Friday, December 19, 2008

Life is What Happens...

It's only been since my daughter Alex was born that I really began realizing that I needed to pay more attention to the passage of life.

I embarrassingly admit that during my 20's I was a self absorbed idiot. I had children in my 20's. Self absorption and parenting do not mesh well.
In my early 30's I was fighting my way out of a bad marriage. With shame I admit that there are spaces of time during the period of my divorce where I have no recall at all of what my children were doing.

When Eric and I decided to have Alex, I had already experienced for a few years, a happy and solid relationship and stability for the first time in my life. I seemed to "grow up" immensely in a very short time.

When Alex came along, I had matured enough and gained just enough wisdom to realize that this was my last shot. I was getting a beautiful opportunity to finally pay attention.

I've stayed home with Alex for four years now and although it is a difficult thing at times to be a constant companion to a toddler, it is also the most wonderful thing in the world. I relish the moments with her, realizing that each moment that passes is a moment I won't get back. I cherish this opportunity to be present and aware as a parent.
Sometimes I look at my three older children and wonder who they are. Of course, I know they're my children, but I feel that I missed out on so much of their lives. It's horrible, I know.

So fact the majority of my life that was spent raising my older children was also spent in a raging war of a relationship. I was constantly upset, there was always fighting and I spent so much precious time trying everything in my power to make someone love me who wasn't capable of love. I spent thousands of hours trying to keep a marriage from falling apart that
should have never been together in the first place. And in the meantime, my children grew.

Now I look at them and wonder. I wonder at how they survived me.

My fifteen year old son gave flowers to a girl for the first time today. He spent his own money and carried them to school in a vase for her. I drove him to the store and waited in the car while he went in to buy them. Sitting in the car, I had a lump in my throat.

This boy also bought a big Hershey's Kiss and put it in a gift bag and then filled the rest of the bag with caramel Hershey's Kisses because his girl had said that caramel Kisses were her favorite.

My son listened to his girlfriend and then bought her a gift he knew she'd like. Then he went the extra mile and threw in some roses.

How did this dopey little boy that used to wear bowls on his head, turn into this young man who listens to girls and makes grand gestures?

I am a schmo for not having paid more attention to how he arrived here.

My attempt at redemption is to try with all my heart to pay attention now. I'm not a great emotional communicator and it has always been difficult for me to be overtly gushy. But I'm trying really hard to be much better about showing them I love them and about spending more time paying attention to the daily stuff their lives are made of.

My kids and I talk and we laugh. I think Ben thinks I'm a little goofy and Abby finds me downright embarrassing. Charli knows I love her but we still seem to struggle a little. She unfortunately had the longest exposure to the toxic waste that was my marriage to her father. I suffer much guilt when I see her struggle emotionally over things.

Alex...well...Alex is the product of a terribly happy healthy relationship. She tells me she loves me a hundred times a day. She reads my emotions and knows how to respond. She remembers everything I tell her and we tell and re-tell the story of her birthday to each other all of the time. She tells me happily that "daddy cried because he was SOOOOO happy!"

I vow to myself and to all of my children that the rest of my life as their mother will be spent paying attention. The people I love the most are the music of my life. Everything else is just background noise.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Making the Case for "Happy Holidays"

Because you will dismiss me immediately if I simply offer up that the best reason for keeping “Christ” out of Christmas is because the story of Christ is a fabricated tale related to the world in an over-translated book which contains so many contradictions and conflicting stories that it has yet to be completely deciphered or made sense of by any human being to the point of being agreed upon by anyone, let’s take that off the table and get down to the empirical evidence.

If Christ actually existed, his actual date of birth is not known. According to the description in the Bible (and one would think that the birth date of the Savior of the World might be an important one) most historians believe that his birth probably occurred in September, approximately six months after Passover. Almost all historians agree on is that it is very unlikely that Jesus was born in December, since the Bible states that the shepherds tended their sheep in the fields on that night. This is quite unlikely to have happened during a cold Judean winter. So, then…why is “Christ”mas on December 25th?

The answer is pagan in origin. (Whoopee!) In ancient Babylon, the feast of the Son of Isis (Goddess of Nature) was celebrated on December 25th. Rowdy partying, gluttonous eating and drinking and the exchanging of gifts were traditions of this feast. (Sound familiar?)

In Rome, the Winter Solstice was celebrated years before the supposed birth of Christ. The Romans called their winter holiday Saturnalia, honoring Saturn, the God of Agriculture. In January, they observed the Kalends of January, which represented the triumph of life over death. This whole season was called Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun. The festival season included much merrymaking. It is in ancient Rome that the tradition of the Mummers was born. The Mummers were groups of costumed singers and dancers who traveled from neighbor’s house to neighbor’s house singing and entertaining their neighbors. From this, the Christmas tradition of caroling was born. (Hmmm….yet many church groups get together and do this today. Infidels! Heretics!)

In northern Europe, several other traditions that are now considered part of Christian worship began long before the participants had ever heard of Christ. The pagans of northern Europe celebrated their own Winter Solstice, known as Yule. Yule was symbolic of the pagan Sun God, Mithras, being born and was observed on the shortest day of the year. As the Sun God grew and matured, the days became longer and warmer. It was customary to light a candle to encourage Mithras, and the sun, to reappear next year. (Somehow Christians turned Yule into a log covered in chocolate frosting. Weird.)

Huge Yule logs were burned in honor of the sun. The word Yule itself means “wheel,” the wheel being a pagan symbol for the sun. The Mistletoe was considered a sacred plant and the custom of kissing under the mistletoe began as a fertility ritual. Hollyberries were thought to be a food of the gods. (Mistletoe and holly…any of this ringing any silver bells in your head?)

The tree is the one symbol that unites almost all the northern European winter solstices. Live evergreen trees were often brought into homes during the harsh winters as a reminder to inhabitants that soon their crops would grow again. Evergreen boughs were sometimes carried as totems of good luck and were often present at weddings, representing fertility. The Druids used the tree as a religious symbol, holding their sacred ceremonies while surrounding and worshipping huge trees.

In 350, Pope Julius I declared that Christ’s birth would be celebrated on December 25th. There is little doubt that he was trying to make it as painless as possible for pagan Romans (who remained a majority at that time) to convert to Christianity. The new religion went down a bit easier, knowing that their feasts would not be taken away from them.

Christmas (Christ-Mass) as we know it today, most historians agree, began in Germany, though Catholics and Lutherans still disagree about which church celebrated it first. The earliest record of an evergreen being decorated in a Christian celebration was in 1521 in the Alsace region of Germany. A prominent Lutheran minister of the day cried blasphemy: “Better that they should look to the true tree of life, Christ.” So, one of the very core symbols of the Christianized (yes…I just made that a word) version of Christmas was originally thought of as being blasphemous.

I checked out a few Christian websites to find out what they tout as being the origins of this holiday. Most acknowledged in some part its pagan origins, but glossed over that unimportant part of history and stated things like this: “For today's Christian, the origin of Christmas is, and should be, the birth of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Bible. Nothing more and nothing less.”
Ah. “Today’s Christian”. So let’s wipe out history and start over to accommodate today’s Christians. Sounds right.

The author of one Christian website actually had the nerve to write this: “The Christmas holiday we celebrate today is indicative of Christianity's willingness to absorb the world's customs and traditions, and forget its simple roots in the historical reality of Jesus Christ. Christmas should be nothing more than a simple, yet wonderful reminder of Christ's humble beginning as a human child in this world.”

Oh. So, you wonderful souls are so flexible and accommodating that you willingly absorbed the world’s existing traditions, twisted them into your own fairytale, called them your own and then insisted that it is your holiday and that those who dare try take the “Christ” out of Christmas seek to destroy the spiritual foundation of Christianity.

Christian, please.

This wasn’t your holiday to begin with. You shamelessly stole it and now you try to hold the very people you stole it from (“pagans”), hostage by claiming we are trying to take from you something that was never yours in the first place.

Get off our backs and let us eat, drink and be merry and celebrate this holiday however we see fit. Mine is going to be celebrated with a few presents, some killer homemade Mexican food and some frozen margaritas. I may even walk around with some mistletoe sticking out of my bra. Who knows? We’ll see how the day goes.

