Sunday, May 25, 2008

Post No. 10:How Rev. John Hagee’s Comments Reminded Me of Better Times (The Perils of Being an Information Junkie)

© 2008, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

John Hagee – interesting guy. However, before I address the controversy surrounding his recent comments (and being politically incorrect might be a good thing), I must reveal a character flaw, with which I have wrestled all of my life. In fact, my Mother, a junior high school teacher and former librarian, is responsible for my condition. You see, I’m an information junkie. It is absolutely essential that I receive new information all throughout the day. My Mother contributed to my affliction in that she actively encouraged me to read anything and everything.

You wouldn’t believe some of the things that I have read. The identity of the writer does not matter. The message does not matter. Offensive materials? Sure, I’ll read them. I am always fascinated with how everyone with whom I come into contact has a position, and a point of view, with respect to virtually every written publication. If I mention a particular book, paper, author, or website, they immediately launch into why they admire or hate the work. Just the mere mention of a work evokes all sorts of emotions, and by simply mentioning it, people naturally assume that I found the work compelling and agree with the content. It appears that similar principles also apply to the spoken word.

In the late fall of 1977, I was watching an episode of 60 Minutes. Someone mentioned that virtually all people could be “defined” or perhaps more accurately, “consumed,” by one of three words, those being identity, stimulation, and security. For some of us, finding ourselves consumes us. For others, nothing is more important than a sense of security. And there are those who seek constant stimulation.

I wrote them down at the time in the front of my Day-Timer, and was therefore forced to revisit the concept on a daily basis for years. Of course, I asked myself repeatedly whether any of the categories applied to me. At least from my perspective, identity and security were of no interest to me. I entertained the possibility that stimulation was applicable to me, and yet I repeatedly dismissed the notion. You tell me.

Some people like music, and others visual images. Me? Give me radio. I love the auditory. Give me Gunsmoke or The Lone Ranger on radio, and I’m in heaven. I learned the game of hockey while attending the University of Michigan, by listening to the radio broadcasts on Saturday nights, just before I went out. Radio commercials occupy a special place in my heart. Even when the Lakers were in the playoffs, those many years, on their way to world championships, I preferred to listen to Chick Hearn do the simult-cast on the radio. For some reason, the spoken word gets my attention. I’m more engaged, and the message is more effectively communicated, from my perspective.

My favorite radio stations of all time? KFWB and KNX-FM, both of which are twenty-four hour, all news stations operating in Los Angeles, with the occasional exception of a radio drama and a game. I woke up to one or the other of the two stations for almost thirty years, and went to sleep the same way. Quiet at bedtime just never worked for me.

What I’ve figured out is that I’m basically an observer, and a loner, who loves to be in a crowd. Interestingly, because of some aspects of my personality, perhaps my unending curiosity and tolerance, I always had lots of folks around me during the day time. But radio time was my time. My time to reflect. Have to drive for four or five hours? Nothing better than a news station. “All news, all the time. You give us twenty-two minutes; we’ll give you the world.”

Now that I am no longer in Los Angeles on a regular basis, there is probably nothing that I miss more about the city than those radio stations. Talk radio is just not the same. Too many opinions and too much spin. Too many personal agendas. Too much anger and tension. But news, coming at you in a steady stream, takes one to a different place.

It forces one to ultimately process and focus. But while it’s coming at you, it forces you to simply absorb. You don’t’ encounter opinions or attitudes which turn you off, causing you to turn off the stream of information. I can’t imagine anything worse in life than tuning out. Isn’t that one of the benefits of higher intelligence, our ability to think for ourselves?

I’ll even admit that news took precedence over, and complicated my relationships with, most of my girlfriends. In fact, if a woman was able to distract me away from the news, it was probably an indication that she was not long for the relationship.

First thing in the morning, I wanted to hear the news. None of that hugging and cuddling stuff. Same thing at night. In fact, I never wanted to be at home until just before I retired. Walk in, brush my teeth, wash my face, and turn on the news station. Don’t cut off my circulation; don’t mention the concept of spooning, and keep the decibel level down so that we can hear the news. Obviously, I had to have some pretty good-natured gals in my life, who also loved the news, or rather information.

