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August 2005

Jacob Zimmer's Account of Fleeing New Orleans

I've edited Jacob's e-mail a bit, but here is his account of fleeing Katrina:

On Sunday as the mayor of New Orleans was declaring MANDATORY EVACUATION, I was struggling to decide whether I should put my valuables on the second floor of my two-story rented house (because it might flood) or on the first floor (in case the roof gets blown off my home). Allow me to take you inside my decision making process:

In this situation, one has to be emotionally prepared to let go of their electronics, furniture, clothes and so on. What the heck, the furniture isn't paid off anyway and I have insurance, right? But my collection of Star Wars posters and toys, my Hawaiian shirt collection - I can't pack all that. What about nice clothes? I mean, should I pack my suit in case someone I know dies in the hurricane? Because then I'll need something to wear to the funeral. These are the kind of thoughts that were going through my head.

Everyone says about your valuables: "They are just material items, the important thing is to get yourself out alive." Call me sentimental and nostalgic, but as I was sorting through photo albums, home videos, journals, love letters (yes, I keep those), autographed books, school annuals, my publications, and such, it was hard to decide which ones I wanted to pack in the car to take with me and which personal valuables I was prepared to let fly or float away (like the women who wrote me those letters).

The wind knocked the heavy rain against the glass windows and blew through the cracks in the house making that scary whistling sound. In a few more hours those cracks could turn into holes, the windows could be blown in and the walls could even be blown over. OK, that's being melodramatic - I?m sure the brick walls will stand. So I packed a few things I needed to survive in suitcases and all my other valuables I boxed up and put in the upstairs closet.

As I was packing the car, I realized that I had some space leftover so I went back upstairs to the closet, ripped open the boxes and very quickly decided which items to take with me. I know I got some photo albums, but not all of them. I know I got some publications I have my work in. I pretty much left all photos, journals and any papers from college and high school. I was too rushed to take a careful inventory. I know I left all the videos we made from my years on the road.

In my rush out the door, my dog slipped out and ran off. As I chased her down the road, she ran further away. I wasn't in the mood for this. I started thinking to myself and asked: "If I leave without her, did I pack a photo of her to remember her by?" Running around in the rain chasing a runaway dog is not how I like to start a road trip. So I drove off and left her.

I was hungry. I needed food. All the stores were closed. The gas stations were closed. I had a few videos to return to Blockbuster but they had the whole store boarded up - they didn?t even cut out a slot in the plywood for the return box. Good thing they got rid of late fees because I am going to hold on to these DVDs for a while. I made it to the bank and withdrew the last bit of cash I had from the ATM. I have a few paychecks on the way, but without a mailbox to put them in I don't know when or how I will get them.

So yeah, I decided to go back for the dog. When I arrived back at my house she was sitting in the front yard. The rain was pouring and the wind was blowing so hard I could barely open the car door. Ya know that scene in the movie Independence Day where the tunnel is filling up with a fireball and the boy yells for his dog and at the last minute the brave canine jumps out of the tunnel and narrowly escapes the fireball? Well, I called for my dog and she ran away again. This time I chased her down, grabbed her and threw her in the car. We hit the road.

The nice thing about waiting until the last minute to leave is that when they institute a mandatory evacuation prior to a city wide curfew at 6 pm, at 5:59 there is no traffic. New Orleans was a ghost town. The only cars on the road were me and cops - and on the raised highways were parked cars in the emergency lane. I guess people figured it was better to leave them on high ground than underwater.
My mother had invited me to visit her and my brother this coming Labor Day weekend and so I decided to go on up to my hometown of Louisville, KY for the whole week. While the city of New Orleans was empty, the interstates leaving town were not. The first 100 miles took over 5 hours. Counting traffic and a few naps along the way, I spent 22 hours in the car with a smelly, wet dog. Yeah, I made it here safely and I am alive, yada, yada, yada.

I saw a photo online of a house in my neighborhood/zip-code that had not only its roof blown off, but the brick walls were knocked over. That picture really scares me. That is probably what my house looks like.

