Archive for August, 2003

The Thinker

Are our lives random chance or by design?

What’s it all about? Why are we here? Is what we call our life and our consciousness just an accident of nature?

The answers to these questions are likely unknowable in any scientific sense, but I am thinking about them more and more as my parents age. My mother in particular is having a tough time with heart disease right now. She has a hole in her heart that should be repaired. Open-heart surgery will require 4-6 weeks of recuperation, but the real problem is that pain medicine doesn’t work for her, so enduring all that agony for something that may not really extend her life makes doing nothing look like a viable alternative, even if the alternative is an earlier death. There is a chance that a more benign form of surgery might do the job. She will be evaluated for that within a few weeks. In any event she is 83 and the mortality statistics don’t favor her. She is the oldest surviving sibling in her family. Death is now a real possibility for her and I know it is very tough on her to face it. It is unnatural not to fear death, no matter how devout we call ourselves in the religion of our choice. I know she does.

I know I don’t want to think about my death either but here I am at mid life and I spend a lot more time than I would like obsessing over my eventual demise rather than enjoying the time I do have. Death is truly unavoidable so it makes all the sense in the world to suck the marrow of life out of each day given to us and to ignore our mortality. But most of us with IQs cannot do this. Our prefrontal cortex is too large. Some part of our consciousness is always seeing the clock ticking and fears the approach of death, which becomes less remote and more tangible as we age.

I would like to be like a devout Buddhist and always embrace the moment. When dealing with mortality, this is really the only philosophy that makes sense to me. I would like to embrace my mortality as some sort of gift, but so far I cannot find a way to feel that way.

I can understand that being immortal is probably not all it is cracked up to be. If nothing else a defined lifespan provides an appreciation for the temporal nature of everything we do and experience. I had such a moment last week at Yellowstone National Park when we stopped beside a pristine stream and put our naked, aching feet into the cool spring water. And yet as special as that was, on the hundredth, or thousandth repetition it would no longer be special, no matter how pure the stream nor how spectacular the scenery.

The argument that our life is accidental is a powerful one and one that I cannot dismiss. I want to believe I am here on this planet, in my body, on some sort of defined mission, but I don’t really have an inkling about what my mission is. The only thing I do know is that because my lifespan is limited I have an impetus to get up, move, and do the things I need or want to do. I can’t stay calm for long. Like a caged cheetah my life must continuously be in motion.

My aunt says that there is nothing to fear from death since it is painless. The only real pain associated with death is the fear that our consciousness is gone, i.e. we become extinct. If we knew for a fact that who we are would survive death, then death would be less a cause for acute anxiety and grief. But just as importantly it might change that which is within us that makes us change agents and forces us to evolve mentally.

The finiteness of life, therefore, is an evolutionary advantage to the species. In addition, if we are immortal creatures with souls, then it is a means by which we can evolve as spiritual creatures.

These are a lot of big ifs. If we truly have one life to live and there is no such thing as an afterlife then logically it makes sense to live a life of rampant selfishness. I have to wonder if this is what Hugh Hefner believes, because this is the lifestyle he chooses to lead. Most of the rest of us seem to get through life with the expectation that, even though many of us claim to be atheists, there just might well be something more after death for us.

I notice that my beliefs are changing with age. As a child growing up Catholic I had no reason to disbelieve what the Church and my parents taught me about sin, heaven and hell. As a rebellious teenager agnosticism offered a simple philosophical alternative: I sure didn’t know! Agnosticism wasn’t so much an answer as it was a shrugging of the shoulders and an admission that I viewed life as a scientist might: show me the proof! If you can’t show me the proof then I will dismiss your notions as fanciful at worst, and one possibility out of trillions at best.

