Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The "perks" of being a christian

Most, if not all states in this country (that being the US of A) have long offered what are referred to as "vanity" auto license plates on which purchasers can request the plate's "number" be a particular word,short phrase or some other combination of letters and numbers significant of something or other as long as the message is not obscene or considered to be otherwise offensive. These messages are usually limited to no more than 7 digits or letters. Now, many states offer "specialty" plates that promote a wide variety of things such as state colleges & universities, cancer research, sports teams, arts organizations, the environment and so on. Normally, a portion of the collected fee goes toward the benefit of the respective organization, cause, etc.

Recently, here in good old Indiana Woody Burton, a state legislator led a successful effort to make available a plate with the legend "In God We Trust" stamped upon it. They were made available a few months ago and have proven to be wildly popular here in the bible belt. While I find them somewhat offensive, I thought - What the hell? Who gives a crap. It wasn't a battle worth fighting. I knew that to actively oppose the plate would lead to the inevitable charge that, if I am so offended by the phrase, I should stop carrying and using US currency upon which the odious phrase has long been emblazoned. (Actually, I don't use cash much any longer owing to the ability to use debit cards pretty much everywhere.) But, at any rate, I thought - Let it be.

However, an enterprising fellow in Allen County, Indiana, one Mark Studler persuaded the ICLU (Indiana's version of the national ACLU) to file suit on his behalf against the state as regards these very plates. The legal issue at hand is not the plate per se, but the fact that they have been made available to anyone wanting them at no additional charge while all other specialty plates sold in Indiana have an additional $15 administrative fee tacked onto them. It is this fellow's and the ICLU's contention that either all specialty plates be charged the fee, or none of them should be so charged. I must agree.

What would come as a surprise to no one, the Indiana State Legislature is largely made up of devout, protestant christians who were either enthusiastic promoters of the plate, or if they had any misgivings, did not dare voice them so as not to offend the tender sensibilities of their properly righteous fellow lawmakers or their like minded constituents.

While given the bigger picture, this is pretty small potatoes, lest we forget Fascism started out as relatively small spuds as well. If we don't fight them in the trenches, we've got no chance when they lock down the Federal government and force all of us to have "In God We Trust" tatooed onto our foreheads.


Friday, April 20, 2007

I have always been a stiff.

I've never been comfortable in my own body. I am plagued with tight joints. I don't bend quite like most people. When I was a kid, sitting on the floor was a challenge. It still is, but now, thankfully, I rarely find the need to do so. What with my arthritic knees, if getting down there is difficult, getting back up is an utter bitch. Yoga practitioners sitting in full lotus is not something I can relate to.

A bit of personal history, if you please.

In grade school all of us little rug rats are occasionally summoned to the gym-slash-auditorium for one kind of program or other. We plop ourselves down on the hardwood gym floor in tight little rows. Most of the kids arrange themselves comfortably, usually with legs crossed, backs straight, knees touching or nearly touching the floor, often not significantly altering their position during the entire festivity.

Meanwhile, I'm sitting with my knees pointed in the air at about a forty-five degree angle, my hands splayed on the floor behind my butt, elbows locked to keep from rolling over backwards winding up with my head in some kid's lap, or alternately wrapping my arms around my knees, hands clenched together in an effort to forestall the same horrific result. I continually alter my position back and forth, then ultimately into the limited number of other configurations possible in my little space as my sitz bones painfully dig into the wood floor, my arms and hands aching or going to sleep. Occasionally my buns itch. How do I deal with that? There is no one position I can stay in for more than a few minutes. The longer the program drags on, the more pained and uncomfortable I get. The break in the day to day routine for these assemblies is always welcome, but the discomfort I almost invariably experience soon has me longing for the relative comfort of my desk and chair back in the classroom.

The vision of people bending their joints to ludricrous extremes in all directions makes me physically ill. I simply can't fathom how such contortions are even remotely possible. My condition is apparently hereditary. My older brother has never been able to bend over straight legged and touch his toes. Now, in his mid-sixties, just putting on his socks is a major struggle. A lady friend of his finds watching him in this effort hilariously entertaining. As for me, my left sock remains doable, but my right one is getting to be a bit of a chore.

