Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Intergenerational Dialogue

This is me in front of a church sign at my grandparents' congregation in Atchison, Kansas (taken in May 2005)

This past weekend, I participated in the Community of Christ's retreat that focused on the theme of "Blessing our Children and Future Generations." It was an intergenerational dialogue, with small group sessions. Thursday evening was an informal meeting where young adults were able to share our experiences in the church and with other churches with the older generation (the Boomers) and the world church's Young Adult Ministries Formation Specialist (I think that's her job title) Erica Nye.

For Saturday, the participants (120 or so people), were divided into circles of 6 to 8 people. There were more older generation participants than young adults and youth, but each circle was guaranteed at least one younger generation. We were paired up with someone else in which we had to select from a list of five questions which one we wanted to answer. We had fifteen minutes to share our experience with our partner, then spent the other fifteen minutes listening to our partner share his or her experience. Then we had to share our partner's experience to the rest of our circle. I thought this was a very effective idea because it forces you to listen to the other person so you can relate their experience accurately to the rest of the group.

I was paired with a lady I never met before who attends the Garden Grove congregation in Vancouver, Washington. She's a realtor, so I know who to contact if I ever have money to buy a house someday. I didn't ask her age, but I would say that she was in her 60s, maybe 70s. She related her experience of meeting her current husband, who was the complete opposite of her first husband. She had gone to college as a young lady and was a cheerleader who fell in love with the captain of the football team and dropped out of college as soon as they got married. I could tell by how attractive she is at her current age that she must have been really attractive as a young lady. She made her first marriage sound like it was one of those "Ken and Barbie perfection"--all image (cheerleader marries captain of the football team!) and little depth. What really intrigued me about this lady is that she had met her current husband when they were working at the same place. She went to him for consultation on how to deal with a difficult employee (he was a mental health counselor). Thus began a friendship that eventually evolved into a relationship. She doesn't remember when things progressed to the next level, but something that had a lot to do with it is that she was attracted to his compassion and spiritual depth!

When she related all this to me, I was truly touched for several reasons. I'm of the belief that I think the best relationships begin as friendships that evolve into a deeper romantic relationship. Unfortunately, everytime I've tried this, I've always been stuck in the friendship phase with the lady not wanting to possibly "ruin" the friendship, which is a laugh because when they become involved with someone else, the friendship died anyway. The other thing that touched me was the idea that this beautiful former cheerleader who married the "type" she was possibly "expected" to marry by 1950s society found that relationship to be shallow and sought something deeper and found it.

I've put out a couple personal ads on craigslist but get very few responses. I'm thinking that my spirituality scares ladies away, but if I want to attract the right person into my life, I have to be upfront about how important living a spiritually authentic life means to me. I've responded to ads where the woman presented herself as being spiritual only to discover to my horror that it was a "bait and switch." This happened to horrific effect two years ago when I learned that the woman who claimed to be spiritual was more interested in sadomasochistic and bondage/humiliation sexuality which is so not my thing. I hate bait and switch with a passion. Be who you say you are and don't waste people's time! Interesting enough about that situation is that the lady who put out the ad said that if she stated what she was really into, she was afraid she'd hear from the freaks! Duh. So, she thought she could find a spiritual guy who shares her kink. It was a major turnoff. I haven't given up hope though. I will find that special spiritually compatable lady once I get my career on track.

Anyhow, back to the small group session. This is the question I decided to answer:

Think about a person who has had a significant positive impact on your life. Describe a particular time when that person's influence helped you deal with difficult times in your life. Who was that person and why were they in your life? What was it about that person's way of being with you that helped you in that time?

Here's what I told my partner:

First, backstory. When I lived in West Germany as a teenager, the nearest church congregation met too far away to attend each week, so my dad made me attend the local protestant chapel and the youth program each Sunday. I hated going but my dad gave me a choice: go or forfeit my allowance for the week. So I went. The gatherings were pretty predictable, we would have fun and games first then move into the religious devotion. When we played games like kickball or basketball, the youth leader was a big guy, a GI who played to win. He would always knock me down or played rough and never apologized. I was mad about this because what I experienced at church camp and activities growing up is that people played in the spirit of fun without keeping track of who's winning. This guy didn't care who he hurt in his obsession with winning. And it was kind of odd that some grown adult was obsessed with beating a bunch of teenagers. When we got into the religious message about Jesus, I was further turned off because everything he said was already negated by his behaviour on the gym floor. The other thing that bothered me is that we would go to youth rallies where they would have fun and games. When the serious portion came, people would ask me "are you saved?" Growing up in this church, I didn't know what this meant. I would respond, "I'm baptized. Does that count?" To which the reply came, "but are you saved?" That they didn't consider my baptism as "being saved" really bothered me.

Flash forward to my senior year. I'm in a government class with a male teacher (Thomas Malone) who sparks my interest in government and international issues. I come to admire him because of his interest in his students opinions, his goofy sense of humour, and his overall trustworthiness. Then about a month into the school year came the shock when I open the newspaper on the day he was absent from school to read an article that he was a leader of a local atheist group that was sponsoring a conference in Atlanta for atheists nationwide. I was shocked and devastated by the news because at the time, I thought of atheists as immoral, evil, untrustworthy, and the equivalent of child molesters. After getting over the shock, I decided to spend the rest of my senior year devoted to "saving him for Christ." We had many after school dialogues about religion and sometimes I'd try to embarrass him in class by making snide jokes and comments about his atheism. He handled me like a pro, never losing his temper, often laughing along. He treated me with respect, kindness, and tolerance. In the process, I eventually accepted his atheism and his views had a greater impact on me, making me question God, religion, and the religious claims about God.

Because I was a student of his, I became a more tolerant person and to this day, I can still be defensive whenever I hear an evangelical rip into a minority religious group or an atheist. I also believe that it is possible for an atheist to be "spiritual" even if he or she won't admit it. And if I could admire an atheist and trust one, why wouldn't God? I am who I am today because I was a student of Tom Malone in 1989-1990. To this day, no other person has influenced my life as much as he has. The last time I talked with him was in 2006 (after not having contact for nearly six years) and I learned that he has moved in a Buddhist direction, though he still doesn't believe in God. I don't think he'll ever view God as a "person" because of his overly religious and intolerant mother and his scientific mind, but I don't believe God is offended either. If you've ever seen the film
Dead Poets Society, then you know how Tom Malone is. I saw that film after I had been in Malone's class for a few months and was shocked by how similar Robin Williams character was to Malone's personality and teaching style. To this day, I cannot see this film without thinking back to my senior year.

Anyhow, that's the story I shared. My partner shared it with the group. Then we had to vote which of the six people's stories to share with the larger group. I was hoping that they would want to share mine because my group found it funny that a 17 year old was just arrogant enough to try to convert a 30-something year old atheist teacher. Yeah, that was me back then. It represented the residue of the "brainwashing" I got from the evangelical group my father made me attend as a teenager.

For the afternoon session, we shared our ideas of what our church might look like in the future, what kind of things we would like to see more of in our worship service. My partner, even though she was of a different generation, surprised me by her similar desires to see more creativity in church. She hates the traditional "hymn sandwich" as some people call it. She'd love to hear more contemporary music, and even holding a "service" by helping to build a house one Sunday afternoon. After we shared our ideas with our circle, each circle shared their ideas with the larger group. It was an interesting session with common ideas.

By the end, I think I made a friend for life. And to think that I was mildly hesitant to this when I saw how they were pairing people up. I admit that I can sometimes be a "generationalist" where I prefer to be among my own generation than spend time talking with older people. I get trapped into thinking that the older generation is too much into maintaining the status quo to be open to the new ideas of the younger generation. My partner proved that view wrong! Now she's looking forward to the church service I volunteered the MAYA group for in February. I had mentioned to her "The Lord's Prayer" sung in the South African music style that I used in one of my sermons from ten years ago. Now, she wants to hear it in a church service. So, I'll be planning the worship service for Garden Grove Congregation in February.

The weekend turned out better than I thought it would. I'm even more enthused about the exciting changes our church is undergoing as people of our generation move into the leadership roles that will change the direction of our mission.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Music Video Monday: Wet Wet Wet

I've been on a serious 1988 nostalgia kick lately. I've been listening a lot to the music I loved from that year. It ranks among the best years of my life. For this week's music video selection, I decided on Wet Wet Wet's debut single, "Wishing I Was Lucky." I have no clue why this song never became a hit in the U.S. After all, it's way better than Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Relax", which was a stateside hit in 1985. This song has soul. It's about searching for a job in the city and being conned by a "friend" with false job leads.