In my thirties my outlook gradually changed, perhaps because I was aging, or perhaps because I was just doing a lot more reading. Books like “Life After Life” made me realize that the similarity in near death experiences was more than coincidental. At some point it became ridiculous to say, “Well, nearly everyone who undergoes oxygen starvation of the brain will see a bright tunnel and hear voices calling from the other side because it’s a genetically wired hallucination!” It failed the Occam’s Razor test. Now granted Occam’s Razor simply states that when given a number of solutions and none of them are provable, the simplest is the most likely to be correct. Occam’s Razor is in essence a philosophy saying you favor the simplest explanations when science fails. It could well be all our brains are hardwired that way. But this just doesn’t seem plausible to me since Occam’s Razor works so well in most circumstances. It’s a great general rule, but it is a general rule, not an absolute rule.

In my forties I lost a dear lady friend. As part of the grieving process I noticed a change in me. I knew she was dead and would not be coming back to life but I could not conceive of her personality vanishing altogether never to return. After a long time I started thinking about the laws of thermodynamics: we are told that matter and energy are essentially interchangeable and neither can ever really be destroyed, only changed. Was it really that implausible that the spirit of my friend still existed in some form somewhere? Was it ridiculous to assert that when I die my spirit will live on as a form of energy? Is death really nothing more than a transition of personality from one form of energy to another?

Water transforms into water vapor, which cannot be seen directly, yet is tangible enough. And what is a brain anyhow? It is not just brain matter, it is also the energy contained in the brain matter that is significant. A brain is a container, but for what? Who are we really? As a computer person, I already know the answer. We are really a complex form of software. That is not to say that we are programmed. The same input A will not always produce output B. But what is software? It is wholly virtual. It occupies no space and contains no matter. Yes, it resides somewhere, usually on magnetic medium. There is no difference in weight between a floppy disk that is unformatted and one with a program on it. And yet the latter is far more useful than the former. In both cases though to be useful this “software” must have a media on which to run. In reality software executes on a brain called a CPU, which through a nervous system we call a “bus” directs the feet, legs and hands of my computer, i.e. the display, the mouse, the keyboard, the modem, etc. Turn off the computer and the software is still there (in most cases) stored on magnetic media such as a hard disk. When electricity surges through the computer again the software becomes “alive” again too. In the medium of the human brain (our CPU) we become alive, at least to the extent that we can manipulate and control a human body. Our life might be the computer equivalent of telling the modem to send a message. Death might be nothing more than our CPU sending a different message to a different sort of entity.

Near death experiences suggest to me that it is more likely than not that our personalities survive death. I know this goes against conventional scientific reasoning and seems absurd, because the dead do not talk back to us. But perhaps the limitation is not the dead person’s, but the person who is still alive, who lacks the capacity to hear the departed on a new wavelength. (There are of course psychics who claim to have this ability. I haven’t had enough experience with them to have an opinion whether their abilities are genuine or snake oil.)

Our eyes can see only a tiny part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Through mechanical means we can detect other forms of energy and utilize them to our advantage. Our minds by themselves are likely not very pliable and don’t seem to be able to pick up other forms of intelligence that fall outside the spectrum of our mind. It may well be that those intelligences that cannot be discerned by scientific means are what we call “spirits”.

A caveman is unlikely to understand a newspaper. We may be much like the caveman. We may not yet have the right stuff to see or appreciate the complexity of our universe in all its myriad details. Most likely our understanding of the way things are is extremely rudimentary. We most likely have the same understanding of the universe as an ant has of a human being.

It strikes me that it is not unreasonable to be skeptical of our own skepticism. We make vast leaps of faith to assume that science, as we know it today can provide a solid foundation for truly extrapolating that which we cannot know. As we continue to learn more about our universe, our understanding of it will continue to grow. Meanwhile, I have only my gut to go on. I cannot conceive of my dear friend not existing in any form. Maybe I am wearing a mental security blanket, maybe I am delusional, or maybe I am freeing myself from overly rigid science. The scientific method has its place but it is not a theology, it is a means to understand the physical world. That is the extent of its domain. She is out there. I often feel her presence from time to time in subtle ways. She is immortal. And I believe in some sense I am immortal too.

 
The Thinker

What Threat to the Bush Administration are you?

Goodness, I am morally deficient!

morally deficient
Threat rating: Medium. Your total lack of decent
family values makes you dangerous, but we can
count on some right wing nutter blowing you up
if you become too high profile.

