Monday, September 21, 2015

Diversity, it is the American way

There are days when I despair.  There are things on the internet that make me want to walk away.  Put it down, and walk away. Because the only way to stay sane against the tide of hate is to head for shore before it pulls you down.

Jim Wright over at Stonekettle Station brought one of these little chestnuts to light on FaceBook.  Apparently Patrice Lewis of WND believes that the only solution to the problems facing America is to "divvy up our land mass into 2 nations."  Her piece is titled "WOULD A COUP MAKE THINGS BETTER?" Her caps, not mine.

I'm looking for the satire. Really. "This has to be a joke" is the only thing that keeps scrolling across my mind. The paranoia that runs through this palaver is almost viscous.  As I'm scrolling down to read I have to keep wiping off the insanity that is oozing through the computer screen. (Note: I am wearing proper PPE)

I cannot believe that people actually think this way. How can people be so insane?  Hey, I know insanity and delusions. I have my medication and everything. However, unlike this author I work to stay sane. This person is working very hard to appear unhinged. Usually, you try to hide, or at least curb, the crazy in public spaces.

And I sit, having read through it and I am just amazed. How does someone, anyone, choose to believe such contorted thinking? How does someone accept the idea that the government really cares about what you had for breakfast, or how many times you eat junk? The author even hints that giant surveillance nets to rival those of the Soviet Union under Stalin are at work.  And I'm not going to touch that idea because it would cause a massive tangent.  Moving on.

Then the idea of a coup as a 'cleansing' event is raised. True, it is dismissed pretty quickly, but still.  The only reason it is dismissed is because the end result can't be guaranteed.  And that is what this whole divide and expel exercise is about, control. Ms. Lewis notes that we don't have any wide open spaces for the disaffected to move to any more, "but we can divvy up our land mass into two nations – one progressive, one conservative – where the ideals and agendas of each can be instigated to the satisfaction of two extremely diverse populations."

Diverse populations, that is what America is all about. And being tolerant of that diversity is what America is all about.

This is where I tripped over the truth. It dawned on my "Why?" some folks want to have a 'conservative' nation and get all those 'progressives' out of the way. Think about it and you'll see it's a likely solution.  (You'll notice I do try to stay away from absolutes, in general.)

And I'm probably going to irritate or anger some folks.

It's fear. And it is a pervasive and ugly thing.
   It's fear of being insignificant that makes someone believe that the government is watching.
   It's fear of being 'less than' someone else, that makes people hold onto symbols that are past due.
   It's fear of being 'powerless' that makes people unable to even be able to talk about gun control.
   It's fear of being 'wrong' that makes people cling to a formula that is perceived 'safe'.
   It's fear of being changed that makes people cling to the past.

Fear is why some conservatives back Trump.  A loud windbag unashamed to say the racist, hateful things that people would fear to say out loud. They wouldn't want to risk their place by the water cooler, but they agree with Trump in their hearts.

So, in the world that Ms. Lewis puts forth there would be one state "conceived in libertyand dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal," and ...  the other one.  But, she has missed the point, slightly.  There would be one nation where all men were created equal, and there would be one nation where all people were created equal. And the latter is the state that would find liberty and freedom.  The state where the people were unafraid to embrace their differences.

How a Court Case in Kansas Could Pave the Way for 'Buying Justice'

