The National Auto Museum – The Harrah Collection in Reno, Nevada (review)

It is a mid-November day in Reno. You wake up, get dressed, and leave your tiny downtown apartment, walking toward Java Jungle, your favorite coffee shop. It is cloudy and cold outside, reminding you that you should have worn some gloves and your black knitted cap. You enter the coffee shop, get your Italian Roast with two Splenda packets along with some half and half, and walk to the door. Before leaving with your drink, you say hello to George and Dale, two of the regulars. You look out the window, realizing the threat of snow was not some empty bluff by Mother Nature. You leave, heading toward the Nation Automobile Museum. The falling snow pelts your face.

The view from Lake Street. This is a far cry from the concept art presented inside the museum.

As you walk down First Street, you notice so many businesses closed down and the weather reflects the feeling of the city, cold and barren. As the sound of car tires on the wet road pass you by, you wonder why Reno has an automobile museum. You have lived here for seven years and have never seen this museum. Is it important? Does it serve a purpose? Or is it just a way to cash in on Hot August Nights? You realize you know nothing about this place.

Approaching Lake Street, you see a building across the semi-frozen river, all but its edges obscured by the dense thicket of dead trees.  You cross the bridge and the writing on the building confirms that you have found the right place.

Ed Roth’s Rat Fink.

The building is washed in grays, blending in with the overcast and cold weather. It looks like an industrial building: utilitarian and functional. You feel that maybe you should have gone to another museum today. You expect to find a line inside for people applying for food stamps or a Social Security office. However, you press on, entering the museum lobby. There you are greeted by a friendly gray-haired lady. You buy your ticket for admission. Looking around the lobby, you see a 1981 De Lorean in American Express Gold. You immediately remember the film “Back to the Future,” where a teenager from 1985 travels back to 1955 in a De Lorean. Two of Ed Roth’s classic cars, from the Sixties, bookend the room. You remember a childhood toy with Roth’s classic character Rat Fink driving a crazy-looking car. These cars bring back memories of a childhood that included your older brother and his friends working on their cars in the garage while you played with toy cars. The smell of hamburgers cooking on the grill enters your mind. For a second you are there.

You start the tour, entering the turnstile and walking down a hallway covered with paintings by local artist Robert Cinkel. All of the paintings feature automobiles in unique settings. Many of the great places in the world are shown with people and their automobiles dominating the scenery.

Portrait of Bill Harrah. His gravestone reads “I did it right.”

You reach the first display. It tells you the history of William F. Harrah, founder of Harrah’s casinos.  Born in 1911, Bill Harrah grew up in southern California. His father owned Circle Game, a local game similar to bingo. Harrah drove his first car at age eight and got his first car, as a gift from his father, at age 16. His love of automobiles continued to grow as he aged.

In 1933, at 21 years old, Harrah bought his father’s gaming operation for $500 and soon bought two local competitors. In 1946, he started the Harrah’s casino in Reno, Nevada and soon expanded operations.

According to the museum, Harrah brought respectability to gaming by supporting government controls. In 1973, Harrah’s was the first gaming-only operation to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Harrah used his wealth to buy classic cars. He opened the Harrah’s Automobile Club in Sparks, Nevada in 1962.  The club started with 325 cars, but grew to a record-breaking 1,400 vehicles.

Harrah died in 1978 and Holiday Inn bought Harrah’s two years later. When the new owners announced that they were selling off the entire automobile collection, Nevadans and car enthusiasts protested. In response, Holiday Inn donated 175 cars to the Harrah’s Automotive Library. In 1989 the National Automobile Museum opened, allowing people from around the world to enjoy these classic automobiles.

As you leave the introduction area, you head toward the heart of the museum. The hallway opens up and you see a blacksmith shop in front of you. To your right, you see cars parked along wooden curbs. Along one wall are displays of women’s fashions from more than one hundred years ago and memorabilia from those times.

By the blacksmith shop, you see a 1913 K-R-I-T with a hand crank. Its design, while attractive, seems typical of what you expect to see from an early twentieth century car. However, you notice a small detail that grabs you attention. The K-R-I-T company logo demonstrates just how different symbols meant back then. The logo features a swastika. You know there was a time when this symbol simply represented life and good luck. Sports teams, churches, and the Boy Scouts of America all visibly used swastikas. It was only with the rise and fall of Hitler that it became synonymous with fascism. As you walk away, you see others approach the car, puzzled by the symbol.

The blacksmith’s shop is the entrance to the first gallery. As you approach the dark-stained wood building, you see a bright red gas pump for Royal Crown Oil. It looks out of place as it sits by the left side of the blacksmith’s entrance. On the right side of the building is a sign for the Pony Express. You imagine yourself in that time period. Inside the building you hear the clanging of a metal hammer beating a horseshoe, forcing it to bend to the will of the blacksmith upon an anvil. Horses neigh. You think about the horseless carriage and know it will soon threaten the very livelihood of the blacksmith.

The shop opens up to a large room with soft lighting. You see an 1892 Philion Road Carriage, the only one in existence. This coal-fueled machine featured a two-cylinder engine with 1 h.p. (horsepower). You are not even sure if it is a car. You look further down and see hundreds of cars from the turn of the century. Women’s fashions sit in glass cases while the music of Scott Joplin fills the gallery.

You see the 1903 Ford Model “A” car. You read that Ford was an innovator, not because of any invention, but his ability to make a car that was affordable. The car sold for $850. Most cars of the age sold for more than $1,500. The French Renault sold for $7,500. Until Ford, only the rich could afford cars and they wanted to keep it that way. As Ford refined his design into the Model “T” in 1909, many wealthy Americans viewed Ford’s cars as a threat to their way of life. In less than 20 years, Ford sold 15 million Model “T” cars, mobilizing America.

As you continue looking at cars, some elegant, others clumsy, you see a Franklin D to your left. To your right, there are mannequins of a man and a woman. The woman is wearing a beautiful red velvet dress that covers everything but her hands and face. The man wears a blue suit with driving goggles resting on his blue driving cap. He holds a pair of leather gloves in his hands. As “Sweet Georgia Brown” fills the air, you feel like you are in a different time. Ahead of you, the glowing red exit sign, industrial doors and writing that says the alarm will sound if the door is opened quickly brings you back to 2010. It is time to move on to another era.

