Monday, July 24, 2006

Mennonite Tour de France Winner Participant

Since, this is a self-identified Mennonite blog, I would be negligent not to mention the new Tour de France winner, Floyd Landis, is a Mennonite from Lancaster County, PA. This is kind of like finding out that the singer of a catchy new pop song that just hit number one and won a grammy is sung by a Muslim woman originally from Mecca itself. Not that there is anything wrong with it, mind you. But frankly, it is a bit annoying when people emerge from the clearly defined, labeled boxes I like to put them in for my own convenience.

It has been noted in a few places that Floyd did not put his hand over his heart and sing the national anthem during the award ceremony. This should not be unusual for Mennonites who are true to their heritage of not pledging fealty to the state, as such a thing is reserved only for God. It is refreshing to me to see someone not bow to the cultural pressure that is so strong these days to do the exact opposite. I'll leave the propriety of raising a champaigne glass in victory as an exercise to the reader. :)

I found a great blog posting from an Anabaptist named Hugo Schwyzer, who is, naturally, a progressive, since he makes so much sense. He does a great job of explaining the difference between waving a flag and swearing allegiance to it:

An exerpt:

Actually, carrying the flag on a bicycle and refusing to place the hand over the heart during the national anthem are both quite consistent with Mennonite principles. To be a Mennonite, classically, is to believe that citizenship in the Kingdom trumps national allegiances. In practice, that means refusing to swear oaths of obedience to any temporal authority; it means refusing to salute flags or to genuflect before earthly kings. But there's an important difference between saluting or pledging allegiance to the flag on the one hand, and waving it on the other!

One can be a radical Christian (a phrase many Mennonites apply to themselves) and love America! It is one thing to love America, another to pledge solemn allegiance to it. To wave the flag can be an expression of affection for one's native land, akin to waving the banner of one's university or favorite football team. (I once had a very large Cal banner that I waved with great enthusiasm.) Floyd Landis may be a Mennonite, but America is the nation of his birth -- there is nothing in Anabaptist theology that suggests he can't be fond of, even proud of, his country.

Update: 7/27/06:

Say it ain't so Floyd. He appears now to have failed a drug test after stage 17.

For the record, bike riding, beer drinking, champagne celebrating, national anthem not singing: all pretty much OK by Mennonite standards. Drug taking: Not so much.


CPWeibel said...

Hi Dan,
Toasting with Champagne is probably considered obligatory for Tour de France winners, especially on the last leg of the Tour! You probably know that Floyd prefers beer.
Can we expect Floyd to be on the cover of the next edition of "Great Mennonites in Sports"? :)

Dan S said...

Hmmm. Great Mennonites in Sports. I think unless you included the ability to be burned at the stake and other Martyrdom activities, the magazine would only need to come out once a decade or so...

Brownie said...

Mellon Nin,

" see someone not bow to the cultural pressure that is so strong these days to do the exact opposite. I'll leave the propriety of raising a champaigne glass..."

Two Picky Points from the Pointy Nit Picker:

1. So the cultural pressure to "seem" patriotic (covering the heart and singing) is a new thing, somehow stronger than before?

I disagree. If anything, it is *far* less than it was, say 30, 40 or even 50 years ago. Look at the outrage caused by the black Olympian sprinters at the '68 Mexico City games, and the paranoid actions of 50's McCarthyism (for instance). Today, these types of behavior hardly get even a nod of acknowledment in the press, let alone any kind of official reaction (i.e. removal of Olympic Medals, blacklists, prison time for contempt of Congress). Such acts are widely viewed today as forms of "protected speech" and little else. (Despite your, no-doubt honestly believed, yet frankly ill-conceived perceptions of pressure from the vast right wing conspiracy)

Do you really think Bill O'Reilly or Rush Limbaugh can have you arrested or socially outcast (from the kind of people you really care about being with in the first place) because you don't say the pledge of allegiance or sing the national anthem? (BTW: I don't say it or sing it either, and I'm not even Mennonite) Even if they try to, so what? Do you really care what they think? Or do you really care what their dittoheads think (or not think as the implication goes)? Anyway, I'd say at least 80% of people who go to professional sporting events, the majority of which I would wager are on the right half of the politcal spectrum, don't sing the national anthem either, not because they are making some kind of social or political statement, but because they are either too drunk already to realize the national anthem is being played, or they just don't know the words.

2. I think you've lived in "Champaign" so long you forgot what "champagne" tastes like...or you were making a bad pun...or a kind of geographical Freudian slip.


Dan S said...

Well, if you go back to McCarthy, sure it was worse then to not pledge fealty to the state. But, it seems that lockstep, unquestioning, "my country is always right" patriotism is stonger now than anything I have personally experienced, which would take us back to the post-Nixon 70s, which is admittedly a probable a low point in citizens' trust of its government.

Ironically, the Bush administration's misuse and abuse of power is far worse than Nixon's ever was, but the "patriotic" mood of the country (and the fact that Republicans control all branches of government), means there is no political will to do anything about it, since all the Democrats seem capable of is to limply acquiesce.

As for O'Reilly and Rush, sure, they can't put people in jail, but it is still wrong for them to question the patriotism of people simply because they disagree with the Bush administration. Being a megaphone for intolerance isn't illegal, but that doesn't make it right.

