Sunday, May 28, 2017

On the Paradox of Transcendence and Self-Idolatry on Human Dynamics

I visited a Lutheran church at the end of May, 2017 in honor of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, began by Luther in 1517. Sitting down in a pew, I was touched, literally and emotionally, by an elderly woman behind me, who straightened my collar even though we had not met or even spoken. Interestingly, the emphasis there is worship of a God for His Love. Interesting interpersonal dynamics can be associated with a transcendental orientation--radically changing the notion of social distance, rendering people ironically more human.

The week before, I had visited a Unitarian church. Its president offered to give me a ride home after the picnic, but then he reneged without caring to inform me of his "change of heart" after he heard me tell a couple of people that in my view as a scholar of religion, secular humanism is not a religion due to the lack of a transcendent dimension or element (even if some humanists suppose otherwise). The "minister," also a secular humanist, days later minimized/overlooked her president's rudeness and childishness. "You probably hit a nerve," she told me, as if that would justify leaving me in the lurch. The lack of humanism was ironic, given the humanist focus of the service.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Police Day at the University (i.e., just another day)

Police day at the university. Just a table or two in one of the tents, actually, among other campus and local groups at a "safety fest" of sorts. So we see here a disproportionate display of police power in the line of vehicles, with a jeep yet to come; it would be strategically parked on the grass diagonal to two walkways. A showing off of the hardware; a beating of the proverbial chests by the alpha males.  Overwhelming, perhaps, on a college campus? Just a tad. But no mind. Literally, no mind. Passive aggression is the basic instinct on display in this picture. 




The night before the morning of the picture shown above, I biked home from that very spot on campus. On my way, I saw three campus security cars in a campus parking lot with their lights flashing, then about half a mile from there two police cars, again with lights flashing--the police talking to a driver, then on a residential street not far from there I stopped because a policeman was scouring me from a distance with his spotlight--apparently riding a bike at 9:30 pm is somehow suspicious in a residential area. I stopped immediately to wait for him to leave the area ahead, but this only aroused his "curiosity" so he turned around and made a beeline for me. The primitives are not exactly subtle. I just watched him pass--holding my phone with camera ready. Then about a half mile from there I looked into the headlights of a parked police car parked in a small parking area at a minor intersection--presumably the guy was poised to spring on a speeding car. I had had enough. Just before I turned right, I instinctively gave him a Nazi salute. Tucson is a police state, so the instinct was right, but I was stupid to use my free speech in this way. Day in and day out, seeing police seemingly at every turn--even on a university campus!--I had had enough of the police state. In fact, I had taken residential streets to avoid the omnipresence. But alas, they are everywhere in Tucson--except in the foothills, where the rich people live. Otherwise, Tucson is a hole, a junk city. By the time I reached my apartment, I was overwhelmed by the overkill, so I knocked on my neighbor's door to chat with her; she was not at all surprised to hear my report.

The sad thing is: the local creepers who seek to dominate--the weak, that is, who erroneously count themselves as strong--don't even realize how uncomfortable they are making daily life for the locals, as well as students and faculty at the local university. How in the world could showing an overwhelming presence at a broader safety fest somehow make all this better than worse? "I'm in your face; deal with it."

Take a look at the picture and ask yourself--how comfortable will the student be who was stopped--he told me--by two campus security cars with lights flashing for riding on a campus sidewalk ALONE late one night, or the student who got the attention of THREE squad-cars for starting up on his bike as the light was turning from red to green, again ON A UNIVERSITY CAMPUS.  I have asked students: do you think the security employees are so clueless, or are they intentionally pushing themselves, not caring in the least that they are making people uncomfortable on campus?  Invariably, the students are confident of the latter. I think both are true.

The upshot: Do not live in Tucson, Arizona. It is a police state.