One thing you can be sure of though. If I see you, I’ll certainly be wishing you the very happiest of holidays.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Creed of Robert G. Ingersoll (1833-1899)

I am not alone. I haven't been for quite some time. This makes me happy.

"To love justice, to long for the right, to love mercy, to pity the suffering, to assist the weak,

to forget wrongs and remember benefits -- to love the truth, to be sincere, to utter honest words, to love liberty, to wage relentless war against slavery in all its forms, to love wife and child and friend, to make a happy home, to love the beautiful in art, in nature,

to cultivate the mind, to be familiar with the mighty thoughts that genius has expressed,

the noble deeds of all the world, to cultivate courage and cheerfulness, to make others happy,

to fill life with the splendor of generous acts, the warmth of loving words, to discard error,

to destroy prejudice, to receive new truths with gladness, to cultivate hope, to see the calm beyond the storm, the dawn beyond the night, to do the best that can be done and then

to be resigned -- this is the religion of reason, the creed of science.

This satisfies the heart and brain."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Broken Compass, Part I

Someone questioned my husband yesterday about his religious beliefs. Then they questioned him about mine.

Eric identifies himself as Agnostic and seems to have no real clear-cut reasons or rationale for his choice not to attach himself to a religious sect. From what I gather from our conversations, his main reason for declaring himself Agnostic is that he just cannot accept that any one religious sect can be “right”. It’s far too exclusionary for him. He continues to abide by the “live and let live” policy when dealing with religion.

When Eric related to me what he told the person who inquired as to my religious beliefs, I was a little disappointed that I wasn’t there to answer for myself. I identify myself as an Atheist. I, however, have very clear-cut and specific reasons why I identify myself as such. I’m not concerned in the least that religion is exclusionary. My problem with it is that it is dangerous and that the more people who willingly and unquestionably follow prophets, popes, evangelists, etc. the greater the danger our world faces.

The person who questioned Eric asked him something that I’ve been asked before and it makes me laugh each time the question is posed: “If you don’t go to church or subscribe to any faith, what moral guide do you have by which to teach your children?”

Many people, especially “Christians”, believe they somehow have the corner market on morality or “values” because of their religious beliefs. I say with no reservation whatsoever that those people are full of shit.

Quite the opposite is true. I have read the Bible…Old & New Testament. They are in no way compasses for behavior that we today would consider “moral”. Sure, in the New Testament, Jesus attempts to throw out his father’s wrath & vengeance laced exhortations by teaching a doctrine of love and tolerance. But, take a closer look.

At several points in the New Testament, Jesus endorses the law of the Old Testament in its entirety: “For truly, I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven: but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:18-20

The apostles go right along with this sentiment. (For one example, Timothy 3:16-17) Sure, the “Golden Rule” is a lovely moral precept, but incredibly unoriginal. Long before the supposed time of Jesus, texts related almost identical teachings of Buddha, Confucius, Epictetus, Zoroaster, etc. (Many of them much more eloquent in espousing the importance of unconditional and self-transcending love…and without all of obscene violence found throughout the Bible.)

So, we’ve lightly touched upon the fact that God and Jesus are in agreement…Jesus just had a bit more of a tender touch. Now…about using their words as a guide for “values” and “morality”…

I have had Christians tell me that the Inquisition was a perversion of the “true” spirit of Christianity. Hmmm. Really? Maybe those people who joyously burned heretics alive for five centuries just couldn’t muddle through and get a clear reading of the self-contradictory teachings of the Bible. (One might rationally think that the one and only word of God would be clear enough to leave little room for interpretation. After all, one’s fate in the hereafter depends upon one’s obedience to its doctrine, no?)

I, like many people, have at least a certain amount of respect and admiration for the words and teachings of people like Martin Luther King, Jr. (A Christian) Many Christians hold him up as an example of the “goodness” their religion inspires. Interestingly, Martin Luther King, Jr. acquired his passion for non-violent protest from reading the writings of Mohandas K. Gandhi. (A Hindu) He even traveled to India in the 1950’s to learn the principles of non-violent protest from the disciples of Gandhi. So Hinduism (some would even, probably rightly, credit Jainism) was the “moral” compass by which the great Christian MLKJ led his followers. Had he used the Bible as his guideline for loving his neighbor, things might have been different: “God deems it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you…when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might…” – 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9

Whoa. Repaying “with affliction those who afflict you” is not the moral code by which I teach MY children.

I’m currently reading a biography of Abraham Lincoln. As I mentioned previously in one of my blogs, I find it so interesting that the people of that time were very much the same as the people today. The issues are different now, but people’s beliefs and responses remain the same.
In the mid to late 1800’s, an internal war within the United States raged over the issue of slavery. Many Northern states either wanted to abolish it completely or at minimum, pass laws to keep it from ever moving beyond the Southern states, hoping that it would naturally come to an end on its own at some point. The Southerners who had kept slaves for years, believed it was not only Constitutional (even though the Constitution never directly addressed slavery) to own slaves, but that it was their God given right to own them. They used the Bible to support their beliefs. “As for your male and female slaves whom you may have; you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are round about you. You may also buy from among the strangers who sojourn with you and your families that are with you, who have been born in your land; and they may be your property. You may bequeath them to your sons after you, to inherit as a possession forever; you may make slaves of them, but over your brethren the people of Israel you shall not rule, one over another, with harshness.” – Leviticus 25:44-46

Quite clearly, the Almighty Creator of the Universe expects us to keep slaves, right? In Exodus, he does clarify that we are not to beat our slaves so severely that we injure their teeth or eyes. (Exodus 21)

Had Abraham Lincoln used the Bible as his moral compass in forming social policy, who knows how long slavery would have continued? As it was, the evil that was slavery had to be killed with the point of a bayonet right alongside many a “good” Christian.

Lincoln recognized the fact that slaves were human beings like himself and that they were entitled to the Constitutional rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He understood that it was morally wrong, evil in fact, to buy and sell human beings as property, and he did not need the Bible to know it was so.

Had the Bible been the only guide used in answering that question, slavery would still exist today. “Slaves, be obedient to those who are your earthly masters, with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as to Christ…” – Ephesians 6:5

And just to clarify, there is no place in the New Testament where Jesus refutes the practice of slavery.

Even many Christians who don’t agree that the Bible is to be translated literally and who believe that the stories contained within its covers should be viewed as examples or parables or whatever, typically abide by the belief that the Ten Commandments alone establish a sound moral code.

Okie dokie. Let’s look at that.

The first four commandments have nothing at all to do with providing a moral code of any sort. They merely forbid any practice of non-Judeo-Christian faith, most religious art, the uttering of phrases like, “goddammit”, and all work done on Sunday. All of these are forbidden and the penalty for doing them is death. (By the way, the Bible appears not to offer any flexibility on the obedience to the Commandments, nor the penalties for disobedience.)

Five through nine do address morality, but all of these, honoring your parents, murder, adultery, theft, lying…are found in almost every culture, religion and religious text since the beginning of recorded history. The Bible certainly didn’t offer up anything new with these concepts. Scientists have proven that “moral” emotions like repulsion to murder or cruelty precede any exposure to religious texts. Our ape cousins are more attached to their own family members and tend to be intolerant of murder and thievery. Chimpanzees demonstrate the disdain for deception and sexual betrayal. To the best of my knowledge, none of them have read the Bible.

Then there is commandment ten. The coveting of a man’s servants and livestock, etc. This is really important to chisel into stone?

To credit the Jains once again, they summed up morality and far outdid the Bible’s Ten Commandments in one sentence: “Do not injure, abuse, oppress, enslave, insult, torment, torture or kill any creature or living being.” Can you imagine what our world would be like today if this were the main concept by which the masses of Christians lived their lives?! Christians around the world and throughout history have been abusing, enslaving, tormenting, oppressing, torturing and killing in the name of God. All of those acts are prohibited by the principles of Jainism. How then could you make a claim that the Bible offers the clearest moral guideline known to the world? (As if the acts of violence condoned in the Bible don’t spell that out enough for you.)

