Season Ticket On A One-Way Ride

This morning the Rev. Jerry Falwell died at the age of 73 in his office of heart failure. Ron Godwin, Liberty University’s executive vice president, found the evangelical leader on the floor of his office unconscious and unresponsive. Far be it from be to speak ill of the dead…

ozzy Oh, who am I kidding? The only way I would’ve enjoyed this any more would have been if Godwin, who, I’m convinced, changed his name when he took the job at Liberty University, had found Falwell’s cooling corpse latched onto the hind-end of a handsome gay prostitute with Ms. Magazines spread over his office desk and pagan love candles burning on the bookcases. If Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” had been on repeat in the CD player I would have probably peed myself in glee.

Falwell represented everything evil and rotten with organized religion. He qualified his homophobic, misogynistic, bigoted, and racists beliefs with skewed and disgustingly distorted interpretations of the Bible, and he strategically manipulated his parishioners for political means. After 9/11 Falwell claimed that God allowed the terrorists to attack the United States because “the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians” were turning our country into a secular state. He also called AIDS divine retribution for sodomy, although I noticed after Ted Haggard’s excellent adventure Falwell avoided damming someone that he actually knew.

And no, I don’t feel guilty at all for saying these things since he just died. In fact, I find the whole “don’t speak ill of the dead” philosophy rather repulsive. Why should we suddenly rewrite reality when someone passes away? Why one day is someone a total shithead, but the next day they’re suddenly a paragon of virtue? If I had to guess, I’d say the ridiculous belief in the sanctity of life fuels this mealy-mouthed outlook on the recently deceased. I’ll let George Carlin school you on the sanctity of life:

Thank you George.

No, Falwell was a giant douchebag in life, and now he’s a giant, dead, douchebag, and no amount of historical revision will change that. And no, I don’t feel that saying that is immoral–it’s just the truth.

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7 thoughts on “Season Ticket On A One-Way Ride

  1. Flood

    I was reading Ibsen’s play An Enemy of the People. It was pretty good, well as good as reading a play can be. I liked the theme of one person standing against the opinion of the majority. It is an interesting idea; proposing a course of action or idea that is right, but universally shunned.

    Do you want me to let myself be beaten off the field by public opinion and the compact majority and all that devilry? No, thank you! And what I want to do is so simple and clear and straightforward. I only want to drum into the heads of these curs the fact that the liberals are the most insidious enemies of freedom–that party programmes strangle every young and vigorous truth–that considerations of expediency turn morality and justice upside down– and that they will end by making life here unbearable. Don’t you think….that I ought to be able to make people understand that?

    Henrik Ibsen, An Enemy of the People

    I am pretty glad that you wrote this post the way you did, because it has challenged me to make clear (even if only to myself) what I think. I look back on things that have influenced me and can think of a small number of quotes that have greatly influenced me, and have thought about how that fits into my world view. So this post has been good for me. While I have debated on what to write and thought about my beliefs, I also had a very happy meditative drive. I would like to describe it, but I just don’t have the words. Sorry.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I would like to admit that I am an extremist who is not particularly bothered by paradoxes. Go figure.

    The (and by this I mean extreme liberal view) glee over the death of Jerry Falwell boggles me. I lump your eulogy in with them. You can have your opinion (Moveon, Christopher Hitchins, you, etc) that really doesn’t bother me. And in some ways your venom is understandable, since you disagree with many of the things that he is popularly known for (which of course are some of the more asinine statements that he has made). And I guess he gets to be the poster-boy for a movement.


    And this is where I run into the problem. I am pretty sure that he is not responsible (especially personally) for every problem with Christianity and organized religion, and the world. His world view and his understanding of the Bible (probably a very literal view) are very consistent. To be honest the Bible unsettles me. There are things in there that I don’t understand; things that I hold up as the ideal, yet am unable to mirror; things that slap me in the face and say, “You have a problem.” So several of the things he has said, I can understand where he is coming from. Agreement being debatable, of course.


    I think that he and moveon make the same mistake: the other side isn’t to blame for everything. And do these conflicting opinions really affect me. No, because I largely (and there could be an interesting philosophical debate here) define the terms of my existence. Falwell has the same time slot as Paris Hilton does. Usually from 9.46.35 PM to 9.46.35PM on 16 May 2007 (At least I think, there may be a conflict). But that is just me. The hypocrisy on both sides of the issue is staggering. You can figure that one out. I try not to give them the ability to exercise that much influence over me. I guess that is why the vitriol surprises me.

    It also bothers me that I feel a need to defend this man who is really only a passing concern in my life. I think it is because most of the hate speech I have heard about him is exactly like the hate speech others have accused him of voicing. I listened to a bit of Randi Rhodes on the day we learned of Falwell’s death. She was comparing him (bad) to Mother Teresa (good), and I kept thinking, “I wonder how much you (RR) would agree with the world view of Mother Teresa.” I am not sure, but I could guess. I wonder how much JF and MT would agree. So how many people are unsettled by that question?

    So there you go, Your angst is welcome.

  2. Flood

    And here is the problem with writing stuff. This isn’t exactly what I want to say. There is so much more and (probably should be) so much less. But it is a try and a start.

  3. Flood

    I think an interesting question arises when you consider what Falwell said about God. What is the role of God in the world today? Is God active in the world today? If you answer yes to that second question, is the vision of Falwell so off base? Especially if you look at things written in the Old Testiment. It is a challenge to our view of the world.

  4. Flood

    Finally, three other things come to mind because of this subject.

