gay sex is wrong because it doesn't produce children, then sex by sterile people, post-menopausal people or birth-control-using people is equally wrong. What we call gay-bashing is really sex-bashing, an attack on the whole idea of sex for pleasure, for reassurance, for companionship, for the hell of it. If any crusader ever succeeds in getting homosexuality declared a real crime, heterosexuality, beyond very narrow bounds, will be next. Even straight couples could expect protests if there were reason to believe that they employ birth control, like different positions or bought a trapeze. The publication of a gay wedding notice in this newspaper some years ago set some people on edge, forcing them, they thought, to think about homosexual acts. So, does news of male-female weddings force us to imagine a wide range of heterosexual acts by the people concerned? Then maybe we should stop publishing wedding notices altogether. We're not in the sex business. At least, not any more than anyone else. T CAN SHE SAY THAT? Prop 13 a disaster for California MOLLY IVINS Fort Worth Star-Telegram State had the best educational system in the country, and they threw it away for lower taxes L OS ANGELES — There's a certain kind of anti-California prejudice that has always chapped my rear: "home of the fruits and nuts," "Berserkeley," "San Francisco Democrats." As though Alabama weren't a trifle strange and Utah didn't have its moments. Even (ahem) Texas... On the other hand, you have to admit that something is happening here, and what it is, is entirely clear. The peculiar sickness of California politics has been apparent for some time. Peter Schrag's book "Paradise Lost: California's Experience, America's Future" examines that illness closely. Not that it is startlingly new — all friends of California have been muttering for years now: "You fools, you fools. You had the finest system of public education in America, perhaps even the world. From kindergarten through graduate school, you had great schools, and you just threw them away — the schools and everything else government used to do here. All because you wanted property tax relief." And needed it — admittedly, they needed it. But they didn't have to do the stupidest thing imaginable: create a weird system of property tax relief that not only produced hideous unfairness but also gave most of the relief to huge corporations. In the annals of Dumb, this is a pip. Perhaps I wrong the Los Angeles Times, but it seems to me that its recent retrospective on the 20th anniversary of Proposition 13, California's original "tax revolt" initiative, was curiously flaccid. It was a throwback to that gutless form of journalism we used to excuse by calling it "objective"; one side says this, and the other side says that, therefore, we will give them both equal space. The much-maligned San Francisco Chronicle actually did a far better job than the august Times in its T SUNDAY FUNNIES three-part series on the anniversary of Prop 13. How much intelligence does it take to conclude that Prop 13 has been a disaster for the state? For that matter, how much objectivity does it take? The results of Prop 13 are easily quantified. The state has almost doubled in population since the early '60s. In the last two decades, it has built 20 new prisons but not one new campus of the University of California. Freeways, libraries, parks and schools (above all, the schools) are battered, dilapidated and shrunken. And in the eerie new politics of California that Schrag calls "neopopulist," the voters are about to respond by nuking bilingual education. That'll help. Even Schrag admits that Prop 13 is "sacrosanct" — that "no politician dare criticize it." It is the third rail of California politics. One reason it is impervious to criticism is precisely because its effects are so far-reaching. It gets blamed for everything short of El Nino out here, so the criticism becomes easier to dismiss. One of its side effects has been to make government less accountable and more distant. People know their potholes aren't being fixed, but it's much harder to figure out who is responsible now. Schrag also notes a concomitant disaster, another idiotic proposition that passed due to "neopopulism": term limits. Just as we always suspected, this anodyne nostrum (I always wanted to use the word "anodyne"; it means soothing) has hideous unintended consequences. Because no one in the Legislature has any expertise anymore — and the staff has been cut as well — the lobbyists and special-interest groups now run the place. Says Schrag: "When major fiscal committees handling billions of dollars or trying to deal with the intricacies of insurance regulation, school finance, welfare policy or water law are chaired by people who have been there for no more than six months; when the speaker of the assembly will necessarily be someone with four years' experience or less, and when the professional staff is^as thin as it has become, the quality of the work is almost certain to decline." Schrag writes around the issue of racism, as though it were the sin that dare not speak its name. Fortunately, Susan Rassky of Cal Berkeley, an expert on the politics of initiatives,,is more blunt: "Of course racism is a part of it. Initiatives are a game where only white people play. It's a parallel universe, having no resemblance to the real population of the state." ,., But Schrag may be onto something even larger than our old reliable sin, talking about "a different kind of political impulse, not-because it is primarily a populism of the right whose prime objective is the enervation of government itself, but because it is not particularly interested in civic engagement or in , increasing the effectiveness of the citizen in government at all. ... The new populism also,reflects and reinforces the declining stature, of, and respect for, virtually all major public institutions and establishments, from the judicial system and the media, to the universities, to the ideal of commonweal itself." (Emphasis added.) It turns out that this is not so much a new populism as a very old American problem. In, of all places, a book