And The White Lion Roars

This WordPress.com site is for those who refuse to accept mythology as literal truth, and instead question everything!

An Asshole By Any Other Name Still Stinks

And the white lion roars!

On April 6th America was treated to a video of a thirty-nine year old employee of Starbucks screaming at Florida governor, Republican Rick Scott because of his refusal as governor to expand Medicaid, and his cutting of funding to female reproductive clinics. As a result of his actions, the barista, and many other low wage women in Florida are not able to purchase health care insurance through President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.”

What struck me about this video more than anything else was how many times she called the governor an asshole. When and why did this become our favorite pejorative? I found the  wonderful list above just by looking at a thesaurus site and searching for asshole synonyms. If you ask me, she should have called him a pilgarlic¹. That would have shown him!!!

Of course, his response showed the depth and maturity of the statesman Governor truly is; he made a video attacking her. Keep it classy, Governor. (Sarcasm.)

After I looked at the synonyms for asshole (which I truly expected would bring up anatomical terms) I searched “anus,” for which there are apparently no synonyms other than ‘asshole.’ Then I did a search for lists of pejoratives. This is an adventure that I chose not to undertake since the first lists had over two-hundred pages each. With all these choices of mean things to call each other, can we not be a little more creative? Especially with all the studies that have come out the last two or three years saying that we salty tongued folks tend to be smarter than average…is this the best we can do.

While we are at it, why do we take words that really mean something good and make them mean something bad? Why is ‘tool’ now a bad thing? If homo-sapiens had not learned to use tools we never would have survived, or come to both dominate and destroy the earth. Dick? This nickname for a penis? This is a male body part that is not only useful and necessary for a man, but can also bring great pleasure to a woman. Why is it now a nasty name to call a guy? There are others, but I’ll let go of the use of curses in the U.S.

I don’t really like talking about the 2016 presidential election, it has already been the most disgusting display of idiocy on the republican side that I have ever seen. My problem is that I see so many pluses and minuses for the two remaining democratic candidates that I’m not sure which way to go between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. In the beginning it was a slam-dunk for me, Bernie Sanders. Secretary Clinton² has much baggage from a few decades in public service, she’s too hawkish and not near as progressive as I. Sanders calls himself a “democratic socialist,” and is always at least a little, but sometimes a great lot, to the left of Secretary Clinton. But as a woman, and a feminist, her record of working to improve the lot of women and girls all over the world is stellar, as is her position on women’s reproductive rights, which is very important to me. But so is income inequality, which I am fairly sure that Bernie can be better trusted to address. I also have an impossible amount of student debt, which Bernie also promises to address. I don’t like Hillary’s hawkishness, but we do have a terrible threat, worldwide, from violent extremists, and her experience as Secretary of State may give her more insight how to deal with this threat.

So you see, this has to be the most consequential election of my lifetime. I never thought any election would matter as much as electing President Obama in 2008. But it isn’t just the presidential election that matters. If democrats don’t take back the senate and lots of state legislatures women will very soon, especially in the “Red” south, need to kiss reproductive choice, health and safety goodbye.

¹ “Pilgarlic” is an archaic word making fun of bald men.

² Hillary Clinton was President Obama’s Secretary of State during his first presidential term, 2009 to 2012,

 

 

 

 

The Fog of Hedges

For me, The Fog of War (2003) is absolutely the gift that keeps on giving. I get more fascinated every time I watch this film. There are so many angles to it, so many sub-themes to explore. Lately,…

Source: The Fog of Hedges

We Are Billion Year Old Carbon

And the white lion roars!

This post is slow going as I just had shoulder surgery a week ago, on my dominant (left) arm and typing with one finger is cumbersome. But on I slog. As you might expect I’m, very sadly, watching lots of TV. And there is a message going out daily from the idiot box that I’ve noticed for years without realizing just how prevalent the message is; that everything in nature is scary and icky. And it isn’t just females on TV squealing about how deadly and squidgy things outside the studio are. This past Thursday, March 31, I watched the Today Show and both Tamron Hall and Willie Geist  did an entire segment of animal stories, carrying on and on about how gross and deadly it all is. Tamron Hall , Willie Geist I think it may have bothered me so much because Tamron Hall’s parents were educators and Willie Geist has small children who will carry that message with them on through their lives, and man will continue ignorantly hating nature, and mindlessly destroying it instead of embracing nature and our connection to it.

This is not new, and they are not the only guilty ones, I’ve seen this every day, somewhere or other for the last two weeks and on. In fact, all my life. It used to annoy me terribly when I was in school and a girl would see a worm or a snake, or even a bird, and would squeal like an idiot. (They were usually the ones with boyfriends, not me. Is that why?) I remember the first time I ever held a grass snake and let it crawl around between my fingers; I was enthralled! And I never believed that the squealing was anything but an affectation.

And it isn’t only television and silly adolescent girls who send out this message. Movies do the same thing to make us afraid of the non-human life around us. Movies about vicious wolves and bears and tigers. And bees, without which we lose our foods that need pollinators. Starvation is much more frightful to me than bees. I used to wait for a bus when I worked for the University of IL, and sometimes the trash cans near for the most part humans are not the prey of any large animals, or small ones for that matter. We usually have no reason to be afraid of squirrels, opossums, geckos, etc, but nearly everyone I know believes them to be terrifying. Trust me, we DAILY do more harm to them than they ever do to us.  I read earlier this week that one opossum can eat 5,000 ticks in one season. Ticks are much more dangerous to humans than the animals that prey on the ticks. You may perk up here at the way to call BS on me for not loving something from the natural world, but I understand that wherever we live, everything that lives with us has a place within our ecosystem. Most of the small (and large, for that matter!) animals who live in our world just want to do their jobs in order to survive and reproduce-that’s it. They do not attack, harm, maim or kill us unless they are afraid or feel threatened. An opossum’s hiss is only meant to tell us to back off. And if they attacked us, how much harm could they do? Seriously, how much? Better to walk away and let them feed their babies, no harm done.

