Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Old America-just exactly what is it?

I have heard and seen a lot over the last couple of years about how America is changing for the worse, how people miss the "Old America" and want her back, and this lead me to think-just what exactly is the "Old America"?

Is the Old America the isolationist, "stay out of things come hell or high water" America? Is it the racist, bigoted, sexist America? I am sure if I asked a sampling of 100 people, I would get 100 different answers, because the truth is, what constitutes the "Old America" depends on the one answering.

We ALL have our own idea of what America should be. We ALL have our own interpretation of what America was. And we ALL have our own ideas about what America is becoming. So which ones are right? Which ones are wrong? I don't know.

I have my own ideas and interpretations and they are formed by my past, by my upbringing, and they are also changing daily based on my growth and maturation (no comment from the peanut gallery). Some of it is very conservative and some of it (more often these days) is more liberal. I tend to consider myself more Libertarian than Liberal or Conservative. I also tend to me more fiscally conservative and more socially liberal and this gets me into all kinds or disagreement and trouble with friends and family. And all that factors into and colors what I call the Old America and how I see America turning into.

The reality is... the "Old America" is a myth. It was never as great or as bad as we remember it. What we are really saying when we either speak highly or lowly about it, is giving our idea of what we think America should be.

But I have to remind myself that I alone am not America, I am part of it but I am not all of it and just my ideas and interpretations are just that.. a part of it, I don't have the right to decide and determine those things for others. I have the right to speak my mind but not to make someone else follow them. The Conservatives amongst us who decry what America is becoming (take your pick.. morally corrupt, socialist, communist, etc..) and that the Old America was better and more righteous also don't have the right to force that on those who disagree. The Liberals amongst us who decry what America used to be in the past and how we need to do this or that to move into the 21st Century and become more Global don't get to force that on those who disagree with them. We must all learn to communicate and more importantly cooperate to form the America of the future. One where neither side gets it's complete way, one where neither side is necessarily completely happy, and one where both sides have to give up some things they want.

The truth is that America is constantly growing and evolving (oops, I said the "E" word,  hope the Christian Taliban don't come after Our population is changing and evolving and this naturally is going to lead to change and progress and adaptation. This means it will NEVER be the Old America however you define it, it will always be the New America. It won't always be pretty, it will be full of mistakes and missteps. And we will learn and grow. And yes, some of what we have enjoyed or done in the past will go away, some of it good and some of it bad.

I don't know if it will grow worse or better, I don't know if it will be more "free" or more "restricted". I don't know if it will be more capitalist or more socialist. I do know that it will be whatever we make of it. And we can either continue to act like Junior High and High schoolers who insult and fight and "take our balls and pout" when we don't get our way, OR we can be adults who sit down and listen to each other and compromise to try and make the best America we can.

I don't know about the rest of you reading this, but however it turns out I would prefer it be directed and produced by adults than by children.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Why do we have to say negative things when people pass away?

I awoke to the news of the passing away of Maya Angelou. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I was never a big fan of hers (never against her either) and never read much of what she wrote, but I also had nothing against her, she just wasn't in the my realm of interest. And for that I feel that I will probably be sorry and playing catch up for the rest of my life. However, I do know she had a HUGE following and she touched many people. She could also rub many people the wrong way but isn't that always the case when someone feels strongly about a subject and speaks on it?

Anyway, most of what I have read of her and about her have been positive and glowing. She spoke of a situation and time (being black in American and the civil rights struggles) that to this day still stir up people's passions and guilt even. But she was honest in what she felt and wrote and that is all we can ask of anyone is honesty.

However, after seeing many reports and posts about her after her passing today, I am discouraged by some of what I have seen. While most is positive and affirming, there are also plenty of snide comments and innuendo about eccentricities and peculiarities she may or may not have had. Now, most of this is my fault for it comes from people and places that I frequent or had in the past anyway and I can't judge their intentions although I have my suspicions. I also won't single anyone or anyplace out, just that it disturbs me that we do this kind of stuff.

 We ALL have peculiarities and eccentricities that others may find strange or even alarming. That doesn't make us bad people, just human. And outside of being truly evil (such as Stalin, Hitler, the KKK, etc) to bring any of it up after one passes away just strikes me as wrong and misguided. Why can't we just celebrate the life the lived and their accomplishments. Remember how they touched us and spoke truth to us that we may not have faced otherwise?

Why do we have to bring up the negatives and make snide comments? I am not saying we should whitewash anything, or cover anything up but outside of something egregious, when a life has ended, we should focus on the positives and light they brought instead of the negatives. Bringing up the negatives does no one any good anyway, it just continues a cycle of hate and jealousy.

