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Rumilluminations Nov. 2008
By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Sat, November 01 2008 - 7:18 pm

November 30, 2008                            Valparaiso, IN

I have to laugh when I think about how my loyalty can't be bought.  I should have said - partly because my loyalty ain't worth much!  I think most "loyalty" is stupid.  What does it mean?  What is loyalty based on?  Acknowledgement of power?  Love?  Above truth and justice, for instance?

I laugh about the term "maverick" also, now that I know its history.  A steer that was unbranded was not "nobody's."  It was merely unlabelled.  The fact that the early settlers and ranchers called an unbranded bovine a "Maverick" showed that they respected the right of ownership, even if something wasn't branded with the owner's mark.  Only a dishonest person would take it or brand it with his own ranch's logo.

Ha, ha!  I'm no maverick!  I'm more like a collage!

      

November 29, 2008                       Valparaiso, IN

Who are these people that are my fellow-citizens?  Waiting in line 24 hours to save $100 on an item that is not even necessary for survival?  Trampling someone to death to get a bargain?

Have we gone insane?

I would not shop on black Friday to save hundreds of dollars, because I hate crowds.  One year at the fireworks under the arch in St. Louis, some of the people in a jam-packed crowd started behaving foolishly behind the wheel of a car, trying to drive through a crowd as tightly packed as could be and still walk.  Their actions started stirring up anger among some people in the crowd.  I was afraid it would turn violent with nowhere to run.

Maybe it is my personal vicarious history, seeing movies like Day of the Locust; the idea of being in a crowd of people I can't stay at least arm's-length away from does not appeal.

Years ago in Albuquerque I was shopping the day after Thanksgiving and was horrified by the behavior of customers pushing and shoving as if they were competing for food after a two-week fast.  They treated the merchandise as if it were a old dirty article of their own clothing, too, rummaging and tossing.

Yech.

 

November 28, 2008                           Valparaiso, IN

Almost can't believe this is Northern Indiana.  Took a sunny, mid-forties walk today to walk off some pecan pie.  Went to Ogden Gardens, where there is a surprise waiting for all visitors.  It is a beautiful garden, too, at any time of year.  Take a walk over there, and enjoy!

So peaceful.  A perfect day and perfect place to avoid shopping!

November 26, 2008                        Valparaiso, IN

Plucky lucky turkey lurkey flirty purty sweet desserty my how good food inspires me!

I don't really have much sympathy with Sarah Palin, but why too many false tears for turkeys?  I must confess to an interest in how they are slaughtered - I'm out of date, I guess.  I thought they were still killed by hand.

I also find the TV show "Dirty Jobs" interesting, although it is sometimes even hard to watch, let alone imagine participating in.  I don't much enjoy cleaning toilets (which I have done at home and for a while as a volunteer hour-long stint at the local (Santa Fe) food co-op) or scrounging around in mossy gravelly dirt under plant-occupied nursery benches , but some of the other jobs I've seen the "star" of that show endure make my grubbiest jobs seem pristine.  (Well, cleaning out the rat's nest at the nursery wasn't much fun either, come to think of it.)

So, although I try not to judge Sarah Palin (ha, ha, talk about turkey-tears!) she doesn't get my thanks either.  Thank you to all the people who do dirty jobs for a living!  And that includes the surgeon who had to clean out my infected appendicitis abdomen eight-and-a-half years ago.  I'm still fine, thanks to you!

And to all you humans who, like me, have at times been called turkeys: may you be a turkey and eat it, too!

(Oops, that almost sounds like an insult.  Well, I'll be a double turkey!) 

November 25, 2008                        Valparaiso, IN

Well, day before yesterday I promised to talk more about what people are looking for when they go to church.  I forgot all about that intention yesterday when I wrote about the Somalia horror story.  I guess that egregious example of communal abuse against a fourteen-year-old girl is the perfect example of why I want neither a paternal figure or an almighty community to be some kind of autocratic "God!"

The more I look at the Christian religion the more paternal I see it as being.  (For the Catholics, add maternal.)  As comforting as the idea of a "loving" father or mother may be, I think it is something that we should internalize for ourselves instead of looking for externally.

We need strength, joy, and all those other wonderful attributes that give us the courage and persistence to live.  If we want to call the source of all this good stuff "God" that is all very well.  But to look for parental attributes in an externally persistent, eternal source that we call "our heavenly Father" seems to me really immature.  To look for it in another "human merely being" is downright infantile.

Why would anyone give someone else that kind of power over her?  It's a mystery, and I don't think it's a mystery of love! 