Yes, sometimes humans are harmed by the natural world. Sometimes we stray too deep into the territory of a tiger or bear. Sometimes a dog bites because it is afraid of us and has no other way to defend itself. Once in awhile these intercourses lead to a human death. In almost every one of these tragedies education or a responsible adult could have prevented the event from occurring. Ticks and mosquitoes spread disease?  When walking in tall grasses or the woods, wear something to repel them. Ticks and mosquitoes bite dogs? Protect them! Dogs bite children? Teach your child how to approach strange dogs, and not to treat your Fido like a pony. Horribly, if your child is not taught, and Fido reaches the end of his rope at having his tail pulled, or being ridden, it will be Fido who pays with his life for your failure as a parent to teach your child how to interact with him.

Yes, there are snakes that are poisonous, and some are very aggressive. You can ask if I’m afraid of them and the answer is still no. I respect their place in our world, and the good they do us, I don’t walk in fields at night where I can’t see the ground and I don’t disturb them during the day. There are three major poisonous snakes in Texas, where I live; the rattle snake, the copperhead, and the cottonmouth water moccasin. Cottonmouths are aggressive and poisonous, don’t swim near the banks of rivers and ponds, especially if there are low-hanging trees near the water. Every story I’ve ever heard about people being attacked by copperhead during the day has involved digging up fence posts or mailboxes and such where the snakes live. Normally they don’t come out during the day, but if you mess with their nests be smart, steady and prepared. I won’t go into rattlesnakes here because, well, this is Texas, where idiots gather lots of the biggest ones they can find to play with and ultimately kill during our annual rattle snake roundup. Every snake bite that happens during that appalling travesty is deserved, just like every goring that occurs during every bull fight. There is no sport, or honor or nobility in torturing an animal with a sword then killing it with a final sword strike.

My biggest point is that all of these fellow carbon based life forms have  a job, and as the top predator on earth, we should learn to rejoice in our luck that most of their jobs also benefit us. Snakes control field rats, which carry diseases into our homes. Opossums control ticks, which could otherwise bring diseases to our best friends and on to us. I could go on and on, but I won’t. Suffice it to say that I am grateful to snakes and spiders for the bug killing work they do. And I am grateful for the diseases that these insects pass on in the wild to keep animal populations in check. No one wins when any one species overpopulates. It’s all a part of the “cycle of life,” and it is not scary, icky, it’s not deadly if you’re educated, and it is not gross. It is actually quite beautiful.

honor the earth

 

 

Getting What You Pay For

And the white lion roars!

I’m sitting at my table this evening, having a glass of Trader Joe’s “Three Buck Chuck” pinot grigio, and it is proving to me that paying $2.98 for a bottle of wine makes it pretty unrealistic to believe the glass will fill one with that bright, fruity joy that a pinot can bring. As I am doing this I wonder about a global climate change point that I’ve never heard addressed. We know how much methane is produced by our farming of cattle. But there are nearly eight billion people on earth, and methane is one of the gases that is expressed in human farts. That’s got to be a pretty big contributor to greenhouse gases, isn’t it?

And another question, while I’m at it. What makes one person an “impersonator” and another a “tribute artist?’ There’s a singer who wound up on my “favorites” playlist, who calls himself a “Bob Seger tribute artist.” He copies Bob’s voice, phrasing, mannerisms, just like the guys who do the same of Elvis, but they are called “impersonators.” Why? In the cases of the Elvis guys, the term “impersonator” seems to be a slightly disdainful tone when they are spoken of. And why aren’t hip-hop artists considered to be paying tribute to the musicians whose music they “sample?”

And some things only give me more questions, never any logical answers. Such as McDonald’s serving yogurt smoothies, salads, and a few other “healthy options,” but they keep making it easier and easier to eat WAAAAAAYYYY too many calories and too much fat and salt. Now they have introduced the “pick 2” menu. You can get two full size sandwiches for a certain price. Fries and soda, of course, are separate,  but I’m not a tiny, fine boned Southern Belle, and I couldn’t eat that much food. So who are they kidding? Never mind. They’re kidding lots of people, aren’t they?

This brings to mind a news story I saw on the local news about being careful about the “natural” label on foods you buy in the grocery store. And again, I can’t imagine that very many consumers who bother to read labels need to be told this, but I guess they do. My reaction is that if you want to really know for sure what’s in your food, make it yourself! Now, I’ve been talking about doing this for years, and I can’t condemn anyone who hasn’t made it there yet. I’ve been talking about planting a garden for a few years now, and making my own bread, ketchup, mayo, mustard, tomato sauce, etc. And just two weekends ago I made my first fresh tomato sauce. The very first one. It had six tomatoes, some fresh garlic,parsley and oregano, salt, pepper and water. And it was wonderful. My husband, not a man of many words (especially when it comes to complimenting my cooking) didn’t give me that usual, “It’s fine.” He said, “That was really good. I’m surprised.” Now that seems like a left-handed compliment, but what he explained was that he was raised on canned tomato sauce, and he didn’t think he would like anything different. Just now I took a can of ‘store bought’ tomato sauce out of the pantry, and it contains some of the same ingredients I used. But at the end of the ingredients on this can, made by a very familiar company, was “tomato fiber, citric acid, natural flavors.” Now, I bought the can that said “natural” on the label, but do we need added citric acid and “natural flavors?” So I guess the lesson for myself as well, if you really want natural, make it yourself.

