Saturday, December 31, 2011

Look Not Forward, Nor Back, But Within

As the hours close on another calendar year, this is often the time for reflection on the events that have transpired since the last time the calendar turned and the making of resolutions for how things will change in the coming year.

Maybe, however, we should not be concentrating on these things. Maybe, this would be a good moment to disconnect from the societal externality that surrounds us and withdraw within ourselves. Maybe, we should be dissociating ourselves from the things which drive us from the outside, and look to those things that should drive us from the inside.

Our modern world, in supplying us with a seemingly endless stream of information and drawing the various cultures of our globe in tighter toward each other, is creating an undeniable pressure on each of us, whether real or perceived. That which was local is now global; events we thought hidden from view are thrown into stark relief in the glare of attention. From its dark corners and dank places, the true breadth of humanity bubbles up, exposed to the light of day, and leaves us wreathed in fetid miasma. We are not the enlightened and social species we convinced ourselves we are; we took our societal progress to be a finished product, rather than the papering over it is.

We may strive each day in vain hope that Utopia lies within striking distance, but as a twist to the admonition goes, objects in society's mirror are further than they appear. Struggle though we have, gain though we may, voices raised in protest or in song, we have not breached the smog to find clean air, only pockets slightly less choked with the by-products of hubris and fear. Our moment in the calmer air is all too brief.

I often speak of human duty, that idea that lies dormant below the surface of many, wherein it is our responsibility to see others as we see us, to provide for them as we provide for ourselves, to do for others as we do for ourselves. While this is a noble aspiration, and many have known it full, it is not a state of being that can be attained without knowledge and understanding of the self. Without seeing our true reflection in the mirror, without reading the lines etched upon us by time and life, without casting a critical eye at each thought, action, or utterance, striving to free ourselves of our selfish tendencies is a course in futility.

Those of us who have worked tirelessly to alter ourselves, who have given up so much of us that we give more to others, have done so with the knowledge that in as much as we have done these things, perfection lies beyond our grasp. To deny discrimination, to suspend judgment, to reach beyond the surface to see behind and beneath the person... these are things that we find ourselves capable of doing, but not completely free to do. Breaking the last ties that bind us to a primitive past is not so easily accomplished.

We must accept that we are only human. Our cerebral capacity for free thought and free action is built upon a bedrock of primitive survival instincts, and the power of the modern neocortex to control all aspects of the human body through the auspices of mind is still easily sabotaged by unconscious mechanisms that dwell in the deep recesses. To overcome fear, ignorance, hatred, and malice is to start a war within, a war that is not always completely won, because the reptilian brain is not so easily chained.

So, at this moment, think not about what has passed, or what is to come -- think about who you are and where you stand. Take no pledge or oath, nor wallow in regret; instead, look down into your soul. There you will see yourself as you are; recognize that person, cherish that person, accept that you are both unique as an individual, and the same as each and every other human being. To change the world, you can start by changing yourself, not radically, but gradually. Enlightenment does not come in a second or a minute or an hour or a day or a year; it is built up each passing moment, through the length of a life and more. Take the time you have, use it well. Treat yourself with care, and you will find it easier to treat others that way.

I bid each and every person on this planet peace, prosperity, and long life.

Monday, December 12, 2011

America, The Incorporated

Even more ridiculous than the idea that a fertilized human egg is a human being, is that large, amorphous agglomerations of people can form a person. A company, a corporation, an interest group... that these clusters of people, brought together by similarity of thought or by economic necessity, are artificial creations, a form of human breccia, which cannot be construed as having a homogeneous mind and singular being. They are aggregated together from disparate portions of society, and are entities whose existence is totally dependent on human law for definition. They did not arise spontaneously from a primordial ooze, nor were they birthed by some titanic polyglot mother.

This is an important distinction, in that such groups of people in their various forms, believe that somehow their mere existence provides them the same access to rights and privileges that a natural-born person enjoys, namely in the area of freedom of speech, and under that, the ability to influence elections based on their desire for certain outcomes. The absurdity of this notion is lost upon corporate boards and self-important leaders, alike; their belief in the rightness of their cause or business is such that it blinds them to fact.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Human law and human beliefs cannot alter physical systems. No decree can change the motion of the Earth's crustal plates as they slide across the face of our world. No amount of determination can bend the Second Law of Thermodynamics to create unlimited energy. No declaration will place the Earth at the center of our solar system. No force of will can alter the motion of the stars through the heavens. No avarice can force chemical processes to turn lead into gold.

So, it is laughable to think that some in our country believe, wholeheartedly, that they can command the very mechanism of the creation of life through law, by declaring a fertilized egg a "person." At its most elementary level, the idea is farcical, and the stolid determination of those who seek to bring this about would be comical if they were not so earnest, and more importantly, if they were not in positions of power in government. The shame in it, is that ignorance cloaked in belief is being used as a yardstick for legality, and reason is being shoved out of the room. Worse still, is that there is no hue and cry from the vast majority of reasonable American, shouting down this travesty of lawmaking.

Let me, then, light the fire of outrage, as we take a little tour of why this execrable legislation and all its kin need to be consigned to the dustbin of history.

Friday, December 9, 2011

What Was Plan A?

Kathleen Sebelius does not strike me as an intolerant or ignorant person. Surely, being Secretary of Health and Human Services, President Obama had faith in her knowledge and ability. Why then did she feel the need to block the FDA's plan to push the Plan B pill to over-the-counter status? Further, why did she feel the need to engage the President on this issue, when he has more pressing matters to attend to, such as high unemployment and a sluggish economy?

The suggestion is that is was done for political reasons, and there might be some truth to that. A second term for President Obama rests in the hands of independents, especially those in key swing states, and to be seen erring on the side of caution would no doubt grease the wheels with some more conservative independents. But surely, there are not really enough of them to cater to in this regard, and as sex, sexuality, and teen pregnancy are polarizing issues, the dividing line is pretty firm. There is really no hay to be made through making this decision for political reasons.

Perhaps, the truth lies, as always, somewhere in between what we see and what we know

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Date Which Fades From Memory

Seventy years later and so few remain who woke to that tropical Sunday morning in the Territory of Hawaii, prepared for just another leisurely day in the sunshine. As men drowsily stirred, splashed faces with water, and stood in line for chow or assembled for the morning colors, most did not realize that their destiny was about to be writ in blood and cordite and shrapnel and smoke. On that morning, the subtle hints of the pending attack could not rouse a sleeping giant to readiness. A submarine being sunk, a large radar blip, the drone of planes where they did not normally assemble... it was not enough.

As bands struck up the anthems and flags were drawn to poles to be raised, the long, isolationist idyll of America was shattered by the snarling of aircraft engines, the howl of diving planes, the staccato bursts of machine gun and cannon fire, and the body-flexing crump of explosions as bombs and torpedoes found their mark. The seemingly invincible United States, "master" of two oceans, was caught napping in its island paradise. Ships were torn apart and capsized. Planes were wrecked. Buildings and men and women immolated, wreathed in fire. The Japanese nation, dismissed by many as near-sighted toy-makers, has pulled off a stunning coup, catching America flat-footed and wrecking the powerful United States Navy within the confines of its own "safe" harbor.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Man Who Will Never Be President, Take Two

In April of this year, I outlined why Newt Gingrich will never become President. Now it is December, and after the implosion of several Republican candidates for President in varied and fantastic ways, we see something which makes me wary of the true intellectual capacity of the American voter: Mr. Gingrich at the top of the polls, challenging Mitt Romney for supremacy at the top of the GOP heap.

Perhaps it has been too long since he last held the national spotlight, and maybe you who have thrown yourselves in his camp have forgotten, so let me bring up a few things about the peripatetic Mr. Gingrich which you might deign to consider before you continue to support him...

  • We can start, of course, with everyone's favorite peccadillo, the divorce of his cancer-ridden wife for a new model, punctuated by his coming to her hospital bed to discuss how the divorce would proceed. Though much hyperbole has been attached to this happening, the bottom line remains the same: Newt was busy "trading up" as his current wife lay sick in her hospital bed. Mind you, this is the same man who so zealously pursued impeachment against President Bill Clinton for an ill-advised White House dalliance.
  • We could mention -- if it is not too inconvenient -- that he was and is the only Speaker of the House to be brought up for ethics violations
  • We might note the peculiarity of his taking millions of dollars from Freddie Mac for consulting work, an agency he spent a good deal of effort trying to close and which used to suggest that certain members of Congress be arrested and tried for malfeasance because of their support for it.
  • It may be noted that for someone who has taught history and claims to be steeped in it, his historical knowledge is many times, to put it politely, badly flawed.
  • Even one of his strongest character traits -- his ability to buck GOP convention -- becomes a weakness, because he is too willing to change course for the sake of pandering. Look at how he called out Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan for what it was, bad, and then proceeded to apologize when the party backlash became too strong.
  • For every cogent theory that he manages to come up with (health care reform), there are several that defy description (ending child labor laws). He is, in essence, a slightly less cantankerous, slightly less insensitive version of Ron Paul, with better bona fides in the Republican Party.
Now, probably about the only person other than a Gingrich supporter who is happy to see Newt at the top of the polls is President Obama. It would not be much of a stretch to say that the ethically-challenged former Speaker and his wild-and-wacky roadshow would be easy meat for the cerebral and well-spoken President. Still, if the GOP ultimately manages to install Newt Gingrich as its 2012 Presidential nominee, it will be solid proof that the Grand "Old" Party has lost complete touch with modern reality. Dragging up a GOP icon of the 90's with questionable personal and political ethics and using a patchwork agenda that relies on tired tropes of the same era, Republicans might be better served attempting to reanimate the fetid corpse of Ronald Reagan.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Morality Is As Morality Does

There are many who would claim a superior morality, owing to personal earnestness, religious certitude, and societal position. They feel it incumbent to tell the rest of us about our moral failings, to attempt to impress upon us their way of thought, as they see us incapable of making the "correct" choices for ourselves. They would, at every turn, attempt to harness us to the yolk of their faith, even though the bedrock principle of individual liberty upon which this nation is built and which is codified within our most sacrosanct document -- The Constitution of the United States -- says they cannot.