November 24, 2008                             Valparaiso, IN

This morning, lying in bed, I was about to enter a trough (or slough, if you prefer) of despond.

I reviewed my behavior yesterday and found it sadly wanting.  A motionless (and pissy-looking) squirrel crouched on the sidewalk, which did not move even when I was four freet from it (unconscious of its presence) did not motivate me to call animal control.  I should have.  What if it is rabid?

Later in the day, talking with my daughter on the cell-phone, I passed by someone who might have needed help (an older man.)  He may even have tried to get my attention, but I was too focused on my conversation to pay attention - until it was too late to.  Guilt, guilt.

Then I read a story in The Week magazine that drove all thought of my own guilt from my mind.

It is the worse story I have ever read.  I know horrible things go on in the world, but this is the worst.  If you want to know what it is about, Google Somalia stoning.

Somalia, if you and your soccer watchers can tolerate that happening (including what happens to an eight-year-old boy who tries to prevent it), you are going down.  That's not a threat.  I have no power to bring you down.  The Universe does, though, and I bet it will.

Nothing like righteous anger to drive out depression!

November 23, 2008                          Valparaiso, IN

What are people looking for when they enter a religious community?

When I was a young(er) mother of one, I remember wanting "a spiritual community."  I found it in the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in the city of Santa Fe, New Mexico.  This group probably felt right to me because my mother had been largely brought up as a Friend, and, I discovered years later, so had my father's mother.

When I had these yearnings the Meeting, held on Canyon Road, was only a half mile away.  Perfect for a family with no car!

Some other people, it seems, are looking for a parental figure.  I was thinking about Jim Jones as family annihilator on a very big scale, so I googled the key nouns, and lo and behold the idea was not original to me.  Professionals agree, surprise, surprise.

Do maybe some of us take that "Children of God" (the name of another unfortunate religious cult) thing a little too literally?  I remember being approached once or twice by that organization while I was living in Albuquerque, but for me it held no attraction.

A friend of mine was "chilled" when he read my idea of making "Community" (okay, okay, I guess I shouldn't have capitalized it!) our "god."  (Note the small g.)

He wrote me a response about not wanting the "almighty" community to have power over him.

Whoa!  I didn't say anything about "almighty!"  But for anyone else who might have misunderstood my intentions, I meant no more by my statement than maybe we should put our highest value on community, that entity not being primarily something we are subject to, but something we create.

I'm sure when I was a small child I believed in God as a parent figure, but my friend's response makes me realize how far away from that 50 years of reading has taken me.  More tomorrow. 

November 22, 2008                           Valparaiso, IN

Well, I'll be danged.  It was certainly easy, after years of lazy wondering how employment rates were determined (and being misinformed years ago that they were based on the numbers of people getting unemployment compensation (not so!)) to find out a closer approximation to the truth.  (Only "closer" because the truth is complicated, not that the information would necessarily be intentionally misleading.)

All you have to do, folks, to get a better idea of how the unemployment rates in the USA are determined, is log onto www.bls.gov and find the article "How the Government Measures Unemployment."

I'm hanging my head, embarrassed.  I'm one of the people rooting for getting information before forming a judgment or making an important life decision!  I found out in this article that lots of interviews with households are what determine the unemployment rate.  The interviewers get trained before they interview.  The people interviewed do not get the say of what their employment status is.  They just answer questions.

Neither do the interviewers get to make that call.  The answers to the questions are fed into computers and they decide!

So, I have found out that I actually, for most of the last few months have been "employed."

What do you know!  (Of course, the money I earned might have been enough to pay for my food - if I paid for my own food!  A friend pointed out that an acquaintance of ours was both "employed" and homeless.  Curious about how that could be?  Read the article!)

My point is, though, that the unemployment rate is acknowledged to be higher than the number of people drawing unemployment compensation, so it is more accurate than I thought it could possibly be (or an least inaccurate for different reasons.)

My higher (more general) point is that if you want to be counted as part of the labor force but don't look for work because you are discouraged, at least try to get in touch with a potential employer at least once a month so if you do get interviewed, you are counted as unemployed.

Hey!  You might even get a job!

November 21, 2008                     Valparaiso, IN

The Chocolate War is largely about control and manipulation, both of individuals and groups of people.  So is mass transportation, I think, which may be how the subject of time zones and trains came up.  (Probably not, but maybe.)

The public transportation corporations in the US, far from having an attitude of serving the people in fairness and helpfulness, have largely had a "Now I've got you where I want you!" attitude toward the consumers of their services.  (I'm speaking not of individual employees here, more about corporate attitudes and decisions.)  Advertising that says they "care" is just a pose.  Look at their actions.