Now that I’m on my second glass of ‘three buck,’ it tastes a little better, but there is one thing on my mind, other than the election, that has been bothering me for quite some time. Well, since around 2001. Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the prison there. President Obama campaigned on closing the camp, and now, seven years and three months later it remains open. There are only thirty-four prisoners left there, and there were many at one point who are American citizens. I can’t find any numbers on how many of the remaining thirty-four are American, but citizens or not, it is unconscionable and inhumane to hold prisoners for fifteen years without trial or charges. On February 23, 2016 the president announce a PENTAGON PLAN for closing the camp. There was the very predictable Republican (or what I’ve begun to refer to as “Obstructlicans™) freak out about the possibility of bringing those prisoners to “super max” prisons inside the U.S. Now, I have no doubt at all that these men, no matter how dangerous they are believed to be, they would not be a threat to “the homeland” from these places. However, they have already been held for over a decade without charge, without trial, or any kind of due process. How can we as a moral people think that holding people indefinitely, who have not been accused of any specific crime, is defensible? How can we as (hopefully) reasonably intelligent people believe that this will not create jihadis (holy warriors) out of the friends and families of these men? I know this argument has been made by smarter people than me, and probably more qualified to argue the fine points of the law. But reason alone leads me to believe that there is no possible good that can come from holding men prisoner indefinitely. And moving them to a super max prison would probably make the whole thing even worse. And while I admit that I don’t see a good answer, I believe now, as I have for about thirteen years that Guantanamo Bay prison must be closed.

 

 

 

This Winter I Am Discontent (But With Ragweed)

cropped-white-lion-profile-pic1.jpg

Ohhhhhhhh, so much to roar about, so little time! So today the White Lion will just dive right in. About three weeks ago I learned that a cousin I grew up with, almost a fourth sister, really, has multiple myeloma. Now, even though we have been very close all of our lives, we disagree vehemently on politics, and even more on religion. So, when she put it out on Facebook she asked for prayer. Dozens and dozens of her friends and other relatives posted that they were “raising her up in prayer.” At that point we only knew of a tumor in her leg, that was the week they went in to either fix it or decide what comes next. So it was two weeks ago when we learned the extent of the spread of the cancer, throughout the leg, pelvis, one shoulder and into the marrow. So another cousin posted on Facebook, “To all you prayer warriors out there…” This brought rushing back to me the same question I asked when my dad was told that his pain would be the rest of his life, he has dementia and COPD, and we can only manage his pain, not fix it. As his life spiraled downward hundreds of their friends and family promised to pray, but his quality of life has not improved at all. So, is the problem that not enough people have prayed? Or is it that the right person hasn’t “lifted them up.” (I, of course, had to tamp down the guilty question, “Is there a god, and is he waiting for me to pray?) Either way, for me it is one more validation that there is no loving magic man in the sky who cares about our individual daily lives, all the way down to who wins the ballgame, whether you can have a new bike, and whether or not yoga opens one up to demonic influence. But why do all those other true believers’ prayers not matter?

So, if I haven’t angered anyone yet (Biiiiiiiiiig Roar) I can’t not talk about the election. First I need to respond to a comment that Bill Maher. the comedian/host of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, regularly makes, which I believe to only be partially true. The republican candidates for president also spout this nonsense every time they see a microphone as well; that political correctness is killing our country. (That the media NEVER asks the follow up question, “Can you tell us precisely how?” is another truth that makes me roar. Anyway, Bill Maher, whose show I watch every week, often says that Donald Trump is a ‘reaction to political correctness.” He is not. He is the end result of the “self esteem movement” gone too far. First of all, the self esteem movement got it wrong when it gave permission for children to grow up believing themselves to be better than other people rather than that they are as good as anyone else. All Trump’s bluster and bloviation about being that absolute greatest at everything, always a winner, greatest negotiator, blah, blah, blah, is self esteem movement blather all lathered up.

And all Trumps self aggrandizement leads me to one question, “…and republicans call President Obama arrogant?” Really?  It was enough for this White Lion to hear how arrogant he was in comparison to George W. Bush, who called himself “The Decider,” and bragged about ‘going with his gut’ instead of bothering to wait for facts. Our president is confident, I’ll give you that, and in a white man that would be considered a good thing. He’s not braggadocios, when he has accomplished something he says so, usually in a soft, gracious way, thanking those others on the team who made whatever it is possible. And only once in awhile, usually when responding to someone calling him weak or diffident, he can be cocky, but always is a charming and humorous way. None of this wild talk about wiping a whole group of people off the face of the earth and taking our allies down because they dare to criticize. It is clear to me after seven years that when Rep. Lynn Westmoreland and Rush Limbaugh  call the president “uppity” that they are speaking to this idea, he’s a black man who is in charge of things right now, and they don’t like it.

And I’m curious, speaking of political will, ‘back in the day,’ when the US was known for innovation and inventing things, what did the guys who eventually became oil barons do? The oil boom officially began in 1859, in a place called Titusville, PA, when a man named Col. Edwin L. Drake successfully drilled the first working oil well.  But what did those guys do before? The men we see before us today, The Koch Brothers, T.Boone Pickens, Exxon Mobile, BP, etc, are not unintelligent men. But they are frozen in time to an industry that is killing us, and they refuse to use that intelligence to innovate and find a way that is not so damaging. The sad part of them hanging on so steadfastly to an industry that is outdated, just because is made them richer than most of us can wrap our heads around, is that they wouldn’t lose more than an initial investment do put some of that money to good use for the purpose of moving away from fossil fuels. After that they would make their money all over again. It’s already been shown that there is money to be made in ‘green industry.’ Even to the point that some nefarious folks are making money off people by claiming that they are offering green alternatives when they are not. (Ethanol from corn being a prime example!) Main point, smart people can find a way to unbreak things if they are not so entrenched and afraid of change that they just try to rationalize and defend “the way it’s always been.”

Has anyone heard? There is a sweet new book out called “A Birthday Cake for the President.”  It is a book about a group of smiling, happy slaves getting ready to let the rich white people eat a nice cake they are making for President George Washington’s birthday. Needless to say, the book has stirred up quite a firestorm, and has now been pulled ‘off the shelves.’ But I think that the very notion this book was written at all is more proof of a deep, deep problem in the republican establishment. While this author, Ramin Ganeshram, is a journalist and chef, not a member of any political party that I could find, there are many on the right who have implied or said outright that black people were better off as slaves. These may be the ones who are fighting tooth and nail to keep the minimum wage unlivable. They are speaking for people without being asked to, but they are projecting the actual pleasure they feel when thinking of people who own businesses being allowed to do so with nearly no overhead, such as those pesky labor costs.