I know that you Christians have quick and ready answers and bookmarked pages in your Bibles that will directly contradict what I am saying. In doing so, you help prove my point. If two or ten or twenty or two hundred people can pick up the same book and find scriptures to support their side of a cause, then what kind of moral compass is the Bible? The same Bible that preaches loving thy neighbor also talks about an eye for an eye. The same Bible that condemns lying with another man condones selling one’s daughter into sexual slavery. I can go on and on, ad nauseam, quoting scriptures that directly contradict each other. Then of course, there are the hundreds of scriptures that condone animal sacrifice, murder, and so on.

If you believe the Bible, so be it. If you believe that your translation is the only correct one, you’re an egomaniac with a God complex. If you believe the Bible is to be taken literally, you’re a danger to yourself and others. If you believe that you can cherry pick which scriptures apply to you and which ones don’t, you’re delusional.

Please refrain from questioning me as to how I can possibly raise my children without a “moral” guide such as religion. Religion as a “moral” compass is complete rubbish. So many people who have met my children tell me how well behaved, kind and helpful they are. Strangers in restaurants have stopped me to tell me how polite and well mannered they are. Wow. Children who have been raised without the “benefit” of a “moral” compass, the children of a confirmed Atheist.
A compass with no true North, is no compass at all.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Another Reason to Hate Christmas

I set up the freakin’ Christmas tree on Tuesday night. By myself.

This year since we have a big ‘ol wood burning fireplace (nice feature for a house in a state that never gets snow) I thought I’d jazz it up with my Santa and some evergreen boughs and some little white lights. So I went to the box to retrieve the little white lights. I opened it and nearly passed out.

Every year when it’s time to take the lights down, I take a square of cardboard and tape one end of the light strand to the cardboard. Then I very neatly wind the strand around the cardboard and when the strand is completely wound, I tuck the plug into the wires to store them for next year.

Last year right before Christmas, I was in a car wreck. Right before said wreck, I had helped my husband unpack all of the lights to string in the tree in our front yard. I neatly laid them out on the lawn, changing out burned out bulbs, and testing each strand. I walked around and around the tree holding the lights while he stood on a ladder and wound the tree. It went fantastically well as the lights had been kept so nice and tidy.

After my wreck, I was heavily medicated for a couple of months. I have at best, a sketchy memory of Christmas and its goings on. I have NO memory of the lights coming out of the tree. Apparently, I was not involved in this task because I discovered those lights on Tuesday when I opened the box they’d been stored in since last year.

The lights had been rolled up into a coil like you would wind up an extension cord. You know…using your hand and your elbow so you could make a loop. This method is not a good one for little white Christmas lights. One must wrap each strand separately, ensuring that the wires do not get tangled. Ergo, the cardboard squares.

Upon finding this massive rolled up mess of lights, I very calmly walked into the house and inquired of my dear husband as to why the lights were stored in such a fashion.
His rather terse response was that he didn’t remember and that he must have been busy. Then he asked in an even more terse voice, “What do you want from me?!”

Oh my freaking hell. I want you to use the goddamn cardboard squares!!

I sat in front of him on the floor and spent the next fifteen minutes unsnarling a strand of lights from the green wiry mass. Then I went and lit up stupid Santa and the stupid evergreen boughs and made the stupid fireplace look like a stupid winter wonderland.

I’m throwing away the rest of the lights and buying new ones the day after Christmas when they go on sale for a dollar a box. And so help him, if my husband ever puts away the lights like that again, he’ll have to be heavily medicated for a couple of months.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The End is Near

The election is over (hallelujah!) and I’m in some sort of end of the year-post election-can’t believe another year is almost over, sort of brain funk.

To top it off, it’s Christmas and well, bah humbug. If you’ve been reading my blogs for long, you know how I feel about Christmas. It makes me yearn for a vodka I.V. for about 25 straight days.

Although the economic crisis hasn’t directly affected our daily pocketbook, it certainly has affected us. Our retirement account has been slashed in half and certain things in our life have changed or been postponed indefinitely because of it. I’m bummed to say the least. We know many people who have either lost their jobs, can’t find a job, are having their homes foreclosed on, etc. Again, those of you who know me also know that I’m not about watching my fellow man suffer. I hurt for them and although I feel very fortunate that my family seems to be doing economically okay, I feel a shade of blue for those who are worse off than we are.

With each passing year, the clock seems to be ticking louder and louder and faster and faster. It’s letting me know that my youth is over and that the time for screwing off is over. My children are growing up, my hair is turning gray and certain music is beginning to sound really really loud. Damn it all to hell.

I still haven’t mastered the ability to only read one thing at once. I’m currently reading a biography of Abraham Lincoln titled With Malice Toward None and State of Denial by Bob Woodward. In between those, I’m reading the Newsweeks and Time magazines that show up in my mailbox as well as my daily hour or so of Internet news. It’s information overload. However, ask me the real difference between the Sunni’s, the Shiites, the Kurds….go ahead. I can’t tell you. My mind is a sieve. I can tell you useless information by the ass load but I can’t seem to hold on to the things I WANT to hold on to. It’s a bitch. It really is.

Okay…so there are some the reasons I’m in the dumper. Now on to some reasons I’m feeling a bit more positive.

Thanksgiving is over! I single-handedly (minus one casserole…thanks, Karie!) cooked Thanksgiving dinner for 24 people. I have two burns on my arms (that are starting to scab over nicely, thank you) to show for it. As I produced giant bowls full of potatoes, creamed corn, green beans, cranberries and giant pans full of hot rolls, visions of serving at a homeless shelter flashed through my mind. Body after body lining up to fill a plate. I think I took about five minutes to eat and then started the cleaning process. I think everyone enjoyed the meal although Eric was kind enough to say that he hated the gravy (maybe the teetotaler in him tasted the Southern Comfort in it?!) Anyway,…I consider it a success because I survived. It only took four vodka and lemonades, but I did it!

Eric’s family reunion is over! It took place the two days following Thanksgiving and it completely wore me out. The first night we were up ‘til almost 2 a.m. Cosmic Bowling, and then had to get up at 6:00 a.m. to get ready to head to a park for the second day of activities. Between the bowling on Friday and the football throwing on Saturday, I completely tweaked my bum shoulder. It was popping and snapping and aching like a son of a bitch. I ended up having to medicate for the first time in a few weeks. Anyway, I digress. The reunion is over. I think most everyone was happy except those who will never be happy about anything, so I consider it a success. Everyone is out of my house and it is clean again, so I am happy. Isn’t that the most important thing after all?!

I quizzed Eric last night. I asked him if he had ever reached a point in our relationship where he had begun to plot my death. He replied in the negative and I responded likewise. So far, the worst I’ve done is stick my tongue out a few times behind his back. This is good! In my previous life, I had the perfect murder all worked out. I was working on exactly how to get my hands on a wood chipper when I finally realized that a divorce attorney might even be a better solution to my problem. As this year comes to a close, I am feeling a deep gratitude that I had the good sense to let Eric into my life. He is my hero and I relish the thought of spending the rest of our days together. No wood chippers or divorce attorneys required, thank you.

In general, I’m just grateful to be alive and kicking. It’s been a year since my car crash and I still have little tiny internal panic attacks in the car sometimes, but overall I’m doing great. I don’t know if I’ll ever have full use of my arm…my surgeon said he hoped for 85%, but it works well enough to get most of what I need done. And sure, my hip will never run a marathon, but who in the hell wants to do that anyway?! As long as I can still bust a move to some good 80’s dance mix, I’ll be just fine.

I have tons and tons to be grateful for and I lose sight of those things sometimes. How very UNgrateful of me. The weight of the world bears down hard sometimes but I forget that that the burden is not mine to carry alone. I need to remember to let my attitude of gratitude be more evident to those around me.

Sounds like a pretty good resolution for the new year. Well, that and losing ten pounds….

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Open Letter

The following is an open letter written by Timothy Robbins the actor to Gregory Soumas, head of the Board of Elections in New York City.

As you may or may not have heard, Mr. Robbins' name was purged from the voter rolls in his polling place where he has voted since 2004. When he showed up at his polling place to vote on Nov. 4th, he was told his name was not on the rolls. In order to vote, he had to show up at the county courthouse and go before a judge to get a letter stating he had the right to vote at his polling place.