I'm not going to engage in a long list of offences towards me by bus and airline companies here.  Everyone who uses transportation besides the automobile has stories.  But the lack of freedom, promptness, and consideration on the part of corporate carriers for their customers is enough to drive people to use the automobile, which is exactly where the automotive industry wants us.

In the past I may have criticized my fellow-citizens for demanding the comfort, freedom, and self-indulgence that auto travel gives them at, sometimes, the expense of the environment.  But given the way transportation companies try to (and largely succeed) in herding us around like so many cattle, I'm a lot more sympathetic to those who drive.

The introduction of strict (for the people) timetables has led us inexorably to our extreme attitudes re time management and what "fast" is.  Nano seconds make a difference in all sorts of contexts, and I'm not kidding myself that there is any hope that it can be any other way.

But it is no wonder we are stressed out all the time, eating and gaining weight and getting cancer.

November 20, 2008                            Valparaiso, IN

Last week at the Valparaiso Library Book Club discussion  of Cormier's The Chocolate War, somehow we got into talking about time zones.  One of the participants told how people "set" (quite literally, I guess!) sundials.  Another mentioned with a little smile that it was the coming of the train that made it necessary for everyone to operate on exactly the same time schedule.

At the time of the discussion I thought the smile was one of pleasure at serving up an interesting little tidbit.  Maybe it was.

But it occurred to me this morning that the small smile might have been one of irony, in which case it should have been a great guffaw.  We had to start operating on a literal, set, common timetable because of trains?  The form of transportation known to be chronically hours late even in the days when planes and buses were routinely timely?

I have a memory from twenty-five years ago of waiting outside in sunny but cold Lamy, New Mexico (did you know that the Santa Fe Railroad did not go to Santa Fe?) with my husband and three small children for three hours before the train arrived.  In September of this year my sister's train from Denver to Chicago was delayed by at least that long in both directions.

Nothing much has changed, it appears, at least not for the better.  Now sometimes we wait that hours for buses and planes!  Tomorrow I'll talk about why the subject would have come up during a discussion of The Chocolate War.

(Oh, don't talk to me about autumn time fall-backs and practical reasons like that!  Let me have my fun!) 

November 19, 2008                         Valparaiso, IN

I'm feeling a little grumpy because my "green" bags I take shopping aren't green.  I know that if anything they are status symbols in the world of conservation because they were in use twenty and twenty-five years ago (depending on the bag) but they don't have the signature green look, except for the lettering which says, "The Market Place" and stuff like that.  They are, on the whole, "natural" - off-white.

Which makes me wonder.  What is the effect on the environment of all the green dyes used in the green bags?

I saw a little news item yesterday which mentions Texas cities' attempts at energy conservation including using LED lights and little windmills to power their holiday displays.

Makes me think:  Remember the little beanies with the windmill on top?  Might be fun to have a house with a bunch of little windmills on the top to power itself.  The roof on the different sides could be different colors, too - red, green, blue, yellow depending on which would be more energy efficient - not that with insulation it would make any difference!

Under the windmills, inside the house?  The brains, of course!

Ha ha ha....

November 18, 2008                         Valparaiso, IN

Here in NW Indiana this a.m. it was quiet and white.  Hard to believe that in California people were beating back flames while I was lifting (officially) 9.5 inches of snow off our sidewalks.

I haven't had any hits from California for a while.  Is everybody too distracted, or have they gone satellite or some other non-recording way of visiting my site?

Maybe I have been ignoring the celebs too much ha ha.  I have begun to have respect for Paris Hilton.  She is very funny, and I don't any longer think for one minute it's accidental.

Jay Leno and his writers have also been on a roll lately, almost as if they are overcompensating for the lack of campaign fodder for their jokes.  His homage to Rodney Dangerfield series of jokes is really funny, and Kevin Eubank's musical instinct with the rhythmic comebacks is right on.

Is NBC really going to let Jay Leno go?  Am I really that much in the minority about what/who is funny on TV?  Aren't the days of supermajority ratings (except for the occasional political event) gone forever anyway?

How about putting the Tonight Show on a little bit earlier on the West Coast?  When I was working at 8 a.m. in Corvallis OR, I never could stay awake for Jay Leno.  Maybe the ratings would be better if the working folks could watch it and still get enough sleep.  Hell, I would at least watch the monologue and go to bed chuckling!

California, I wish I could give you some of our precipitation as well as my opinions!

 

November 17, 2008                        Valparaiso, IN

There have been times in my life when I have had time and not much money.  Other times I have had more money and no time.

