06172014 To Become Again What We Never Were…

I made this picture for a friend of a friend on social media. He was evidently mocking an argument, using the Stephen Colbert’s persona from “The Colbert Report.”

The words on the picture are his and they resonated with me, as one of my common refrains is that people should desist from saying they wish things would go back to the way they were.

Whenever that supposedly was!

We are smarter now, live longer, and enjoy more social and economic liberties than ever before in our world. It is in our hands to make the world we want. Whatever we believe the world once was, we have the opportunity to reshape it to our liking. For everyone – not just with your group.

 

08032014 Baptistan (Update 08 2014)

                    ( Picture without caption, modified with my caption from Petr Kratochvil, http://www.publicdomainpictures.net )

I just wanted a post to identify the word “Baptistan.” I saw it used somewhere recently, or I dreamed I did.

It was being used derisively in regards to politicians and religious zealots who would seek to demand that their extremist views be the law of the land. (Evocative of the crazy fundamentalists found elsewhere in the world.)

-X

Hypocrisy of Abolishing Legal Activities or Substances Due to Someone, Somewhere Misbehaving….

If you advocate the restriction or abolition of anything legal because its misuse might result in harm to people, your logic opens up a can of worms in regards to your attitude about other, yet similar subjects.

Your stance indicates that adults can’t be trusted to behave and reason. Since some can’t behave reasonably, everyone’s access to the otherwise legal thing or activity must be abolished.

Laws justified by the POSSIBILITY of improper action are stupid. Anyone can behave idiotically if they choose. Their idiocy stays confined to them.

If you advocate that alcohol be abolished because it’s being abused during some other distinctly illegal activity, you must also agree that your logic be used toward other activities that are potentially important to you. For example, alcohol is a “factor” in some domestic abuse cases, whether toward spouses or children. Therefore, all alcohol is bad. Because some misbehave people when imbibing, even when most adults never engage in such illegal activity, we must abolish alcohol. Also, alcohol is assumed to have a causative effect on an otherwise normal person to engage in domestic abuse. Eliminate the alcohol and thus some of the abuse. Not all. Just some. (Because even by your own weak argument most people who abuse others aren’t using alcohol and will still abuse their family.)

Another example: guns are used in daily acts of violence. Therefore, we must abolish private ownership of guns. People will sometimes misbehave and commit illegal acts if they have guns. When both anger and guns are present, otherwise law-abiding citizens will be enticed to inflict harm that would have been otherwise impossible. Eliminating the guns therefore eliminates some criminal acts. Not all. Just some. (So goes the argument.)

Yes, that means that you can’t have a beer at the baseball game, nor a dark draft with your steak. Not even one.And forget about trying to have a beer at a gun show.

You don’t take away law-abiding normal citizens access to anything on the basis of the legal substance or activity being misused by idiots.

If you want to abolish or limit alcohol because of what OTHER PEOPLE MIGHT DO, yet you drink, it’s time to examine your logic.

I would never abuse anyone – no matter how much I drank.

I would never drink and drive – no matter how much I drank.

I would never commit murder, rape or armed robbery – no matter how much I drank.

And I would also never take time out of my life to limit what other people can drink, smoke or use if they are doing so responsibly.

The abolitionists need to stop misunderstanding causation at the expense of my rights to live my life devoid of unreasonable interference.

 

08092012 Women As Clergy

Ricky Gervais:

“Suggesting I hate people with religion because I hate religion, is like suggesting I hate people with cancer because I hate cancer.”

“On my Twitter feed, I express MY feelings. If that hurts YOUR feelings you should immediately unfollow or block. Hope that helps 🙂 ”

Whether it is my place to judge, I have the ability to share my thoughts here, just as if you and I were having a conversation. Under that light, it is is harder to be so demanding about the requirements of justifications, explanations, or accountability. I’m not singling out a specific religion and I’m the first to admit that each of us has our own opinion about the matter at hand. Where religion lives, opinion is the rule, although most of us wish to paint our beliefs as if they were infinitely perfect.

“Assuming they ever had one,  a person will lose his or her mind when religion walks into the room.” -x

I’ve written before in this blog about my lack of enthusiasm for religions or denominations which do not allow women to be clergy. In my opinion, all of them are critically wounded and flawed. Having visited many, many types of churches, I can still say that some of my disfavor with modern churches and dogma is the lack of objection toward religions which prohibit women from being clergy.

