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Michael Jackson, Child Abuse, and JW Apologist Firpo Carr

Michael Jackson, Child Abuse, and JW Apologist Firpo Carr

“A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.” – William James

Recently, I participated in an online discussion in the comments of an article written by a prominent friend/adviser to the late Michael Jackson.

Michael Jackson & Jehovah’s Witnesses, by Firpo Carr

The Michael Jackson case and the issue of child abuse are both important to me, but I didn’t really know who Firpo Carr was when I made my first comment. I’d run into his name before, but I was a little under-prepared for his particular style of debate. I felt pretty battered by the end of it, much like what happens when I try to have a political discussion with someone who has already been stirred up by their favorite propaganda machine.

His back and forth with Jerry Bergman is illuminating and true to form.

A sampling of Carr’s other L.A. Sentinel articles for you to chew on:

One article on money and priorities took an argument that was very familiar to me from JW days, and made it much more compelling and interesting. He’s clearly a smart guy, but something….

I hadn’t really thought about this very much before, but there might be a serious educational problem with a dependence on some forms of long-distance learning, especially at the upper levels in the humanities. Potential scholars may simply lose too much by not participating on-site at their universities. There is a sort of human osmosis effect that can only be learned by being there. It’s important to have both peers that are interacting with you and trustworthy mentors that can call attention to your blind spots without attacking you as a person. It may be more difficult to absorb the values and norms of dialogue and debate if you’re not part of the ebb and flow of discussion.

On campus, you become part of a network of friendship that includes worthy adversaries, and you develop different skills as you learn how to respect people independently of whether or not you have disagreements. Constant exposure to a wide range of scholarship and discussion not only helps the scholar to develop an ethical sense of discernment, but also models the qualities that they admire (or reject!) in a teacher. At its best, university life at the graduate level is amazingly liberating, intellectually stimulating, and fulfilling.

It’s not just the “immorality” (sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll) of university life that JWs object to, it’s the training in strong interpretations and critical thinking, along with the ethics of scholarship, that would be dangerous for them to condone in their followers. Independent thinking is against their religion.

Firpo Carr has written a fair number of books. Good for him for being so prolific! However, some supplemental reading might be helpful. Start with a selection from my page of reading recommendations for former JWs. To that, add:

Why? Because this latter list contains non-JW-influenced resources for understanding some aspects of the mindset that can lead people to be manipulated – and possibly continue the chain.

To stick to the topic at hand, though, readers should be aware that child abuse among Jehovah’s Witnesses is a systemic problem, one that is reinforced by setting unreachable standards of perfection, demonizing “worldly authorities,” defending questionable biblical interpretations with out-of-context snippets, defending the two-witness rule for any accusation of foul play, subordinating women, presenting an almost comical style of discourse and argument, hours of weekly meetings for repetition and reinforcement, the paucity of choices for a mate, the fear of disfellowshipping and abandonment by friends and family, the threat of demonic possession, the undermining of kindness, and the almost complete lack of pastoral care.

Firpo Carr can of course believe what he likes and project what he needs to – his path is none of my concern – but it’s a very odd position from which to deny or rationalize child abuse. Even more so now, I wish that I had followed my instincts while Michael was still alive. Michael Jackson describes some of the abuse he and his siblings suffered at the hands of his father in this video.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mc8HjdK7kJ8[/youtube]

Watch that, then read our discussion. Remember that Firpo Carr says he was Michael’s friend. I’m sorry, but I have serious doubts that Firpo Carr brought much of spiritual value to the friendship. Now he says that Michael Jackson took him aside and told him that he wished his children to be brought up as Jehovah’s Witnesses – and to have them study with Carr!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnAhcHMgR_8[/youtube]

I wonder if Michael said that to anyone else, or (shall I be this cynical?) if he said it to anyone at all.

In related news – some new documentation on the Watchtower child sexual abuse settlement. It’s not hearsay – it’s signed, sealed with gag orders, wrapped up in lies, and delivered:

“Documents show that the church knew for years that some prominent members were sexually abusing children and did little.”

The Watchtower PR department issued a statement. “For the sake of the victims in these cases, we are pleased that a settlement has been reached.” Sigh. It’s not for the sake of the victims, or their policies would be different.

