Friday, April 27, 2007

Someone Else's War

We can add a new list of atrocities to the Iraq War.

I just finished watching a documentary entitled Someone Else's War.

In addition to outsourcing torture, we have also outsourced manual labor jobs for the US military. These jobs have been filtered through a convoluted system of military contractors and subcontractors, all of which fall under the responsibility of a company you may be familiar with--Halliburton.

Poor migrant workers, primarily from India and the Philippines have forced into essentially indentured servitude, providing basic services like housekeeping and food service for American troops. These are tantamount to slave labor: wages on which no American could survive. They've been promised grand sums of money such as $1000 American dollars for their efforts, but, in fact, forced to pawn off their few possessions to raise the money merely to be employed. The military's grunt work is done primarily by these migrant workers who live in hastily constructed shanty-towns that no civilized person would consider neither sanitary nor humane.

I've always wondered how we could fight this ill-fated war with such a relatively light tax burden and now I understand why. Halliburton has acted like every other American corporation--outsourcing jobs it can have performed much cheaper elsewhere. Yet, through a convoluted system of network, Halliburton itself can claim to not be accountable for the actions of its subsidiaries.

Halliburton's self-serving promotional commercials feature a parade of actors, all of whom are American. The company thus tries to justify its existence, directly denying that it is neglecting to hire American workers. The reality is that of the 40,000 workers Halliburton employs in Iraq, only 20% are American.

This sort of trickery is further emphasized by the way in which a Philippine man was told he was going to be sent to work in Kuwait. Then, after he arrived in Kuwait, he was told he was going to work in Iraq, instead.

If this happened to ordinary American citizens, there would be a public outcry surrounding the proceedings but since this happens to the poorest of the poor, no one bats an eyelash.

Within the framework of the documentary is a direct accusation of the minimal amount of tax we pay, while whining and bitching about it, while the rest of the world bears a much higher tax burden than we do. It may be human nature to complain about taxation. Rest assured, I pay around 30% of my wages in tax but at what cost?

It also begs the question. How are jobs evolving in this country? As more and more corporations realize the cost benefits in outsourcing jobs overseas, where they are obligated to pay only a fraction of the wages to employ Americans and certainly without being obligated to provide basic health services---what jobs will be left for Americans?

For more information: Someone Else's War.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Thanks Be

To Cee Jay, who nominated me for a Thinking Blog Award.

I seem to be out of profundities at the moment, but life has been slow here in the Chrestomathy. Don't worry. I'll be full of fire at something soon.


I seem to be out of opinions for once in my life.

I mean, how many different ways can you say

  • We need to be out of Iraq
  • President Bush is a moron
  • We really really need to be Iraq
Don't worry. It's just a slow time in the lefty blogosphere and with your humble narrator for right now. All will pick up soon.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The World According to John McCain

Yes Sir, no Sir
Where do I go Sir
What do I do Sir
What do I say
Yes Sir, no Sir

Where do I go Sir
What do I do Sir
How do I behave
Yes Sir, no Sir
Permission to speak Sir
Permission to breathe Sir
What do I say, how do I behave, what do I say

So you think that you've got ambition
Stop your dreaming and your idle wishing
You're outside and there ain't no admission
To our play

Pack up your ambition in your old kit bag
Soon you'll be happy with a packet of fags
Chest out stomach in

Do what I say, do what I say
Yes right away
Yes Sir, no Sir
Where do I go Sir
What do I do Sir
What do I say
Yes Sir, no Sir

Permission to speak Sir
Permission to breathe Sir
What do I say, how do I behave, what do I say
Doesn't matter who you are

You're there and there you are
Everything Is in its place
Authority must be maintained
And then we know exactly where we are

Let them feel that they're important to the cause
But let them know that they are fighting for their homes
Just be sure that they're contributing their all
Give the scum a gun and make the bugger fight
And be sure to have deserters shot on sight
If he dies we'll send a medal to his wife

Yes Sir, no Sir
Please let me die Sir
I think this life is affecting my brain
Yes Sir, no Sir
Three bags full Sir
What do I do Sir, what do I say
What do I say, how do I behave, what do I say

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

History Repeats Itself

I've been recently reading Barbara W. Tuchman's book The Guns of August, which in great detail mentions the frantic month of orders, counter-orders, and downright lunacy which characterized the start of World War I.

