Battening down the Hatch

Sen. “Orrin” Hatch has been on a kick lately to amend the Constitution. First he had one about making flag-burning illegal, which is a very pivotal issue because U.S. flags are being burned by protesters at an average rate of zero per day. Then he suggested we amend Article II of the Constitution, which currently says only a “natural born citizen” can be president. Hatch feels this is out-dated and that foreign-born naturalized citizens ought to have a shot at it, too.

Now, you should know up front my feelings about Hatch: I have no feelings about Hatch. I know he wrote some very bad inspirational songs with Janice Kapp Perry, who in Greek mythology was the goddess of very bad inspirational songs. I know he advocated blowing up the computers of people who download music, or something like that. I know people call him “Orrin,” which is silly, because “Orrin” isn’t even a name. Aside from that, I know little about the man or his politics.

Anyway, Hatch makes a good point about allowing foreign-born people who are now proper American citizens to be president. Why not? What’s the harm? How does being born here — an accident of fate — automatically make you more qualified than someone born elsewhere? Can’t a foreigner who has been adopted by us be as devoted to this country as a natural-born citizen? In fact, aren’t the converts sometimes even MORE devoted, because they’ve seen the other side?

The Daily Herald recently made this the subject of its online poll, and the responses were overwhelming: 89 percent said only people born here should be president. Those posting responses at had some even more interesting things to say. For example, one person said this:

“No, but we should amend (the Constitution) so that all foreign-born illegals may be shot on the spot.”

Did the poster really mean this, or was he just trying to cause trouble? I would have thought the latter, but I’ve lived here long enough to know that no opinion is so offensive, illogical or stupid that people won’t embrace it. Many people in Utah County dislike people from other countries, especially those who are here illegally. Well, what they ACTUALLY don’t like are people with dark skin; the fact that some are here without papers just gives them justification for hating them. (I guarantee you, illegal aliens from England or Canada don’t bother Utah Countians at all.)

The insane idiot who posted the above comment — anonymously, of course, following the tradition of all the great thinkers throughout history — was met with some resistance, but also with a disheartening amount of support.
One person pointed out that on Sept. 11, 2001, 19 illegal aliens hijacked planes and killed thousands of Americans. “Had it been legal to shoot illegals on the spot, many, many lives could have been saved,” this other insane idiot said.

A third insane idiot used this opportunity to express his or her disgust at all the “illegal Mexicans” in Utah. “This state is turning very brown and very fast,” the insane idiot said. “Do you want a Mexican to be your president?” (I don’t know; the people in Mexico don’t seem to mind.) Ironically, this insane idiot also complained about Mexicans bringing their “hatred” to our country, apparently unaware that he or she reeks of hatred so bad that you can actually smell him or her over the Internet.

Other people pointed out this possibility: Terrorists could send one of their own to America, then he could become a citizen, become president, take over the country, and KILL US ALL!!!

In theory, of course, this would be possible if foreign-born people were allowed to be president. But think, people. The person still has to be ELECTED. Very little about any candidate’s past stays hidden, especially during election campaigns. And even if the guy’s terrorist connections weren’t discovered, do you honestly think anyone with an Arabic name or ethnic look about him could ever be elected president in this country? Please. Half the country can’t even deal with the idea of a FEMALE president, let alone one who isn’t stark-white and Protestant.

The simple fact is, even if foreign-born American citizens are allowed to be president, I suspect we’re a good hundred years off from actually electing one. So this Constitutional amendment would have little impact, other than irritating the people who want to slam the borders shut, kill illegal aliens and go to war against all Muslim nations. For that reason alone, I’m for it.

I will never tire of mocking the insane idiots who post comments at, nor of mocking Utah Valley racists and bigots. You have heard me say before, and I will surely say again, that the way to win a debate is not through name-calling and ranting. And so I hesitated ever-so-briefly about whether to call these people "insane idiots." Then I realized we were talking about people who, apparently in all seriousness, advocate the summary execution of illegal aliens. I cannot think of any other way of describing someone who believes that. I think "insane idiot" may actually be the clinical, legal term for such a person. So while it's generally unfair to dismiss a point of view with rude language and condescension, I did not feel those rules applied here.

We got this letter sent to The Daily Herald. Note that writing it required the efforts of two people.

