Category Archives: Politics

Flirting with Tyranny

ByCandlelight

It is easy for me to imagine them having dinner together on their anniversary.

The scene is dark and romantic, one of those undiscovered hole-in-the-wall restaurants that only the locals know, rugged brick walls and old wooden rafters, and the kind of food that men have quite literally died for.

They always come here.

Every year, the same restaurant, the same table even.

A happy tradition.

She’s wearing her favorite copper number.  

She wondered, earlier, as she pulled it out of her closet, if she shouldn’t start looking for something a little more fashionable, but sitting here now, basking in his smile, she knows she looks good by candlelight.

Mister top hat and tails, across the table, is looking pretty good himself.

Oh sure, he’s a little heavier and a little grayer around the temples, but he’s still the same sweet guy she’s carried a torch for these two-hundred and forty-two years.

Such a long time ago, and so much has changed.

Why, they were just children when they first met.

She was an entirely new idea, unrealized and untested in social situations.

And he was a brash bit of a country bumpkin, eager to get out from under daddy’s shadow, and prove his worth in the wide world.

The families were scandalized, she smiles to herself, enjoying the memory, but here we are, almost half way through a third century, and going strong.

He’s been talking to her, throughout her musing, chatting about work, or the neighbors or something, but now she notices that he’s stopped.

She’d been looking, not at him so much, as through him, and into memories of days bygone.

Now, she’s back, and along with the sudden silence, she notices that his eyes are no longer meeting her own, but are instead, glancing toward something just over her shoulder.

Something, or someone, behind her, at the bar.

And then, as if it had never happened, his gaze is back and he’s amiably chatting again, as if he’d never stopped.

But now she is studying him more closely, and listening more intently to the other voices in the restaurant.  She becomes aware of a group of male voices behind her, murmuring among themselves, and then the clear, bright laugh of a woman in their midst.

And his eyes move again, with the laughter, and she knows exactly what he’s looking at.

And his eyes come back, and she smiles and he keeps on with the small talk.

But they dart back again soon enough, as the noise behind her rises a bit.

She takes a sip of her wine, and then, while pretending to gauge its consistency by candlelight, she raises the glass to observe in reflection, the scene at the bar.

Half a dozen nation states, bumbling fools the lot of them, all fawning over a women she knows all too well.

Tyranny, in a little black dress, just soaking up the attention.

And not, mind you, from her little ‘admiration society’ at the bar.

Vamp!

Putting her glass down, carefully, she glances back to her husband, who seems lost in thought, his eyes averted.  And a moment later he snaps back into focus, guiltily, realizing he must have been caught.

“Yes Sam,” she says, using the old pet name, “you were saying?”

“Oh, well only that…,” he continues, with just the briefest look of relief.

And the just as quickly he’s gone again, and this time his eyes narrow with the kind of obvious hunger she would have sworn, before tonight, that he’d kept for her alone.

“I wonder what that was,” she thinks to herself, “did she smile at him and toss her hair?”

“Or maybe she flashed him a little leg.”

“Or a military parade.”

She closes her eyes.

For just this moment she can’t bare to look at him, looking at Her.

She remembers him for a moment, as he was those many years ago, when he dropped to one knee in this very restaurant, and proposed.

“We hold these truths to be self evident…,” he’d said then.  She’d nearly swooned.

They’d had their share of troubles of course.

Early on, there was the slavery addiction that had nearly driven them apart.

Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Movement, McCarthyism…, just bumps in the road she’d thought.

Smiling, she remembers how he’d taken her hand, all those years ago, and suddenly she feels his touch again now.

She opens her eyes to find a look of concern on his face.

“Are you all right love?” he asks, tenderly.

“Yes,” she answers back, holding his hand tightly for a moment before releasing it.

What had he been saying a moment ago about work?  Something about detention camps along the border?  What else had she missed?

“The wine may have given me a headache is all.”

“Would you like to leave then, call it an early night?”

“Oh, no dear, we haven’t even had dinner yet.  I’ll be fine.”

“I’m glad,” he says, and seems to mean it.

Then he glances over her shoulder again and smiles, like the brash young nation he used to be.  The one who had told her that she was all he ever wanted…,

“Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

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Inconvenient, not Evil

Did you see the story last week about the raccoon who spent his day climbing a 25-story office building in Minnesota?

Little fellow became an internet sensation for a few hours, with millions checking in on his progress and wishing him a safe climb in perilous conditions.

In the comments sections that followed the coverage, I noticed how some thought it odd that a creature whom many think of as a filthy pest, suddenly had his own cheering section.