Following this event, Mr. Soumas wrote a letter to Mr. Robbins basically stating what a nit-wit Robbins was for not checking to see if he was an active voter at his polling place. Instead of sending the letter to Mr. Robbins, Mr. Soumas sent the letter to various media outlets including newspapers and the Internet. The letter contained a copy of Mr. Robbins' voter registration card containing his address and driver's license number.

Following is Mr. Robbins' reply to the letter written by Mr. Soumas. I only wish I could write like this. All I can say is, "Right on, Mr. Robbins!!"

Read on.

Mr. Gregory C. SoumasBoard of Elections in the City of New YorkExecutive Office 32 BroadwayNew York, NY 10004-1609
November 17, 2008

Dear Mr. Soumas:

I would like to publicly apologize for being such a dim-witted dilettante on Election Day. I was under the naïve assumption that I could vote where I voted in the last two elections. Your thoughtful letter pointed out that if I had voted in the recent primary election in September I would have discovered that I was no longer registered in the polling place I have voted in since 2004.

Considering your position at the Board of Elections and your deep respect for the democratic process I must assume that my local 14th St. poll worker, Betty J. Williamson's assertion that my name was on the active voter rolls for the primary in September of this year was erroneous and that she must be as confused and wrongheaded as I am. If Ms. Williamson saw my name in the book in September that would mean that you are lying. Certainly you wouldn't lie about a thing like that. That is unbecoming of a man of your bureaucratic stature. And why would anyone in the Board of Elections be eliminating legitimate voters from the rolls in late September and October of 2008? That's just crazy and un-democratic.

I should also apologize for the misguided actions of Justice Paul G. Feinman in issuing a court order on Election Day allowing me to vote on 14th St. He apparently thought that a printed out record from your own Board of Elections computer verifying my polling place as 14th St was justification for issuing the court order. If he had only thought to contact you, you could have helped him understand the logic and wisdom of eliminating my name from the book on 14th St. where I have always voted and leaving my name registered at a place I have never voted.

I must also thank you for sending your letter not to me but to all the major newspapers in the New York area and across the internet. I understand it was your way of clearing up this matter and for that I am grateful. I am particularly appreciative of your sending a copy of my voter registration card with my home address and driver's license number to all the newspapers and, by extension, to millions across the internet. What celebrity dilettante wouldn't want his private information made public? What kind of snob gets angry that his family's safety might be compromised? It comes with the territory, right?

I was thinking of returning that favor by publishing your home address in this letter but then I thought that maybe one of the thousands of New Yorkers that were taken off the voter rolls in the last two months might not understand what a patriotic upstanding man you are and might show up at your doorstep with the misguided assumption that you are a petty vindictive corrupt scumbag.

Tim Robbins
New Yorker since 1961
Voter since 1976

P.S. If anyone reading this letter had a similar experience on Election Day it can and should be reported at

cc: Commissioners of ElectionsMarcus Cederqvist, Executive DirectorGeorge Gonzalez, Deputy Executive DirectorPamela Perkins, Administrative Manager Beth Fossella, Coordinator, Voter RegistrationSteven H. Richman, General CounselTroy Johnson, Chief ClerkTimothy Gay, Deputy Chief Clerk
Election Day
Mr. Gregory C. Soumas Board of Elections in the City of New York Executive Office 32 Broadway New York, NY 10004-1609 November 17, 2008 Dear Mr. Soumas: I would like to publicly apologize for be...
Mr. Gregory C. Soumas Board of Elections in the City of New York Executive Office 32 Broadway New York, NY 10004-1609 November 17, 2008 Dear Mr. Soumas: I would like to publicly apologize for be...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Post Election Thoughts

I have long been a supporter of Barack Obama. I first heard of him when he was making a run for the Senate in Illinois. After seeing him interviewed I went and purchased his book, Dreams From My Father. I was struck by the elegance of his writing and by his straightforward and honest approach to his life. I read his second book, Audacity of Hope, when it was published and I thought at that time that this guy was really going to go places.

And so he has.

He has reached the mountain top. He has achieved what only forty three other men in the history of our country have achieved. And he is an African-American.

The general consensus of the black community seems to be that they would never see this day come in their lifetimes. And here they are witnessing history…making history. My heart is full. I celebrate with them and for them.

They can now tell their children and grandchildren….and mean it….that they can achieve anything and that there are no limitations. The path to the mountain top has been paved.
I celebrate for our country too; for looking past the color of skin and into the contents of the heart. For clearly recognizing the need for change and exercising their Constitutional rights to make that change. For hearing the reverberating cry of, “Yes we can!” and believing it and allowing it to vibrate in their hearts and minds.

I celebrate. And, I hope.

I hope that President Obama will be safe. I know full well that there remain pockets of hatred and bitterness in this country. I know well that there are those who deny bigotry but yet speak hate behind closed doors. I know the maniacal acts that can be committed when one has so much conviction that they are ‘right’ and they are acting on behalf of a higher power. These things grip me with fear.

I keep President Obama and his beautiful wife and daughters in my daily thoughts and I will hope with all my might for his success and safety, because his success means success for this country and his safety will mean that this country actually has progressed past judging a person by the color of their skin.

The passage of anti-gay propositions in several states has brought me sadness. Just as we seem to be collectively moving past the issues of civil rights with regard to race, we are bogged down in the mire of civil rights with regard to sexual orientation.

It is heart wrenching to me that my fellow brothers and sisters cannot see past their biases and fears to reach a place of understanding; the understanding that all human beings deserve to love and be loved, and to enter into committed relationships which allow them certain legal rights.

At one point in our American history and not so very long ago, people were not allowed basic civil rights because of the color of their skin. Whites marrying ‘blacks’ was an aberration. White people didn’t want their children to sit in the same classroom as black children. White people wouldn’t use the same water fountains as blacks. It was not uncommon for blacks to be hung or lynched. The more tolerant whites who weren’t for actually physically harming someone merely used slurs and insults as their weapons. Blacks weren’t allowed to vote which is a Constitutional right given to all citizens of this country. For years and years and years they had to endure harm, embarrassment, hatred, fear and sometimes death.

Slowly but surely as those brave souls who stood up and peacefully protested and continually fought in ways large and small, the country began to change. America’s citizens began to see that these people they had been afraid of posed no threat. They too had beating hearts, hopes and dreams and children they loved.

Yesterday on Election Day, people of all races stood with arms entwined celebrating the broken barrier of racism as Barack Obama became the 44th president of the United States.
Unfortunately, a majority of those people also voted to strip thousands of citizens of their basic civil rights. By denying citizens to marry whom they choose, we deny them the pursuit of happiness. Sure, they can live together, but they can never enjoy what we as “straight” Americans get to enjoy; the legal and public declaration that they are joined together as a committed loving married couple.

Just as blacks marrying whites didn’t create the downfall of the American family, neither will gay marriage. It is ridiculous to think otherwise. It is once again fear of the unknown that keeps us as a society from progressing.

I know firsthand what “gays” are like. They are exactly like you and me. They laugh and cry and hope and dream and long for children and for security for those they love. They donate kidneys to parents, care for partners with brain tumors, help their children through the brutal teenage years and support their parents in their twilight years. They also long to be in relationships that are recognized by society as legitimate and legal.

My heart aches for my friends who are gay. This election year was a setback in their quest for civil rights. I have sat in their homes and held their hands, sang with them, danced with them, laughed with them and cried with them. I love them dearly and long for them to feel as though they too are ‘real’ Americans; Americans who get the same rights and privileges as their countrymen.

So, today I feel both joy and sadness. But more than anything I feel full of hope. I hope for a better tomorrow and I dream of the day when I can stand shoulder to shoulder with all of my fellow men and know that we are all ‘free at last.’

Dear Mr. President

No matter what happens from this point forward, you have brought about a mighty change in the collective hearts and minds of this nation. You have opened the way for all of those who will come after you and they will see that there are no limitations in America.

Travel well to the White House that awaits you. Travel safely. I will keep you and your daughters and your wife in my thoughts and heart every day.

Go with the wind at your back. Let it push you to the greatness that is inside of you. You have told us that "yes we can." We believe you and we believe in you.