So here I’m traveling in the car the other night, and I hear that presidential candidate John McCain has finally severed his “ties” to the good Rev. John Hagee. This guy is interesting, and requires a little introduction. Rev. Hagee is the Founder and Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas. The church has 19,000 active members. No, that not a typo, 19,000. He is also the CEO of a non-profit corporation, GETV (Global Evangelism Television), which disseminates his message around the world. He has power with a capital “P.”

Candidate McCain, out of concern that he was not the favored candidate amongst religious conservatives, actively sought the endorsement of Rev. Hagee. This is a guy who, after Hurricane Katrina, interpreted it as an Act of God, designed to punish the people of New Orleans, for committing a “level of sin offensive to God.” That was before the current presidential race. Several weeks ago, McCain had to somewhat distance himself from his endorser, when it was revealed that Rev. Hagee had referred to the Catholic Church as the “Great Whore.” However, the axe did not fall.

So I’m driving down the street listening to this talk radio station, and the news segment comes on. This is the closest thing to “all news all the time” that I can get in the Southeast, and I hear this story. McCain had to formally, and completely, sever his connection to Rev. Hagee.

Why? Because the good Reverend, during a series of sermons in the 1990s, indicated that God sent Hitler to Europe and orchestrated the Holocaust, to force the Jews to return to the Holy Land. (In fairness, it should be noted that Rev. Hagee is pro-Israel, and that is one of the factors that motivated McCain to seek his endorsement. If you want to understand the reason for his statement, and how the return of the Jews to Israel purportedly benefits humankind, I would suggest that you conduct a little research on your own. I just want you to appreciate that a simplistic conclusion, that Rev. Hagee is a racist, may not be particularly appropriate in this instance. It goes deeper than that. After all, we should always dig deeper.)

Actually, upon hearing this, the first thing that came to mind was not revulsion, condemnation, or surprise, but rather the pleasant memories of my old news radio stations. I recalled how I could experience any emotion, travel to any place, go anywhere intellectually, when I was engaged with the radio broadcast.

There’s something about that constant stream of information that just works for me. (Of course, there is spin associated with all media, and someone obviously selected the topics to be covered. However, it is about as close as one can get to pure information in the media. ) What I later realized is that I was simply storing information on my cranial hard drive, and not processing it until much later, when I then compared certain bits of information to others.

So here I’m listening to this Holocaust story, and because it was only a five minute news segment, I had the opportunity to gradually process the story shortly thereafter. The first thing that I did was to start chuckling, somewhat out of disbelief. The quasi-chuckle went on for about five minutes, then ten, and then twenty.

Plus, I kept remembering how I found myself over the years listening to hard news, with the same reaction. So now I’m saying to myself, this guy Rev. Hagee is wild; but he at least says what he actually feels. In my view, this was not a slip of the tongue. This was a carefully thought out position. I was also convinced, after a few minutes, that he really believes this, and that it represents truth for him, and perhaps many others.

So here I am reliving the joys of radio consumption, when I had the steady stream of news pumped into my brain, and I could always find out instantly what was going on in the world. There was a bit of nostalgia. Then something else came to mind. I recalled one of the first books that I ever read that most folks might deem “offensive.” It was a book written in the 1950’s by a southern segregationist, explaining why Negroes should be subject to Jim Crow laws.

I recalled reading it with as much relish as Don Quixote. (Well, may be not quite.) Remember, my Mom taught me to read everything. The value judgments came much later.

It always amazed me that black folks would choose to remain in the South and be subject to discrimination, even after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, in discussions with many of my black friends, they said that they would rather know that someone was a racist, than live amongst people who called themselves progressives, or functioned with all of the trappings, but really were just closet racists.

