Thoughts At Large

Passionate thoughts on random topics

Month: December, 2012

Cut!

Movie Board

Action!

“Captain,” said the Chief Engineer in the third bulkhead of Titanic, standing in eighteen inches of north Atlantic ice water, a mere ten minutes after her hull was shredded by the unseen iceberg, “we’re taking on water! What do you want us to do?”

“Take on more water!” replied Captain Smith.

CUT! Wait.  That’s not what happened. That would be stupid.

And…ACTION!

“Stand back you people,” said the Second Officer, pointing his revolver at the crowd surging toward the remaining life boats, “I will shoot the next man to rush forward.”

“No you won’t,” bellowed John Jacob Astor IV, pushing his way toward the front of the crowd. All at once, every member of the crowd cocked back the hammers of their pistols.  Suddenly, the ship righted itself, the gash in her side healed and she maintained her top speed through iceberg-pocked waters toward New York.

CUT! That’s even dumber than before.  That didn’t happen.

Take it from the top. And… ACTION!

“Iceberg, straight ahead!” the hypothermic lookout cried, perched in the crow’s nest high above the gleaming wooden deck below.

“Be calm, my son,” said Jesus, who was standing next to him. And with a wave of his hand, the iceberg melted away and no harm ever befell any of the passengers. They all lived happily ever after and God called them home after a long life and with no pain or suffering.

CUT!  What’s going on here? None of that happened! The ship hit the iceberg, panic ensued, the ship sank and 1,514 people died horrifically painful deaths.

Ah, but there’s the problem.  We’ve all become victims of subscribing to a Hollywood script.  We all believe that we’re at various stages on our own hero’s journey and that everything will end with a storybook ending amidst a symphonic crescendo playing in the background. We die, roll credits.

Reality knows no script.  Reality kicks you in the teeth, waits for you to shake it off, then kicks you in the nuts when your head clears, then hands you a bouquet of roses.  No rhyme, no reason. That’s life! And to presume that there is some cosmic game plan in which you feature in a starring role is both delusional and dangerous. My son’s philosophy professor, Galen Strawson wrote Against Narrativity in 2004. To read it is to appreciate the danger our civilization faces living in this miasma.

2012 in America has been ruled by the gun.  We’ve seen 13 mass shootings this year alone. If we were “stunned” on February 21st at the shooting in Norcross, GA, where four people were killed, plus the shooter, we looked away. If we were “aghast” on February 27th at the shooting in Chardon, OH where three were killed and another two injured, we barely stirred. If we were “upset” on March 8th at the shooting in Pittsburgh, PA where one was killed, plus the shooter and seven were injured, we looked down. If we were “angry” on April 2 at the shooting in Oakland, CA where seven were killed and three injured, we mumbled. If we were “disappointed” on April 6th at the shooting in Tulsa, OK where three were killed and two were injured, we barely noticed. If we were “caught off-guard” on May 30th at the shooting in Seattle, WA, where five were killed, plus the shooter and one more was injured, we changed the channel.  If we were “outraged” on July 20th at the shooting in Aurora, CO, where twelve were killed and fifty-eight were injured, we clicked “Like” on Facebook to send a prayer. If we were “distressed” on August 5th at the shooting in Oak Creek, WI, where six were killed, plus the shooter and three more were injured, we asked “why?” If we were “troubled” on August 13th at the shooting in College Station, TX, where two were killed, plus the shooter and four more were injured, we shook our heads.  If we were “disgusted” on September 27th at the shooting in Minneapolis, MN, where six were killed, plus the shooter and three more were injured, we turned the page. If we were “concerned” on October 21st at the shooting in Brookfield, WI, where three were killed, plus the shooter and four more were injured, we barely blinked. If we even noticed on December 11th the shooting in Happy Valley, OR, where two were killed, plus the shooter and another was injured, we kept quiet. But, if we were not apoplectically pissed-off and sick to our stomachs on December 14th at the shooting in Newtown, CT, where twenty-seven were killed, plus the shooter and an unknown number were injured, we deserve nothing better.

Ours is a society of instant gratification married to an inexplicable faith that when times get tough we can just throw our hands up in the air and assure ourselves that our future is in God’s hands. God will protect me.  This pursuit of gratification and surrendering to faith leads to a society that abdicates personal responsibility and any uncomfortable consequences of our actions.

The gun enthusiast espouses that if everybody had a gun, we would all be safe. If every moviegoer in Aurora had brought their popcorn butter glazed Glock with them, the shooter would have paid the price for threatening “civilized” society. In fact, almost every expert agrees that if there were more guns at the scene it would have erupted into a muzzle flash blinding shooting gallery of bullets exploding everywhere and more injuries and deaths. By this same logic, why don’t we pass out nuclear weapons to every country? Don’t I feel safe now!

Texas has proposed that allowing teachers to carry concealed guns will reduce the number of school shootings. Wrong! Also in Texas (surprise), a gun dealer is offering discounts for teachers! Our knee-jerk reaction to gun horror is always the same.  After Aurora, gun sales went up in Colorado.  Gun sales in Connecticut are up now, too.  “Take on more water,” said the Captain.

Our ship will not right itself, the gash in her side will not heal itself and God will not materialize and melt the iceberg.  We are responsible for our own actions and a required participant in the construction of society. To pass off responsibility to God or to a 200 year old, purposely vague document and its second amendment is to sail with our hands off the ship’s wheel and our eyes closed while we accelerate through the dangerous iceberg-laden waters of life. Who wants to sign up for that cruise? I’m tired of watching rational people rearrange the deckchairs while the ship goes down.

Now is the time to act. Now is the time for lucid voices to be heard. Damn the testosterone addled, myopically stunted gun zealots and the impotent, self-serving government representatives. Raise your voice, drown out the din of gunfire and demand civilization be civilized. If not us, who? If not now, when?