What threat to the Bush administration are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

 
The Thinker

What Level of Hell will you go to?

Well, here is my score. I am proud to note that I qualify for multiple levels of hell.

The Dante’s Inferno Test has banished you to the Second Level of Hell!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:

Level Score
Purgatory (Repenting Believers) Very Low
Level 1 – Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers) Moderate
Level 2 (Lustful) Very High
Level 3 (Gluttonous) High
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious) Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy) Low
Level 6 – The City of Dis (Heretics) Low
Level 7 (Violent) High
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers) High
Level 9 – Cocytus (Treacherous) Moderate

Take the Dante’s Divine Comedy Inferno Test

 
The Thinker

Back from Yellowstone!

We are back from an abbreviated vacation in Yellowstone. It will take me some days to chronicle our little vacation. I won’t do it here, but if interested in learning a lot about Yellowstone and our brief adventure in the park you can find the details here. Within a week the history should be complete so keep checking back!

Meanwhile, I have some new ideas that have been percolating inside my brain that I will post here shortly.

 
The Thinker

On Vacation

We’ll be in Yellowstone August 16-22. Needless to say I don’t plan to spend it near a computer. Have a great end of August everyone!

 
The Thinker

Star Trek: It’s Dead Jim. Let it Lie

I didn’t think it would happen to me. But I’m finally Trekked out.

Star Trek was so 20th Century anyhow. It’s a new millennium. Let’s evolve. Let’s acknowledge that Star Trek was one fairly cool TV show and surely a powerful meme for a lot of us. But its time is over. It’s time for Trekkies to get a different life and move on.

Admittedly I’ve been on the downward slope for a long time. I usually wasn’t allowed to watch the original TV show it, and caught most episodes on reruns. Much of it was, and still is, excruciatingly bad, but for its time it seemed brilliant. (Compared to “Land of the Giants”, “Time Tunnel”, “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” and “Lost in Space”, the competition, it was positively brilliant.) Now the sets look cheap. William Shatner is a horrible actor and painful to watch play James T. Kirk. Occasionally a really good director could make him convincing. Nicholas Meyer, who directed Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan managed to do it. But usually Shatner reverted to form. After a while it was increasingly painful to watch the wreckage.

Star Trek: The Next Generation was a vast improvement, but even it stumbled in its first year and suffered from some continuity problems. (It got better when Riker got a beard.) STTNG revived my interest in the show. As a liberal Democrat I was very much a Jean Luc Picard fan, and to this day I am astonished by the quality of Patrick Stewart’s acting. I know there are a lot of Captain Kirk bigots out there, but Jean Luc was the captain that Kirk was not. Kirk was hot tempered and emotional and survived on tricks. Jean Luc was compassionate and thoughtful and you felt the presence of his command.

The movies were off and on. The even ones tended to be good, the odd ones sucked. STTNG movies have suffered from a similar fate.

I knew I was in trouble when the Star Trek: Nemesis came out and I couldn’t be bothered to see it. My loss I guess. I’ve heard it was pretty good. But as happened to the original cast, STTNG cast is old now too. Even my heartthrob Marina Sirtis is suffering from a sagging face and breasts.

The one thing that might bring me back is a movie with the Borg in it. Star Trek: The Borg Encounter is in production right now and should be out this year. The Borg were absolutely the creepiest villains ever created. I loved all the shows and the movies with the Borg in it. Even Sauron (from “Lord of the Rings”) cannot seriously compete with the Borg for the dubious title of most awful enemy of all time. Klingons and Romulans don’t even raise my eyebrow anymore.

I didn’t like it when STTNG ended but it had seven years and it was about time. I was seeing the same plots over and over again. It went out well.

I tried to watch Star Trek: Deep Space Nine but couldn’t get into anything other than the Ferrengi. It was too shoot ‘em up for me, but the Ferrengi were hoots:Republicans and Libertarians of the 23rd century run amok! They were the perfect way to laugh at the Reaganism and neo-conservatism of the time.