When it became a big hit in Europe, there was another "Lucky" song charting around the same time: Kylie Minogue's "I Should Be So Lucky." I thought of the songs as perfect companion pieces. Enjoy! This song always makes me happy.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

McCain vs. Obama, Round One

So, McCain decided to debate after all. I was hoping that he wouldn't show up, just to see what they would do with the debate. However, I think McCain's advisors rightly convinced him that not showing up would be a huge mistake. Not showing would essentially be conceding to Senator Obama and it would have resulted in charges that McCain is a chicken. In the past two weeks, he truly has been ALL OVER THE MAP! It started on September 15th, when he actually said that "the fundamentals of the economy are strong." By week's end, he was singing a new tune, calling for the Treasury Secretary to be fired (I agree with him on that point).

Then he decided to "suspend" his campaign this week as he sought to work a deal between Congress and Wall Street financiers. The ploy backfired, as pundits had a field day reporting on his strange decision, especially when he wanted to reschedule the debate for next Thursday, displacing the much anticipated VP debate in Saint Louis. Seems like he only threw this idea out there in a sneaky way to save Palin from making a complete fool out of herself in next week's debate. After her interviews with Charles Gibson, Sean Hannity, and Katie Couric, we've seen her poll numbers drop as people are starting to realize just how dense and out of her depth this candidate is.

I was stoked to watch this first debate. For me, this is the Superbowl, Academy Awards, and the Olympics all rolled into one. Unfortunately for those on the West Coast, the debate started at 6 PM, which meant that I couldn't run errands after work like I wanted to. Instead, I rushed home to cook dinner and then settle in to watch the debate. What's interesting is that in 2000, I really liked Gore and disliked Bush; in 2004, I hated both Bush and Kerry; and in 2008, I like and admire both McCain and Obama. That's part of the reason why I was really excited to watch this debate.

After watching it, I was kind of bummed out. It was kind of dull, for the most part. Obama came off as presidential, which is vital for people to feel comfortable voting for him. However, at times, he seemed too cool, cerebral, and detached. That may or may not be a good quality for a president to have, but I was hoping to see more passion. There were so many moments where he could've truly ripped into McCain. He did get in some jabs, such as McCain singing about "bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" and for McCain acting as though the Iraq War began in 2007 (when the surge began).

McCain came off as someone who didn't seem like he wanted to be there. He appeared condescending towards Obama. The contempt was apparent. Some of his jokes bombed and my favourite moment was seeing him fumble the name of Ahmadinejad. I actually laughed when he put in a promo for his running mate as a true Maverick. I can't believe he's still harping on that harpy. He truly looked tired and in the wrong century. He would've been a good president...in 2001. My feeling is still...that Republicans had their chance to vote for McCain as President in 2000. They chose instead an incompetent and inexperienced son of a former one-term president. Why should Americans be asked to overlook that and now vote for McCain in 2008? Let's put him where he belongs: in the history books as a has been. He's history. Toast.

The media seems to have declared Obama "the winner." I hate it when the media treats these debates as a boxing match or something. I thought both candidates made good points in certain areas, not so good points in other areas. It's a contrast in style. In a Daily Kos diary that I read, one writer summed it up best: in the debate, Obama came across as the Alpha Male and it's the Alpha Male that generally gets elected. Why did he say this? He pointed out that when the candidates shook hands in the beginning, Obama had the upper hand and throughout the debate, Obama looked at his opponent and spoke directly to him, whereas McCain wouldn't even look at Obama and directed his comments towards the moderator, Jim Lehrer. Eye contact with your opponent is crucial. Maybe McCain is a bit insecure. After the two weeks he's had, it's easy to see why. His campaign is in panic mode, as it should be. His party got America into it's current mess overseas and economically so he inherits Bush's legacy the same way Gore inherited Clinton's sex problem. It might not be fair, but payback is a bitch.

Hopefully the next debates will be more lively with some good zingers. Maybe comparing the presidential debate to a boxing match is apt. However, for that to be true, we need to see blood. Obama should go for the jugular in the debate on domestic issues. My favourite debate format, though, has always been the Town Hall meeting. I remember in a 1992 debate when Papa Bush was caught looking at his watch. It was a simple gesture that symbolized his detachment from average Americans' concerns about economic issues. In the Town Hall meeting, we get to see what "average Americans" are interested in. In 2004, Baby Bush gushed about one woman having three jobs as being "uniquely American" (when the true "compassionate conservative" would ask WHY she had three jobs in the first place). The Town Hall debate is where the true character comes out, thus why they are the best. McCain is supposedly better at it than Obama is, which makes it all the more interesting.

In conclusion, I'll call this debate a draw. Obama came off looking presidential, which is what he needed to do to close the "foreign policy gap" with McCain.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Another Fun Friday Survey!

(See Question #66)

The following questions were taken from several surveys that Sean fills out daily on Myspace. This will be the last survey for awhile as I resume my Flashback Fridays next week.

1) What was the last concert you went to? The Retrofits, earlier this year.

2) Do you belie​ve in God? Yes. It's a tumultuous relationship sometimes

3) What'​s your favor​ite BBQ'​d food? Ribs

​4) How do you want to die? 11/22/2033. Oh, how not when. Um...a painless fadeout.

5) What cell phone​ servi​ce do you use? Sprint

6) Do you have an attit​ude?​ Not really. Want to make something of it?

7) Ever wanna​ be in love? Of course.​

8) How much do you text? Never anymore since I cancelled that part of my plan after I learned that I'm charged 60 cents per text when other people text me! I don't understand the appeal of text messaging. It's a quick way to send a message, but some people think it's IM and if it goes back and forth like that, why not call?

​9) Like readi​ng? Love it. So many books, so little time.

​10) Do you hate anyon​e at the momen​t?​ My job. It acts like an annoying person at times.

11) Twirl​,​ or cut your spagh​etti? Twirl

​12) How many siblings do you have? Two

13) When was your last famil​y reuni​on?​ May 2005 for cousin Michael's graduation in Atchison, Kansas.

14) How exact​ly are you feeli​ng now? Cautiously optimistic.

15) Ever ate food in a car while​ someo​ne or your self is drivi​ng? Of course.​

16) Are Barbi​e & Ken bad influ​ences​ on peopl​e? Only weak minded people who are plastic anyway.

​17) Do you regre​t anyth​ing from your past?​ Leaving D.C. in 2000, and accepting my current job instead of going to the other job interview the following week.

18) What are you liste​ning to? Awesome chanting meditation music.

19) Do you go to church? Not often enough. It can be dull...but some church officials are in town this weekend to talk to Young Adults to find out what it would take to make us more dedicated, committed and on fire. For me, it would take evening services, informal settings (I like chairs in a circle), some message-appropriate pop music, a nice cup of chai latte, and / or free flow dialogue / testimony sharing.

20) Do you type fast? 75 wpm!

​21) Do you have pierc​ings? No way.

​22) Can you spell​ well?​ Yes, ever since elementary school.

23) What do you miss the most about​ your past?​ How easy it was to make friends when you're a child. I also miss living in West Germany in the late 1980s.

24) What are you cravi​ng right​ now? A better paying job.

25) What are your favour​ite colour​s?​ Green and blue.

26) Do you have trust​ issue​s?​ Yes, to a degree. I have ways of testing people's trustworthiness, though.

27) Do you suppo​rt the war in Iraq? This is a difficult question to answer. I didn't support the invasion, but I think leaving now would be a mistake. Thus the need to punish Bush for getting us into an expensive, neverending quagmire.

​28) What was the last movie​ you saw in a theater? "The Dark Knight"

29) Have you ever walke​d outsi​de in the rain?​ This is Oregon...so from mid-October to May, yes of course!

30) Do you think​ you are a good perso​n? Most of the time. I have a mischievious side, though.

​31) Do you belie​ve every​thing​ happe​ns for a reaso​n? It's difficult to answer because I believe that a lot of things do, but some things are accidental (such as murder, suicide, plane crashes, dying in war). What that means is that I don't believe anyone wills themselves to be murdered. There might always be a "reason" but not always a "it was God's plan / it was meant to be" kind of reason that others are so quick to say. Sometimes, "shit happens and you're fucked." For example, I believe Princess Diana's and John F. Kennedy Jr's deaths were accidental and not "their time to die."

​32) What did you do last night​?​ Attend a special church gathering for Young Adults.

33) What brand​ of compu​ter do you use? Acer.

34) How do you feel about​ Wal-​Mart? Hate it with a passion. Wouldn't be caught dead there.

​35) Do you know where​ Tehra​n is? Duh! I am an international politics major. Besides, it's our next invasion target.

36) Who has inspi​red you the most?​ My U.S. government teacher Tom Malone in my senior year of high school. He was an atheist who taught me a lot about religion and tolerance as well as ignited my interest in politics and international affairs.

37) Are you mean? Only to those who deserve it. But I strive to be nice most of the time.

​38) Can you keep white​ shoes​ clean​? Yes.

​39) Do you belie​ve in true love?​ Yes.

40) Are you a lover​ or a fight​er? I love to fight. Nah. Nothing beats love.