“Trash Panda…,”

“Vermin…,”

“Scavenger…,”

Strange choice of words, it seems to me, as we are blaming the raccoon for something the WE did. We built the cities and neighborhoods in what used to be their habitat. We killed off most of the stuff that they’d normally gather to sustain themselves, and then we get upset when they are forced to root through out trash for scraps.

That little critter in the YouTube videos wasn’t climbing a building to make a point and he wasn’t in it for the adventure. He was terrified of all the humans wandering around at street level.

Also last week, my Facebook feed lit up with posts from a friend of mine at work. He was having a problem with a mouse that had turned up in his apartment. Little critter was eating his bread and making all the standard mousey scurrying sounds as it moved to and fro.

Following along post after post, I read about the snap-traps and glue traps, all of which failed to undo a rodent of such size and cunning, that I began to wonder if NIMH weren’t missing another of its test subjects.

I surmised from the follow up posts that the critter was eventually cornered, and quite possibly bludgeoned to death.

Now, in the days leading up to the creatures demise, I must admit I was somewhat amused by the frequent and desperate nature of my friend’s posts. You’d have thought, from the tone, that his home had been taken over by a pack of angry badgers, rather than by a single rodent.

“City people,” I caught myself thinking with a wry smile.

But as this saga dragged on I began to pay more attention to the language used, in both his posts and by some of the people who left supportive comments…,

“Disgusting,”

“Filthy,”

“Vermin,”

“Evil,”

“Straight out of Hell!”

All this hate, earned for nothing more than trying to survive in a world we built.

***

The raccoon in Minnesota became an internet sensation because he was never really in anyone’s way. The mouse in the house is a different story.

I know that a lot of what I read last week was hyperbole.

That’s kinda what the internet is for.

But I can’t help but worry when I see good people equating inconvenience with evil.

And I have been seeing that kind of thing a great deal as of late.

And no, I’m not talking about rodents.

The species may vary, but the circumstances are really pretty similar.

Living beings, just trying to survive in a world we built.

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Filed under Modern Life, Nature, Philosophy, Politics

Blood and Soiled

This must be one of the saddest photographs I have ever seen.

Why do we teach our children the wrong things?

Why do we teach them to hate, to fear, to believe that if we give one man respect, or dignity, or just a fair chance in life, that we must be trying to take those same opportunities away from another?  Why do we teach our children that the land is ours, by right of blood or edict from on high, when we are only the latest insects to crawl across its surface?  Why do we teach them that one man is different from another, better than, superior, when the story of our genes tells us that we all come from a singular place and time?

Why are we dressing our littlest ones up in the raiment of hate?

And when did Nazi Cosplay suddenly become cool?

Don’t tell me it was THOSE people who did it!  Please, don’t try to put it on someone else.

It was us.  How could it not be?

There are people walking our streets and living in our neighborhoods, who think it’s okay for one group to round up another, to remove them from their homes and fence them in like animals, to starve them, abuse them and ultimately exterminate them.  And these folks didn’t time-travel here from Germany in the early 40’s. They grew up here right alongside us, went to the same schools, studied the same history books.

So how could they have learned to hate so well?

I wonder.

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Homeless

I’d just pulled out of the grocery store parking lot and into some mild traffic, this was early last week, when the passenger side window of the car in front of me opened and ejected what looked like a wadded up fast food bag, which came to rest on the grassy slope beyond the curb.

There was no way I could pull over to pick it up, and no way to properly express my outrage to the uncaring occupants of the vehicle in front of me.

The litter was just there, a little blot of ugliness in my both my rearview mirror and my stomach.

I found myself wondering in what sort of condition those people keep their home.

What, I wondered, was their problem?

Why not just dispose of the thing properly?

I called these folks “uncaring” a moment ago, but I don’t know that I believe that.  There has to have been some thought process, some mental calculation that would compel a person to open her car window and cast her refuse into the street.

I imagined these people as horrible slobs, leaving a trail of filth in their wake wherever they go.

But maybe they just didn’t want that trash in their car, they could, I supposed, be incredibly tidy, within their own four walls.

And there, in the midst of my conjecture, I think I may have hit upon the element that I was missing.

Home, for most people, is what we own, an area bounded by fence or walls that belongs to exclusively to us.  Everything beyond those walls is outside, outside of our control, outside of our responsibility.

I don’t really see things that way.  Walls and fences have their uses, sure, but they are temporary things, in the grand scheme, and land ownership even more so.  The land does not belong to us, we are only its caretakers.