Of the two, I prefer to have less money and more time.  It is all relative, of course.  I have always had a roof over my head and food to eat.  But given those basics plus books and television and now the internet, I can happily fill up my free hours and luxuriate in doing what I'm inclined to do.

Some people don't feel alive unless they have luxuries and status.  Hey, I like to eat out as much as anyone, and it sure feels as if I spend a lot on food each week.

But given the option between more things and free time, I choose time.

My wealth is time. 

November 16, 2008                          Valparaiso, IN

I was really awed and inspired by the fact that the good old USA could actually elect a President of obviously mixed blood.

But now a whole week has passed (ha ha) and of course I start looking at it from a different angle.  It took 200 years!  (A friend says 400.) Ridiculous that it should take so long!  Still, an improvement....

But lest we congratulate ourselves too much for our tolerance, how long will it be before we are able to elect a Buddhist or, say, a Muslim?

Maybe a female Muslim could be the first Muslim President, because she might reassure the female citizens that they won't have to have a male relative to accompany them wherever they go!

This requirement wouldn't fly in the US at all, if only for practical reasons.  Many women here have very few male relatives.  Me, for instance.  No brothers, deceased father, uncles and male cousins I haven't seen in decades!  I do have a son.  Would I have to move to where he lives, 2000 miles away?  Then what about my poor mother?  Would she have to leave her home of fifty years and move too?

One Muslim woman I spoke with said this social requirement affords protection to the woman.  But honestly, when would my poor son (the sole male relative of a mom, a grandmom, and two sisters) get any of the work that provides his livelihood done?  And as for my uncle in his eighties, I think the only protection he could offer would be moral authority!

That's only one example, of course.  Other "traditions" such as female circumcision, are, I hope, also unthinkable here for less sheerly practical and logistic reasons.  I would be curious to know how widely some of these more personal cultural habits are practiced in cultures predominately Muslim.

No, traditional Taliban-style Islamic mores would not fly in the U.S.  Power may lie in large familial and/or tribal numbers, but wealth and individual freedom seem to associate themselves with smaller ones!

 

November 15, 2008                          Valparaiso, IN

Freedom and security - isn't that everybody's dream?  Except for the saintly types who have surrendered their wills completely to God who evidently don't 'want' anything - we don't want much!  Just security and freedom, that's all!

It doesn't seem like too much to ask, does it?  Freedom to spend, secure in the knowledge that we will be able to manage it.  But really, how long did we think we could average (what's the latest - $12,000?) in debt apiece and get away with it?  People who live in the tropics know that the day is only going to last so long, and people who live farther away from the equator know that summer is inevitably followed by colder weather.

Excessive optimisim about the amount of debt you can afford to get into really is not warranted!  (Even my modest assessment of what debt I could afford in 1995 was not warranted, I found out.  Only luck got me out of debt as soon as I did over a year after I planned to!)

Do the big shot economists really think a public worried about maintaining its income at the present level is going to start spending to avoid a recession?  (Even if the dollar amount stays the same, its power to purchase will probably decrease.)  The recession is an inevitable reckoning that was bound to come.

The trouble with "experts" is that they get bored with talking to anyone who doesn't happen to share their particular obsession.  They can't be bothered to talk with other people about other things.  Or they only talk with other successful people about the stuff they are expert in.

I'm sure it is an fascinating life, up there among the glitterati.  The only trouble is, they lose track of the pulse.

 

November 14, 2008                          Valparaiso, IN

I read in a news report a while back that the government has very few employees who are conversant in Arabic.  I know a young Arabic-speaking couple here in Valparaiso that would love to talk with people more skilled in their language.  

I took Latin in high school, and never really regretted it, but I do deplore the fact that I am not bilingual (college French and a months-long honeymoon in Mexico did not result in language skills that would make me what I would call "conversant.")

Arabic seems like a really important language for a lot of people to learn these days.  Nothing leads to real understanding and rapport than meaningful conversation, and "How much does that cost?" and "Do you have a bathroom?" don't quite cut it.

Do the big city schools have magnet language high schools, where you can study one language (or if you are really adept, a whole constellation of languages) intensively?

Many cities have adopted a sister city in Russia or India or China.  Wouldn't it be great if the American cities that adopt a foreign counterpart would offer training in that country's language/languages?

People might move from one part of the country not just "for the schools" but maybe "for the Chinese language classes offered there at the high school level."  Or even - what the hell - from grade school on up!

Does some multi-billionaire want to offer a grant-funding organization that would support that kind of educational offering?

I'd root for that! 

November 13, 2008                            Valparaiso, IN

The morning after Barack Obama was elected President, I had the strangest experience.  I felt a strange lowering of my stress level: a feeling of relief and relaxation in the area of my solar plexus.

