Thoughts At Large

Passionate thoughts on random topics

Fear

flag

My heart aches for my country. My heart aches for my world. Most importantly, my heart aches for my children. I fear, more than at any time in my lifetime that we are slipping ever closer to both civil war and world war.

As demographic changes overwhelm the status quo and economic “norms” succumb to new paradigms, the old majorities cling to their crumbling precipice and make preposterous threats to those “below” them until a boiling point is reached and the pressure cooker explodes. Every year we see dynamic shifts in socioeconomic or civil right standards that only a few short years before seemed impossible. Consider gay marriage or the removal of the confederate flag from the state house in South Carolina. Now consider a woman president or gun legislation. One seems a fait accompli while the other still engenders violent arguments on both sides of the struggle. And while the former still garners consternation from a small quarter of the public, it is the latter that causes me the most consternation. Because while the flag came down in South Carolina, and it seemed to be common sense, there is a deep seated racist backlash, coupled with a gun culture which has already lent itself to secession once, where I fear a second civil war may erupt. There has already been talk from politicians, politicians running for high national office (Rick Perry) regarding secession. This talk and the armament that these people hold is disturbing to say the least. And there is nothing well regulated about this militia.

Internationally, antisemitism, always the go-to for the disgruntled, has been resurrected in many parts of the world. And this at a time when more countries than ever have a nuclear capability. Greece’s insolvency threatens the Euro and the financial stability of the European community while Germany is left holding the financial burden. Japan has converted to an offensive capability for the first time since World War II and Russia is pushing everyone’s buttons to see just how far they can go before someone pushes back, going so far as to fly bombers off the coast of California. We’ve essentially already acted as a modern day Neville Chamberlain and conceded Crimea to Russia as a modern day Sudetenland minus the Munich Agreement by not challenging Putin. Of course, then some other country will “send troops into Russia forcing Putin to respond.” Or perhaps we’ll just skip the pretense and a President Cruz or Bush or Huckabee or some other hawk will preemptively bomb Russia leading to a retaliatory nuclear attack ending in our nuclear response and earth’s ultimate destruction. Boom boom, bang bang, lie down, you’re dead.

What ever happened to debate? To discussion? To negotiation? Why cannot today’s majority see the writing on the wall and accept that tomorrow will be different? Why cannot we accept that change is inevitable? That we must accept change or perish?  Of course, if we could do that, none of these issues would be issues. Climate change would be the fact that it is we would be well underway in dealing with it instead of holding snowballs in the well of the United States Senate as if weather and climate were interchangeable terms. Gun violence prevention would be common sense rather than code words for confiscation from the paranoid few who control the political elite, racism would be an anachronism left to the dustbin of history instead of the last vestige of dominance for whites watching their majority slip into fear of retribution.

I fear for my country. I fear for my world. I fear for my children. Tell me I’m wrong.

The Rose

DSC_0062_-_CopyOscar Wilde wrote, “A flower blossoms for its own joy,” and while he is one of my favorite authors, I disagree with this quote. Flowers can neither enjoy their own fragrance nor know their own beauty or the joy they bring to others.

As one last outing, Lisa wanted to go to the nursery to see the roses on Sunday. She had not been out of bed in almost two months, so the procedure we went through to get her there, with the wheelchair and oxygen tank stuffed into the car on a 90+ degree Texas summer day was daunting for me and the kids, it was punishing for Lisa. We had traveled no more than half a mile before she vomited all of the pain medication pills I had given her not ten minutes before. And yet she would not allow me to turn around. We were going to see the roses.

Of course, anyone who knows Lisa knows how much she loves her garden and her flowers, especially her roses. She researched and selected each one, labeled them with brass tags and spent countless hours pruning and tending to them. Like the rose in Antoine de Saint- Exupéry’s The Little Prince, she loved each of them because of their pure beauty and the work she had put in each of them.

As I pushed her wheelchair through the rough, rocky terrain (and pulled the oxygen tank behind me) she stopped me to read about the varieties of roses and admired their beauty (as if she was looking to fill a hole in the garden). It was then that it dawned on me that she is just like a rose. There is no better description or personification in nature than the rose. She is a rose.

