A friend sent me the following YouTube link.  WARNING:  Parts of the video are offensive, and if you go to YouTube and read the comments, many of them are extremely offensive.  Nonetheless, both are part of the point I want to make.  Since my commentary contains some spoilers, you have to click on the "more" link to read it.

My friend headed the link with "This nation's school system has created a nation of morons."  I couldn't agree more with her statement, but the video does nothing to prove it.  Selective editing can show anything, especially when combined with preconceived notions of what you want to prove.

It's the comments that are truly disturbing.  If the film was no doubt edited to show the stupidest responses, I'm pretty sure the comments are a random sample—though the group of people willing to comment on YouTube is not exactly representative of the world's population.  At least I hope not.  The venomous, virulent disgust and hatred they spew—often in the form of extremely foul language—is more disturbing to me than ignorance, though they display that as well.  Not that I've read all the comments, which numbered over 4000 as of this morning; a hundred or so was all I could stomach.

In A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens proclaimed Ignorance most to be feared, "for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased."  Ignorance of facts about the world is bad enough, but ignorance of other peoples and cultures is appalling, and I find that there's as much ignorance of America in other countries as there is of other countries here.

The only hope I see for either side is more and more cultural exchange programs.  And everyone should read Why the Rest Hates the West, too.

A few comments on the questions and answers:   My first reaction to the challenge of naming a country that begins with "U" was "Uganda."  Most people would say our country begins with "A."  I doubt most of the French, which asked what letter their country's name begins with, would respond, "R" ("Republique francaise").  No matter how official "United States" is, and no matter how frustrating it is to Canadians, Mexicans, and South and Central Americans, "America" is too well entrenched as a name for our country for anyone to expect otherwise.  Though I did think "Yugoslavia" was a cute answer.

I also missed the KFC question, though I maintain that "Utah" as an answer is only partly right.  The first franchise may have been in Utah, but Kentucky really deserves credit as its homeland.

And I totally understand the guy who said Germany was part of the Axis of Evil.  He, perhaps more than anyone, shows that our school system has provided Pope's "a little learning."  He remembers "Axis" vaguely from his studies of World War II, and he knows Germany was our enemy then, so....
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, March 21, 2007 at 8:07 am | Edit
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Or you can substitute "Conservatives" and "Liberals" for a more general application.

This unfair generalization is based on observations I made over thirty years ago, and it still encapsulates much of what I find incomprehensible and wrong about politics.  It frustrates me that those who apparently care little about concerns that are close to my heart (suffering people, the environment, diversity, families, and freedom of choice) tend to promote policies that advance those causes, while those who speak loudly (and often even sincerely) in favor of these good things support actions that are detrimental, often disastrously so.

So when I awoke to a Random Observations post that expresses my concern better than I ever could, I had to share it with you.
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, March 19, 2007 at 7:08 am | Edit
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Just for you, my dear Northerners, I have run around the house changing the clocks, and will get up unconscionably early tomorrow.  Daylight Saving Time makes little sense in our part of the world, and it seems yet more ridiculous to make the change even earlier this year.

But I do recall that it wasn't so bad to have the time change when we lived up north.  So I'll put up with it for your sakes.  But it does show what part of the country really runs the government, doesn't it?
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, March 10, 2007 at 10:09 pm | Edit
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Why the Rest Hates the West:  Understanding the Roots of Global Rage, by Meic Pearse (Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois, 2004)

This is not a book review; not yet.  I long to write about Meic Pearse's book, but it deserves a detailed and extensive review which I cannot at the moment accomplish.  Rather than wait entirely until I can put in the requisite time and effort, however, I'm posting this placeholder, because this is an incredibly valuable book!  Its somewhat unfortunate title calls to mind the hand-wringing post-9/11 whine, "Why do they hate us?" but Why the Rest Hates the West is a serious, insightful analysis of the chasm between modern Western culture—more precisely, "anti-culture"—and the rest of the world that no one with more than a few years left on this earth can afford to ignore.

Find the book!  Read it!  Then come back here and tell me what you think.

And I'll put Li'l Writer Guy to work on the review.
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, February 25, 2007 at 9:46 pm | Edit
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When I read the story of Melissa Busekros, I wonder anew why some people are so anxious to subject our country to the authority of international governing bodies.  Fifteen-year-old Melissa was ripped from her home by German police, committed to a mental hospital, and placed in state custody, all because her parents, concerned that the chaotic environment of her school had contributed to her failure in two subjects, chose to have her tutored at home the next year.  She was (and apparently still is) cut off from contact with her parents and siblings, with the excuse that she is suffering from "school phobia" and contact with her family would exacerbate the problem.

Homeschooling is illegal in Germany.  That's bad enough for German citizens, but could be disastrous for the rest of Europe if the German philosophy gains the upper hand in European Union politics.  And should the United States decide to submit to the authority of the United Nations or another international authority, we would put ourselves at risk of similar tyranny. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, February 9, 2007 at 9:15 am | Edit
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I'm not holding a grudge, and have recently fallen in love with Japan and her people, but history, remembrance, and memorials are important, so it is sad to note that FDR's date which will live in infamy is mostly ignored.

Yet Ed Hayes came through, as did BC and Mallard.

BC Pearl Harbor Day

Mallard Pearl Harbor Day

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, December 7, 2006 at 7:02 am | Edit
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Central Florida news teams were positioned to cover what they thought would be the big news of the night—the election—and had to scramble when the weather took center stage.