Morality is an artifice built of human mien; not a solid, load-bearing construction, but a more amorphous form, cobbled together from the vast swathes of human experience. A time comes at various intervals where the morality of society is tested, found wanting, and modified to excise those bits that no longer have relevance or were, in a new light, found to be barbaric, and to add new parts that modify or strengthen the remains, that we might all be brought closer together as a community without stripping away individuality.

Where morality fails us is when some choose to substitute their own judgement for that of society, attempting to bend the general welfare to their own ends.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The War At Home

If you were wondering, the United States is at war. It is not the war of declared intent and fixed enemies that we have fought over the centuries; it is an amorphous, shape-shifting war, in which the enemy can be anywhere, at any time, doing things we do not see until they raise themselves up into the light. It is the ultimate war of fear, where noncombatants -- read "civilians" -- are the avowed target of the enemy, and military combat is a sideline. It is a war that defies the use of conventional weapons and tactics. It is a war that may never, ever end.

As such, some in the United States have seen fit to codify and enshrine this war in the very fabric of the nation. Places like Guantanamo Bay, legislation like The Patriot Act, and processes like military tribunals are all being given extended value, becoming permanent fixtures in a the American landscape, rather than temporary expedients. This new type of war has given those who have sought an extension of American power an excuse to use the potential for enemy attack in many insidious ways on our nation the leverage to place into law the removal of restrictions on government's ability to infiltrate the life of law-abiding citizens, in the name of "national security."

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What Passes For Conscience These Days

Some nurses in New Jersey are garnering attention for the "stand" they are taking, in refusing to assist in abortion procedures at their hospital, because to do so violates their ethical tenets. Their "heroic" stand against abortion has garnered them the support of notorious women's rights foe Representative Chris Smith, who has come out in full support of their actions, because he has an election coming up and it is time to energize his base constituency: the self-appointed moral guardians of New Jersey.

If you've noticed a particular odor wafting through the air as you read, that is the taint of hypocrisy that clings to the air whenever a government official or some member of the community stands up and claims that to have anything to do with sex, the aftermath of sex, or abortion of a fetus goes against their "principles." I put principles in quotes, because in many cases, their moral and ethical system of values is so fraught with contradictory and confounding rules that it makes no sense. Conscience, as such people define it through their words and actions, involves denying others their rights because something those others do upsets them in ways that are usually tangled up more in belief than reality.

So let's examine this "conscience" these people claim is being so offended.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thank You

You cannot hear the shot and shell
That punctuate the battle hell
Nor the rocket roar or bullet wheeze
That cover screams amid the trees
Ground trembles from a mine's blast
And bodies and their parts are cast
Like the cordite smoke upon the wind
To sprinkle around where none have sinned
Save to stand and take that ground
From hand grenade and rifle round
Of those as determined to wrest it away
And hold it yet another day.

You cannot hear the silent scream
Of men boiled away in the steam
From a boiler burst by torpedo blow
Rending the hull so far below
While planes swoop down spitting lead
And you think all the while you are dead
But for comrades who rise up from the deck
To fight them off and give them heck
Till they succumb to a bursting bomb
Taking their death with stoic aplomb
Giving their last full painful breath
While you give some meaning to their death

You cannot hear those who fight
But in every sullen, starry night
The fight returns to haunt their dreams
Filled with unholy, painful screams
Sounds of battle, smells of blood
A quiet miasma, a rising flood
Drawing them back to a time long ago
When their life was not just so
When the enemy stalked and fire blazed
And the battle for life left them dazed
A 'thank you' seems a pittance for what we owe
But it's important we tell them, important they know

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pater Familias

First, let it be said, because we need reminding: Jerry Sandusky is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. That said, the mounting evidence and continual parade of child victims leads one to believe that this man abused a position of power to fulfill his sordid sexual appetite for young boys. Whether as Penn State's defensive coordinator for its football team, or as part of a group working with youth, this man apparently used his power and influence to perpetrate one of the more heinous crimes our society has to cope with: child rape. Anyone and everyone who had contact with this man, who had any information, evidence, or testimony to give, who did not pursue this matter to the fullest, is suspect.

That brings me to Joe Paterno.

Friday, November 4, 2011

My Values, Your Values, Our Values

What values do we share? Think on it for a minute.

Certainly, we could all agree that each of us, each human being, has an inherent right to be ourselves, to have our own thoughts, and our individual liberty... right? It was a guiding principle behind the founding of the nation.

Certainly, we could agree that, given the above, the right to that liberty should not be infringed upon by others, as individuals, organizations, or government. Again, another founding principle.

Given those things, and the moral history of human culture, there can be no argument that a human individual, secure in personal liberty, endowed with inherent rights, should be free of fear of malice or murder, correct?

Most importantly, given that every person is thus endowed with rights and liberties, does that not also mean that each is as precious as another, deserving of respect and decency to the same degree?

But wait...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I Am Not My Race... But I Am

Some things you should know:
  1. I am male
  2. I am Caucasian
  3. I am a reformed Catholic, which is to say I believe in the tenets of Jesus Christ, just not in the Roman Catholic Church
The most important thing you should know, is that my world view has evolved quite a bit over my lifetime. I have worked very hard to eliminate the vestiges of prejudicial thinking that pervade the normal human mind. I have sought out knowledge in a wide and extensive variety, to ensure that my personal ignorance is at a low ebb, though I admit I do not know everything, nor can I. I have done my very best to absorb the teachings of human history and learn the lessons of human frailty. I have made the personal determination that it is best for me to approach each and every person as a person, despite any differentiation society would have me make. I refuse to judge based solely on surface features or perceived/actual differences between myself and someone else. As I choose not to judge others, I would expect others to do the same in kind.

Therein lies the problem.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Return To Hooverville

It was the laissez faire economic strategy of Herbert Hoover that led to the implosion of the United States economy after the crash of the Stock Market in 1929. It was his ambivalence toward government intervention and his unwillingness to use government to aid American citizens that caused the country to slide into depression. The most he could muster was begging and pleading with businesses to stop laying off workers, but at the time, it was everyone for themselves. When World War I veterans marched on Washington, D.C. in 1932 (the "Bonus Army") and demanded redemption of their service certificates, so they might use the money to survive, Hoover ordered General Douglas MacArthur to clear them out of their encampment, one of the derisively-named "Hoovervilles." A cavalry charge and gassing later, fifty-five veterans were injured; one hundred thirty-five were arrested. One 12-week-old child died after the gas attack.

Flash forward to 2011, when an economic malaise brought about by a collapse of the housing market engineered by Wall Street, leads to demonstrations across the nation. Occupy Wall Street brings forth collections of the disenfranchised and desperate, making the displeasure heard through civil disobedience, in cities all throughout the nation. They want The Monied Powers and their retainers to see the damage they have done to the American Dream, and they want government to recognize that it has failed them, failing to protect them and their livelihoods and their finances from the rapacious greed of the money-changers on Wall Street. Then, last night, October 26th, the mayor of Oakland, Jean Quan, gives her tacit approval for the Chief of Police to move in and drive out the protesters, which he chooses to do by assembling overwhelming force and using tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash grenades. The attack leads to dozens of arrests, and the hospitalization of a two-tour Iraq veteran, who had managed to survive that war without a scratch before being assaulted with a teargas canister, leading to serious head trauma and a trip to the hospital in critical condition.

Those who do not learn the lessons of history...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Previously Occupied

I know some have questioned the motivations behind some of the protesters in Occupy Wall Street. Why should they feel they automatically win something by going to college, getting a degree, holding down a job, owning a home? The word “entitlement” is bandied about a lot, as if this is some whiny lot of panhandlers complaining about the change they get standing outside the bus station. It’s not that at all. Far from a movement, in the classic sense, it is a message: "We are the people whose lives have been disrupted by the machinations of Wall Street and Washington, D.C. in the name of greed and power and we're not happy about it."

For all that many would tarnish these protesters, claiming they are shirkers, layabouts, and well-dressed panhandlers, the members of Occupy Wall Street have a valid concern: the rules have been changed to favor those who are already wealthy and secure, at the expense of those seeking to join that circle. No one is saying that the desire to earn money, be wealthy, and have personal security is in the absolute, wrong; that is the goal of the vast majority of Americans. What is being said is that The Monied Powers and their minions are seeking to create exclusivity, to deny those self-same Americans the fruits of honest labor, and attempting to insulate themselves from their responsibility to the rest of humanity, as if they are somehow "above" us.

This nation's history has been driven on the ideals of freedom and independence of the individual, of hard work leading to greater rewards, of investment in the improvement of the standard of living. Those ideals were rolled into the “American Dream,” the idea that every American should become a landowner, should reap the benefits of their hard work, and become personally enriched through perseverance and sound financial management. It’s a wonderful dream, and it is obtainable, in theory; the problem comes when those who manage the systems under which the dream is pursued change the rules or alter the systems in ways that only seek to enrich themselves, and not the vast majority of Americans. Where greed is unfettered, the 99% suffer.