The religions which do so have a long and complex rationalization for it and their ongoing campaigns have surprisingly not been stripped entirely of their ability to convince women to willingly submit to its ongoing existence.  I know many women who are members of such denominations; many are fiercely loyal to their churches, despite being relegated to a “lesser” status. Apparently, many women don’t feel “lesser” as members of these churches.They each have found a way to accept it and persist in their application of loyalty toward their churches. I’m fascinated by this. I know that many churches are wrestling heavily with this issue and that many women are beginning to agree with me.

I’ve no doubt that in the future, churches which unilaterally prohibit women from being clergy will change their dogma or wither away – and rightly so. The historical arc of this development is undeniable, in my opinion and after years of watching.

But even if churches willingly or unwillingly have women clergy, there will still be those who would want to continue the old traditions, even if no longer accepted.

I personally can’t attend any church which prohibits me from being clergy based on physical characteristics. It’s hard for me to understand anyone who would knowingly allow it in their own case, either.

 

Registration Day Voting or Election Day Registration (EDR)

It is an odd thing that people in many states can register to vote on election day itself. It blows people’s minds. In some other states, you can register to vote and then vote at the same time ahead of the election.Imagine being able to get your friends to go with you to both sign up and vote at the same time. It would eliminate much of the procrastination people tend to exercise about registering to vote.

Studies have shown that states that allow election day voter registration have a much higher voter turnout than states that don’t. There are several states which allow election day registration.

North Dakota has no voter registration laws at all. Think about that one, especially when so many of us live in states where the politicians still attempt to pass laws to affect how minorities or certain demographics have the ability to vote.

 

Disallowing Convicted Criminals The Right To Vote Is Wrong

“Just to be clear, I think that no one’s right to vote should be abridged – ever. The potential abuse and demand for exemptions is arbitary.” -x

Felony Record Vs. Voting Rights Map

USA Today Article on Voting Rights Changes

“There is no rational reason to take away someone’s voting rights for life just because they’ve committed a crime, especially after they’ve completed their sentence and made amends.” Attorney General Eric Holder

“A study by a parole commission in Florida found that formerly incarcerated people banned from voting were three times as likely to re-offend compared to those who were allowed to vote…” This seems logical to me, as being denied the right to participate in the most basic function of democracy is a deplorable way to further convince someone of their worthlessness. (Not all felons are murderers, either, so avoid using the worst case scenario to justify denying someone the right to vote.)

Telling someone he or she can’t vote while in prison is one thing, but denying them the right to ever vote again after paying for their crimes is one of the most asinine things I can think of. The fact that in many states the whim of the governor determines who can vote or not is dumb politics. Since felonies are defined by lawmakers and are subject to the capricious whims of politicians, anything can be made to be felonious, under any pretext, to strip someone or a group of their right to vote.

For those of you who don’t know, much of the body of these laws are remnants of the aftermath of the Civil War and Voting Rights for Blacks in the South. Reassigning crimes as felonious allowed whites to disenfranchise blacks in large numbers. I know that many readers will not believe this until they go search for themselves. But it’s true.

PS: If I were in charge, even those currently in prison would get to vote. And they’d vote where they are incarcerated, giving them a local voice which would require some accountability from the places where prisons are located.

State Felon Voting Laws

 

 

06082014 Minimum Wage (And Petitions)

“I used to work at McDonalds making minimum wage. You know what that means when someone pays you minimum wage? You know what your boss was trying to say? It’s like “Hey if  I could pay you less, I would, but it’s against the law.” – Chris Rock

A signature collector rang the doorbell yesterday, on a nice quiet Sunday afternoon.

His task was to collect signatures for a ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage in Arkansas. Of course I signed it. Not just because I agree with the particular initiative, but also because I get so weary of special interests bludgeoning the initiative process unfairly.

(To be clear, I very much endorse minimum wage increases, especially ones tied to ‘real’ economic indexes.)

As weird as it sounds, I always sign petitions, even if I disagree, believe it or not. I say let the democratic process have its chance. If I sign a petition with which I disagree, I had better make sure to get to the polls to vote against it, hadn’t I? Many people I know foam at the mouth when confronted with petitions they disagree with.