I was disgusted with Star Trek: Voyager. I thought it was cool to have a female Captain but that was about it. Blasting them across the galaxy was just a gimmick. But it didn’t take long before it became more plot repetition. We’d seen these plots before. Actually we had seen them many times. The words were spoken by new characters, but nothing had really changed.

I watched a couple episodes of Enterprise but other than the Vulcan’s curves and one cute dog there was not much there to spur me to watch more. I got out of the habit. Going back in time didn’t seem to make it any more interesting.

Its time is up. Thank you to Gene Roddenberry and the rest of the crew for a nice ride. I enjoyed the couple of conventions I attended. It was nice to meet Majel Roddenberry one time, and lots of cool Trekkies. I’ve enjoyed some of the better fan fiction. When you were good you were really, really good. Sometimes you were really bad. You also had a lot of mediocrity. But it’s dead Jim. It’s time to put Star Trek into its historical package and evolve.

 
The Thinker

Another Victim of Parochial Schools

Hi my name is Mark and I am a victim of parochial schools. During my nine years in parochial schools I witnessed abusive behavior by the Catholic Church that seemed both weird and natural at the same time. Because I grew up in a devout Catholic family in upstate New York in the 1960s the sort of behavior I witnessed was not at all unusual. “Spare the rod and spoil the child” was a frequent parental mantra of the time. Getting or witnessing a spanking at home from my mother seemed entirely normal, if somehow weird. I knew of other children who got much worse, including getting whipped with leather belts and the occasional shiner.

So I was not surprised that the sisters at our parochial school practiced this philosophy. The values in school modeled the values at home. I understand that parochial schools today, at least in this country, have now become violence-free institutions of learning. I am relieved to hear this, if it is true. I can tell you that I witnessed behavior from sisters representing the Catholic Church in the 1960s and 1970s that today would be considered physical and emotional abuse of children, and would put people away in jail for years at a time.

Now granted elementary and middle schoolers are little volcanoes that are frequently erupting. Many of the boys in my class were in fact little savages constantly getting into trouble. To keep the tuition low I doubt the good sisters got much in the way of an education in child psychology. I’m not even sure they were ever accredited to teach. But anyhow who needs to read psychology books when you have the Bible and the Baltimore Catechism with the answer to all of life’s persistent questions? Those of us who grew up Catholic know that somewhere in that Catechism were the answers to every conceivable moral or ethical question. There is no moral ambiguity in the Catholic faith.

The sort of behavior I witnessed was primarily a lot of physical abuse. For example, an overactive boy (these were the days before ADHD was recognized) running too much on the playground would get real sweaty during recess. This would infuriate our sister who would have the boy come up to the front of the class, bend over her desk, and wack him very hard, repeatedly, in front of the other children, with two yardsticks doubled up together. The boy would usually howl and sometimes cry. Such punishments were reinforced with the moral lesson that such behavior was sinful and against the rules of the school, thereby humiliating the student and causing emotional abuse.

The reason I bring up this unpleasant topic is because I am reading the book “Adult Children of Abusive Parents: A Healing Program for Those Who Have Been Physically, Sexually or Emotionally Abused” by Steven Farmer. It is an eye opener for me, although it should not be. One of the points of the book is that if you feel you were abused then you were. There is no question in my mind that I was both the victim of physical and emotional abuse meted out by the sisters at our parochial school. I am a somewhat dysfunctional adult because of this toxic environment that I endured for nine long years.

The book talks about certain roles that those of us who suffered this abuse bring forward into adulthood. I see elements of many of these roles in myself. For example I often find myself in the caretaker role of trying to make things better for everyone, almost obsessively so. In addition I often find myself emotionally distant. When conflicts arise in my life (particularly if it involves strong emotions) I run away from them and hide. I prefer a safe room somewhere so I don’t have to deal with the associated feelings. These are very powerful roles that I cannot seem to break, and probably won’t be able to break without spending a lot of personal energy and going through a lot of therapy. But it seems to be something I will have to work on, or I will likely make the rest of my life a lot more miserable than it would otherwise be.