Now this may make me a "flaming heart" liberal, but is that such a bad thing at times? Maybe if we ALL had a little more heart we might find a little more peace in ourselves and the world. But then again maybe that is just a hopeless pipe dream. I choose to cling to the hopeless pipe dream.

RIP Ms. Angelou, the world has gone a little darker today with the passing of the light of your soul. It is up to the rest of us to shine a little brighter to make up for it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Prejudice-The Cancer of the Heart

As stated in previous posts, I have recently been re-examining myself, both internal and external. I used to be like most in that I was happy with who and how I was and saw no problems or dichotomy in my speech and my actual behavior. I would claim I believed in equality and acceptance but the actual working out of that in my behavior was something different. But recent events have caused a rethinking.

As also stated previously, one of those events was a good friend disclosing to me that he was Gay. Where previously I had never given any prejudice in this area much thought, this caused me to give it deeper consideration. Before I had always felt I treated people equally regardless of their sexual orientation, I was still "weirded out" by the very thought of LGBT relationships and behavior. If I am being honest, I still am but instead of just ignoring it, I am actively trying to break that prejudice. Having a good friend that is gay, I want to understand him and his life. It is easy to ignore any prejudices when they don't touch your life in any way, but when they intrude (and they always will in one form or another) we must rethink them and ourselves. 

A similar instance dealt with racism. This was caused my a recent book I read (a brief book review will be posted eventually)-"Natchez Burning" by Greg Iles. It deals with hate crimes during the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960's and the lasting repercussions that are still around today. This has caused me to learn more about this time and also to re-evaluate my own feelings on race. I was lucky enough to be born after those times and to grow up in a relative equality period. I haven't had to see or go through such instances and I consider myself lucky in that respect. But again, being honest I still have ingrained prejudices against those not like me (be they black, hispanic, or asian).

I fear we haven't really solved the prejudice issue (be it racism or homophobic or whatever) we have just driven it deeper and more hidden. The only way to truly deal with it and eradicate it, is to admit it and work through it. We have been successful at hiding it but it is still there smoldering and festering.

Recently Mark Cuban had an interview where he admitted that he has prejudices and the response I have seen ranges all over the map. But most of it, takes him to task for admitting it. I personally, am glad to see him admit it.. I wish we would all admit that we have them, instead of denying it and hiding it. For only when we admit it can we begin to cure it. If we would all be honest with ourselves, we would all admit that we ALL have prejudice. Some of it racist in nature, some of it is sexual in nature, some of it is morally in nature, but it is there. And most of us are well trained and adept at rationalizing it and explaining it away, but it is NEVER right to not respect one another or treat one another equally.

It is never a bad thing to admit and acknowledge we have prejudices, it can only be overcome and defeated if brought out into the light. Just like cancer does with our cells, if left alone and denied prejudice will slowly take over and eat us alive from the inside out. It will cause a tumor of the heart and soul until it explodes and kill us. It will take the "chemotherapy" of acknowledgement and the treatment of honesty and respect for each other to cure this. Instead of sweeping it under the rug and denying it is still there, we need to be honest with each other and most importantly with ourselves. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day-Thank You to ALL who have served

Today is Memorial Day, a day that is more often viewed as a 3 day weekend from work, where the focus is put on camping, or having cook outs and parties. But in reality the day holds more meaning that we tend to bestow on today. It is a day where we who are lucky to live in the Untied States, owe our respect and remembrance to ALL those who have served our nation and us.

Memorial day got it's official start in 1868 when Maj. Gen John Logan, the head of the Union Veterans of the Civil War established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers. Similar services had happened in various cities in both North and South years before but those were not considered official. Many cities claim to be the birthplace of this holiday, approximately 25 most in the South. However, in 1966 President Lyndon B. Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y. to be the "Official" birthplace of the holiday. A specific date was not established at this time, but by the end of the 19th century it was most often celebrated on May 30th.

While at that time it was mainly for the soldiers from the Civil War, it was after World War 1 that the holiday was expanded to include all those who had died serving the country in ALL the wars involving America. And in 1971 Congress made it an official Federal Holiday.

I for one am proud to honor and remember all those who gave their all to defend this country and her citizens. There is no greater honor than one can bestow than to lay down their lives for the fellow man, and NO ONE does that better than the American Soldier. They have kept us free for 240 years now and still going strong.

I am proud and honored to have served myself and consider all those who have served and continue to serve to be my brothers and sisters. I could't ask for a better, more honorable, more loyal family than my fellow veterans. All of us who have served don't ask for special treatment, and we certainly don't consider ourselves heroes. The only heroes are those who never made it home. Those are the ones we remember and honor.