As you re-enter the main hall, the wood sidewalk changes to brick and the cars become round and less boxy. The walls show the passage of history well into the modern age. Wars, gas shortages, Dillinger, ads for shaving cream, and auto races all demonstrate how the car soon became a part of the American culture, your culture. The automobile became tied into the American Dream.

1965 Ford Mustang Fastback.

An old Union 76 gas station features a gas pump charging 24 cents per gallon. You think your grandfather probably complained about that back in the day. The asphalt streets and concrete sidewalks introduce you to the years 1950-1975, an era of post-war optimism and a “renaissance of affluence” in America. Everyone wanted a car. An episode of “Dragnet” plays on a television display while you look at the street. A shoes store is closed with “Moved to the Mall” written on the window. On the corner, an auto parts store advertises that it specializes in speed products. You spot a 1965 Ford Mustang in bright red. It is one of your favorite cars. Next to it is the 1977 Jerrari, Jeep’s attempt to cross a Jeep Wrangler with a Ferrari.

You enjoy all of the displays, but some seem a bit unfinished, especially Gallery 4. Inside there are some racing cars, off-road vehicles, a jet car, clown cars, and the original Thomas Flyer. A light modern jazz fills the room with hints of flamenco. The music does not match the display.

Gallery 4 featured a collection of high-performance racing cars.

The entrance to Gallery 4, however, is an epiphany to you.  It is a suburban American house, much like the one you lived in when you were young. The single-floor house features a garage with a basketball hoop attached to the top. Bushes surround the house like a phalanx of Spartan warriors. There is a tall wood fence with a gate, keeping the backyard safe and private. Most Americans, you think, still desire this.

You finish your tour, thinking about America and the automobile. Since the Declaration of Independence, one of the American ideals has been the pursuit of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. The car became a symbol of this freedom. Suddenly the poor could move to better employment with relative ease. Young men could customize their cars, making them an expression of their inner self. Suddenly teens were free to drive and create an entire youth culture that did not exist before. We compete to see if we can build a faster or prettier car. This is America.

You return to the lobby, take a quick look at the expensive gift shop and step back on the cold streets of Reno. You think that perhaps the reason Americans are so resistant to alternative fuels and transportation is because the roaring engine of a 300 h.p. muscle car shaking the earth is as part of America as baseball and apple pie. For a society that was resistant to accept the car, we now view it as a personal part of ourselves.

You enjoyed the museum, but thought it could have been better. Toward the end, it seemed to be less informative or entertaining. The employees were friendly and informative, but the gift shop was expensive. As you toward the Truckee River, you think the museum needs to make its outer appearance more appealing. The cars, full of color and detail, are not reflected in the outer design. Bill Harrah was an important part of Reno and he created a car culture in this city. Perhaps the city of Reno would benefit by focusing on this all year instead of a quick cash grab during Hot August Nights.

As you approach your apartment, you get your mail out of its box. There is the new issue of “Time.” You open it up to an ad for the new Chevrolet Cruze. The ad is nothing like the ads you saw in the museum. The old ads made the automobile a part of the American fabric. If you were a family man, an ad would show a couple with their kids, finding happiness in their new car. If you were a young single man, advertising would focus on the car’s power and speed, showing a young driver with a pretty girl next to him. The modern two-page ad simply shows the car and tells the reader that it is economical. You wonder if, with the rise of electric cars and hybrids, the American Dream is reaching some sort of finale.

The future Mrs. George presents a 1933 Deusenberg SJ speedster.

 

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This review was originally written for a humanities class November 2010. With Hot August Nights coming in a few days, I thought it was appropriate to post.

Copyright © 2010 Paul George. All photos taken by Paul George.

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Alien Abduction Therapy: The High Cost of False Memories

In the film “Total Recall,” adapted from the Philip K. Dick short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale,” Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Douglas Quaid pays a company to put false memories into his mind. Research has shown that memories can be falsified, moving the story’s concepts out of the realm of the fantastic. (Photo courtesy Lions Gate Entertainment)

In the 1966 futuristic short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale,” writer Philip K. Dick introduces Douglas Quail, an unhappy office clerk who dreams of traveling to Mars. Set in the future, the story describes Quail as a man haunted by a dream that cannot be fulfilled. Even though trips to Mars are possible, only important people may travel to the distant red planet. Kirsten, his wife, reminds him of this every day, telling him his obsession is unhealthy. Quail goes to Rekal, a company that specializes in memory implants. One visit to Rekal, says the salesman, will have the customer believing they actually traveled to Mars. Salesman McClane tells Quail the memories will be more convincing than the real thing. Quail undergoes the treatment, only to discover that his memory has already been tampered with. He realizes that all of his memories, including his childhood and marriage, were memory implants.  In the case of Quail, all of his memories were false (2002).

While much of Dick’s story remains in the realm of the fantastic, false memories have frequently arisen when patients undergo Alien Abduction Therapy, an unethical form of psychotherapy that can be emotionally damaging to patients and reflects poorly on the mental health profession.

The Abduction Experience

The accounts of alien abductions, as told by Harvard professor of psychiatry and alien abduction advocate John E. Mack (2003), all have similarities. The subject, alone in bed, feels a presence and hears a low-pitched hum.  Many subjects reported seeing lights and feeling vibrations. The subject report seeing short beings, bald and gray skinned, over him or her. Paralyzed, the subject is unable to move. The person, according to Mack’s report, floats out of the room’s window and enters a large spaceship.

The extraterrestrials examine the paralyzed person. Telepathically, they communicate to him or her that they are performing a series of surgical procedures. In many accounts, these procedures include sexual experiments such as the taking of sperm from males and eggs from females. After the procedures, the subjects are told, again telepathically, that an implant has been put inside of them so the visitors can track him or her.

Frequently, most patients who claimed to have regained memories of being abducted by aliens had no memory of the events until they entered Alien Abduction Therapy (Shermer, 2003, 73). In one case, a woman, who had memories of being sexually abused as a child, entered therapy.  After a few sessions, she believed that she had been abducted by aliens and that her parents were co-conspirators with the extraterrestrials (Eisner, 2000, p. 198).  The subjective methods used by alien abduction therapists demonstrate how fragile human memory can be.

Methods of Recovered Memory Therapy

Alien Abduction Therapy is a concentration of the wider field of Recovered Memory Therapy, which is based on the Freudian belief that physical and mental health issues are the result of forgotten trauma (Eisner, 2000, p. 67). Many patients leave Recovered Memory Therapy believing they were sexually abused as a child, involved in a satanic rite, or the victim of an alien abduction. According to Mack, the memories of alien abduction may not be immediately accessible and “specialized techniques” may be needed to release the experiences (as cited in Eisner, 2000). The techniques commonly used to retrieve these memories are journaling, body work, pharmacologically assisted interviews, hypnosis, and other non-traditional therapy techniques.