I am a little behind on my car payment and this morning I got a call from Chrysler Financial asking me to make a payment by phone. In the process she asked me to confirm my address. I replied: "You realize I live in New Orleans, right? Have you seen the news? Yes, 1541 Hanging Moss Lane, Gretna, LA 70056 is my address but I don't know if I have a house there anymore. Why don't you send the tow truck to repossess my car and when they get there, call me and tell me if my house is still standing. In the meantime, all I have is this car that I haven't finished paying for yet so if you want to take it away too, good luck finding me cause it's not parked in the driveway."


Educat's Book Meme

I'm late getting to this, but I'm getting to it nonetheless.

1. Number of books you have owned: I actually did keep track when I was a teenager. Sometime in high school I passed the 1,000 mark. That was before inheriting my pastor emeritus entire library, college books, grad school books/philosophy collection, my own developing pastoral library, and every other book I've purchased or been given as an adult. In Dallas and Fville it was enough books to fill two offices at work (I had two offices in both churches) and my study at home, with books still piled all over the place. I have no earthly idea how many books I own. I do sort through and cull books every time I move, especially some of the really old stuff I've been given by church folk over the years and know that I'll never use.

2. The last book I bought: Actually, the last set of books I bought was a number of hymnals for myself and my music minister to assist with worship planning. Before that I bought my summer reading -- Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies, David Sedaris' Me Talk Pretty One Day, and Ian McEwan's Atonement.

3. The last book I completed: The David Sedaris. I enjoyed parts of it, but it didn't live up to the idea of it I had in my head before reading it. He's more funny on the radio.

4. Five books that mean a lot to me: Yikes. This seems really difficult. I'll take a stab at it.

* The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. Clearly these books mean more to me than any other. I first read them in sixth grade and have re-read them many times since. They have shaped my image of Jesus and of heaven and pretty much every theological concept. Narnia is where I go when I meditate. I've written and preached and taught about them often.

* Tragic Vision and Divine Compassion: A Contemporary Theodicy by Wendy Farley. I was doing a lot of thinking about the Problem of Evil when I was an undergrad. We read this book as part of my Evil and Suffering class (which was a GREAT class). I thought it did a better job of dealing with the issue than anything else I'd read. Learning how to respond to this issue helped me over my intellectual bumps and got me to the place where I was able to continue with the church. Farley also planted some seeds that developed later, because she was proposing "redemptive" approaches to justice, punishment, politics, etc. I kept wondering what such things might look like and later read the theologians that could answer that for me.

* Ethics: Systematic Theology Volume One by James McClendon. Though I have recently raised some concerns about McClendon's project based upon volume three, I can't minimize how important volume one has been in shaping me as a person. Not only has it significantly changed my theological thinking, its teaching on sexual ethics was foundational in helping me finally come to terms with my own sexuality.

* White Noise by Don DeLillo. We read this book in honors English my freshman year first semester in Joe Hall's class. It opened my mind to begin thinking in new ways.

* Like Jennifer, I can't pick only one more to be the fifth, so I'll list a few that tie, but, unlike Jennifer, will give some comment:

-- What I Believe by Jacques Ellul -- Upon finishing I finally decided to become a universalist.

-- Resident Aliens by Stanley Hauerwas -- an early influence on how I think about theology and how I approach ministry, yet a book that continues to influence me.

-- In the End, the Beginning -- The Life of Hope by Jurgen Moltmann -- Helped me survive 2004.

-- Prayer by Richard Foster -- transformed how I pray. Actually, made me able to pray again.

-- God of the Oppressed by James Cone -- gave me new ways to approach old issues.

-- Whitehead's Metaphysics by Ivor LeClerc -- gave me the conceptual categories that I needed in order to complete the dissertation.

-- Supervenience and Mind by Jaegwon Kim -- the best book on philosophy of mind from the analytic perspective (at least when I was writing), though the analytic perspective is wrong. This book was the subject of my critique in my dissertation.