It is, I think, far more realistic to say that we belong to the land.

And so, last Sunday when I saw garbage indiscriminately flung into the street, it felt like a blemish upon my home.

Two days later, nearly half our population flung garbage into the presidency, and for the first time in my life, I felt homeless.

In the days that have passed since that seemingly endless Tuesday night, my emotional state has shifted from anger to despondency and back again more times than I can count.  I’ve listened to the speculation about the why’s and how’s, I’ve looked through the sorry demographics of who did and didn’t, I’ve listened to the explanations from those who voted for him, and I keep coming up with the same calculation that accounts for that wadded up bag on the side of the roadway.

This society is infected with a strange breed of selfishness that prevents us from truly seeing and empathizing with the world beyond that little patch that we imagine we own.

The problems and concerns of others, their very real fears about the future…, well, that’s on them, isn’t it.

And I don’t know what we can do about that attitude.  I don’t know how we can broaden the perceptions of people beyond themselves, except to continue to be who WE are, to continue to live in their world, and to open their hearts, one by one.

I suppose it would be easier, if I could just shut my eyes to it, but I can’t.

I wouldn’t want to.  I remember when I saw the world like they do.  I remember that, although less painful, it was a pretty empty way to live.

The anger is still there, but it’s at low ebb now.

The despondency, I’ve mostly replaced that with determination.

But I worry for my friends, many of whom are likely facing hard times ahead.

I worry for those of us who practice alternative religions, now that the evangelical movement has friends in high places, who have already expressed profound misunderstandings about both the Non-Establishment Clause, and simple human decency.

Mostly though, I worry about the land.

My ancestors believed that we were all a part of the land, and that the land herself was divine.

When they chose a king, he was symbolically married to the goddess of the land.

The success or the failure of that marriage could be seen in both the fruitfulness of the land and the prosperity of the people.  A disrespectful king could bring blight to the land and ruin to the governed.

Although the actual rituals of this marriage have not been practiced in many centuries, and never on this continent (so far as I know), I do believe that some vestige of this relationship, however unknown to our leaders, must still remain.  And the thought of it, of that man in THAT spiritual role…, frankly, it makes me nauseous.

Somehow, I don’t think a man with a reputation for using women and a well documented disdain for environmental protections will be the font of a bountiful union.  And if things go too badly, the goddess of this land may very well blame the society that put him there.  We may find that we are all homeless.

Goddess Statue

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Filed under Culture, Modern Life, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Traditions

Suddenly, a Witch!

Hillary Clinton, they are telling us now, is a Witch.

The truth, of course, is that folks on the Republican side of the American political fence have been calling her a “witch” for quite some time.  I’ve heard it mixed in there, along with every other disparaging word in the misogynist’s lexicon.

But then suddenly, a couple days ago, they started talking about the capital ‘W’ kind of witch.

Specifically, some folks on Drudge and other bottom-feeder websites began claiming that Clinton was a member of a circle of blood-magic wielding, satan-worshipping, cultists.

I mean, come on guys…, I’ve got so many reasons to vote for her already.

You don’t need to sweeten the deal.

Could it be, SATAN?!

Could it be, SATAN?!

For the last year, I’ve tried to keep this blog away from the American political meltdown, providing myself (and anyone who cares to join me), a respite from the insanity.  Plus, I already get dragged into enough political flame-wars, without stoking the fires on my own site.

But it’s the last day before the election, so what the hell, while the wackier fringes of the conservative movement are off trying to prove that ducks and witches are both made of wood, I thought I might take just a brief moment to explain my very favorite thing about the 2016 Presidential Election cycle.

It’s not a hard choice really, in the last year we’ve seen a lot of really nasty thoughts and beliefs come slithering out of the darkness and into the light of day – which is, itself, a good thing really, if hard to stomach from time to time.

But there HAS been a good thing come out of this election.

The inborn hypocrisy of the evangelical christian movement has never been more prominently on display.  It’s just there, sitting boldly on a pedestal, under a spotlight, for all to see.

“The Candidate took them to a very high mountain and showed them all the kingdoms of the world, all the schools and courthouses, he showed them the supreme court and a tattered copy of the Defense of Marriage Act, and he said to them, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and vote for me…,”

And they’re doing it, in droves.

They’ll sacrifice themselves to a man that they know is not one of their own, who does not truly believe as they believe, who has built his fame and his fortune upon sin after sin, but who hands them empty promises to give them the power over our society that they so desperately crave.

