October 2011

Republican Deceit. Republican Shame.

Men at some time are masters of their fates:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves . . .

Cassius from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

Ah, the human condition. I am of mixed emotions when assessing mankind. And why wouldn’t any “rational” human being? One moment, I am upbeat, optimistic and enthralled with our species—enchanted, if you will—the next I despair at our collective stupidity. Progress may, indeed, be inexorable but the steps, the stumbles, oh, so treacherous.

What to make of our nation, of America, of us as a people? Are we (as individual citizens) so incapable of discerning reality, of separating the wheat of “truth” from the chaff of deception that all we are as a nation is risked over meaningless slogans, historical revisionism and lies? Are we not required to think for ourselves and in that process, to thoughtfully consider our fellow Americans?

Whenever I consider an issue, I start from “my” ideal. A problem? What is “the” ideal solution? If we lived “in the best of all possible worlds,” would we have poor people, or the chronically ill? Would the elderly or young ever require more than what their family’s could provide? Would bad luck or misfortune hobble or maim the strong? Or, the vulnerable? Would not all our investment/financial decisions be wise, profitable and just?

Furthermore, would women not be universally considered and respected as man’s equal? Would we not, indeed, be color blind (as in race/ethnicity/religion)? Would not man’s ecological footprint be truly green and have been so since the dawn of the industrial revolution? Would not mankind’s population be in harmony with what Mother Earth could sustainably support? Would not our species (as individuals, nations and people) be kind, generous and tolerant with one another? No war. No poverty.

Would not all our children be born healthy, whole and fulfilled, living with loving parents in decent homes, with nutritious food, with healthcare and challenging educational opportunities. Would not all our citizens be industrious, live crime-free lives of fulfillment, creativity and die peacefully knowing their progeny will experience the same?

But, alas, we do not live in the best of all possible worlds as I (or you) might imagine or create if one were a god. No, we live in this world. We live now. With all its attending sorrow, pain and suffering.

As context and relativism are everything I have the occasional reader take me to task for lauding President’s Roosevelt’s New Deal efforts to help the “hurt” Americans experienced during the Great Depression. “They” will caustically and ignorantly dismiss Roosevelt’s (our) government’s achievements by saying the New Deal was just socialism, that it accomplished nothing meaningful and it was WWII that pulled America out of the Great Depression.

And I mentally shout, “You ignoramus! Do you not see that America’s WWII mobilization was nothing more than a completely organized, government mandated social program? Everybody worked. Everybody participated. Everyone had a job to do. It was complete socialism. Orchestrated by the government, for the people. For the nation. And it was considered good.”

Jump ahead today, and Republicans have morphed into “weaponized Keynesians!” They wail, “We must save the defense budget because any cuts will be horrible, because jobs will be lost!”

What hypocrisy! The government can “legitimately” create jobs only to the extent that they are military related? Shameful.

Please see the deceit in their position. Think/vote accordingly.

Yea, It’s Called Life!

I marvel at all the things that can get-cha? The list is endless. Perhaps, my favorite piece of fiction, Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 best captures that quality of life in all its many ironic variations. Something, indeed, will bring each of us, as “they” say, low.

While watching yet another TV commercial for yet another malady that I only vaguely knew existed, let alone is so prevalent as to warrant national advertising buys – think: there has to be a sufficient market (created?) for a “medicine” to warrant expensive TV rollouts – on comes a serious chap who looks painfully into the camera and plaintively whines out a “I have this deep radiating pain that . . .”

And I shout at my television, “Yea, it’s called life.”

My father was a tough guy. In every good sense of the word. He boxed Golden Glove contenders while in college because he could take a punch. He once-upon-a-time worked 2,555 days (seven years) without a day off because he was the sole-proprietor of his small enterprise. He fathered four children and saw to our welfare within a loving yet contentious marriage (aren’t they all). He was unabashedly an intellectual elitist. He read voraciously all his life and his elite consisted of any blood relative whose name ended in Jepson.