The minimum wage arguments are particularly odd to watch, as most people against such attempts are conservative.

 

04032014 X Ancestry.com Revised Ethnicity Estimate

Ancestry.com continues to revise its dna methods. I know that I should participate in other sites DNA sequencing too, but so far I haven’t done so. No extremely close relatives have popped up on their system yet, although a 3rd cousin has emerged, albeit without a corresponding family tree attached.

Although I haven’t been able to pin it down, I very much suspect that a couple of my great-grandparents might not be related to me at all genetically. At each generational level, I’ve found significant personal turmoil that usually indicates that genetics might not equal a family tree relationship. It’s not that I’m pointing fingers – they lived their lives as they had to or wanted to. I don’t like the temptation to gloss over people’s tendencies to marry more than once, have children out of wedlock, move away from one’s children and so forth. It was common in previous generations and it is still affecting our family trees today.

I’ve written before that the best way to start ancestry is to assume that perhaps most or all of what you think you know might be mistaken. It makes it easier to swallow when you have royally messed up in several ways. We are inextricably tied to our genetic markets. (A story this week involved a white supremacist attempting to establish an all-white town, only to be confronted with DNA evidence that he is significantly “black” genetically. I love this kind of story, not only because the gentleman in question got his comeuppance but also because science and genetics intervened. )

The picture above: my mom is on the right end, holding my cousin Cheryl.

The picture above: my mom is on the right end, holding my cousin Cheryl.

The picture above: my maternal grandfather on the left, my cousin Cheryl in the middle, and my great-grandmother on the right. In the back are my Uncle Melvin and cousin Barry.
The above picture: my grandmother Nellie on the far left, with her siblings.
nellie aunt betty and unknown girl

The above picture: my grandmother Nellie on the far left, my aunt Betty to her right.

(Many thanks to my cousin Cheryl who gave me many more pictures to cherish and share with family and the world.)

The above picture is Bobby Dean Terry

The above picture is Harold and Wayne Cook.

The above picture is Carolyn Terry.

 The above picture is Raymond Cook

Ancestry DNA Test

(Written in 2012)

Ancestry.com recently entered the DNA/ethnicity business. For $100, you can have a DNA sample analyzed to determine your ethnicity and possibly find others out there who might be related.

Keep in mind too that ethnicity doesn’t mean what most people generalize it to mean, especially when geographical isolators are used to help you identify your origins.

I was very interested in the getting the results. While it wasn’t exactly what I had expected in terms of information, the process taught me several inter-related things. The results will expand as more and more people participate in this particular system with ancestry.com.

Unlike many, I didn’t worry at all about the privacy aspect. What most people don’t realize is that your DNA is EASY to collect – and anyone can get a sample of your DNA if they wish – and have it tested. This includes your mom, ex-girlfriend, boss, or worst enemy. It’s just a reality now.

Ancestry also allows you to connect with genetic relatives, if you wish. This part is quite interesting, too. It requires some effort to understand. I’m so used to generalizing, like most of the rest of the world, that I have to train myself to stop being sloppy when I’m thinking about genetics and how it works.

There are several other services out there now which offer similar services. 23andMe and Family Tree DNA are two of the most reputable. I’m going to use one of those in the near future, too.

Burial and Pallbearers For Mom

 (From September 2013)

One unusual aspect of my mom’s funeral was that the funeral home my sister used defined the utility of the word “pallbearer” literally. As the brief graveside service ended, the funeral director called upon the pallbearers to lift the casket with straps and put my mom and her casket into the dug grave. Many people were shocked or surprised by this. It caught me off guard, even though I had seen the grave the night before and as the service started: there was no platform or lifter, which seems to be almost a requirement by today’s standard.

