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In the last two weeks I have had 3 funerals. All of them were Indian. I take the liberty now of repeating an early post from 2006.

Last fall I helped bury a Ft. Sill Apache. He was 97 and had been born while the Apaches were held as prisoners of war. The tribe was released in 1913. It is thought that he was the last such in Oklahoma; there may be one other surviving Apache POW in New Mexico. He had been living with his daughter in Norman, OK, the last several years following the death of his wife. For years he was Headman of the Ft. Sill Band of the Apache Nation. I saw him in the hospital in Norman several times in the last week, though he was lucid only at my first visit when I took him communion. The past is not so very far away: I have had contact with a living link to the Indian Wars.

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Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
In this article in Christianity Today, Chuck Colson urges our political candidates to raise and debate the problem of our growing prison population. He points out that in the last 35 years there has been a six-fold increase in the number of prisoners, and that currently 1 in every 100 U.S. citizens are incarterated. State governments spend $50 billion per year in prisons.

Colson advocates programs to change the lives of those imprisoned. Citing studies he notes

Though many sociologists of the 19th and early 20th centuries attributed crime to environmental factors like poverty, an inadequate criminal justice system, and racism, landmark studies in the last 30 years have shown that crime is really about wrong moral decisions. For example, in their 17-year-long study The Criminal Personality, psychologists Stanton Samenow and Samuel Yochelson found that crime, in every case, was "the product of deliberation," and gave the antidote of "conversion to a whole new lifestyle." And in their definitive study Crime and Human Nature, Harvard social scientists James Q. Wilson and Richard Herrnstein found that crime is caused by a lack of moral teaching during the morally formative years.

Colson's point echoes two of my recent posts, on the spread of crime in Memphis, and on the shaping of killers by the Nazis.
At bottom, what we need to debate nationally, is how to become a society that provides positive shaping of the human conscience, and encourages healthy family life.

As you can guess, I am not a Libertarian.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
The Scottish Parent Teacher Council blasted Wikipedia, and other internet sources for providing inaccurate information to students. Article. Link from Drudge.

I remember in graduate school that someone kept a list on the bulletin board of the Religion faculty mailroom of errors in Wikipedia entries concerning history and religion. When I worked in the Baylor library we tried to steer students toward scholarly material, both on and off line. My advice to my students for their writing is: don't use Wikipedia as your sole source. And don't believe everything you read.

A former British prime minister once said that the primary purpose of an education was to enable one to tell when the other fellow was talking rot. You need your own base of good, reliable information to make that judgment.

One of the major problems I have noted with student use of the internet for research is a lack of digestion. Back in the day (I was in college in the mid-70s) when we did library research we read books and periodicals. Since photcopiers were in their infancy, expensive and poor qualitity, we took notes of what we read. The process of reading and then writing summaries required us to digest the material. Now, students too often skim an internet source, then copy and paste into a paper, perhaps changing a few words in the hope of avoiding plagurism. Pages of books and periodicals, if consulted, tend to be scanned and used the same way.

The papers too often read like undigested material thrown together.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
I am reading the book The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness by Simon Wiesenthal.

In the first part of the book Wiesenthal relates a disturbing experience during his time in a Nazi concentration camp in Poland. While on a work detail outside the camp at a school (his old "high school") that had been converted into a hospital for wounded German soldiers, he was summoned by a nurse. She led him into the room of a dying SS soldier and left him there. The young man had asked that a Jew be brought to him. He then proceeded, in words interupted by pain, to relate his life story, working up to what he wanted to tell a Jew.

He had been a good boy, he said, raised in the [Roman Catholic] Church by a pious mother, and truly believed. Then, he joined the Hitler Youth, and gradually was turned against the Church, giving higher alliegance to the Furher than to his parents. When the war started he volunteered for the SS. Moving east with the invasion of Russia, he and his squad were given an order one day.

