February 2012

Where Republicans Dare To Go.

It’s a legitimate question. What would you riot over? Water. Food. Rights. Probably in that order for me. But most of us (in America) are not so reduced to have to riot over water or food. But rights? We are not so disposed today to riot over rights but I can foresee a day when that might be the case.

I was recently at the Planned Parenthood offices in Orlando picking up the executive director for lunch. Outside, picketing along the sidewalk, were protesters. They stayed on the walkway but shouted at women (and me) to save the babies. Some quietly read their Bibles. Others held graphic signs equating abortion with death. Which it is.

Life begins at conception for me. I do not see the necessity to argue what is self-evident. You can get into when is the fetus viable outside the womb? When does brain function begin? When does it experience pain? But once a fertilized egg attaches, we are already well into what I would call life.

Life actually begins when that exquisite chemistry of human attraction has copulation at the forefront of our minds, or loins, as the case might be. The delightful dance of life we humans so willingly, nay, so eagerly perform is a timeless expression of lust, of desire, of love and passion and of genetics. To say life begins at conception diminishes that breathtaking process. It is technically too simplistic.

Part of me completely understands the position of those opposed to abortion. If we lived in the perfect world, every fertilized egg would eventually enter the world as a healthy baby to a welcoming mother (and father/partner). They would be loving parents who want nothing else but to invest their lives (and resources) ensuring the child’s successful entry, as a functioning, self-supporting contributor, to society. But, sigh, there is a time for everything. Life, too.

No, the question surrounding family planning (birth control, abortion, etc.) is not when life begins but who will make the decision(s) regarding a woman’s fertility. Is what a woman does with her uterus state business?

I find it ludicrous that Republicans attack “Obamacare” as an intrusive overreach of government power, yet think it perfectly okay to aggressively insert the government into a woman’s uterus.

There’s a humorous cartoon circulating on the internet showing a doctor holding a speculum, sitting at the end of an exam table. He’s a gynecologist or an obstetrician. You see a woman’s legs up in the stirrups, her waist covered. She’s obviously having a pelvic exam. The Doctor has a puzzled but relieved expression on his face as he announces, “I see the problem. You have Republicans in your vagina.”

Republicans up your wazooo? That is what is dawning on more and more Americans, younger women in particular, who thought/considered such reproductive matters (choice) decided in the 1970s. You expect people to object to abortion, they get that, women do. But birth control?

You’re starting to see comparisons drawn between the 17th century Puritan experiment (religious authoritarianism) in America with what Republicans are advocating today. Repression of women is unacceptable. Anywhere. Anytime. Reproductive choice is a woman’s right. It is a more basic right than voting.

Ladies, ask yourself this: which would you have your daughter give up last? Her right to vote? Or, the right to control her own body? It is that fundamental.

Religious Republican Authoritarianism? Let’s hope it doesn’t come to riots.

The Original Burger Boy.

I’m downsizing. Yes, my size.

I’m the original Burger Boy. I could, anytime, slide into a Steak & Shake and order up a double steakburger with cheese, fries and a large chocolate shake. Whooooof. Gone in, oh, five minutes. Or, less.

Or, be driving by a McDonalds before 10:30 AM and coast through for a tasty Sausage Egg McMuffin. Just one. I’m no Philistine!! Even Julia Child thought them tasty. McDonald’s still has the best fries.

How about a steak from The Outback? Don’t need no stinkun’ Blooming Onion, just a steak and the vegetable medley. Again, a hunk of “bouff” properly seasoned and prepared makes me salivate just thinking about it, still sizzling and smelling like meat ought to—a T-bone perhaps, where you eagerly gnaw the remaining bits of meat off the bone. Suh-weeeeet. Marbled with just the perfect amount of fat. Fat so tasty-scrumptious you willingly, brazenly devour rather than trimming and setting aside.

I like pot roasts, pork roasts, barbeque beef, hamburgers, a beef brisket, beef for stew, stir-fry beef or a beef kabob. I’d eagerly dine, too, on roasted chicken or porkchops. In my 20s, I ravished 20-ounce steaks like they were Hershey Almond Bars. And ask, “What’s next?” I don’t require that amount of beef today. A 10-ounce steak is just fine, thank you very much.

Once-upon-a-time. Yes, once-upon-a-time I ate meat. Oh, did I mention ice cream? Publix has the best chocolate almond ice cream. Consistently good. It is. I grew-up eating vast amounts of ice cream, by the half-gallon. Spoonful after delicious spoonful. I could consume a half-gallon watching Saturday morning cartoons. Easily. Before 11 AM.

As an adult, I quit having it in the house. I can, as “they” say, resist anything but temptation. When I do (have ice cream in the house), I finish it off in 24 hours. I told my children, there’s no good reason for not having ice cream for breakfast. I know! I know! Save the letters accusing me of child abuse. But, trust me, ice cream tastes just fine for breakfast. Not every day. Pace yourself, fer gawd’s sake!!

Many of the foods that taste really, really good are, it turns out, not so good for you. Surprise of surprises, I have elevated cholesterol. I took a statin for several years but developed a statin side effect of excruciating leg cramps. My doctor got in my face in December about my course of treatment and I said I am not looking to meds as the answer.

So, for the past 40 days, I have been a vegan. Not a vegetarian but a vegan. I dropped all meat and dairy cold turkey. Not one bite. I’ve lost 12 pounds. Sometimes I go to bed hungry. I eat grains, vegetables and fruit. In 40 days I’ve had fish twice. I have approximately 50 days to go before I retest my blood for the various cholesterol levels. My family and friends are somewhat bemused by my diet. It’s just a test I tell them. If a vegan diet does not appreciably improve my cholesterol numbers, I may resume my old ways.