Re-posted from an article written on Sep 09, 2015 on A+

The judicial system of the United States is under attack. The fundamental construct of the government of the United States is being rewritten, in Kansas. For those who need a refresher the government of the United States is based on the premise of equal but separate branches. Three branches make up the government, the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. This system is in place at both the federal and the state level.
But conservatives in the state of Kansas have been redistributing the power and attempting to dismantle the power of the judicial branch. The assault on the judicial branch started in 2014. As a result of conservative tax cuts set in motion in 2012, and reiterated in 2013, the state revenues had fallen by nearly 25% by 2014. When the Kansas State Supreme Court ordered in March 2014 that the state correct an inequitable dispersal of education funds between rich and poor districts the state didn't have the dosh.
Since then, the legislature in Kansas which is dominated by conservatives, has pressed the idea of giving the governor more power to pick state Supreme Court justices and to make is easier to remove sitting justices at all levels of the judiciary from the bench. Therefore, quite literally, allowing them to stack the judicial deck in their favor. In addition to this, they passed a law that removed the Kansas Supreme Court of its administrative authority over lower courts, and placed a booby trap around that law by including a provision on court funding in case anyone should think to repeal the law. In essence, the legislature wrote the rules for the court, and then to hold the courts to the uneven playing field, the legislature tied the courts budget to it's acceptance of the new rules.
What the legislature forgot is you never play chicken with a judge.
The threat to defund state courts if the courts were not submissive to the legislature's desires has caused a tsunami of indignation through the judicial branch. In response, on September 2nd 2015, a district court struck down the law stripping the state Supreme Court of it's Administrative Authority, thus triggering a freeze of the judicial systems budget. If not for a last minute stay and an agreement by both sides to wait on suspending the judicial budget until the case is heard by the state Supreme Court.
Why does all of this matter to you? 
What we are seeing played out in Kansas is pure political power attempting, and not even in a subtle way, to skew power to the affluent. All of this began from a disparity of resources allocated to the poor. When that disparity was recognized by the court it ordered that the gap be closed. That is when the affluent in the legislature started their attempt to dismantle the judicial branch. In short order the legislation passed a law to hobble the court, seized it's funds and placed a contingent on the funds to prevent future judicial rebellion.
Money is attempting to drive the scales of justice to suit their own agenda. If the precedent of defunding the courts is allowed to stand the doors are open. I don't want to argue an impossibly slippery slope, but the fact that the moneyed and the powerful could tie the courts to behave according to legislated rules, dis-empowers the courts and corrupts the nature of the checks-and-balances system.
From there, the fiction writer in me leaps ahead to gross corruption of the legal system where if a person be worth more than some gross value in wealth they would become immune from prosecution. A system crafted by the rich for the rich. Indeed, let's hope it remains fiction.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Reclaiming the American Spirit: Thoughts on what we lost on 9/11

This is a re-post from a piece I wrote on 9/11/2015.

Today is that day.
For me it is a day full of emotion and an ominous mind.
I look out my front window and see almost exactly what I saw on that day years ago, a green field and that same cerulean sky, crystal clear and empty.
"The innocence of a clear September sky." That phrase, which I read in the days after 9/11 has embedded itself in my memory. It is immovable. It is as much a part of this day as the leaves outside my window beginning to turn.
I usually spend this day in silent lamentations for lives lost, innocence lost and for dreams shattered. As a nation we had been innocent of violence brought by others on our own soil for a very long time. The events of that day brought the harsh presence of sharp reality into our conscience. Our dream of innocence was not just ended, it was torn away with such violence that it left us disoriented, gasping, instantly and hyper-awake. We awoke to a new world.
All the formerly perceived insulation that we had from the shadowy 'them' was gone. The shattering left behind a world hardened, turned sharp and jagged. A once forgiving scenery now catches and cuts. The world we suddenly perceived as dangerous.
But, in truth, nothing changed except the loss of our earlier perception. The world for all that we think and fear, is no more dangerous a place than it was.
We had grown so comfortable in our safe isolation that we thought ourselves inviolate. Voices who counseled caution were duly entertained and then dismissed. Much as a parent might try to counsel a teen. Our perception of the world was all the world. We were immortal.
When truth came home, our world fell around us. I think we all died a little that day. Even the hollow cynics who held themselves aloof and whispered "we warned you", even they can point to the place in their chest where a hole now exists.
Time has passed. A monument was erected. The names of the lost are remembered. New towers go up, a symbol of hope, but empty. Perhaps, they are more angry defiance.
We, the greater we, are still lost. What was ripped from us fourteen years ago cannot be restored. But with our innocence we also lost ourselves. Our generosity is buried. Our faith in our neighbor is torn. We, who once lit a lamp for the masses of the world now seek to bar those doors. We talk of walls between us and our neighbors.
A nation that once stood for individuality, equity and unity now huddles in on itself, clutching at anything old and familiar. Trying to make ourselves small and innocent and protected by something bigger than ourselves, so that we can never be hurt again.
We are afraid. We have rarely been a nation afraid and never for so long. Somewhere in the rubble, or lifted in the dust of that day is the American Spirit.
That spirit that says we are different. Each of us comes to this nation with a different story: the Jew; the atheist; the queer; the Christian; the black; the trans; the Muslim; the white; the intellect; the faithful. We are all different and we embrace our neighbor, different as they might be, because we are American.
That spirit founded a nation like no other. A place where there was space for all. A place that looked beyond color and creed to a person's character. Where reason and faith could both flourish. That spirit brought us through two world wars, pandemic and civil strife. It took us to the moon. And we were stronger for it. The spirit created a nation where ingenuity was rewarded and social equity was valued.
We need to find that spirit, that meaning of American again. We crouch in fear so afraid of being hurt again. We allow the government to spy on us, we arm ourselves, we see disagreement as treason. Fear has us on a leash. And we have accepted this, because it restores our illusion of safety.
We need to find that spirit. The one that let us stand up and face the uncertainty of the world. We need to find that spirit that allows us to say "My belief in my fellow Americans is stronger than our differences." For only when we give up our fear, and embrace our brothers and sisters can we move forward out of this oppressive and shadowed place and back into the light of freedom.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Writing in the dark