I used to believe that those in power pandered only to their overarching interests, like say for instance, the military-industrial-complex but I'm beginning to understand how individual personalities shape a war. The Kaiser of Germany's inflexibility, both in his character and in his war plan directly lead to the defeat of Germany in the First Battle of the Marne.

It never ceases to amaze me the ways in which human folly, ego, and petty rivalries, tied together in one neat package become the undoing of humanity over and over again. The successes of World War I were successes in deed only, and the the winner ended up with the person who made the least mistakes or at least the least mistakes at the least critical time.

I don't know how much more I can write about this Iraq quandary. I just see examples through history that prove what short term memories human beings have. We get so preoccupied with our own lives that we fail to see when the wool has been pulled over our eyes yet again.

Monday, April 23, 2007


What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of their guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid fire
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

-Wilfred Owen

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Why I Don't Like Slam

A score or so
of decidedly

morality plays
life lessons
jail sentences

each speaker
legends in
their own minds

all churned out
to the same metronomic

that seems to
suffice for
dramatic emphasis.

I missing
the point?

Saturday, April 21, 2007

When Catastrophy Strikes

Everytime I learn about some new means by which the Patriot Act has wormed its way into our every day lives, I think about this passage.

Everytime I think about the means of control by which the inevitable tragdies such as Blacksburg and Columbine, I fear for the means by which our human rights will be controlled under the guise of protection.

O'Brien smiled faintly. ‘You are no metaphysician, Winston,’ he said. ‘Until this moment you had never considered what is meant by existence. I will put it more precisely. Does the past exist concretely, in space? Is there somewhere or other a place, a world of solid objects, where the past is still happening?’
‘Then where does the past exist, if at all?’
‘In records. It is written down.’
‘In records. And—?’
‘In the mind. In human memories.’
‘In memory. Very well, then. We, the Party, control all records, and we control all memories. Then we control the past, do we not?’
‘But how can you stop people remembering things?’ cried Winston again momentarily forgetting the dial. ‘It is involuntary. It is outside oneself. How can you control memory? You have not controlled mine!’
O'Brien's manner grew stern again. He laid his hand on the dial.
‘On the contrary,’ he said, ‘you have not controlled it. That is what has brought you here. You are here because you have failed in humility, in self-discipline. You would not make the act of submission which is the price of sanity. You preferred to be a lunatic, a minority of one. Only the disciplined mind can see reality, Winston. You believe that reality is something objective, external, existing in its own right. You also believe that the nature of reality is self-evident. When you delude yourself into thinking that you see something, you assume that everyone else sees the same thing as you. But I tell you, Winston, that reality is not external. Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else. Not in the individual mind, which can make mistakes, and in any case soon perishes: only in the mind of the Party, which is collective and immortal. Whatever the Party holds to be the truth, is truth. It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party. That is the fact that you have got to relearn, Winston. It needs an act of self-destruction, an effort of the will. You must humble yourself before you can become sane.’

-George Orwell, 1984

Friday, April 20, 2007

Is Unitarian Universalism a Cult?

No, but it certainly resembles a social organization more than it does an actual faith tradition.

Those who comprise its ranks have rejected traditional Christianity, usually, as a result of feeling out-of-sorts and disenfranchised. Thus, its ranks are often full of people with low self-esteem.

Those who comprise its ranks are often loners. Thus, it's difficult to find a lot of commonality between membership.

It's also difficult to network between individual congregations as each congregation has its own dynamic. I've found that, despite my disagreements with Traditional Christianity--at least Traditional Christianity has more of a communal mindset than a hyper-individual mindset. If I missed a service in the Non-Denominational Christian church I attended, I received a card wondering where I've been. In every Unitarian church I have attended, I have received no word at all from others.

I wonder if removing the Christianity from our faith tradition has done us more harm than good. We have so much work to do and all I end up doing is beating my head against a brick wall. Existentialist philosophy, which is what Unitarianism has defined itself is, only creates a fortress mentality with a bunch of fellow lost souls all desperately seeking to find common purpose with a bunch of other seekers.

Every Unitarian church is a blue oasis of souls who feel as though the only people who can understand them are them. Ask any Unitarian what pulls us all together and you'll be greeted a variety of answers, most of which are I'm not quite sure. I just didn't feel as though I belonged anywhere else. Unitarian churches tend to be a hodgepodge of people with issues.