She is brutally honest and unflaggingly faithful. She reminds me of the quote from Alphonse Karr, who wrote, “Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses,” and the quote from Anne Brontë, who wrote, “He who dares not grasp the thorn should never crave the rose.” Having her in my life has brought me thorns and flowers, but I would never have traded the former for the latter because one without the other would destroy the rose that she is.

Even now, after being brutalized by cancer and chemo, she can be seen in the poem of Robert Frost

“The rain to the wind said,

‘You push and I’ll pelt.’

They so smote the garden bed.

That the flowers actually knelt,

And lay lodged — though not dead.

I know how the flowers felt.”

And yet, while the rose is fading, she does not know her own beauty or the joy she brings to others, she is loved. She is a rose. She is my rose.

American Exceptionalism

The World According to Americans

We’ve got guns, but no responsibility

We’ve got ammo, but no control of our passion

We’ve got guns, but lack basic civility

We’ve got ammo, but no room for compassion

We’ve got flags, but no discretion

We’ve got crosses, but no love

We’ve got flags, but talk of secession

We’ve got crosses, but demean from above

No chance of sovereignty

Just tragedy

No common sense

Just build a fence

No Atlas Shrugged

Just criminally drugged

No coverage for influenza

Just a pass for affluenza

We’ve got technology, but no one talks on the phone

We’ve got politics, but no debate

We’ve got technology, but kill with a drone

We’ve got politics, but filled with hate

We’ve got movies, but can’t sit still

We’ve got schools, but no teachers

We’ve got movies, but men come to kill

We’ve got schools, but arm the preachers

No chance of sovereignty

Just tragedy

No common sense

Just build a fence

No Atlas Shrugged

Just criminally drugged

No coverage for influenza

Just a pass for affluenza

We’ve got a choice, but no commitment

We’ve got a mirror, but no reflection

We’ve got a choice, but no development

We’ve got a mirror, but no direction

We’ve got Rush, but no hurry

We’ve got Trump, but immigrant spite

We’ve got Rush, but do not worry

We’ve got Trump, and we’re all white

We’ve got AM radio, but only racist static

We’ve got Fox News, but only destruction

We’ve got AM Radio, but only listened to by the fanatic

We’ve got Fox News, but only obstruction

No chance of sovereignty

Just tragedy

No common sense

Just build a fence

No Atlas Shrugged

Just criminally drugged

No coverage for influenza

Just a pass for affluenza

What have we done, St. Ronnie what have we done?

What are we doing, Huckabee what are we doing?

What will we do, Cruz when will we have fun?

Where is American exceptionalism going?

Missionary to Mars

Revelations III

We are now less than forty days and forty nights away from the recently discovered and highly anticipated colonization of Mars. We have all read the incredible story of how a vocal portion of our nation is planning an unprecedented mission to Mars with the hope of creating, in the tradition of New England, New Mexico, New London, and New York, a New America. When questioned by this writer, one traveler said that Mars was chosen because it is the “red” planet, and should, therefore, be absent of any blue “libtards” and purple “homo sapiens” (presumably referencing homosexuals). 

The taxpayer funded and privately financed program is using untested, massive rocket ships to transport over 60 million Americans to this New America. The list of private financiers is as eclectic as it is determined, bringing the likes of Joel Osteen and Michael Bloomberg together, and while the former is determined to make sure he has a seat on the first ship to leave (Moses I), the latter is determined to make sure the former succeeds. Indeed, some financiers remaining on earth have picked up the tab for the previously despised (by passengers) FEMA to set up camps in “red” states to assist the secessionists in packing.

The ships, each named after either a character in the Bible or a chapter in the book will each carry passengers, food, essential equipment and “old” America’s 300,000,000 guns. In fact, in a strange demand by all passengers, despite their overwhelmingly homogenous nature (white, heterosexual, Christian, and obese) passengers have insisted that they be allowed to openly carry their individual firearms, even if they have 20 or 30 of them each.