​41) Are you proud​ of the perso​n you'​ve becom​e? I haven't become that person yet. I think it would take my own kid to transform me that way. I'm very interested to see what kind of father I'd be.

42) Who has helpe​d you, or convi​nced you to chang​e? Probably no one since Tom Malone (see question #36). He changed my views on religion, which was a big deal at the time. He broke me out of the evangelical brainwashing I received when I lived in Germany and my dad forced me to attend youth group meetings every Sunday.

​43) Who was the last perso​n to make you mad? Probably my supervisor at work and her OCD micro-managing style.

44) Do you like to be outsi​de? When it's gorgeous with temperatures in the 60s-70s.

​45) Are you easily bored​?​ No...too many things to do to ever be bored. Boredom is for people who lack imagination.

46) Favourite subject in school?​ History or Geography.

47) Ever faile​d a class​? Biology 101 in college. Probably one of the costliest mistakes of my life because it held up my bachelor's degree for six years!

​48) How many diffe​rent count​ries have you been to? 25 if you count Puerto Rico as a country and not a U.S. territory.

49) What makes​ you happy​?​ Traveling, writing, and being with close friends.

50) What is your favourite name for a boy? Patrick or Jeremy.

51) What is your favour​ite name for a girl? Natalie or Rebecca.

​52) Are you paran​oid? No. I generally don't worry about that strange person in a trenchcoat following me. (Ha. I'm only kidding about that, of course!)

​53) Do you watch​ the news?​ Only the national or international news. I have a low tolerance for the local news and their obsessions with creating fear.

54) What is your zodia​c sign? Capricorn.

​55) Do you like Subwa​y? Yes, great fast food place.

​56) Who were the last 3 different peopl​e you texte​d? I don't text, remember?​

57) Initials: NNC

58) Name someone with the same birthday as you: Tiger Woods was born the same day, four years after me.

59) For or against same sex marriage? Who am I to deny anyone the right of marriage?

60) Are you homophobic? The Navy cured me of that. I saw homophobia up close and didn't want to be like that, so it has been a long process to not freak out if I happen to see two guys holding hands and/or making out.

61) Do you still watch cartoons on Saturday mornings? No, they are annoying. But then again, you're assuming that I'm up early enough on Saturday mornings to turn on the TV.

62) How many of the U.S states have you lived in? Eight. Nine, if you count my 7 weeks at the Navy "A" School in Meridian, Mississippi.

63) Have you ever lived outside the US? Yes: Taiwan, the Philippines, West Germany, and Italy

64) Name something you like physically about yourself? My teeth.

65) Something non-physical you like about your self? My intellect.

66) What is your dream car? Scion tC (see photo above).

67) If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go? Australia has been my top choice since I was 11 years old. It's the vacation of a lifetime...and the first place I'd travel if I won the lottery or came into some major money.

68) Favourite type of food? Italian. Any pasta or lasagna dish.

69) Favourite holiday? Thanksgiving and Christmas (the whole season)

70) Where would you want to go on a first date? It would be hard to beat the first two dates I had in D.C. when Jenet went with me to a Gore Super Tuesday primary party and then to the White House Garden Tour for the second one. How do I top that?!?

71) Do you like president Bush? Hell NO!

72) Have you ever bungee jumped? No.

73) Have you ever white-water rafted? Does that ride at amusement parks count?

74) Has anyone ten years older than you ever hit on you? Not that I can recall.

75) Last person you hugged? The fellow Young Adults at the retreat.

76) Have you met a real redneck? Too many and they are way overrated. Rednecks and I don't get along for obvious reasons.

77) How is the weather right now? Cooling down for fall with rainy season upon us.

78) What song are you listening to right now? "Anywhere Is" by Enya (love that song!)

79) What is your current favourite song? "Forever" by Chris Brown

80) What was the last DVD you watched? "The Color of Night"

81) Do you wear contacts? I did in college. Need to buy some again.

82) Any pets? No, but I still want a Golden Retriever someday.

83) What really turns you on? An intelligent woman with a political opinion. Someone like Tina Fey doing a Sarah Palin impersonation. So sexy!

84) What do you usually order from Starbucks? Chai Latte.

85) Have you ever fired a gun? Yes. I'm terrible at it.

86) Do you have an iPod? No, I heard they break down too much.

87) Has anyone ever said you look like a celebrity? Yes...but they flatter me. A few thought I looked like Tom Hanks when I was much younger but I knew that wasn't true. The most eerie "lookalike", though, was Andrew Cunanan...the guy who killed Gianni Versace in 1997. I'll have to do a special post on that with comparative photos. Very scary!

88) Are you comfortable with your height? It is what it is. Sure, I'd love to be over 6 feet tall, but that won't change. There are advantages to not being so tall (shorter people live longer, as Japan proves in statistics).

89) Dogs or cats? Dogs.

90) Favourite flower? Don't really have one but I love the smell of lavender the best.

91) Butter, plain, or salted popcorn? Butter.

92) What books are you reading? Credible biographies on Obama and McCain, plus "Faith of My Fathers", "Bangkok Haunts" and some spiritual books.

93) Have you ever ridden in a limo? No, never had an interest.

94) Has anyone you were really close to passed away? My grandmother in 2005.

95) What's something that really annoys you? Willfully ignorant people

96) What are some things you really like? Music, traveling, Portland.

97) Do you like the color brown? It looks good as clothing, but not as a car color.

98) Favourite basketball team? Don't have one.

99) Favourite breakfast food? Don't get up early enough to enjoy any.

100) Do you drive? When I had a car. I love stick shift.

101) Last time you went bowling? October 2007 with the Young Adult group. Total blast!

102) Were you ever rushed by an ambulance into the emergency room? No but my brother has. Ambulance rides are EXPENSIVE!!!

103) Prefer black or blue pens? Black.

104) Dress up on Halloween? Maybe this year. Would love to dress up as a Colonial patriot with a McCain mask. Hey, it's not that much of a stretch...considering how old the dude is!

105) Like to travel? Of course! It's when I feel most alive and happy.

106) Like Someone? Yes.

107) Do they know? If she's smart, she does.

108) Want to get married? Of course.

109) To who? To an intelligent woman who equally finds me a catch.

110) Are you currently happy? Depending on if I'm at work or away from work. I'm happy when I'm away from the office, miserable at the office.

111) Do you like Dr.Pepper? Yes.

112) Christmas or Halloween? Christmas.

113) Colored or black-and-white photo? Both serve their purpose.

114) Do long distance relationships work? Not really. I wouldn't be in one.

115) Do you believe in love at first sight? Yes, it's possible.

116) Do you consider yourself the life of the party? No, nor would I want to be.

117) Do you drink? Sometimes. I love Amaretto and Coke.

118) Do you make fun of people? No. But that's not the same as talking about them, which I will do if they've done something worth talking about.

119) Do you think dreams eventually come true? Depends on the dream and how much you desire it. Some of mine have.

120) Favourite fictional character? Probably Thai Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep in the "Bangkok" detective series by John Burdett. He's a Buddhist cop who doesn't accept bribes, his mother was a Thai prostitute who runs a brothel, and his father was a white American G.I. he had never met. It's the only crime novel series that I read because of its setting in Thailand with Buddhist overtones.

121) Go to the movies or rent? Rarely go to the movies these days. Too expensive, but I most certainly will for Oliver Stone's "W" and might for Bill Maher's "Religulous."

122) Have you ever moved? Too many times.

123) Loud or soft music? In between. I don't like Metallica loud nor do I like Barry Manilow soft.

124) McDonalds or Burger King? Burger King.

125) Night or day? Night.

126) Number of pillows? Two.

127) Piano or guitar? Used to play piano. Wish I could play the guitar.

128) Future job? Political aide to a politician I admire. Or Novelist. Or both.

129) Current job? Yuck. Moving on...

130) Current thought? It's the weekend!

131) Current annoyance? Too much to do this weekend, not enough time.

132) Last thing you bought? Besides food, probably the novel "the 19th Wife."

133) Plans for the weekend? The Young Adult dialogue with church people on Saturday, canvassing for Charles Lewis on Sunday.

134) Pick a lyric, any lyric or song: "My breath smells of a thousand fags and when I'm drunk, I dance like me dad..." from Robbie Williams' "Strong" (that's what came to mind first).

135) Ever been to California? Yes, of course. I love it! I should've re-upped in the Navy for orders to San Diego back in 1996! But, I don't regret most of the choices I've made since 1996.

136) What is your middle name? Noel.

137) Are you single or taken? Single.

138) Do you like to travel by plane? I used to love it before the post 9/11 stupidity of stripping at the metal detector. Nothing beats train travel for me. It's relaxing with no harassing overzealous TSA employees.

139) Right or left handed? Left handed.

140) Do you have any tattoos? No. Don't plan to get any.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Clueless Theocrats and the Impending A-mock-alypse

I remember telling people a few years ago that even though I believe Bush is the worst president in American history, my fear was that we would have a president that will be even worse. Who can possibly be worse than Bush? Sarah Palin, that's who.