These are not acts of faith or piety.

These are the votes of cowardice in the face of a world which will no longer bow to the singular lie that provides for them their only purpose.

It would be tempting to watch it happen, if for no other reason than to enjoy the whirling destruction that comes with any big train wreck.  But it is important to remember that this is a passenger train, and many of those folks didn’t know where they were bound when they boarded.

The folks who come crawling from that smoking ruin will need comfort, not condemnation.

And what better time to show them what the Witches are really like.

Get out there and vote, friends.

Our future depends upon it.

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Indiana Jonesing

So you’ve heard about the new law in Indiana, right?

I mean, it’s made the news here in Texas, where any news story that’s not about Texas had better be about sports, or it’ll be regarded with suspicion…, so it must be a really big and controversial story…, right?!

Okay, on the off chance that you’ve had your head buried in the sand, here’s the scoop.

A lot of people are very upset because the state of Indiana has just enacted a law which, it is claimed, allows business owners to refuse to serve homosexuals, if said business owner has a religious objection to homosexuality.

Another group of people have responded to that claim by saying, “nu uh!”

And yet a third group, is busy shouting “God Hates Fags!” at anyone who is foolish enough to wander into the comments section of any news story relating to this law, or to any news story, about almost anything.  But mother always said it was unkind to stare at those less fortunate than ourselves, so let’s turn our attention away from the ignorant hooting, and examine, instead, the actual claims about this particular bit of legislation.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Hmmm…, having read through it, I’ve got to say that, if anything, it suffers from being poorly named.

Indiana FactsWhich religious freedoms, I am forced to wonder, have been taken away, that this law is intended to restore?

Has anyone, Christian, Buddhist, Wiccan, or Jew, been denied the right to worship their god or gods as they see fit?  Have any churches been shuttered?  Have the stormtroopers of vile secularism kicked in the doors of private homes and stolen away with menorahs, prayer mats, advent calendars, and the like?

In what circumstance, has government prohibited the free exercise of religion, in the state of Indiana, (or any of the other states where similar laws hold sway), that we need legislation, specifically enacted, to restore our lost religious liberty?

I ask because, the only examples anyone seems to be able to provide, involve bakers not wanting to produce confections for gay weddings.  I’ve studied a great many religions, over the years.  More, in fact, than I could easily name.  And I have yet to encounter one where baking constituted an act of faith.

I am open to the possibility that adherents of such a faith might be prone to die off quickly, of cholesterol poisoning most likely, thus keeping their numbers dangerously low, and their overall presence off of my religious radar.  But I have serious doubts.

So, until someone can demonstrate some other, greater need for this legislation, what we do seem to have is a law that shields from legal action, a business which refuses service to anyone, on the basis of that business owners religious belief.

Realistically, we also have a law which appears to be named in the sensationalist hope, of attracting the attention (and shall I say votes) of those very same folks, the loud hooting ones, from whom we are trying diligently, to avert our gaze.

Okay, fine.  We may think it ugly, but it’s there.  And right or wrong, the state of Indiana is getting something of a black eye because of it.

So here’s another question to consider: Is it Constitutional?

I don’t know, and the learned opinions on the matter seem to differ, but sooner or later, I think we’re going to find out.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. 

JonesingI don’t understand how baking a cake for a gay wedding, as long as said cake is no different than those you usually produce in the course of your business, can be abhorrent to the religious beliefs or any reasoning person.  And maybe, this is because it hasn’t been explained to me properly yet.

But in the course of my own career, I have performed technical support, designed advertising and marketing materials, built homes for, and sold actual artwork of my own creation, to people whom I have found to be reprehensible for any number of reasons, including their particular religious beliefs.  I have done this, not because I value the dollar more than my own ideals, but because I firmly believe that everyone should be equal in the marketplace.  My ancestors once had to deal with storefront signs that read ‘No Irish’, and I will never, knowingly, demean another human being in that way.

So, pending more evidence, the ‘non-establishment clause’ would seem to be out of the picture.

So what, then, about the Freedom of Association?

I’ve often heard this touted as a constitutionally mandated right, allowing certain folks the freedom to avoid contact with other folks whom they don’t like.

And that would be fine, except that it is nothing of the kind.

The right of association is not even explicitly mentioned in the constitution, but is, rather, a modern day extension of the freedom to ‘peaceably assemble’.  My research shows that the right of association came into vogue during the civil rights movement when certain groups were putting a lot of energy into either preventing meetings of the NAACP, or forcing that group to turn over lists of its membership.

