Thursday, October 27, 2005

This Divided State

The week "Fahrenheit 9/11" came out Christy and I went to see it. I was excited actually, because I have always been entertained by Moore’s documentaries. “Roger and Me” is funny, and Christy and I still quote parts of it (at one point Moore visits a Flint citizen who has resorted to raising rabbits as an added source of income…there is a sign in front of the house that says: Rabbits—pets or meat. Now that’s tragic comedy). “The Big One” was interesting, and in the end I liked it better than “Roger and Me.” I haven’t seen any episodes of “The Awful Truth”, but I did watch “Bowling for Columbine.” Anyone who knows me is aware that I enjoy competition rifle shooting. I am a believer in a citizen’s right to keep and bear arms, and believe that it is a natural extension of the inalienable rights spoken of in the Constitution. In Bowling for Columbine, were some cheap shots taken? Yes. Was some of it underhanded? Yes. Was there some manipulation? Yes. Were there a few “stretchers”? Yes. Did I laugh? YES. Was I threatened? No. In fact, I appreciated the film just because Moore was asking some very fascinating questions to his audience, questions to which we still need answers. Why the preoccupation with violence in America? Are gun rights the cause of current gun violence, or is the cause something bigger? What needs to change as a culture and a society in order for us to curb crimes committed with guns, and dare I say crime in general? This isn’t to say that I came to the same conclusions that Moore came to, but I realized where he was coming from and appreciated the questions.

He has an agenda. You’re a fool if you disagree. Is it a bad one? That is up to interpretation. Do I believe that he, in his heart of hearts, is trying to make our country better and assist them in seeing things from another perspective so as to generate some thoughtful debate and careful consideration of stance? Yes.

Now, when Christy and I walked out of Fahrenheit 9/11 we both had sick feelings in our stomachs. One could argue that either the subject matter sickened us, or the way it was presented sickened us. I’d say some of both. I didn’t feel it was an objective look at the Bush Administration, and I really didn’t expect it to be going in. On the other hand it pained me to see our Commander-in-Chief fumble around like a goofball and say some ridiculously callous statements. Through further investigation I learned what was in context, what what was taken out of context, what manipulations were occurring where, editing tricks, and all of the post-production emotional play. Parts of the film angered me and parts I felt were downright disrespectful, yet still other portions of the film I found revealing (in particular the segment on military recruitment).

A year ago when Michael Moore came to Orem, Utah to speak at UVSC the community was in upheaval. I had seen the controversial film, but unlike a few people here I didn’t think he was the Anti-Christ come to pervert the ways of our innocent little community. I didn’t go. I have close friends who did, and enjoyed it. There is a documentary feature that came out recently about the whole controversial visit, made by a former BYU student with liberal politics named Steven Greenstreet. The film is called “This Divided State,” and it is an entertaining look at the fiery sentiments that pervaded the community that week. It is pretty even-handed for the most part (it lacks a chunk of the moderate voice, but admittedly you only have an hour and a half—and seriously, what’s more compelling? Yup. Extremes.), and addresses a few of the issues that I raised in this blog. I enjoyed the film very much, and felt it was a slice of real American pie. It addresses those matters that divide us both as country and state, but personalizes things even more by addressing the political gap that causes disunity in the LDS religion. It unveils the dirty mask of intolerance, and ultimately plays out the disintegration of a relationship between two best friends. Though framed by the Michael Moore visit, love him or hate him, there are bigger things at play in this film, and I recommend it to anyone who might be interested.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A Fond Farewell

Two years ago tomorrow Elliott Smith committed suicide. I never knew him as a person, and I have only two connections with him 1) We share the same birthday—Aug. 6th, and more importantly 2) I am in extreme awe of the music he created. I knew a kid at my previous employer, who found out that I liked Elliott’s music. He approached me and said, “I heard you listen to Elliott Smith.” I replied, “Yes, I do. I love his music.” He then exclaimed “I WORSHIP ELLIOTT SMITH!” I kind of laughed and said something to the effect that “worship” is a word I generally save for someone else, but that I could tell he was passionate about Elliott’s music.

For better or worse Elliott’s music is his legacy. His lyrics were characterized by intensive confessionalism and self scrutiny, and it always came from the heart. His music was so uniquely his own that in a couple of bars you immediately know who it’s coming from. He composed some wonderfully complex stuff and recorded it painstakingly. More so than anything I admire his musicality and his approach.