"An order was given," he continued, "and we marched toward the huddled mass of Jews. There were a hundred and fifty of them or perhaps two hundred, including many children who stared at us with anxious eyes. A few were quietly crying. There were infants in their mothers' arms, but hardly any young men, mostly women and graybeards.
"As we approached I could see the expression in their eyes--fear, indescribable fear . . . apparently they knew what was awaiting them . . .
"A truck arrived with cans of petrol which we unloaded and took into a house. The strong men among the Jews were ordered to carry the cans to the upper stories. They obeyed--apathetically, without a will of their own, like automatons.
"Then we began to drive the Jews into the house. A sergeant with a whip in his hand helped any of the Jews who were not quick enough. There was a hail of curses and kicks. The house was not very large, it had only three stories. I would not have believed it possible to crowd them all into it. But after a few minutes there was no Jew left on the street."
. . .
The dying Nazi went on: "Then another truck came up full of more Jews and they too were crammed into the house with the others. Then the door was locked and a machine gun was posted opposite."
. . .
"When we were told that everything was ready, we went back a few yards, and then received the command to remove safety pins from hand grenades and throw them through the windows of the house. Detonations followed one after another . . .My God!"
Now he was silent, and he raised himself slightly from the bed: his whole body was shivering.
But he continued: "We heard screams and saw the flames eat their way from floor to floor . . . We had our rifles ready to shoot down anyone who tried to escape from that blazing hell . . .
"The screams from the house were horrible. Dense smoke poured out and choked us . . ."
. . .
". . .Behind the windows of the second floor, I saw a man with a small child in his arms. His clothes were alight. By his side stood a woman, doubtless the mother of the child. With his free hand the man covered the child's eyes . . . then he jumped into the street. Seconds later the mother followed. Then from the other windows fell burning bodies . . . We shot . . . Oh God!"

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Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Disturbing data from a study in Memphis. The answer is clear. Demolishing the large housing projects in the inner-city, and dispersing their residents throughout the city using rent vouchers also spread violent crime.

Full story in The Atlantic. Link from Instapundit.
I have not seen Sex and the City the movie--but I am a big fan of the HBO TV series. On general principle, I reject the negative reviews from critics who are not fans going in. Why? The film is a reunion. Hopefully, artistically, it will be better than the Return to Gilligan's Island, but, in a larger sense, Sex and the City (the movie) is little more than a lucrative bow to nostalgia along the lines of a Very Brady Christmas. If you like and care about Carrie Bradshaw, Miranda Hobbs, Samantha Jones, and Charlotte York-Goldenblatt, surely you will be keenly interested in and mildly entertained (at the very least) by the Sex and the City movie.

Earlier this week, the Okie Gardener wrote:

Home and family, the traditional destination of a woman's path, is not where the quartet are. They are obsessed with material objects and sex. And the sex is not remotely related to procreation. Fun only, without commitment to future generations. Sterile fun.

Not to nitpick with the Gardener (who admits not knowing much about the characters), but the girls are actually much less one-dimensional (and much more concerned with procreation) than a casual observer might guess. When we last encountered the fabulous foursome in TV land, Miranda had a young son (and a husband), Charlotte was married but devastated by her inability to conceive a child of her own and making arrangements to adopt, and Carrie had rejected the penultimate man in her life partly because of his inability to father a child. Samantha? The Gardener pretty much gets her right.

Rather than "sterile fun" as a group motif, however, a much more dominant theme within the series is the search for meaning in a world bereft of traditional values.

An Aside: in this way, Sex in the City is not unlike Seinfeld (another snappy commentary on modernity to which the Gardener objected).

In truth, Carrie Bradshaw is our liberated and self-sufficient protagonist, but no fan of the show could possibly describe her as truly happy, at peace, or at all satisfied in her independent and non-traditional life.

Nevertheless, the Gardener correctly notes that the modern Manhattan girls of Sex and the City reject domesticity. This morning, as luck would have it, NPR featured a discussion of Jo March, the protagonist from Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, perhaps the ultimate independent woman of the nineteenth century, and her impact on modern American womanhood. Surprisingly (or not), several female former fans of the work, upon reaching adulthood and a certain feminist enlightenment, have reconsidered their previous childhood devotion to the book.

"At a time when women's lives were restricted to hearth and home," NPR's Lynn Neary reports, "Jo represented the possibility of another kind of life."