I am actually looking forward to seeing the new movie The Magdelene Sisters. It depicts the lives of some “fallen women” in Ireland sentenced by their families and the Catholic Church to forced labor in Catholic laundries. I am hoping it will provide some sort of catharsis to my own feelings about the abuse I experienced and witnessed.

While I am glad that child abuse appears to have vanished from our nation’s parochial schools (although apparently not from its rectories, as numerous news accounts of abusive priests make clear), I am also still angry. Maybe I am an anti-Catholic bigot. If I come across that way, well tough – deal with it. I have noticed that the pews of Unitarian Universalist Churches are full of traumatized ex-Catholics. I have spoken to many fellow victims and the stories are similar. A significant number of those I went to school with I have learned, anecdotally, are carrying the physical and emotional abuse into adulthood and wreaking havoc on a new generation of children.

We have freedom of religion in this country. It is probably a good thing, since the theocracy experiment hasn’t worked out well elsewhere in the world. But when I think of my experience with Catholicism, that I know is replicated in many other religions in this country, I often think certain religions should be banned. In my opinion Catholicism is one very toxic meme. I won’t debate today the theological arguments but it is obvious that it has caused generations of wholly unnecessary suffering for millions, if not billions of people. I do acknowledge that Catholicism can be a beautiful religion. I can still be touched by the feeling of sacredness I get when I am in the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception here in Washington, DC. The theater and drama of a high Mass can be quite a show. But in my opinion this religion is at its core rotten and evil.

But it is a meme that will keep going on. I am sure 2000 years from now, no matter how technologically advanced, we will still have a Pope. People will still be shuffling off to church to repeat the same words over and over again. It would be nice if, like a surgeon, I could remove the bad parts of the religion and leave its beauty intact. But that can’t happen. It is a hierarchical, top down directed religion that at its core tolerates no dissent and requires orthodoxy to many beliefs that are wholly unreasonable.

It is, in some ways, similar to an abusive parent. If you are a round peg of a person, you must become a square peg or you are not welcome. Junior must be whipped into shape with a belt by his Dad to stop his sassing. Similarly you, if you are gay, must not actually practice your homosexuality or you risk sin, the wrath and scorn of your clergy if it becomes known and possible banishment and excommunication. And if you are a divorced Catholic and your marriage was not annulled by the church, no matter how bad the physical, emotional and sexual abuse you encountered, don’t you dare take communion and don’t even think about getting remarried in the church.

Leaving the church is a very hard thing for most Catholics to do. Most are born into the faith and going to church is as much a part of their lives as is eating and breathing. It’s a fundamental part of who they are. Like the sexually abused child who later in life unconsciously seeks out co-dependent relationships, Catholicism warps the growing mind in dangerous ways. The institution is one large mortal sin, but too puffed up in its own pretentiousness to recognize it. And unfortunately we can expect a continued trail of human carnage from it and similar institutions for millennia to come.

 
The Thinker

Welcome to the new world of Polysexuality

Polysexuality. That’s what I’m calling it. I claim ownership to the word, even though someone else may have used it before me. I created it because I don’t know what else to call it. I call it loosely “whatever my daughter is going through” in defining her own sexual orientation. I’m still scratching my head over the whole thing. I’m sure she will figure it out in time but I don’t think she will ever fit into any neat category. But a clue as to what’s going on occurred today when we ventured all the way into Bethesda to see the film Camp.

“Camp” is a movie about a bunch of kids who are outcasts in their regular life who come to Camp Ovation during the summer for two months of theater work. It’s based on a real camp that apparently has been a gateway for many talented performers who subsequently developed successful acting and singing careers.

As a movie it has some nice moments but it suffers from rather poor directing and sloppy cinematography. Its total budget appears to be not that much higher than The Blair Witch Project: on a large screen it seems grainy, which makes me wonder if it was shot in 16mm film. The actors are all complete unknowns and it is pretty obvious because although many can sing real well the acting isn’t all that great, due perhaps to the poor directing. The young actors often seem like they are trying too hard to really act.

It was a very good film in the eyes of my daughter Rosie, who sees herself as outside of the mainstream in her school. Her life is full of similar people from her own school. She lives in this universe, so she thought it was a great film. If you are a teenager like her then you will probably strongly identify with the characters in the movie: so go see it.