The long journey will be catered by Papa Johns and payment will be in the form of the new country’s newly minted currency. Each bill of the “old” America has been re-crafted in the manner agreed upon by the passengers. For example, the $1 bill will carry the likeness of Jesus while the $5 has picture of Jefferson Davis, the $10 has a picture of “Saint” Reagan, and the $20 bill has a controversial picture of Ayn Rand. It is controversial, not because she is not a patron saint of the travelers, but rather that she is a woman. Another seemingly controversial, but agreed upon fact is that each ship will carry only enough fuel for a one-way trip.

Another honor to Rand is the fact that the ships are being built out of a new metal called Reardon Steel, after one of the characters on the new country’s mandatory reading list, “Atlas Shrugged.” The ships will be launched from a spaceport nearing completion in Texas. Due to the complexity of the boarding requirements, the organization Farmer’s Only is being contracted to confirm seating arrangements and offering to group men with eager women wearing cowboy boots for the long journey through, as one traveler said between chewing tobacco spit “city slicker-less space.” Ships Revelations I and Song of Solomon III will be housed entirely of young, unwed men and women (including Bristol Palin), leaving many unfilled seats for the expected arrival of “miracle space babies” along the way.

Once the final ship has left the Texas spaceport, leaving Texas essentially devoid of humans, the United States has said it has plans to develop Texas into a wildlife preserve and wind farm, rendering Texas, once the mecca of oil production capable of providing wind energy for the entire country. To make way for the wildlife preserve and wind farm, residents of Austin, the sole “blue” dot in an otherwise blood red state will be relocated to New Austin in the former Orlando, Florida area.

While this writer does not intend on joining the space secessionists, he wishes them well on their long journey to, as one traveler said, Jacob’s ladder.

Rights of the Living

Thomas PaineIn 1789, Thomas Paine wrote Rights of Man as a rebuttal to Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France. One of Burke’s arguments, and one he spends over 100 pages writing about, is how the English Parliament of 1688 granted certain rights “for themselves, and for all their posterity, for ever.” Paine takes exception with this and in the first few pages of Rights of Man refutes Burke’s assumptions brilliantly.

I would like to use these same arguments as a foundation for repealing the second amendment, which to my mind, is the only way we will genuinely affect the daily bloodbath that is guns in America.

In the preface to the English edition, Paine speaks of those who make their living by war. I will use this as a metaphor for the NRA, as they are but a mouthpiece for gun manufacturers whose products flood battlefields and street corners, both. About this, Paine writes:

That there are men in all countries who get their living by war, and by keeping up the quarrels of Nations, is as shocking as it is true; but when those who are concerned in the government of a country, make it their study to sow discord, and cultivate prejudices between Nations, it becomes the more unpardonable.

Consider for a moment if we substitute Races for Nations in the previous passage. Now, how often have we heard those in government go on and on about how critical it is for “law-abiding citizens” to defend themselves against “thugs.” First of all, everyone is a law-abiding citizen until they are not, until they commit a crime. Second, “thugs” has become the code for our African American youth requiring neither an enigma machine nor anything more than a wink and a nod for conservatives to understand.

Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the NRA misses no opportunity to speak before his epistemically closed audiences of Alex Jones and Rush Limbaugh listeners when he frames paranoid image upon fearmongering image as reasons why “law-abiding citizens” need to arm themselves against “thugs.” He never misses an opportunity. As Paine wrote when slapping Burke for the same verbal diarrhea,

When the tongue or the pen is let loose in a frenzy of passion, it is the man, and not the subject, that becomes exhausted.

Indeed, later in the book, Paine smacks Burke again for misplacing his compassion. Likewise, as LaPierre is ordained to defend the firearm and not the victim of the firearm every time he blurts that nauseating phrase, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” or the equally noxious “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” I’ll quote two Paine lines:

He pities the plumage, but forgets the dying bird.

And,

Prudent men readily recollect that mischief is more easily begun than ended.