The future awaits you. Go well and travel safe.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I hope those Jimmy Choos taste good...

In recent days, Governor Sarah Palin has begun referring to Senator Barack Obama as “Barack the Wealth Spreader”, referring to his proposed tax plan that would provide greater tax relief for lower income individuals than those with higher incomes. Obama recently explained his support for progressive taxation, saying, “I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”

Palin contends that Obama’s characterization of his tax plan revealed him to be a “socialist” who wants to “redistribute” American wealth. Palin argues that the Obama tax plan “discourages productivity”, will “punish hard work,” and will “stifle the entrepreneurial spirit.”
Conservatives have echoed Palin’s sentiments, insinuating that Obama is a “Marxist” and referring to his tax plan as “welfare.” The Obama-as-a-socialist theme has become the center of the McCain campaign.

But Palin’s criticisms of Obama’s “spread the wealth” remarks are ironic, as she recently characterized Alaska’s tax code in a very similar way. Just last month in an interview with Philip Gourevitch of the New Yorker, Palin explained the windfall profits tax that she imposed on the oil industry in Alaska as a mechanism for ensuring that Alaskan’s “share in the wealth” generated by oil companies.

The direct quote by Sarah Palin from the interview:

“And Alaska – we’ve set up, unlike other states in the Union, where it’s collectively Alaskans own the resources. So we share in the wealth when the development of these resources occurs. It’s to maximize benefits for Alaskans, not an individual company, not some multi-national somewhere, but for Alaskans.”

In fact, Alaska’s Clear and Equitable Share (ACES) program which manages the redistribution of oil wealth in Alaska brings in so much money the state needs no income or sales tax. In addition, this year ACES will provide every Alaskan with a check for an estimated $3,200.American Journalist Hendrick Hertzberg notes, “Perhaps there is some meaningful distinction between spreading the wealth and sharing it…but finding it would require the analytical skills of Karl the Marxist."

Oops, Governor Palin. I guess you're a "socialist" too.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Someone on the Right is right

I haven't posted anything here lately because I really use Myspace to blog. (

All of my posts/rants have been being posted there recently. I thought I'd go ahead and post this particular article here as well because it's worth a read by anyone and everyone who manages to lay their eyes on it.

This article was written by a Mormon (LDS). It's somewhat encouraging to find that not everyone on the far right who has a belief in a higher power, believes that everyone who doesn't believe as they do are damned to hell.

I live in MormonLand Arizona and have my stomach turned daily as I drive by the 'Vote Yes on Yes for Marriage" signs. Prop 102 is AZs answer to California's prop 8. A Yes vote would mean changing the constitution to define a marriage as a union between a man and a woman. For some reason, the Mormons around here...and apparently all over the country are enormously threatened by someone else's love and commitment.

Read on:


In late 2002, as President George W. Bush began building his case for preemptive war in Iraq, a remarkable thing happened. In contrast to the general timidity of American churches in response to the conflict in Vietnam, leaders of faith were speaking out. Observed the Reverend Jim Wallis at the time:

"Opposition to war with Iraq has come from a wide spectrum of the churches - Roman Catholic, Protestant denominations, Evangelical, Pentecostal, black churches, Orthodox. All of the statements, letters, and resolutions from church leaders and bodies take the threat posed by Saddam Hussein seriously, but they refuse war as the best response.

Importantly, these church leaders are not making their decision based on whether or not they approve of President George W. Bush - some do and some don't. Rather, they are doing so on the basis of Christian theology and moral teaching."

One notable exception to this dissent: the Mormon Church.

The LDS Church's cautious official response to the war (one of the most consequential decisions in recent American history) and near-unconditional subsequent support for the Bush Administration (in 2005, Dick Cheney was awarded an honorary doctorate and invited as the commencement speaker at BYU, the Church's flagship institution), raise important questions about the Church's involvement in political affairs, particularly when an issue has moral/ethical implications. When should it speak out? When should it stay neutral? And how does it treat its members with minority views?

Nearly six years and thousands of lost lives since the war began, Mormon authorities still haven't weighed in on Iraq, Abu Ghraib, or Guantanomo Bay. Neither have they directed semi-annual Conference addresses to the genocide in Sudan, human rights violations caused by multi-national corporations, or climate change that could have devastating effects on future generations. Instead, in the past few months they have decided to take action on a "moral issue" of a different sort: denying gay couples the constitutional right to get married in California.

In support of California's Proposition 8, the Mormon Church has gone into political overdrive. Under the direction of Church leaders' admonition over the pulpit, they have formed a formidable grassroots machine, providing boots on the ground, making phone calls, writing letters, forwarding emails, while donating an astounding $19 million to the cause.

"What we're about is the work of the Lord, and He will bless you for your involvement," apostle M. Russell Ballard proclaimed in a broadcast to church buildings in California, Utah, Hawaii and Idaho.

This stand, sadly, follows a disturbing trend of being on the wrong side of history on issues of social justice and equality for the LDS Church.

For nearly 150 years, the Mormon Church stubbornly held to a racist policy that refused all members of African descent the privilege of entering temples or receiving the Priesthood. Even as slavery, segregation, and Jim Crowe receded into the American past, the Mormon Church still treated its own black members as second-class citizens. The practice was justified as the plan of God. Apostles and prophets, the highest authorities in the Church, rationalized the continued discrimination by pointing to the "curse of Cain" and disobedience in the pre-existence. Other leaders said they simply didn't know but were sure God had some mysterious reason for keeping the full blessings of the Gospel from black people. Only a rare few leaders, including apostle Hugh B. Brown (and many more grassroots members), spoke out on behalf of civil rights. So the infamous ban lived on until 1978.

Along with polygamy, this blatant institutional racism is perhaps the most regrettable scar in Mormon history. Though progress has been made, race remains a taboo subject to this day for most Mormons, shrouded in shame and myth. It hasn't helped that the Church still hasn't publicly acknowledged or apologized for its racist past.

Yet sadly this is not the only example of the Mormon Church attempting to stifle progress and equality. In the 1970s the Church went to great efforts to oppose the Equal Rights Amendment for women. Much like Proposition 8, they argued that it undermined the traditional structure of the family. Church leaders called it "a moral issue with many disturbing ramifications for women and for the family as individual members and as a whole." President Spencer W. Kimball said it "would strike at the family, humankind's basic institution."

Sound familiar?

So here we are, in 2008, and now the threat is gay people who are already gay, who love each other and in many cases live together, and want to get married. How does this hurt the average Mormon family?

If the concern really was the practical welfare of the family, perhaps the Church could instead invest its vast resources into making healthcare universal and affordable, expanding the Family and Medical Leave Act, cracking down on child predators, and improving the quality of our educational system. All of these issues have a direct impact on my family and millions of others.
You hear of marriages ruined all the time because of abuse, neglect, or stress over finances. But I have personally never heard of a divorce caused by another gay couple getting married.

Yet instead of focusing on issues that can really help nourish our families we obsess over a word. A word we refuse to share. A word that has never been perfectly fixed. There was a time, after all, when inter-racial marriage was just as taboo and illegal as gay marriage. Marriage has been many things, but the common ideal has been and should continue to be a relationship built on love and commitment.

So to my fellow Mormons: I ask you to please re-consider. Take the time you would spend fighting this errant cause with your family. Go to a movie. Take a drive together. Watch the World Series.

Maybe you don't completely understand homosexuality. Maybe you think it's a sin. But shouldn't we leave that to God and allow others to be who they are and make their own choices? As followers of Christ, isn't it always better to err on the side of compassion and love?

Martin Luther King once lamented in his famous letter from Birmingham Jail:

"So often the contemporary Church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an arch-defender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the Church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the Church's silent---and often even vocal---sanction of things as they are."

In case after case when the moral chips have been on the table, I have hoped for my Church what Dr. King prayed for in his time: that "the Church as a whole will meet the challenge of [the] decisive hour." But sadly, so often on the issues of peace, equality and social justice, it has failed, whether by silence or misguided support.

With Proposition 8 it is time to stand for justice, not discrimination. It is time to stand for equality. It is time to be on the right side of history. Regardless of race, gender, or sexuality human beings are human beings and deserve to be treated as such. Today I voice my public support in favor of treating my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters as equals, and ask my fellow Mormons to do the same.