I was trying to tell my daughter about it and she said, "I felt the same thing.  It was like a shadow has gone."

Since then I have heard of people on the media saying the same thing: a weight has been taken off their shoulders.

I had never experienced this feeling as the result of a political election before.  I don't expect Obama to work miracles, but it feels like a miracle to have someone elected to the Presidency who seems to inhabit the same planet and have some of the same goals that I do.

Now, if I can just make it through Thanksgiving, I'll (hopefully) experience that wonderful release from stress again!

 

November 12, 2008                      Valparaiso, IN

Ho-hum.

I'm bored with:

November

Sarah Palin (otherwise known as Saragate - or a pitiful GOP surrogate for Hillary Clinton?)

Bill O'Reilly on Keith Olbermann's otherwise wonderful show Countdown - the other day when Bill was Worse, Worser and Worsest would have been a wonderful finale of the subject of Bill on that show.  As Keith said about another bad trio, who cares about what Bill says anymore?

Crime TV

Mowing the lawn.

My mom and I composed a jingle today, driving around in the car looking at autumn's last gasp:

"I ain't gonna mow no mo'

I ain't gonna mow no mo'

To hell with the leaves, to hell with the trees

I ain't gonna mow no mo.'"

(Now, repeating that shows how bored I am!)

November 11, 2008                    Valparaiso, IN

As long as the Federal Government is into bailing everyone out, how about bailing out any young person who, for the privilege of getting a college education like her parents and grandparents before her, is in giganto mongo debt?

You know the young people I am talking about:  The ones who, far from even dreaming about buying a house, have incurred a house-sized debt which, whether it has bought something worth anything or not (like say, any job security, let alone good job security) they cannot simply walk away from.

What is it in this country with the sacred right of property?  Why are people who aspire to home ownership more valued and respected than those who aspire to knowledge and the use of it to (often) help further society?

Take away the homes from these people who can't afford them?  I understand reluctance to do that.  I'm not saying we should.  But how about getting more help to deserving young people who can't afford to even think about buying a house?  How about forgiving the amount of educational debt a young person has incurred, say exceeding $30,000, in trying to become something that not everyone with willing hands can become?

I have heard that Obama is going to help young people with their educational expenses in one way or another.  But what about the young people hovering around thirty whose college educations cost ten times (exaggeration? - tell me!) what they cost forty years ago?

Lucky I was, even then, to graduate without debt.  But the price of a college education has been ridiculous for years.  Hard to believe it hasn't been an intentional elitist ploy to cut down the number of plebes able to earn a degree.

November 10, 2008                        Valparaiso, In

It came to me as I was talking to another Obama supporter the other day - electing Barack Obama was probably the best thing the U.S. could have done for our national security!  Without lifting a finger otherwise, we raise the good-will and trust towards us held not only by European nations.  Some of those living in the MidEast seem to have relaxed a little, too.  People who are not mad at us are less likely to attack us.  And although Obama is a practicing Christian, the rumors about his being a secret Muslim can't hurt us in the Middle East!  At least, the idea that he has sympathy for those who practice Islam can only help us.

Speaking of sympathy for one who may still practice Islam:  why don't we offer asylum to Osama bin Laden's pacifist son Omar and his English wife - at least until they can get legally settled in England or wherever they ultimately intend to go?  Talk about punishing the offspring for the sins of their fathers!  Omar disapproves of his father's actions and has been separated from his family because of it.  Surely he poses no threat to any country in which he would live.

November 9, 2008                           Valparaiso, IN

I'm afraid I was pedantic yesterday.  ("So what's new?" you shrug.  "You are always going where no one else will go - bother to go, that is.")

I will ignore these imaginary responses and continue (perhaps pedantically) with my own imaginary derivation of pedantic.

Why does pedantic have such a negative connotation?  It looks like "ped" (meaning "foot") and "antic" to me!  Oh.  I just looked up "antic" and it means a ludicrous or ridiculous move or gesture.

Well, some might call that negative, but not me!  And I don't think I'm pedantic either!  ("No pedant ever does.")

Shut up!  Shut up!  To me pedantic means doing antics with your feet!  It means cutting up with a little grapevine or kicking up your heels or capering around a little with a silly smile or anything at all you need to do to escape from the cold fact that grey nasty November has finally insinuated itself into the noxious northland (ha - be glad it was delayed this year or Obama would never have been elected!  The Hawaiian influence would never have prevailed!) and settled in all smug and smiling (in a mean nasty wintry way) and sneering and determined to make a fool out of you.