What We're Packing

What We’re Packing
Matthew 16:21-28
by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones
Cathedral of Hope – Oklahoma City
28 August 2005

Two weeks ago Christa and I went to see the rock band Green Day in their performance here in Oklahoma City. It is funny that they should come to town just now, because I was planning for some time to use one of their songs during this sermon series. Last year Green Day released an album entitled American Idiot that is an extended polemic against religious fundamentalism and right wing political ideology. One of the songs on this album is entitled “Jesus of Suburbia.” In it the band criticizes the popular image of Christianity as played out in much contemporary Christian-American culture. It exposes the selfishness of much contemporary spirituality. There is a dark side to this selfishness. It appears that maybe not all the individual’s needs are being met; that they sense an emptiness in what they’ve been taught. The song begins:

I'm the son of rage and love
The Jesus of suburbia
From the bible of none of the above
On a steady diet of soda pop and Ritalin
No one ever died for my sins in hell
As far as I can tell
At least the ones I got away with

And it continues:

Get my television fix sitting on my crucifix
The living room or my private womb
While the moms and brads are away
To fall in love and fall in debt
To alcohol and cigarettes and Mary Jane
To keep me insane and doing someone else's cocaine

The chorus of the first part of the song goes:

And there's nothing wrong with me
This is how I'm supposed to be
In a land of make believe
That don't believe in me

Despite the character saying that there is nothing wrong, they seem to feel that there is, in fact, much that is wrong. The second movement of the song says,

City of the dead
At the end of another lost highway
Signs misleading to nowhere
City of the damned
Lost children with dirty faces today
No one really seems to care

In this city of the dead, you read “the holy scriptures of a shopping mall” and don’t care if others don’t care because we are all

Born and raised by hypocrites
Hearts recycled but never saved
From the cradle to the grave
We are the kids of war and peace
From Anaheim to the middle east
We are the stories and disciples
Of the Jesus of suburbia
Land of make believe
And it don't believe in me
Land of make believe
And I don't believe
And I don't care!

But, then, just when you think that maybe the song really doesn’t care:

Dearly beloved are you listening?
I can't remember a word that you were saying
Are we demented or am I disturbed?

So, the author runs away

To find what you believe
And I leave behind
This hurricane of . . . lies
I lost my faith to this
This town that don't exist

Eventually the album acknowledges that “the Jesus of Suburbia is a lie.”

As Stanley Hauerwas said, “. . . we are tempted to lose the power of Jesus’ story because we have so conventionalized it.” This may not be exactly the point that the rock band Green Day had in mind, but it is how this song speaks to me. It does seem that in contemporary American life, we have created a “Jesus of Suburbia” who is very different from “Jesus of Nazareth.” This new Jesus ends up looking and acting and believing a lot like us, no matter who us is. The loudest voices now are from the American political and religious right. They seem to have created a Jesus that advocates for war, hates gays and lesbians, denies equality to women, is into conspicuous consumption, and supports Republicans. But, then, the American political and religious left ends up creating a Jesus that looks a lot like them and believes and acts the way they do. Too often this can become a Jesus who expects or demands nothing but leaves us comfortable to live however we like.

Yet neither Jesus, or many of the contemporary competing images, is the Jesus Christ revealed in scripture. These Jesus’ we create do end up being empty, just like the song says. They are created to meet our needs, but ultimately end up failing us. So, we are left with a lack of faith – we don’t believe anything anymore, and we really don’t care.

Last week I talked about the church being on the offensive. I said that this was Jesus giving us directions for the journey ahead. We are to assault the forces that would separate humanity from God and God’s will for the creation. But we are not to go about this task in the way that the world would normally go about it. Yes, Jesus was the Messiah, the anointed one, the long-awaited instrument of God’s justice who would initiate God’s kingdom. However, Jesus had a novel understanding of what it meant to be the Messiah. Yes, he was the leader of a movement, but it wasn’t a military movement, nor was it a political movement in the way we normally understand politics. Jesus was forming a new way to do human community, a way based upon the cross.

In Matthew Peter confesses that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God. Upon this occasion Jesus establishes the church and then begins the journey to Jerusalem, where he will die and rise again. Along this journey he begins to teach the disciples what it really means to be the Messiah and exactly what this Jesus movement is all about. In doing so, he tells them what it means to be the church.