Of course, my joint problem was perhaps the first and just one of many personal idiosyncracies which lent themselves to fostering my social nerddom. I've never been quite able to enter the sphere of "cool." I wasn't really fat as a kid, nor was I ever accused of being svelt. I was just kind of amorphous. I was always a little slow in phys ed. I liked playing sports, but was never adept at them. I wasn't awful, I just wasn't very good. I was usually one of the first 3 or 4 kids who got creamed in dodgeball. I couldn't hit a pitch or catch a fly as well as most. I couldn't dribble a basketball with any particular agility, nor shoot, nor pull down a rebound on par with the rest. And football? Forget it. Too small, too slow, too ham handed, too chicken.

I was, for the most part a sub-standard and unattentive student. I spent a great deal of class time staring out the window with little awareness of what was going on within. I wriggled in my seat a lot, again uncomfortable in my body. I don't think I was dyslexic or anything. I just didn't find the 3 Rs as interesting as, well, almost everything else.

I have, however developed into a pretty adept eater as my girth will attend. I would never respond like characters on the tube or in flicks who always refuse food and drink when offered:

"Come in officer. Would you like some Ovaltine, or perhaps a ham sandwich?"

"No, none for me, thanks. There's no time. We need to discuss that box of hand grenades you have there by the window, Mrs. Gribble. There have been complaints."

"Oh, well then, how about a nice cup of Jello instant pudding?"

I suppose I'd be nervous about the grenades, but it's rare that I'd turn down a good ham sandwich, on rye, with mustard and mayo. And I've always been a sucker for pudding, especially chocolate, and Ovaltine too. I can deal with those pesky grenades in good time.

But, of course, eating is out of vogue - especially the kinds of comfort food I grew up with. Gosh help me, I like fat. Fat is what gives food flavor. I used to eat whipped cream on white bread, for crap sakes. I love sugar. I hate diet soda. I am, as always, out of sync with the world.

Ah, me. "Say, would you mind passing the salt?"


Monday, April 16, 2007

Bang! You're Dead.

It's really quite simple, isn't it? Aim. Squeeze. Pop! Someone's dead. How great is that? You walk into a room. You're the only one with a gun. You can call all the shots. Literally. You become the 900 pound gorilla. You can do whatever the hell you want. You can make everyone else do whatever you want them to do. You can kill them. Some of them. All of them. Pop! Pop! Pop!

You dream about having that power, even if only for a short time. It needn't take long. Just thinking about it is intoxicating. It makes you hard. Hard as blue steel. You could penetrate a post. And it's so bloody simple. Pop! You revel in anticipation. You see the incredulity, then terror, panic. The mad scramble for safety. You love it. Total control. This one lives. That one dies. Pop! You get goose bumps. They're all grovelling assholes. You are the King. You needn't say a word. The gun says it all. Pop!

You'll probably die from the muzzle of another gun, but that's okay. That's the glory, isn't it? That's the moment of reckoning. Add up the score.

Monday it was 32 to 1. You could even say 33 to zip since he offed himself. How sweet, no? "Made it, ma. Top of the world." Pop!


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Things do change

My blog world has gotten smaller. A couple of the sites I used to visit with some regularity have closed up shop recently. Some others have gone off on their own tangents that no longer strike a nerve with me. Over the past several months I have read and commented on posts at other sites with little or no acknowledgement. Consequently, I don't visit other blogs very often now.

I guess the biggest disappointment for me is that I have never really been able to conjure up any consistent discussion or debate here. No doubt the fault lies with me. I tend to meander around with a variety of topics on which I choose to post. While the central purpose of this site was, and remains atheism and problems I have with religion, I often go well beyond that core of commentary. I assume that has the effect of dissipating my audience which even at best has always been sparse. In other words, my work just doesn't strike a nerve or otherwise resonate with many readers. I'm apparently off in my own little world.

I have contributed a number of articles to Blog Critics Magazine over the last few months. Most were posts I'd first published here and, usually with some alterations transposed them to BC. A particular article I published there garnered nearly 400 comments. However, as I believe I noted here earlier, only a relatively small percentage of them were even remotely related to the subject at hand. I publish at a couple of other sites as well.

In the foreseeable future, I will likely not post here so often. Even after more than a year, my efforts here have been largely for naught. I don't know what I expected - delusions of grandeur, no doubt. As I sat down to begin this post, I really had no idea what I was going to write. I suppose it shows. What would you call it - blogger's block? I went through this same kind of thing a few months ago and even stated that I was going to close up shop myself. I won't say that again, but now, if spring ever actually decides to settle in, I expect to have a great deal more to do than sit here tapping out what usually amounts to meaningless nonsense. I suppose, though that I will plop down in my rather creaky chair from time to time if the spirit moves me and plunk something out (god willing, of course.) But in the mean time, my herb garden awaits!