I'm just playing with things today.  Mostly I'm wrestling with myself.  So far, I'm not winning.  It's one of those epic battles that never seems to resolve itself. And yes Adam, before you ask, it did involve beer, the Underworld and a sword.  

I had a thought today that with our new information-age lives we were becoming increasingly suspicious of one another and increasingly compartmentalized in the comfortable silos that we make for ourselves.  My silo is not what I would call comfortable, but it is familiar and I feel safe, whether that is a true perception or not is a post for another day.  

Back to compartmentalization. I know this isn't an original thought. As a matter of fact, I know that I have had this thought before, and that I have seen other folks write on this topic. 

Today's 'ah-ha' moment related to my own search for success as a writer and anonymity at the same time. I've written before that if you want to make it in the writing game today it seems almost a granted that you will have a web presence, a twitter feed and a facebook page. You'll be reachable, accountable to every single person who may ever read a word that you write. If you want to be found. Otherwise you're kind of writing in the void 

In a way, a very real way, that terrifies me. I perceive the internet as a place that is 80% rational, and the other 20% is just really messed up. It might actually be higher on the messed up percentage. I do tend to travel through some pretty tame areas.  Not that I think anything of mine might ever spark outrage, but you never know. And that, is part of what's killing me. You never know. Until, of course, that moment when you look at said feed or page and the entire world is telling you what a terrible person you are. 

And that leads me into a great many things that I am just not ready to say on the internet. 

What I am willing to say is this, and I've mentioned this before, I have a history of depression. Not "oh I feel blue" depression, but serious, "I wonder if I nicked the artery would the blood hit the ceiling" depression. I'm on meds. have been for years. I've tried to come off once or twice and gone - right back on.  My family is an onion that I am slowly peeling away the layers. And understanding isn't the same thing as forgiveness or healing. I know I have a long way to go some days. 

So how do I balance the wanting to be a *gasp* paid writer, an author, with being seen. I've been anonymous in my own life for so long I've found myself not wanting to play the seemingly required "Game of Tomes"?  (Just had to go for it) One thing I know is I will keep writing, but will I be writing in the dark? 