Bush might be the ne'er-do-well son of a former president, but he has, at least, some experience in the training ground of the elite class that ends up ruling our country: Andover, Yale, and Harvard Business School. Palin? Five schools in six years. She eventually got her degree in sports broadcasting at the University of Idaho. I don't know about you, but I have serious doubts that this public university in a small western state (especially a state known for anti-government isolationists) has the credentials to train future leaders of our country.

In another comparison, Bush was raised in his father's mainline faith tradition (Presbyterian, I think) but joined his wife's Methodist Church. From my understanding, the Methodists is a mainline Christian church that is probably the protestant church closest theologically to the Community of Christ. It's pretty moderate and mainstream. By comparison, Sarah Palin has belonged for many years to the Assemblies of God, which is a charismatic religion that also claims John Ashcroft as a member. They believe in speaking in tongues, being "slain in the spirit" and are obsessed with end times prophecy.

In my first post-college job, I shared a cubicle with a lady who was a member of the Assemblies of God. It was a year in hell as she sought every day to preach to me her "truth." In our conversations, I was continually amazed how ignorant she was about a lot of things. For example, her definition of "communism" was "people deceived by Satan." Her definition of "capitalism" was "people blessed by God." She cheered when the Taliban blew up 1,000 year old statues of the Buddha. I reminded her of this when she was terrified with the 9/11 attacks (she had called me at my new job to talk about it). I had told her when the Buddha carvings were annihilated that she shouldn't be so happy about the destruction of sacred icons of other faiths, because they might do it to us and I didn't think she'd be happy if they did.

What I learned in the year that I worked with this lady is how scary it truly is that some people have no basis in reality. She lived in a fundamentalist world and watched her news on the Christian Broadcasting Network (Pat Robertson's propaganda channel) and the Trinity Channel (Jan Crouch's propaganda channel). She "knew" a lot about Israel, or at least the rightwing view of the situation there. Her whole obsession was with end times prophecy because she believed that it would prove the literal truth of the Bible to everyone who doubted, or who got a college education, or who had a different belief than she did. I couldn't believe how one could prefer to live in lies that was so far removed from reality. She had no problem labeling people like Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, and Nelson Mandela as evil. She admired Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and even Jimmy Swaggart. I have no doubt that she would find a soulmate sister in Sarah Palin.

I've read that conservatives who love Sarah Palin are proud of the fact that she "scares" liberals. But if they were smart, they would be afraid of her too. Her ignorance is so blatant and blinding, it's baffling why they'd even support her. Voting for her is committing treason against the United States. It's certainly not in our national best interest to see her anywhere near the White House. She's ideologically blind and so ignorant that she is still being sequestered from the media, even as she meets with the war criminal Henry Kissinger and the presidents of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Georgia.

The reason for her sequestering is because she's not "ready" to face media questions. They are hiding her ignorance from the American public. She is so shallow and vapid that they are worried that anytime she opens her mouth, gaffes will fall out. I've read somewhere that if you make a point to be honest in everything you say and do, you have nothing to worry about. If you lie a lot, you have to be more careful what you say because any utterance could reveal a contradiction and expose you for the liar you are. That's why she's not talking to the media, and I'm glad that a CNN reporter has called the McCain campaign out on the carpet for their "sexism" in shielding her from media questions in a way that no male candidate for political office has ever been. What are they afraid of? Maybe Palin is afraid of Virginia Wolfe! One "gaffe" was revealed recently when Palin referred to a "Palin and McCain Administration."

Arianna Huffington calls her the "Trojan Moose", which is a perfect term for what I suspect might happen if McCain wins in November. Palin's slip in referring to herself first in talking about their administration indicates to me what I suspected since her selection as VP. I believe that McCain will not live long in the new administration. It's no secret that evangelicals don't trust him and if he can conveniently die, they'll get their wish of a Palin Administration. She will pick up where Bush floundered and deliver on the broken promises. They want a Christofascist police state, where women are forced to give birth to babies conceived in rape or incest, where truth can be hidden and anyone asking questions will be sent off to Guantanamo Bay to be water boarded, where police can search our homes, confiscate our books, violate the Constitution, and commit all kinds of acts of treason. Make no mistake, Palin will be much worse than Bush has ever been. She's fascism with a pretty face. She'll do a better con job on the American people than Bush has been able to.

The news has shown interviews with quite a few women on their support of Palin because "she knows what it likes to be a mom." That might be the most asinine reason ever to vote for someone (it's even worse than voting for the person you'd rather have a beer with). Not to disparage mothers, but what does being a mother have to do with fixing a broken economy, staring down the likes of Kim Jong Il or Ahmadinejad or Medvedev, or waging a more successful war in Afghanistan and Iraq? I hate to say it, but if she's president, who would take care of her special needs baby Trig? Or would she finally reveal to all that Trig is really her grandson, and Bristol will take care of Trig along with her second child (due in December)? Lest anyone forget, Magda Goebbels was also a mother. Watch the excellent German film "Downfall" about the last days of the Third Reich. Magda Goebbels was so aligned with the Nazi cause that she didn't blink an eyelash when she forced her children to take pills when the end was coming. Probably to save them from a future of knowing just how evil their parents really were. Palin is an empty headed ideologue who is undergoing a neoconservative brainwash. She will emerge as a fembot who can stick to the talking points in the upcoming VP debate. Do we really want a Stepford Vice President?

People who like her religiousity should really think deeper about it. What is so Christian about end times prophecy? The whole thing reeks of Nazi-esque genocide. The thing that most outrages me about the obsession with the apocalypse is that these people vote for the worst candidates to lead us. They don't care if we ruin the environment, the economy, other countries. It doesn't matter how many innocent people we kill. They look at the strife in the world and smile because they believe we are closer to the time when Jesus will return to rapture the true believers from the hell they created on earth. What that means is that they believe they will be spared from their own actions and the people who pay for it will be the "nonbelievers" (which includes minority Christian religions like Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses). What kind of warped theology would cheerlead a presidential administration enacting policies designed to speed up Christ's return and then hope to be raptured to be spared from their own evil unleashing upon a much suffering world? That would be like a child molester and wife abuser claiming that he does such acts in the hope that Jesus would come back to save him while the people he abused will have to deal with the result of his actions without his being there. It's psychotic and I don't believe that reflects true Christian values.

Progressive evangelical minister Jim Wallis pointed it out best in a recent editorial. He offered the following quote regarding the current financial meltdown on Wall Street. It's great to have an evangelical who knows which Bible verses to quote back at the conservative evangelicals who think they have a lock on God. Maybe if we become more Biblically literate, we can quote Bible verses back at the people who dare to abuse the Bible for their own hatred, lies, bigotry and violence.

Micah 2:1-4 - God's message to Wall Street:
Woe to those who plan iniquity, to those who plot evil on their beds! At morning's light they carry it out because it is in their power to do it. They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them. They defraud a man of his home, a fellowman of his inheritance. Therefore, the Lord says: "I am planning disaster against this people, from which you cannot save yourselves. You will no longer walk proudly, for it will be a time of calamity. In that day men will ridicule you; they will taunt you with this mournful song: 'We are utterly ruined; my people's possession is divided up. He takes it from me! He assigns our fields to traitors.'"

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Zeitgeist Movie

After several people recommended "Zeitgeist the Movie" to me, I decided to watch it this week (on YouTube). It's recommended by the same people who recommend "Loose Change" (about 9/11). I found the "documentary" to be an interesting and intriguing look at the world, though I do have my critiques.

"Zeitgeist" is a German word that literally translates as "times" + "spirit". Loosely translated, it basically means the spirit of the times. You know...like when slavery finally came to be seen as immoral, or when the American Revolution was inevitable. It's the spirit of the age, when an idea has achieved "critical mass." This film hopes to be that kind of influence on humanity. However, we're still too new in this century to know its impact.

The film is divided into three sections. The first section is about Christianity, which the documentarians have decided is based on astrology and rips off other religions. I also watched what the film's detractors had to say about it and all the ones I've found on YouTube aim most of their criticism at the first section of the film. I don't know enough about ancient Egyptian religion or the others to know how much of it resembles the Christ mythology. I'll have to research it further. What did intrigue me about the first section was the astrological parallels, with the "Son" representing / replacing the "Sun." I knew since a teenager about the move to make Jesus' birthday fall near the Winter Solstice to convert pagans. In my faith tradition, many believe Jesus' birthday was more likely in April (which also happens to be the birth date of the Latter Day Saints movement). What really intrigued me about this section was that Jesus supposedly represents the Age of Pisces (which is symbolized by a fish). Each astrological Age is approximately 2,500 years and the next age is of Aquarius. Historically, there is some sort of upheaval associated during the transition from one age into another. Thus why some feel like we are entering the "end times" of Revelations.