Many of us have identified the problems, but I wonder without any sort of coherent faith doctrines besides some nebulous principles and statements of faith if we will ever accomplish our goal. Unitarian churches are hotbeds for activism and statements of overt political banter but should that really be the focus of any church? If we're a social organization, then let's call a spade a spade.

I attended a church where the circle of lights was hijacked for every two-bit activists' personal grievance.

I attended a church where I was summarily asked to take a leave of absence for six months, while my harasser was allowed to attend--this because she had been a member longer than I and had given more money to the church. Aren't churches places of inclusion rather than exclusion.

And I don't think I need to point out how suspicious we are out of outsiders. It is as if we have to prove that they are worthy of our attention before we acknowledge them as one of us. This stems from our own inherent insecurity. But I think we must formulate a coherent doctrine and stray from our fear of creedal requirements and dogma.

This may be my own personal experience, but I have found that Unitarians are groundless without faith doctrine. The more I question Unitarianism, the less I find it appealing, and the more I find it alienating.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

My Experience

The inevitable comparison has been made between the Virginia Tech shootings and Columbine.

I graduated high school the year Columbine occured. The obligatory copycat threat was made by our classes' resident bad boy, which only stirred up an already frightened administration and student body. The threat proved bogus, as I suspected. He was summarily expelled.

They did take the precaution of making us walk through metal detectors and I unzipped my cheaply made black robe to ensure that I wasn't carrying a concealed weapon. I suppose it made everyone feel safer.

Catastrophes like this happen and people search for answers. Again, I hope that no one makes a hasty, knee-jerk reaction that will only make things worse in the end. There is some sort of poision that I notice in my own generation--some kind of hate. I speculate it is that we have been exposed to so many images at so young an age. We've grown up with violent acts on television and in assorted media. We've been aware of sex at younger and younger ages.

Can we distinguish properly between fantasy and reality at such young ages?

Can the human mind truly process these things correctly? Is their some virtue to innocence? Studies have shown that the human brain does not finish developing until the early twenties and yet we are exposed to more images in a day than our grandparents and great-great parents experienced in a lifetime.

Take a look at television, for example. Notice that the pace of television has picked up considerably over the years. Instead of slow framing of shots and gradual pacing, we're subjected to jump cuts, rapid fire editing, and constant stimulation. No wonder our attention spans are not where they need to be. Has our technology evolved faster than we are capable of responding to it?

I pose only questions and I have no answers to them. I wish I did.

Maxim of the Day

One day, Roger came home from work very upset.

"I can't go on!" he cried, to anyone who would listen.

"I can't go on! I can't go on!"

The next day was Thursday. Roger woke up, put his pants on, and went to work.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Processing the Virgina Tech Shootings

Over the next several days, columnists, bloggers, and talking heads alike will be pointing fingers towards causes of random acts of mass violence.

We want to know why. The usual suspects will be cited: environmental factors such as impurities in food, pollution, a hyper-violent society, particularly on television and on video games. Some will delve into the psyche of a killer: want to know whether these accusations of molestation were true or were, in fact, the rambling of a deranged psychotic.

I have to say that I slightly disagree with the majority of my lefty bloggers. This is not to say that I think gun control isn't an important issues, just that it's a facet of a larger problem that we in society have yet to confront. This country has had a history of violence, no matter how we've tried to obscure it in fantasy and mythology.

We fought for our independence. We fought and killed off a race of indigenous peoples. We fought and enslaved another race of people instead. We fought between North and South. We fought for land and conquest and money many times over.

I've been watching D.W. Griffith's silent masterpiece, Broken Blossoms. The plot is inconsequential to this post, but one inter-title struck me. It mentioned how the older Asian religions had long since shunned overt violence, but the Western Anglo-Saxons were brutish figures, violent and aggressive--apparently born that way.

How ironic, then, that the native shooter is a native of the seemingly non-violent Orient: talk about irony.

I do mirror some of the comments made by fellow bloggers. We must confront an epidemic of mental illness that runs rampant in this society and raise more money to find its cause and treatment. We must remove the veil of shame that, despite having been muted over the years, still stigmatizes those who suffer. We must forgive the killer for his evil actions, knowing how troubled he must have been. It is the least we can do.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Massacres and The State of Things

Here's what concerns me most about the Virgina Tech shootings. (I hasten to call it a massacre. It was no more a massacre than the Boston Massacre. I try to avoid hyperbole in all forms).