Journaling is when a therapist assigns a patient to write down his or her thoughts. However, according to Donald Eisner, alien abduction therapists shape the direction these journals take. According to his book Death of Psychotherapy, therapists have told patients to indicate “any clues regarding the abuse” (2000). Patients are encouraged to write a story about being abused. The therapist offers the patient’s story as proof that he or she has a repressed memory of alien abduction. While journaling is used in traditional therapy, recovery memory therapists shape the content of the patient’s words to support a preconceived idea: the patient was abducted by aliens and harbors repressed memories.

Body work includes massage, Rolfing and Bioenergetics. A therapist specializing in Recovered Memory Therapy will interpret any sign of tension or physical pain as a sign of a forgotten trauma. Even a simple muscle cramp is perceived as proof that the patient is hiding a traumatic memory (Eisner, 2000, p. 72). As with journaling, the therapist has control over the interpretation of the pain.

Some therapists administer sodium amytal, a powerful barbiturate, to patients intravenously, and interview them (Eisner, 2000, p. 75). However, the method used, and praised, by most alien abduction therapists is the use of hypnosis.

Hypnosis

According to David Meyer’s Exploring Psychology, hypnosis is “a social interaction in which one person (the hypnotist) suggests to another (the subject) that certain perceptions, feelings, thoughts, or behaviors will spontaneously occur” (2008). The accepted uses of hypnotism, according to A. Weitzenhoffer (“Hypnosis”), are the following: symptom control, motivation tool, treatment of addiction, and pain control. Weitzenhoffer, an expert in the field of hypnotism, remains critical of the validity of hypnotism. Under hypnotic suggestion, claims David Jacobs, subjects reveal hidden experiences involving extraterrestrials (2003).

Marian, the case study mentioned previously, knew she had suffered traumatic events as a child. She did not see a therapist because she believed she was suffering from repressed memories, but because she wanted help dealing with her known past. Soon, however, the therapist initiated hypnosis with the intention of revealing the forgotten trauma caused by alien abductors. After awakening, Marian was informed of her recovered memories and experiences. Still, however, she had no memory of the events the therapist related to her (Eisner, 2000, p. 198).

The news program 20/20 aired a segment about memory retrieval and alien abductions. The program showed clips of a patient under hypnotic suggestion. Critics of hypnosis as a memory retrieval tool point to the program as evidence of unethical behavior. According to one critic (Shermer, 2003, p. 93), it was clear that the therapist was priming the patient and cueing them toward the proper response.  The therapist would, before putting the patient under hypnotic suggestion, inform the subject that there was no question that alien abductions exist.

Cueing during hypnosis is an important part of the process. David Jacobs, a professor of history at Temple University in Philadelphia, believes that hypnosis is an important tool in retrieving alien abduction trauma (2003). However, he believes that confabulation, the mixing of fact with fiction, is a problem that needs to be addressed. Like most Alien Abduction Therapy advocates, he believes people abducted by aliens have filled in the memory gaps with fabrication. When a patient tells an abduction story that does not agree with the accepted alien abduction story, Jacob believes it is up to the therapist to help the patient discard the fictitious story so that the true alien abduction story can be revealed. The hypnotist guides the subject to the details that are corroborated by patients with similar experiences.

The relationship between patient and therapist in these situations is unhealthy. People seeking a therapist because they are experiencing depression, anxiety, or another mental health issue, may find themselves dealing with a therapist who is eager to believe in alien abductions. Under hypnotic suggestion, a patient may talk about fantastic images or strange feelings. With no verification available, the patient is led to trust the opinions of the therapist (Eisner, 2000, p. 79). Patients are never told that there are alternative explanations or that they should think critically about their experience. In some cases, as Eisner explains, patients were even told the government was watching them, knowing of the patient’s abduction.

Patients like Marian were told to break off all ties with family members (Eisner, 2000, p. 198). Collaboration is missing in Alien Abduction Therapy. Without the opportunity to discuss the retrieved memories with friends or family, it becomes easier for false memories to flourish. A study of the elderly revealed that couples with shared experiences tended to have better memories of events than single people. As collaborators, they could correct each other when one or the other made an error in explaining a past event. Likewise, they could support each other when accurate statements were made (Bower, 2004). By convincing a patient to break off family ties, or discouraging critical thinking, a therapist can create a loyal patient who will co-operate.

False Memories: Real Biology

Hypnosis expert Weitzenhoffer states that “through suggestions given to hypnotized individuals, it is possible to induce alterations to memories” (“Hypnosis”). Recent research has demonstrated that memories can be falsified.

A study conducted by neuroscientists at Northwest University took a group of subjects and showed them various combinations of words and images. In some cases, the word “frog” would be shown, followed by a picture of a frog. In other case, unrelated word and image combinations were shown. For example, the word “cat” was followed by a picture of a raspberry. Afterward, while in an FMRI brain scanner, subjects were shown images and asked whether or not they saw those images during the test. Subjects repeatedly recognized images shown in the second test as being in the original experiment. However, one-third of the images recognized were never part of the original experiment. Test subjects stated they remembered seeing the image of a cat, when all they had actually seen was the word “cat.” The FMRI scans revealed brain activity in the three areas associated with generating visual memories (Luden, 2004).

Researchers at John Hopkins University conducted an experiment and had similar results. Again brain scans noted activity in the left hippocampus tail as well as the perirhinal cortex, which is related to the encoding of memory (Imaging, 2005). In both cases, the evidence led to the conclusion that false memories are encoded in the brain the same way real memories are. A biological basis exists.

Conclusion

Many people suffer from problems related to mental health. Depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, and many other conditions are treated by professional and caring therapists every day. Sadly, some of these people fall victim to fringe therapy, which costs patients a lot of money and, at times, alienation from loved ones.

Marian, like many patients who have undergone Alien Abduction Therapy, eventually found another therapist and recanted her false memories. She would eventually reconcile with her family (Eisner, 2000, p. 199). After recanting, many patients have filed lawsuits against unethical psychotherapists (Eisner, 2000, p. 77).