The thesis of the documentarians is that the Christ myth is the first lie to con people into a sort of complacent mental slavery. However, that's only one way of looking at it. The people who made this film make it seem like Jesus didn't exist, that he was entirely made up. However, while I have my own beef with the way the Christ story has been misused and abused, the example I get from his life story is that he showed us how to live, which might upset the powerful people in the church institution and their strict obedience to following "the letter of the law." He showed us that how we act towards one another, by seeking forgiveness and peace in our interactions, that we can transform society. So, I don't agree that Jesus was a con job. He is a worthy example of how to live life. It's the people who created a church in his name that have caused a lot of problem, especially when they made salvation dependent upon a person's acceptance of Jesus as a personal saviour by professing to believe literally in the resurrection and the reason behind the resurrection (that he died for our sins). I don't accept that view of Jesus at all. But I'm not going to throw Jesus out just because evil men have manipulated his life story to control the mass of ignorant people.

The second part of the film deals with 9/11. I won't go into detail here, because I already shared my views about 9/11 on 9/11's post. This part of the film is like a condensed version of "Loose Change" and worth watching because once you look at the events through the lens of logic and science (particularly the laws of physics and chemistry), there's only one conclusion to make: 9/11 was committed by evil men in our government to shock the people with fear and obedience so we can go along with pre-emptive wars for oil, the stripping away of our Constitutional rights, and the slippery slope all of it leads to (unlawful detentions, torture, and inability to speak to a lawyer). Very chilling, but even skeptics should see this part of the film and ponder the meaning, even if they don't quite believe it to be true.

The third and final part of the film deals with the financiers who supposedly manipulate market crashes to have greater control over the economy and wealth. It was most interesting watching this segment on the heels of our latest financial disaster. I have no problem believing that something is afoot and it can't be good. Someone has benefitted financially from this mess and I wouldn't be surprised if it was planned all along. Fascism is easy to enact when economic times are uncertain. We've seen too many strange things happen during Bush's presidency that I believe elements of our government have nothing but evil designs for our nation if they continue to have their lizard-like claws on the real power of our country.

The problem I have with the final segment is that it goes into the "One World Government" conspiracy that I heard so much about since the 1980s. I just don't see it as possible because our world is too diverse. There is a such thing as a spiritual force at work that can undermine those in power. Empires over extend and collapse. It happened to Rome, to the Ottoman Empire, to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to Prussia and the Soviet Union, and to the United Kingdom. France and Spain had their glory days of empire as well. Now America's empirical ambitions are collapsing under the weight of debt. I have a hard time believing that these global financiers with an ambition towards a one world government could succeed because there's such a thing as old age and death. And betrayal. For example, if Dick Cheney were the evil mastermind behind it all (the stolen election, 9/11, war in Iraq, and the financial crisis) and wanted to be a leader of this so called "one world government", well...he has a weak heart, he's old, and the fucker is going to die someday (soon, we can all hope!). No human being can escape that fate God gives all living beings of planet earth. People who crave absolute power always have to watch their back because there are other men who want that power for themselves.

Another difficulty I see in establishing a "one world government" is that the narrator of "Zeitgeist" said that there are plans underway to form a "North American Union", an "African Union" and an "Asian Union" to rival the European Union. This is supposedly a step towards "one world government" (as was the United Nations, which has proven itself to be more a chamber of hot air and rhetoric than an effective enforcer of resolutions on violating nations). For one thing, Africa is so technologically behind the times and impoverished that I don't see global financiers bothering with such a continential union. There are too many tribal differences with ethnic clashes and guerilla warfare and corrupt leaders. We've seen time and again (with Ethiopia, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola, Darfur and Zaire...to name but a few) that the world pretty much doesn't care about the plight of poor Africans. Starvation, disease, chronic poverty, violence, genocide. The world doesn't care about that continent to spend time or money forming an "African Union" on the European model.

The "Asian Union" is equally absurd because it's the world's largest continent and the most diverse. The Chinese and Japanese don't trust one another, and neither does Pakistan and India. Then there's the diverse Arab and Muslim nations, some of which stretch across North Africa. Would Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt be part of the Asia Union or the Africa Union? And what about the much talked about Pan-Arab nation-state? They've never been able to form one because those countries don't like or trust each other. What about the Iranians, who aren't Arabs, but Persian? And then there's Israel? Would it agree to be part of some Asian Union? I highly doubt that. They'd rather be the 51st state.

We don't hear any talk about a North American Union. While I agree that Canada and the U.S. should form one country (I know that Canadians would oppose such a deal), Americans would be against Mexico becoming part of the North American Union. There's still too much nationalism in many nations for things to progress towards these continental unions as a step closer towards "one world government." So, that's my major beef with this documentary. It's a bit alarmist, but it does get you to think. Everyone should watch it and think about these issues because we need to be aware of attempts to manipulate us through fear of terrorism that is designed to get us to give up our freedom and liberty. No where is this more critical than the idea of implanting a microchip inside our bodies. That should absolutely not be allowed to happen. It would be a new form of slavery and we would all be less secure (watch "Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace" for an idea of how a microchip can be used. Anakin Skywalker spells it out perfectly).

All in all, an interesting film and worth watching. I'm more optimistic than the producers of the film because I believe that the spirituality of the age will defeat the totalitarian designs of manichean and authoritarian technocrats. Jesus showed the way and it's up to anyone who considers themselves "Christian" to join this fight against any move towards a totalitarian society. Unfortunately, too many of them have authoritarian impulses and want to establish a Christofascist society as it fits in with their perverse view of apocalyptic theology. It's time to join the zeitgeist and awaken to our power as spiritual beings so we can prevent this future from becoming reality.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Music Video Monday: France Gall

This week's selection is a French pop song by France Gall. It was a big hit in 1988 from a great album (I love most of the songs), Babacar, which I bought when I went on a vacation to Paris with my dad (our second time there).

This song is a homage to Ella Fitzgerald and what I like most about it is that when I first heard it, I thought France Gall was singing "Ella Ella." The cool thing about French is that you can play with words because of how they don't often pronounce the end letter in many words. For critics I knew in the Navy who didn't listen to songs if they weren't in English (for fear that they might be saying "anti-American" things, which I found laughably absurd, not to mention narcissistic. As if every foreign language song was all about how much they hate us and want to kill us!), I give them this example. The song is "Ella, Elle l'a" (though it sounds like "Ella Ella"). The English translation is "Ella, She Has It." It doesn't have the cool echo effect that the French language offers, thus why it works much better in French. Who needs a translation? Sometimes it works better in the original language.

I'm dedicating today's music video selection to my friend Janell Fluckiger. She was the first person I met who loved Ella Fitzgerald. Though I didn't care for that kind of jazz, I learned to appreciate Ella through Janell's enthusiasm. It was refreshing to see someone of our generation love an icon of another era and music style not popular with most people in our age group.

Below are the lyrics in French (with my spotty college French translation--without a dictionary present):

C'est comme une gaiete
It's like a happiness
Comme un sourire
Like a smile
Quelque chose dans la voix
Something in the voice
Qui parait nous dire "viens"
Who speaks to us saying "come"
Qui nous fait sentir etrangement bien
Who senses us oddly well
C'est comme toute l'histoire
It is like all the history
Du peuple noir
of black people
Qui se balance
who balance
Entre l'amour et l'desespoir
between love and despair
Quelque chose qui danse en toi
Something that dances in you

Si tu l'as, tu l'as
If you have it, you have it
Ella, elle l'a
Ella, she has it
Ce je ne sais quoi
This, I don't know what
Que d'autres n'ont pas
that others don't have
Qui nous met dans un drole d'etat
Who puts us in a strange state

Ella, elle l'a Ella, elle l'a (Ou ou ou ou ou ou ou)
Ella, she has it, Ella, she has it
Elle a (ou ou ou ou ou ou ou) cette drole de voix
She has this strange voice
Elle a (ou ou ou ou ou ou ou) cette drole de joie
She has this strange joy
Ce don du ciel qui la rend belle
This gift of the sky who returns beauty

Ella, elle l'a Ella, elle l'a
Elle a, ou ou ou ou ou ou ou
Ella, elle l'a Elle a, ou ou ou ou ou ou ou

Elle a ce tout petit supplement d'ame
She has this small extra bit of soul
Cet indefinissable charme
this indefinable charm
Cette petite flamme
this small flame
Tape sur des tonneaux
Slap on the barrels
Sur des pianos
On the pianos
Sur tout ce que dieu peut te mettre entre les mains
On all that God can put between his hands

Montre ton rire ou ton chagrin
Show your laugh or your chagrin
Mais que tu n'aies rien, que tu sois roi
But that you have nothing, that you are king
Que tu cherches encore les pouvoirs qui dorment en toi
That you seek again the ability that who sleeps in you
Tu vois ca ne s'achete pas
You see this buys nothing