And… Action!

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Shouldn’t there be a Test?

You want to mess with my kids?

You want to mess with my kids?

We have testing for everything in America.  I have to pass a driver’s test to drive my car.  I have constant training at work to enhance my capabilities.  I have to fill out an intrusive and frightening survey every eight weeks just to donate blood.  And don’t get me started on the full body scan and background check required at the pharmacy should a family member have the sniffles and need Sudafed.  However, for the most important job ever known to mankind, parenting, one needs only surrender to momentary lust without any consideration of the lifetime commitment later required. No tests, no screening, no training, no manual.

In fact, a good parent first recognizes their own mortality. They recognize that they have just stepped up a place in the generational queue, one step closer to the white light at the end of the tunnel.  In an instant, one goes from being the center of the world to the custodian of its future.  Parents should feel obliged to build a better world on two fronts.  First, as the provider and protector of the innocent, they should strive to change the world around them.  This mental paradigm shift allows for the revelation of worldly dangers previously not seen, the recognition of entrenched prejudices, and (should) force us to abandon the societal ennui of callousness and selective blindness which, in its most insidious sequence, allows us to neglect the labors of others in favor of our own egocentric path.  Second, through the nurturing, education and development of children, they set the foundation for the next generation who will be charged with taking the mantle of responsibility from us and perpetuating the process over again. So it is with the father who would literally take a bullet for their child, stand in front of a train to protect them and endure all manner of hardship and personal neglect in favor of their children’s prosperity, safety and future. So too it is with the proverbial “Mama Bear” who will, with teeth bared, take on all comers who dare threaten her young, and will, with her dying breath, repel any attempt to harm, malign or impede her children.

Unfortunately, while most of us consider these actions and reactions systemic, indeed, genetic, there are those who procreate without the ability to offer up themselves in favor of their children. Living in some weird Kierkegaard/Nietzsche/Rand bastardization of existential reason and egoism, these people come to regard their offspring as either serfs and vassals living in perpetual obligatory servitude to fulfill their whims and desires, or burdens and impediments to their quixotic (and righteously due them) fantasies; feeding, sheltering, educating and providing for their young no more than some nobles oblige from hell.  Nowhere in this prescription does there exist the a priori elevation of the child’s needs and safety over the parent.  In its extreme, this takes the form of abuse.

Although regarded as an innocent fairy tale, Hans Christian Andersen’s 1845 story The Little Match Girl, when viewed through the actions/inactions of her father (and the many passersby) is a story about child abuse cloaked in the wonder of a near-death experience and the promise of eternal warmth and salvation in the next world. The bottom line is that the bare footed little girl froze to death because she feared being beaten by her father if she did not sell all of the matches. Fairy tale, indeed.

According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, a division within the Department of Health and Human Services, in fiscal year 2010, an estimated 3,300,000 referrals were made involving approximately 5,900,000 children to state child protective service agencies. More than five children die from abuse every day and 80% of them are under four years of age.  A report of child abuse is made in the United States every ten seconds. Every ten seconds! Sick.

What is the answer? I don’t know.  The Chinese one-child policy has done little to reduce the increase in population and may have increased the number of forced abortions, has resulted in vast underreporting in certain areas and resulted (in its most heinous extreme) in female infanticide. All I know is that sometimes, it does take a village to raise a child, and while I don’t mean this in the political sense, it is true that once adopted by a sleuth of mama bears, any neglected child has the revitalized opportunity to survive, grow and succeed. Beware the wrath of a sleuth of mama bears! The earth and stars melt beneath their fury!

Sometimes, it takes a village.

Sometimes, it takes a village.

It’s a Girl!

In honor of Christmas, let’s play a holiday game.  Don’t worry, I won’t ask you to get up and go outside.  There will be no caroling.  In fact, this game is easier than Nintendo Wii.  You can just sit there.  This is a mental game.

As with all games, there are rules.  These are the assumptions of our game:

  1. God exists
  2. God is the god of Christian faiths.
  3. Jesus was the son of God

Now, here’s the wrinkle and basis of our game: Let’s pretend that the Virgin Mary gave birth to a girl instead of a boy.

It's a girl!

It’s a girl!

Aside from the jokes of the manger having been decorated or Joseph and Mary demanding that baby girl Jesus be taken inside to a Hilton rather than remain in the manger, what would have happened during this girl’s life and what would her legacy be 2,000 years later?

At first blush, this twist raises more questions than assurances.  For example, would a female Jesus have commanded the same respect that the male Jesus did?  Would the disciples have even followed a woman allowing that the same divine claims and actions took place? Would the Jews or the Romans have taken her protestations and actions seriously and seen her as a threat to the established paradigm? Would she have been crucified or would another punishment have been meted out, say stoning? And if so, what would everybody wear around their neck and pray to at church if not a tortured man nailed to a wooden cross and left to die? Would she have even been taken seriously or would she have been the first victim of a time and date removed Salem witch hunt?  Would the disciples have followed up her death with the establishment of the Christian faith?  Would it have spread throughout the world and been the basis for the Roman Catholic Church in Rome? Would Popes be women, would there have been female priests? Would her teachings of peace and deference prevented the Crusades? Would females have become the leaders of the world and males simply the brute tools to their vision? If so, would the world have seen the development of societies and civilizations as they have occurred or would some other world evolved? Might this have prevented all of the wars the world has seen? Might maternal guidance have eclipsed testosterone driven bravado and intransigence leading to cordial debate and discourse rather than gunfire and bombs?

Once you ponder the possibilities and changes the world may have known, then consider if Mohammad had been born a woman, that  Buddha was a woman (that all the deities revered in the world had been women) and that God was personified as a woman rather than a male. What might have happened?

Just something to think about.