The movie centers on the character Vlad, a really cute and buff guy, as best this heterosexual man can tell. At Camp Ovation though he is the odd man out because it seems he is the only straight guy in the whole camp. Naturally he bunks with a gay guy who clearly has the hots for him, but can’t do anything about it. This is the same gay guy who we see early in the film going to his Junior Prom dressed as a drag queen. Naturally that doesn’t go over well at his high school and he gets beat up.

This is just one of many complex polysexual relationships the film flits with. I felt really out of my element in this movie. I am still trying to understand why someone who is gay would dress up as a drag queen in the first place. I realize not all gay men do this but enough of them do it to make me feel very perplexed. If I were gay I think I would be into the manly aspects of masculinity and I’d be looking buff and dressing buff. I doubt I would be dressing like a drag queen and showing the world that I have a feminine side.

But of course lots of homosexual men can have feminine sides. They happen to be not just gay but they are also sensitive, and women get to exhibit a sensitive side in this culture, not men as a rule. So perhaps that explains why so many gay men are dressing up in women’s clothes. And if this were the end of it I wouldn’t be writing.

But there are other more complex relationships in the movie, not all of which are sexual. There is the girl who acts as a personal slave to another girl, and at some point gets cruelly spurned. Since Vlad is the hot guy there is another girl after his form, but Vlad seems to be having some ambiguous feelings with the gay guy Mike that culminates near the end of the movie when it appears they might go skinny-dipping. It’s good to see a deep and meaningful relation between a gay guy and a straight guy depicted in the movie. I’m not sure how many of those happen in real life, but my guess is not very often. But of course Vlad is heterosexual so that doesn’t go anywhere, although it appears it might. And the gay guy Mike ends up bedding another woman in the camp because, we learn later, he thinks it might be a way to make him feel closer to Vlad.

And there are other characters: a washed up song and musical writer who spends most of the movie drunk, a black older brother/younger brother duo that seems strange but just is (I thought “Young Michael Jackson” when the young boy does his dance number), a fat girl with body image problems, and a timid black girl who has to find her voice and her courage to bring forth her talent. As I say it is full of interesting characters and certainly gave me a lot to think about, even if the acting was inconsistent and sloppy at times. Some of the musical numbers were quite well done.

My daughter is charting her own path. As I mentioned in a previous entry I don’t care too much how she pops out. If she is heterosexual, bisexual or lesbian I will still love her regardless. And there is nothing I can do about it anyhow. Each person has to decide for themselves their sexual orientation. It’s hard for me to believe that she will end up a lesbian. She would be the funkiest lesbian I will ever meet because she certainly doesn’t seem to hold any of the stereotypes. But more and more I don’t think any of those words are useful anymore to describe her or people like her. Even transgender seems inappropriate. She doesn’t seem like a man trapped in a woman’s body. She is more than anything else right now just a kid charting her own path and trying to make sense out of sexuality. But I suspect when she figures out what or who she is it will be none of the above. The word doesn’t exist yet, which is why I coined the term “polysexual”. Perhaps like some of the characters in “Camp” she is male, female, transgender, heterosexual, bisexual and lesbian all at once and all at the same time.

An empath is someone who can experience the same feelings as those they come in contact with. Perhaps a polysexual is something of a sexual empath. They don’t have to necessarily have sex but they intuitively understand on a gut level all aspects of human sexuality and can move easily from one universe to the other.

It’s way to early to say for sure, but I might have a polysexual for an offspring. And if “Camp” is any guide, she is by no means alone.

 
The Thinker

Dean is Oxygen for the Democratic Party

I think it was 1980 or so when then Gov. Ronald Reagan was just starting his run for the presidency. He was in a candidate’s forum in New Hampshire and was getting dissed by the host who said “Turn Mr. Reagan’s microphone off.” To which a very upset Ronald Reagan lashed out “I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Green!” The crowd went wild with approval. Here was a Republican who could only take civility so far before his true nature came out. And it connected with the voters. It may have been the defining moment of his whole campaign. It cast him in the eyes of Americans as not quite the man they thought they knew. They liked the genuine article.