In processing Rev. Hagee’s comments, I immediately asked myself, “Why should he have to explain or apologize for such a statement? “ This, once again, was not a slip. It is pretty clear that he feels that way, and I am absolutely certain that there are thousands, if not millions, who feel similarly. That’s when the concept of political correctness came to mind. (One of my buddies simply called him an “idiot,” although he did not consider Rev. Jeremiah Wright to be of the same “lodge.”)

Over the years, I heard various friends of mine complain about political correctness, but I really hadn’t given it much thought. Being a lawyer, I realized that the law prohibited certain types of conduct in certain situations and that part of the whole political correctness concept was derivatively related to some of our social engineering goals. I also recognized the possibility that we, as a society, might not want our children exposed to certain language or symbols. However, in the grand scheme of things, it just never seemed to me to be that important that someone address me a particular way, or refrain from using certain words. (I have sometimes wondered whether we spend so much time and energy fighting the symbolic battles, because of our insecurities, as a society, about our ability to really wage battle on the real, substantive issues.)

I also did not quite get it when some of my friends also spoke of political correctness as potentially bringing on the death of America. Well, in my mind, this seemed a bit much. But as I drove down the street, I began to think about the reverend’s comments and the concept of political correctness. He clearly has a right to make the comments. I learned long ago, through my international travels, that the concept of reality is situational. I also learned that belief systems are what they are – belief systems, and the last time I checked, no one currently serves as the belief police. You couple that with the fact that there are probably millions who agree with Reverend Hagee, and we have a dilemma.

If we agree that we can not regulate the belief or the thought process, then our concerns must lie with the expression and its form. Are we better off simply letting people speak their minds, and letting the chips fall as they may? Who gets to say what’s too far? Who gets to say what is appropriate? Who can prove that Hagee’s comments aren’t true? Aren’t we better off knowing what people really feel? Aren’t we more likely to be able to effectively “deal” with them? Isn’t there a value to transparency, instead of hiding behind a mask or a robe? Doesn’t the truth set you free?

As a buddy of mine once said, imagery is king in Los Angeles. I often watched buddies of mine try to date actresses, or professional “babes,” and I would remark, “You’re a better man than I.” Wouldn’t you want to know, in dealing with someone with whom you are pursuing an interpersonal relationship, that you’re really dealing with them, and not a script which they were instructed to read, or chose to read to accomplish an objective? Hey, I’ve got a solution. Maybe we should give people a choice. Maybe we should divide our schools, places of employment, governmental offices, and other institutions, into those for individuals desirous of adhering to politically correct principles, and those not. Quite frankly, being politically correct occupies too much of my time, and perhaps that of others. Just seems to me like the time would be better spent on addressing some serious problems, and once we address them to our satisfaction, then we could return to the symbol, word, and image battles.

I don’t know. Once again, I’m confused. It just seems to me that being straightforward and direct can’t be anything but a good thing in the long run. My partner, Laughingman, keeps saying that “doing the right thing is not rocket science.” Maybe being straightforward and direct is what he really means. I guess that’s Rev. Hagee personified. At least you know what you’re dealing with. Quite a few of us are a little tired of the dance.

© 2008, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

1 comment:

  1. Just a quick comment:
    I guess I am an information junkie as well. Like you I have read many view points, liberal and conservative since our world changed in 2001. One of the books I read was the Rev. John Hagee’s “Jerusalem Countdown”. While I don’t hold to his views, the book will definitely give you the perspective from whence his comments came. He evaluated the potential threat that an Iran Nuclear Club membership would hold for the US, Israel, and Europe.

    His evaluation was significantly influenced by biblical prophecy, as well as from “confidential sources” in Israel and from military experts. He believes that a world war has already begun and the enemy has three main goals:

    1. Drive all westerners out of the Middle East
    2. Exterminate Christians and Jews
    3. Establish a one-world Islamic Government and religion.

    He may be right, he may be wrong. It doesn’t matter it is just his opinion. But as you point out he has significant influence. I would recommend that you read his book and decide for yourself. After all what could a little more information hurt, when the objective of an information junkie is to try to get to the facts!


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