April Fool's Day, eat your heart out.  November has you beat all hollow.

(No, not like Halloween!  That's in October (ah the "O" effect again.)  Hollow, like hollerin', rollin', stolen, tolling, colleen, collar, dollar... gee, things are lookin' up already!  Maybe it's time to go buy a lottery ticket!  Doing a hop, a hope, a skip and a jump all the way through the lowering glowering grey November skies!)

(See? she said pedantically.  The use of the plural "skies" has a completely different, liberating effect as opposed to the effect you would get from the word sky......

on the other hand, somehow, upon reading it, it seems that "sky" would be more appropriate, maybe carry the mood of the piece through...)

Any other pedants out there?  What do you think?

Love ya!  Have a good Sundae ha ha ha (come to think of it that might be better than a lottery ticket....

November 8, 2008                           Valparaiso, IN

I want to give a lot of credit for Obama's win to... community organizers!  (Not the least of them Obama himself, obviously.)

In my town of Santa Fe (for 26 years) there were Earth Days, Farmers Markets, Fiestas, and other community events that brought people out of their houses to mix with other people of all races and creeds.  Sure, Santa Fe has its share of racial anger and conflict, but community events at least get you out there rubbing shoulders with everyone else, with mostly good experiences to enjoy and remember.

To downplay the role of community organizers is to undermine and lack respect for people who are working at a very important job!  Why do people say the name Saul Alinsky with a sneer?  He's the one (for me, living near Chicago) who made the job of community organizer famous.

I also want to give part of the credit for Obama's win to... Chicago!  (Where Saul Alinsky worked.)

What black woman played a huge part in Obama's success (besides his wife Michelle, of course)?  Oprah!  And where was the springboard for Oprah Winfrey's national success?  Chicago!  Oprah is incredibly talented and creative, of course.  But I think it was someone in Chicago who really recognized this and gave her the big chance - or at least put her in line for her big chance!

Chicago is also the place Obama chose to make his home.  There must have been opportunity there not available in such abundance in other places.

I am so excited to have a President-elect who is not gung-ho for war.  I am so excited to have a President-elect who is an expert on the U.S. Constitution!

I have a friend who told me long before the election that when she heard Obama speak at the Democratic Convention (via TV) four years ago she thought, "There's the next President of the United States."  This was before I had ever even heard of Barack Obama!

Did anyone else have that intuition when they heard his speech?  If so, get in touch!  I'd love to hear about it! 

November 7, 2008                          Valparaiso, IN

One of the advantages (disadvantages?) of growing up in a critical environment is that you learn the talent of argument (if only mentally, in self-defense.)  This may be hard to live with for you and everyone around you sometimes, but is great for seeing different sides of any given picture.

I imagine the outrage of people told that they can only legally earn $300,000 a year.  "But," says the Devil's Advocate (or in this case the Bible's) within me, "Scripture supports that political viewpoint.  Jesus himself said that a rich man doesn't have a chance of getting into heaven.  (Oh, don't quote me all that garbage about the Needle's Eye being two literal rocks blah blah blah.  We Americans are almost all incredibly wealthy by the standards of Jesus' time or the present world, for that matter.)  So why don't all you fundamentalist Christians vote to take away the right to be too rich by our wealthiest-country-in-the-world American standards?

I strongly suspect that everybody wants to pick and choose the virtues in the Bible they are willing to submit to, and of course everybody chooses the to abstain from the "sins" that don't tempt them!  Search your souls and see if what I am saying is not true.

As for having homosexual neighbors, I'd rather live next door to lesbians than leaf-blowers any day.  Sure we tend to be a visual society, but why do people think they have the right to assault - yes, I mean assault - us with their noisy obnoxious lawn-mowers, SUVs, boom boxes, etc.  Give me the vision of a sweet kiss between loving people of the same sex any day.

(Having said that, I'm pretty good at ignoring noises myself, as long as I'm not talking.  Heaven help anyone who interrupts me while I'm talking!  Ha ha ha ha ha....)"

Your turn!

 

November 6, 2008                           Valparaiso, IN

It is too bad that the liberals in the three states (Arizona, California, Florida) which voted to take away the rights of gay people to marry couldn't have won their contests like the Democrats did (makes you wonder why people in two of those states voted for Barack Obama, doesn't it?  He doesn't seem to have a problem with gay marriage.)

But there is hope for gay rights yet!

Many of the people who are most intolerant of gays are elderly, which means they will probably die out in the next ten or twenty years.  (Not very nice to say so, but true.  (No, I'm not hoping that they will die - I'm not ill-wishing them!  I'm in no hurry to die myself, so I don't wish it on anyone else.  If I were wishing, I would just wish that they would change their minds about depriving other people of their rights.  Much simpler solution, n'est pas?))