Actually I was a bit enamored with George Bush (Sr.) at the time. I didn’t vote for Reagan in 1980. But I did admire Reagan’s spunk. Arguably because of it the Republican Party caught fire too and the rise of the neoconservatives began. Like them or hate them, they shook up their fathers’ dour little party, usually out of the majority, took the presidency, captured the Senate in 1984 and in 2002 hit the trifecta: all three branches of government fell under their sway. All, perhaps, sparked by one dissed and somewhat pissed Ronald Reagan whose spirit came through at a defining moment and connected with the average voter who, until then, saw him as just another governor.

The Democratic Party is a lot like the Republican Party in 1980. Joe Lieberman reflects the careful centrist, trying to ride in the wake of Bill Clinton and Al Gore’s successes and hoping that there is something there in the center that can win the Democrats the next presidential election. And as my blog readers know, I think the 2004 presidential election is eminently winnable for the Democratic Party, barring some major changes to the economy and in the war on terrorism that are highly dubious.

To use a metaphor, the Democratic Party is burning the embers and is nearly out. There is nothing the neoconservatives would like more than to kill us altogether. What we Democrats need though is something to spark the embers and feed a little, no a LOT of oxygen into the fire. We need our Ronald Reagan.

And I think we have him in Howard Dean. The DLC and the DNC don’t like to admit it, of course, but Howard Dean scares the hell out of them. He is shaking the Democratic Party from the bottom up. The DNC will, of course, claim to be neutral about who wins the presidential nomination. But of course they aren’t. They want someone who is familiar and who plays well against all the key demographic brackets. Perhaps Kerry will do, although he is very Northeastern. They’d be happy with Lieberman or Edwards.

But these candidates have neither much soul nor passion. They’re just kind of like milquetoast: dry and uninteresting, but really packaged like most Democrats we’ve seen lately. They are not the fancy new labels on the shelf; they are more of the same Geritol. Lieberman is clearly a good debater and could twist Bush around a flagpole in a debate, but Gore did the same thing and it didn’t seem to matter on Election Day.

Howard Dean has soul AND passion. It’s not that his followers are all that passionate about his policies. The liberals running after him at the moment have only a vague notion that the guy has much more in common with Lieberman than he does with the late Paul Wellstone. Dean is basically a centrist. This will become clearer as people understand him. Right now they just see a man not afraid to speak his mind clearly and forcefully and to let the chips fall where they may when he believes he is right, like on the foolishness of our war with Iraq or on balanced budgets. Democrats and, I think in time, the general public will connect to a man with spirit. Bush doesn’t have any.

Go Howard go! Stir us up! Get us to your meet ups. Keep doing unconventional ads like your latest spunky ad against Bush right in the heart of Texas. Tell it like it is! We need to hear not just the truth; we need to feel your passion. We need to be stirred up. We need to put aside politics as usual and find our spirit and our courage that has been nearly whipped out of us by the relentless Republican and neoconservative onslaught. We need to believe we can and will not just win the presidency, but take back the nation and the country in 2004.

That won’t happen if Lieberman or Kerry wins the nomination. They might well win the White House but they won’t change the congress. That will take a lot more. That will take an infectious spirit and leadership that in the current pack only Howard Dean possesses. He is the Democrat’s response to the Ronald Reagan phenomenon. He is oxygen for the Democratic Party. Let’s welcome him for crying out loud and give him wide berth. And let’s keep our fingers crossed that Dean has the savvy to be different but not obnoxious. It’s a fine line but one he has to stay on.

What can you do? Contribute to his campaign! Please! Yes, Republican fat cats can write big checks but Dean is proving he can raise in volume and small contributions what Republicans do in relatively small volume and large sums. Send him $25, $50 or $100. I’ve contributed $100 so far and will continue to do so unless he screws up in a major way. Dean is the real cowboy of this race. Bush has always been a cowboy pretender. If you want spirit and passion in your president, look no further than Howard Dean.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
The Thinker

Why current marriage laws are immoral

The gods must be highly amused.