The gospel tells us,

From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

But Peter, Peter who just made this grand confession of who Jesus was, reveals that he really doesn’t understand. Peter is shocked by what Jesus is saying and rebukes him. If we are honest with ourselves, we react the same as Peter. On the face of it, we’d rather be a part of a movement that says being a Christian will make life easier. It may even lead to success and prosperity if you follow these simple steps. In fact, much of contemporary Christianity says just this. And the churches that practice it often grow to the size that they can meet in sports arenas.

But the path of Christian discipleship isn’t the path of ease and prosperity. In fact, when Peter rebukes Jesus, Jesus turns and says, “Get behind me, Satan!” Why? Because Peter has misunderstood what Jesus is teaching. Peter is advocating for the normal, human way of doing things, not God’s way. In so doing, Peter who was the rock on which the church is to be built now becomes a stone, a stumbling block that could trip Jesus up. It is a stunning rebuke of Peter, and it should serve as a stunning rebuke for us when we want to make Christianity comfortable.

Two weeks ago I used images from The Lord of the Rings to illustrate the Christian journey. One reason I did that is because that story conveys an essential point. The members of the fellowship don’t have it easy. Their quest takes them through perils and dangers. Their tasks become great burdens that they must bear.

If you’ve ever been hiking, then you can make a similar analogy. Last year I went hiking along part of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia. I took the college students from my previous church. The point of the trip was to illustrate, vividly, the idea of the Christian life as a journey. One thing you quickly realize about such a hiking trip is that the majority of individual moments are pretty miserable. The pack weighs heavily upon you, your feet hurt, you’re thirsty or hungry, you don’t get good sleep, you get rained on, you get lost, etc. But then you come to the top of a mountain and get this amazing view. Or you turn a corner and see a spectacular waterfall. Or you pause along the trail and notice a spider’s web of intricate beauty. Or you sit around the campfire at night and share stories and laughs with close friends. But you can only get to those places and those moments by enduring all the difficulties of the hike. At the end, you view the total experience as wonderful, despite the fact that very few of the individual moments were wonderful.

I’m not saying that the Christian life is miserable. I’m just saying that we most often make the mistake of viewing it as something easy that is intended to meet all of our needs.

Nor am I saying that because the Christian life has difficulties that those difficulties are our cross to bear. Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder warns against this thinking:

The cross of Calvary was not a difficult family situation, not a frustration of visions of personal fulfillment, a crushing debt, or a nagging in-law; it was the political, legally-to-be-expected result of a moral clash with the powers ruling his society.

Jesus rebukes Peter for thinking that the Christian life doesn’t entail suffering; he then goes on to explain further what is expected of those who will be his disciples:

If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

Jesus is not saying simply that the Christian life will be difficult, that it is other than a prosperity gospel. He is saying that the journey Christians must take is the same journey he is taking, the journey of the cross. The cross is the very essence of what it means to be a Christian. In fact, it is not something that happens to us; it is something that we choose. Yoder emphasizes this point:

The cross of Christ was not an inexplicable or chance event, which happened to strike him, like illness or accident. To accept the cross as his destiny, to move toward it and even to provoke it, when he could well have done otherwise, was Jesus’ constantly reiterated free choice. He warns his disciples lest their embarking on the same path be less conscious of its costs.

Once again I must make a warning. Too often the oppressed whether a racial minority, women, or GLBT folk have been told that they should suffer as part of their Christian discipleship, that this is their “cross to bear.” That too is a misreading of this passage. The entire movement of scripture, from God’s covenant with Hagar through the Exodus and the words of the prophet to Jesus’ inclusive way of life, reveals that liberation of the oppressed is key theme.
So, let’s summarize quickly what I am saying and what I am not saying:
• The Christian life is not simple and easy. It is not a matter of getting all our needs and desires filled. It is not about success and prosperity.
• The way of the cross is not whatever burden we bear or difficulty we encounter.
• The way of the cross is not enduring oppression because of our status in some oppressed group.