Also included in that group are all the legislators, state and federal, who keep trying to end the access of poor women to health care and reproductive services. Since federal dollars can’t be used for abortions, they are attacking women getting cancer screenings, medications, and many other health services that do not include abortions. They demonize and try to criminalize Planned Parenthood, and even after their lies with that aim are disproved, they keep repeating the same lies, almost as if their assertions will eventually become true (0r at least believed.) So let me boil this down, in my opinion, the people who are trying to take away a woman’s control over their own bodies, particularly if she is poor, really just want to kill poor women. They know that abortion won’t go away just because they may eventually succeed at making it illegal. Safe abortion will go away for people who don’t have the money to buy a private doctor’s discretion. So there will be abortion deaths. Screenings are known to catch some cancers early enough to be cured, so if fewer poor women get screenings, some of them will die of cancers that rich women never die from. Testing for diseases can also produce cures, but these, mostly men, but a few white, conservative women, would deny poor women these chances at a healthy, productive life. They still believe the often debunked and disproved idea that poor women are all on drugs and just keep “popping out babies so they can get a bigger welfare check.” Are there some people who abuse the system? Of course? Will that ever be stopped? No. There will always be people who can game any system. But does that mean that the truly needy should be denied services? I say no. But if they can kill a few poor women before women everywhere decide to be angry enough about it to act, that will mean a few less poor babies to feed.

Limbaugh Calls Obama "Uppity"

http://thehill.com/homenews/news/16173-westmoreland-calls-obama-uppity

http://www.salon.com/2012/10/12/ten_conservatives_who_have_praised_slavery/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s Find A Cure

white lion in repose

January 3, 2016. Here we go again; new year, new you, resolutions, weight loss, less social media…. blah, blah, blah. Honestly, I think 2016 is going to be a very interesting year. First of all, it’s an election year. Unless you live under a deeply buried stone you probably already know that. But this is a flippy election year. For the first time, the Republican party has a woman, a  black man,  and one and one/half Latinos running. I say one and one/half because I am still not sure that Ted Cruz’ campaign is legal since he was not born here. But that is a conversation for another day.

The Democratic party, on the other hand, the one that cares about minorities and the poor, etc, is running three white people. Yes, one is a woman, but a very establishment, hawkish woman who is not well trusted by the people who get polled by national pollsters. (I put it that way because I have never, ever been polled by any of those people. Nor has anyone I know personally.) Anyway, it is also the last year of the presidency of Barack Hussein Obama, the first black president of these United States. Of course, his mother was a white woman from Kansas, and she is the one who raised the president after his father left the family, but he is black. Because he is black. He identifies as black, and married a black woman. In my view, that label is the least important thing about him. His is a very complex presidency, and one that will take many years to sort out.

I am one who continues to be a true believer. Yes, he has disappointed me on many levels. Yes, he is an imperfect human being, kinda like me. Well, kinda like all of us. But I voted for him twice, and if it were legal for him to run again, I would likely vote for him again. But he and his poor family have suffered the worst level of insult and assault that I have ever seen in my lifetime. And the people who have Obamanoia still won’t admit that it has anything to do with his race. And every time I say on social media that I’m concerned for his safety, I get slammed as an angry, suspicious person. It is usually people I don’t know who are friends of friends, but it befuddles me that people call me angry for this. In the last eight years we have seen an increase in people using racial imagery to threaten and intimidate black students. Systematic racism has been exposed at several universities, and there has been a GIANT kerfuffle about the confederate flag and the meaning behind it. So in some delusional world in which lots of people seem to live, racism has nothing to do with the hate, threats and vitriol that seems to have embarrassed me as an American ever since President Obama was elected.

The proof for me has been that the haters always start the conversation with, “I hate him, and it has nothing to do with his race.” Weeeeeeeeeell, in my experience, if one must use the defensive disclaimer, “It’s not about race,” they are already on iffy ground. Just as when someone feels the need to end a remark with, “I’m just joking,” they are infinitely aware that their remark may be interpreted as not funny. I guess one could say it’s kind of like, “I’m not a racist, I have black friends.” Okay, my friend, if it’s not about race, give me an issue for which your spiteful rhetoric is appropriate. I’m waiting. I’ve been waiting a long time, but hey, I’m an evidence based thinker. So give me the evidence. We have the birth certificate, we have the national economy, we have the gas prices, we have Bin Laden, and many other terrorist leaders who have been killed on his watch, some in the last two weeks, when Trump and the rest of the republican fear bating cadre still keep pounding him on his weakness in fighting terror. Give me something to work with here. Please? When President Obama and his wife get cartoons in which they are depicted as monkeys, there is silence on the right. But when a cartoon with Ted Cruz’ children depicted as monkeys, outrage ensues, and the Washington Post issues an apology. An APOLOGY! From a major newspaper for a cartoon. All public figures are considered ‘fair game’ to the press and cartoonists, and if any politician involves children in a campaign, they too become targets. So I will quell the roar about the cartoons of the Obamas if Ted Cruz will do the same. Oh, and Fox. Yeah, Fox must also do the same. Because it isn’t what is said in a First Amendment, free speech context that bothers me, it’s the use of a different yardstick for Obama than for any other president in history.

Twice in the last week I’ve been accused of being ‘angry’ and ‘fearful’ because I worry about the safety of this president. One of these strangers even accused me of living in a delusional, dark place. But with the gun fervor that gets whipped up every time there is a mass shooting, or a high profile gun death, and the zeal with which the National Rifle Association lies to the public (and many of the fearful eat it up) about Obama coming for the guns of law abiding white people, the more I believe I have reason to worry. And it has NOTHING to do with me being angry or fearful in general. During  a conversation with my mom about racism a year or so ago, she admitted that she “knows people in her family who still wouldn’t spit on a black man if he were on fire.” So I have that history with my family to make me think that the worst is still possible in some situations.