These people had expectations, based on what they were taught by their parents, what they were told in school, what the pundits and prognosticators kept pouring into the airwaves. Work hard. Get an education. Buy a home. Those were supposed to be some of the keys to success. And they were… until Washington, D.C. and Wall Street rigged the game. Not unlike a casino, The Monied Powers and their minions have stacked the odds in their favor, and shed not a tear for the long, sad stream of gamblers who wander away from the table bereft of what little they had and indebted for more than they can hope to make.

It isn’t about entitlement. It isn’t even about fairness. It’s about a level playing field. It’s about economic systems being controlled and regulated so that everyone, regardless of their economic status, can play and have an equal chance at success. As long as our government allows the economy to be run in the current fashion, the 99% have no hope of making the headway they should be making, given their efforts. Occupy Wall Street is the cry of the ultimate oppressed majority, people of every stripe who are tired of playing by a set of rules that only favor those who already have wealth. If this country is to operate as it should, everyone should have an equal chance at success — any other way, and we are doomed to a slow, choking, violent death.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The One Hundred Percent

Numbers are bandied about continuously to make a point in the Information Age. Statistics, percentages, tallies, proportions, and the like are becoming the drivers of social change, the mirrors behind which truth is hidden, the towers in which power is created and kept, and the walls that keep groups separated. Even now, across the globe, a battle line is being drawn between the ninety-nine percent of the population that is suffering under the economic and social oppression of the other one percent, in which is invested great wealth and greater power.

While it is all well-and-good to be cognizant of the disparities and divisions that are the heart of our current place in human history, the polarization effected by numerical comparisons in any number of axes, far from delineating and defining the problems and potential solutions of those problems, serves to only increase the divisiveness and demonization extant in human societies all over the planet. If our conscience and social change are to be driven by numbers, then there are only two numbers that should truly count: one and one hundred.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

One Last Appeal In The Matter of Troy Davis

In one more attempt to bring reason to the case of Troy Davis, and every person The State sees fit to sentence to death, I wrote the following at the behest of Amnesty International UK:

I will not vouchsafe the merits of Mr. Davis' case; to me, they are irrelevant. What is relevant, in his case and the case of every inmate the State seeks to murder in the name of "public necessity," is that by taking such action, you drench your hands and mine in blood that need not be shed.

If we accept the proposition that a living, breathing human has the right to the integrity of their life, whether we are taught this as part of religious teachings or civics lessons, or simply because we enjoy our life and inherently understand the "wrongness" of the purposeful and premeditated ending of such a life, then we cannot, we should not, countenance the taking of life in our name, through the agency of the State, which we brought into existence as an extension of ourselves. If one person has no inherent right to take the life of another person, then we cannot logically conclude that hundreds upon hundreds of us -- in the guise of the State -- somehow has a greater right to do so, nor the implicit right to ignore the admonition against the murder of one person. Execution is a symptom of the hold of Medievalism on our modern society, and it has no place where we consider ourselves an enlightened, just, and fair people.

Do what you know in your heart to be right and end this despicable spectacle.

We cannot countenance murder in our name. Medievalism has no place in the 21st Century. If only each letter, each call, each FAX, each Tweet, each blog post, were a physical poke, like the pecking of hundreds of thousands of birds upon the conscience of everyone involved in this travesty. If only.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Georgia On My Mind

I wrote a letter. I signed petitions. I voiced my opinion wherever I could. I prayed. And I was not alone.

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles did not hear. Did not listen. Did not want to listen. Could not accept even the simplest argument against putting Troy Davis to death: it is hypocritical. Hypocritical for a "Christian" nation to stand by the Biblical and moral admonition against the taking of another person's life, and yet have no trouble with allowing the State the power to do what we ourselves have stated we will not, as if the creation of the State imbues it with some form of shield against moral ambiguity, or worse, proclaims it to have some authority capable of overriding even the highest admonition in human society. Apparently, when handed to the State, a soul no longer has any meaning to anyone.

There is nothing of justice in this decision, only the need to quench a thirst for vengeance. One hesitates to pin ulterior motives on those who are left with the weighty responsibility of determining who shall live and who shall die, but even an iota of doubt should be sufficient for anyone to see it reasonable to choose life over death, for the system must always err to the side of conservation and justice. To beat a hasty path to the executioner's chamber in the face of reasonable doubts is the mark of those who would see their power unchallenged and their prejudices confirmed.

One would hope the merest hint of this execution would stick in the craw of a decent person, but if it were to do so only after the fact of a man's death, this would not say much for those who claim aegis over clemency or those who claim to revere life. Execution is a tool of emotion, a hearkening back to the Middle Ages, to the triumph of fear and prejudice over reason and humanity. It is a tool that is best relegated to the shed, abandoned like so many other ancestral barbarisms: stoning, crucifixion, inquisition, etc. A modern society such as ours should not hold on to the egregious behaviors of our past.

One can only hope that there is yet a bolt from the blue, that some reasonable, sensible member of the State moves to terminate this reprehensible act before its culmination. If not, the death of Troy Davis will be another stain upon our American society, heaped upon the many others we have yet to fully wipe away.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Plea For Clemency For The Wrongly Accused Troy Davis

There is a man named Troy Davis, who is in prison in Georgia, and is facing execution on September 21st, unless there is a stay. The simple story is: 20 years ago, Mr. Davis was convicted of killing a police officer, with no physical evidence, and the testimony of several witnesses. Several of those witnesses have come forward to say that their testimony was coerced by the presence of law enforcement officials, and they have recanted their stories. There is a tremendous amount of doubt now, and it behooves the State of Georgia to re-open the case and award Mr. Davis a new and hopefully fairer trial. So far, the government of Georgia has shown no inclination to do so, and so, many individuals such as myself, through the auspices of the Internet, have been involved in a concerted campaign to convince the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles to grant a stay and allow there to be a new trial. As such, after the break, is a copy of the letter I am sending to the board.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Long Roll

One by one
The names waft
Upon the air
Sent aloft in pain
And joy
And sorrow
And remembrance
To take flight
To rise above
To soar over
The huddled masses
To fill that space
Where once stood
Mighty towers
That they might
Rise above
The hate that
Felled them
And fill once more
Hearts with hope

They Fell, We Rise

10 years.

A decade of birthdays, anniversaries, births, deaths, new homes, graduations, retirements, that 2,977 people (at last count) have missed, because on an ordinary day, September 11th, 2001, they were going about their business, oblivious to the machinations of nineteen men bent on destruction in the name of their perverted idea of Islam.

There is no singular tragedy of that day. Radiating out from the moment at 8:46 AM when the first plane slammed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, the tragedies moved outward at the speed of information, rippling waves of doubt, uncertainty, pain, and horror. These waves swallowed up and swamped people from New York City, out across the United States, and into the wider world. Some were devastated. Some were elated. Some were confused. Some were numb.

In an oblique way, the Twin Towers were, as the terrorists saw them, representative of America, or more specifically, the core of our values and beliefs. Together, they were tall, strong, elegant, powerful structures, a commanding presence at the lower end of Manhattan, as America had been in the world. They reached upward, pointing the way toward the sky, toward the future, as America has always done. They were filled with a broad cross-section of our society, from the powerful to the poor, the old and the young, from many creeds, and many races, and many places, just as America was (and is). Their collapse -- abrupt, slow, stately, smoky -- represented perfectly the fall of our air of invincibility, the wrenching of our expectations for our nation, the tearing away of blinders from our eyes, and the desolation that would be left behind after the smoke cleared.

10 years.

The rubble may be gone from what was named "Ground Zero," but it has not been cleared from the hearts of many of us. Some think that we are belaboring the tragedy. Some think that we are disturbed. Some think that those of us who were not directly affected that day -- losing a loved one, being a first responder, working on the site -- have no business being upset. So many, too many, have written the day off, pushed it to the side, accepted it as history, and chant the mantra of "it's time to get on with life." But... it's not so simple. Wherever you were that day, whatever you were doing, whoever you were, to be exposed to such a momentous and devastating event was to have to process something inconceivable to the normal, steady mind of the average citizen. Perhaps some have the mental capacity, the intestinal fortitude, the hardened feelings to simply allow such a thing to hit them only a glancing blow. Perhaps some can absorb, process, and deal with the matter.

Some of us are not so lucky.

Call it whatever you like, by whatever yardstick you use, but I still carry pain from that day, pain that does not simply bloom and flower ever September 11th, but lives with me and intrudes on my life in unexpected ways. It may rear up its head when I hear my children fighting in the way siblings do. It may manifest when I have left my home and cannot remember if I told my wife I love her. It may seep from the shadows whenever a plane flies over my house at low altitude. It hides within the folds of memory, and pours forth unbidden. I believe much of it is due to the incredulity of the moment; more of it, I feel, is some pent up guilt I hold, for not running downtown to help. I know, in the light of reflection, that there was little one more person could have done, but I have never been the shrinking violet when there was an emergency around me. To be rendered so immobile, to be held in abeyance by abject fear, is so unlike me that perhaps I have had trouble reconciling it. Others might be willing to overlook it, but I am having trouble doing so for myself.