What is the way of the cross then? Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon word it this way:

The cross is not a sign of the church’s quiet, suffering submission to the powers-that-be, but rather the church’s revolutionary participation in the victory of Christ over those powers.

I said last week that the directions Jesus gave to the church were that the gates of hell should not prevail against them – that the church was to be on the offensive against all the powers that would separate creation from God and God’s will for humankind. The way that we do that is by living the life of the cross. It is not that there is a list of five steps to take or ten actions to perform; it is a way of life.

What is that way of life? First, it is the way of life that says that much of the normal human way of living is corrupted. That we humans are bad at forming community. That we are violent and sinful. That we create systems that oppress each other. That we are greedy and selfish. Second, it says that there is another way to live. A way of both justice and mercy. A way filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. A way of living where we have genuine human community where all are included and all are equal.

But the most important thing that the way of the cross says is the third thing. It says that the normal way of doing things has been defeated. It might not look like it right now, but it has. It has been defeated because God’s reign is breaking into the world. God’s reign has begun, is still coming, and will one day come in its full glory. And we know this to be true because Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose again.

So how do we who are assembled here live the way of the cross? We learn to sacrifice our own selfishness in order to love other people. We welcome everyone, even people different from us. We forgive each other. We create a place where we can trust one another. We are generous with each other. We are hospitable to strangers. We seek justice in the world around us. And we live as people of peace – with each other and with the larger world.

It is going out of your way to visit someone in the hospital and genuinely care for their needs. It is taking the time to pray. It is saying “I’m sorry.” And it means being willing to stand up for justice and peace against the powers-that-be.

The church is a radical community of people who are in the process of being transformed into the image of Christ. By its very nature the church is a political thing. If we are faithful at living the way Christ has called us to live, then we will be a people who encounter opposition, because those who benefit from the status quo, just like those who benefited from the status quo in first century Judea, do not want to hear that God’s reign has begun. So Jesus warns would be disciples that to live the Christian life means that you will encounter opposition and persecution. And you might even suffer the same fate Jesus did.

There is a group of moderate and progressive Baptist churches in Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas that gather every January for a Mid-Winter Youth Retreat on Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend. I’ve participated in the event five different years from three different churches. This last year our theme was “If this is how we shall live, this is how we must live.” Maybe you’ve seen me wearing the t-shirt? It is brown and on the front has the image from the Book of Revelation of the slaughtered, yet standing lamb. On the back is that saying, “If this is how we shall live, this is how we must live.” What that saying means is that we Christians look forward in hope to a time when we will live in the kingdom of God. We believe that at that time we will live differently than we do now. There won’t be any war or crime or violence or hatred. Nothing bad. We will all live in harmony with one another. The point of the phrase “If this is how we shall live, this is how we must live,” is to say, if that is how we are supposed to live when God reigns, then that is how we are supposed to live now because we Christians believe that God’s reign has begun. It is not a matter of which way of living is the most effective or the most practical. We aren’t called to be effective or practical; we are called to be faithful. Thus, however we will live once God’s reign has come in its fulfillment; that’s how we should be living now.

We come here to worship every week. We come to be renewed. We come for fellowship. We come to learn. Some of us even come because we enjoy singing hymns. Maybe you come for the food.

But, on a theological level, why do we come? We come in order to be shaped into God’s people. Everything we do – read scripture, sing hymns, pray, receive communion, preach, etc. – all of that is intended to help shape us into God’s people. Every week we perform the sacrament of communion. Tonight we have also performed the sacrament of baptism. The reason that the Christian church has long elevated these two rituals above all other rituals is because more than anything else they stand as symbols for living the life of the cross. Maybe Stanley Hauerwas puts it best:

The sacraments enact the story of Jesus and, thus, form a community in his image. We could not be the church without them. For the story of Jesus is not simply one that is told; it must be enacted. The sacraments are means crucial to shaping and preparing us to tell and hear that story. Thus baptism is that rite of initiation necessary for us to become part of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Through baptism we do not simply learn the story, but we become part of that story. The eucharist is the eschatological meal of God’s continuing presence that makes possible a peaceable people. At the meal we become part of Christ’s kingdom, as we know there that death could not contain him. His presence, his peace is a living reality in the world. As his people we become part of his sacrifice, God’s sacrifice, so that the world might be saved from sin and death.