We had friends over for dinner last night who found it surprising that I am not afraid to go out in the dark to walk my dogs. I’m not afraid of the dark. I’m not afraid of being raped, or killed, or kidnapped, or targeted by a terrorist. Not because I don’t believe those things can happen; of course they can. But numbers are on my side. In other words, those awful things do happen, but WAY less than one might think if one watches the news. Yes, every time a person is murdered, raped, kidnapped, terrorized, it’s a terrible tragedy; I’m not taking anything away from that. But I choose not to be afraid of most things because it wastes energy. But I do fear for President Obama because he has been a bit of a transformative president, and there are people who hate change to the point that they hate people who advocate or produce changes.  And in the case of this president the changes he has wrought have made some people who are used to not having to earn their power in the world. The power structure is changing, just like the demographics in the United States. Minority rule has been shown historically to work for some years, but not forever, and the people of the US are getting browner. Which doesn’t scare me. But it scares enough people who appear to be outwardly like me that I’m worried in this instance. I’m not angry, I’m not afraid, but this one situation makes me both. And if anyone has evidence that can show me where I’m missing the big picture, please, by all means. show me the evidence.

 

Natural Born Citizen Clause

The Paradox of Grief

And the white lion roars!

On a bleak, rainy, chilly Sunday morning in December, the White Lion looks around and finds many, many reasons to stop suppressing the roar that I’ve been trying to contain for the last month or so.

I’ve been trying to suppress it because I know how far away the election of 2016 is, and I know that the outrageousness we’ve been seeing so far is going to stop once the caucuses and primaries get going, starting on February 1st in Iowa. But some of what I’ve been hearing is so disturbing that I am truly afraid for my country. I am astonished and horrified that hate and racism have become so fashionable in this country. I’m sure that some will say that this fire has been started by Donald Trump and his racist, hateful rhetoric. I disagree, especially since a news story I saw yesterday (December 12th, MSNBC) by a journalist who had spent some time travelling with the Trump campaign. His story suggested that all the folks who gush that Trump “speaks from his gut,” “tells it like it is,” and tell the truth at all times. According to that reporter every word out of Trump’s mouth is carefully planned, and every step of his campaign is carefully orchestrated. He is not speaking from the gut, he is responding to what he hears out there. I see his recent attacks on Senator Ted Cruz (a deplorable human being himself, and I’m fairly sure his candidacy is illegal.) He attacks the person closest to him in the polls; it started with Jeb Bush, who had been anointed as the republican candidate by the media, but not the voters. He then attacked Ben Carson, who had risen in the polls to be just  behind Trump and gaining. Now it is Cruz who is rising in the polls, and have even moved ahead of Trump in Iowa, so he is the latest victim. I have a hard time believing those who claim that Trump is a democratic plant who is trying to ensure that the republicans lose and can’t gain the White House next year. In fact, that idea is so laughable that this is the last time I’ll mention it, except to say Thank You to Mr. Trump on the inauguration of Senator Bernie Sanders.

At any rate, as I said earlier, I have found the nascent hatred of “the other” that Trump has given permission for the ignorant and un-American “haters” out there to express loudly and proudly. One female legislator from Nevada, who has children, stated for the cameras that she would be happy to shoot Muslims herself and “put them out of their miserable lives.” This is also a woman whose family Christmas photo shows her entire family armed, including her young children, but that is another story entirely.

I started to make friends with Muslims in the early 1980s through my work. I had never met a Muslim before that; I led a very cloistered, white life. But race has been one of my two big causes since I was very young and started going to an integrated school. I realized just how racist my family is, and how silly their racist ideas are by being exposed to these people whom I had  been taught were ‘different’ and ‘lesser’ than white people. They weren’t. Neither were the Muslims. They were people. They were parents. They had left their home countries, even back then, to find a better life for their families. They spoke fine English, with an accent, yes, but they were working very hard to integrate into this country. They’d been taught that they would find freedom here, and that they could practice their religion freely. And it’s true, this country was founded by people who were leaving Europe  because of religious persecution. One-hundred-fifty years later the United States was founded, and a constitution that guaranteed that the government would not interfere with the practice of any religion. But now political candidates are promising not to let any Muslims into the country, and a percentage of the people who hear this horrible, discriminatory talk are taking it one step further, and fire bombing, setting fire, talking of armed insurrection and murder against people who have been living in horrific conditions for a very long time. I have truly never met anyone from another country who doesn’t miss their home. Leaving family and home  behind is always hard, and they wouldn’t do it if they and their families could be safe and prosperous, and they wouldn’t be in danger from a dictatorial regime or hateful religious leader.

I am embarrassed and ashamed of what the United States has become. Hate is an ugly thing, and hating people one has never met, just because they are different of skin color, politics or religion are even worse.

All that said, I need to annoy some of my liberal friends. I have always believed that credit should be given where it is due, no matter how much we dislike the person who deserves the credit. I’ve never made a secret of my dislike for former president George W. Bush, and I confess to have laughed at the jokes made about him when he said that terrorists attacked us because they “hate us for our freedom.” I realized after the recent terror attacks in Paris that he was right. There were some Muslim owned businesses who were attacked simply because they served non-Muslims in their businesses; they were working “too hard to assimilate” and those people are too corrupt and hedonistic.  It is well known that the vast majority of victims of Islamic terrorists are Muslim, but they are apparently being attacked, down to the elderly, the mothers and the babies, for not being the “right kind” of Muslim. This realization also led me to the feeling that President Bush, while he definitely gave aid and comfort to Al Qaeda and the Taliban, he and his evil minions (Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, et al) did NOT invent ISIL, to whom I will now and forever refer as DAESH because that is a name they hate being called.

