Saturday, September 05, 2015

Like a Refugee

I've seen this meme floating about the web for a little while, now, almost always with some smug snark to head it, and tonight I finally decided that, before I try to sleep, I'd like to address this ridiculous Straw Man.

To begin with, very few people in this country have expressed any reluctance to take in true refugees from persecution in their home countries. Those who do object, generally have a problem not with the idea of helping those in need, but with being suddenly inundated with whole cities of people who have had no health checks, no way to check their backgrounds nor predict the likelihood of their becoming -- or being already -- a massive security threat that our own government not only invited in, but actually paid to come here,  using our own tax dollars.

But that's really the only reason most people have concerns about allowing a massive influx of refugees into this country. And, by and large, it doesn't stop most people from opening their hearts to true refugees.

As to the part about electing governments which don't bomb the hell out of countries to make all those fugitives...well, the majority of the current batch of refugees hoping to mass to our cities seem to be coming from countries like Syria, Somalia, Rwanda, Venezuela, Guatemala, Haiti, even Mexico...none of which has, in this century, been subject to "bombing the hell out of," or other means of slaughter by anybody but their own governments or other regional adversaries (e.g. Boko Haram or the Hutu/Tutsi animus).

Further, the government of our country now has been effectively under the control of Democrats for nearly a decade. It's time the Left took responsibility for the messes its own leadership created, instead of blaming the Bush Administration, the Crusaders, the Roman Legion or whatever figure from deep in history is their favorite  target du jour for impotent rage. 

You, along with millions of others of your mindset, voted in the current "Warmonger in Chief" and his current batch of cronies, who managed to turn two hard-earned victories in Asia (such as they were) into one giant cluster...grenade, enveloping northern Africa as well, thus endangering our allies worldwide. So stop deluding yourself that your vote produces nothing but skittles-pooping, rainbow-farting, winged unicorn kittens, and that the people who voted against your particular flavor of political animal are cloven-hoofed, fire-breathing demon spawn come to rape the planet and murder babies for fun and profit. That kind of nonsense makes you look ignorant, parochial, adolescent, narrow, and dogmatically partisan, any one of which fails to enhance a discussion, but in combination they are stultifying, and contagiously so.

TL/DR: just stop. You look like a dipstick and you make your party look like dipsticks, too.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Call Racism By Its Name, and Stop Right There.

In the shadow of the murderous assault at Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston, this week, there has been a demand – from both left and right – for the "white community" to "once again call racism by its name".

As stated by the young man who murdered nine good people, it was his aim to kill "those people" in order to start a race war, which makes his actions clearly racially motivated. Ergo, he is a racist.

But as of today, I have not seen anybody refuse to admit there is racism in this country. Not one. Indeed, there is no clear evidence before me that anybody has said white people can not be, are not bigots, have no trace of racist thoughts within them. We all know, and most admit, that there will always be those who prefer the company of those who look like themselves, disregarding the other commonalities. In a free society, it will always be their prerogative to be ignorant, to choose poorly. That does not mean the whole of society is driven by that ignorant behavior.

What I have seen is a years-long habit of labeling disagreement over policy as racism. What I have seen is a decades-long habit of calling crime statistics "evidence of racism" in law enforcement, without taking into consideration other factors. What I have seen is a justice system being labeled as racist because "a black man can't get a break" even when Michael Jackson, Orenthal J. Simpson, and others with money walk, despite the overwhelming evidence the public sees against them.

Even now, there are those who use the social media to "prove" the racial bias of law enforcement by displaying side-by-side photographs of a black scofflaw who died while resisting arrest and the non-confrontational capture of the very white Charleston terrorist. Obviously, to the people who post the paired images, there is nothing but open racism on display. There is no possibility in their minds that, ultimately, the behavior of each criminal is what will define the end result.

Again, I am in no wise saying there is no such thing as racism in this country – that would be an absurd statement no matter how peaceful our neighborhoods. What I am saying is, for years there have been cries of of racism a reasonable person would ascribe to other factors. It doesn't matter to some. The accusation makes it so. In this manner, as long as the accused continue to deny that racial bias has been the primary factor in X or Y or Z, then when a clear case of bigotry comes along, the accusers feel justified in shouting, "See? See? Racism is everywhere! And you're a racist to deny it!"