Quand tu l'as tu l'as
When you have it, you have it
Ella, elle l'a
Ella, she has it
Ce je ne sais quoi
This, I don't know what
Que d'autres n'ont pas
That others don't have
Qui nous met dans un drole d'etat
Who puts us in a serious state
Ella, elle l'a Ella, elle l'a ...
Ella, she has it, Ella, she has it...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Capitalist Meltdown

There should be no doubt that Bush's place as the Worst President Ever is assured. Has any good news ever happened during his eight years in office? He came into office under a cloud of doubt over the stolen election in Florida. His limo was pelted with eggs during the Inauguration Day parade and the weather was cloudy and rainy. Then 9/11 happened, the collapse of Enron, Global Crossing, and other companies early on. Two massive tax cuts wiped out Clinton's surplus and didn't provide the economic boost our country needed. Then we had two wars, one a complete disaster, while the first one is getting worse through neglect. Muslim extremist groups came to power in Palestine and Lebanon. Iran elected a crazy leader who was one of the student hostage takers during our 1979 crisis. Hurricane Katrina destroyed a great American city and two more this year (Gustav and Ike) have caused considerable damage in Louisiana and Texas. To top it off, we've seen financial institutions falter...Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Merrill Lynch, and now AIG, and possibly Washington Mutual, which would destroy the FDIC that was put into place because of the 1929 crash that resulted in the Great Depression as people made a run on the banks.

How did all this come to a head? And when has another president had so many blows during his administration? I can't recall any. Should Bush be blamed? Does he really bear responsibility? I think the answer is obvious. He believes that he'll be redeemed by history because he believes that our sacrifice in Iraq will result in good down the line. True, the Iraqis are without a brutal dictator like Saddam. They might eventually become a functioning democracy or theocracy. But even if that happens, it still wouldn't redeem Bush's place in history. Why not? Because historians need to focus on what he promised he would do as president in speeches given in 2000 and to match his words with his deeds. It was a complete reversal. He dissed "nation building." He promised a more humble foreign policy. Most damning of all...he swore that he would "restore honour and dignity in the White House." He hasn't. Torture. Lies. Sycophantic blindness. Incompetence. Graft. Greed. And disasters of every kind: financial, economic, natural, terrorist, and military. To top it all off, he hasn't been above 50% approval rating since before Katrina hit New Orleans over three years ago.

But this post isn't exclusively about Bush. It's about what I feel is only the beginning of the end of unfettered capitalism. Why the collapse? Corporate capitalism is kleptocratic. It's theft of government funds that go towards infrastructure, services, and programs that help the poor. It's the corporate kickbacks given to CEOs, with annual bonuses that are more than a lot of Americans' annual salaries, even if the company's stock went down that year! And when a CEO is fired by the stockholders, they get multi-million dollar severance packages. Talk about golden parachutes! Who needs to retire? Just lie and thieve your way to the top of the corporate ladder, fleece the company for all you can, then get a severance package when the corporation realizes you're an incompetent stooge. No accountability! Just a bunch of low wage earning worker-bees who are saps with disappearing pensions. See you in hell, bucko!

As a teenager, when I watched with fascination as one communist regime after another collapsed in Eastern Europe in late 1989 culminating with the Soviet Union in 1991, I believed that someday, capitalism would go the same way. The reason why the Soviet Union collapsed is because party leaders were blinded by ideology that they couldn't see that the planned economy of communism simply wasn't working. Scarcity was a reality. Communism couldn't compete with capitalism. Capitalism, by its nature, is corrosive. It destroys everything that touches against it: communism, religion, and even democracy. That's because the root is "capital." The -ism indicates that it's an ideology. An ideology about money. We've made it our national religion. In our country, despite people talking about how much freedom we have, any time a person criticizes capitalism, they always get the "communist label" placed on them to discredit their critiques. It's the exact same thing that Vaclav Havel of Czechoslovakia and other dissidents in communist countries faced. By pointing out the truth to people blinded by ideology, they are accused of being in another ideology that is unacceptable to the ruling class.

It's not "communist" to say: Look...capitalism doesn't work in the long run. Greed eventually destroys because there's no stopping point unless government imposes a cap on greed. Does it makes sense that a person like Carly Fiorina of Hewlett Packard should get a $40 million severance package (especially when she was accused of spying on board members)? Where does that money come from? Why does a person need that much money? It's no longer keeping up with the Joneses, but keeping up with the Gates.

If anyone truly wants to understand our political system, all you have to do is look at the history of our country for the past 130 years or so. In the late 1800s, our country had a bunch of Republican presidents who let corporations do what they wanted. The greed became known as "the Gilded Age" and President Theodore Roosevelt cracked down on the corruption. Then in the post Wilson years, it was the hands-off economic policies of Republican presidents Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover that led to the stock market crash of 1929. It took another Roosevelt (a Democratic one, this time) to "save capitalism from itself." After a twenty year lock on the White House, Democrats had a great era in which sweeping policies were introduced. This created the great middle class. Reagan came in vowing to chip away at the popular programs instituted by Roosevelt and Truman. Debt was amassed and by the end of Bush's term, we were in a recession. Once again, it took another Democratic president to turn around the debt and get the economy moving again, in which he left his successor a nice surplus.

Now, we have in one administration, a devastating economic crisis that might become the undoing of capitalism and lead our nation into complete economic collapse. And yes, Bush does bear responsibility because he was the one who wiped out the surplus with two tax cuts that went to the wealthy class; started two wars on credit card with money from Japanese and Chinese banks; and by bailing out AIG, he's adding even more debt onto the shoulders of the unborn grandchildren of Generation Y (those born between 1982 and 2000). Now we know the real reason why Republicans are so against abortion. Someone has to pay off our debts!

That's what blind ideology gets you: complete collapse. Cheney had the audacity to say "deficits don't matter." Maybe not to him because he'll long be in hell when his grandchildren have to pay taxes on our current debt. As far as the corporate executives of all these companies our government is bailing out...I believe that the only appropriate punishment is the death penalty. This is where I disagree with my liberal friends who are against it in every case. My view is a little different because I'm against it in cases of murder because most of those happen in the heat of the moment. When it comes to the death penalty, I support it only for three scenarios: mass or serial murder; an elected official committing treason against the U.S.; or corporate executives taking huge salaries, perks and bonuses while their company goes broke or bankrupt. The condition our government should make for bailing out AIG and others is: we will bail out the company but the chief executives will be tried, with the possibility of being sentenced the death penalty. Harsh? Not really. Like other proponents of the death penalty claim...it would be a deterrent in the case of corporate crime (I believe wealthy people fear death more than those in poverty because they have more to lose).

Eat, drink and be merry! We are living in the last days of capitalistic tyranny. Unlimited growth is unrealistic because our planet's ability to sustain the average American lifestyle will continue to wreak havoc on our illogical distribution and consumption patterns.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Those Anti-Social Socialists!

Thursday evening, I went to an info session and discussion on Afghanistan at Portland State University. The question posed by the flyer was: "Is Afghanistan the Good War?"

It wasn't what I expected. I thought it was an official lecture by a guest speaker or political science professor, not a meeting of the International Socialists on campus. But, I didn't bail when I found out what it was, because I know little about Afghanistan and I'm thinking more and more that I will probably end up there next year if I cannot find a better job.

My despair continues to get worse as I keep sending my resume to job listings and getting no response in return. I'm losing all hope that I'll ever find another job in Portland and the thought of working another six months or more at my current job is simply unbearable...especially when my favourite co-worker had turned in her two week notice a week ago. She'll be gone next week and I'll have no one there who always puts a smile on my face by her radiant personality. My growing boredom, depression, and desire for adventure...if not channeled into a new job that matches my passion and interest...will lead me to Afghanistan if I'm still working where I work after Inauguration Day.

Anyhow, back to this socialist gathering. There was about 12 people present, probably all of them students at Portland State University. They weren't a friendly bunch at all. At least not to me, the stranger in their midst. I was actually surprised. Only one guy was friendly enough to talk to me and ask me questions. I know it sounds kind of lame that I expect people to approach me and talk to me first...but when you're a stranger to a group that obviously knows each other and probably want to increase membership, why wouldn't they talk to the new person and make him feel welcome? Earlier this year, I went to a special film showing about Vladmir Lenin. I didn't know at the time that it was sponsored by the Communist Party. And those people were also unfriendly towards me. Even more strange, I was sick the next day. In my mind, I believe that I got sick because I went to that place and felt really unpleasant about it.

I've been accused of being a commie all my life by rightwingers who love to label people without getting to know them. I admit that I do love wearing some "communist"-type logos, medals, red stars, uniform items like hats, etc...but the truth is (as I told the only friendly guy at Thursday's PSU Socialist group), "I'm a loyal Democrat." I might agree with some ideas Socialists work and fight for (just as I agree with the Green Party on a lot of issues), I have a hard time accepting the party as legitimate or seeing it ever rise to major party status. It's essentially a minority party without a strong tradition rooted in American culture. While our Congress does have one Senator of the Socialist Party (from Vermont, of all places), it's not mainstream enough to ever have the kind of success necessary to really influence our government.