I was a very late bloomer, and graduated from college at the tender age of forty-seven, and so the stories shared by some wonderful professors are still fairly fresh in my mind. One of them, Professor Baharlu, was one of my top two favorites. He identified as a Persian, and had lived in the United States since the 1950s. One of the stories he told about early Islam, as in very soon after its founding, was a directive from Muhammad that if they wanted to spread their new faith, they must destroy the history and culture of the people in the countries they were trying to proselytize. As a result, from that very early time, Islam has tried to spread itself by the sword. As a result the great libraries and art works of that ancient, highly civilized part of the world was destroyed. Please don’t misunderstand, Judaism and Christianity have done the same thing. In fact, it’s not so long ago that Catholics and protestants were doing this in the United Kingdom as recently and the twentieth century, all the way up until the 1970s. But those two have pretty much stopped doing so, even though the rhetoric of some of their adherents, especially in the American s0uth, still suggests a willingness to do so, and the current temperature against Islam is leading to violence against them, so I am not demonizing Islam by telling this story, I am not. But the notion that one religion is right, and that anyone who doesn’t agree must die. Even if the holy book preaches love of one’s enemies and not hating people who are different. This is where Daesh is coming from, spreading their form of Islam by wiping out dissent or disagreement.  And so, in spite of the fact that I disagree with a great deal of what President Bush did and said, and though I know his policies in the Middle East have led to the longest war in history, he did not cause Daesh to arise.

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Defining Parameters

And the white lion roars!

When I read up on how to make a blog successful, the advice givers almost always say to post something every week. I clearly do not do that, though I do try. Sometimes it is because there is just so much going on that I am overwhelmed with how to digest it all into this space. Sometimes it is because of a lifelong fear of what other people think of me. Sometimes it is because I make comments in other places that some people that I love seem to take as a personal attack, which makes me reticent to express opinions. In particular I am told that when I make comments about religion, I think everyone who believes is stupid, or my comments are too general and not all religious people are “like that.” But here’s the thing; I was brought up in a very fundamentalist environment, and while I was always a secret skeptic, I tried extremely hard to believe what I was taught. The consequences of not believing were just too egregious to me. I remember in the mid-eighties having dinner at my youngest sister’s apartment, crying. This was the beginning of the time that I started to lose my fear of vocalizing my doubts, at least in certain company. I said to her, “If anything we were ever taught is true, I’m going to hell now.” Who wants to go to hell for eternity? Who wants to spend eternity separated from light and love? And so, somewhere deep inside of me is a longing for it still to be true, and maybe some envy of those who do plainly have experiences that support the spiritual and mystical. I would love to see a ghost. I would love to have an experience of God in some form. But it has not happened for me. Some say I need to have faith first. But some part of my “self” can’t do that. As one of my scientific heroes has said, I don’t want to live by faith, I want evidence. I am fascinated by stories of paranormal experience, and the religious mystics, but again, I am envious and skeptical of their experiences. I do not believe that religious people are unintelligent or foolish. I know many religious people who are definitely neither. I simply do not share their belief or experience, and thus I am interested in what they have to say, I want to know what it is like to experience these things. I also get that life can never be completely rational. There are some things that can’t be explained by science. But the big thing here for me is that science is okay with admitting that it can be wrong when new evidence is presented. Religion is an exercise in certainty, which can be dangerous. If one clings to answers that have been disproven, they become angrier and angrier when evidence that refutes that belief is shown. That kind of anger can lead to intifadeh. Or crusades. Or terrorism against the places that dispute whatever belief is being questioned.

That said, I do have some ongoing problems with the Judeo/Christian/Muslim teachings, and some of the current violence going on in the name of God. These actions are mostly being conducted by Muslims and Hindus, but Christians and Jews have done their share of violence, and continue to do so, but not at the same scale. When I criticize religion it is often Christianity that gets the nod, because that is what I am most familiar with, and in the United States it is currently the majority religion. If there is a news story about any religion except Islam, it is most often about something within the Christian spectrum. One of these in recent months has been the County Clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, Kim Davis. Since SCOTUS legalized gay marriage on June 26, 2015, fundamentalist Christians have been up in arms about how it violates their religious freedom to be expected to provide any kind of service to gay people. Ms. Davis has refused to issue marriage licenses from her county and has even been jailed on contempt charges for this, and has become a cause celebre with fundamentalist candidates for president in 2016. After she created a huge storm over her refusal, she started going on the morning talk shows to defend herself and her beliefs. The press had uncovered that she has been married four times, plainly against biblical rules, and that she even became pregnant out of wedlock, and cheated on her last husband with her current one. When confronted with how unbiblical her lifestyle has been she retorted that those earlier ‘sins’ were forgiven because she was not saved then, but now she is forgiven. She is not the first Christian I’ve heard to use this argument. “Once a person is saved, all their sins are forgiven, past, present and future.” How convenient for them. The trouble I have with it is that there were many people involved in her past life. The husbands she cheated on, her children, etc. The people who preach this particular gospel do not feel any amends are necessary, nor is it necessary for them to try to live by biblical principles. Whatever they do, they are forgiven. Adultery, theft, gossip, alcoholism and drug addiction-with all the pain and destruction it causes; all forgiven. I once knew someone who had this belief, who was basically a terrible human being, and he treated his widowed mother horribly! I asked him about that, and he said it doesn’t matter, he’s forgiven. But I’m pretty sure it mattered to his mother, and to Kim Davis’ ex-husbands, and on and on. And to the family of a murder victim whose murderer found Jesus in prison. Here’ my idea, as someone who is fairly familiar with Twelve Step Programs, I believe that before these people get to use the “I’m saved and forgiven now,” they must make amends to the people they’ve hurt.

I have been involved in some conversations recently with some people I know who are supporters of the so called “Gospel of Prosperity,” which is SO popular with many upper middle class white people these days. The notion is that if you are obscenely, ostentatiously rich, it is proof that you are ‘good with god.’ It is a disgusting perversion of the New Testament, but it just keeps being started up again by preachers who hammer this message to their congregations Sunday after Sunday. I will never defend these predators, who are really the only ones prospering from this defamation of the bible they claim to believe literally as having been written directly from the hand of god. The thing I discovered though, when researching for this post, some, if not most,  of these preachers grew up poor. So at least we can get enough into their psyches to understand why bling and money and houses, etc, drive them so hard. They are still a blight on society, adding to the owning stuff = success, therefore, if I own lots of flashy cars, flashy clothes, private planes, etc,it only proves what a good person I am. If you don’t have all this, then get right with god and you can have it too. The thing is, though, that in said bible, Jesus had much to say about being good to the poor, and the orphan and widow. And yet the people who attend these ‘mega-churches’ buy in to the political rhetoric that says the poor are lazy do nothings who just want handouts. The poor are demonized, the rich are lionized, and our society gets further and further away from the Declaration of Independence’s claim that “all men are created equal.” There is no longer equality in this country, and the lies about why are being reinforced by the religious side and the political side. But it isn’t working for everyone, and someone needs to figure out why and how to fix it, instead of becoming so entrenched in the notion that “I have mine, fuck you.” This whole notion enforces the reasons why I disdain religion. I’m not angry at God, I don’t believe he exists; how can I be angry with him? But I do have many troubles with religion and its excuses for not following what it claims to believe.

