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October 30, 2011

STEPHANIE SALTER: Of politics, protests, coupons and e-wishes

TERRE HAUTE — It’s roundup time again, that periodic hunting down and herding together of items that have but one thing in common: They grabbed me.

We’ll start with the national political arena, where it is difficult to stay abreast of the meaning of anything in this protracted campaign season (only 383 days remaining; it’s a leap year). But I especially liked a revelation from the camp of Texas Gov. Rick Perry. The place was Washington, D.C., the event was the Family Research Council’s annual meeting of social conservatives from across the USA.

Like most of his fellow Republican candidates for president, Perry jumped at the chance to address the assembled throngs. His pal, Dr. Robert Jeffress of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, gave a rousing introduction of the governor; Perry said Jeffress “knocked the ball out of the park.” Jeffress then made headlines, you may recall, by repeatedly maintaining that a Perry opponent, Mitt Romney, is not really a Christian because he’s a Mormon thus a member of a cult. (No baseball metaphor came from Perry on that one.)

What made me sit up and take notice, however, was a statement in a Jeffress media release that he repeated in that rousing introduction. Of his fellow evangelical voters Jeffress inquired: “Do we want a candidate who is a good, moral person, or do we want a candidate who is a born-again follower of the Lord Jesus Christ?”

There you have it. Being a good, moral person is not enough anymore to deserve a shot at leading the free world. Never mind foreign policy expertise, economic know-how, loyalty to the Constitution or even mental stability. For that fearsome voting bloc, evangelicals, only born-again followers of the Lord Jesus Christ need apply.

To the north of the nation’s capital, as the occupation of Wall Street continues, grows and morphs, it would be wise to keep in mind the words of Susan Olzak, a sociology professor at Stanford University. She told CNN:

“It’s difficult to classify a social protest movement early on in its history. Clearer goals could eventually emerge, but there’s no guarantee … Many movements fizzle out. Others become more organized [but] I think we run a risk taking a snapshot at any one point in time and trying to categorize the movement in any one way based on that snapshot. The only way to study these protest movements is to follow them over time.”

If you don’t believe her, watch Ken Burns’ most-recent PBS series, on Prohibition. Talk about movements that shape-shifted. Talk about clarity in hindsight.

But a clear snapshot is not a bad thing to have while Occupy Wall Street further develops. I nominate the word photo delivered by former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., earlier this month on Real Time with Bill Maher. Grayson, who is controversial and can be a bit of a showboat, nonetheless hit a significant nail on the head when he said the protesters’ cause is no mystery:

“They’re complaining that Wall Street wrecked the economy three years ago and nobody’s held responsible for that. Not a single person’s been indicted or convicted for destroying 20 percent of our national net worth accumulated over two centuries. They’re upset about the fact that Wall Street has iron control over the economic policies of this country, and that one party is a wholly owned subsidiary of Wall Street, and the other party caters to them as well.”

Moving from the political to the personal (sometimes there is a difference), I wonder about a less serious, but annoying movement that’s afoot: the movement to fill our hands — and purses and wallets and grocery bags and vehicle interiors and wastebaskets and recycle bins — with cash register receipts. I’ve become crazed about this trend since comedian Jimmy Fallon started making fun of it in interviews. Fallon to CNN’s Piers Morgan:

“I went into a store, I bought a pack of gum, and the receipts — I’m not kidding, the receipt for the gum was two feet long. I go, you got to be kidding me. I didn’t pay with a credit card … I paid, you know, cash. I go, what is this? I got coupons or something. I go, I’m killing the rainforest to get fresh breath. It was like, this is insane.”

As for another trend that has gotten out of hand — the birthday feature of Facebook. At the beginning of each week, Facebook notifies you of all your “friends” who have birthdays coming up in the next seven days. That could be friends who are immediate relatives and friends you barely know whose friend-me plea slipped through the FB cracks one busy day or late night.

What then ensues is a warm and enthusiastic pile-on by dozens of people posting many happy returns to the birthday girl or boy — as if all of them actually remembered the big day on their own.

Call me old-fashioned, but … for birthdays that really matter, a last-minute voicemail is barely acceptable; a personal email pathetic but better than nothing if the well-wisher apologizes for not getting a card in the mail. (Don’t get me started on most e-cards with their break-dancing flowers, baby-talking teddy bears and skies full of twinkling, tinkling stars.) But a publicly posted e-Happy Birthday? Because your social networking site told you to do it? How cheap and lazy can we get?

My rule: If you don’t know me well enough to send a card or place a phone call, kindly stay away from my birthday. If you do know me well enough to send a card and you think joining an orchestrated Facebook pile-on is worth any points on the Meaningful Effort Meter, you don’t really know me.

 

Stephanie Salter may be e-mailed at SalterOpinion @gmail.com.

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