Been a While

I started this blog and then I guess I decided it was just a conceit- and that I did not have time for it.  Probably fueled that fire with the old “no one is reading it anyway” bit- and stopped.  More recently, I figured out why I started it.  I need a place to write in an undiluted manner.

My friend Dick just came back from a trip to Peru to study with Shamans there.  he talks about stuff that is so out on the edge I have to fight to remember it is his reality and not some drug induced fiction.  And who am I to say that it is any more accurate than mine.  In mid conversation, I realized something important.  My views of the world are just as “out there” to most of the people I know as his- but he does not apologize for- or hide- who he is.

To be hair (to me this time), Dick has sacrificed a lot of his life for his studies.  His calling has cost him his marriage and for a while is relationship with his kid.  he cannot any longer practice law or hold much of a job.  So when you come right down to it- dick is more courageous than I am.  I bounder my life to protect it from the kind of upheaval he has had.

As such- I am finally clear what this blog is about.  I need to write with the gloves off.  So I am back.

How Can We Celebrate When We Created a New Second Class?

I am having a hard time being jubilant about the election.  I am encouraged that we have broken one barrier, and even threatened another.  The fact that America could look past old biases to elect an African American man and have women actively involved as candidates is remarkable.  But I am sad to say that the rhetoric about it is not supportable.

I have heard many people, mostly older African Americans opine that this proves anything is possible.  I know that they must feel vindicated for what they have lived through in decades of discrimination and exclusion.  I just wish we could say that it was done.

But while we were electing Barak Obama, we were more quietly creating a new group of “second class citizens.” Arizona, Arkansas, California and Florida all amended their constitutions to limit the civil liberties of Gay and Lesbian couples.  So, while we broke one barrier, we also allowed another to be codified that simply shifts what may be our need to find someone to pick on to a new target.

I am not gay or lesbian.  This injustice effects me not at all in terms of my civil rights.  It has personal impact in that it does limit the choices of friends and neighbors who sexual orientation is not the same as mine.  But I think it has a bigger impact on us all.

When we allow a minority of our citizens to try to dictate choices about morality and single their belief systems and choices out as the only ones acceptable, we lose some of our humanity.  When we sit by and are not outraged at the injustice of stripping others of their rights by changing our laws, we damage ourselves and our moral credibility.

I wish I could celebrate Barak Obama’s victory more enthusiastically.  But I feel guilty and shameful for allowing bigots to simply shift the target of the bigotry from one group to another.

Orpheus for President

It is a little late- but I finally got it.  We have two candidates living out 2 archetypes.  John McCain is Heracles, a hero who confronts all challenges directly.  Barak Obama is Orphic in his ability to get people enrolled and engaged.  Both have their advantages and their risks.

Heracles of course has the problem that he is not clear about what to do with his strength.  He ends up doing the bidding of others more than having any vision or idea of his own.  Orpheus on the other hand brings success all the way to the gate, but cannot sustain his discipline long enough to be successful.

So which one is better for the nation now?

Odd as it sounds, I take my queue from the myths under these powerful archetypes.

Heracles does not redeem or change.  He meets his end through the unaware use of power at the hands of his wife who is equally naïve about the power she evokes.  Orpheus on the other hand is eventually reunited with his wife in the afterlife, although he must wander painfully for years and engage in some very dangerous activities on the way.

I do not know if anyone can come through the Presidency unscathed.  I even have some empathy for poor “W” who just wanted to get abortion legalized and put the 10 commandments back on courtroom walls.  George got tossed into a pit he had no preparation for and it has been the albatross on his neck for 8 years. If the office is a test of mettle and endurance, I will count on Orpheus who can attract help and enroll them rather than Heracles who has to conquer all on his own.

I do not agree with the economic policies (and intended social programs) of either candidate, so I will go with the one more likely to be able to build bridges and restore our standing in the world community.  And I trust Barak Obama to seat a cabinet of experienced capable executives.

Today I heard a piece on NPR about the split vote in the Vietnamese community in the US.  As a Vietnam vet, I find it miraculous that they are here and that we are doing buseinss there.  It provides hope that the same may be possible in places such as North Korea, Iran and Syria.  One thing I do know… it happens only when we talk with each other.  And that happens only when we stop shooting.

Swift Boating Again? And from the Left

For a moment… just a moment… I thought that this ad from a liberal PAC was going to be a clean message.

They start by making the clear and (I think) defensible statement that being a POW is not a qualification for President.  And they have someone who is credible to make the judgment say it.  It is not very PC in the current chauvanistic environment to suggest that getting shot down and spending time as POW does not qualify one for public office.  So now someone did.

But they just could not leave it at that.  Subjective personal opinion painting McCain as a hot head follows the core message.  Ok- it is one guy speaking his own mind and taking accountability for his opinion.  So maybe not quite a “swiftboat” attempt to rewrite history and discredit John Kerry’s service.  But it is still over the line.