We are travelers on a journey together. A journey of boldly proclaiming God’s good news to the world. A journey that requires us here and now to live God’s way.

The #1 Foreign Policy Issue

Again the brilliant Fareed Zakaria. He argues that our #1 foreign policy issue is, in fact, our domestic energy policy. Excerpts:

I could go on, from Central Asia to Nigeria. In almost every region, efforts to produce a more stable, peaceful and open world order are being compromised and complicated by high oil prices. And while America spends enormous time, money and effort dealing with the symptoms of this problem, we are actively fueling the cause.


We don't need a Manhattan Project to find our way out of our current energy trap. The technologies already exist. But what we're searching for is perhaps even harder—political leadership and vision.

Library Books

Back just before I moved a furor erupted (fanned by one freshman state legislator) to get "gay-themed" children's books moved out the children's sections of the public libraries. The library commission had repeatedly debated the issue at full public meetings. One of the members of the commission actually (fortunately) happens to be the only openly gay elected official in the state, County Commissioner Jim Roth. Two months ago the commission requested that the library staff and administration study the feasibility of creating a special section for controversial books on a number of topics.

Today the commission met to discuss the report. The staff and administration said that creating a special section was not highly feasible. They listed a number of concerns. They also listed a number of requirements that any decision by the commission would need to meet -- basically the staff/administration wanted a clear standard set by the commission. The main concern of the staff was that there didn't seem to be any clear sense of where to draw the line. The even provided the commission with a multi-page list of books that have received complaints or have been deemed controversial in some way. They asked the commission where the line was to be drawn? Books on the list included The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Huck Finn, The Last of the Mohicans, and many religious books (that had received complaints from non-practitioners of those religions). The staff/administration kept saying that they are a public library and have to represent the entire public and not just the majority.

I don't think many of the commissioners had read the report. They kept going on and on about issue after issue addressed in the report. And they seemed pretty ignorant of basic library science. They kept getting confused by the distinctions between section (adult, juvenile, reference), special collection (geneaology, Oklahoma interest), and subject (Dewey decimal or Library of Congress subject headings). They kept going on and on about the "Tulsa model," though the report stated how the Tulsa model wouldn't work for us or even address the issue at hand.

During the public address time, we each got only 10 seconds. Many of the conservatives had clearly worked together. They had gone into the library, even to the adult and juvenile sections, and pulled out books with graphic sexual content and read such things into the record. We found it funny that they seemed to intent on reading pornographic material into the public record, not us. But they were also not addressing the original issue of their complaint. It also became clear that they simply want the books gone, and a large number of other books from the adult section as well. I thought someone needed to get up and read one of the Bible's brutal rape scenes and, thus, disqualify it from appearing in the library (according to the conservatives standards). One accusation of one guy was that a book discussed how the ancient Greeks had accepted same sex relationships. Wow! If that's a standard for disqualification, then we'd loose Plato and Homer. Could it even be called a library if some of the founding documents of Western Civilization were removed? But I digress.

What did the commission decide? Unfortunately, they didn't take the easy way out and accept the staff/administration's report and leave well enough alone. Only one of them had the courage of her bigotry to actually state that all she was interested in was keeping gay books away from kids. The rest tried to use bureaucratic language to achieve the same result and make it look like that really wasn't what they were doing. They wanted to put a positive spin on it. Oh, and one member said that we needed to create a resource area on topics like divorce, sexuality, physical handicap, blended families, etc. so that "normal" people could go read up on them.

They have now appointed a special committee to create guidelines for a special collection to contain "controversial" books. No kidding. That phrase was the only criteria given. Controversial was defined as not meeting "community standards." That wasn't defined. The library administration and staff kept saying that this was not enough, that they couldn't go by this vague request. The commission said that they trusted their judgement. What?! If you trusted their judgement on where to place a book, we wouldn't be having this conversation. Plus, you asked for their judgement and they gave it in a lenghty report lying in front of you, and you are dismissing it!