My sister chose the funeral home that mom had found that would allow her to be buried at a greatly reduced price. It was tremendously less expensive. Up until very recently, I had thought that mom was still going to be cremated. Part of mom’s growing reluctance for cremation was a result of one of my aunts talking to her about her particular beliefs about burial and cremation. To be honest, I wanted mom to be cremated – and not only because I hate the entire concept of burial as we do it today. I kept telling my sister that since she was the one who stepped up to care for mom as she was dying of cancer, it would ultimately be her decision. I’ve written before about how appreciative I am of my sister’s recent efforts:

Before I forget, too: mom was late for her own visitation. The hearse and her body had went to the wrong place. Another admission: my wife and passed the hearse on the roadside on the way to the Lutheran church. My wife conjectured that it probably was mom in that hearse on the roadside. I stupidly said, “There are 100s of hearses in Monroe County.” This is the point where I eat a plate of crow for being absolutely, totally wrong. (It had in fact been mom’s hearse…)

Not to pour salt on anyone’s feelings, but mom had told me repeatedly that she didn’t want a viewing. She got one, though. I do not know how to say it with decorum or in good taste as there is a strong taboo against saying it – but mom looked terrible in the open casket. I’ll spare you the details and you should use your imagination. But even as I saw her hair above the rim of the coffin, I knew that it was going to be bad. I don’t blame the funeral service or my sister. Mom’s appearance in many ways was a slap-to-the-face reminder about how literal death is and how viewings can be. With a closed casket, maybe we could have been “spared” the shock of it. But why should we want to be spared? Cancer is a destroyer. Mom died a hard death and making a herculean effort to “restore” her is almost blasphemy to me. For those in attendance with beliefs in the afterlife, it should not matter, for if the body is truly just a vessel, it doesn’t matter in the slightest whether ANY restoration was done. I know I sound like an old stooge, going on about the artificial facade of most funerals. Whatever helps the family. But I can only react and comment as myself. I wish mom had been cremated and if not, that she had been buried without being exposed again to the world. But at least those parts were more honest than many I’ve witnessed. As tough-minded as I am, I think I might be haunted for a while, thinking of how startling mom’s appearance was.

5 of my sister’s 6 boys and my nephew Quinlan lowered my mom into the grave. The oldest boy had to step aside, as he almost slipped in. I tried to get over to the grave before they went sideways with the coffin but by then one of the boys had stepped hard on the edge and righted it as they lowered it into the ground. I forgot to mention that mom’s coffin didn’t have a liner or vault. Many people think that these are required for burials in Arkansas. They aren’t – nor should they be. Mom’s coffin went directly into the ground. It didn’t have a special seal or gasket, either.

I told them all that I was glad they got to participate directly with the burial. I explained to them that while I don’t believe in burial, I truly believe that burial should have nothing extra involved. It should be just the wrapped body going into the ground – and not because of the needless money involved, but rather to acknowledge that death is real, personal and meaningful in its own right. Much of our processions seem to distance us from our connection to death and the ground. Maybe the pallbearers thought I was crazy for thinking it was all a good thing – but I do – and it was.

Among other things affecting my mom’s passing was the incredible delta heat. It was 100 degrees on the day she was buried. Despite being well into September, both the heat and humidity were at record levels. Everything was baked and even the cologne and perfume applied earlier in the morning had burned into a different, strong smell from the sun.

The church service was very hot, too.  The country church didn’t have the cooling capacity for so many people, especially during record heat outside. Mom’s inside service ended around noon, just about the time the sun started to angrily beat down everything in its way.As in further punishment, my wife had to step into another room and leave me alone for most of the service, as the heat was about to kill her. Before I forget to mention it, I had a mild case of heat exhaustion the day before, on Sunday. I don’t know how close I came to serious injury but I knew afterwards that it had been a close call. I felt horrible for my wife, as I knew she was going to feel guilty for not being there with me.

Sundown the night before, my wife and I had driven the circuit out to and including Upper Cemetery in Rich, Monroe County, Arkansas. The heat was declining, but still over 90. As we drove through the cemetery to the swamp’s edge, the bugs were hitting the car with surprising force. Even as we parked and stopped, the bugs continued to hit the windows, top and doors hard enough to thud. I compare it to walking through a sheet of falling skittles. I jumped out of the car, dozens of bugs, flies, mosquitoes and dragon flies hitting me. I went over to lift the plywood off of the grave recently dug for my mom’s coffin. I wanted to linger and stare at the headstones, but the insects were starting to use me as a landing pad, even though I had only been out of the car for a few moments. I’ve always loved cemeteries and at sunset, they evolve into something magical. At Upper Cemetery at sundown, the ebbing sun hits the swamps and trees in a startling pattern. It is at that moment that I can sometimes feel the line of ancestors behind me, signalling to inhale deeply the richness of the swamp.