In Iraq, more than 33 innocent people have been killed in car bombings or sectarian violence and it we've become so desensitized to it that no one thinks twice. Any time any human life is lost is tragic and ought to grab our attention. Yet, we are so insulated (we think) in this country that it takes a random act of violence to snag our attention.

What concerns me even more is how we judge chaos by mere body count alone. Had this been 1 or 2 people killed rather than 33, then it would be a one day story, not a three or four day story. If 1 American soldiers dies in Iraq, we scarcely bat an eyelash. If ten die, then it's somehow newsworthy.

Some talking heads have taken this tragedy to begin talking about gun control again. My own feelings are deeply ambivalent. I doubt the effectiveness of true gun control. It has worked, to some degree in some countries, but ours is a country where people metaphorically laminate the Second Amendment and stick it in their wallets, displaying it in front of strangers like pictures of their children. Violence, particularly gun violence, is so endemic to our society that I doubt anyone would willingly trade in his or her shotgun .

What we ought to question is why we are so violent a society. What we ought to question is what we can really do to ensure that our lives are not taken by the act of madmen. What we ought to question is what about our society causes people to break down into lunatics.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Hatred and Violence

The Virgina Tech shooting reveals a deep scar within this society.

What has caused such anger? What must be done to heal the wounds that go far beyond someone willing to kill 25 + people?

We've always been a violent people but clearly something is making certain people snap. Are they the miner's canary, predicting more violence?

What are the roots of this anger? How do we stop it?

The answer lies in love, not in hate. That's one of the oldest cliches in the book, but it applies to this situation.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

My Thoughts Exactly

Quote of the Week

"He that will not reason is a bigot, he that cannot reason is a fool, and he that dares not reason is a slave."
Forgive your humble author for not posting more. He is recovering from a sinus infection.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

On Heroes

We are taught, in this society, to believe in heroes.

Our own parents are our heroes, until we learn to rebel against them.

Through media we are bought and sold on the idea that we ought to idolize and deify certain people. I hear the voice of my father, who told me from a young age: most people are followers and few people are leaders. Being that the truth, I would also hold that merely because our disposition is not to lead does not mean we should be complicit in lifting up those heroes who proven themselves to be less than perfect.

Everyone I look up to is inherently flawed, thus human. I try not to have heroes anymore because I've had my heart broken over and over again.

If you want to look at a Scriptural passage to prove this: look at the Old Testament and the story of King David. A great man, full of wisdom, but also the murderer of the husband of a married woman--a woman whom he coveted. Naturally, David paid the price for his sin, as do we all. The true irony is that most of the time we are our own worst enemy.

Expanding this premise further: I think you'd find underneath the historical Jesus, a flawed creature no more divine than we are. And the choice that remains is this: do we love our heroes as they are, if we choose to have them? Do we become bitter and hateful of fellow human beings who do have heroes and will always sell into the tasty lies perpetuated in the sake of glory and particularly in money?

The choice is ours. But I would urge each of you to be your own hero. Don't be hard on yourselves when you do sin but to seek to live a life where you take stock of your own issues and not cast the blame on others, though to do so is as human as humanity.

Friday, April 13, 2007

On Classism

Tomorrow, I head to a very tragic event. The double funeral of two distant relatives. I couldn't help but think that this is the sort of tragedy which most of us read about without blinking an eye, so long as it happens to someone else we know. When it hits close to home, it's a totally different event altogether.

Nothing makes me more aware of my own hypocrisy as a human being than when I contemplate class differences in this country. For me, I prove myself a hypocrite with that sort of internal cringing I feel when confronted with working-class stock. Do I believe that I'm better than the backbone of this country? Once I did.

I've gotten better at looking down my nose at the less fortunate than I. Now, I just am painfully aware of how little I share in common with my Father's side of the family. I see in them the reasons why there will always be miscommunication between class so long as there are disparities in income, education, and commonality.

The idealistic part of me wonders if there's any way to change it. The pragmatic part of me realizes that, just as Jesus of Nazareth mentioned, "the poor will always be with us."