Christian Frederick changed his mind (albeit reluctantly) when facts/circumstances warranted. He was big in the chest yet much bigger in the brain. He had a lawyer’s training with an anarchist’s perspective (Boy! That’s covering the bases!). He disciplined with the “look.” Please Dad, please, anything but the “look” of disappointment.

In the 18 years I lived in his home, he touched me exactly once in anger or in frustration — he pinched my cheek at age six. I had been with my sisters, frolicking up-to-our-chests in a rain flooded farm pond (hogs and runoff just a fence away). Too funny today to think how utterly disgusting that was! And, of course, he drove by during that delightful summer moment!

I had at least two “lightbulb” moments with Father. A lightbulb moment is when events coalesce (the planets/stars align) with awareness and the string of personal illumination is pulled just as the curtains of your mind open and you inwardly, mentally acknowledge, “Yesss! I so get that. I do.”

My father was a mink rancher when he wasn’t a lawyer and one day, while walking bare foot around the ranch (as if 8 acres was a ranch) I cut my middle toe down to the bone. Bones are, indeed, white! It was a nasty, gaping gash, bloody and painful. Huge scar today. A visit to the ER (stitches) would be de rigueur but that wasn’t happening that day. I swooned. I’m on the ground, wailing, and Father is preparing to clean the wound and wrap-it-up nicely, thank you very much. In between my sobs, sniveling and howls, Father leans over, secures eye contact and asks matter-of-factly, “Do you need an ambulance?”

What he was asking and what I immediately understood was 1.) I wasn’t going to die, it wasn’t the end so, 2.) Shut the front door! Quit sniveling. Man-up, boy. Of course, I did not require an ambulance. And by implication, understood years later, we’re all dying, so quit whining.

He wasn’t being harsh or insensitive, he was suggesting that I accurately assess my situation and respond accordingly.

Yea, it’s called life.

The Contemptible Calling The Absurd Suspect.

Mitt Romney’s a good moral person, but . . . Pastor Robert Jeffress

What to make of Southern Baptist Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of a mega-church in Dallas, Texas? I get a kick out the devout claiming to know God’s mind. The only thing bigger than God’s mind? Man’s ego.

Jeffress, a fervent Rick Perry for President supporter, kicked-up a storm by denying that Mormons are Christians.

Are Mormons Christians? Let’s see? Mormons believe that Jesus Christ sky-rocketed across the North American continent, pole-vaulted, perhaps, sometime in the early 19th century. They believe that the Angel Moroni (please, absolutely do not confuse with Bony Moronie) handed-off the Golden Plates that church founder, Joseph Smith used to form the Mormon Church. Mormons baptize the dead en masse (so timely), and that when you die you get your very own planet. Nifty, huh. Women need not apply. Or, that in 1857 Mormons (disguised as Indians) massacred approximately 120 Arkansas men, women and children who were traveling by wagon train to the west; killed them all (but the youngest children) at Mountain Meadows in the Utah Territory.

Does that does sound a bit cultish? For sure, your very own planet? You bet-cha! But, but, but does that make them unChristian?

I find such debates laughably similar to the kettle calling the pot black. All religion is superstition. That, in and of itself, is a self-evident truth. That doesn’t make what you believe necessarily bad, just that what you believe is based on superstition. And all that that implies. Take for instance what we “factually” know about Jesus Christ. He was a Jew. He lived. He died. Few would disagree with those facts.

But was he “really” the Son of God. Born of a virgin? Walk on water, etc.? Literally, physically went to heaven? Or, that he died for our sins? What is attributed to Jesus wasn’t actually captured on “paper” until, arguably, 100 years after his crucifixion. Hmmm, do you think anything might have been exaggerated in 100 years?

Let’s put it to a vote! What do you mean, Jepson? Well, there were so many disagreements among early Christians as to who was Jesus (was he in fact the literal Son of God, etc.?) that Roman Emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD and they put it to a vote. Jesus Christ’s lineage was determined by vote, by lobbying. Too funny.