What with the development of sperm banks maybe some gay guys have been selling their sperm.  (Hey, what with the biological imperative, I would think lots of men who don't intend to marry might want to find an alternative path to reproductive success).  Kind of ironic, huh?  The macho men have to resort to sperm banks and restrict themselves to reproducing via a spouse or two, while....  Well, maybe I shouldn't go there.  Don't want to increase the already high (why?) levels of hostility!

Since homosexuals are not who they are by choice (in spite of the denial of this fact by people who want people to "take responsibility" for their sexual preferences) their fathering of many children might result in a larger population of gays (if the determining biological factors are genetic), who will then have more political clout.  Not to mention help educate the wilfully oblivious among us that gay people are, indeed, people!

Oh, and haven't I heard something about increased percentage of gays in populations as those populations grow?

For those who do not want to wait generations for social progress (and who would?) I have another idea.

How about proposing a referendum in your state saying it is illegal to earn more than say, $300,000 a year?  There ought to be more than fifty percent of the citizens willing to vote for that!  (Okay, okay, make it $500,000 a year.)

Or how about outlawing leaf blowers?  I hate leaf-blowers!  I bet fifty percent of my fellow-citizens do, too!

That wouldn't fly, you say?  Why not?  What could be more not-anybody-else's-business than who you want to marry?  If they have the right to tell you "no" to something which you cannot help (like, say the color of your skin) and which really does not hurt anybody else, then why don't you have the right to curtail their freedom in some other doesn't-much-affect-anybody-else way?

I think being offended by the harmless stuff other people do in the privacy of their own homes fits under the I Ching category of "being oppressed by what should not oppress you."

Get over it already!  It is not/shouldn't be under your control!

(Yeah, yeah, I know the people I'm addressing as "you" are changing paragraph to paragraph.  But I bet all of you know, at any given moment, know who I'm talking to.

I'm probably preaching to the choir anyway mutter mutter mutter....

)

 

November 5, 2008                               Valparaiso, IN

Wow.

Forty years ago I sat here in this house in Valparaiso, Indiana while some heavy historical stuff was going on in Chicago - the riots during a political convention in which I saw policemen going after demonstrators with billy clubs.  Part of me wanted to go there and offer support to the demonstrators, but I was an hour (at least!) away in the comfort of my own home and really didn't feel that kind of claim on the family car.  Besides, what was I going to do?  I was half Quaker!  I didn't believe in physical violence (although years later a friend was to make me aware of my propensity to violent verbal self-expression.)

So it could be said that TV (in addition to my college and grad school classmates) made me take the first step towards some kind of political awareness.

Last night I had a similar moving experience of something big happening on my north-western horizon in Grant Park, Chicago.  But this time it was not conflict I saw, but a beautiful, peaceful, joyful celebration for the victory of a vision of a larger world.

I sat in this same house watching the election results last night and was inspired by what I never really expected to see in my life (at least, before I was in my eighties!) - a black (well, dark roast mocha latte, anyway) American become President.

Decades ago, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I had a conversation with a teen-age girl (young woman, really) of Hispanic and some-kind-of-white descent about her relationship with kids of other races in her high school.  There was some racial tension there, she conceded, but mostly "we don't care."

In recent years I have seen more inter-racial pairings and inter-racial friendships between people of the same sex.  (This is in Valparaiso, Indiana where when I was in high school sighting a black person at all was a rarity!)  I could see things were changing in a quiet but big way.

Since Obama's nomination I have felt a new ease and equality in my relationships with black people.  I have no close black friends - they are still very rare here (blacks and friends).  But the people I pass in stores seem more relaxed.  I was sitting in a restaurant in Merrillville, Indiana with a friend and a black man coming toward me gave me a tender smile such as I have never received from a black man in all my life.

It was not sexual (he was young, I am - not.)  It was based on happiness and equality, and it was priceless.

Last night affirmed that this country could change and that we have changed.  Watching on TV the waves of jubilation in Atlanta, Kenya, and above all Chicago, where the peace and hope transcended even the joy and celebration, I had the biggest spiritual experience I have had in a long time.

Maybe that should be our new god:  Community.  Only not just of family or town or country or religious faith even, but peaceful Community with the whole world.

For those who like to think in religious terms - I felt last night, after Barack Obama in his incredibly level way had accepted his new mandate to be President of the United States: God has given us a great big gift.