Thursday, April 12, 2007


I've never been particularly close to my father's side of the family. They are blue-collar and live a life totally foreign from my own.

Still, the family received some tragic news. My first cousin was killed in a particularly gory automobile accident this morning. He was driving his Grandmother on an errand and both of them were killed. That side of my family has gone through a lot of tragedy. I won't rehash it all on one post, but they have been through some seriously horrific things.

This is where my guilt kicks in and I recognize the ways that I have been snobby towards that side of my family because they haven't had the same level of education that I have. That doesn't make them any less or any more than me. Any time two human lives are snuffed out is a tragedy.

Still, I will grieve more for my father and attend a funeral that isn't too far away from where I now live. This will be at some point this weekend.

I'll probably post tomorrow but posts this weekend will be sporadic.

Games Smart People Play

Recently, in some circles, a question has been posed.

Aren't we taking ourselves a little too seriously in our blog posts? Can't we appreciate the more prosaic things about the world around us without having to apologize?

The answer to both questions is a resounding YES.

What lies beneath the surface is the unfortunate fact that those of us who are more intelligent than others often feel misunderstood and out-of-sorts from the rest of society. It stems, first and foremost, from insecurity. Deep underneath the surface, our own deepest secret fear is that we really do wish we could be average---whatever average is. We wish we could appreciate what we often decry as banal and shallow.

Yet, if we have a refined intellect, we also recognize the effort that goes into making quality art and have a tendency to be harshly critical of those who we perceive are running in place rather than pushing the envelope.

This is why we play games with each other. This is why sometimes our banter with each other is tantamount to a huge game of "King of the Hill"--all of us trying to push the other off with the best repartee or enlightened comment.

All people have guilty pleasures and I've come to understand that guilty pleasures are okay. Furthermore, they shouldn't be guilty. Life is too short to be deadly serious all the time.


In other news, Kurt Vonnegut died late yesterday. I certainly am glad that Slaughterhouse-Five, Breakfast of Champions, et al existed in my late teens. Vonnegut was an unintentional young adult novelist, because when you get right down to it, his books are loved and adored by very intelligent teenagers. This is not to detract from the brilliance of the books or the fact that they exist---just to say that his books appeal most to the sort of alienation and angst present in at least this generation's intelligent young adults.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Proof God Has a Sense of Humor

Still, the top selling rap album of all time.

*Don't lie. You owned this too. And so did ten million other people.

As Regards The Duke Lacrosse Case

I may offend certain people out there employed or under the employ of legal affairs, but the recently resolved Duke lacrosse case is apparently yet another instance where hyperbole and race were used to inflate a case that didn't exist from the beginning.

We are gullible creatures but I must admit that I was skeptical from the beginning. Before we even entertain race, let's consider the facts of the case, which had all the marks of a good pulp novel as well as a good way to bait the American people. All the variables were present for a good morality tale: sex, greed, race. We seemed to be headed for yet another treatise on how, despite it all, America continues to be a nation that has not resolved its race problem and here's why.

I wish I could say I'm surprised, but I'm not. A good friend of my father's was once sentenced to a long jail term on bogus charges. His only offense? Beating the prosecution at its own game as well as a case of playing it too close to the line for a career. After using up his life savings, plus borrowing thousands of dollars in credit, he was eventually exonerated of all charges but one. The one charge sent him to prison where he was subjected to manual labor at a late age in life and suffered a severe physical impairment. He eventually perished of a heart attack before he reached age 60. I'll go to my grave thinking the Feds did it--and in all honesty, he was never the same after returning from prison.

The lesson of this story: don't monkey around with the Feds and place yourself in too many dubiously legal situations or eventually you will reap what you sow.

I've begun to see the legal profession as I see the police: a necessary evil. It is true that we are quick to judge both professions but when we need both, we run as quickly as we can to them. I once considered a career in law but I realized I can't run on stress for kicks. You've got to be wired a particular sort of way for that and that's not how I function.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

In The Midst of...

racist allegations from Don Imus and additional calls for Alberto Gonzales to resign is the fact that gasoline prices have risen once again.

I paid $2.61 a gallon at my local gas station. Despite urgings that gas prices will ease off in the next couple weeks, I am not comforted. If I was convinced that the major oil producers were providing more than lip service towards alternative sources of fuel, I would bear this discomfort.