review defending John Quincy Adams (written by Eric McKitrick fqr The New York Review of Books), I found this gem: "An inevitable and probably necessary but ultimately pernicious legacy of the Revolution was the persuasion that government should be seen as an alien force. Those of the founding generation had done what they could to change that view, and the sovereignty of the people held the potential for a course substantially different from the one it eventually topk. Government as the people's own instrument, the figurative extension of themselves and the agency that embodied their highest and deepest aspirations, was one way; the other was to see government as an encroaching presence, which the people's representatives must, be ever vigilant to ward off from taking any consequential part in shaping the people's private or collective concerns." ; In the anti-communitarian, market-oriented ethic of our current politics, Schrag notes, js a terrible irony: "As the public trusts the system less and less, it becomes ever more susceptible to untested, quick-fix remedies that, instead of resolving the problems of the moment, limit public choice and make long-term solutions even more difficult." The Titanic makes another big splash Ahoy, First Mate! Commence starboard computer animation! Full speed ahead! ( finally finished the script for the sequel to the movie "Titanic." I am calling it — and let the legal record show that I thought of this first — "Titanic II: The Sequel." I am darned proud of this script. I have been working on it, without sleeping or eating, except for two grilled-cheese sandwiches, for the better part of the last 35 minutes. I realize that sounds like a lot of work, but bear in mind that writer/director James Cameron spent nearly twice that long on the script for the original movie, which was entitled "Titanic I, the Original Movie." As you know, "Titanic I" garnered a record 56 Academy Awards, including Best Major Motion Picture Lasting Longer Than Both O.J. Trials Combined; Most Total Water; Most * Realistic Scene Of Bodies Falling Off The End Of A Sinking Ship And Landing On Big Ship Parts With A Dull Clonk- ing Sound; and Most Academy Awards Garnered. The movie has made a huge star out of Leonardo DiCaprio, who has shown the world that he is not just a pretty face; he is a pretty face who, if he had been in my high school, would have spent a lot of time being held upside-down over the toilet by larger boys. The phenomenal success of "Titanic I" has also served as an elegant rebuttal to the critics of writer/director Cameron, although this has not prevented him from going around Hollywood physically hitting these critics on the head with his Oscar statuette. Cameron was especially angry at Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan, who said Cameron's writing was trite and devoid of subtlety; this DAVE BARRY The Miami Herald prompted Cameron to take out a full-page newspaper ad saying, quote, "Bite me." I certainly don't want to take sides in this issue, other than to say that James Cameron is easily the most talented human being in world history including Michelangelo and Shakespeare and all four Beatles combined. I say this out of a sincere desire to have Mr. Cameron pay a hefty sum for my script for "Titanic II: The Sequel." Here it is: (The movie opens with the Titanic II, getting ready to sail. As the ship's horn blasts a mighty departure toot, up runs spunky young Jack Dawson, played by Leonardo DiCaprio. There is seaweed on him.) JACK: Whew! I just made it! ROSE: Jack! I thought you had drowned! To death! JACK: No! Fortunately, the bitter North Atlantic cold was unable to penetrate my protective layer of hair gel! Who are you? ROSE: I'm Rose! Remember? You gave your life for me in "Titanic I." JACK: But Rose was played by Kate Winslet! ROSE: She didn't want to be in another movie with you, because your cheekbones are so much higher! So the part went to me, Demi Moore! JACK: Whatever. (The scene shifts to the ship's bridge.) CAPTAIN: Ahoy, First Mate! Commence starboard computer animation! Full speed ahead! FIRST MATE: Sir! We're getting reports of gigantic icebergs directly ahead! Shouldn't we go slow? CAPTAIN: Don't be silly! What are the chances that we're going to hit another ... (There is a loud crunching sound. Big pieces of ice come through the window, along with several penguins.) CAPTAIN: Dang! FIRST MATE: Sir! The computerized sinking animation has commenced! (The scene shifts to the Poop Deck, where the water is rising fast. Jack and Rose are help- ing women and children into a lifeboat, when an evil villain appears with a gun.) VILLAIN: Out of the way! I'm taking this lifeboat all for myself! • ;;> JACK: It's Kenneth Turan, film critic-fdr The Los Angeles Times! -'• '~. TURAN: That's right, and I shall stop^t nothing to get off this ship, because the dialogue is terrible! '"w JACK: Is not! :>S: TURAN: Is too! ,:-> (They commence fighting.) . w£ THE LATE BURGESS MEREDITH: You can do it, Rock! Watch out for the jab! ' JACK: Hey! You're in the wrong sequel! MEREDITH: Sorry! (This distraction enables Turan, by cheating, to gain the upper hand.) TURAN: I have gained the upper hand! Whatever that expression means! And now, pretty boy, I'm going to ... OHMIGOD! NOOO] (Turan is torn into raisin-sized pieces by an irate horde of young female Leonardo DiCaprio fans.) ; JACK: Whew! That was close! Uh-oh! The ship is almost done sinking! ', ROSE: This is it! I hope I don't end up as aft old bag in this movie! (As the two lovers start to slip beneath the icy cold computerized waves, they embrace. There is a cracking sound.) ; JACK: You broke my ribs! ROSE: Sorry! I have tremendous upper-body strength since starring in "G.I. Jane"! JACK: Don't worry! As long as my cheekbones are OK! ', (The water slowly closes over them. In the distance, we hear two crew members on a lifeboat, looking for survivors.) i FIRST CREW MEMBER: What's that sound coming from over there? > SECOND CREW MEMBER: It sounds like .'.. Oh my God! It's Celine Dion! FIRST CREW MEMBER: Let's get out of here! (THE END)

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