This is the way they protect known predators. Imagine how they handle psychological and physical child abuse, and then start Googling for the testimonies…

Here’s a sweet sad Monty Python/Michael Jackson mashup. Maybe it will start to express the inexpressible value of caring and kindness.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1Z04RssKWI[/youtube]

For a while, Michael was able to redefine and transform his experience. He created music that brought fun – and even joy – to people all over the world.

I will remember him that way.

Disturbing Lies, Hate, Incitement to Violence

Disturbing Lies, Hate, Incitement to Violence

I’ve been profoundly disturbed by seeing certain kinds of beliefs and accusations that I’m observing – not only from under-informed folk at rallies, but even from so-called christian blogs and in emails from people who should really know better.

We have a deep need to feel better about ourselves as a nation, but lying to ourselves isn’t the way to do it, and neither is hate or fear or scapegoating or any of those other strategies that have been used here and elsewhere to such destructive effect. Smears, lies, hatred and incitement to violence do not reflect well on anyone. Can we agree on that?

My prayers today are for the ones who consider themselves christians, but are participating in this kind of thing. I sincerely hope that you will be able to receive the guidance that you seem to need, and can re-attune to the deepest message and source of your faith from where you are right now.

Regardless of who you decide deserves your vote, it’s time to get back on speaking terms with the best within you, not the worst.

The state of this country right now can be (at least partially) attributed to the successful demonization of anything and anyone remotely left-wing, liberal, progressive – even centrist Democrat – by the increasingly off-track right wing and its public propagandists. I have been resisting the idea that any significant number of Americans could be taken in by these machinations, but I’ve been thrown off by some of the stuff that I am seeing today. I’m sure you’ve seen some of it, too.

It is not only unseemly and depressing that some Americans can be so easily propelled by the worst that is within them, but it also brings an ethical responsibility for the results. Be careful of what you bring on, Palin and McCain (and all of the surrogate voices).

All of this talk about Barack Obama being an Arab or a Muslim or a terrorist (and don’t all those words start to kind of blend together?) really bothers me on a number of levels.

First, it reveals our national prejudices in a particularly nasty way. Does it not occur to you that there are American Arabs and Muslims? What’s wrong with you?

You can’t conflate these things. All Arabs aren’t bad. All Muslims aren’t bad. Just as all Christians aren’t bad. Think on that. Remember the Crusades, and the Inquisitions, and the way some contemporary Christians want to turn this nation into a kind of theocratic dictatorship that completely misses Jesus’ call and message. The militant and controlling delusions of the super-authoritarian fringes among ALL of the “people of the book” is very troubling.

And then, there’s just the plain facts that Obama is not an Arab. He’s not a Muslim. He’s not a terrorist.

He’s not anti-American.
He’s not a traitor.
He’s not a mole.

I cannot believe I’m seeing this kind of thing.

Barack Obama is not a socialist, either. He’s a capitalist – just not the kind of capitalist that will exploit and plunder our economy or our environment because of rampant corruption and greed. He’s not the kind of capitalist that will appoint former industry lobbyists as directors of the organizations meant to oversee those industries. He’s not going to put the interests of the top 5 percent over the interests of the 95 percent, but he’s not talking a revolution of the masses either. Obama is actually rather centrist, fair, practical and level-headed. His plans call for a strengthening of the middle-class, the backbone of our nation. If the middle-class falls, multinationals will simply take their business elsewhere.

Now, Barack Obama isn’t a messiah either, and those who either over-idealize him or criticize him (on the basis that some people are pretty desperate for such hope as he could represent) exaggerate his importance. However, I think he could do some real good for Americans, for America, and also for world stability. He does make me feel hopeful that we might be able to start to undo some of the terrible damage that has been done.

People have used the methods of terrorism for a long time. Wake up! If you want to fight terrorism, don’t be terrified and manipulated!

Do you really think it’s a coincidence that our friends and allies – after dealing with Bush for 8 years – would overwhelmingly prefer to see Obama elected than McCain? Are they all evil then? Have we become that insular and self-centered and frightened that we can’t take a good hard look at what has happened to our status among the rest of the world’s population? They think the populace here must be stupid and crazy, living in a dream world.

I think that Barack Obama and Joe Biden have a much better chance of helping us to navigate through the next few years than do John McCain and Sarah Palin. I am very disappointed in how McCain has changed, and I’ll be nice and not give you my list of Palin criticisms today.