LaPierre, ever the sower of tyrannical fantasies is subject to Paine’s logical argument when discussing what rights the founding fathers are owed. He makes a distinction of ruling by delegation, which he feels is appropriate, and ruling by assumption, which he does not. He writes:

The vanity and presumption of governing beyond the grave, is the most ridiculous and insolent of all tyrannies.

Furthermore, he writes of the rights of the living superseding the edicts of the dead:

Every generation is, and must be, competent to all the purposes which its occasions require. It is the living, and not the dead, that are to be accommodated.

He expounds upon this a bit further into the text when he writes:

Those who have quitted the world, and those who are not yet arrived at it, are as remote from each other, as the utmost stretch of mortal imagination can conceive: What possible obligation, then, can exist between them; what rule or principle can be laid down, that of two nonentities, the one out of existence, and the other not in, and who never can meet in this world, the one should control the other to the end of time?

So, if there is no obligation of current generations to accept the laws of previous generations, except through their continued adherence to them, they are then subject to repeal. Paine writes of this tyranny:

It requires but a very small glance of thought to perceive, that although laws made in one generation often continue in force through succeeding generations, yet that they continue to derive their force from the consent of the living. A law not repealed continues in force, not because it cannot be repealed, but because it is not repealed; and the non-repealing passes for consent.

That the second amendment was written during the time of the musket and could never address a hand-held machine gun or any of the other wondrous killing machines we have invented to slaughter our neighbor is all the more reason why we need to repeal it and, if appropriate, write a new version consistent with the times in which we live. As Paine wrote it:

The circumstances of the world are continually changing, and the opinions of men change also; and as government is for the living, and not for the dead, it is the living only that has any right in it. That which may be thought right and found convenient in one age, may be thought wrong and found inconvenient in another. In such cases, Who is to decide, the living, or the dead?

Paine even quotes M. de Lafayette who, in appealing to the living said:

Call to mind the sentiments which Nature has engraved in the heart of every citizen, and which take a new force when they are solemnly recognized by all: – For a nation to love liberty, it is sufficient that she knows it; and to be free, it is sufficient that she wills it.

Laws are for the living, not the dead, says Paine. Might I add that they should be for the living to prevent the dead, as well? Paine was a bit of a smartass in his writing
and if I may repurpose one of his greatest upbraidings, I consider the NRA and its fearmongering, paranoid, disingenuous leadership to be “darkness attempting to illuminate light.”

I consider this as the framework and justification for repealing the second amendment, using the words of one of the most logical witnesses to two revolutions. Common sense may not be all that common anymore, but logic is universally appreciated.

When?

Enough

When will lives matter more than guns?

When will lives matter more than dogma?

When will lives matter more than religion?

When will we stop killing each other because we’re different?

When will debate, discussion, and conversation replace “stand your ground”?

When did America become so paranoid?

When will we begin to use compassion instead of condescension?

When will we see race as an opportunity to learn and not a reason to hate?

When will we see hatred diffused by associating rather than inflamed by isolation?

When will love of peace matter more than fear of peace?

When will love of peace matter more than love of war?

When will you stand up and say, “Enough!”

When will you act?

When?

Cancer, be not proud

Cancer

I can neither understand, nor accept that it is divine will that a disease was designed to kill its host and itself in the process, other than to surmise that if it is God’s will, he/she/it is neither the omnipotent nor benevolent being we were taught to love/fear in organized religion. And, further, that the process under which the individual must ultimately perish (and their family/friends give comfort and assistance) is neither compassionate nor illuminating. However, if you believe in a paradisiacal hereafter, I offer this twist on John Donne’s Holy Sonnet 10 where I substitute “cancer” for “death” and piss on its grave.

Cancer, be not proud, though some have called you

Mighty and dreadful, for you are not so;

For those whom you think you can overthrow

Die not, poor Cancer, nor yet can you kill me, too.

I cannot understand your suicidal need,

To grow without boundaries and murder your host

When to do so causes your own harm the most

Like a terminal drought caused by a nefarious weed.

You are a slave to enzymes, proteins, and desperate DNA,

And must with poison, war, and evil dwell,

And a warm embrace or gentle music can make us sleep as well

And better than your sting; why do you brag then?