The honest truth is, I'm a pragmatic guy with the occasional radical idea...but despite its flaws, I truly love the Democratic Party because of it's history (founded by Thomas Jefferson, who is my favourite President) and it's long tradition in American history. It's considered the world's oldest political party and I'm certain that it's not going anywhere. Granted, it doesn't have a perfect history (Andrew Jackson's disgraceful presidency; the Dixiecrats; and it's current losing strategy of trying to be Republican-lite instead of being the true progressive party)...but I'm a loyal guy and when most of the politicians I admire are Democrats, why would I be a Socialist?

These PSU Socialists seemed a bit fringe to me. One guy basically read from a sheet about Afghanistan. I was disappointed, because I expected a guest speaker from Afghanistan or a college professor who studied it and maybe even been there, not some college student reading from his research notes! After he gave a basic rundown of Afghanistan history, most of which I knew about already, they opened it up for question and discussions.

Basically, everyone there seemed to agree that the war in Afghanistan is equally immoral as Iraq and that the Anti-War coalition should be talking more about getting out troops out of Afghanistan as well as Iraq. They also believe that Afghanistan is merely a distraction from the real prize of Iraq. It's all about controlling the oil in that volatile region. With the claim that "the surge is working" in Iraq, our government wants to send troops over to Afghanistan to bring it back under control, which will probably cause the violence in Iraq to increase. It'll go on back and forth like that, between our two colonies.

I haven't done a lot of thinking or reading about Afghanistan. Though I was against the invasion in October 2001, it was mostly for historical reasons (I didn't see the U.S. succeeding where Britain and the USSR failed before us). However, now that we're there, I am against the U.S. leaving because of what happened in 1989 when the Soviets left in defeat and the U.S. discarding our mujahadeen allies when we didn't need them anymore. That created what the CIA calls "blowback" and what I learned in Political Science: "the law of unintended consequences." The Taliban moved in and if the U.S. leaves, the Taliban will come back. We've invested too much of our money, energy, and lives to just abandon Afghanistan. I believe we have a moral obligation to get it right there, thus why my views wouldn't cut it with the Socialists. Afghanistan is a fascinating country to me and who knows? I might be there next year as a private contractor if all else fails in Portland. With an International Politics degree that I'm not using, I really want to do something with an international focus. Contrary to what Bush said in 2000, I happen to be a believer in "nation-building." But with stipulations. It has to be a multinational effort, none of this "coalition of the willing" crap.

So, who knows what my future will be? I'm trying my hardest to find a better job in Portland but my patience is running out and the call to adventure will be too much to resist early in the new year when we have a new president. Here's a hint...if McCain is president and I haven't found a job in Portland, I will be more likely to go to Afghanistan (or even Iraq) than if Obama is president. You might ask why, and my reasons might sound kind of loopy, but here it is... I believe that if McCain is president, our economy will completely tank and who wants to be around for that? With all the money being thrown to private contractors in Afghanistan and Iraq, it will be my ticket out of debt and after a year, I'll have zero debt and money in the bank in which to go to grad school if I want. Sure beats the hell out of continuing to work in a poverty wage job in an organization that does not share my values.

About those anti-social Socialists...America has nothing to worry about. They are fringe and unfriendly fringe at that. Only the Communists I met earlier this year were more unfriendly. Not a winning way to "win friends and influence people"!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Fun Friday is Back with a Questionnaire

That's me in the pod-like elevator inside Saint Louis' Gateway Arch in November 2005. And yes, that is a USS John S. McCain jacket that I bought on eBay back when McCain was cool, honest, and likeable.

1) Where was I - 10 years ago?

In September 1998, I was a Junior at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. I remember little about that year beyond my obsession with every new detail in the Monica Lewinsky scandal because I thought Clinton was toast. I was taking a full load of political science classes and loving it. However, the toll of being a minority in the Mormon universe began to wear on me as I hoped and prayed for time to speed up so I could get out of there and get on with my life and career in Washington, D.C.

2) What's on my 'to do' list for today ?

I don't have a daily "to do" list or even a weekly one. I should, I suppose. But here are a few things I have in mind: finish the final details in my Washington Seminar scrapbook so that can be complete finally; finish reading "Bangkok Haunts"; catch up in my journal; pay some bills; go grocery shopping; organize my photo negatives into an easier filing system; start a new scrapbook (a photo-biography); and resume sending out query letters on my novel (again).

3) What if I were a Billionaire ?

That would be fantastic! I'd pay off all of my debts and quit my job with a very critical letter of resignation. Next, I would spend the next two months volunteering full time on various political campaigns. After election day, I would head back to Georgia to finish sorting through my things and having everything I want to keep shipped to Oregon. I would stay on the east coast through Thanksgiving, Christmas, my birthday, New Year's, and Inauguration Day, where I would visit D.C. to see President Obama sworn in as the 44th president and visit my friends there. After a week in D.C., I would ride Amtrak back to Portland and begin house hunting. I would either get a three level townhouse in NW Portland or a cozy stand-alone near St. John's / University of Portland area (under 3,000 square feet). Once I found a place, I'd move all my things into it, buy furniture, organize everything, buy my dream car (Scion tC), and after everything is settled, I would take my long deferred dream vacation to Australia for a month followed by 10 days in New Zealand and 5 days in Tahiti.

Once I returned from that vacation, I would go about forming my own Foundation dedicated to establishing a Truth Commission, modeled after South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. My mission in life would be devoted to promoting authentic honesty in our professional, personal, and spiritual relationships. I would also set up a trust fund for my brother, give a lot of money to my family, close friends, and various co-workers I've known over the years who need their debts paid off so they can actually live on the poverty wages they are paid.

I would still seek an agent and publisher for my novel, and if I failed to find one, I'd self publish. I would continue to write full time, alongside my foundation work. Once I felt "established" enough, I would run for political office (preferrably against a rightwing and fanatical evangelical Republican because it would just be way too much fun) in the kind of campaign that I'd like to set the standard for how a campaign should be run. Since I wouldn't care about the outcome (after all, I have a foundation to run), a campaign would allow me the freedom to debate issues in an honest way we don't expect in the current climate.

Yeah, being a billionaire would be awesome. It would be interesting to see how many people from my past come crawling back, wanting to renew friendships and such. My response would be: "if I didn't get a Christmas card from you in the last three years, don't bother." Cold, I know...but I don't do fake friendships.

4) Places I have lived ?

Taipei, Taiwan (1971-1972)
Eglin AFB, Florida (1972-1974)
Clark AFB, the Philippines (1974-1976)
Lawrence, Kansas (1976-1979)
State College, Pennsylvania (1979-1980)
Hill AFB, Utah (1980-1982)
Bellevue, Nebraska (1982-1985)
Fulda, West Germany (1985-1988)
Stone Mountain, Georgia (1988-1991)
RTC Orlando, Florida (March-May 1991)
NTTC Meridian, Mississippi (June-August 1991)
La Maddalena, Sardinia, Italy (1991-1994)
Norfolk, Virginia (1994-1996)
Stone Mountain, Georgia (1996-1997)
Provo, Utah (1997-1999)
Alexandria/Arlington/Vienna, Virginia (January-July 2000)
Stone Mountain, Georgia (2000-2001)
Atlanta, Georgia (2001-2004)
Smyrna, Georgia (2004-2006)
Portland, Oregon (2006-current)

5) Bad Habits ?

Procrastination and going to bed late.

6) Snacks I like ?

What do they call it? Chex mix or something like that?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Why Conservatives Hate So Much

Last weekend on Bill Moyers' weekly show, he had a segment on the continuing popularity of rightwing radio and television commentators, such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, Ann Coulter, and Michael Reagan. This past July, a person who listened to this garbage was so enraged that he went into a Unitarian-Universalist Church in Tennessee and opened fired. He believed that liberals were the source of all his problems, thus he went and did something about it.

Should these rightwingers who sprout hatred on their shows be held liable? I think so. Bill Moyers pointed out that in Rwanda, it was radio talkshow hosts constantly referring to Tutsis as "cockroaches" that incited what became a massive genocide committed by the Hutus in 1994. In our country, we aren't there yet but the shooting at a liberal church might be considered a warning sign.

What baffles me the most is why so many conservatives continue to hate liberals. Their people have controlled the three branches of the government from January 2001 through January 2007. They've held the majority in Congress from January 1995 through January 2007. They have the votes of five Supreme Court Justices. And they have their beloved president in the White House. They should be happy, right? When Clinton was president, I was happy. I basically ignored the opinions of the rightwing as jealousy and mindless rants. I certainly didn't hate the Republican party like I do now. I know hate is a negative emotion that doesn't really solve the issue. In all honesty, I don't really "hate" conservative people as much as I hate their willful ignorance and warped sense of logic. They remind me all too clearly of the scene in the novel "1984" where the ruling party decides to switch allies and enemies. Before the mantra was: "we've always been at war with East Asia." When they switched the mantra to "we've always been at war with Eurasia", the followers went right along with it without stopping to say, "wait a minute! How can that be true?" That's what mindless allegiance to an ideology gets you.