Have you ever stood in the ocean and had a wave suddenly break over your head? Now imagine that the wave doesn't recede, but continues to pour over you for half an hour, and you have a picture of yesterday's rainstorm. If there's been a heavier downpour in all our 20-some years here, I don't remember it. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, November 8, 2006 at 8:07 am | Edit
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Economists are accustomed to drawing conclusions from statistical studies and aggregations of data. It's hard to reduce economic behavior to controlled, double-blind studies, and laboratory rats aren't necessarily a good model for corporate rats. So it came as no surprise to me that some Cornell University economists thought they might get a handle on the elusive cause of childhood autism by studying rainfall and the availablity of cable television. Working from the assumption that children spend more hours watching television in households that have cable TV, and in locations where high rainfall keeps them indoors, and observing significantly higher rates of autism in communities with a confluence of those conditions, the researchers suggested early television viewing as a possible trigger for autism spectrum disorders.

When I first read about the study, I was reminded of a story Peter Drucker tells, in his marvelous, autobiographical, historical commentary, Adventures of a Bystander, about an outstanding statistics teacher at the University of Minnesota. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, October 24, 2006 at 8:45 am | Edit
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I mentioned local pastor Joel Hunter once before, when the Orlando Sentinel published an article he wrote on Christians and politics. Today's Sentinel mentions him again, and so will I.

Hunter has accepted the (unpaid) position of president of the Christian Coalition of America. The author of Right Wing, Wrong Bird: Why the Tactics of the Religious Right Won't Fly With Most Conservative Christians plans to take the Coalition in a new direction, moving its headquarters from Washington, DC to Central Florida, and seeking to broaden its approach and appeal.

"There ought to be more than just gay marriage and pro-life issues, because the Bible is concerned with all of life. We need to do everything we can to relieve poverty, to heal the sick and to protect the Earth."

Much remains to be seen, but it sounds like a positive change.
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, September 30, 2006 at 7:04 am | Edit
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Today's Orlando Sentinel has a good essay on Christian involvement in political issues by Joel Hunter, pastor of Northland Community Church. We visited Northand a few times, including when they were still meeting in a partially-coverted roller skating rink. ("I knew him when....") For many reasons it's not the church for us, but there's no doubt they do good work. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, August 13, 2006 at 10:50 am | Edit
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Let me make clear up front that I'm glad our grandchildren are on schedule for most of the currently-recommended childhood vaccinations. I can be pleased with that because their parents have taken the time to research the issues, and decide which vaccines they think are worth the risk, and which are not, and are willing to pay the extra costs—in money and time—to spread the vaccinations out rather than subject their children to the assault on the immune system caused by receiving many vaccines on the same day. Moreover, the children are breastfed, which helps their immune systems deal with the vaccines.

Vaccines have prevented much suffering and death, and they do work; witness the frightening polio outbreaks in Africa when immunication efforts were hindered by Muslim clerics skeptical of both the vaccines and the good will of the vaccinators. But they are far from risk-free, and the government and the medical community are doing parents a disservice by pushing vaccinations as if they were entirely safe and absolutely essential for their children's health. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, August 3, 2006 at 7:35 am | Edit
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You didn't think our political culture could go any lower? In a reminder that we have made no forward progress since 1999, when David Howard of Washington, DC was forced to resign his city government job because he used the word "niggardly," Massachusetts' Governor Mitt Romney has apologized for referring to the disastrous Big Dig project as a "tar baby." (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, August 1, 2006 at 7:19 am | Edit
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When Larry Summers, then President of Harvard, dared suggest that genetic differences between men and women might, in general, predispose them to greater abilities in different fields, I had no problem with that. When he was pilloried and forced to resign, I was appalled (though not surprised) at the continuing evidence that liberals aren't necessarily liberal, those who call loudest for tolerance aren't tolerant, and "academic freedom" is an oxymoron. If the presence of a Y chromosome instead of an X can make differences that are visible and obvious, to insist that it can't possibly make more subtle differences, and to forbid inquiry into the matter, is as bad as the Catholic Church in Medieval times. Worse, because I don't think the Church ever claimed to be open-minded.

Yet as fast as Harvard tried to distance itself from Summers' heresy, there are more serious worms in its own apple. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, July 15, 2006 at 7:05 am | Edit
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The sad thing is, I'm not surprised.

During the 18 months we lived near Boston we heard a lot about the Big Dig, experienced plenty of inconvenience thanks to the Big Dig, and heard much political grumbling about cost overruns, delays, and incompetence. We didn't actually see much work being done on the project, however, and it was hard not to wonder if there was some politcal/union stranglehold on the project. Accustomed as we were to Florida roads projects, in which a "crew working" sign is usually followed by a crew working—day, night, weekends, holidays, whatever it takes to get the job done—it was shocking to see the massive construction project lying fallow so much of the time. But apparently such lack of haste did not reflect a commitment to doing the job right.

Will yesterday's partial collapse, in which a concrete slab fell from a tunnel roof onto a hapless motorist, finally cause someone to examine the entire political system that bred such tragedy? It's only the latest in a decades-long series of problems, so I doubt it.

Which is too bad. I fell in love with Boston, and Massachusetts in general, during our stay. There is much about that part of the country that I miss terribly. But the Big Debacle seems only to be a sign, not an abberation. The rest of the country—Massachusetts included—mocks Florida's politics and its voting problems, but as one who has lived and voted in both places, I can say without a doubt that democracy is alive and well in Florida, while the political process in Massachusetts sometimes felt like a tunnel with a crumbling roof.
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, July 12, 2006 at 5:57 am | Edit
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A friend alerted me to a Wall Street Journal Opinion Journal column by Peggy Noonan, in which she reveals her impression that our society is fundamentally broken, a trolley off the tracks and hurtling toward an unknown destination, and her concern that few people are willing to think about the problems, much less take action. My friend added this: "No one wants to talk about the cracks in the bridge when you're walking over it." Naturally, I had to comment. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, November 3, 2005 at 1:48 pm | Edit
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