One short sleep past, we wake eternally,

And cancer shall be no more; Cancer, you shall die.

In short, Fuck You, Cancer.

Lisa’s Birthday

at Versailles

at Versailles

Birthdays are often thought of negatively, an ugly reminder that Father Time is pushing you toward old age. But birthdays are not guaranteed and should, therefore, be celebrated. Old age is a result of outlasting many far worthier candidates for no worthier merit than drawing breath when others are denied the privilege. Why do I survive when Lisa will not?

Which brings me to the issue of how to celebrate Lisa’s birthday on Saturday, June 13th? It is not a reminder that Father Time is pushing her toward old age. It is this time an ugly reminder that birthdays are not guaranteed and are sometimes difficult to celebrate. Rather than presents and festivities, let me offer thanks and apologies.

Thank you, Lisa for first agreeing to go out with me when we were assistant store managers at Woolworths in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts, at a time in the 1980’s when jobs were slim and women’s shoulder pads were large.

Thank you for staying up all night with me on Thanksgiving and agreeing with me to quit Woolworths because we both knew we were better than that; creatively, intellectually, and professionally.

Thank you for saying yes to the most important and terrifying question I’ve ever asked at La Petit Auberge, in Newport, RI in 1988. It was a perfect meal, a perfect evening and you were the perfect fiancé. Oh, how I wish there was the internet back then! I would have told the world!

Thank you for walking down the aisle of the Carmelite Chapel in Newport on September 9, 1989 to become my wife, or more importantly, letting me become your husband. You planned the day perfectly, including the weather. I’ve always wanted to take a time machine back to our reception to relive it as a guest. It went too fast and I missed too much. Wow, you were beautiful!

Thank you for sticking with me those first few years. I know it wasn’t easy. I know I wasn’t easy. For that, I’m sorry and forever regret the time spent arguing when I wish now I had the time back. But we made it and it formed the diamond hard phalanx we would use to fight anyone and anything that came against us.

Thank you for giving me the two greatest gifts in the world, one a perfect combination of your creativity and your beauty and the other a combination of your passion and your adorable, hooked nose. Together, they represent the best of us and stand at the precipice of adulthood with the entire world in the palm of their hands. And they stand there because you spent every day developing their confidence and talents. The world is theirs. The world needs them. On behalf of the world, thank you.

Thank you for standing by me while I struggled. I’m sorry. I wish life had a User’s Manual. How easy life would be if we could turn to page 37 or if there was an Appendix for Troubleshooting. But there isn’t. You were always there even when I didn’t want it, always my customer support when tech support should have been called.

Thank you for enduring the barbaric attacks on your body we dare call “cancer treatment” over the past eight years, all in an effort to be here for the kids and me. Even with that noble goal, I know that had the tables been turned, I would have curled up into a little ball and gone away long ago. Women endure things that men could never conjure in their worst nightmares.

Thank you for everything. You will not pass away. You will have been murdered by treasonous cells within your own body, suicidal cells replicating out of control, killer cells.

Thank you for creating my family, for taking and creating a new branch of the Fucile family tree. You have cultivated it and left it to your children as a proud and honorable name infused with all of the sap from the McIntosh bloodline. Shakespeare wrote in King Henry IV, Part II

King:               More would I, but my lungs are wasted so

That strength of speech is utterly denied me.

How I came by the crown, O God forgive,

And grant it may with thee in true peace live.

Prince Henry:  My gracious liege,

You won it, wore it, kept it, gave it me.

Then plain and right by my possession be,

Which I with more than with a common pain

‘Gainst all the world will rightfully maintain.

And now, Woolworths is gone. La Petit Auberge is gone. The Carmelite Chapel is gone. But although your body may leave us, you will never be gone. You live in each of your children and in my heart. You live in all of the memories of every person upon whom you have made an impression. You were betrayed by your body, but you never betrayed your friends. We love you. I love you. Forever. Thank you.