“The actual memory, with all its vagueness, omissions, and ellipses, not to say distortions—that’s second best,” McClane said to Douglas Quail as part of his sales pitch (Dick, 2002, 331). False memories, in the story, could be better than the real thing. Just like the fictitious Rekal Corporation, alien abduction therapists are motivated by profit. They make money treating patients and selling books directed toward those who believe in alien abduction. Profit margins, not clinical research, are on what they base their success. Sincere, well-educated psychologist and therapists need to be openly critical of this fringe element which only harms its patients.

This essay was original written December 2, 2009 as a term paper for a psychology class. Small adjustments have been from the original for editing purposes.

Copyright  © 2009 Paul George

References

Bower, Bruce (2004), Two-headed memories: Collaboration gives recall lift to elderly, AccessScience@McGraw-Hill,  http://www.accessscience.com.

Dick, Philip K. (2002). We can remember it for you wholesale.  Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick (pp. 328-349). New York: Pantheon.

Eisner, Donald A. (2000). Death of Psychotherapy: From Freud to Alien Abductions. Westport:Greenwood Publishing.

Imaging shows how brain can create ‘false memories’. (2005, February 5). Toronto Star (Canada),Retrieved from Newspaper Source database.

Jacobs, David M. (2003). Hypnosis can reveal the existence of alien abduction. In  Roleff, T.L. (Ed.), Alien  Abduction: Fact or Fiction? (pp. 43-52). Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press.

Luden, Jennifer  (2004, October). Analysis:  Preliminary findings on how the brain creates false memories. Weekend All Things Considered (NPR), Retrieved from Newspaper Source database.

Mack, John E. (2003). The principal features of alien abduction. In Roleff, T.L. (Ed.), Alien Abduction: Fact or Fiction? (pp. 21-32). Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press.

Myers, David G. (2008). Exploring Psychology (7th ed.). New York: Worth

Shermer, Michael (2003). It is unlikely that humans are abducted by aliens. In T.L. Roleff (Ed.), Alien Abduction: Fact or Fiction? (pp. 67-76). Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press.

Weitzenhoffer, André M. “Hypnosis”, in AccessScience@McGraw-Hill, http://www.accessscience.com.

Dirge for the Common Man: A Response to “Song to the Men of England”

Image from Fritz Lang’s film “Metropolis.”

The near-deafening brouhaha raised by the Tea Party during the 2010 election season in the United States attracted the attention of the mainstream media and political system with its use of controversial slogans and anti-government statements. Candidate Christine O’Donnell, misattributing words to Thomas Jefferson, riled the crowds with words that the government should fear them. Air-raid-siren-voiced candidate Sharon Angle shrieked against the so-called evils of public education, social security, and minimum wage. Former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin announced that the women of the Tea Party were “mama grizzlies” ready to devour an out of control federal government. Party members met at rallies, shaking signs announcing “Warning Constitution Under Attack,” claiming President Obama was a socialist, and the need to “Protect and Defend the Constitution from All Enemies” (Scherer 27).

The November 4th election led to some Tea Party victories and the Republican Party gained a majority vote in the House of Representatives. Suddenly the Tea Party vanished into the background and little changed in government. Legislature made compromises, passed bills, and all will remain quiet until it is time for another election. Rather than being out-of-control wild grizzlies, Tea Party members showed themselves as sheep, bleating loudly until shepherds arrived to tell them they will be taken care of by the wealthy.

Large uprisings are nothing new. History is full of groups of people rising against their rulers demanding food, protection or freedom. The American Revolution, which energized Europe, provided hope for the people of France, who felt oppressed under a system that protected the wealthy and denied human rights to the common citizen. In time, however, the fervor about revolution calmed and many felt the dream of freedom and equality would never be attained. Indifference, or complacency, settled into the soul of the commoner.

Perhaps this is what early 19th Century poet Percy Bysshe Shelley was responding to when he wrote “Song to the Men of England.” Shelly directs his poem directly to England’s working class, those who plough and weave for the wealthy, providing the rich with food and fine clothing, yet ultimately giving their lives for the upper class without receiving any gratitude. Ultimately, Shelley states these men toil, yet receive not “leisure, comfort, calm, / Shelter, food, love’s gentle balm,” but pain and fear.

Shelley’s words are clearly a call to arms, but they are also a reproof of, not only the workers’ indifference, but their willingness to contribute to class inequality. The final two stanzas of the poem tersely tell the men to go underground, bellow the very floors they built, and chain themselves with the very chains they made for their masters. If the men of England are going to continue supporting the system, then Shelley writes that they should use their tools and skills to make their own graves.

Class divisions still exist in the United States. After World War II and continuing through the 1970s, the gap between the rich and the poor in America remained relatively close and stable. With the introduction of Ronald Reagan’s policies of deregulating markets and giving large tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, the gap began to grow. The gap continued to growing as the wealthy continued to increase their corporate earnings while the working class was getting paid less. Unions are now viewed as an evil, designed to steal away money from workers. Yet non-union workers constantly find themselves struggling to make enough income to take care of their living expenses.

An example of this is Wal-Mart, where employees are constantly told they are part of the family, but consistently have trouble getting the desired hours they need. A new employee is forced to watch a video about why a union would simply hurt the store’s employees and create a rift between the management and the managed that would damage everyone. Just in case an employee does not get the message, he or she must pass a computerized exam where agreeing with Wal-Mart is a condition for passing the test (Ehrenreich 144-145). With twenty-five percent of all merchandise in the United States purchased from Wal-Mart, it benefits the company to remind its employees that they are part of a family and need to show loyalty to that family by accepting low wages and whatever hours the store decides an employee deserves on any given week. And employees agree to it. They become participants in a plan that benefits the upper echelons of the corporation disproportionately more than the workers.

From “Fight Club.” Courtesy 20th Century Fox.

That has become the American way, serve and be quiet. Author Chuck Palahniuk’s novel “Fight Club,” about the impotent and denaturalized condition of the modern American male, introduces status quo challenger Tyler Durden. Tyler challenges the system at every turn, setting up clubs for men, dissatisfied with their lives, to fight each other. In the fight clubs, every man, whether rich, poor, healthy, sick, big, or little, gets the chance to throw down with another man. There is no class. There is not any system elevating one man over another. A man’s liberty in Tyler’s world is forged with bare fists from bruised flesh.