As a Viet Nam vet myself (I was drafted- so get no glory for service- except that I went) I have to honor the sacrifice that McCain made.  Those of us who have not lived through it have no idea.  To tarnish that with a personal attack is a cheap shot.  In fact I imagine that much of the experience can teach lessons that make for a more mature President. And I wonder if this is not another example of the anti-Palin email I wrote about.  Are they going to piss-off independents by taking a cheap shot?  The swiftboat guys did!

I wonder – what would our campaign would look like without this kind of crap?  I guess we would have to focus on the issues.

Now I Ask You…

…is this a woman who values the sanctity of all life?

I guess your life is only sanctified if you are an unborn child- at least for the evangelical right.  “No no Mom!  Don’t push.  It’s over for me once I am out there!”

OK- save the hate mail in the comments.  Its not an anti- Palin thing.  I just wonder if she or anyone else in the campaign sees the irony.

Think Before You Send… and Don’t Send

I just received yet another rant email about Sarah Palin.  Why do people send these things?

Ok don’t get into a snit.  It is not that I think much of the Republican Veep candidate.  I just wonder what people are thinking when they send this stuff.  Do people with passionate political, social or economic views really think that they are going to change any minds by sending an email?

First of all, about 99% of what is represented in any of these emails is bunk.  Before you send or forward, how about a visit to Snopes just to find out if the entire web knows its crap before you flood your friends’ in boxes.

Second, do you really think that anyone is going to change their stance based on an email full of diatribe?  Taking today’s missive on Palin as an example:

  • If I am a Democrat, I am not going to vote for her anyway and you are preaching to the proverbial choir.  So the only thing I am likely to do is clog up MORE email boxes.
  • If I am a Republican, I am going to vote for her and your email is not going to make me see the light that my politics have been wrong-headed my entire life so that I should now abandon my beliefs.
  • If I am undecided and I make up my mind how to vote based your email then the gene pool needs a little more chlorine.  (OK- personal rant- but it is how I feel.)

Moreover- your note may not have the desired effect.  I know of at least one woman who is traditionally a conservative Republican voter.  She got the same note I did and is not web-aware enough to know that it is bunk.  Because the rhetoric was so extreme, she was very upset at even receiving it and has now gone from  “on the fence” over environmental issues back to her safe Republican views.

So let’s be real.  Even if the information is 100% accurate and verifiable, your email blast is more about expressing your fear and outrage than changing anyone’s mind.  So- if you MUST do so, please do it honestly.  At the least, check Snopes before sending that stuff.  Better yet, write from the heart about how you feel and why.  That is more likely to influence someone that 3 pages of rant that proves to mostly be BS.

Normalizing the Appalling

Years ago I took a job in a restaurant to help pay for college expenses.  I had never been in a commercial kitchen before.  On my first evening I saw wait and bus staff grazing off of plates that had come back to the kitchen partially finished.  Grilled shrimp, parts of a steak or chicken breast were prized finds, even though they were coming from the plates of patrons and no one knew what had happened to them out in the dining room.  This was not about hunger born of need.  This was opportunism, clear and simple.  I was appalled.  It was unthinkable that people who were not driven by starvation would pick over the leavings of another person’s dinner.

But little by little, I got used to seeing it.  It was no longer shocking, then no longer odd.  Then one night, I realized that I was, without much thought, reaching out for a shrimp myself.  It took less than 2 months from the day I started working there until I had normalized behavior that had so shocked me that first night.

So, why am I rambling about an old and personal story?  It is a clear example of what I am today most concerned about in the world.  We have so many issues, so many places that we have allowed the unthinkable to become normal.  We have become numb to such critical issues as death from hunger (30,000 a day by some estimates), cruelty and abuse, focus on disease treatment with much less effort on prevention- the list goes on.  If any of us was parachuted into the world with no previous knowledge, we would be appalled at what we see.  But our outrage has been neutered because the issues became issues slowly.  Like the proverbial frog in a bowl of heating water, we did not act until the challenge has become overwhelming.

No one, when the first combustion engines were invented, had any thought that the outcome would be the current scale of fossil fuel consumption.  When famines happened as little as 10 decades ago the scale was smaller.  We hardly had infrastructure to understand and respond in time.  Today, we know immediately, but have become both stretched thin and inured to the impact.

Think I am off base here?  Have a look at this presentation from TED by Chris Jordan who through art shows us (remarkably with judgment or finger pointing) the impact of our actions and inactions as a society.  Not the result of purposeful cruelty or war, but of the simple unconscious actions we take getting through the day.  Actions that have small or no impact individually- but when scaled to the number of us on the planet should rekindle our sense of outrage.

The irony here is that today, separated by several decades from my shock at grazing on dinner plates of others, I am appalled at the amount of food that is wasted every day.