Okay, move ahead 1800 years and some crazed-cracker of a Southern Baptist pastor calls into question Romney’s Mormonism. Wait? Why is there a Southern Baptist Church in the first place? What? Baptists split in 1845 over slavery and guess which way Southern Baptist’s went? Well, there is considerable Biblical scripture, after all, in support of slavery.

So Pastor Goof questions Mitt Romney’s Mormonism (by implication his worthiness to be president) by stating “Mitt Romney’s a good moral person, but . . .”

He is a moral person but? But what?

Let’s extrapolate: He’s a good athlete but he’s an African-American. He’s a fine businessman but he’s a Jew. He’s a hard work worker, but he’s a Mexican.

He’s a Christian but . . .

No! He’s a Christian (Pastor Jeffress) and he’s a religious bigot.

Per illustration, there are many legitimate reasons, folks, why America requires separation of church and state.

To Lost Innocence
And Found Pleasures

Most weekdays I can sit in my backyard and hear only the chirpings of birds. Rumble from a distant road serves as a reminder that regardless one’s momentary reverie another world does exist . . . and that it will inevitably encroach. Some afternoons a neighbor’s children, two delightful little girls are unleashed from their home with uncontrollable glee, giggling and howling with life and unadulterated joy.

And in those delightful moments before the sibling rivalry inevitably flares, before “had it first” is screamed, before the younger, true to form, howls “Mommeee,” there is such sweetness in the universe. These children in these moments present the sublimity of life. And then, poof, gone. So too the tranquility. Sigh.

Loss. I find those little roadside shrines to the dead a curious thing. Often decked out in cheesey, garish plastic flowers—they are garlands to the dead commemorating the sorrow of life . . . for the living.

It’s as if illegal Hondurans were hired to construct the memorial. Months later, covered in road grime, the fake red and yellow flowers now faded are distorted and distended by Florida’s sun. Sometimes, the grieving leave a stuffed animal, frequently a teddy bear or the like. Inevitably the belly bloats, rips apart and as you whip by at 60 miles an hour, you look back across the ditch and see the stuffing whirling in the wind. This is where Sarah Sue died when Tucker, three sheets to the wind, left the road. This is where Sarah Sue’s mom’s life—inconsolable with grief—ended. Sigh.

I’ve a modest proposal. As important as it is to remember the dead it is critical to commemorate being alive. Particularly where we grew, matured or thrived as a human being. It’s a self-indulgent (and aren’t we humans, after all, so very self-indulgent) little statement, one of those “Kilroy was here” proclamations. A beacon, a remembrance of things past, to the glorious, meaningful or significant.

Say Sarah Sue survived and she and Tucker lived happily ever after. But once upon a time, when in the full splendor of their glorious youth they lost their virginity together in the woods just off 110th Street. Why not a little shrine to that quintessential event, a little memorial to lost innocence and found pleasure? A modest stone etched to say” “SS & T found themselves in pleasure. It was such joy. Spring 2001.”

Suh-weeeet! Or, say that you’re in college and during one incredible lecture the quintessential light bulb clicks on for you changing your life’s direction. It was a EUREKA moment! Life was never the same again. Why not an unpretentious brass plate attached to a nearby wall that simply states: “In this classroom during the fall 1966 term, DJF’s intellectual boundaries were pushed way back. And it was joy.

In garages where PCs were created or kitchens where Veg-O-Matics emerged, place markers acknowledging the event. Even firings! An unassuming plaque on a tree: “In this building in 1983, CRJ was fired for rank insubordination. It was a liberating, life-expanding gift. And joy ultimately followed.”

It is suggested that our biggest challenge as human beings is being in the moment. Do seize the bird’s transcendent song. Embrace the child’s joyful, exuberant laughter. Life’s moments. Times of found pleasures. Acknowledge. Revel. Mark.

And repeat.