Finding redemption

What Table Talkers are saying this week about terror alerts, education, faith and forgiveness.

By Salon Staff
Published August 6, 2004 5:56PM (EDT)

White House

George W. Bush: Public Enemy No. 1, part XVI

borregopass - 12:54 pm Pacific Time - Aug 1, 2004 - #2935 of 3284

I'm probably not the New Yorker to talk about it. You have to understand that I'm pretty fatalistic to begin with. And then realize that I've worked on events with presidential security, or that had high-profile threats of action. For instance, several hundred years ago the dogs were sent through the Metropolitan Opera House a few times and there were plainclothes cops throughout the building in front and backstage for a Bolshoi Ballet appearance. This was long before 9/11.

Could I die tomorrow? Sure. But I've always known that. I've also known for over 20 years that there are really people with bombs out there. What 9/11 made me aware of was how ill prepared we were and still are. And that it won't just be 20 or 30 people at a time anymore. But the biggest moment of devastastion for me personally was the realization that the Bush administration, the people in the position to do the most and who should care the most, couldn't stop trying to loot the treasury, steal America's resources, and fill the coffers of the insiders long enough to actually do the largest part of their job.

So my reaction is anger. Anger that the money isn't spent on making sure that there are more than enough police and firemen and EMTs with adequate communication abilities. That securing the ports isn't important. And that whenever America appears to be catching on to the Rovian shell game the threats get announced. I'm angry that my threat level never goes down and yet each of my fellow New Yorkers and myself are considered to be in the same danger as someone who lives on a ranch in Big Timber, Montana (no offense to its residents -- but really). I'm angry that my city gets to pay for a large portion of the pork that keeps the constituents of Tom DeLay and Trent Lott happy, and yet they don't think we should be given the funds we need to rebuild -- and then they think they can use that same city to try to sell the incompetent administration that couldn't "connect the dots" about hijackers and buildings.

Mind and Spirit

O come, all ye unfaithful: Morality for atheists and agnostics

StephanieL - 01:18 pm Pacific Time - Aug 2, 2004 - #48 of 116

I tend to believe that, like popular culture, religion is everywhere, and we have a relationship to it whether we understand that relationship or not. It's one thing to understand what religion is being referenced and know you don't believe in it or follow its tenets, but it's another thing entirely to be so completely unaware of it that you don't know how you're positioned in relation to other people and elements of our culture. The people who I know who grew up without religion to the extent that they didn't understand their relationship to different elements of culture were the ones that it seemed had been done a disservice as children.

The other element of the term "sinner" ... is one that I always took to be both comforting and frustrating -- that in which everyone is a sinner, not because they don't believe in Jesus, but because everyone commits sin. I found this comforting in that I liked, and still like, the idea that we are all going to make mistakes and none of us are above misjudgments or actions that have consequences we don't intend. We all make bad choices, and I always liked the way that was built in, because it offers the possibility for redemption. And no matter how far I get from my religious beliefs, I still believe strongly in the need for redemption or rehabilitation. I need to know that I can fuck up and not be irretrievably fucked. In addition, I like that it puts us all in the same lot together, forced to never believe ourselves to be better than anyone else. Sadly, I think a lot of religion lets go of that implication in the name of the kind of judgment that condemns some to hell while guaranteeing others a first-class ticket to heaven.

But I also found this incredibly frustrating, especially as a essentially good child sent into confession, where the priest would run down a litany of things I must have done, "did you curse? lie? yell at your parents?" He always seemed skeptical when I said no. My mother says she got around that by lying and saying she'd done something bad one week and then confessing she'd lied the next. I didn't understand what the point in being good was if everyone would assume you'd done something bad. Now, as an adult, it seems more merciful. It's harder to be incessantly good when responsibilities are more intense and there are so many shades of gray between the good and the bad.

Social Issues

You Call Me "Affluent," I Call Me "Broke"

Soj - 05:12 pm Pacific Time - Aug 1, 2004 - #625 of 705

...When I was 16 and out on my own, I wasn't thinking of a college education because I was too focused on trying to survive. I also come from working-class people that don't value education -- at all. When I got into a position of being able to attend college later, my life was a lot more stable. Not middle class, especially not middle class in the Bay Area, but, OTOH, a fairly high standard of living compared to when I was 16 and literally taking any job I could to survive and sleeping on people's couches until I could afford to rent a room.

I couldn't see the value in a college education when I was struggling, and I couldn't really afford to attend high school -- I had to work. But after a while I got enough stability and outside information to understand that it was a neccessary item that would pay dividends in the future. What I'm trying to describe is a shift. It takes time to be able to figure out that you need to go to school, a luxury that a lot of working poor folks don't have. It was pretty rough going for me, actually, until I suddenly fell ill and went through my savings, barely keeping it together enough to finish my classwork.

Then, I suddenly qualified for financial aid and the people at my school were impressed w/ my grades and told me about scholarships and grants. I'd had no idea such things existed -- this was a whole different world. So -- I entered a different realm -- the realm of the middle or, depending on who you talk to, middle-uppper class. I wasn't really supposed to be there, but by virtue of grants and scholarships, etc., I was there, and able to partake of some of the benefits of increased education, which IMO means increased access to resources, or increased access to how to find out HOW to get increased access to resources. Prior to that I'd been thinking of quitting as the workload was really intense between full-time work and school. I was determined, but I also didn't know a lot of things that people just seem to KNOW about going to school. No one I hung out with went to college, we were pretty much in the same boat, and our parents were pretty much blue-collar. I'd define middle-class values as some of that knowledge, and I think that might also have been what the prof was getting at -- your parents set you up with college in mind -- whether you pay or they pay, it's a middle-class value and goal that will help you get access to more resources. Poor people may know some of it by virtue of teachers and some social infrastructure (what's left of it, these days) but they don't know the whole deal and they certainly don't have much experience with it.

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