Eventually the system, in this case law enforcement, tries to interfere. A police commissioner vows to stop the underground fighting. He is soon grabbed and pinned down by Tyler and a group of his Space Monkeys. They pull the commissioner’s pants down, wrapping a rubber band tightly around the man’s testicles. “How far do you think you’ll get in politics if the voters know you have no nuts?” asks Tyler (165). Since he is a powerful and wealthy man, the commissioner has much to lose. Tyler tells him that his gang has nothing to lose except for the fight club.

Tyler’s next words echo Shelly’s. However, in the case of Tyler and his Space Monkeys, they are already challenging the system. They are ready to neuter those who have kept them at the bottom and Tyler’s words tell the system that the underclass has realized its true power. He says:

“Remember this…The people you’re trying to step on, we’re everyone you depend on. We’re the people who do your laundry and cook your food and serve your dinner. We make your bed. We guard you while you’re asleep. We drive the ambulances. We direct your call. We are cooks and taxi drivers and we know everything about you. We process your insurance claims and credit card charges. We control every part of your life.” (166)

America’s political and upper classes remain happy with a nation where the workers view it as a privilege to serve the needs of the rich. The Tea Party, whether one agrees with their politics or not, made a lot of noise, but eventually allowed themselves to be used by the very people they claimed to be against. The Tea Party, which stood for less federal government, became supporters for fewer taxes for the rich, less regulation over the markets, and reduced funding for education. Ultimately they were happy to chain themselves down and be used by the political right.

Shelley knew the people’s power came, not from just rioting or protesting, but by their power to assert themselves through the goods and services they provide for the wealthy. If Wal-Mart’s employees decided to strike for better pay and work conditions, twenty-five percent of the nation’s economy would come to a halt.  That is power.

Or as Tyler would say, “don’t fuck with us” (166).

Note: This essay was originally written February 8, 2011 for an English literature class. In retrospect, I may have underestimate the Tea Party movement a bit. But it is still an early movement.  

Works Cited

Ehrenreich, Barbara. Nickel and Dimed. New York: Henry Holt, 2001. Print.

Palahniuk, Chuck. Fight Club. New York: Norton, 1996. Print.

Scherer, Michael. “It’s Tea Time.” Time. 27 Sept. 2010: 26-30. Print

Shelly, Percy Bysshe. “Song to the Men of England.” Ed. Applebaum, Stanley. English Romantic Poetry:An Anthology. Mineola: Dover, 1996. Print.

When the Heck Did I Become A Republican – Part II

Friday I wrote about a letter I received from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney through the Republican National Committee. Among other things, the RNC accused me of being a Republican and wanting to help the party take over the entire nation.

While there was enough material to respond to for a week’s worth of articles, I have tried to stay focused on the points that stuck out to me as I read the letter.

The letter encourages me to choose “a bold, new agenda rooted in the proven conservative principles of limited government, free enterprise, and personal responsibility.”

Aside from the oxymoronic nature of that sentence, it sounds pretty good. Who isn’t for limited government, free enterprise or personal responsibility?

Of course, those terms have different meanings for different people.

As it stands, the current Republican agenda is seeking government to limit who you can marry, your right to decide if abortion is right for you or not and your right to vote. In Pennsylvania, Republicans have created a voter identification law that is so strict that it will not accept government issued military identification as valid verification to vote. This is not limited government.

Republicans continue to promise to overturn Roe v. Wade, a herculean task.   In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that the government did not have the right to interfere with a woman’s decision to have, or not to have, an abortion. Forcing women to keep a pregnancy, even in cases or incest or rape, is not a limited government.

And these same Republicans have continued to fight gay marriage. All of their reasons for this boil down to two things; tribalism and the desire to have the nation conform to the standards of their god. Gay marriage hurts no one. The problems involved in gay marriage are not any different that traditional marriage.

Yet, Republicans have continued to propose a ban on gay marriage by creating an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would define marriage as only between a man and a woman. They want a tyranny of the majority that can use the Constitution to take away rights rather than grant them. This is not limited government.

It is a restrictive government. It is a closed society. It is totalitarian. It is wrong.

“Free enterprise” is a great term for the fantasy utopia created by Adam Smith. Smith’s concept of a perfect society where the invisible hand of the market controls supply and demand, prices and wages is as realistic and practical a political theory as Marx’s “The Communist Manifesto.” The Republican claim is that they support a market free of government regulation.

The experiment in a free market economy collapsed with the Great Depression. But the United States is hardly, by any realistic definition, a centrally planned economy. Regulations were put into place to create a legal framework in which our free market economy could work and remain stable.

Simply put; government is part of the economy.

At the heart of our current recession is the deregulation of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. This act “prevented financial firms from being both commercial banks and investment banks,” according to economists R. Glenn Hubbard and Anthony Patrick O’Brien in the book “Microeconomics.” Congress repealed the act in 1999, allowing commercial banks and investment banks to share in exotic mortgage-backed securities.

Republicans continue to blame the “invisible hand” of the market for the recession, yet never bring up the role deregulation played in the state of our economy.

Of course, they were more than willing to let government interfere and bail out the banks that were on the verge of failing.

Republicans may talk about free enterprise, but are as eager as anyone to take advantage of the government’s role in the economy.

Personal responsibility seems innocuous enough. Who doesn’t believe in personal responsibility? Personal responsibility is at the very heart of republicanism, which has little to do with Republicans.

The principle of republicanism, as it developed among the Greeks and the Romans, placed personal responsibility on it polis to participate in government. It was considered a person’s duty to put aside his own financial interests for the good of the nation. The preamble of the U.S. Constitution even makes promoting “the general Welfare” as one of government’s main responsibilities.

Yet, Republicans seem to be very much opposed to policies that are republican. Personal responsibility, based on the Republican dialogue lately, is about taking care of one’s self and giving nothing to society. According to them, if a woman is raped, gets pregnant and keeps the child, it is no one’s fault but her own and there should be nothing provided by the government to assist her or her child. That is a bit exaggerated, but I believe the point is valid.

This does not mean America has become a welfare state¹. We take care of our own. We take care of our seniors, who have worked hard raising children and being a part of this nation. We take care of our veterans, who have been willing to put aside their personal interests in order to serve their country. We take care of our children, who need food, health care and education in order to build a stronger republic.

There is no utopia. The degree in which government is involved in our personal lives, free enterprise and in providing for the needs of citizens will always be open for debate and adjustment. But the RNC’s statement about these issues is a series of glittering generalities. I am tired of pleasant sounding words that mean nothing in politics.

¹I am fully aware that when the Constitution speaks of “the general Welfare,” it is not talking about our modern welfare system. However, the point is that there is a certain republican idea involved in both systems of taking care of our citizens.