    One is the idea of hate speech and hate crimes. These two terms really confuse me, and make me wonder about the absurdity of our culture. For the hate speech, I wonder whether we understand the logical extention of this idea. An insult or, perhaps, a controversial idea becomes hate speech. That really scares me. And what about the classification of a hate crime. In Knoxville, Tennessee there is a situation where 5 people robbed, kidnapped, mutilated, raped, and killed two people of a differnent race. Is this a hate crime, anad honestly does it matter? How would you really change the penalty if they are found guilty. (BTW Tennessee has the death penalty.)

    Two. Empathy really bothers me. I think sometimes that I might be a little over empathetic, although I think a healthy dose might do us all some good.

    Three. And to be honest this has just come to me as something to throw out there for your consideration. Hyperbole. I tend to listen to a healthy dose of talk radio and the venom from both sides amazes me. I really don’t recognize my political opinion on any of the stations that I listen to, but I guess a rational discussion is impossible. Hurts the ratings. Yet does it do us any good, when we believe that the other side is the spawn of Satan and desirves to burn in hell.

    Man, there is nothing but good times is store for 2008.

    Bon appetite.

  5. Here’s the thing. If the only thing I had against Falwell was that I disagreed with him, then I’d have never written the post. I truly feel that Falwell, and those of his ilk, and the source of many of the problem in our society.

    What I find particularly frustrating is that there is really no party that represents me at all. I have to support the dems right now, since I so vehemently disagree with just about everything the conservatives are doing. I’d probably call myself a Goldwater conservative, or at the most a libertarian. I don’t agree with moveon and other liberal agendas, but right now the enemy of my enemy is my friend. But that’s kind of an aside.

    And I agree with you on hate speech and so-called hate crimes. In my head, that’s just another way to overemphasize a racial divide.

    And the hyperbolye in the media is just awful. Everything is boiled down to theater and entertainment, and no one gives a damn about facts and conciliation.

    And the role of God in our society? Man, that’s a hard one. Sadly, I think the role of God has become a political tool. Not very many people are at all concerned about spirituality or self-reflextion. Actually, our society and God’s role in it reminds me way too much of the role of Om in “Small Gods.” It seems like we have a load of Vorbis’ running the country.

  6. Flood

    Spoiler Warning: If you have never read “All the King’s Men” this quote will give away the climax of the book. So in the interest of your reading bless go read it before you read this comment. Your really should read it (won a Pulitzer) and I thought it was a really good book (of course I read the classics put to comics version, but hey….). I take no further responsibility!

    “When I found out about Duffy’s killing the Boss and Adam I had felt clean and pure, thought it let me out. Duffy was the villain and I was the avenging hero. I had kicked Duffy around and my head was big as a balloon with grandeur. Then all at once something happened and the yellow taste was in the back of my mouth.

    “This happened: I suddenly asked myself why Duffy had been so sure I would work for him. And suddenly I saw the eyes of the little squirt-face newspaperman at the cemetery gate on me, and that I had tried to make Duffy into a scapegoat for me and to set myself off from Duffy, and my million-dollar meal of heroism backfired that yellow taste into my gullet and I felt caught and tangled and mired and stuck like an ox in a bog and a cat in fly-paper. It wasn’t simply that I again saw myself as party to that conspiracy with Anne Stanton which had committed Willie Stark and Adam Stanton to each other and to their death. It was more than that. It was as though I were caught in a more monstrous conspiracy whose meaning I could not fathom. It was as though the scene through which I had just lived had been a monstrous and comic miming for ends I could not conceive and for an audience I could not see but which I knew was leering from the shadow. It was as though in the midst of the scene Tiny Duffy had slowly and like a brother winked at me with his oyster eye and I had known he knew the nightmare truth, which was that we were twins bound together more intimately and disastrously than the poor freaks of the midway who are bound by the common stitch of flesh and gristle and the seepage of blood. We were bound together forever and I could never hate him without hating myself or love myself without loving him….

    “And I heaved and writhed like an ox or the cat, and the acid burned my gullet and that was all there was to it and I hated everything and everybody and myself and Tiny Duffy an Willie Stark and Adam Stanton. To hell with them all, I said impartially under the stars. They all looked alike to me then. And I looked like them.”

    Robert Penn Warren, “All the King’s Men”

    I really liked reading this today. This is very much what I experience with my sense of empathy. Like I said earlier it might be a little over developed (like Inigo perhaps or Jack’s gall bladder). But I look at Falwell and identify with him. I don’t want to be him or really care much about him, but I can relate to him. To me Falwell and his ilk really means us. I see that as a challenge to rise above, but one that must never be forgotten.

    Driving today a song came to mind, “Cult of Personality” by Living Color. I think that is what Falwell has become. He is the symbol of things that may embrace and others despise. But the truth is somewhat different than most people are willing to admit/realize. He has that power because we have given him that power to draw us into the illusion or perhaps delusion is a better word. The truth again does not matter as much as our opinions. We create the cult around the person to focus our love and hate. I think that this might be the thing that really bothers me. Each individual bears personality responsibility for their actions. Falwell did not do or cause all the evil ascribed to him and his ilk, but for many he becomes the representative with or without justice.

    The truth is that he has done good and evil whether anyone cares to acknowledge it or not.

    The idea of hate speech is much more insidious than just dividing races. It returns to your post concerning your students’ response to Crichton and Gould. We are willing to sacrifice truth for comfort (and in my opinion without truth there can be no peace or repose). Things that trouble society are now banned. Hate speech is really censorship by a different name, but since we really care about others (bullshit) it is now okay. This is a road that I refuse and fear.

    We think that rules/laws take the place of personal responsibility. But we really care. We care so much that either no one or only one person/group is to blame depending upon your political affiliation.

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