But what has happened is essentially this: a new baseline has been established. Gasoline will, in my humble opinion, never fall below $2 ever again.

The main issue is that we need to convert cars over to alternative sources as soon as possible. Ethanol is just a start. What about some radical thinking: perhaps every car could be equipped with a mechanical means to burn fuel more efficiently.

I wonder about this upcoming hurricane season and wonder what global warming induced storm we'll see this summer and early fall.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Securing America's Borders?

Having failed at just about everything else, President Bush has made a speech championing border security. With a 38 percent approval rating and an unpopular war, Bush has decided to take a hard line on illegal immigration. I'm afraid this is a case of too little, too late. Not to mention that I disagree with his belief that somehow border patrol agents will do a sufficient job.

A Democratic-controlled Congress will not go along with any plan that Bush offers.

The problem is that there's no way to secure America's borders. It has been stated long before that it would take conscription to secure our borders. The only way to really stop immigrants from moving across the border is to punish employers who employ illegal immigrants. If we were really serious about illegal immigration--if we saw it as that much of a threat, then we'd cut tax breaks and punish, financially, those companies who willingly employ illegals. That's it. That's the only way.

Anything and everything else is just empty rhetoric.

And Bush talks about assimilation. The problem with that is that assimilation is a process that takes time. It wasn't 100 years ago that an Irish male would never consider marrying a German female. Now it doesn't matter.

It is my opinion that with time, the next generation or so, that Hispanic immigrants will assimilate into society. They have proven thus far that they want to remain surrounded by their own people, but I think with time, so-called assimilation will occur.

We want quick fixes in this country, but we must wait and be patient. And in this society, which is based more and more on instant gratification, it may be a challenge.

The Obligatory Imus Post

I've heard worse language that what Don Imus spoke dribble out of my own father's mouth. My father pulls his Archie Bunker routine from time to time and I've learned to ignore it.

He is a disgruntled liberal turned libertarian. Then again, he never bought into hippiedom and sort of acted like Frank Zappa during the day---the hippies' Dad.

At this day and age we simply cannot have overt displays of racism. I've never liked Imus anyway. He's kind of a sarcastic bastard and repeating what I said in a previous comment, the fact that he would say such a thing surprises me not in the least. Still, it was uncalled for, and despite his apologies, he needs to be canned. Had he been a government official in the Bush administration, calls would be made for his resignation. I've often been a critic of political correctness, but this comment stepped over the line and Imus knows it.

What he said was offensive and uncalled for.

The situation reminds me of the remarks of Earl Butz, secretary of Agriculture under Gerald Ford. He made a racist joke aboard Air Force One that led directly to his resignation. I'm not going to repeat the joke because a) it's not that funny and b) it's highly offensive.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

H.L. Mencken on Religion

No democratic delusion is more fatuous that that which holds that all men are capable of reason, and hence susceptible to conversion by evidence. If religions depended on upon evidence for their prolongation, then all of them would collapse.

From "The Foundations of Quackery", 1923.

Saturday, April 07, 2007


I remember, as a child, in my Methodist days--wondering what you'd call today. It's the day between Good Friday and Easter.

I'd say to myself: I wonder what Jesus was doing today?

And also, What would you call this day?

We have Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and then just this nebulous Saturday before Easter.

I suppose some believe Jesus was in hell at this moment freeing the pagans or committing some other noble act. I think he was just dead. His life energy had moved somewhere else. If we think of the spirit of social justice being reborn despite setbacks, then I can believe this whole resurrection thing. If we see the inevitable ebb and flow of humanity and its attempts to reach some semblance of happy medium, then I can believe in the birth of the reborn God.

I try, with some difficulty I must admit, to see the Godlike parts of all of us.

Yet, I don't think that there's any way to figure it all out. I think God has a sense of humor and that is that we'll ever quite figure out and rise above the divine. We'll try to manage ourselves as best we can in this reality.

The more I think about it, the more I believe we're just some great experiment. Some science fair project or scientific study.

STUDY: Can human beings successfully live together with some degree of normality and relative calm.

I do know this. These are times of change. These are times of great transition. These times produce prophets like Jesus of Nazareth and I would safely argue that there are prophets out there today who we ought to be listening to. I would also suggest that we listen to the inherent God-like part of us--our heart. The inner goodness which, though we may choose to ignore, we do possess to some degree or another.