Not true. I have become much more conscious of my diet. All I want is another healthy 20 years. Oh, and a steak and a malt and a cheeseburger and a . . .

And I didn’t even mention bacon. Want proof of God? Mmmm Bacon!

Never Going Back!

She’s a craze you’d endorse, she’s a powerful force
You’re obliged to conform when there’s no other course
She used to look good to me, but now I find her

Simply irresistible
Simply irresistible

Robert Palmer

She’s a powerful force. That about sums it up.

What is it about women that have men so afraid? And for so long? Seriously, if one were to dispassionately examine the history of our species, an unbiased observer might legitimately ask, “Why do men treat women so poorly?” And for so long, I might add. Thousands upon thousands of years.

It should come as no historical surprise that we’ve institutionalized men’s fear of women. Look at practically every religion going back thousands of years and a major tenet of nearly all is the subjugation and control of women. Why is that?

I joke about lineage and fatherhood with “No man knows for sure” if the child “that” woman is bearing is his and it’s always good for a few yucks. Haha. Every woman knows unequivocally what is hers. Men could only wonder. Is that the historical basis for why men have unequivocally attempted to control the “lives” of women? Limited access, limited mobility, limited rights, limited stature—all in an attempt to limit sex? Is that it? Is there any more derided, ridiculed figure in literature than that of the cuckolded man? Raising another’s mans genetic “output.” Too funny. Hmmm?

Anthropologists speculate that there was a time when early human societies were more equal, some perhaps outright matriarchal. Some conjecture that once it became clear that “sex” and semen were necessary for propagation, that men began to “elevate” the status of their, uh, contribution to the process and women became marginalized and considered as little more than brood cows for male impregnation. Understand that early humans had little comprehension of human biology. “Something” went in and Voilà, babies came out. Perhaps out of that misguided ignorance, our (male) preoccupation with all things phallic began.

We may never know the exact historical causes of male fear but no reasonable individual will argue that women are not still on the “receiving” end of male bias. It masquerades (presents itself)—this bias—as sacred scripture, as religious dogma, as church doctrine, as political party platform planks, as “conservative” societal values.

Arguably, the most significant scientific advancement of the 20th century was safe, affordable, accessible birth control for women. It was a game changer for women. For humanity. Throw in the backseat of a modern automobile and thousands of years of male control vanished virtually overnight. (Why do the Saudis so not want their women driving?)

The 1960s & 70s were banner years for the advancement of women. All the rules of an oppressive “tradition” were challenged and many were discarded like so many restrictive bras. Breasts, bodies and minds now free and why not? Let the girls out!

We should all advocate feminism.

To argue otherwise, however, is somewhat predictable. I expect male dominated religions/churches to resist empowering women. Sexuality is frightening to some men. Oh, they argue, it isn’t God’s way that women should control their fertility, manage their destinies (if and when to procreate) and because “Father knows best,” well, it shall be as it has always been. Ad nauseum.

Wrong. In so many ways.

This is one genie (Jeannie) that ain’t ever going back in the bottle.

If This Is As You Are.

He sends flies to wounds He should heal.
Terrence Mallick

It’s the premise I cannot buy. Language is a human construct. At some point in our development as a species, a distant ancestor took that gush of lung air and articulated a feeling, a thought, an expression. A warning perhaps. A rush of expressed pain. A rudimentary sentiment of emotion. Who knows the word(s) uttered. Lost in the ether.

My third child skipped single words altogether when he first began to speak. “Had it first,” was what rolled out of his virginal mind and mouth. Does that not express the quintessential essence of humanity? Anyone who ever experienced an older sibling gets the sentiment.

It is through language that we build our world. It constructs our universe. It reveals the unknowable. It forms our fears. And it defines our gods. What a jump of imagination it was when “that” distant evolutionary cousin so long go introduced god into the human equation. How else to explain what was “then” unknowable but to an unknowable super entity, god.

And as our language grew, so to the attributes of our god(s). Powerful beyond description. Omnipotent. Omniscient. Omnipresent. All powerful. All knowing. All present. And that is the premise I cannot buy.

I recently saw a marvelous movie, Terrence Mallick’s “The Tree of Life.” Brad Pitt and Sean Penn star but it is the female lead, Jessica Chastain who rightly commands our attention. She is the mother of three boys and wrestles with life’s accompanying sorrows, constantly imploring/questioning god’s meaning. It is a beautifully filmed movie. Some attribute “religious” overtones to the movie’s meaning but that should not prevent one from embracing its artistic pleasures, its humanity.

A line softly uttered early in the movie goes to the heart of the human predicament, “He sends flies to wounds He should heal.” This is a statement questioning God’s plan.

And it is a fundamental question we should all ask of God. The words attributed to God are “Omnipotent. Omniscient. Omnipresent.” If you are God, you know everything that will ever be, you cannot create a mountain you cannot lift and you are everywhere for all time.

So why, if this is as you are, why would you not ever so slightly tweak the human model? Knowing what you know? If you knew that on December 16, 1967, American pilots would open their bomb bay doors and rain napalm on sleeping Vietnamese peasants and the flesh would melt like butter from the arms of screaming innocence (children) as they ran from their burning huts—why not tweak the model? Why not ever so slightly “change” that which you claim to so love?

Mallick does a good job of finessing this question. Masterfully, actually. Just look at the beauty of the universe. As life consumes us all, in every sorrowful iteration, the universe displays its glory (beauty) in all its infinite iterations. And God, well, he’s a busy chap. A busy beaver. And please don’t take it personally (the sorrow). It’s all of a piece, don’t-cha see.

No, actually I do not see. The words we use to define God give him all the cards. He deals deuces to some and aces to others. A rigged game.

Yet none of us get to sit it out. We either need a new croupier or a new vocabulary.

I opt for words.