Point 2: Wow. I am so illiterate. I honestly did not know until about 10 seconds ago (after a google search) that "Champaign" means "A stretch of level and open country; a plain." I just thought it was the English misspelling of Champagne. What a cad I am.

Brownie said...

I see absolutley no difference whatsoever between the questioning Rush and Bill make about someone's patriotism and the left's questioning of right's motives. (Or for that matter, Larry Flynt's "stretching" of free speech rights) Just because we DISAGREE with the points being made doesn't make them "wrong". At least not in a free democracy. Why is it "wrong"? And how is it "intolerant"?

This is where I get slipped up. Why is it OK for the left to accuse the president of [whatever, you pick it] and not OK for the right to accuse (say, Ward Churchill) of being unpatriotic?

Are you being intolerant of the O'Reillys and Limbaughs in this country? In the eyes of the law they're just as American as you are. Why is it OK for you to let your moral compass be your guide in making value judegements on what is "right" or "wrong" when it comes to saying whose patriotic, but not OK for the religious right to make those same value judegments themselves about say, abortion? And to speak them in the public arena? Like you do on your chosen topics?

Because you don't share in their opinions? Because they don't share yours?

Do you see what I'm getting at? It's just two sides of the same coin. One is heads, the other tails, and they'll never see eye to eye. But one is not necessarily "right" or "wrong" (when it comes to speaking out in this free democracy). One view may be better or more acceptable--IN YOUR OPINION, in your value system, but assigning a political conotation to what is "right" is like asking which Miss Universe contestant is "ugly" (in a contorted way). Someone may think this one or that one is "ugly", but it doesn't make it so for everyone. Politics is just too effin' dirty to assign right and wrong value judgements to people's free speech rights.

Do you see how easy it is have the tables turned on you? Now all of a sudden YOU are the one being intolerant (of righties). YOU are the one being "wrong" headed (about...whatever, abortion, etc).

Let me be clear: This is not an attack on you Dan, as I say these things mostly in a jesting tone; because I do have certain feelings about these issues (that I will keep to myself for now). But I'm trying to make a very clear point: Don't become what you abhor. Respect those who give you no respect. Love those who give you no love. Pray for those who curse you. For Saruman fought for long centuries against the dark powers before he lost his way and ended up becoming the puppet of Mordor.


Dan S said...

Let's stay on point here, which is patriotism. The left doesn't accuse the right of being unpatriotic when it advocates for decidedly anti-american values, like torture and domestic spying. The right does accuse the left of being unpatriotic if it doesn't support the policies of the administration, such as unending war. The right even accuses journalists of being unpatriotic in the rare instances when it performs its watchdog duties.

I'm not talking about legal rights here, I'm making a moral argument. If you are saying there is no right and no wrong because everyone has different opinions, then I guess we just disagree about that. Does that really make me "intolerant"?

This isn't two sides of the same coin, it is one side trying to smear the other with the word "unpatriotic" because it doesn't want to do the work of having reasoned arguments. I totally reject the notion that there is a moral equivalency between calling someone unpatriotic (and sometimes saying that they hate America and want to weaken it) vs arguing that the war is wrong, tax cuts for the rich are wrong, torture is bad, etc.

Anger that some people intentionally mislead others into believing things that are simply not true is not intolerance.

Brownie said...

"If you are saying there is no right and no wrong because everyone has different opinions, then I guess we just disagree about that."

That's not what I meant. I mean that everyone sees right and wrong differently. For OBL killing American civilians is "right", even good and praiseworthy, and except for Ward Churchill and his ilk, Americans think this is "wrong". It may sound like I'm defending moral relitivism, I'm not. I have strong opinions about what is right and wrong, you know this, but I'm smart enough to know that not all people agree on what is right or wrong.

I guess the point is: for the O'Rielly's and Limbaugh's of the world, we must consider the possibility that they are following their moral compass and in their minds they're doing "right" by calling out people they believe to be unpatriotic. We must consider the possibility they are not just trying to "smear" those people or "avoid" the issue.

Maybe I'm silly or just plain naive when it comes to giving people the benefit of the the doubt. I guess I do this because of the example Joshua set, not judging (whoever, the samaritan, the harlot, etc.) and I think it's important to allow people some space to be who they are, even if we are not like them. If I am silly or naive, then these are qualities I never wish to lose.

Now, I personally think that neither of these two scenarios (yours: they're ignorant war-mongering dogs without a moral bone in their body, or mine: they are simply interested in expressing their opinion for what they perceive to be the good of the country) is the truth. It's somewhere in between--though it's not a gray area. I don't believe in gray areas. It's black areas co-existing with white areas with jagged, narrow borders. Yin and Yang. Light and shadow. Two halfs of a whole. We all have parts of us that are good, and parts that are bad. One cannot exists wholly righteous nor wholly evil. Balance, brother.

Besides, doesn't all this really just boil down to "Sticks and Stones may break my bones...."


Amishlaw said...

Now that we know what kind of person Landis really is, I'll bet he was humming the national anthem all along.

KFingtree said...

Humming the national anthem in spanish. To whistle it in spanish is really unpatriotic!