The books are to remain in the children's section but be placed in a special "parenting, or other suitable name" section. Someone suggested naming it "Controversial Books" so that every kid would rush to read them. But in order to inhibit access to kids, they want them placed up high. Twice library staff tried to inform the commission that in the children's section, all the shelving is on children's level. But the commission didn't seem to hear it. When the staff said that thousands of books met the vague criteria, the commissioner making the motion said, "Oh, I think it will be less than one hundred." This was the same guy who REPEATEDLY said he trusted the judgement of the library staff.

The resolution passed 10-7.

One reporter asked me if this settled the issue. I said it had opened Pandora's Box because now we'd end up battling out in front of the commission all these individual books and whether or not they were controversial. I'm sure that complaints will now pour in.

And there were already procedures for handling all of this! Including that parents can block their kids from checking out books from certain sections and even specific books!

What puzzles me is are these conservatives really dropping their kids off at the library unsupervised and then not looking at what they check out? Of course not! A parent doing his or her job alleviates this whole situation.

As I left one library staff person thanked me for being there and speaking. She said, "Intellectual freedom issues aside, what they are asking is physically impossible. We can't do it."

That didn't seem to matter to the commission.

Complex Issues

You know, I get annoyed at the simplification of this war and the many issues involved. There aren't simply two sides. For example, on the issue of when to bring the troops home; there are at least four major positions:

1) Against the war, bring the troops home as fast as you can.
2) Against the war, once we've messed the country up, we have a duty to put it back together, so keep the troops there.
3) For the war, but bring the troops home quick (especially reflected in conservatives who don't believe in "nation-building;" was originally Donald Rumsfeld's position).
4) For the war, but leave the troops as long as necessary to finish the job (differing opinions on what qualifies as "as long as necessary" and what the job to finish is).

What also is not accounted for is a developing position over time. Even the administration's positions have developed. A position you might have had two years ago might not be your position now. And, if you could go back in time, you might not have the same position as you did then.

As I was walking this morning I began to think of the variety of issues involved the last few years. Here's just a sampling. And how you answer one question does not necessarily determine how you answer another:

1) In principle do you oppose or support a war in Iraq?
2) Do you think the timing is right or wrong, or should we complete the job in Afghanistan first?
3) Do you accept the administration's arguments about weapons of mass destruction justifying war?
4) Should we go through the procedures of the United Nations?
5) Do you accept the reports of the weapons inspectors?
6) Do you believe that Iraq is a threat to the United States?
7) Do you believe that Iraq has ties to al-Qaeda?
8) Should we pressure Saudi Arabia or Turkey into accepting our troops prior to an invasion?
9) Should we be doing more to build a broad international coalition?
10) Do the French have a point or are they simply being French?
11) How many troops should we use?
12) Should we allow Turkish troops be be involved in an invasion?
13) What should be the status of the Kurds?
14) Are we prepared for Saddam to use WMD during the war?
15) What happens if Saddam creates an ecological disaster?
16) What happens if Saddam does have a nuclear weapon and uses it?
17) Who should handle the reconstruction -- State or Defense?

And all of those were questions before the war even began, much less how you fall on some of these big questions that came up in succeeding years:

18) Did the administration knowingly falsify their justification for war?
19) What about the intelligence failure on WMD?
20) Did the administration really believe that "major combat operations" were over?
21) Why wasn't the administration prepared for the insurgency?
22) What about Abu Ghraib?
23) Did the administration break the law and leak information about a confidential agent?
24) How should we handle al-Sistani?
25) Who should govern in the interim?
26) Should we have disbanded the army?
27) Should we be seeing the coffins returned to the US?
28) Should the President go to a military funeral?
29) Should there be a timetable for troop withdrawl?
30) How should we respond to evidence that prior to 9/11 the administration was discussing war with Iraq?

Etc., etc., etc.

For or against the war? That question isn't complex enough.