April 16, 2013

Secularists, American tragedies, civil religion

Once again, just about everybody from the President on down the political food chain, through sports and political journalists, and everywhere else, is saying that Boston Marathon explosions require our "thoughts and prayers" or similar.

Now, I'm no Gnu Atheist. I have no desire to mock people who sincerely and deeply think this.

But, I do want to challenge them, and even more challenge those who mindlessly repeat phrases like this as some sort of mantra.

It requires neither (I'm not just going after prayer.)

It certainly, for an America that has a First Amendment, actually requires elected officials to be more mindful of we the non-religious.

That's we the non-religious who likely were among the wounded in the attack. That's we the non-religious Pat Tillman, killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan, and whose family was agog not just at the Pentagon cover-up of that, but the way in which "civil religion" made him a hero invoked with "god and country," and not just "country," in mind.

So, this moment does not "require" prayer. But, given that President Obama has actually expanded on Bush's faith-based initiative program, it's no surprise for him to invoke this.

As for "thoughts"? Thoughts about what? Buddhist mindful meditation? This has to be about the tritest thing onc could say.

The combined phrase isn't full-blown narcissism, but it's a mix of narcissism and perceived helplessness. Top journalists think they're supposed to have some sort of power to "steer a narrative," so they try, even when they should shut up.

That said, another note on journalists.

I don't think it's wrong for newspapers to post to Facebook or Tweet, "Do any of our readers have experience with running in Boston" or similar? It's a lot easier than going to the circulation department and saying, "Hey, can you give me phone numbers of subscribers to dial?" It's only lazy when there's no follow-up.

But, if someone responds, leaves contact information, and says he or she would like to talk further, then it's very much an appropriate tool.

That said, contra a shallow-thinking Scientific American blogger (and indirectly, his blog editor./PR promoter Bora Zivkovic), social media proved little of its value during the explosions' aftermath. For every good thing the post touts, I can point to inanity by Sarah Gellar, Alex Jones and worse.

No comments: