Scott Cawelti

About Scott Cawelti -

Scott Cawelti was born and raised in Cedar Falls, Iowa. He taught writing, film, and literature at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) from 1968-2008, and has written regular opinion columns and reviews for the Waterloo / Cedar Falls Courier since the late 1970s.  He played for years in a folk duo with Robert James Waller and still regularly performs as a singer/guitarist/songwriter. Scott continues to teach as an adjunct instructor at UNI.

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  • Three Questions for Iowans Caucusing

    • Posted on Dec 30, 2007 by Scott Cawelti

    12-30-07

    The world will be watching Iowa and Iowans all next week, climaxing Thursday in our first-in-the-nation commitment to thinning the candidate herds.  At last.

    It’s a dirty, noisy job, but someone has to be first and it may as well be Iowa, the frozen hinterland where common sense and good will often prevail.

    As we gather and choose, we would do well to ask ourselves three questions: (1) Who is viscerally hated nationally and therefore likely to continue our country’s corrosive polarization?  (2) For whom would Jesus (or Buddha, or Mohammed) caucus?  And (3) Who is most likely to lead us out of our current international quagmires?

    Herewith, my take on each question.

    (1) Visceral hatred seems to swirl around some leaders more than others.  Such hatred goes gut-deep, and seems to arise when a leader asserts real power while creating fear that he/she is a version of ourselves.  Bush II comes to mind.

    Unlike his mostly likeable father, our current President provokes intestinal hatred among liberals.  He asserted serious power early on, but leapt before he looked, and compounded failure by rewarding raging incompetence.  He gave liberals plenty to dislike, but it went into hatred when they could see Bush II as a version of their own inner inarticulate bumbler. Ask any psychiatrist:  We hate most what we fear most.

    So too with Bill Clinton and conservatives.  He enacted policies from the center, but along the way created personal and political crises that made him seem villainous.  So conservatives hate him, partly because he ignored rules of presidential behavior, but mostly because they feared their own inner Clinton, a being of dangerous obsessions and appetites. 

     As goes Bill, so goes Hillary, or Billary as pundits now call him/her.  If she manages to gather enough support and overcome that corrosive hatred enough to get elected, she will polarize the country for years. 

    (2) Which candidate is the most spiritual?  All of them espouse deep religiosity, the most vocal being Romney and Huckabee.  But any truly spiritual visionary knows that not everyone talking about heaven gets there.  In Jesus’ day they were called Pharisees. They proclaimed their religion publicly on every street corner and wore piety on their sleeves. Away from the public street corner, they were raging hypocrites.

    Republicans specialize in this kind of nonsense, but the wise among them should write off Huckabee and Romney as pious manipulators.  Democrats have to beat the Bible because their candidates fear losing the right-wing religious vote.  They’re not as obvious about it as Huckabee and Romney, but I don’t buy any of them as genuine spiritual leaders.  They wear piety like a costume, and Jesus would drive them out of the temple.

    (3) Which candidate seems likely to lead us out of our current wilderness? Most candidates offer more of the same:  White guys insisting they know what’s best for the rest of us.  Hillary at least offers women a chance to elect a female president.  And Obama offers America and the world a chance at actually recognizing our diversity. 

    As Andrew Sullivan wrote so eloquently in the December issue of Atlantic, “Consider this hypothetical. It’s November 2008. A young Pakistani Muslim is watching television and sees that this man—Barack Hussein Obama—is the new face of America. In one simple image, America’s soft power has been ratcheted up not a notch, but a logarithm. A brown-skinned man whose father was an African, who grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii, who attended a majority-Muslim school as a boy, is now the alleged enemy. If you wanted the crudest but most effective weapon against the demonization of America that fuels Islamist ideology, Obama’s face gets close. It proves them wrong about what America is in ways no words can.”