Enough heaviness. I usually start with some questions about cultural things that make me wonder about stuff. One thing that I’ve been meaning to ask for some time has to do with the financial crisis in Greece. I’m curious what can be done about it. I’ve never been to Greece, but I’ve never seen a photo of Greece that didn’t take my breath away. So I’m left to ask the European Union (EU) what they would like Greece to do to start making more money. Should they build factories? Would their rocky shores and ancient building even permit such endeavors, or would they prevent construction and crumble to pieces from it? Would we want those coastlines and historic sites destroyed by buildings, people moving in to take jobs in a new construction industry, and the attendant pollution? There are so few beautiful places left; what should Greece do about this conflict between creating more revenue for the state and maintaining it’s beauty and history? I don’t have an answer, but I wish there was one.

Finally, I remember in 2012, immediately after President Obama’s reelection, I emailed several news stations and opinion sites suggesting a moratorium on discussing the 2016 race until now, November 2015. They ignored me (Whaaaaaat!) But now we are a couple of months away from primary season. I will admit openly to being a Bernie Sanders supporter. I have had a few people say to me that they are surprised I’m not a Hillary Clinton supporter, and instead of arguing it out I just tell them that if she gets the nomination, I will vote for her. The republican side, however, appears to be one giant embarrassment after another. In particular Jeb Bush, brother of President George W. Bush, son of President George H.W. Bush. I’ve been saying for weeks that I get the impression Jeb doesn’t really want to be there. There may be a few reasons why, but my theory is that his “people” told him he was inevitable, and now, with so many republican candidates, he is actually having to work for the nomination. He seems to believe that he shouldn’t have to convince anyone that he is the one for whom they should vote. And so he is surly and inarticulate, and seems to dig ever deeper holes every time he speaks. The other is Dr. Ben Carson, alleged retired neurosurgeon. I say alleged because this man seems frighteningly uninformed about anything remotely resembling life and reality. I know doctors. I work with doctors, and I  have some doctors in my social orbit. While they all have their own individual personalities, some quite quirky, some nerdy, some fairly “normal” seeming. But each of them can demonstrate that they were at least remotely qualified to enter medical school and achieve the hard requirements to become a medical doctor or surgeon. Some are down to earth and open to all kinds of other people, some believe themselves to be gods, superior over anyone with less education and expertise. But all of them can hold a reasonable conversation, except Dr. Ben Carson. They all seem to be proud of their accomplishments as is; they don’t have to make up all kinds of stories, as Dr. Ben Carson has done. I’ve heard it said the he has embellished his childhood thugishness in order to make his autobiography, Gifted Hands more of a redemption story. It reminds me of a guy I used to know who was a competitive body builder who went to youth groups and churches to share his story and demonstrate his strength. I challenged him about it when I learned that he used steroids; he made no bones about his reasons, “If I go into a school to tell the kids that my relationship with God made me successful at weight lifting, and I’m not built up enough, they won’t believe me.” He truly didn’t get that he was committing a terrible fraud. And so is Ben Carson, when he lies about being offered a full scholarship to West Point, or having stabbed people as a youth, or got into fights as a young man in school. And when he then complains that the media is being unfair by researching his past he is being disingenuous because he asked for this. He chose to run for president-he wasn’t drafted by the party on the twelfth ballot of the convention. He claims that lots of people told him he should run for president because they so admire him. But during the months before he announced, he should have had ‘his people’ or his exploratory committee look into what it would be like so that they could be sure he was ready for this. Who remembers Laura Bush saying that one of the things she dreaded about her husband running for president was the awful things people would say about him? Hell, all Carson had to do is read some conservative papers and websites and talking heads to see how viscerally and viciously President Obama has been attacked. If he were an honest man, he would admit that President Obama has had it worse than anyone-EVER! And a close second is Hillary Clinton whose every breath and fart are investigated as a potential crime or scandal. Every word out of either of their mouths is disseminated to hell and back to check its veracity, or to find evidence of plans for a Black Panther take over of the government and execute all white people. My conclusion is, that after listening to Ben Carson all these months, he is a fraud. This man who is being pushed out front of the republican party’s so-called “clown car” is not the man who was the first to separate conjoined twin who were connected at the brain. This man is not educated, and certainly couldn’t have made it through medical school. And while I realize that he is the less offensive black man that the conservatives can use as proof that they are not racist, he is not anything else that they are saying he is. I want someone to investigate what happened to the real Doctor Ben Carson. What did this man with the violent and fabricated past do with the body. Someone should look into this.

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Not to Be-Labor the Point

white lion in repose

On Friday night as I got ready for bed I looked out the bedroom window and thought to myself, “Wow. Three whole days.” It seemed like a long time then, but now we are nearly finished with day two, it seems to be going by very quickly. It may be the start of Meteorological Autumn, but in North Central Texas, it’s still most definitely summer. My dogs and I discovered this today as we went on a lovely walk in the park this morning. I waited til about 9:30, and kept insisting that I was going “before it got too hot.” It was already hot. Not dangerously so, but not a lovely spring walk. We only saw two other dogs there today, one was a precious black Lab puppy, maybe eight weeks old. He went the other way. The other was a white toy poodle mix who was with a Frisbee golfer who was playing alone.