I will be there on Sunday, along with the throng of others in their various states of grief and memory. I will be looking to perhaps, finally, put aside the worst of the day, to wash off the feelings of horror and despair that have clung to me like barnacles. I can't say if I will be successful. I can't say if it will help. But for the memory and for the hopes of 2,977 people, I must try, for as they fell, I must rise. We must rise.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Take Not A Life Lightly

By now, the tumult has swept over the nation from corner to corner: a Republican Presidential candidate stands before a room as states he has had no trouble exercising the death penalty, and is lauded by the crowd with applause. For a moment, one might have noted the exuberant and keening voices of the Colosseum amid the clapping, for it was a spectacle best suited to that forgotten time when fighting men and condemned souls were made to dance in death for the approval of the crowd, and their Emperor dispensed his own brand of "justice," by making it a sport of blood.

You might think your author hyperbolic, but I report only what sensation comes to me when events transpire before my eyes and ears. It was a singular moment, like so few I have witnessed, that horrified and enraged me. Were I not better prepared for it from the commentary I read prior to watching it, apoplexy might have welled up from within me. For this moment, unlike many of late, sets the tale of this country in the starkest relief, casting a shadow across a nation that prides itself on equality, integrity, faith, and justice.

People Who Don't Belong In Government

  1. Those who think government is evil
  2. Those who think government is incapable of solving problems
  3. Those who think government should not be solving problems
  4. Those who think government has no obligation to support its citizens.
  5. Those who think their form of worship is superior to the works of humanity and want to impose it on all citizens
Government is only as capable as those who run it. Placing people incapable of accepting government for what it is in positions of importance, is the surest way to destroy a nation. We need people who can be open-minded, fair, reasonable, compassionate, and who will compromise to get work done, not party sycophants or fear mongers or power grabbers. America suffers, where it cannot follow the precepts outlined for it by its founders: that each of us is equal and each of us is responsible to ourselves and to our fellow citizens. Those who cannot see themselves as part of a greater whole cannot possibly work toward the greater good.

Friday, September 2, 2011

They Pledge Allegiance...

Of late, we note the spate of candidates for, and holders of, high offices in our nation signing pledges, to groups and organizations, that they will not raise taxes, that they will ban same-sex marriage, that they will repeal the health care law, and so on. They are all in earnest, believing that such pledges make them exemplars of what it means to govern the United States, that they are willing to commit such action to paper and place their name upon it.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

I Don't Feel Your Pain

The world as we know it is a rough place, a series of nettlesome problems laced with personal disagreements, differing opinions, and a variety of points of view. The only constant is that the trials and tribulations are happening to people such as ourselves, people who may be very different from us through casual inspection, but upon deeper reflection, are not that much different. They, too, are trying to survive, trying to flourish, trying to have a decent life.

What disturbs us more than anything, is how so many seem to be unable to empathize with others, for reasons beyond comprehension and through rationales which test rationality. It is so easy for one person to look at another, and allow surface impressions to form their whole opinion, and to parse the information that comes in through various media as proof of that opinion. These opinions, far from fluid and malleable, become the bedrock of intolerance and ignorance, driving people further apart. It is as if the contraction for the world through technology and transportation is being resisted by a visceral repulsion, not unlike the collapse of star being slowed or halted by the fusing matter within.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

We Do Ordain And Establish

The Establishment is not the problem.

Those who are elected to run The Establishment are the problem.

The Excess Of Unreasonable Expectations

For all those who voted for Barack Obama, who thought that he would sweep into Washington, D.C. and cast out the political demons of money, power, and influence, much as Jesus cleansed the Temple, I have news for you: wasn't going to happen. You knew it, too; you knew, deep down, that over two hundred years of ingrained political glad-handing was not going to be erased by one man in one Presidential term. Still, there was, dare I say, hope. Hope that he would be different. Hope that the change he represented would sweep out like a tidal wave, engulfing the power-hungry minions of The Monied Powers and restore order. And while it's true that a wave starts with but a single drop of water, it gets its power from the billions of other drops that join it in surging forward.

So, we anointed the man, broke down a barrier many thought insurmountable, and swept him into office. Then, staggeringly, we sat back and waited. And waited. And waited. Waited for the change to appear. Waited for the exodus from Washington, D.C., of those who had long made profit of their power. And still, many wait, forgetting that the maxim that change requires action, and the action of one man would not be enough to turn back the corruption rife within the denizens of the nation's capitol. We abandoned him to his fate and now have the temerity to claim he is not fighting for us.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Parties Are Over

There may be no "I" in "team," but there is in "independent."

If you look up my voter registration, it will say "Democrat," but only because there are no open primaries in my state. Frankly, I'm not sure why there should be primaries at all, but I avail myself of the system that exists, a system that, frankly, shouldn't exist.

The Constitution of the United States makes no mention of political parties, minority whips, or any of the other baggage that has been dumped on the floor of the House and the Senate, or at the door of the White House, or in the vestibule of the Supreme Court. There are no Articles pertaining to how power shall be apportioned between political parties, or how parties can manipulate the Rules of Order and Procedure to create, maintain, or thwart power. The system in place now -- the unwritten system -- that lies atop those actual rules supplied by the Constitution are fabrications of the political parties that run the nation.

It's time for the parties to depart.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Now How Much Will You Pay?

Putting aside the fact that Wall Street does not represent the entirety of the U.S. economy, and that economy has been a wretched mess for several years now, and that troubles in Europe seem never-ending, can we really be shocked by the follies that have taken place of late in our country and the world? A botched attempt at maintaining our country's credit rating is a trifle compared to hunger in Somalia, political revolution in Syria and Libya, and lawlessness and poverty in Tottenham and elsewhere in Great Britain. Even so...

The hew-and-cry has always been that we need to focus on the problems we have at home. Assuming we could wall ourselves off from the rest of the world, the problems of the globe are not only our problems, too, they reflect the same problems that still plague our nation as deeply, if not as forcefully. So, yes, let us focus on the problems at home, large and small, and let's see where they originate. The answer may surprise you, though it shouldn't.

The problem is us.

Monday, August 8, 2011

America, The Post-Racial

Here is a story that tells you where America stands as far as tolerance and individual liberty goes: James Craig Anderson, a 49-year-old auto plant worker, was standing beside his car on a Sunday morning in Jackson, MS, when up drove two carloads of teenagers, who had spent the night drinking. The teens "allegedly" got out of their vehicles and proceeded to pummel this man, and then, when he tried to stagger back to his car, ran him over with a pickup truck and drove away.

The kids are white; Mr. Anderson was black. Was, because he is now a corpse, bereft of life and of any conceivable identity that could be assigned to him that would have any meaning other than deceased. He was a living, breathing man, American citizen, worker, brother and son. Assigned by the Constitution of the United States his inalienable rights to personal liberty, he had those rights stripped from him in a brutal and callous fashion, by unfeeling, uncaring, bigoted white teenagers. Allegedly. In the vernacular that we must adopt as outlined in that same Constitution, one is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, and so the crime is "alleged" to have occurred. Of course, the Founding Fathers never envisioned video tape or digital recordings.

The whole crime was caught on surveillance video. In sordid detail.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Love And Marriage

It is a fallacy, a piece of ignorant fluff, that says there can be no love between a man and a man, or a woman and a woman. Besides the knowledge that sons love fathers and daughters love mothers, the simple fact remains that our essence, our soul if you will, is not a function of the shell we inhabit. Our personality, our fears, our drives, our emotions, may be connected to our physical form through the mechanisms of biology and evolution, but they are not us. If it's true that an immortal soul can be brought into existence with our birth, then how can that self-same soul be made a slave to a physical form it had no knowledge of? No. We are not a product of our gender, any more than we are a product of our skin color, or the God we do -- or do not -- worship. These things are are mere affectations, fleetingly attached to our true selves for the few years we stumble across the stage before the world.

Marriage is another affectation, a convenience and creation of men. It exists to bind together in law and dogma two people, and throughout history it was mostly a man and a woman. It was a means to an end, a justification for and celebration of misogyny, a binding of a woman in subservience to a man, a completion of a deal for passing a woman from one man (her father) to another man (her husband). Called a sacrament and draped in sanctity, it might be celebrated as one of the defining moments of a person's life, and, indeed, there is much to be said for declaring that one person is enough for you for your eternity on Earth, but we can never forget from whence it came, and call into question just how spiritually liberating the practice known as marriage is... until now.

Now, with the pursuit of equality for all Americans, outlined in the continued advance of the right to same-sex marriage, this old, stilted, and somewhat bedraggled ceremony is gaining a new birth of sanctity. For when we declare, triumphantly, that it matters not what form two human beings take, that they love and commit to each other "forever," we breathe new life into vows to love, honor, and cherish, and we admit that our knowledge of the world extends much further than it did when our ancestors first brought the practice into being.

There are those who rail against this new birth, guardians of "sacred" dogma, clinging to a past long surpassed by the forward flow of humanity over the face of this planet and into the black sky above. Our capacity for reason and knowledge tells us that there is no shame in faith, save where that faith seeks to invalidate truth or impose itself on others. In this case, truth is not easily dismissed. To allow the decrepitude of a paternalistic, bigoted past to live within the human milieu is to willingly carry a cancer that will continue to threaten the health of us all. Let no person be denigrated for their belief, save that we hold forth some pity for them, that they cannot see the forest for the trees. In the inevitability of human evolution, there will be those left behind, and they will mark dying branches on our family tree.