When the Heck Did I Become a Republican?

According to this, I am a card carrying Republican. When did this happen?

Mitt Romney has conscripted me into the Republican Party! At least I think that’s what he did.I received a letter from Mitt Romney on Tuesday addressing me as “Dear Fellow Republican” and proceeded to explain to me that my “commitment to our Republican values is truly valuable.” After a few paragraphs of explaining the need for Republicans to take over the country and end Barack Obama’s efforts to turn American into a “European-style welfare state,” the letter requests that I “generously support” the GOP with a donation.

I am a nonpartisan voter.  While my views lean to the left, I have serious issues with the Democratic Party. Both parties have failed the People. But here I am being address as a good Republican.

Paul George is still a card carrying nonpartisan. (Screen capture courtesy of the Washoe County Registrar of Voters Office website.)

I seriously worried that someone had changed my affiliation with the Washoe County Registrar of Voters. I went to its website and double-checked my registration. The voter in me was relieved that no one tampered with my registration. The journalist in me was disappointed because such a scandal would be a great story.

The letter naturally placed all of the nation’s woes on the shoulders of the president. To its credit, the letter is smart in keeping the focus on economic issues and avoiding social issues like gay marriage or abortion rights. However it charges Obama with the following:

  • “He squandered $787 billion on a stimulus bill…”
  • “He forced through Obamacare – something Americans don’t want and can’t afford; and,”
  • “He added more to the debt than any other president.”

I plan to look into all of these issues because there is so much noise out there about these very issues. But let’s just take a quick look at these “problems.”

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is the official name of the stimulus package. Stimulus bills are always tricky. The difficulty is in measuring how much they help. Bush produced stimulus packages, giving rebate checks to the American taxpayers. No one seems to remember he did that. It is the same Keynesian principle: the government can stimulate the economy by injecting money into the system. Tax breaks are also a part of that principle.

Time will tell what good or bad will come out of the Affordable Care Act. However, as people learn more about it, the more many are starting to like it. But any Republican that believes Romney will repeal it is living in a dream world. If he tries, I predict that many of his supporters will balk at it.

Since the Affordable Care Act is based on a program Romney signed into Massachusetts law, it is strange that he is making this a centerpiece of this attempt to gain my vote. However, he said during the primaries that signing such a bill was a state-based decision and he opposes the Affordable Care Act because it is federal based. While I think he is trying to negotiate out of a tough dilemma, he may have a point.

I wonder if he feels marijuana laws should be treated the same way? Abortion? Gay marriage?

Our public debt is huge. Blaming Obama for it is unfair. Everyone is to blame for our expanding public debt. I see no proof that anyone in the senate or the house has any desire to honestly deal with the debt. It is about $16 trillion at the moment. Republicans blame Obama. Democrats respond that Bush escalated the debt. I will approach this issue soon, but it looks like the public debt has been growing for some time. It escalated with Bush’s tax cuts and the war effort and then escalated again when Obama took office.

The problem is both sides use the debt as a reason for voters to side with them and oppose the other guy. If anyone thinks Romney can reduce the debt, I am here to wake you up … again.

I like Obama, but I don’t believe for a minute the national debt will be better if he gets re-elected.

That is it for the “quick look.” But that’s the problem; there is no quick look at these issues. Voters seem to want to only look at enough to justify their support of Romney or Obama. The Constitution is a document by the People and that puts responsibility on all Americans to take a little time and learn how our government works. Such an endeavor takes effort and a little critical thinking. But the Founder’s believed in a polis that engaged itself in its own government. If we don’t exercise this right, politicians on both sides will continue to play this game.

Monday: Part 2!

Copyright © 2012 Paul George

Peace in Palestine: The United States, Israel and the Christian Right

Photo source: newnews.co.uk

Ed. Note: This essay was originally written for a class about world religion in 2010. I am posting it because I think it provides some good information. Since the class was about religion, the essay delves into some of the reasons conservative Christians are so interested in Israel. It also provides some thoughts from the Bible. However, this article is not an attempt to promote any religious thinking. It is intended to be philosophical in nature, but deals with various Christian beliefs.

The solution to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict is simple: The United States should quit favoring Israel or stay out of Middle East politics altogether. For more than fifty years the United States has involved itself in the peace process between Israel and Palestine. The goal has been the creation of a two-state system. However this goal has failed due to a number of factors including the United States’ unwillingness to address Israel’s many United Nations violations, racism on the part of Israel, and the influence of evangelical Christians in the United States.

The Romans conquered the nation of Israel in 70 C.E.., burning down the temple in Jerusalem. The Jews became refugees in surrounding cities and provinces. As the centuries passed, they formed stable communities in Europe and North America. After World War I, Britain and France took control over most of the Middle East. The area was under colonial rule. The Balfour Declaration of 1917 allowed Jews to enter Palestine. However, much of the area was already inhabited by Muslims and Christians. By 1939, the British began to limit the number of Jews entering the area to 150,000 per year. Zionist groups like Irgun and the Stern Gang carried out violence against the British for placing these restrictions on Jewish immigration (Sadat 165).

The United Nations took control of the situation in 1947 and divided Palestine into two states: Jewish and Arab. The Zionists accepted this arrangement. However, Arabs felt they were being punished for Germany’s actions.

The next year saw conflicts between the two neighbors. Eventually Israel pushed its borders into Arab land, violating the United Nations partitions. 750,000 Arabs were displaced because of this illegal move by Israel.

Conflicts continued between the two groups. In 1967, Israel took control of the Suez Canal, Gaza, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and the Old City of Jerusalem. They now had three times more land than they were originally granted in 1947 (Sadat 74).

Conflicts have continued and both sides have suffered casualties. The United States has demonstrated a consistent willingness to downplay Israel’s violence against Arabs, yet condemn Arabs even when they are trying to protect their homes. Frustrated by the situation, the Palestinian Liberation Army began taking sometimes extreme action against Israel.

While Israel is a democracy, its government is established on racism. The Jewish government established the Right of Return law, which gave automatic citizenship to Jews who want to live in Palestine. Two years later, a law of citizenship made it difficult for non-Jews to receive citizenship. Palestinian families, who have lived in the area for many generations, were denied citizenship. Special economic, political and social benefits were given to Israeli Jews that same year with the World Zionist Organization – Jewish Agency Law. This established, among other things, that only Jews could buy land. Arabs were not allowed to vote or serve in the military. From time to time, Israel banned Christians from the land. Many nations of the world look at this attitude and conclude that Palestine in under occupation by the Israelis (Neff).