Elliott had his fair share of problems and disappointments, maybe more, maybe less than the average person. He struggled with anxiety, depression, fame, self-loathing, and drug addiction. He ended his life by stabbing himself in the chest, of all ways, a final symbolic gesture perhaps in stopping his aching heart. It would be really easy to sit back and judge him for the life he led. In Sunday School, growing up, I was taught that because it was unsanctimonious to take the life God gave you, if you committed suicide you would go to hell. Heaven was impossible for the suicidal. But I want to clarify this for anyone out there who may have been taught the same thing.

Be careful about assigning judgment where judgment is the Lord’s only. I do believe in the sanctity of life. I do believe that suicide is a sin, but I want to qualify it with some words of hope. Maybe you know someone personally who has committed suicide and you struggle to know what to make of it. The following are quotations from apostles and prophets of Jesus Christ:

Joseph Smith said, “While one portion of the human race is judging and condemning the other without mercy, the Great Parent of the universe looks upon the whole of the human family with a fatherly care and paternal regard. … He is a wise Lawgiver, and will judge all men, not according to the narrow, contracted notions of men, but, ‘according to the deeds done in the body whether they be good or evil,’ or whether these deeds were done in England, America, Spain, Turkey, or India. … We need not doubt the wisdom and intelligence of the Great Jehovah; He will award judgment or mercy to all nations according to their several deserts, their means of obtaining intelligence, the laws by which they are governed, the facilities afforded them of obtaining correct information, and His inscrutable designs in relation to the human family; and when the designs of God shall be made manifest, and the curtain of futurity be withdrawn, we shall all of us eventually have to confess that the Judge of all the earth has done right.”

Bruce R. McConkie said, “Persons subject to great stresses may lose control of themselves and become mentally clouded to the point that they are no longer accountable for their acts. Such are not to be condemned for taking their own lives. It should also be remembered that judgment is the Lord’s; he knows the thoughts, intents, and abilities of men; and he in his infinite wisdom will make all things right in due course.”

M Russell Ballard said, “I feel that judgment for sin is not always as cut-and-dried as some of us seem to think. The Lord said, “Thou shalt not kill.” Does that mean that every person who kills will be condemned, no matter the circumstances? I feel the Lord recognized differences in intent and circumstances: Was the person who took his life mentally ill? Was he or she so deeply depressed as to be unbalanced or otherwise emotionally disturbed? Was the suicide a tragic, pitiful call for help that went unheeded too long or progressed faster than the victim intended? Did he or she somehow not understand the seriousness of the act? Was he or she suffering from a chemical imbalance in their system that led to despair and a loss of self-control? Obviously, we do not know the full circumstances surrounding every suicide. Only the Lord knows all the details, and he it is who will judge our actions here on earth. When he does judge us, I feel he will take all things into consideration: our genetic and chemical makeup, our mental state, our intellectual capacity, the teachings we have received, the traditions of our fathers, our health, and so forth.”

Alma, the new world prophet said, “The plan of restoration is requisite with the justice of God; for it is requisite that all things should be restored to their proper order. Behold, it is requisite and just, according to the power and resurrection of Christ, that the soul of man should be restored to its body, and that every part of the body should be restored to itself. And it is requisite with the justice of God that men should be judged according to their works; and if their works were good in this life, and the desires of their hearts were good, that they should also, at the last day, be restored unto that which is good.”

I don’t pretend to know the mind of God, or the mind of the people who surround me. I hope that Elliott was living life as good and true as he knew how, and that is up to a loving Father in Heaven to decide, not you and not me. We all operate under a different light and knowledge. But we can all certainly be a little (dare I say a lot?) less judgmental. We can all be more sympathetic. We can all be more forgiving. We can all be more Christ-like.

“What I used to be will pass away, and then you’ll see
That all I want now, is happiness for you and me.”
Elliot Smith Aug. 6, 1969 - Oct. 21, 2003

Thursday, October 13, 2005


That means "made for each other" in bubble-gum talk.

Christy and I are MFEO. There have many instances over the years where one of both of us are doing something completely strange and we glance at each other, shake our heads, and then eye the other with that you're-lucky-we're-MFEO look. Like when I walk into a room softly, so as not to be noticed, and Christy is doing some inventive, freestyle, goofy dance.

Well in light of my last post, Christy was putting out some Halloween decorations yesterday. I was on the couch eating dinner, when I heard her say, "That's weird."

"What?" I asked.

"Oh, this peice of chocolate I found on the couch. It tasted really old."

"What chocolate on the couch?"

She showed me where she found it, feet away from our decorative flip-top pumpkin that we use to hold Halloween candy for trick or treaters. She opened the lid, and sure enough, there were small peices of broken chocolate inside.

"Some must have fallen out."

"You just ate year old Halloween candy."

"We're MFEO."