If there is no possibility of any other motivation, then  people should go ahead and call it by its rightful name, call it bigotry. But it dulls the meaning and stops real conversation when it gets tossed willy-nilly into every disagreement. And, where good people argue that racism is not the cause at hand, it is equally counterproductive to claim that there has been blanket denial of the presence of any such discrimination.

This is antithetical to free discourse. It is absurd. And it needs to stop.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

What explosion and fire?

Around 5:30 yesterday morning, my alma mater, Monmouth College, suffered an accident which first required the help of the city fire department and then one of those professional cleaning crews. From what I was told later in the day, there was an explosion in the chemistry lab of the new business and science center, involving an organic compound in faulty storage.

My source tells me that the probable cause of the fire was several containers of ether having been stored in a somewhat-less-than-safe refrigerator. Said fridge, as its thermostat directed, would switch off and on, and each time it came back on, would create a small electrical spark in the motor...ultimately igniting vapors of the ether within. This caused an explosion which shook the entire building, causing "at least a half a million dollars in damages" to the newest academic building on campus.

We are all very lucky that this occurred when few students were awake and in the building.

We are not so lucky in this community when it comes to information. I learned details of the incident fully thirteen hours after it occurred, and then only because a member of the family spends his days on campus, and explained to us at dinner what all the fuss of the morning had been.

We have a daily local newspaper. Our neighboring city has a daily newspaper. Neither of them has seen fit to run anything about this on their web pages yesterday afternoon or this morning, about why the Monmouth fire department sped to the scene in the pre-dawn hour. And I guess none of the regional television news teams has anybody tipping them to real events in our sleepy little village, because I can't seem to find any mention of the accident anywhere -- even though one of them had a charming article about a cat stuck in a tree.

I am grateful to the powers that be for the news that there were no injuries in the explosion (I shudder to imagine, had it been later in the day, with the building full of people). I would also be grateful, though, if the news had come to me through something other than private channels. As a member of the community, I would like to believe we are better served than this.

Monday, March 30, 2015


When I saw the amount of fuss over the latest version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, I began to believe the new law included admissions that they were, indeed, beginning to set up the pyres for gays and other non-Christians in the state next door to mine. After all, nobody would make such a fuss over a legislative act simply structured to permit an individual or a private business to use deep and abiding faith as a legitimate courtroom defense for refusing to perform some professional service against his strong beliefs! That would be absurd and bigoted, right?

My bad.

Some of my own best friends are scrawling all over the social media in defense of the right of gays to bully Christians into making offerings at their temple of hedonism. That is their right. You can believe whatever you want about the law. You can even, as a private citizen, act upon your beliefs.

As a private citizen, you may at any time throw your own personal weight around, gather your friends together and threaten a boycott, or use all other forms of private persuasion to get businesses to do your bidding. But now the law of the land of Indiana matches that of the nation, in saying that you may not use the force of government to compel an individual or business to perform something which goes against its religious teachings. It states that deep and abiding faith is a fair defense, in court. It doesn't say that it's a good idea. It doesn't mandate the barring of gays or blacks or the out-of-shape from public parks or private parties, and doesn't reinstate laws against sodomy, miscegenation, or wearing a thong bikini at a public beach, even if many people would welcome the return of some form of discretion as applies to such lunar events. All it does is reiterate that the right you are born with – the right to defend yourself – is protected by law.

The gay community is far from endangered by the possibility that a few of the faithful own and operate businesses which will not grant them their every whim. Indeed, in this country, the gay community is so far from endangered they'd need the Hubble scope to spot any light of said threat. It should show up on NASA's monitors in a few aeons.

Yet in the most recent cases of Christians who were forced by the courts to participate in rites which were strongly against the teachings of their own faith – or, ultimately, go out of business – it has been made obvious there is a threat in the other direction. There is clear evidence that more than a few Christians have seen themselves targeted for not going along with the groupthink du jour. In the case of the baker who would not make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple's union, the baker believed the couple were her friends. She was not refusing to do any business with the couple – in fact, she offered several alternatives, and even suggested other bakers who might be eager for the business. But this couple had to make their point, that the Christian was depriving them of their right to force her to do their will.

The law says you have to give in to our demands, because yours is a service industry, and service means you're a servant, and servant means obey or be punished. Sadly, a court seems to have agreed. The bakery has been closed down as a result of the complaint and subsequent legal and financial tangles.

But this new Indiana law means you can ostracize me for being gay!

Well, no. The law, to quote Dickens, is a ass…but not that big a ass, this time.