We really are in a huge mess on a number of different fronts – both internally and externally – and we need the best we can get. My vote is for Barack Obama. As we find out more and more about what the Bush/Cheney administration has really cost us – and I fear we’ve not even seen the half of that yet – we need someone like him.

Tiny Tooth Horror

Tiny Tooth Horror

It’s a matter of aesthetics. I simply find certain kinds of mouths repulsive. For me, it all has to do with the teeth.

The worst mouth? The one where you have to wonder whether or not there are any teeth at all. The person hardly ever lets you see them. I dislike the bulldog expression – the bottom teeth appear, but the top teeth do not. I dislike very small teeth – they look like corn on the cob.

If you add tension, smirking, and other strange manneristic muscular signals to the secret-teeth, bottom-teeth-only, or corn teeth, then I have a very primal sort of reaction.

It’s a kind of prejudice – it is certainly a preference. Back in the day when I was basically a serial monogamist, all of my boyfriend/lovers had medium-to-large white teeth (not that it matters here, but I am also partial to strong chins and warm expressive eyes). My husband shows his nice white teeth. My whole family has big white gleaming teeth. Maybe it’s a narcissistic tribal affiliation.

Perhaps it is a coincidence, but my Dad lost all his teeth when he was young. I had the most trouble relating with him when his dentures were rather small. Later, when he was older, the dentures were (or at least seemed) bigger, and he smiled more often (and more naturally). We got along better – but that was probably for other reasons altogether. Still – I wonder if this sort of thing could really be a subliminal/unconscious factor i our responses to others?

I don’t care about skin color or language or class or sexuality – but I just don’t like those scary little teeth set in those hard unfeeling mouths. In such a case I may have to admire him (usually it’s a him I mean) in spite of teeth capacity or expressive usage. Someone would have to be so brillant or witty or creative that I would overlook the scary teeth situation, like say… Anthony Hopkins.

I never realized this about myself until now. I know this is a really odd thing. I wonder if I am alone in feeling this way. Having realized this, I’ll have to be more conscious of it in my daily interactions with people. It may be unfair, maybe, may… be.

I like big clean white teeth that show up and make a strong appearance. Americans are known all over the world for our big white honest teeth. Sometimes the teeth may suggest some sort of aggression, like a tiger baring its teeth, but I still prefer that to the scary little teeth. I’m very welcoming to Mormons at the door despite having been a door-to-door cousin Jehovah’s Witness – for some reason they tend to have great teeth (and they are so wonderfully earnest).

Actually I think there are people who prefer the secret teeth, the corn on the cob, show-the-bottom-teeth like a bulldog kind of thing. Maybe they are equally repulsed by people who show their upper teeth. Maybe they are self-conscious about their own teeth. I can’t say that I have the answers on this.

Could there be a political divide – could teeth actually be a factor?

I started having wild thoughts about this. JFK and Jimmy Carter showed teeth. The Clintons have the teeth and so does Kerry. Hollywood people are, of course, big teeth-showers. I’m sometimes undecided about Ahhnold – I like his teeth – but I notice that he doesn’t show them much when he is around the President.

It seems like such a shallow sort of thing, but I wonder if there really are any perceptual differences or other psychological effects across populations based on tooth preferences. I have really gotten to dislike the white male republican kind of mouth. Here’s what I mean.

Nixon had a nice smile:

nixonteeth.jpg

But is that how we remember him? No, here is the mouth I think of…

nixonbotteeth.jpg nixonbottteeth.jpg

Bush is more attractive to me when he shows his teeth.

bushteeth1.jpg See? This is nice.

But here is how I see him in my mind’s eye:

bushmouth.jpgbushmeet.jpg bushnoteeth.jpg bushdebate.jpg bushmon.jpg

It’s probably not a consistent thing. I’m sure there are lots of attractively-toothed Republicans and some scary little-toothed bulldog-underbited Democrats. Condi has a big toothy smile, but that one is a bit terrifying. Zell Miller looked like what he really was, a DINO. Joe Leiberman is borderline – smallish teeth but he shows them sometimes.

Still, here are a few examples of mouths with expressions that I find particularly unattractive.

cheneyteeth.jpg Cheney

rumsfeldteeth.jpg Rumsfeld

roveteeth.jpg Rove

tomdelaymouthm.jpg DeLay

perduemouth.jpg Perdue (GA Gov)

chamblis1.jpg chamblis2.jpg Chambliss (GA Sen)

Man O man, show me thy teeth.

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