They said that a man and a woman of different religions could not marry, that it would destroy us -- they were wrong. They said that a man and a woman of different races could not marry, that it would destroy us -- they were wrong. They say now that a man cannot marry a man, nor woman marry a woman, that it will destroy us -- they are most definitely, wrong.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

You Get What You Vote For

The hyperventilating, pontificating, and obfuscating is now over. As with any good compromise, the bill that finally allowed the debt ceiling to be raised in conjunction with budgetary cuts, was met with unhappiness in all directions. The Tea Party was certain it did not go far enough. Republicans grumbled over defense cuts and the loss of a balanced budget amendment. Democrats were unhappy generally, over the whole "crisis" even having arisen, the lack of solid revenue increases, and the President's willingness to sit on the sidelines while they tried to do the heavy lifting, only to "stab them in the back" by giving the GOP much of what it wanted, in terms if not in substance.

As the sound of gnashing teeth and exhaled breath finishes washing over the nation, it's best to take a moment and look closely at what the debt ceiling "crisis" outcome really was, and more importantly, what it all actually meant.

Friday, July 29, 2011

What The Debt Crisis Says About America

If you survey the media commenting on the United States debt crisis, from news programs, to blogs, to Op Ed pages, to talk radio, you get an overwhelming sense that a) American citizens are not really sure what the debt ceiling is and what defaulting on our debt obligations means, b) the Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill are in no hurry to explain it to their constituencies, except in terms that denigrate their opposition, c) the President, true-to-form, is trying to get Congress to do its job without having to do it for them, and d) no one can agree on what the actual impact of a Federal default would be, good, bad, or otherwise.

It is interesting to note, in light of the goings-on, that something that is a duty of the Congress -- protecting the economic health, safety, and prestige -- has now become a lightning rod for politicking, a generator of hyperbole, and a highly-visible failure of our national government. No other nation would think to risk its economic power and standing in the world by allowing what should be a trivial matter -- maintaining a balanced budget and protecting the debt it has incurred -- to become a political hot potato. Many a government (Greece, Spain, Mexico, Ireland, etc.) have found themselves in financial dire straits, but have also managed to go about doing what was necessary to bring those conditions under control, even where that meant ceding economic power to other nations in return for loan guarantees. It has not looked good for the presiding government, but austerity and outside help looked a lot better than allowing their nation to collapse.

So what is our problem? Why have we, still the largest economy in the world, let our economic house fall into such disarray. My friends, we have only ourselves to blame.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dying Of The Day

August 2nd, 2011 will dawn like any other day. Some places will have sunshine, some places clouds, some places will be warm, some will be hot. People will shamble and shuffle through the hours, taking care of children, going to work, shopping for groceries, reading blogs, watching the news, and all the other things that mark a day passed in the life of a human being in the United States of America. Nothing truly shocking will happen... on the surface.

Yet, like an iceberg, most of what happens to our nation happens out of sight, a mass of motions, bargains, and deals that we do not see, nor do we have an inkling about. They happen on floors crowded with cubicles, in rooms with long tables and leather chairs, and corner offices, and back rooms, through teleconferences, emails, furtive phone calls, and quiet handshakes. And on that August day, a decision, really many decisions that rolled up into a singular one, will potentially cause the erosion of our nation's power and prestige, not to mention imperil an economy which, while on the mend, is nowhere near ready to move out of intensive care.

August 2nd, 2011, is the day the money runs out.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Making The Case For Liberalism

"Liberalism" is being turned into an epithet by some, and is being misrepresented as "Socialism" or "Communism" by others. Its proud tradition is being sullied in many quarters: by the media, by pundits, by talking-heads, by the ignorant and unsophisticated. It is being dragged through the mud by those who are afraid of it like children are afraid of the bogeyman.

All of this comes about because fear is being peddled instead of reason, bigotry instead of humanism, dogma instead of fact. Liberalism has been tarred-and-feathered by those who are afraid of its tenets, even as they misstate those tenets to their own advantage. Let us talk not at Liberalism, but about it, and let us set the record straight as to what it means.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

God Go With You

I saw a T-shirt the other night, which lead me to deeper thought:

Dear God,

How can you allow all the violence currently in our schools?


A Concerned Citizen


Dear Concerned Citizen,

I am not allowed into you schools.



I admit to paraphrasing, but my reproduction is fairly accurate. The gist of the shirt was simple: violence inherent in today's schools is a direct result of not allowing prayer within them. A most fallacious premise if there ever was one.

Monday, July 18, 2011

To Whom We Are Indebted

Those who stand up in Congress as representatives of the individual states in the United States of America take an oath, to support and defend the Constitution. That vow is taken to impress upon the legislator, in the most solemn terms possible, the import of the task ahead of them. That oath binds them to the desire of the Founding Fathers, that the people should pick representatives that not only could convey their feelings on matters pertaining to the whole country as they related to the states, but could do what was best for the nation above the mandate of the people.

While politicking has always been an unfortunate by-product of government, any government, it was hoped that The People would monitor their legislators, and take the necessary steps to ensure the smooth functioning of Federal government, by removing those who were more interested in self-promotion than promotion of the general welfare. Unfortunately, the electorate has abdicated its responsibility, to the point that legislators now lead their constituents around by the nose, and embroil them in the same charades and shenanigans that impede the course of governance. The independent voice of the citizen has been replaced by the toadying of many to the obfuscatory exhortations of a malevolent few, and by a wholesale complaisance with the course of government, writing it off as a waste of a vote.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Ask Not, What Your Country Can Do For You

But ask what you, can do for your country:

  • Remember always, that no matter how disagreeable it might be, others have the right to say what they will, worship as they will, and live their lives as they will. This nation is founded on the liberty of the individual.
  • The idea behind our nation, is that many come together to form one. Many people form one State; many States form one nation. Despite our differences, and the differences between our States, we are one Nation, indivisible.
  • The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Everything we do must ensure the health, prosperity, and safety of all Americans.
  • In times of crisis, it is important that we band together, and help each other. Even the smallest gift or gesture can mean the world to someone who needs our help.
  • We are all equal. Any person who lives under the mantel of "Citizen of the United States of America," deserves the same rights, privileges, and liberty as any other, no matter what we may think. To think less is to denigrate what those who fought in The Revolutionary War were trying to accomplish.
  • Know our history. Know that we have not always acted honorably, nor decently, but have striven always to advance, to do better, to make up for our missteps. Our nation and its system are not perfect, but each day gives us a new opportunity to right wrongs and work on improving ourselves and our country.
  • Remember that you have responsibilities. The Founding Fathers took a giant leap of faith in handing the governance of the entire nation over to its citizens and their elected representatives, but they thought, deep down, that as serious people, we could handle the challenges. It is important to participate in our democracy. It is important to be engaged in the civil responsibilities that come with citizenship. The system does not operate properly if we remain aloof and unconcerned.
  • Patriotism is not an uncritical adherence to the word and letter of law, or to what has come before. It is doing those things which advance the nation and improve its stature amongst the nations of the world. There is nothing wrong with patriotism, if it is tempered by compassion, concern, and cooperation.
To all you who are Citizens of the United States, and to those who live here who hope to someday know that honor, I bid you a glorious, peaceful, and safe Independence Day.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Fighting For Independence

My Fellow Citizens, I appeal to you in the name of all that is True and Right with the World, to follow me in Acts of Revolution, to cast off the Tyranny that grips us right now. I speak of none other than The Monied Powers, those Charlatans of Capitalism, who place the Value of the Almighty Dollar ahead of the Value of the Human Life, who speak of the Yolk of Taxation restraining their ability to Create Jobs, even as they pay Not One Thin Dime to the Public Treasury, seeing fit to ship American Jobs to Foreign Lands where they can pay far less for Labor and are Free of Their Obligations to the country that has Supported Them.

Monday, June 27, 2011

What Justice Comes From Silence

Last week, we were forced by circumstance to engage the help of a lawyer in righting a wrong -- my son being unable to join his peers in their 8th Grade graduation ceremony, even though he had finally passed. It had been a rough year, and it looked like he might be held back, but through the good graces of some of his teachers, he was able to make up the necessary work to obtain the grades necessary to go to high school. Even so, the administration believed it would not be in his his best interests to allow him in the ceremony, saying it would "set a bad example." We thought just the opposite -- he had shown that their faith in him was not misplaced, and that when he put his nose to the grindstone, he could do the work.

After the school administration and the school district superintendent not only minimized out outrage over the snub, but were condescending about it, we hired legal counsel. Our lawyer, acting swiftly, as there was only hours until the ceremony at this point, was quickly able to determine that the district had violated its own rules regarding the situation, and was in breach. Fear of a potential lawsuit forced their hand, and we won. We got to see him graduate and mark a milestone in his life we both wanted to see.

The legal code of our nation, and the system of justice provided for therein, was a carefully crafted work, intended to provide the average citizen with legal protections from unreasonable government mandates and actions, to ensure that no person was made guilty before they could receive a fair hearing, and to allow even the most heinous criminal the privilege of a day in court. The system of jurisprudence that we have, flawed though it may be in some areas, still affords the vast majority of Americans the protection of their inalienable rights and the right to be heard where they stand accused.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Sowing The Seeds Of Love

The forward march of humanity toward the future is retarded by the drag of thousands of years of ignorance and associated dogma. It is unfortunate that so much of human existence is predicated on developing and refining definitions of what is "right" and what is "wrong" in terms of what humans are and what they are supposed to be. Quietly, as each decade, each century, each millennium passes, those definitions are eroded, much as rock is battered to dust by wind and rain. The forces of nature and the intrinsic natural order of the universe are more powerful than the artificial structures erected by mankind to keep out the truth.