The law had already said the government may not compel you to pay tithes or make other offerings to a church to which you don't belong, which may be argued as to apply to creative works and others' ceremonies and rites. An artist has also traditionally had great latitude in deciding where his works would end up. That seems to be changing, depending upon the politics of the parties involved.

Even so, this new Indiana law does not add to or subtract from that. This was, in its barest essence, reestablishing the right of persons of faith to a hearing, if some person or group tries to force the issue.

A hearing.

The right to be heard, and to attempt defend their actions (or inaction). 

Nothing more, nothing less.

While we're waiting for the enthusiastic repeal of the rights of Christians (and members of other faiths) to defend themselves, I'm sure we'll see a rash of Indiana businesses suddenly putting up signs in their windows with long lists of the kinds of people they will no longer serve, because that sort of thing is always good for business, isn't it? – especially in competitive times. Gays and nazis and atheists and agnostics and blacks and women should stock up on what they want, because any day now, we'll all be locked out of every store, every business, every service, because…Christians!!!!


Tuesday, December 09, 2014

By All Means, Let's Be Reasonable

Today, for the umpteenth time, I saw somebody comment, in mocking tones, that religion is wholly irrational, and I've finally reached a tipping point.

No, I'm not suddenly converted to some secure faith, comfortable that I have a place in the immortal realm. In fact, I'm probably less sure of my future than ever. But I will say, as a reasoning human being, that I find reality seems a mighty irrational, unreasoning thing.

Where is the logic, where is the reason in any life? From the moment life begins, it is doomed to end, likely to feed another doomed life. The merest cell, though, does everything it can to survive. It pushes itself through chaos, consuming others to become itself, sometimes to exist for only a few short minutes, sometimes for days, sometimes even longer, perhaps to transform itself into part of something even larger. Does it reason its existence? Does something else provide its reason? Reason, such as it is, tells us we are incapable of knowing the answer to the latter.

Life, itself, is without any apparent logic.

Out of seeming chaos, despite all logic, we live. Despite all reason, through that chaos, we choose to continue to live. Despite all reason, we find ways to enjoy the random nature of our existences. We find joy in our lives. We find laughter, or we make it. We make music. We make art. We make love. None of these things has even the remotest basis in logic, and yet, it is logical to pursue it all, because without it, there truly is no reason continue a life.

And so it is, for those who have faith. There is no logic behind the choice but that which says that to believe in an unseen force, a higher power, is to enhance one's existence in some way that defies reasoned language. This is not necessarily a bad thing in a human being. After all, it was those who believed in a Higher power who set themselves to the task of proving His laws. Those ambitious few established scientific method of inquiry, by which reason may be supported. And that scientific inquiry is what made modern technology possible, bringing joy  by way of advanced medicine, travel, communication, diet, and so on, to many more who otherwise would have lived and died in misery.

Without the illogical mind, this would not exist

Neither would this

let alone this

and this.

So, believing in the unlikely has long had its place in society. A little lack of logic is not to be mocked. It's only reasonable.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tourism: a Retrospectable

All things considered, I am not at all sorry my friend followed through on her promise to get me on a cruise. I am sorry she was uncomfortable from the cold, but I'm glad we both got to see a whole new piece of America. Without her insistence that we go, I would likely never have seen the things I saw this summer. For that, above all else, I have to thank her.

Were it not for my own depressions, and the difficulty I have every day trying to overcome my eremitic leanings, I suspect I'd have been less of a disappointment to my friend and her family. I know she wanted for us all to have the wildly, extravagantly good time on this trip that she had experienced on her Caribbean cruises, and I also know that the party life was never attractive to me, even in my days of youth, when I could hold my liquor and act with some reckless abandon.  I wish, in many ways, I could have shown her how much pleasure I found in just sitting quietly and drinking in the scenery...even just to look out at the open, ever-changing  ocean, or the rolling waves of earth that are the Prairie. Even when I was in pain, the light reaching my eyes did ultimately touch my soul.

I wish, also, that my body and mind were not so much my enemies. What would, for any normal, healthy person have been two weeks of unequalled delight were brought lower, especially on the last two days of our vacation, in large part due to pain. That, of course,  is unlikely to improve.

In spite of myself, though, I brought home some memories I will cherish until the day my mind is gone, whether that be before, or after the rest of me leaves the planet. For all of this, I have my friend to thank.

Mary, you have been a very good friend to me, and I am grateful to all the powers that be, that we met.