But, as a small act of courage, this piece will be posted. Will it be seen or merely turn into one of the many flecks of confetti in the void? 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

What time is it? When fear rules

Theatre Obraztsov I am a geek. I have let my geek flag fly for decades now. I have been a geek of many colors and a geek of many lands. I have even been a professional geek - think computers, not circus here. And never have I thought of myself as dangerous. I consider myself curious and yes, sometimes that has led to some awkward questions. "Dearest, why is there beeswax melted on the ceiling?" "This isn't pasta. Is it?" "What happened to Bo?"
But never have I felt that my curiosity would lead me into trouble with the law. Ok there was that one little experiment with medieval nitric acid, but it was all cool. Curiosity, the attempt to make something better, to invent a better mousetrap founded this nation. If a bunch of people getting into a tiny boat and crossing the ocean isn't a leap into the unknown I have no idea what is.
Some will say the initial influx of settlers was all about faith, but they're forgetting the Vikings. If there wasn't the willingness to try new things, to experiment, to learn we, that would be the Europeans, wouldn't be here now. And this nation is, or used to be, all about trying something new. New lives. New technologies. New ideas.
And now, in a place where we should be opening those minds, instead there is fear and astounding ignorance. Add to that the backside-covering and the victim blaming, are you kidding me, victim blaming a kid for being curious? This is the product of the school being a monument to standardized testing and group think.
My mind just boggles. Where is common sense? Where is the one responsible adult who stood up and said, "This is insanity?" I could go on about racial profiling, court cases to come, civil liberties and general ignorance. But, I'm not going to go there, today.
What I'm going to close with is this.
Ahmed, today you have seen some of the worst of America and I hope some of the best. You are curious and the world needs curious. And we need courageous people, too. Keep tinkering, keep learning and let that curiosity blossom.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Conscientious Objection: Panem et Circenses

I can tell that this is going to be a frequent title for me in this blog.  The reason is because I have this terrible sinking feeling that people don't want to think or consider things any more. The masses, and it's always been about that masses if I'm honest, only want food and entertainment. A Roman observation that still holds true today. 

That certainly explains why Buffalo Wild Wings exists.  It surely isn't for the food.  Moving on.

So why do I equate America's interest in a middle aged white female bigot with the Latin phrase "panem et circenses"?  It's the same thing.  Easy answer.  It's also one of those situations where I want to shake everyone and shout "Wake up!" Because people, Kim Davis is a distraction.  While people are actually spending time debating, or worse defending, her actions real topics aren't being discussed.  

But then, perhaps the shouting matches are all the American populace is capable of these days. I sincerely hope that isn't true.  I hope that my perception of the intellectual level of the American populace is wrong.  I would like to think that more people care about social equity than about some self made media whore's ass. I would like to be proven wrong. 

Until then I suspect it will be business as usual here on the interwebz, bad spelling, worse grammar, herds of cats and all the introspective depth of a puddle.  And folks like me whingeing about it.
So...  enough whining.  Let's do something about it. 

If you want to know something about conscientious objectors, go read about Desmond Doss. There's a great example.  
Desmond Doss

Wikipedia, ok not the greatest resource but it is a start, also houses information about the Minnesota Starvation Experiment.  This experiment conducted near the end of WWII involved conscientious objectors who volunteered to be studied to help understand the physiological and psychological changes encountered during starvation, and also to help find sound strategies for helping victims of starvation. (POWs and concentration camp survivors). 

Once upon a time to be a conscientious objector meant that you found a way to help that didn't conflict with your views.  It is not a way to feed the ego. 

This quote from Arthur Ashe sums my point up very well. 

True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.— Arthur Ashe(1943 - 1993)

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Mostly Lawful

Once, a long time ago, I was out with some friends and we lost the frisbee we were playing with over a fence onto some land marked "Private. Keep out"  Now the sign was new. We had been coming to this spot for nearly three years and liked to play frisbee on the beach and climb over the rocks.  Well, when we lost our toy I blithely sauntered over to get the frisbee.  I returned with it and we kept right on with the game of ultimate.

It wasn't until that evening that one of the guys looked at me and said, "I didn't expect you to go get it." He meant the frisbee.  I asked him why not and he answered. "I always thought of you as Lawful Good."  Ok, yes we were geeks.  I still fly my geek flag proudly.  Ever since then I have cherished my ability to have a bit of a Chaotic streak in my personality.  It keeps me unpredictable.