During this morning (Wed Jan 3)’s Morning Edition on NPR, they ran a story on the detention of Jose Padilla. Quite without intending to, the story bespoke the parlous times and the threat to our Republic.
So for about a month there’s been a tempest-in-a-teapot “raging” over the decision by newly elected Democratic Representative Keith Ellison to use a Koran in his private swearing-in ceremony. Some loudmouths, including Rep. Virgil Goode, have decried this and insisted that Mr. Ellison use the same traditional book as all previous representatives, to wit, the good old Christian Bible. Never mind that Mr. Ellison is a practicing Muslim. Never mind that there are as many “one true Bibles” as there are sects of Christianity. Never mind that no representative swears on a Bible — they take the public oath in, well, public and without swearing on any book. (Mr. Ellison plans to use the Koran at the also-traditional, private photogenic ceremony.)
But according to The Washington Post, Mr. Ellison’s gone one further: He’s requested (and been granted) that the Library of Congress loan him a special Koran — one owned by Thomas Jefferson. How’s that for polishing the symbolism? On issues of faith and politics there are few sources more hallowed than Jefferson. Take that, Virgil Goode!
This does raise an important question, almost unthinkable a few short years ago: What if the Democrats are finally learning how to play the symbolism game on par with the Republicans? What if the Democrats stop automatically yielding the photogenic spotlight and the symbolic high ground? What if — Heaven astound us — the Democrats have learned to deal with matters of faith in public? Can you even imagine an America where the religious right has lost its default supremacy, where the symbolism tactics cancel out and people are forced to start talking about, you know, the issues again?
That could well be the best gift Mr. Ellison could give his country.
So it’s about 1:15 AM local time and here I am sitting at my computer starting a blog entry. A sure sign I’m becoming addicted? Probably not. It’s just one of those nights when sleep seems determined to stay away and, since once of my New Year’s objectives is to write more, this outlet seems as good as any. Fortunately for me, I don’t tend to suffer much from insomnia. It’s often the other side I have to worry about — getting out of bed in the morning, staying awake through the day. (I don’t think I’ve taken a train ride in the past three years without nodding off. Luckily this seems to afflict me only on trains.) Still, here I am now, typing away in the wee hours.