So it is that a momentous event, completed in the late hours of June 24th, 2011, has broken one more link in the chains that keep humanity from reaching its full potential. The state of New York, after much wrangling, voted to allow same-sex marriage to become legal. It struck a blow for civil rights, by proclaiming that members of the homosexual community are as much entitled to marry as anyone else. It was another moment affirming what we must know deep inside, but many are afraid to accept -- that human beings and their souls are not defined by their body structure, anymore than by their skin color, or the deity or deities they worship, or any other artificial measure we wish to create.

Advances in human society comes slowly, incrementally, and usually at great cost beforehand. Each group struggles against a tide of humanity that looks down on them, denigrates them, labels them as inferior or unworthy. Invective, rancor, epithets, and violence cascade down on them, and yet, even as it seems bleak and progress untenable, a strong, low, bass note begins to form amidst the tumult, growing in intensity, sweeping through the cacophony, subsuming the hatred, swallowing the fear. Like the seed buried deep beneath the soil, hoarding the precious drops of water that reach it, eventually the first tendril reaches out and breaks the surface, and a new birth of freedom and justice takes place.

New York, following in the footsteps of so many of its New England brethren, is that tendril, rising up into the warm air and gathering in the rays of the Sun, to further energize the growth of that seed of humanity. Another group may rise above the turmoil to assert its rights and privileges, and the plague of ignorance and the pestilence of hatred shall not find safe haven in their leaves anymore, but be cast upon the dust to blow away in the wind. Let the day be marked in triumph, for though much growth remains, this moment shows that where we sow compassion and tolerance and good will, we will reap the rewards of true humanity and fellowship, and our society will grow stronger for it.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Why Feminism Matters On Father's Day

My daughter is six-years-old. She is growing up quickly, into a world where women are under assault, physically, mentally, and socially. Rapists, anti-choice rabble, magazine editors, Hollywood directors, and Congressmen are trying to tell her she's not good enough as she is, that she shouldn't get her hopes up, that she has no autonomy over herself, that her only worth is as a mother and wife. The Women's Suffrage movement of the early Twentieth Century is now under assault by men who have watched their power erode every decade since, as women and minorities assert themselves and take the rights and privileges that are owed them by their mere existence as citizens of America.

As a father, since the birth of my daughter, my leanings toward the equality of women has naturally risen above it's previous levels. My daughter is growing up in this world, and as her father, I am charged with ensuring not only that she is raised to be tough, strong, and intelligent, but with making sure that the world she grows into is not corrupted for women. I am forced to confront the societal ills more forcefully, as I cannot countenance women being returned to their status as second-class citizens in a male-dominated society. She deserves all the blessing of her humanity, and she is a person like anyone else, not an object to be coveted, taken, shamed, or shackled.

It is not just the purview of the father to look out for a daughter. Every woman, of every stripe, in every place, deserves to have the respect of every man. It is a woman we have to thank for our existence, and that should be enough, but beyond our mother, women are our sisters, aunts, grandmothers, teachers, doctors, nurses, soldiers, scientists, and fill every level of human society with their knowledge, their strength, their caring their compassion. Man and woman are equal measure of humanity, and while some men would argue the point, it is only because they have latched onto dogma and steeped themselves in their own need to be superior.

On this Father's Day, let us not forget how all fathers got their opportunity to be such, and let us not forget that our fatherhood does not stop at the door, especially where it comes to our daughters. We, having helped to create a human being, must nurture them, and provide them an environment in which to thrive. This means we must be vigilant, must be engaged, must strive to build a better world for them than the one we inherited. Father's Day is not a day for rest, but reflection, and action, if those Father's Days to come are to be worth celebrating.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Anthony Weiner's Bad Day

A lot has been written and said and repeated and trumpeted and blathered about in regards to the shenanigans of Representative Anthony Weiner. I was trying hard to resist writing about the incidents involving him, believing that there was little more I could add to the general cacophony. Yet, as days have passed, as new information has come out, and as the import of the events that have transpired has sunk in, I am left wondering: what does it all mean?

I come to the unalterable conclusion that this is the ultimate teachable moment for our society in regards to many things: morality, the Internet, government, humanity, duty, honor. Within the tangled skein of these events, lie the truths we seldom wish to confront or take action toward. It is a tableau of the virtues and vices that both ennoble us and plague us simultaneously.

I won't pass judgment on Rep. Weiner. As the Biblical admonition from Jesus goes, "may he who is without sin cast the first stone." I may not be a public persona, but I have done many things of an indiscreet nature that I am not proud of. Many of us have, and whether we admit it or not, we know it in our heart and our soul.

I have no reason to believe that we can populate our government with angels and saints; we will have to accept that fallible humanity will be led by fallible leaders, and that hopefully personal failings of honor are not symptomatic of deeper failings of morality and duty toward humanity. We must take each of us as we are, and hope that those we elect to represent us can truly represent our best interests, as well as those of our state, our nation, and humanity as a whole. we cannot ask of them to become paragons of virtue, though we would wish them to, perhaps to salve our own conscience.

So let this moment be a warning to us: the world is more complicated by leaps and bounds than it ever has been, and our personal failings are magnified by the environment we now inhabit. We must turn away from our sanctimoniousness and turn toward each other, if we are to survive. Let that start now, and let Anthony Weiner have been the one to lead us in the right direction.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Belief Versus Biology

Strange to say, it has been my pleasure of late to engage some anti-choice adherents in spirited discussion of the nature of human biology, pregnancy, birth, and the definition of a human being. I use the term "discussion" rather than "debate," for to be a debate, there has to be some agreement upon the basic grounds, and that is where the discussion of abortion breaks down, because both sides have very different definitions of what constitutes a human being, or a baby, or development. This is what hampers any attempt to find common ground. In the end, the discussion is more about biology and belief.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Oh Sons And Daughters Of Israel!

I am indebted to one of my on-line friends, Emily L. Hauser, for a great deal of good information and insight into the current social conflict in Israel. I will not rehash her take on events there, but suggest you read her excellent blog to receive the unadulterated version. It has brought me, though, to try and formulate my own opinion on the subject; normally I do not delve into the conflict.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The People We Elect, Redux

It is not enough for an elected member of Congress to represent their particular district, no matter how convoluted its lines are drawn. Those who stand on Capitol Hill, do so to represent not just their state, but the nation as a whole. Each takes an oath, similar to that which the President takes, and it is such that a Congressman is bound to their duty to "bear true faith and allegiance" to the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution is the guidebook to how the business of the nation shall be conducted, and the Preamble makes it quite clear what the duties of the Federal government are.

So, it is quite disheartening, when a major legislative figure in Congress makes a statement which so completely contravenes the spirit and the word of the Constitution, to wit, the protection of the "general welfare." That nondescript, two-word phrase, encompasses the highest order of the land, for it enjoins Congress to see to the needs of the nation and its citizens at all times and in all places, and that no American need suffer where the Federal government can render aid and comfort.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The People Who Serve

It bears repeating, if only to remind us to do our duty as citizens, that many have given their lives, physically and emotionally, to create and preserve the freedom and liberty we in the United States enjoy. The freedom of worship, the freedom of expression, the right to vote... all that is encompassed in the Constitution of the United States and the charters of the States therein, exists, not solely because some with lofty ideals put words to paper, but because some lay dying on the soil of our nation, or in some foreign field, having given the fullest measure of themselves to preserve and protect it.

Let the day not be about picnics, fireworks, the beach, the mall, but let it be about solemn remembrance and gracious thankfulness for the sacrifices these men and women made in our defense. Let us honor them, not just today, but every day, by being the best citizens we can be.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The People We Elect

If you ever wonder why the United States continually finds itself in dire straits, seemingly rudderless, filled with nothing but invective and inaction, we only need look to the quality of those people elected to govern. Or in many cases, people elected who fail to govern.

To give you some fairly pertinent examples:

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


In the game of baseball, a player is often asked to do something that on its face is counterproductive: make an out to move a base-runner forward. It is known as the sacrifice bunt, because the player is being asked to give up the chance to get an actual hit and add to their own statistics, to increase the likelihood of the team being able to score a run. The sacrifice does not help the player, but may help the team; there is no guarantee. They are being asked to take it on faith that doing so will help the team win.

As in baseball, so it is in life. We are individuals, each striving to make our way in the world, to successfully navigate our daily routines in order to ensure another days' existence, and in many cases, move our family forward with us. We think nothing of this, performing the same actions day-in and day-out for decades. And yet... we often forget that there is a larger community to which we belong, that may also require us to make sacrifices: humanity. Our lives and those of our families are important, but ultimately are for nothing without the remainder of humanity. We are an interconnected whole, like the billions of connections in a computer chip or the billions of stars that form The Milky Way. We are separate, but united in one common thread of life.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Beauty And The Labcoat

The obsession modern human society has with beauty is an outgrowth of the need for the species to procreate, which is an evolutionary imperative enforced through natural selection to drive the continued diversification of the species, to allow for its success in adapting to changes in environment. A rudimentary system to ensure the survival of our species, dragged along into the modern era through the auspices of our DNA, we have taken it, expanded it, "codified" it, and then attempted to enforce it, through media and opinion. Beauty has gone from a primitive device to the bane of human society.