"'Jo always makes you think anything is possible and anything is possible for a woman,' says children's book expert Anita Silvey."

More Silvey: "She really softens the hard edges of her life. She makes Jo a much more lovable, accepted character than Louisa May Alcott herself ever was."

Was that a betrayal to the cause?

Others object to Jo March as too needy and excessively adoring of the man who eventually comes into her life. Ironically, what some modern readers find unappealing about Jo and the March family, the need "to be liked," many modern women also detest about Carrie Bradshaw, her need for "validation" by men.

Most striking to me, however, was this complaint:

"Who could possibly live up to Jo's standards?"

Neary "discovered something of a backlash against this idealized vision of a woman who is at once a loving sister, a good daughter, a best friend, a career woman and a devoted wife."

One woman confessed, "I didn't really like the book" after rereading it as an adult.

"That family was just too good... and I think part of the thing that bothered me when I was growing up was that it made me feel very guilty because I knew I couldn't be that good."

Is Sex and the City in vogue and Little Women passé for the simple reason that what we really want in twenty-first century America are role models who are just as lost as we are and who set standards we can live DOWN to?
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
A Disclaimer: I have not, nor in all probability will I, see the new movie Sex and the City. I watched parts of two or three of the TV episodes to see what the fuss was about--and found them tacky and boring. I have some thoughts prompted by Roger Ebert's review.

“Sex and the City” was famous for its frankness, and we expect similar frankness in the movie. We get it, but each “frank” moment comes wrapped in its own package and seems to stand alone from the story. That includes (1) a side shot of a penis, (2) sex in positions other than the missionary, and (3) Samantha’s dog, which is a compulsive masturbator. I would be reminded of the immortal canine punch line (“because he can”), but Samantha’s dog is a female. “She’s been fixed,” says the pet lady, “but she has not lost the urge.”

Samantha can identify with that. The dog gets friendly with every pillow, stuffed animal and ottoman and towel, and here’s the funny thing, it ravishes them male-doggy-style. I went to and typed in “How do female dogs masturbate?” and did not get a satisfactory answer, although it would seem to be: “Just like all dogs do, but not how male dogs also do.”

The "girls" in Sex and the City represent one possible destination on the paths open to modern women: hedonistic narcissism. Home and family, the traditional destination of a woman's path, is not where the quartet are. They are obsessed with material objects and sex. And the sex is not remotely related to procreation. Fun only, without commitment to future generations. Sterile fun. The play of a sterile masturbating bitch.

A life-long friend and dedicated reader from Southern California, known on the Bosque Boys as "Football Coach," wrote last week (his thoughts in italics) concerning the ongoing situation with the "Yearning for Zion Ranch" case:

*** It concerns me that a state as Libertarian as Texas took 400+ kids away from their parents because of one phone call and a basic dislike for the lifestyle of the people involved. If that can happen in Texas, what can happen in the Democratic Peoples Republic of California?

Reality Check: the rugged "frontierism" of "libertarian" Texas is mostly myth and memory these days. Big Government in Texas is not so unlike Big Government in California. Perhaps the popularly elected state judiciary has resisted this trend somewhat (in some cases) over the last decade or so--but that has proven anomalous within an otherwise thoroughly modern conception of government within the Lone Star State.

*** While I certainly disagree with their theology and lifestyle, the group appears to be following firmly held religious beliefs. Most of us would agree that polygamy is wrong (ironically however, we’re told that homosexual marriage is OK), but what about other religious parenting issues, such as spanking? Many well-meaning Christians would disagree on the issue, but you can make a pretty strong case from the book of Proverbs that corporal punishment is Biblically mandated.

Excellent point, Coach. The general problem with polygamy, of course, is underage victims forced against their will to submit to unions ordered by church authority. But, in this day and age, how long can folks continue to inveigh against plural marriage for consenting adults?

One other point worth noting: the ACLU has been instrumental in fighting for the rights of these accused and accursed religious "others."

Speaking only for myself, for all their silliness, thank God for the principled atheists at the ACLU.

Note: the latest on the reunification of families from the AP.