Vice President of the United States Joseph R. Biden Jr. met with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in March 2010 and discussed the relationship between the two countries. Biden said the United States’ relationship with Israel was a “centerpiece of American policy” and the two countries were “bound by historic and cultural ties” (Biden). While Biden spoke of the need of both sides to make concessions, it was clear in his discussion that Israel was favored by the United States.

When United States senator Barack Obama was running for president in 2008, he said he would be willing to meet with Syria and Iran. This drew outrage from supporters of Israel. Obama quickly changed his wording to express his commitment to favoring Israel in the Middle East. As president, Obama has been consistently unwilling to condemn Israel’s actions against the Palestinians.  As Israel continues to push further into Arab territory and even arrest Jews who object to this military action, the United States only issues mild statements of disapproval (Marshall).

Israel is unmotivated to change its ways because the government knows the United States will reprimand them and nothing more.  The United States refuses to put sanctions on Israel. Quite the opposite situation exists. Rather than sanctions, the United States sends billions of dollars to Israel annually. If the United States were to issue sanctions, Israel would start listening (Marshall).

Much of this behavior on the part of Israel and the United States has contributed to the rise in terrorism in the Middle East. The Arabs in Palestine have lived for more than a half century in poor living conditions. Attempts to peacefully protest have been met by violent police actions. When the Arab nations endorsed a peace proposal in 2002, it was ignored by Israel. The attitude of Israel about the Palestinians has led some Palestinians to the conclusion that terrorism is the only solution.

While terrorism is terrible, the United States, especially under president George Bush, has said the reason for terrorism in the Middle East is because terrorists are “evil” or “hate democracy.” Rather than examining the reasons for these violent acts, American leadership has been content to simply demonize them. This straw man approach has shut down any honest discussion about why terrorism exists in the world.

Jehan Sadat has witnessed the violence in the Middle East first hand. Her husband, Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, was assassinated by Muslim extremists who objected to Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel. Madam Sadat has devoted her life to bringing peace and better conditions to the Middle East. She has also worked diligently to educate Americans about the complexities of the issues in Palestine. According to her, the United States “has seemed to vacillate in its Middle East policy,” resulting in more instability and growing anger (Sadat 104). Since the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, the United States has pushed a “shoot first, ask questions later” policy toward the Middle East. Iraq has been an example of democracy by force. However, this policy of putting a gun to a country’s figurative head and telling them they are going to be democratic whether they like it or not is going to create resentment not freedom. Most Middle East countries have a history and culture spanning centuries, if not millennia, of tribal leadership. The concept of democracy is indeed foreign. However, democracy by example is a much better solution than democracy by force.

Sadat acknowledges that terrorists have committed atrocities. She never justifies their actions. However, she is clear that the conditions in the Middle East have nurtured violence. According to her, “fanaticism cannot be beaten by military means alone. To attack the roots of terrorism in the developing world, we must work to alleviate poverty and illiteracy, the hopelessness, frustration, and lack of opportunity that give militant fundamentalism its terrible allure” (Sadat 21). The United States paternal attitude toward the Middle East, military policies, and favoritism toward Israel has helped fuel these feelings in the Middle East.

Anna Baltzer and Haithem El-Zabri demonstrate the hypocrisy of U.S. policy toward Israel. (Photo courtesy Mondoweiss.net)

Those who favor the United States’ current policy regarding Israel comment that Israel is America’s closest friend in the Middle East. As previously mentioned, much of Israel’s policies are contrary to the principles of the United States. They have frequently violated agreements about borders and have taken the viewpoint that all Arabs in Palestine should be removed (Ben-Ami 300). If this view is taken, then that would make the United States accomplices in Israel’s lack of regard for United Nations agreements and violence against Palestinians. It would also imply that Osama Bin Laden’s attacks on the United States are justified since he claims that the United States’ relationship is the main reason Americans are being targeted for violence.

Another comment frequently brought up by the political right in the United States is that any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. This ad hominem attack is used on anyone who objects to the actions of Israel as a nation. However, anti-Semitism is the hatred or prejudice against Jews as a people, not the political entity of Israel. To use this claim would suggest that Israel is incapable of wrong behavior.

The final reason for support of Israel in the United States comes from evangelical Christians.  Dispensationalism is a view promoted by Anglican priest John Nelson Darby in the early nineteenth century. It has had a dominating influence on the United States’ policy in the Middle East. Dispensationalists believe that, in order for Christ to return and for the rapture to begin, all non-Jews must leave Palestine.

According to Anthony Campolo, professor emeritus at Eastern University, this view has become “synonymous with American Christianity”.  Dispensationalist views are currently promoted by evangelical preacher Pat Robertson and are at the core of the popular Left Behind novels. Former United States president George Bush met with fundamentalist evangelical Christians in order to appease their concerns that the United States was losing its resolve to support Israel.

One American preacher, while being interviewed on radio with Campolo, said that Israel must be cleared of Arabs. If they will not leave willingly, he said, Israel must use violence. When Campolo confronted the minister by saying that sounds like ethnic cleansing, the minister responded that, not only was it ethnic cleansing, it was God’s will.

“I am telling you, ladies and gentlemen, this is suicide. If the United States, and I want you to hear me very clearly, if the United States takes a role in ripping half of Jerusalem away from Israel and giving it to Yasser Arafat and a group of terrorists, we are going to see the wrath of God fall on this nation that will make tornadoes look like a Sunday school picnic.” – Pat Robertson (from patrobertson.com). Photo courtesy thinkprogress.org

Pat Robertson claimed that Ariel Sharon, then prime minister of Israel, was being punished by God when he had a stroke and could no longer serve his country. According to Robertson, God punished Sharon because “tried to clear out Jewish settlements in Gaza Strip” (Campolo).

Many Jewish Zionists have accepted the support of these evangelicals. However, many are concerned. Robertson and other evangelicals have supported a charity called Jews of the Diaspora to Return to the Holy Land. It reflects the ultimate goal of dispensationalists: the mass conversion of Jews to Christianity. Only then can their end-times scenario be fulfilled.