Nowhere is that more evident than in a remarkably troubling event that took place this week, when Psychology Today -- a magazine loosely dedicated to the dissemination of useful knowledge in the field of psychology -- printed a tract by Satoshi Kanazawa that was entitled “Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?” It was another in a series of diatribes dressed as science by the author, seeking to apply a veneer of scientific legitimacy to sexist and racist ideas in the disreputable field of "evolutionary psychology." It was attempting to paint a picture of black women as "undesirable" compared to "social norms"; instead, it painted a picture of a bigoted author trying to justify that bigotry, an all too common practice over the centuries. Science has now usurped scripture as the medium by which nonsensical, biased, and backward ideas are perpetuated and reinforced.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Fear, Itself

Today, May 17th, is the International Day Against Homophobia. It is a time for us to acknowledge that even as many groups in this world have thrown off the shackles of oppression, or fought to gain the rights and freedoms they so richly deserve, there is a group of individuals that still faces rampant discrimination, abuse, and bigotry: homosexuals, and along with them, their trans-gendered and bisexual compatriots. Lumped together, the LGBT community suffers under the crushing weight of an abject and unsupportable hatred that threatens to break humanity; today, let us acknowledge this and do something about it.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Lead By Example

It was customary in ancient times, to put the heads of vanquished foes on pikes or posts, or to leave whole bodies strung up or crucified, so others would get the idea that any attempt to overthrow the current order was futile. Strangely, no matter how often this was done, it did not stop the stout of heart from attempting to do it anyway, fighting back against systems they knew were stifling, corrupt, and tyrannical. Some were not put off by the spilling of blood; others looked upon the vanquished as merely unfit to do what they set out to do.

So, now, we have the conundrum as to whether or not it is right and proper to release pictures of a dead Osama bin Laden. The most strident voices for their release hearken back to those bygone days, assuming that the site of the now defeated bin Laden will deter any other fanatical terrorists from attempting to attack us.

It doesn't work that way.

Friday, May 6, 2011

No Woman Left Behind

Some men are afraid of women, specifically strong women, women who are independent, capable, willing to work and scrape and fight for what they want. For some reason, the idea of women being as capable as they are, frightens them. It goes against their personal sensibilities, their sense of entitlement, their lust for total control and power. As long as they could look upon women as the "lesser" gender, as long as women "knew their place," they were happy. Now, they are scared.

These men often occupy positions of power, and they wield that power in any way they can to hold women down, to beat them back, to wrest control from them. Take, for example, the execrable legislation just passed in the House of Representatives: H.R. 3, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. The bill itself is pointless, in that it simply reinforces already extant legislation (the Hyde Amendment), forbidding the spending of Federal funds on abortions or abortion-related services. Even so, it is significant, because it marks a blatant slap in the face of every woman. A bunch of mainly older white men, decided, more-or-less unilaterally, that women were incapable of making decisions about whether to have an abortion or not, and they would make it for them, by choking off a funding source, making it that much harder to get one.

So much for getting government off our backs.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Darkness Held The Monster

With great power, comes great responsibility. You may scoff at a line from a comic book, but the origin of the words bears nothing upon their meaning. It is true -- great power, used responsibly, can cure the ills of humanity. Used inappropriately, or with caprice, such power can sow darkness, despair, and destruction. There is no greater power than our own minds, the engine that drives us. Within the electrochemical workings of our synapses lie the ability to turn our knowledge into power, and that power into action. If we do not think, do not apply our knowledge to a task, or wield our knowledge loosely, we stand to make bad situations worse, and horrible situation catastrophic.

Victor Frankenstein found this out, when he took his knowledge of life and matter, and sought to imbue dead flesh with life once more, strapping together a new human being from parts of old human beings. The import of this was lost on him, so mad was he with the desire to see his knowledge writ large across history as the man who defied death's grip. He did not see the bigger picture, did nothing to enfold the greater sum of humanity into the the equation. He simply brought his creation to life, and thus his grisly jigsaw puzzle of humanity was born of madness and electricity, and would eventually turn out to be his death in the Arctic wastes. His irresponsibility caught up with him.

Mary Shelley's cautionary tale, and Stan Lee's words of wisdom, stand testimony to that which humanity cannot ever seem to come to grips with, truly: what we do, and how we do it, returns to us in the end. If we do not think ahead, we will find ourselves in pursuit of our own monster, loosed upon the world through our oversight.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


As the battle for the budget builds into ever-widening crescendo of rhetoric, let us stop to consider, for a moment, how we really got to this point of being so far in debt. Let us critically examine what our government owes us, and more importantly, what we owe it. Not just in monetary terms, mind you, but in our adherence to the responsibility we were given for our government by those created it over two hundred years ago.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Here's My Birth Certificate

Since Donald Trump is so interested in people's birth certificates, and since the President was classy enough and thoughtful enough to show his, perhaps it is best that we all show him ours. So let me start with mine -- which just happens to be the same as that for everyone in this nation:

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Those words are the birth certificate of a nation, and therefore, the birth certificate of each and every one of us who was born on this nations' soil, the soil of a possession of this nation, a recognized territory of this nation, or who has been naturalized by the Federal government of this nation. What any document containing the information about the birth of any one us says is irrelevant, compared to those words, which turned a loose confederation of former English colonies into a new nation, conceived in liberty, and built upon the idea that all her citizens were created equal.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

I, Citizen

I am a direct descendant of Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, John Adams, James Madison, George Washington, Thomas Paine, John Hancock, and their peers. My bloodline passes down through the Declaration of Independence to the Constitution of the United States and The Bill of Rights. My family lineage is filled with saints and sinners, sages and snakes, mountaineers and mountebanks. It is passed to me through the generations, and it is in this that I am granted title, the most powerful royalty of any nation: Citizen of the United States of America.

The title is not a hollow one, though, for it carries the heavy responsibility of maintaining, protecting, and defending the freedom, liberty, and justice of the nation and its citizenry, from all aggressors, foreign and domestic. I am given the broad and discretionary power to write and re-write law through the auspices of representatives of my choosing, and to install those who would be charged with overseeing the vitality and vigor of the nation in the office of the President of the United States. It is a duty not to be taken lightly, for shirking it endangers not only myself, but all my fellow citizens. We must, together, raise a nation and keep it safe from the vagaries of the world and from our own inner demons.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

The Roman Catholic Church decrees this to be Good Friday, the commemoration of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ by the Romans at Calvary. All Catholics and Christians are expected to observe the day in holy reverie for the death of The Savior.

The sad part of this whole thing, is that so much energy is invested in telling this story and the story of the Resurrection, as if they alone were reason enough to revere Jesus and praise The Lord.

Defying The Precipice

There is not much that can be said of the last few years in America that has not already found its way into Presidential speeches, Congressional testimony, pundit-filled shows on cable, talking-head shows on financial networks, and blogs of every description and size. Since the beginning of the precipitous plunge of the nation toward Depression, there has been enough wailing, moaning, gnashing of teeth, and finger pointing to fill volumes. It has been fodder for politics, for industry, for banking, and for the news.

The jabbering, multitudinous and myopic, has left people at odds over what is to be done, provided political ne'er-do-wells the opportunity to ply us with their conspicuously anti-middle class screeds, and turned up the volume on the blathering to the point of obscuring the painful truth -- the precipice is still not that far away. The fact remains: people are hurting. Not the rich... no, their place in American culture is insulated from the vicissitudes of life by their avarice and the generosity of the rest of the citizenry in letting them absent themselves from paying their due. The people who are hurting are the overwhelming majority of Americans who are finding their pay cut, their hours slashed, their jobs eliminated or shipped overseas, and are left floating in a sea of debt they were told they could handle by banks and other agencies who were only interested in the money they could make. And this group, representing just about the full breadth of us, is barely hanging on.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

War Comes To Fort Sumter

If you go there now, you can feel the isolation. It takes a moment to edit from your mind the bridges and boats and signs of modernity that dot the island and the landscape across the harbor in Charleston, South Carolina. When you do, though, you feel it -- a tiny little outpost, exposed on three sides by land, and no help to be had in the vicinity. You can play the soundtrack in your head, the bark of cannons across the water, the whistle of shells careening through the air, the explosions and hollow thumps of artillery landing all around, shattering casements, setting buildings on fire. The smell of gunpowder and sweat and smoke wreathes your nostrils. You can feel it -- you are alone, your supplies are limited, and you are cut off from rescue or resupply. You stand behind the battlements on this tiny island, upon which Fort Sumter is built, and you stand in awe as the American flag whips in the breeze, torn and discolored from battle, but ever proud.

That flag can be seen on display at the fort, sealed behind glass, a remnant of that day, the day The Civil War physically began, when the dissolution of the United States into Union and Confederacy was enforced by cannonade and gunfire. That flag would be a rallying point for the Union, and would represent ultimate victory, when raised above the fort at the end of the war. It represents something more, though -- a loss of innocence for a nation conceived in liberty, that it could not simply work out it differences without resorting to violence.

Gender Confusion

Man and woman. We have, at our most basic, defined ourselves along those line since the rise of Homo sapiens. Our outer covering, our biological form, our morphology, was the most obvious division that could be made between human beings. That difference was used time-and-again to create rules, tell stories, and try and mold human societies, large and small. Women were often placed in the inferior position, treated more like cattle than people, prized for their power to create children and for their beauty. Men, bigger and stronger, took on the tasks of hunting, scouting, and providing. At the time of the evolution of true humans, these differentiations perhaps provided the necessary framework for the growth of humanity. But now they are an impediment, in more ways than one.

Friday, April 8, 2011

We Have Shutdown

And so, with the clock ticking inexorably toward a shutdown of the Federal government, the principals in the drama continue their sparring. It's not so much a matter of the final number, given how close the sides are, but of ideology. It boils down to this: the Republicans want to cut the budget by cutting social programs. The Democrats want more structured cuts, across the board, including defense. The gap is small, in budgetary terms, but may as well be the Grand Canyon as far as party dogma goes.