In any case, the right, as it is commonly expressed, has never been one of ‘disassociation’.  The intent, as I understand it, is to make it clear that you are free to interact with whoever you want to, for whatever reason that is not already prohibited by law.  There’s nothing there about a guarantee that you will not have to interact with people that you don’t like.

In other words the freedom of association, does not give you the right to turn people away from your business, simply because you don’t like them, or their beliefs.

Am I missing something?  Is there something in the Indiana law, or any of the others (including the federal version) that cause it to pass Constitutional muster?  If so, I welcome anyone with a reasoned argument in favor of these laws, to explain it to me.

Show me, please!  Demonstrate to me that there is a very real need for these laws.  Show me that they will be useful to members of minority religions in exactly the same way they are useful to the Christian majority that feels so threatened.  Give me reason to believe that this is more than simple discrimination couched in legal terminology.

Because the alternative…,

The alternative is that these laws are put in place in the hope that they will be challenged.  Certainly, the first group of folks I mentioned at the beginning of this post are getting worked up over the prospect of a legal fight.

And the second group?  They have to know that a challenge is coming.  And another, and another, until someone lands in front of the right court at the right time, and then…,

IndianaJonesingBut, it’s not really about the court challenges at all, is it?

And it’s certainly not about some poor beleaguered baker being forced against her will to apply frosting rosettes to a cake that will be consumed following a same-sex union she will never see.

It’s all about that third group, that rabid mob which is so blinkered by its own insecurity that they have rejected the Christ of the Bible, the one who would likely have embraced the homosexual with the same love and compassion he is said to have shown the prostitute and the adulterer, (perhaps even selling him a nice set of table and chairs from his step-dad’s workshop), and replaced him with the same kind of self-righteous ass, their own scriptures always show him preaching against.

My fear is that it’s really all about keeping them riled up and jonesing for a fight.

But what happens when that monster gets out of control?

Who will these laws protect, when there is blood in the streets?

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The Blood on My Hands

There are those with whom I may not speak.
Not because I could not find the words.
But knowing they would not hear me if I did.

I.

The Evangelist is deaf to all but his own voice.
He pounds the cover of the book he holds.
And my voice shall never touch him.

I am a heretic in his eyes, honoring false gods and corrupt traditions.  I have failed the truest tests of righteousness, surrendering my flesh to the Whore of Babylon and my soul to the Flames of Perdition.  My words can only be lies, the frustrated mewling of a sinner, lost in the din of Heaven’s glorious trumpet.  The blood of the martyrs is on my hands, and in that blood I must either find redemption, or be lost!

II.

The Patriot hears only the fife and the drum.
She stands rapt with hand held over heart.
And no pledge of mine will move her.

I am a traitor in her eyes, placing individual truth above the great social contract.  In my contempt for the notion of Manifest Destiny, I ally myself with those who wish only to end the great experiment before the promise of freedom can be fulfilled.  She brands me “hippy” and “un-American” and “tree-hugger”.  If I will not stand with her, then I must be against her, my hands stained with the blood of heroes!

III.

The Vegan has ears only for those without voice.
He campaigns against the ongoing atrocity.
And nary a justification will satisfy.

I am a monster in his eyes, a modern Grendel, ravenous amid my unthinking carnage.  Is this vile consumption rooted in some religious pretext of dominance over the natural world, or do I simply not understand that animals are thinking beings, capable of pain?  No token moderation of these unseemly habits will appease.  No death, however gentle, should be tolerated.  How can I claim to honor nature and respect all living things when my hands are dripping with the blood of defenseless millions!

IV.  The Homophobe…,

V.  The Socialist…,

VI.  The Feminist…,

VII.  The Atheist…,

Did you think your cause was different from the others?  Better?  More noble?

There are those with whom I may not speak.
Not because I could not find the words.
But knowing they would not hear me if I did.

This world is filled with zealots of every stripe.  Their numbers seem to multiply with each passing moment and I am sure you must have noticed them.  But there is a secret that you may not be aware of: If you believe in one singular truth, whatever that truth is, so fervently that you are willing to denigrate or vilify those who think differently, without considering their arguments or perspective, you are probably a zealot too.

Call them fanatics, bigots, or dogmatists, call them by whatever name suits you.  I will call them dangerous, all of them, each one as dangerous as the others, when their cause is bolstered by numbers and hardware and a disregard for their supposed enemies.

They are dangerous because, in someone’s eyes, we all have blood on our hands.

I know I do.

Bloody Hands

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