So, by all means go camping, get together and cook out, have parties.. but please, take at least few moments this weekend and remember what was sacrificed to make it all possible. None of those heroes would ask or expect you to stop such activities or feel guilty for enjoying them, in fact they would probably curse you up a blue streak and kick your arses for even thinking it. They would tell you that is the very reason they served and have their all. We just owe it to them to take a few moments and silently remember them.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Today-May 25th in History

Today's post will just be a list of some of the things that have happened on this day in History

-240 BC First recorded Perehelion passage of Halley's Comet
-1521 Martin Luther declared an outlaw by the Edict of Worms
-1878 Gilbert and Sullivan's Comic Opera "H.M.S Pinafore" opens in London
-1925 John T. Scopes is indicted for teaching Evolution
-1961 Before Congress JFK made a speech declaring his goal to "put a man on the moon" within the decade, thus launching the Apollo Program
-1966 Explorer 32 launched
-1968 The Gateway Arch in St. Louis is dedicated
-1977 "Star Wars is releases in Theatres
-1986 Hands Across America takes place
-2008 NASA'a Phoenix lander lands on Mars
-2011 The last episode of The Oprah Winfrey show airs

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Soul Searching Saturday 2.0

Today...May 24th in History:
-1218 The 5th Crusade leaves Europe
-1607 100 setters leaves their ships to land in Jamestown
-1626 Peter Minuit buys Manhattan
-1738 John Wesley is converted, essentially launching the Methodist movement
-1844 Samuel Morse sends his first message over telegraph
-1856 John Brown kills 5 pro-slavery settlers in Kansas
-1853 The Brooklyn Bridge officially opens
-1935 The first night game in MLB, when Cincinnati beats Philadelphia 2-1
-1941 The Bismarck sinks the Hood
-1943 Joseph Mengele becomes Chief Medical Office of Auschwitz
-1961 Freedom Riders are arrested in Jackson, MS
-1962 Scott Carpenter orbits Earth 3 times in the Aurora 7 capsule

In the attempt to better myself and make myself not as big an asshole as I usually am, I have been doing a lot of thinking, examining and soul searching. I have re-examined a lot of what I used to take for granted and beliefs I used to hold and accept without questioning. Part of that has led to the new belief that ALL beliefs should be regularly questioned and rethought, for that is only how we can improve ourselves and grow.

Another thing to come out of all that is my stance on the death penalty. For all my life up until recently I have blindly held to the rightness of the death penalty. I have operated under the assumption that, when you take a life you forfeit your right to your own. That lead to acceptance of the death penalty and it's rightness. However, I can no longer hold to that as I once did.

First off, just the basic fact that I am NOT God and I have no right to decide who lives and who dies. Regardless of the reason for making that decision. I do not condone those who take the lives of others, but just as they don't have that right, neither do I. Just because they choose to make that determination does not give me the right to do it as well. I am not God, I did not create life and I DO NOT have the right to take it... EVER. I also do not have the right to choose people to do that for me, I do not have the right to pass the responsibility on to anyone else either (specifically a judge, jury or the legal system). NONE of us has the right.

Secondly, I also cannot be Pro-Life when it comes to abortion (which I staunchly am, sorry if that offends anyone) and yet also hold to the rightness of the death penalty. I cannot with a clear conscience say I am Pro-Life (for any reason) and yet also hold the belief that taking a life (even a murderer or rapist) is condoned in a different context. I admit the contexts are different, but life is life and again, I DO NOT have the right to take a life, for ANY reason.

I do not speak for anyone other than myself, and while I may disagree with someone on their personal stances of such issues, I also do not condemn them for having them. Most hold those views for their own reasons and I respect that, I just could not continue with that dichotomy in myself. Thanks for letting me ramble and unburden myself. Back to your regularly scheduled Saturday.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Fun Friday

  I don't have anything prepared today, so just a little fun potpourri....

Today-May 23rd in History:

-1533 The Marriage of Henry VIII and Catharine of Aragon is annulled
-1701 William Kidd accused of Piracy is hung in London
-1788 South Carolina becomes the 8th US State (and US history is never the same thanks to those trouble
-1873 The Royal Canadian Mounted Police gets it's genesis
-1934 Bonnie and Clyde are ambushed and killed
-1945 While in US Custody Heinrich Himmler commits suicide (and the world is less one evil)
-1995 The first version of JAVA is released

And for the fun part... here is the EPIC Drum Battle between Will Ferrell and Chad Smith on the Tonight Show

EPIC Drum Battle between Will Ferrell and Chad Smith