    So I’ll be pulling for Obama (from out of state, unfortunately) next Thursday. He’s the least viscerally hated of the leading Democrats and most likely to accomplish positive changes worldwide. Besides, he opposed that damnable Iraq war before anyone else, and many Republicans admit they could vote for him. 

    That means he could actually become not only our first Black President, but this century’s first good President. 

    Go comment!
    Posted in
    • Hot Button Issues
    • Cedar Valley Chronicles
    • Politics
  • God For President

    • Posted on Nov 04, 2007 by Scott Cawelti

    11-4-07

    All the current Presidential candidates, whether experienced or novice, pachyderm or jackass, male or female, seem to exhibit one major trait:  They all believe truly, madly, deeply, in God.  They proclaim that they consult Him daily in prayer, occasions which conveniently double as photo-ops.

    You can hardly turn a page of a national newsmagazine without coming upon one or another of them praying, looking for all the world like a humble man or woman of the cloth. Religious people vote their faith, it seems.

    As Barack Obama told a group of Christians, “I just want all of you to pray that I can be an instrument of God.  I am confident that we can create a Kingdom right here on Earth." Hillary and her fellow power seekers basically sing the same hymn, and we’re all familiar with our current President’s insistence that he’s doing God’s work on earth, more or less.  Incidentally, that’s evidently the warlike Old Testament God. 

    The Republicans, of course, claim to outdo all the Democrats on Godliness, if not cleanliness.  It’s ramped-up values voting, and I modestly propose to ramp it all the way. 

    Let’s eliminate all these power-hungry candidates and just elect God President of the United States.  After all, He’s by far the most popular of any of them, and certainly the most experienced.

    Why should we have to hear second-hand what God wants when we can just elect Him ourselves?

    Now I can imagine that a few nay-sayers and doubters might object.  What about Him not having a body?   How would that affect cabinet meetings, not to mention inauguration and dinners with heads of state?

    Simple:  like the Pope at the Vatican, a state with God at its head, we will elect our own version of the Pope, who will go everywhere and do everything in our elected God’s name.  We will call her/him “Translator” instead of “Pope” or “President,” and count on him/her to relay what God wants.  It’s worked at the Vatican for centuries, interrupted only by an occasional Inquisition and/or Reformation.    

    OK, you ask, but what about separation of church and state?  Check your theology.  God isn’t a church.  He’s God.  He’s all churches and none of them, since he’s beyond all earthly political issues.   

    Die-hard objectors might still cry, won’t the “Translator” have too much power, just saying whatever he wants as though President God is speaking through him?  I hate to say this, but that’s pretty much what we have now. If it’s a real problem, we could just talk to God directly and if necessary, replace him/her.    

    Honestly, it won’t be much different than our current government.  

    With all those objections answered, consider the overwhelming advantages. With President God in charge: 

    • We can tell the world’s skeptics that since God has been elected President, he really must be our our side. That will impress even the French, who might pray to our President for a change instead of snickering at him up their sleeves.   
    • We might only have to worry about Ten laws instead of the thousands now on the books. We could probably get rid of most lawyers and courts, in fact.  Not a bad campaign promise there.    
    • Since all religions claim to believe in God (except Buddhism, who believe that the spirit is no-thing—get it?) we won’t have to worry about constant bickering and fighting amongst religions.  God rules them all.  At least that’s what His worshippers insist, and now they will have a chance to prove it.       
    • We can count on Divine Intervention for more help with everything from global warming to poverty.  Though God works in mysterious ways, He does seem to respond well to those who worship Him, or so they say. It’s worth a try.

    I do know for sure that President God can’t do any worse than our current leader, and may in fact do better. 

    Iowans, caucus for God come January. 

    If we don’t elect Him, we’re going to have to settle for nothing more than a President who prays for photographers.  That’s no substitute for a real God.    

     

                

    Go comment!
    Posted in
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    • Cedar Valley Chronicles
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    • Religiosity
    • Hot Button Issues
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