News items: At a press conference yesterday President Bush said in one breath “I am mindful that we’re all sinners, and I caution those who may try to take the speck out of the neighbor’s eye when they got a log in their own”. Then in the next breath he said, “I believe in the sanctity of marriage. I believe a marriage is between a man and a woman, and I think we ought to codify that one way or the other.” He and his aides are working hard to figure out a way to figure out a way to make sure those pesky, immoral homosexuals stay deep in the closet by outlawing gay marriages permanently through a constitutional amendment.

Not to be outdone, the Catholic Church, an institution rife with homosexual priests, significant numbers of whom are apparently also pedophiles, and whose leadership has spent the last 2000 years detached from anything resembling reality, had the gall to state on the very same day: “Homosexual relationships are immoral and deviant, and only traditional marriages can fulfill God’s plan for the reproduction of the human race.” As if, of course, the point of marriage is to make babies only. If that were the case my wife and I, who are both sterilized, should now be divorced. Clearly our marriage is now a moot point in the eyes of the Catholic Church, not that we were married there. (God forbid!)

Metaphorically I’d like to do the Monty Python fish slapping dance on both the President and the Pope. What can I say? When it comes to government or religion, apparently you have to abandon all common sense or you can’t get in the game.

Let’s examine our constitution which promises equal rights and justice for all. Just in case we didn’t get it from first reading, we subsequently ratified the 14th amendment to the constitution in 1868 known as the “equal protection” amendment which states: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

In short the intent of our constitution is to treat all citizens equally. It obviously hasn’t always worked out that way, but that was the intent. Gradually though, as was clear from the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on state sodomy laws, states trying to discriminate against one class of people are finding they have no constitutional grounds to do so. And this just freaks our politicians out. That’s apparently their mission in life: to provide favors to one class of people at the expense of another class.

I’m trying real hard to understand what is so immoral about homosexuality. In particular I am trying to figure out why the government should care. I can understand why a backward, xenophobic religion like the Catholic Church would be up in arms against gay marriage. This is an institution which sees refusing to evolve as a virtue. No matter how wacky its thinking was 2,000 years ago, it needs to be faithful to it, is what passes for reasoning in this institution. But the government? Why wouldn’t it want to encourage gay marriages or gay unions?

What are the consequences if we have no civil unions or marriages for gays? One might be the myopic belief that by scorning gays for their sexual orientation they will see the light, the good fairy will come down, fill them with some sort of grace, and they will magically convert into happy, healthy heterosexuals. Soon they are living in the burbs like Ward and June Cleaver and raising little Wallies and Beaves. Fortunately, not one in a hundred homophobes believe this crap anymore.

So law by itself apparently can’t make homosexuals become heterosexuals. So homosexuals are going to keep being homosexuals even though it ticks off the anally repressed majority. We “moral” people can pray that all homosexuals will lead lives of celibacy and quiet contemplation instead of acting on their completely natural urges. This is one way for them not to be immoral and thus give us no offense. One could look at the Catholic priesthood as a positive example but apparently all that repression just makes the longing worse and encourages the sorts of deviations we seem to fear the most. Eventually human nature wins out and people couple with the gender or genders that turn them on.

By not allowing gay marriages and civil unions society in effect encourages homosexuals to sleep around. From a public health standpoint that encourages the spread of disease. One would think it would be intuitive that government would want to encourage people to have long term, monogamous and healthy relationships instead of lots of short term, sexual relationships. So I would think gay marriages or gay unions would be seen as a logical and moral response by society to encourage everyone to live in peace and respect the rule of law.

If we are hung up on the word “marriage” let’s purge it from the law. Traditionally marriage has been a religious ritual, not a governmental function. In a way by the government sanctioning marriage, it is violating the separation of church and state. In medieval times you didn’t need the government’s permission to get married, just your local cleric’s permission. Let’s have civil unions if people want the legal protections of marriage. Let religions sanctify these relationships in marriage ceremonies for those with religious inclinations.

Clearly I will never be a politician because this is plain common sense.

 

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