I have unfairly characterized the park we walked in this morning as lacking in comparison to the park Abigail (our older dog, 7) and I used to walk in. The trail is not very long, but being a person who always tries, and sometimes succeeds, to find the good in everything and everyone. The park has some good hills-better for my ham hocks (yes, I know they are really hamstrings.) But even better, today I realized I can leave the dogs off leash for most of the walk. The trail is all dirt, which means there are no bicyclists to put at risk with dogs running back and forth from side to side. The dogs get more exercise that way, but so do I. I can keep a steady pace when I don’t keep having to give them a minute to do dog stuff. Win-win. Leo is free to chase the rare rabbit coming out to taunt him, Abigail can go to check out other sounds and smells, which is why she has actually caught a rabbit and a couple of birds and Leo hasn’t.

With our very wet spring I thought we wouldn’t have quite the infestation of grasshoppers as usual. That has been true in the neighborhood, but there were thousands on the trail this morning. They would jump on me, be confused by my sweaty arms, then jump back into the tall grass and wild summer flora, making almost enough noise that I was afraid Leo would think there were rabbits in them tall weeds. Mostly the dogs wanted to get to a part of the creek they could get into easily and drink, and sit to cool their tummies. This creek is very rocky, I’m sure it’s man made, and the water is very, very clear. Maybe it’s they summer heat clearing out microscopic microbes, but it’s not smelly like the creeks we played in as kids.

There must be a large contingent of Frisbee golfers in our town, because that is what the trail has intermittently along is Frisbee golf goals, or whatever they are called. The most people I ever see on the trail playing that game. They will sometimes pet the dogs, and we go on. I do miss the other walkers, some with dogs, and some without. Walkers are consistently (in my experience) the friendlier people on the trails. They always seem to be happy to see someone else walking, and are almost always friendly. Runners will grunt acknowledgment, and bicyclists are not often friendly. I do understand they are trying to avoid injury or damage to their bikes by not getting tangled with dogs. But I stand by my judgment on their friendliness.

As I mentioned earlier, we had a very wet spring. In early summer this year we had some of the worst mosquito numbers I’ve seen. But when cities began finding West Nile Virus in the standing water they sprayed and the mosquitoes disappeared, only to be replaced by a horror movie quantity of flies. Now the flies seem to be gone, and a few mosquitoes are coming back. On Friday as I got ready for work there was one buzzing around me, and then it landed on the mirror. For some reason, it is always easy for me to get one if it’s on the mirror. Smash!!! Does the reflection confuse them? Why exactly is that?

The White Lion has a sad conundrum. My brother has been a police officer for twenty-six years. He’s a good cop. He’s never shot anyone, and he really cares about ethics in his profession, and he is unafraid of prosecution of any officer who breaks the law or oversteps his bounds. He and I are also very open about the things on which we disagree, such as pretty much everything political. But as an unapologetic liberal. the killing of young black men by police officers has disturbed me, but left me struggling with what side to take. At a recent family gathering I asked him if we could talk privately, and I asked him his take. At first he was defensive, but after many assurances that I didn’t mean the question from the position of an enemy,  he was able to talk about it with me in a rational way, though just like in the medical profession, the legal profession, and many others, he wanted to take the side of police officers in most of those cases. More than anything he wishes the public could realize how very little a cell phone video really shows. For one thing, no one turns on the video until he/she thinks there is something going on. By that time, in the situation at hand, a lifetime of events have occurred that would tell the story more completely. I’m not sure if it is even possible for our minds to grasp that concept in our excessively connected, stimulation rich society. Tales can’t be told backwards, and by the time there lies a dead man on the ground, the story is being filmed in reverse. It is still clear to me that in some of these cases, the police were wrong. Dead wrong. Shooting an unarmed man in the back as he runs away, then trying to change his position and plant a taser on him has no “two sides” to tell. That is crime/murder by police. Some of the other stories aren’t so clear. And I realize everyone of these stories must be taken on a case by case basis, and in some the police should be convicted, and in some they should be exonerated. The public at large is not qualified to judge these, and in most cases the juries have more evidence available that the national public does. Both the Ferguson, Missouri review and the Federal Department of Justice found that Michael Brown was at fault in that shooting, not Officer Darren Wilson. This case is still being used by protesters and talking heads in the opinion business are using that tragedy as a flash point for racial relations in this country.

There is no doubt in my mind that racism is still a festering sore in this country. No group wants to cede power when they have had it unquestioned for centuries. It is visible in access to opportunity, in the treatment of many black people in public settings, retail stores, hailing a cab, etc. But we are evolving as a nation, and all reports I’ve read say that the current generation of young adults really have no problem with people of other races. I knew early on (when busing was suggested) that it would start changing with young people. If one grows up with all kinds of people, one develops that tribal connection based on other things.

But the recent spate of killings of police officers is different. Whether we know the whole story or not, there is a reason that there is police contact in the situations that too often lead to the tragic death of an unarmed teenager. But these police killings keep happening when the human being who happens to wear a uniform are nothing but executions. The two in New York city who were eating in their squad car, the one who was pumping gas, were not involved in any kind of public contact, good or bad. These are also husbands, fathers, sons; human beings who did not deserve to be murdered in cold blood. The torture-murder of the police officer in Abilene, TX, we don’t know if the timing was coincidental, but he was not killed in the line of duty. Nor was the man in Illinois who was killed last week.

It seems to me an almost trite, knee jerk reaction to talk about the tragedy of the murder of anyone, to say that we acknowledge that “most policemen are not bad people.” But just as Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and so many others were given the benefit of the doubt until the evidence was in, these murder victims who happen to be killed because they chose the wrong career for that particular day, deserve the same. They are victims. Whoever shot them is criminal and should be tried by a jury of their peers in order to determine their guilt or innocence.

In the meantime, it makes me feel better to know that my brother, the only one I have, doesn’t have to wear a blue uniform in the job he has now.

Humorous Hyperbole and Late Blooming Thistle

Source: Humorous Hyperbole and Late Blooming Thistle