The hour approaches, and with it, trepidation. What will the morrow bring?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Why Rape Is Not About The Victim

There are two parties to a rape: the perpetrator and the victim. The perpetrator performs the act of rape on the victim; this means, that the rapist forces the victim to have an act of sexual congress without their tacit assent, or having withdrawn previous assent. It is, short of murder, one of the more horrifying crimes in the world, because at the end, the victim has something taken from her (or him) that they cannot so easily get back: their dignity and sense of whole self. The shame and humiliation that come with being raped, however, are mainly a function of society, not the rape victim. Society, throughout history, has deemed rape a form of "victim-less crime," through the tired and absurd idea that "she was asking for it." This perplexing idea, that simply by the way a woman dresses or acts, she completely unhinges a man's sensibilities to the point of forcing her to have sex, is as baseless as other discredited ideas, such as the flatness of the Earth or the Sun and planets revolving around our home, or the universe being made of crystal spheres.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Where The Right Gets It Wrong

I might be tarred as criminally insane by some for attacking the conservative movement in America so vigorously, but I take any damnation of my calling out their hypocrisy as solid praise, for I have struck a nerve to have bothered anyone by my admonitions. For surely, in a world where reason was ascendant, it would be obvious when the fool and the huckster were attempting to woo us with sweet lies and grand obfuscations.

In our world, though, reason has taken a back seat to ignorance. The masses are more concerned with the petulant bombast of drug-hazed actors and the latest tiny glowing box to be foisted unnecessarily upon them to eat up their remaining credit limit, than they are the real and important state of their government and their nation. The victory for independence won over two hundred years ago, they feel no need to be engaged, considering all the important work done as long as they can continue to buy their over-priced, faux-Italian coffee.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Man Who Will Never Be President

As the Presidential Election circus approaches, we take a moment to consider one act under the political big top that has outlived its useful life. I speak of none other than Newt Gingrich.

As Speaker of the House of Representatives, he engineered and steered the Republican victory of 1994 that saw them sweep into power in Congress. He of the “Contract For America,” proceeded to do a dance with President Bill Clinton, hamstringing him when convenient, attacking him when necessary, and compromising as little as possible. He would have been more successful, too, if greed and over-arching pride had not gotten the better of him. Ethically-challenged and morally-suspect, he went from Republican avatar to his own worst enemy in the matter of a few years.

Now, he wants to be President.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Under Siege

The past is rife with the record humanity's clawing its way up the ladder of development, from simple wanderers, to farmers, to townsfolk, to city dwellers, to citizens of nations and empires. All along the path, cultures, traditions, languages, and religions were established, each scratching out an existence within the human milieu. These patterns, these delimiters, provided both an impetus for the growth of humanity and a handbrake on the true growth of humanity's soul. Where belonging to any of these groups was made an imperative, eventually conflict arose, and where more than one was at play, intrigues and insurrections brought down many a “civilized” society.

Our growth is retarded only by the dead weight of the past that we carry forward with us. Rather than taking the lessons of the past, using them to inform the present, to pave the way for the future, we stubbornly carry along the whole rickety architecture of previous centuries, as if it were some precious gift, rather than the rusted anchor it is. We have much we can learn from the recorded events of our history, many lessons we can take from what came before, but if we insist on holding on to the letter of them, instead of the spirit, we doom ourselves to remaking the same ineffectual and damaging mistakes we made before.

Fear, loathing, segregation, war, poverty, disease – these should all issues we reflect on merely for their historical value. Instead, we continue to perpetuate them by operating using the same tired strictures and obsolescent values, pursuing goals no different now than centuries earlier: greed for money, lust for power, separation of the classes, destruction of those who oppose us. Some of us cling to these precepts as a man to a life preserver in the middle of the sea, refusing rescue, preferring to be saved by drifting to land on the currents. The ridiculous lengths to which groups of people on this planet pursue courses which create conflict, rather than mitigating it, is staggering.

This is not to be completely dismissive of belief systems and organized forms of community different than our own. Everything that has come before us as provided the bricks and mortar that were laid down to create the foundation of humanity. Some bricks were forged in fire, some in blood, some in hope, some in tears, some in strength, but the sum total is far greater than the individual bricks. Still, it may be said that some of those bricks, while seeming sturdy on the outside, are, at their centers, hollow and unsound. A house may be built on a foundation that is not one hundred percent strong, but every percent below that increases the likelihood of eventual collapse. Perhaps there are too few bricks of the type in our home, but humanity cannot be sure, and cannot afford to turn a blind eye and hope for the best.

There is no blueprint for the perfect human society; human beings are too varied to fit one system to all. There will always be those in the human milieu who, no matter the bounty or peace that surrounds them, will agitate against such things, claiming they being stifled and their freedom limited, when that is furthest from the truth. One could hope that there will be new challenges and new frontiers that can absorb these malcontents and give them something to turn their energy towards, but until then, we must suffer along with their presence, as they attempt to divert us from our true destiny.

Those who align against reason, sanity, clarity, and logic are not going to be appeased. They will continue to fight tooth-and-nail against changes in “their” world, for that marks the difference between them and the rest of humanity – they do not see themselves a part of the grander scheme. They look upon those who do not follow their regimens and restrictions as “fools” or “the unworthy” or claim that their ultimate will be worse than the “faithful.” They seek to separate themselves from humanity, and seek to reinforce the dividing lines they have drawn, ensuring that they have the world they wish, without the interference of other forces constantly undermining them. They would return us to patterns of behavior that we passed by long ago as untenable, simply because those patterns are familiar and soothing to their minds.

We do ourselves a disservice to dismiss them callously, or impugn them, or lord our “superiority” over them. They, too, despite their societal flaws, are human, and by the rules we choose to live by, entitled to their opinion, even if we don't agree and it does not add to the peace and stability of society. We may pity them, or perhaps pray for them, but we should never think ourselves above them, for that leads us down the same road they and their ancestors have trodden. We would merely exchange one group of hard cases for another, only then we would find ourselves on the other side of the argument.

We will advance or fall together, of this there is no doubt. We should always keep that in mind. Disagree though we may, eventually we end up in the same place, perhaps slower than we would have liked, but just as inevitably. Let us learn to hold our tongues, extend our hands, and give ground where we can, to foster the creation of harmony, that we might seek a better end for all that much sooner. We have nothing to lose to try.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Each Another's Audience

The attempt to differentiate ourselves, be it how we dress, how we act, what God we do (or don't) pray to, and so on, is something that absorbs the greater portion of our lives. We want to be noticed for our individuality, even as we try to fit in with some social class we think is desirable. We value independence, even as we surrender our will to the whims of the crowd. We don't care how others feel, except to wonder what they think of us and imagine the worst, or worse, believe they think well of us when evidence suggests we do not. We want to stand on our two feet, even when we are most assuredly not even ready to crawl.

What most of us fail to realize is that we are, for all intents and purposes, as different as the next person. Our DNA writes a story specifically for us, shapes and molds us, sets up the conditions under which we integrate into our environment. The code of every living human is different, even where they may be “identical.” Variation is the name of the game evolution plays, and it seeks to keep us as differentiated as possible, to ensure that we retain the maximum adaptability of the species. That is the key to our survival – having the greatest range of traits available, to allow for the greatest number of useful combinations, encouraging the welfare of humankind.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Waters Of The Nile Reclaim Cleopatra

First, a mea culpa: I have had an intemperate thing or two to say about Elizabeth Taylor. The indiscretion of youth and the impertinence of intellect led me to make judgments that were no doubt colored by the fact that she was a "star," part of the Hollywood machine that takes young men and women and chains their souls to fame. Age has brought wisdom and above all, compassion, and I am able to see more clearly now what was not apparent to me twenty years ago: Dame Elizabeth Taylor was truly special.

One could laud her for her acting, begun at an early age, and carrying her through two Best Actress Oscars. One could twitter on about the many loves of her life, and subsequent marriages, finally totaling eight. We could list so many superlatives in regards to her beauty. We could continue to wonder at her close friendship with Michael Jackson, which seemed out of place. There are so many aspects of her life we could while away hours discussing. But let us, in addition to appreciating her for all the fabulous things she represented in her life, remember one of the most important things: her AIDS advocacy.

It was the death of her beloved friend Rock Hudson in 1985 from AIDS, and the lack of action by the Federal government (then in the hands of former Hollywood actor Ronald Reagan), that spurred her to help start the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) and subsequently, the Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation (ETAF). She was a tireless promoter of AIDS-related causes at a time when it was still thought of as a "gay disease," and many on the religious right were lauding it as the "gay plague." To them, and to all those who lived in fear of the disease and homosexuality, she had this to say:

Why shouldn’t gay people be able to live as open and freely as everybody else? What it comes down to, ultimately, is love. How can anything bad come out of love? The bad stuff comes out of mistrust, misunderstanding and, God knows, from hate and from ignorance.
In decades to come, many a thing will be said and written about this glamorous, larger-than-life Hollywood icon. Among those things, let it be noted that she lived her life as she was wont, not as the world expected her to. Let it be known that she dabbled in love, having too much to give to any one man. Let it be said that she was beautiful, not just physically, but spiritually. Let it be written that she gave far more than she took.

And so now, let the water's rise, to take the barge with our Queen to her new resting place, in the cool shade of the palm trees, where no trouble may vex her still. Farewell, Our Cleopatra... farewell.