UPDATE: To clarify, I commend all the good, charitable work the LDS Church does and have written about it in the past. The purpose of this article is specifically on the Church's response to political issues with moral implications.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Newsweek Article Worth a Read

Palin Is Ready? Please.

McCain says that he always puts country first. In this important case, that is simply not true.

Fareed Zakaria
From the magazine issue dated Oct 6, 2008

Will someone please put Sarah Palin out of her agony? Is it too much to ask that she come to realize that she wants, in that wonderful phrase in American politics, "to spend more time with her family"? Having stayed in purdah for weeks, she finally agreed to a third interview. CBS's Katie Couric questioned her in her trademark sympathetic style. It didn't help. When asked how living in the state closest to Russia gave her foreign-policy experience, Palin responded thus:
"It's very important when you consider even national-security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the airspace of the United States of America. Where—where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there. They are right next to—to our state."
There is, of course, the sheer absurdity of the premise. Two weeks ago I flew to Tokyo, crossing over the North Pole. Does that make me an expert on Santa Claus? (Thanks, Jon Stewart.) But even beyond that, read the rest of her response. "It is from Alaska that we send out those …" What does this mean? This is not an isolated example. Palin has been given a set of talking points by campaign advisers, simple ideological mantras that she repeats and repeats as long as she can. ("We mustn't blink.") But if forced off those rehearsed lines, what she has to say is often, quite frankly, gibberish.
Couric asked her a smart question about the proposed $700 billion bailout of the American financial sector. It was designed to see if Palin understood that the problem in this crisis is that credit and liquidity in the financial system has dried up, and that that's why, in the estimation of Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, the government needs to step in to buy up Wall Street's most toxic liabilities. Here's the entire exchange:
COURIC: Why isn't it better, Governor Palin, to spend $700 billion helping middle-class families who are struggling with health care, housing, gas and groceries; allow them to spend more and put more money into the economy instead of helping these big financial institutions that played a role in creating this mess?
PALIN: That's why I say I, like every American I'm speaking with, were ill about this position that we have been put in where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health-care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy, helping the—it's got to be all about job creation, too, shoring up our economy and putting it back on the right track. So health-care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions and tax relief for Americans. And trade, we've got to see trade as opportunity, not as a competitive, scary thing. But one in five jobs being created in the trade sector today, we've got to look at that as more opportunity. All those things under the umbrella of job creation. This bailout is a part of that.
This is nonsense—a vapid emptying out of every catchphrase about economics that came into her head. Some commentators, like CNN's Campbell Brown, have argued that it's sexist to keep Sarah Palin under wraps, as if she were a delicate flower who might wilt under the bright lights of the modern media. But the more Palin talks, the more we see that it may not be sexism but common sense that's causing the McCain campaign to treat her like a time bomb.
Can we now admit the obvious? Sarah Palin is utterly unqualified to be vice president. She is a feisty, charismatic politician who has done some good things in Alaska. But she has never spent a day thinking about any important national or international issue, and this is a hell of a time to start. The next administration is going to face a set of challenges unlike any in recent memory. There is an ongoing military operation in Iraq that still costs $10 billion a month, a war against the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan that is not going well and is not easily fixed. Iran, Russia and Venezuela present tough strategic challenges.
Domestically, the bailout and reform of the financial industry will take years and hundreds of billions of dollars. Health-care costs, unless curtailed, will bankrupt the federal government. Social Security, immigration, collapsing infrastructure and education are all going to get much worse if they are not handled soon.
And the American government is stretched to the limit. Between the Bush tax cuts, homeland-security needs, Iraq, Afghanistan and the bailout, the budget is looking bleak. Plus, within a few years, the retirement of the baby boomers begins with its massive and rising costs (in the trillions).
Obviously these are very serious challenges and constraints. In these times, for John McCain to have chosen this person to be his running mate is fundamentally irresponsible. McCain says that he always puts country first. In this important case, it is simply not true.


Monday, September 1, 2008


This is copied directly (not translated...ahem...) from the Blogger website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. (Mormon church)

Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Kirtland, Ohio, February 27, 1833. HC 1: 327–329. As a consequence of the early brethren using tobacco in their meetings, the Prophet was led to ponder upon the matter; consequently he inquired of the Lord concerning it. This revelation, known as the Word of Wisdom, was the result. The first three verses were originally written as an inspired introduction and description by the Prophet.
1–9, Use of wine, strong drinks, tobacco, and hot drinks proscribed; 10–17, Herbs, fruits, flesh, and grain are ordained for the use of man and of animals; 18–21, Obedience to gospel law, including the Word of Wisdom, brings temporal and spiritual blessings.

1 A aWord OF Wisdom, for the benefit of the council of high priests, assembled in Kirtland, and the church, and also the saints in Zion—

2 To be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the aword of wisdom, showing forth the order and bwill of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days—

3 Given for a principle with apromise, adapted to the capacity of the bweak and the weakest of all csaints, who are or can be called saints.

4 Behold, verily, thus saith the Lord unto you: In consequence of aevils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of bconspiring men in the last days, I have cwarned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation—

5 That inasmuch as any man adrinketh bwine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him.

6 And, behold, this should be wine, yea, apure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make.

7 And, again, astrong drinks are not for the belly, but for the washing of your bodies.

8 And again, tobacco is not for the abody, neither for the belly, and is not good for man, but is an herb for bruises and all sick cattle, to be used with judgment and skill.

9 And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly.

10 And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome aherbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man—

11 Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with aprudence and bthanksgiving.

12 Yea, aflesh also of bbeasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used csparingly;

13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be aused, only in times of winter, or of cold, or bfamine.

14 All agrain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth;

15 And athese hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.

16 All grain is good for the afood of man; as also the bfruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground—

17 Nevertheless, wheat for man, and corn for the ox, and oats for the horse, and rye for the fowls and for swine, and for all beasts of the field, and barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain.

18 And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, ashall receive bhealth in their navel and marrow to their bones;

19 And shall afind bwisdom and great ctreasures of dknowledge, even hidden treasures;

20 And shall arun and not be bweary, and shall walk and not faint.

21 And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the adestroying angel shall bpass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.
The Official Scriptures of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints"

I have a problem with this.

Growing up my entire life as a Mormon, it was hammered into my head that drinking, smoking, partaking of tea and any beverage with caffeine in it was a no-no. Doing so would be in violation of The Word of Wisdom.

First of all....what a bitch. What kid doesn't want to pound Dr. Pepper or Coke with their friends at a slumber party? Second of all....what a crock.

I'm assuming that the no caffeine rule is a translation issue because I never have and still do not see that it is prohibited by the Word of Wisdom.

I also see that wine is not prohibited if it's for offering sacrament and is homemade. Whoopee!!! How in the hell did I miss that part?! I guess wine wasn't really on my agenda in middle school yet. I was far too concerned about being banned from drinking all of my favorite soft drinks.

The thing that sticks in my craw the most about religion is the hypocrisy of it all. So...somewhere in there someone determined that caffeine is bad and apparently store bought wine is bad but homemade wine for religious purposes is okie dokie. I know from personal experience that this particular piece of "divine inspiration" is made a big deal of in the Mormon church. But how about the large part of this dictate that talks about not eating meat except in times of winter or famine? I know very few Mormons who are vegetarians. If followed to the letter, one would not drink store bought wine, partake of any sort of tobacco, only eat meat in winter or times of famine and eat grains as the major part of their diet. (I'm still not sure to this day what is meant by "hot" drinks. I see no cross reference of explanation for it so is the reader to assume that hot chocolate and wassail are also prohibited?

It was my understanding growing up that the Word of Wisdom was intended as a guideline to keep help the members of the church live a healthy lifestyle.

In my 30 years of experience in the Mormon church, I found that a large portion of the membership of the church was overweight or obese. Church socials were gorge fests and most of the activities revolved around food. We're not talking about vegetarian fare here. We're talking mayonnaise filled salads, chicken, hamburger, hot dogs, sweets....but no caffeine!