We have subscribed to the Daily Herald for twenty-six years and it's with sadness that we write this letter, but we feel we must. We have been slapped in the face by Eric Snider for the last time. His cynically crafted, mean-spirited critiques and column are no longer welcomed in our home. His lasted [yes, "lasted"]article attacking Janice Kapp Perry and her beautiful inspiring music broke this camel's back. [I say the camel's back must be pretty weak if saying Janice Kapp Perry writes "very bad inspirational songs" constitutes "attacking" her. In fact, I didn't attack HER at all. Her music, yes, mildly, but not her. She's very nice.] Creating this type of controversy no long [yes, "long"] sells your newspaper in this home. [I'm amused by the image of a street corner paperboy standing in their home, selling the paper.]

We're through with the Daily Herald. Please cancel our subscription immediately. We will consider re-subscribing as soon as Eric Snider is no long [yes, "long"] on your staff.

[signed, two people]

I wish I could promise this was the lasted time I'll make fun of Janice Kapp Perry's very bad inspirational music, but you would no long be able to trust me if I did.

A bit later, I received this e-mail from one of Janice Kapp Perry's relatives. (I have obscured how he is related to protect his identity; not having seen my site, he probably was not aware when he wrote the letter that there was a good chance it would wind up here.) Brace yourself for a blast of self-righteousness.
Dear Mr. Snider,

I had never known of your remarks column until someone pointed out your recent comments about my [relative], Janice Kapp Perry, and my friend, Senator Orrin Hatch. The pain and tears that your words brought to her prompted me to search the Herald archives to see what you had written. I wondered how anyone could take aim at songs written by such high-principled people. [Because clearly, having high principles means no one should criticize your work.]

Obviously, you make your living by providing some humor along with analysis of political and other situations. This does not trouble me, for that occupation has been a thriving one for centuries (for good or ill). Humor has its place, and I enjoy it. [Why do I doubt that?] It is very useful in political situations in stimulating us to look with a keener insight.

The area in which I disagree with you is your callous treatment of two very noble individuals who have rendered unselfish service for years, lifting the hearts and souls of others. Just as you seek to lift others with your insights and humor, they seek to lift others with music and poetic lyrics. (I can't recall any of their songs that mention you critically.) [Well, now's the time to start. After all, one of my songs mentions her. It's only fair.]

I do not take up my computerized pen to challenge you to a duel to the death over the honor of my [relative], for the great Judge of us all will take care of such problems at the final Judgment Day. [At which point the Judge will probably say, "Hey, whiny crybaby, so someone didn't like your music. Get over it."] What I do offer is some simple advice that may actually help you find a bit more happiness, while at the same time not offending others. ["And by 'others,' I mean 'me.'"]

Suggestion number one: Analyze their music from the perspective of its purpose. The lyrics and music are intentionally written in simple, easily understood language and music. This is to communicate to everyone. [So we're saying Janice Kapp Perry COULD write really complex, brilliant music, but merely chooses not to? Hmm. This is the same reason I have not yet written anything worthy of a Pulitzer Prize: I simply choose not to.] They do not set themselves up as clever or highbrows, etc. Their purpose is to uplift, teach simple truths (religious, humanitarian, patriotic, etc.) Their audiences are very often the children. None of us should ever be too old, hardened, or overly inflated with self importance to remember what it is to think like we did as children. The Savior, Jesus Christ, commended this attitude to all of us (Mark 10:15). Nonetheless, the concepts explored by their words and music are very important ones and have received the critical acclaim that is highest of all: peoples' lives have been changed for the better in many nations and continents. Can you say the same for your critical commentaries? [No, but getting back to what I ACTUALLY said about Janice Kapp Perry's music -- that it's not very good -- I CAN say that my artistic output is actually of some quality. Does it make people's lives better? Probably not. But that's not what we were talking about anyway.]

Suggestion number two: Treat people with respect and consideration, even when doing so humorously. This will win you more readers, greater renown, and a deeper sense of self fulfillment. Nobody wins when shooting others down, least of all the person shooting. [I guess it depends on what constitutes a "win," but it seems to me that if you're in a gunfight with a person and you shoot him down, you probably win, unless there are other scoring factors involved that I don't know about.] Humor can be a disease if not handled carefully. [It's true. So can syphillis.] Our society is experiencing an epidemic of ill-guided humor. The finest humorists have been those who poke fun at themselves, not at others. [And if this fellow had ever read my column before -- remember, he said at the top this is the only one he's ever seen -- he would know I make fun of myself on a regular basis.] Take Abraham Lincoln, for example. Critics and sick humorists are in plentiful supply, but intelligent advocates of that which is good are infrequently found.