Snark of the Day

I must admit that it was quite amusing to catch some of Bill O'Reilly last night.

One of his talking points read something like this.

  • Major mistakes have been made by President Bush. But NBC's biased coverage against him is out of bounds
I thought I'd never see the day Bill O'Reilly admitted that Bush had made major mistakes. Does NBC have any sort of biased opinion against President Bush? I mean, how much worse can it get? Is NBC having it out for President Bush or just not spinning it the way Faux News wants it to read?

If this was the Great Depression, O'Reilly's comments would read something like this.

  • 35% of people are out of work. Our economy is in shambles. Poverty is at an all time high. But how dare anyone in the media point this out?
If it weren't so tragic, it would be laughable.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Music Scene

So you
wanna know
about the scene, kid?

Functional alcoholics
Drug addicts
of some shape or form
most of 'em

there's the
starry-eyed pretenders
hoping and praying

that someday
some mogul will
walk through the door.

fat chance of that.

gigging for
a few hundred bucks a
night maybe not already

there's the day job
unwinder type

never quite made it
he realizes it

that's the worst part
beware the male ego

there's the female
all about finger-picking

what she perceives
to be deep and pithy

but really just tortured

actually, you
oughta feel sorry for 'em, kid.

each and every
last one.

-6 April 2007.

A Religious Liberal's Take on Good Friday

Today, many of us are celebrating the death of a martyr.

May I suggest we celebrate the deaths of many who have dared to speak out in the name of truth against the system. If we limit this merely to a radical liberal rabbi named Jesus of Nazareth, I fail we are doing a grave disservice to ourselves.

I read somewhere that during the fourth century, only 1/3 of the population of the Roman Empire were Christians. I wonder how that massive transition that we called The Council of Nicea was brought about---by threat of violence?

The problem I have with these new attacks that show a supposed attack against moral Christian values is that they assume that Christianity has always been unified and there some demonic unified force against Christianity. The irony of all of this is that we, as Americans, are fully individualistic, not communalistic beings and as such though we do not act in one group consciousness.

And I agree with Blue Gal. It's time to evolve.

As Regards Cafeteria Style Christianity

This is in regards to yesterday's Blue Gal

Nothing makes me more upset when people say that you've got to believe everything in the Bible or nothing about it. I know I'm likely preaching to the choir here, not to mention stating to obvious, but we don't even read the text in the original language it was printed. The discrepancies between the petty, vindictive, vengeful Old Testament Jehovah versus the much more pragmatic Jesus of Nazareth of the New Testament prove that you can't really believe everything in the Bible to begin with, if you take things from a literal basis.

I was raised a Methodist and we side-stepped all but a glancing reference to the Trinity as well as tending to avoid at all costs the always-loaded book of Revalations.

And in regards to Easter, I would add my two cents to say that I believe that the human spirit and the soul in general is eternal. That's how I regard the resurrection of the Fallen christ. I see it in metaphorical, rather than literal terms. But isn't it funny how we've resurrected this Pagan Holiday which for all intents and purposes was meant to celebrate the Spring Fertility Ritual and kept certain unoffending parts of it: like easter eggs and bunny rabbits who leave chocolate in the night.

As Bill Hicks said: "Any wonder why we're fucked up? I don't see any reference to chocolate or bunny rabbits anywhere in that goddamn book".

The message, as if it is obvious enough is this, YOU WON'T FIND THEM THERE.

I don't see anyone having a war against the Easter Bunny. Maybe I'm just not looking in the right places, but he was always present in our house. And I'll tell you, I do still get chocolate cravings thinking about those massive shrink-wrapped delights and I might just buy one for myself for old times sake: and with a sense of irony.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Why I Favor Separation of Church and State

The grand experiment a band of radical lawyers and highly educated businessmen started 230 years ago has had its twists and turns over the years. The Religious Right has asserted, variously, that we are a Christian nation--nothing could be more deceptive, as well as incorrect.

Those whom we collectively call The Founding Fathers knew much of history and saw the base injustices that could be perpetuated in society without a wall of strict separation between church and state. They could look back a few hundred years and see, for example, the Spanish Inquisition.

Particularly, they had in mind the example of Oliver Cromwell's Puritanical military dictatorship, the century before, which had accomplished little more than the re-establishment of the monarchy. They realized that Cromwell's effective iron-fisted rule, no matter how well-intentioned had failed because of the Lord Protector's justification of his actions by constant reference to a Providential God which always happened to agree with him.