I would be interested to hear a rational and logical explanation as to how one can be 'obedient' to the Word of Wisdom and be obese. According to the Lord, if you're obedient to it, he will bless you that you will be able to run & not be weary and walk and not faint. Apparently, physical fitness and good health is high on the Lord's agenda. If this is indeed the case, then wouldn't he be pretty concerned that a large portion of his followers are fatties? I mean, how many caffeine related deaths and illnesses are there? Now let's count the number of illnesses and deaths directly related to obesity. A rational thinking person might conclude that obesity is a greater sin than drinking a Mountain Dew or even a glass or two of wine now and then. (And how about those reports that scientifically conclude that red wine actually has health benefits?!)

In the Mormon church there is something called a "Temple Recommend". It's basically a pass that you get that allows you to go to a Mormon temple. In order to get that pass, you have to fulfill certain requirements such as being a regular tithe payer, being obedient to the Word of Wisdom, etc. I know firsthand people that have been denied a Recommend because they admitted in their interview with their church leader that they drank beer. I also know dozens upon dozens of fat Mormons who hold those recommends in good standing.


I'm picking on the Mormons here because it's the church I'm most familiar with. The same hypocrisy and worse exists across the board of religious sects.

I'll be the first to stand and say that sometimes I may be hypocritical. The difference is that I don't subscribe to any philosophy that I claim to be a follower of and conduct myself in a contradictory manner to that philosophy.

My mother inspired this rant. She's a die hard Mormon who has had surgery on both knees because she's too heavy and her cartilage has worn out. In her eyes, I'm a heathen because I drink. My lifestyle (a few drinks every now and then) makes her sad because she thinks my soul is damned in the hereafter. Her lifestyle makes me sad because in my eyes, her hypocrisy has already damned her soul in the here and now.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Bullshit Politics

I hate with a capital H the bullshit of politics.

Some say that although our system is flawed that it is the best that exists in the world. I say that if we're a "Super Power" and the self-proclaimed greatest country on Earth, we can do better. The problem is, the people with the power to change it don't want it changed.

I heard yesterday that our country is currently experiencing the greatest disparity between classes than has been experienced since the Depression.

I hear the hollow words of the Conservative Right...especially those who are experiencing no real financial hardships...and they talk about how people have increased their financial status under Republican presidencies, etc. In my adult life I have worked while Democrats were in power and while Republicans were in power. My income did not rise or fall as either of these parties came into power. I did feel economic pinches here and there, received salary increases here and there, but never felt that my lifestyle changed in any dramatic way because of what party was in power.

I can say that during the current administration, my husband's salary has increased substantially. I can't give Mr. Bush the credit for it though as my husband was solely responsible for making the change the led to the increase. And although his salary has increased, we are now paying more for groceries than ever, more for gasoline than ever, more in the cost of utilities than ever...and the list goes on. We also had to sell and buy a home during the current administration. We lost money on the house we sold and got a great deal on the home we bought because the market was so depressed that developers were practically giving houses away just to get them sold.

What credit does the current administration get for these things? I personally have never been so fucking frustrated in my entire adulthood about the state of our country as I am today. We are losing American lives in a country in which we don't belong. The excuses for entering into war were bullshit and the reasons for staying are bullshit. A large portion of the country realizes it's bullshit and there is no way in hell that Bush could get re-elected if he were eligible to run again.

The vibe of the country has been growing increasingly negative. We're tired of high gas prices and of dependency on foreign oil. We're tired of being lied to and being bullshitted by the creation of agencies like Homeland Security. What a crock. We are less secure now than ever because all of our resources have been poured into a war on foreign soil instead of being poured into actual changes in our own country to better secure our borders and our citizens. We are currently at risk and incredibly vulnerable. Although we will never forget 9/11, we have already begun to grow impatient waiting in lines at airports to go through security.

We live in a country where only the wealthy can afford to run for the office of President. I don't know too many wealthy individuals...even those who have come from humble beginnings, who can remain in touch with the average American who struggles with hospital bills, latch-key children, the cost of gas for their two cars so both parents can get to work. How do the very wealthy find common ground with children from abusive homes who go on to perpetuate the vicious cycles of neglect and abuse? How do they stay in touch with single mothers struggling to provide the bare minimum for their children?

We are forced to choose between two wealthy candidates who are desperately seeking the power of the presidency. Anyone who comes up through the ranks of politics and has held a position of Senator, Governor, etc. already knows the reality of the office of President. That reality is that the President is powerless without the support of other politicians. Bills must be written to give a little and get a little. Elbows must be rubbed and proverbial palms greased. Party lines are for the most part never crossed and therefore often times good policies are never put into place because there's a staunch refusal to agree to something the other party has suggested because, was suggested by the other party.

This country needs government and don't let anyone bullshit you into believing that it doesn't. Our forefathers weren't idiots. They established government to protect its citizens, to establish the rules of justice, to provide help to those in need of help so that its citizens could get a leg up when needed. It was intended to be a government for the people and our founding fathers intended for us to be active citizens in our governmental process. How far we have strayed.

False pride and proud patriotism turn my stomach. Support our troops? Yes...but how about supporting what our troops have always fought for in this country? Freedom for its citizens. Freedom to choose for themselves whom they love and get to marry...freedom to choose to terminate a pregnancy rather than bring another welfare recipient into the world...or worse yet, another victim of neglect and abuse.

I am not so naive to believe that the candidate for whom I vote is going to affect major change in this country and be a savior who rescues us from all of our ailments. But we only get two choices and we need to make a choice and get our asses to the polls and vote.

My choice will not be for another Bible toting creationist who doesn't believe that my friends shouldn't be afforded the same rights as I enjoy because they happen to be gay. My choice will not be for another candidate who shamelessly wants to dictate what I can or cannot do with my body and who waves the flag and uses it to promote his own agenda.

No matter for whom I vote, I will still live with the dark thoughts that this country is in really bad shape. For all that is good in it, there is still so much bad. Those who refuse to see it are in denial. They want to believe that everything is peachy because hey...their lives are going just fine, right? And if they continue to believe that,they never have to face the difficult task of worrying about the future of their children and the condition of the planet and the pain and heartache and hunger that exists daily in thousands of homes across America. They never have to step outside their comfort zone and take off the rose colored blinders. They never have to hear the conversation going on at the other end of the table.

Too bad. We can learn a lot and be changed mightily by seeing things through different eyes and from truly listening to the dialogue that's taking place while the Conservative Right is singing God Bless America.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Holy Crab!

When my daughter was about nine years old she decided that she wanted a hermit crab as a pet. My first response was, "Ick". But, after investigating a bit I discovered that hermit crabs carry no diseases and are a relatively low maintenance pet.

We selected a cage, bought a giant bag of sand for cage cleaning refills and purchased several pieces of decor for the crab's new home. We then stood over a giant aquarium filled with disgusting looking little crabs who'd had the misfortune of at some point being plucked from their real home and had their shells painted up like billboards so that they could be advertised and sold on the crab market for juvenile entertainment.

My daughter selected a small crab with a red white and blue design on its shell and promptly informed us that its name was Cameron.

Cameron's home somehow ended up being just off the kitchen by the back door. I passed him hundreds of times a day and would often stop and look into his tank and say something like, "Hey Crab." Sometimes when no one was within earshot, I'd tell him how ugly he was. He seemed to know that he wasn't pretty and never responded to my insults other than to crawl into his coconut hut.

My daughter went to Colorado the first summer she had Cameron and I was charged with his care during her absence. I was diligent in my duties and fed and watered him daily, cleaned his cage, cut up some fruit for him and gave him a bath at least once a week. During the month he was in my care, we became reluctant companions. I quit telling him he was ugly and he responded by crawling into his coconut hut. Cameron didn't show a lot of emotion, but I could tell he appreciated my efforts.

One day after my daughter had returned from Colorado, I heard her scream in such a manner that made me think that she had just had her colon removed via her ear. As I ran with my heart beating in fear of the grotesque condition in which I would find my disemboweled daughter when I reached her, I stopped short at Cameron's tank. There my daughter stood with tears rolling down her face. "CAMERON'S DEAD!!!!" she wailed. Sure enough, I looked into his tank and there he was, sans shell, all dried up like a little shriveled cocktail shrimp.