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Hash and Rehash

Some additional thoughts regarding constitutional amendments against same sex unions.

Gays are not, for the most part exceptional people. They are, by pretty much any measure, similar to most people excepting one aspect: Their sexual orientation. Otherwise, lesbians and gays go to school, work at jobs, own property, are active in their communities, are church members, vote, pay their bills, AND pay taxes. Just like most everybody else. Yet they are faced with the prospect of being singled out and their rights curtailed by the same government to which they pay those taxes, a government which should be affording them as citizens the same rights and protections to which other citizens are entitled.

Our system is based on the premise of majority rule, you may say. That is true. But that stops short of the rest of that thought which states, "but protecting the rights of the minority." In this case the minority is being wholly ignored. Their lives are being in effect disenfranchised simply because one group of people disapproves of the lifestyle of another.

Enacting such laws, making them a part of various state or the federal constitution is a step back into far less enlightened times. It conjures memories of "Jim Crow," and "separate but equal," even prohibition. All such former laws and/or amendments proved to be prejudicial, promulgating racism or, as in the case of prohibition, unenforcable. All required untold time, effort, money and other resources to repeal. All such waste could have been avoided had people simply been honest, fair, and used even a modicum of common sense.

The assumption that same sex unions are immoral or "an abomination" is based solely on biblical scripture. It never occurs to true believers that the bible could, in fact be wrong, or that people who don't adhere to scripture as others do should not be forced to do so by law. In any case, it should not, in this day and age, or any day and age for that matter, be the business of government to bully its way into our relationships or our bedrooms. I've been reminded that government has done so in the past, that there is precident. That doesn't make it right, though does it? Up until fairly recently many states still carried laws on their books outlawing inter-racial marriage. As far as I know, most of those laws are either history, or if still in print, are no longer enforced (at least I would hope not.)

On another note:

Iraq. We are faced with an untenable situation there. Bush still believes that we can, and that we are, winning in Iraq. I often wonder if he is actually following the same war that the rest of us are. The Dems are pushing to either force the adoption of a withdrawal date, or to cut military funding for Iraq altogether. Reps claim that to cut off funds would leave our troops high and dry, which is nonsense. A recent Doonesbury strip made note that cutting off funding would not have the effect of leaving American soldiers stranded in Iraq fending for themselves. It would simply mean that their mission would necessarily end, and they would be brought home and out of harm's way. The Reps would have you believe otherwise.

The majority of Americans want our troops brought home. Only a relative few die hards believe there is anything yet to be gained by our continued military presence in Iraq. There is a conundrum, though. It is likely true that, if our military suddenly just pulled up their pants and came home, utter chaos would likely ensue. Of course it can be said that that is what's going on now. I imagine it could get a lot worse.

We also have Bush and his posse telling the Iraqis that they must begin to step in and take the reigns; that they must start taking responsibility for their own welfare. But remember, we were the provocateurs. We were the proverbial bull in the china shop.

Let's say the older brother goes into his younger brother's room and proceeds to make a huge mess, pulling out toys all over the floor, knocking over furniture, spilling drinks and food on the carpet, and then as he walks out turns and tells his younger sibling that he'd better get all the mess cleaned up, that it's his room,and therefore, his responsibility.

All of this and more simply screams at the idiocy of our ever having entered Iraq in the first place. It is the Iraq invasion and war which I believe should get GW impeached. Of course I know it will never happen. The votes just aren't there. That didn't stop the Reps from impeaching Clinton, though did it ?

While I certainly don't condone Clinton's Oval Office shenanigans, I still don't believe that his actions met the criteria for impeachment. But, no matter. Here again, we spent how many millions of dollars, how much time, man hours, effort and resources in the failed effort to force Willy out of the White House? Had a political leader been caught in a similar situation in most European countries, it would have been an embarrassment, there would have been a lot of snickering, the tabloids would have had a field day for a time, but it would likely have been quickly forgotten. Not here. We simply won't let go of our puritanical roots. We must punish such transgressions to the hilt, hold guilty feet to the fire.

Bush, on the other hand, got us into a pre-emptive war for crap sake! He is ultimately responsible for the deaths of over 3000 American men and women and untold Iraqis among others, and all under false pretenses. If that doesn't meet a standard for impeachment, I don't know what does. Misleading the public and being totally inept should be cause for removal from office, shouldn't it?