This is not to say that strict separation between church and state is an easy thing. Indeed, it will always exist in terms of artifice rather than established precedent. In a Democracy, as in all forms of government, when the shit hits the fan, so to speak, people will reach for religion as a means to supplant their base insecurities. Challenges, then, in times of crisis will always prove problematic. As has been the case quite recently.

We currently have a recovered alcoholic President who sees the world in black and white terms. You are either purely evil (against us) or purely good (with us). He sees no grey area in between. This has proven to be the undoing of many a leader, of which Cromwell is a notable example.

The right will, by its very nature, have a tendency to think more communally than individually. But America is a nation created by individuals--yes, even LIBERAL, individuals. That is its intention and its focus. The challenge for those of us on the left is to incorporate the communal nature of the right without resorting to its excesses.

The left, post 1968 or so, has fallen prey to a heavily niched, post-modern dilemma that has only subdivided its ranks and created massive unintentional disenfranchisement. It has divided like some cancerous cell, unwilling or unable to stop itself.

I would safely make the argument that most Americans are conservatives by nature, but they have underlying liberal beliefs. We are suspicious of radicalism and rampant taxation. But we on the left must take this into account when we make our own arguments--we must not appear too radical in our viewpoints, else we fall into the same trap as Jacobian France.

We must not refuse to acknowledge the importance of religion and faith in the lives of all. Yet, we on the left must be more open regarding our beliefs, else we find ourselves being stereotyped as "Godless", demonic, nihilistic, et al by our friends on the right.

I'm a southern by birth as well as by residence. Visitors here often find it quite disconcerting how open displays of religion are down here. They find it most discomforting how much religion, particularly Christian religion, are incorporated into daily life. Yet, I had one displaced Northerner express a sort of relief at the openness of religious expression--she found it freeing rather than restricting.

So thus, PRIVATE expression of religion should be seen as a great virtue, forward thinking sort of paradigm. Not the opposite as might be assumed.

Still, getting back to the point, religion has no right into the jurisdiction of state. It has often been cited as justification for many American wars, the current Iraq conflict not the least of the examples. Many throughout history have found it ironic that a radical, leftist rabbi prophet named Jesus of Nazareth has been used in such a manner.

It is easy to get into a semantical argument--wondering whether the words and deeds and intent of the Founding Fathers still have resonance and relevance to the present day. Despite the fact that the population of this country has dramatically swelled since that point and we have moved into an information based economy, we should continue to view with GREAT suspicion and fear any and all attempts to incorporate church with state. It is a fight, but a just one.

Monday, April 02, 2007

A Message from Buddhism

Battles may be small be small, but just succeeding in completing the minor, irksome tasks of daily life strengthens us for more major challenges. The challenge of sticking to a budget, returning a difficult phone call or simply keeping our space tidy, can all be conquered and help change our attitudes and direction.

It is in the moment-to-moment living of your life that you turn poison into medicine. As you face each new obstacle and decide to challenge it, you will find new strengths you didn't suspect you possessed. Strength enough to break free of the tightest of cocoons.

In Honor of National Poetry Week

The Owl

I saw my world again through your eyes
As I would see it again through your children's eyes.
Through your eyes it was foreign.
Plan hedge hawthorns were peculiar aliens,
A mystery of peculiar lore and doings.
Anything wild, on legs, in your eyes
Emerged at a point of exclamation
As if it had appeared to dinner guests
In the middle of the table. Common mallards
Were artefacts of some unearthliness.
Their wooings were a hypnagogic film
Unreeled by the river. Impossible
To comprehend the comfort of their feet
In the freezing water. You were a camera
Recording reflections you could not fathom.
I made my world perform its utmost for you.
You took it all in with an incredulous joy
Like a mother handed her new baby
By the midwife. Your frenzy made me giddy.
It woke up my dumb, ecstatic boyhood
Of fifteen years before. My masterpiece
Came that black night on the Grantchester road.
I sucked the throaty thin woe of a rabbit
Out of my wetted knuckle, by a copse
Where a tawny owl was enquiring.
Suddenly it swooped up, splaying its pinions
Into my face, taking me for a post.

-Ted Hughes