We proceeded with funeral plans which included the placement of a headstone onto which my husband lovingly carved out a "C" and placed at the top of Cameron's grave. We buried him beneath a blooming rose bush in our front flower bed. We all spoke kindly of Cameron and waxed poetic about his kind spirit and how patriotic he was.

Cameron's tank went intact into the garage for the time being. We didn't want to pretend like he'd never existed and that we would soon forget him.

About two weeks later I was standing in the kitchen cutting up vegetables and singing and as I heard the screaming and panting of my son and daughter as they blazed into the kitchen. I inquired as to what in the name of Beejeezes was going on and was not properly prepared for their reply.

"CAMERON'S ALIVE!!!!!!!!!!!"

"WHAT THE HELL????? He is NOT!!" I said. "We buried him two weeks ago in the flower bed!!" "HE'S ALIVE!!!!!!!!!!" They squealed.

Running with knife in hand, (after all if animals were being raised from the dead, I might need some protection) I followed my kids to the front yard. And there, on the sidewalk, some fifteen feet from where we'd buried Cameron...was Cameron.

I stood there on the sidewalk as all of the hair on my arms stood at attention. I felt confused and more than a little freaked out. I asked the kids why they'd exhumed the crab. They adamantly denied any participation in his resurrection. I ran to the flower bed and looked at the gravesite. It appeared to be completely untouched. I ran back down to look at Cameron and then ran into the house and Googled "hermit crabs".

Apparently as hermit crabs grow they periodically exit their shell, shed their exoskeleton, burrow into the ground and go into a dormant like state until their new exoskeleton hardens up. They then find a shell and un-burrow and go on about their business as though they're not the freakiest creatures on the planet. By what I was reading on the website, we had evidently aided and abetted Cameron's growth spurt by burying his little dormant carcass and his shell along side each other in a Chinese takeout container a half a foot underground. When he was all nice and rejuvenated, he simply threw his shell back on and dug his freaky little ass out of the ground and hit the road.

How he made it across the lawn and onto the sidewalk without getting trampled is a little crabby miracle, but make it he did.

For weeks after Cameron's resurrection, I would slowly walk by his tank with one hand over my eyes and cautiously peer in to make sure he was still alive and intact. I also stopped going down to the kitchen after dark just in case some supernatural crab event decided to occur during the night.

Cameron eventually died of old age or boredom or whatever crabs die of. It amazed me how few of his followers turned up at his service. I suppose after you've been raised from the dead, it takes awhile for all but the true believers to realize your divinity.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Journal Entry

Today my journal entry would go something like this:

Got up and decided not to clean my house in my p.j.s for once and took a shower. Got dressed after checking out the two pounds around my waist I gained over the weekend. Put on two tank tops at an attempt to disguise the muffin top. Finished the fifth load of laundry, vacuumed the stairs and decided I truly love my Dyson but can't vacuum the stairs with it anymore. It kills my shoulder. After three hours of housework, decided to not frighten the world today and put on some eye make-up. Ate a Lean Cuisine for lunch and loaded Alex in the car to hunt down the nearest Hobby Lobby. Ate a 100 calorie bag of snack mix in the car because I'm still hungry. Damn Lean Cuisine! Nearest Hobby Lobby turns out to be new, but in the hood. Crap. I like to mix in my hour at Hobby Lobby with some other retail therapy, but the only other thing close by was Wal-Mart. I hate Wal-Mart. I avoid Wal-Mart as much as possible and resent it when I find I actually need something from there that I can't find anywhere else. Damn Sam Walton! Took the long way home and ended up at Fry's Marketplace because I needed green peppers for sweet & sour chicken tonight. Spent an hour in the store because I couldn't locate egg roll wrappers. Finally located the spot where they were supposed to be and they were all out. Complained to the check-out girl when she asked me, "Did you find everything okay today?" Kids came home from school as I pulled into the driveway and within five minutes my three hours of housework this morning was completely destroyed.

Where's the vodka?

Blast From the Past

Wow. I have no idea what just happened.

I finished writing my last blog entry and went upstairs to go to bed. Happy as a clam I was. As usual, as soon as I shut my eyes to try to sleep, a million thoughts started racing through my brain. Like a flash of lightening, a scene from the past started running through my head like a much unwanted movie preview before the main feature.

The guy I'd been making out with minutes before pulls up to let me off in front of my house. A light in the living room is on and this immediately makes me say, "Oh, shit." I'd been late for curfew on numerous occasions and almost always my parents were already in bed. If they weren't actually asleep yet, I'd have a lecture in the morning. But not tonight. Tonight, the light was on.

I walked through the front door to see my father sitting in the chair in the corner of the room. He asked where I'd been and of course, I lied. Making out in the cemetery to Prince's "Darlin' Nikki" was not what I deemed appropriate to tell him at this moment.

Before my brilliant excuse as to why I was thirty minutes late for curfew had even escaped my lips, I found myself flat on my back with my father straddling me and punching me in the face. I can only remember a certain sense of calm as he told me that he was going to kill me. I also recall being really surprised at how fast he was able to throw me from one side of the room to another. It was like being in some sort of time vacuum.

I have flashes of memory of my mother yelling for him to stop and of my oldest sister walking from her room and gritting her teeth and saying, "Dad. Stop it" and turning and walking back down the hall. My sister Inga tackled him and jumped on his back. I remember him throwing her off and telling her that he'd kill her too if she tried to stop him.

I have no idea how long the beating lasted. It seemed like an hour. At one point I remember that my face was turned and laying against the carpet and as he picked me up to toss me around again, my earring caught in the fibers. As I ascended, I felt a burning sensation go through my ear and later discovered that my earring had ripped free of my ear via the skin of my earlobe, not the hole the earring was in.

When whatever caused him to stop, caused him to stop and I realized it was over, I started walking to the back of the house where Inga's room was. Dad said something to me, but all I remember was that..."next time I'll kill you".

As I opened the door to Inga's room, I saw her huddled on her bed in the corner. When she saw me, she began crying even harder than she was already and put her hand over her mouth to stifle her screaming. I panicked and said, "What?! What?!" Choking back tears and screams she told me to look in the mirror. I walked over to the mirror next to her bed and looked but didn't recognize the image. It took a second to register that the mess I was looking at was me. I put my hand over my mouth to muffle a scream.

Both of my eyes were black and swollen almost shut. My nose was crooked and bleeding. Both of my lips were grotesquely swollen and bleeding and I had cuts and scrapes all over my face.

I have no recollection of how I spent the rest of that night except for hearing excerpts of my mother and father's conversation, post-beating. My father kept saying that it would be best if he just left and my mother talked overtime convincing him that we girls needed two parents and that leaving us one parent shy was not the answer.

I spent the next two miserable days at another of my sister's house who'd had the good sense to get knocked-up and married so that she could get the hell out of our house.

What happened after that? Basically nothing. My sister whose house I'd stayed at was pissed as hell and told the Bishop of our church what had happened. I never heard another word. My mother never mentioned it, no one at my church ever mentioned it and it was only spoken about between my sister and I in a whisper until she decided to get the hell out less than a year later when she was seventeen.

So tonight I find myself in bed with tears streaming down my face because this memory is running through my head. I can't figure it out. I honestly thought I'd dealt with all of this. I'll be turning forty at the end of this month and I'm crying about something that happened over half a lifetime ago.

Before I came down to put my thoughts down, I went into my four year old daughter's room and sat on her bed and watched her sleeping for a moment. I whispered softly to her that I love her with all of my heart and that I will always be her greatest defender and protector.

I have suffered at the hands of those who should have loved me and protected me. Those hands taught me to accept abuse and instilled in me a sense of worthlessness.

I went on to marry (escape?) at the ripe old age of eighteen and fell right into the pit my parents had dug for me. I spent fourteen years digging my way out of that pit.

My life is happy now. I am confident and assured in most aspects of my life. I am married to a man who respects me and treats me with compassion and kindness. I have beautiful children for whom I try diligently to parent well. I know I have failed at times, but I keep growing and learning and trying to constantly do better and to be better for them.

But, I wonder...will these wounds ever heal?