Comfort for Aurora

Remembering the Victims

“In the hope that it may be no intrusion upon the sacredness of your sorrow, I have ventured to address you this tribute to the memory of my young friend, and your brave and early fallen child.” Abraham Lincoln, May 25, 1861 in a letter of condolence to the parents of Colonel Elmer Ellsworth

I did not know Jessica Ghawi, Alex Teves, Alex Sullivan or any of the other nine victims murdered in the horrific July 20, 2012 shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado during a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.” I do not know any of the 70 people who were injured that night and survived. But as an advocate for gun violence prevention, Jessica, Alex, Alex and many others have become my (forever young) friends. It is because of them that we work for a safer future so others are not sacrificed on America’s insane firearms alters.

The trial for the monster responsible for this all too familiar, American-centric, gun-related carnage is underway in Colorado and I find there is no way to accurately or compassionately convey my love to the survivors, their families, or the families of those murdered without sounding as if I can possibly understand their grief, pain, suffering, loss, anger… even this list seems somehow presumptuous. To those strong enough and compelled to attend the daily court proceedings, this list of presumptions must also include: the ability to sit in the same room with such a monster, knowing that he is attempting to “game” the jurisprudence of Colorado with his “superior” intellect, and the self-control and commitment to a civilized society not to throttle him when he lifts his veil of innocence whenever the jury is not in chambers. Cameras are everywhere.

It is, therefore, ironic that I find the most reflective and appropriate comments in the haunting words of one who would himself later become the victim of gun violence. In a letter dated Nov. 21, 1864, President Lincoln wrote to Mrs. Lydia Bixby, a mother who it was believed had lost five sons in the Civil War. He wrote:

I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. 

And so, with these borrowed words, please let the victims and their families know that I am thinking of them, grieve for them, honor their children and don’t presume to understand their pain. I haven’t the right words. Allow Lincoln’s to carry my comforts.

Religious Freedumb

Orwell warningHaving been born in Rhode Island, perhaps I am biased against those whom I about to write. Rhode Island was founded as a colony in 1636, as Providence Plantations, by Roger Williams, a theologian, separatist, abolitionist, proponent of religious freedom and strong believer in “a hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world.”

This past week, Indiana governor, Mike Pence, signed SB 101, a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Despite its innocuous sounding name, it has nothing to do with religious freedom and everything to do with discrimination. According to Jane Henegar, executive director of the ACLU of Indiana, “The timing of this legislation is important to understanding its intent: The bill was introduced as a backlash reaction to achieving marriage equality for same-sex couples in Indiana.”

The federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, while it applied to all religions, was actually targeted to Native Americans who were felt to be unfairly burdened by government projects on their land. Essentially, this Act was designed to extend the First Amendment’s free exercise of religion to Native Americans following erosion of its use in the 1980’s and 1990’s. The bill was introduced by then-Congressman Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and passed unanimously by the House and by a 97-3 vote in the Senate before being signed by President Clinton. Ah, those were the days of bipartisanship.

Since that time, nineteen states have passed their own version of the RFRA, first because a federal lawsuit struck down part of the act in 1997, forcing states to augment the federal legislation but recently as a way for Christian fundamentalists to sandbag against the tide of same-sex marriage laws sweeping the country (as in Indiana). Eight states currently have such legislation working its way through the legislative process (AR, GA, HI, MI, MT, NC, NV, and TX). And this legislation does not count the seven states who have introduced legislation outright banning same-sex marriage (AL, AR, MO, NC, OK, SC, and TX).

Eight states have passed legislation banning sharia law. In fact, 34 states have considered such legislation in the past 5 years even though such laws have been found to be unconstitutional and there has never been any indication that any such laws have been considered anywhere at any time by any state. It is simply more fear-mongering and discrimination couched as religious freedom.

What happened to lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi (the rule of worship is the rule of belief is the rule of life)? Perhaps we should spend a little less time with orthodoxy and a little more time with orthopraxy.

Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Orwell would be proud. “War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.” Perhaps with the appropriate branding, sponsorship, and uniforms we could add Pogrom is Sport. Hunger Games, anyone?

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