Suggestion number three: Be careful not to mask intolerance of others' religion under the guise of being an "insightful humorist." Such a sham wears thin instantly and can be seen through immediately. Regardless of what your religious persuasion is, we would respect it. We ask the same of you. Utah, and specifically Provo and Utah County, are common targets for those who fancy themselves as the intelligent, elite of the world, too educated to have interest in or passion for the humble things the Latter-day Saints have to offer. We are used to that, but we also happen to have a lot more happiness in our way of life, for we have the sure witness of the Holy Spirit that the things we teach are true. We invite you to taste of such humble fare. It would bring you far more lasting joy than you can imagine. [Of course, I am a Latter-day Saint, though this person thinks I am not. Perhaps it is unfathomable to him that a fellow Mormon could fail to love the music of Janice Kapp Perry, that if I don't love her stuff, well, I must not be Mormon, then.]

I sincerely hope you will not find my words abrasive. My desire is to be helpful. I wish you and the Herald success in all good endeavors. If you wish, I would be happy to meet with you, or to correspond further.


I wrote back thus:

Thanks for your e-mail. I am LDS, though you seem to suspect otherwise. I'm not sure why you suspect that, unless it is unfathomable to you that an LDS person could fail to enjoy Sister Perry's music.

I am sorry if my column was Sister Perry's first indication that some people find the quality in her music to be lacking. You will note that the column made no sign of attacking her personally, nor of attacking her good intentions. I was speaking merely from an artistic standpoint, that I consider much of her music to be bad. That is my opinion; surely I am entitled to it. Surely I can consider someone's artistic output to be mediocre while respecting the person as a person.

I'm aware of the purpose of such music, and to the extent that it achieves its purpose, more power to it. However, there is a lot of inspirational music that manages to be both inspirational AND artistically praiseworthy, rather than just inspirational. Kenneth Cope, Jon Schmidt and Julie DeAzevedo all write such music, to name a few.

I gather that you have read precisely one (1) of my columns, and have found me distasteful because I made a joke about someone you're close to. It is a variation of a theme I hear often: "I always thought you were funny, until you made fun of something I like. THAT'S when you stopped being funny." Humor is subjective (as are musical tastes). What makes one person write a lengthy rebuke makes another person laugh and say, "It's funny because it's true!"

"I do not take up my computerized pen to challenge you to a duel to the death over the honor of my [relative], for the great Judge of us all will take care of such problems at the final Judgment Day."

This paragraph disturbs me. It SOUNDS like you're saying that in making a disparaging remark about Sister Perry's music, I have also disparaged her personal honor or virtue, that in saying I think her music is bad, I've said I think SHE is bad. And that in so doing, I will have to account for my actions at the Judgment Bar. But that CAN'T be what you meant, because that is self-righteous, not to mention illogical. Where in scripture is the notion that one cannot find a fellow Saint's artistic output to be mediocre? Where does the idea come from that because Janice Kapp Perry has good intentions to uplift the Saints, that means she is beyond criticism?

I don't like most of her music, and I imagine I will continue not liking it, and I will continue to feel free to express that opinion however I see fit. You and she, in the meantime, will need to learn the difference between having one's work criticized and having one's self criticized.

His reply came:
Thank you for your prompt, and thoughtful, reply. In the midst of your busy day you were kind to take the time to write.

I salute your right to have an artistic opinion that differs from mine, or from any other's. We can all fit comfortably within the same religious belief and have that privilege. By the same measure, the true spirit of artistic freedom suggests that one be courteous toward the artistic works of another, even if they differ from one's favorites. Rather than call one "bad" and the other "good," we can look for the good in all, recognizing that some products appeal to one audience and some to another. The high esteem in which Janice's music and lyrics are held is ample proof that there is much good in them. [I was waiting for it, and there it is: "It's popular, so it must be good."] I do not need to defend them; my effort was simply to explain their purpose. The musical works of the others to whom you referred are also among my favorites, but they have not had any higher acclaim nor touched more lives for good than has Janice's music. Again, her music is intentionally simple and straightforward. That suits her vast audience.

I look forward to reading your column in the future. [Indeed.]

All this just because I said she writes bad inspirational music. Imagine the uproar if I'd spilled the REAL dirt I have on her...!

(Note: Just kidding. I have no dirt. I assume there is no dirt to have.)