(Click on any picture to embiggen.)

Friends, memorial, Nebraska

Happy mountain is happy

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Tourism, Day Thirteen: Lucky Me

Saturday, 6 June, 2014, I slept fitfully in my seatbelt, and woke up in a fog.

I kid you not. This was looking toward Cheyenne.

We were pretty much socked in until we neared the Nebraska state line,

 when the fog lifted and we rode forth in intermittent rain.

Somewhere just east of Lincoln, the clouds began to break up for us. We stopped for gas and whatever food was ready to go, and, while I was trying to unkink my legs by limping around the store, I found a display gondola filled with electronic accessories – including several different types and price ranges of adaptors. I pointed them out to my friend, who practically broke out in a dance of happiness. Not only was the one I pulled off the rack exactly the size and type she wanted, it was also only thirty dollars, including tax, which meant she could afford it, and she'd have a chance to plug in her laptop and do the paper which was due the next day at midnight (which, I might add, she had been given an extra time allowance beyond that Sunday for, because we had been out-of-country, but she's still a bit anxious about falling behind. Me, I'm a slacker. It's a wonder, opposite as we are, that we're still friends. I guess the universe really does enjoy mixed nuts).

She quit driving, climbed into the back seat next to her nephew, and the foster son drove the remainder of the way home, while she worked on her assignment.

Well, whoopee! Let's have a parade!

Her mood was improved, but that didn't mean we were going to stop for anything but fuel, still.

Naturally, I continued to stare out the window and take pictures of

 the Great American Midwest Landscape

Until we passed through Des Moines and came out the other side with a full tank, heading southeast on US-65. Then I got a bonus activity…
Des Moines, IA. Government is Golden.
shaking. The camera could handle it, but not I.

Seriously. If you have never driven the stretch of highway from Des Moines to Ottumwa, you do not know what shaking is. I don't care if you spent your career riding a jackhammer atop an out-of-balance washing machine anchored to an earthquake simulator, you have not been shaken the way US Highway 65 (and eventually US-63) will shake you. It is not safe to take babies on this road, for fear their little brains will rattle loose and Family Services will have you up on abuse charges.
If I could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate, I'd still be too stable for this road
Look at the above picture. Do you see the division of the wet patches, the little rectangles, with their demarcation lines crossing the road? This is not like the little separations on a sidewalk, or even little bumpy joints to the highway. These mark the waves in the pavement. One hour and thirty-five minutes of this rhythmic jarring of body and soul. And, lucky me! I still had a migraine. Plus, my legs and feet had swollen from their having been immobile so long, so they were tender as well…

Modern chemistry is my lifeline, but there were long moments when I seriously wondered if there were a lifeboat tethered at its other end, or just some a-hole shark yanking me around.

Agribusiness. It's a beautiful thing
 I distracted myself, as usual, trying to watch the scenery go by. That sort of worked. (Not really, but it was that, or whine. I hate whiners.)

I like people who have definite plans

It looked as though we were following on the heels of some pretty serious wetness.
In fact, we seemed to be gaining on the storm.

I was hoping it would be just fast enough ahead of us to be done raining when it came time to unload my crap (and my poor lumbering self) from the truck.

It was about an hour after sunset that we returned to Monmouth, and, indeed, the rains had almost ceased here. In just a few short minutes, I had all my gear unloaded from the truck and brought into the house.

On the down side, my feet had swollen so greatly that I couldn't wear my loosest slippers, my head was pounding, and everything in between was in some state of revolt.

On the up side, I was hailed as conquering hero by a doggyboy,

 a kittyboy,
 and a certain feline princess…
as well as cheerfully received home by a pair of parents:

Warmly ignored by the old M
and P. Such enthusiasm!

And then there was my own bed…but I don't need to draw you a picture, there.

I slept quite a bit, for the next week. I needed every last "Z" I got. It took longer than that, between resting and riding my bike again, to get my legs back to functional (still a bit of a twinge on a regular basis, and two hours on my feet are still my max before the completely quit).

The folks left on their two-week vacation and anniversary trip before the end of the week, packed with a few things I'd prepared for them to take to my seester (cookies for her & her hubby, and also a special batch for their dog).

I had the house to myself again, with the cats as my only company, and a chance to just appreciate the quiet solitude.

And then I got hit with that nasty cough…the one that's still tickling my throat fairly regularly, three and a half months later. 

The Fates obviously have a swell time twisting my thread.