Since the Bible is open to interpretation, other educated Christians have objected to this view of Israel.  Theologian Wayne Grudem points out that the apostle Paul said “a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical” (New Rev. Stand. Ver., Rom 2:28, 29). Paul indicates that, in God’s view, it is the person who is spiritually a Jew, not physically, that God approves (Grudem 861). Peter elaborates; stating that the church was now God’s chosen race, royal priesthood, and holy nation (New Rev. Stand. Ver., 1 Pet 2:2-10). The letter of James refers to Christians as “the twelve tribes of the Dispersion” (New Rev. Stand. Ver., Jas 1:1), further making it clear that early church writers believed that the Christian church had taken the place of the nation of Israel as God’s chosen people.

Many dispensationalists believe that Jerusalem will be re-established on earth. They use a prophecy in the book of Revelation to support this concept. There it says that the writer of Revelaton saw “the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven” (New Rev. Stand. Ver., Rev 21:10).  However, Paul indicated that, for Christians, Jerusalem was a heavenly place (New Rev. Stand. Ver., Gal 4:26). Revelation is a book written in symbolic language and a literal interpretation of what it says about Jerusalem would be unlikely. The writer of Hebrews was clear that Christians were already standing before a “heavenly Jerusalem” in the first century (New Rev. Stand. Ver., Heb 12:22). Dispensationalism was not a teaching of the early church.

Unfortunately, evangelicals and the Jewish lobby hold a tremendous amount of power in American government. Since many media organizations and political leaders are unwilling to openly challenge the nation’s position on the Middle East, very few members of the public are able to consider all of the facts and opinions that exist. The United States’ support of Israel amounts to religious favoritism.

Peace is never absolute, but the human race has experienced times of relative peace.  To have the United States simply leave the Middle East after more than fifty years of interferences could lead to instability. In time, however, the Middle East would most likely stabilize and be able to self-govern itself. More practical is a change in the United States’ attitude toward Israel and its surrounding nations. When Israel violates the rules, the United States needs to be tough by enforcing sanctions and withholding funds. Only then will Israel listen. If the nation does that, Arab leaders may respond positively to talks about peace with Israel. Still, the lessons learned since 1948 are clear, the United States should be careful about interfering with other nations. Rather than serve as the world’s sheriff, the United States should be an example of democracy and diplomacy.

Copyright © 2012 Paul George

Works Cited

Campolo, Tony. “What Christians Think About the Jews and the Holy Land.” Tikkun 23.6 (2008): 56.

MasterFILE Premier. EBSCO. Web. 20 Mar. 2010. (Anthony Campolo, Ph.D., professor emeritus at Eastern University, founded the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education. His most recent books are The God of Intimacy and Action and Red Letter Christians.)

Ben-Ami, Shlomo. Scars of War Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy. Oxford University Press, inc.2006. (Ben-Ami served as Israel’s Foreign Minister and Security Minister until 2001.)

Biden, Jr., Joseph R. “VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR. AND PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU DELIVER REMARKS IN A JOINT STATEMENT TO THE PRESS.” FDCH PoliticalTranscripts (n.d.): MasterFILE Premier. EBSCO. Web. 20 Mar. 2010.

Grudem, Wayne.  Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994. (Grudem is research professor of Bible and theology at Phoenix Seminary in Phoenix, Arizona.)

Marshall, Rachelle. “As Obama Retreats, Palestinians Renew Their Struggle.” Washington Report on Middle East Affairs 29.3 (2010): 7. MasterFILE Premier. EBSCO. Web. 20 Mar. 2010. (Marshall is a member of the Jewish Voice for Peace and writes frequently about Middle East issues.)

Neff, Donald. “Zionism Is Racism.” Current Controversies: Racism. Ed. Mary E. Williams. San Diego:Greenhaven Press, 2004. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale. Truckee Meadows

Community College. 20 Mar. 2010 <http://find.galegroup.com&gt;. (Neff has been a professional journalists for more than 40 years, serving 16 years as a writer for Time Magazine. He was the Time Magazine Bureau Chief in Israel.)

New Revised Standard Version . Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1989.

Sadat, Jehan. My Hope for Peace. New York: Free Press, 2009. (Sadat is widow to Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, who pushed for democracy in Egypt and signed a peace treaty with Israel. She continues to educate the world about the issues facing the Middle East.)

Get You Filthy Politics Out of the Games

Oh I love the games! Thanks to my schedule, I have been able to enjoy four channels of Olympic bliss.

And I believe the Olympics bring the best out of all of us. We cheer for our country and hope to see athletic greatness.

The Naked Olympics by Tony Perrottet

The history of the ancient games in this article are taken from “The Naked Olympics” by Tony Perrottet. It is a fun history of the games, putting the reader right in the middle of the ancient festival. (Image courtesy of Random House, Inc.)

And, like the ancient Greeks, we try to put our differences aside for a few weeks. The original Olympics started in 776 B.C. and ended in 393 A.D. after the Christians decided to end all pagan festivals. Although there were exceptions, the city states of Greece put aside their differences and came together to compare their best athletes. And they partied a lot. The fact that these groups could put aside very bloody feuds to celebrate the games demonstrates the value this event had on the polis.

Call me an idealist, but I like that idea.

But then I watch advertisement after advertisement on NBC’s coverage from political candidates saying that the other person is the source of all evil. Mitt Romney, it appears, wants to buy your business, sell it off to Iran and marry your daughters. Barack Obama, on the other hand, wants to take every cent you have out of your bank account to give to a homeless guy.  And he might eat a baby or two in the process.*

Nevada has a very contentious Senate race between incumbent Dean Heller and Congresswoman Shelly Berkley. Heller, it seems, wants to end Medicare and Berkley’s only interest in government is supporting an industry that her husband is part of.

NBC has the choice to reject political advertising during the games. But a large piece of the advertising revenue pie for networks is during major political cycles. While I would like to see NBC show an altruistic nature and turn away political advertising during the games, I understand that money pays the bills. But that doesn’t mean I like it.

Why, during a time when our nation and the world around us come together to celebrate the human spirit, sportsmanship and good citizenship, do our candidates insist on creating division? I want to enjoy the games and all of the joy and drama that go with them. Frankly, for two weeks this summer, I don’t care about politics. There’s plenty of time left for all candidates to make their case. Please leave my soccer games, diving competitions and gymnastics alone. The Olympics are civil. Spewing political venom in commercials during the Olympics demonstrates just how much contempt politicians have for the games and our desire to celebrate humanity.

And I think if political candidates agreed to not advertise during the Olympics, they would give the people a shining example of citizenship.

Copyright 2012 Paul George

* I may be exaggerating a little, but just a little.