Bill Moyers showed clips of various rightwing commentators and their angry talk. Most disturbing was Michael Reagan, the adopted son of Ronald Reagan. He actually said that people who believe that 9/11 was an inside job should be executed! Wow. Really? He was truly angry about it and his reaction didn't make sense to me. When "my people" were in the White House, I heard all sorts of conservative conspiracy theories accusing the Clintons of murder (both of Vince Foster and of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas). Never once did their accusations anger me or make me think that they should be killed for thinking that. I guess I'm just more tolerant of other people's opinions and don't get threatened by it. For someone to be so threatened by the idea that there are people out there who believe that 9/11 was an inside job is very telling in a psychological standpoint. It reminds me of an idea I read in "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance." The idea is that when you know something, you aren't fanatical about trying to prove it. You just accept it as it is. For example...nearly everyone knows that the sun is going to come up the next morning, so you don't see people walking around trying to convince other people that the sun is going to come up the next morning. It is only when you DOUBT something that you become fanatical about proving your beliefs are true. That explains all the religious proselytizing. Getting people to believe the same thing you do is little more than silencing the doubts in your mind. People who are truly secure in their beliefs tend not to go around trying to convert everyone else to their way of thinking.

With the Republicans being in power for most of this decade, you would think that they would be happy and celebratory. Instead, they continue to project their hatred of liberals in books and on the radio and TV talkshows. Michael Savage is one who wrote about how liberals are betraying America and you get the impression that they actually hate liberals more than they do of Islamic terrorists. The amount of invective spewed towards liberals is just bizarre. Liberals truly haven't been in power since the 1960s. We've been in a pretty conservative society all of my life. Maybe their anger is from the fact that after these last seven years of Bush rule, their policies have been a dismal failure. I can see why they are angry, but they are blaming the wrong group. It would be like an abusive husband kicking the dog because his wife finally left him. The dog didn't cause the divorce. It was his own abusive actions.

I believe that extreme conservative ideology is a sign of mental illness. I owe this belief to the crazy roommate I had in college. He was so ideologically conservative that he often said nonsensical things that had no basis in fact or logic. He would get angry when I questioned his logic. One of the oddest things about him was that he would read the Daily Universe (BYU's student newspaper) and if he saw a letter to the editor he disagreed with, he would send hate mail to the writer! Hate mail! Just because someone expressed an opinion that differed from his. I tried to understand his behaviour. I asked him what would be the purpose to send someone hate mail. It simply boggles the mind. I eventually learned that he probably was mentally ill. He was bi-polar (manic-depressive), which made living in the same apartment a living hell. The fanatical devotion to rightwing ideology was the worst, though. No amount of reasoned argument, logic or facts would moderate his views at all. Near the end, I began to fear for my safety and reported him to the Honour Code office and even wrote a 12 page letter to his bishop outlining every crazy remark he ever made that called into question his mental stability. It's truly amazing re-reading the copy of that letter, nearly a decade later. I put up with a lot of abuse from that guy. I never hated him, though. I always felt sorry for him because he was so delusional about reality and fanatical in his ultra conservative ideology.

Here's what I know about the emotion of hate. It does make you feel powerful and righteous. But it's a short term fix. In actuality, it will eat away at you. I've seen this in the woman my uncle married. She's the most hateful and abusive person I've ever known. She used to look normal. But a few years ago at a family reunion, I was shocked how shriveled up she was. The transformation reminds me of the witch in "Snow White" who was young and somewhat beautiful yet turned into an old hag with a hunch back. We've all seen old people who look healthy, happy, and somewhat young for their age. I'm certain that their positive nature keeps them in good physical condition. My Great Uncle Jim is such a person. He's the funniest, happiest, and most loving member of our family and he's still riding a bicycle around town at age 83. On the flip side, my angry, hateful aunt has shriveled up into this tiny, bony woman who has nothing but bitterness and caustic things to say to people. I was shocked by the transformation between what I saw of her in 1991 and the person she shrank to in 2005. I have to believe that its the holding on to hatred for all those years which has weakened and diminished her body.

Here's what I know about love. It might seem like a weak emotion to those obsessed with physical power and domination. However, it truly is a transforming and powerful feeling that no drug-induced high could ever match. When I experienced the ecstatic bliss of love that lasted with great intensity for two weeks back in August 2001, I knew why people took drugs. They want to feel what I was feeling, which happened through my own spiritual search for answers to some tough questions about the purpose of my life. What I felt in those two weeks doesn't compare to anything you can get through drugs, sex, or power over others. It is a result of an internal awareness and tapping into your own power. When you feel this intensity of love, you experience a oneness with the entire universe and know no enemies. Everything was right in the universe. No obstacle could stand in my way. No adversary could ever defeat me. It's a power that is quiet, internal, and doesn't boast. No wonder why the rightwing fears it. It has the power to transform our planet into something far greater than our limited minds can imagine.

When we look at these rightwingers like Rush and Coulter and their ilk, one thing comes to mind. Why can't they stay married or find marriage partners? They are all wealthy and part of the ruling elite. I read an interview with Ann Coulter awhile back that was very enlightening. She expressed a fear of her own conservative male fans. They were scary to her. Why? She panders to their rabid intensity. She helped create these people with her propaganda lies. Why wouldn't she appreciate her fan base?

I think it says something when these purveyors of hate can't even stand their own fans. They look down on them, disdain them, perhaps even mock them. On the flip side, the liberal talkshow hosts seem to appreciate their fans and instead of spreading hate, they focus on the issues. While liberalism has its flaws in that people tend not to be loyal due to their independent natures, you rarely hear hatred being espoused. The focus is where it should be: on the issues.

It's sad to me that these rightwing radio talkshow hosts continue to have a huge listening audience. They solve nothing for their listeners lives. However, I know a few guys who have told me that they once listened to Rush regularly as young men and agreed with his views. None of them listen to him now. They grew up and grew tired of the same old hate. Maybe they realized that Rush has no credibility. People change. People get better. Life teaches you how to love. It's easy to hate. Loving is a lot harder. That's how God set it up and it's brilliant that way. Too bad Rush and his ilk haven't found it out for themselves. I have a feeling that Rush will hate until his death. I would not want to be in an afterlife experience that was created by a lifetime of hate.

Conservatives might hate liberals, but I try to remember that the hatred is based on ignorance and not let it bother me. You can't fault them really. They are constantly lied to by their leaders and talkshow hosts, their ideology hasn't made our country better or won any wars or improved the economy or created new jobs. The hatred directed at liberals is a misplaced hatred of self. They hate the freedoms that liberals enjoy, so we're the scapegoats. Rather than wage a war with them, I say...let them go on hating. They are only destroying their physical bodies in the long run and they are missing out on the greatest drug of all: the ecstasy that comes from an authentic love.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

True Motives Behind "Drill, Baby, Drill"

I apologize in advance if any of you find the above cartoon offensive. Honestly, I can't help it. When I heard that mindless chant at the Republican Convention, the first thought that came to my mind was an orgiastic cry you'd expect in a porn film rather than a political convention. Now one can buy a T-shirt with the above image. Capitalistic ingenuity at its crassest best! Considering McCain's wandering eye and Palin's attractiveness, you really do have to wonder what's going on behind the scenes. McCain has already proven that he'd dump one wife in favour of younger and prettier. We've seen too many powerful men constantly trading in their wives when a younger, prettier lady enters the picture.

The reason why I find the chant "drill, baby, drill" vulgar is twofold: (1) it seems like it was taken from the old expression "burn, baby, burn" which wasn't an indication that the person chanting that was up to any good. If I'm not mistaken, that phrase originated with the inner city race riots during the 1960s. It might have even been used in the Vietnam War when villages like My Lai were burned down "in order to save it." (2) The Republicans think that if we start drilling now, gas prices will be cheaper next week or next month or by election day. WRONG! Don't they know that it's a long process that won't see an effect on our energy for at least a decade? Drilling is not the "quick fix solution" to an energy problem that first appeared on the national scene in the Nixon/Ford years.

Carter's advice that we conserve energy through responsible habits was laughed at by conservatives who don't believe we should sacrifice any luxury for the national good. When Reagan came into office, he reversed Carter's energy plans and that's why we're in the mess we're in today...because our leaders in the 1970s and 1980s didn't have the foresight to see where the 1970s Oil Shocks would lead us thirty years later. Peak oil is here and "drill, baby, drill" is a mindless phrase more suited to a porno film than government policy.