But - I admit - I went to bed happy last night before the results from Indiana were in.  It was a gray place on the map.  I felt that perhaps my paltry efforts had not been enough to help tip the scales, but I went to sleep in the comfort of knowing it didn't matter.

Imagine my surprise when I saw on an internet map that Indiana is now blue!  Indiana voted for Obama!  The people whom I had seen working so hard at the Headquarters had been rewarded.  The realization sent chills of excitement through me.

Yay, Indiana!  You have accepted the gift!

November 4, 2008                              Valparaiso, IN

This morning I lay in bed, listening to the early-morning rustle of the city that couldn't be accounted for by dead falling leaves.

It's election day, and from what I have seen and heard, the longest lines at the poll a couple blocks from me were at 6:00 AM.

This part of Indiana must either be really well-prepared, or had a lot of early voters!  Four years ago the lines were longer than I have seen today.  (In fact, two weeks ago when we voted early, there were longer lines.  All of six people!)

John McCain's smugness in the face of the polls is scary.  Either he is a really good actor or he knows something we don't know.  Maybe he knows that he has the electoral vote sewn up even in states that vote for Obama (legally that can happen, can't it?  Isn't that why the electoral college was instituted, as a protection against "the people" being too swept up by a charismatic candidate?)

I'm scared to death that we citizens will have the election stolen from us again.  I won't be reassured about it until the electoral college has been polled (or whatever they call it.)

Of course maybe McCain is just confident that his blitzkrieg of negative, fear-inspiring TV ads over the last 24 hours will have the desired effect.  After all, he is a warrior, and "all is fair in love and war!"

So they say.  I don't agree.

Has your state been experiencing this last-minute rash of ads?

November 3, 2008                            Valparaiso, IN

Usually when I think of November 3 (and for some reason I have fixated on that date for years) I think of real cold, black bare branches, gray skies, wind and snow flurries.  (In case you are wondering, November is one of my two least favorite months of the year.  Thanksgiving cannot begin to make up for November!  (So much for giving thanks.))

But this year we are still in the height of a glorious colorful autumn.  The skies are blue and the sun is shining.  In a while I may even go out and mow part of the lawn.  I'm imagining it will be this way through Thanksgiving, but I will take every day of the wonder of this unseasonable weather I can snatch!

Yesterday as I was walking around town, marvelling, I saw two Jack-o'-lanterns at a house near the high school with very unhappy faces.  Out of their toothy mouths came the pulp and seeds that had been inside them before their carving!  Looks like they had too much Halloween candy!

That was a first for me.  Anybody else see a clever new kind of carving in a Jack-o'-lantern this year?    

November 2, 2008                             Valparaiso, IN

This morning I woke up from an amazing, powerful cartoon dream.  In the dream someone had, as a surprise to me, animated one of my short story characters, but had made her human.  (Even one of her animal friends (in my cartoon in my dream!) seemed to be kind of scratching his head, going, "How did she get to be a person?")

It was a little dark in the dream - real early in the morning inside a house - and this little girl took up the whole screen.  The camera seemed to be shooting from knee high on the girl as if from the point of view of a pet.  She had T-strap Doc Martins and when she pulled up her knee socks she had a big mongo hole in one heel that went half-way up her calf.  She definitely was not Disney-style.

Well, don't worry I won't go on and on - it was just like a sample clip.

But it got me to thinking.  We need a new Cinderella story (and I am definitely not referring to that of Cindy McCain!) in our country.  One in which the young woman or man doesn't have to be physically beautiful to succeed.  Oh, and one in which she does not succeed through romantic love but through her own creative powers.  And oh, yeah, where "happy ever after" doesn't mean money and power and a bunch of people sucking up to you.  ("Success," you notice, is spelled like "cess" ha ha.  Not something you really want to suck!)

We need a new religion, too.  One that emphasizes internal beauty and goodness, like that of Christ, maybe, but does not reward it with pain and suffering and death on this plane.  (Or was Christ really rewarded with death because he was a revolutionary?  Maybe the only reason we remember him is because of the combo of his message and his death?  Highly dramatic stuff, all that!  (Maybe we need to get over the need for high drama.  Maybe that is kid stuff.  Don't you think life offers enough of that without going out looking for it?))

Am I being ridiculous?  Is pain and suffering and death the whole point?  Do we have to be like Mother Theresa to be internally beautiful?  (Was she internally beautiful?  Or just "let the people eat you up" grotesquely masochistic?  I'm not trying to downplay Mother Theresa's human accomplishment - I'm just thinking: doesn't science have the power to relieve a lot more affliction a lot more efficiently?)

We badly need some new mythology in our new society.  Some great new beautiful image of how to be that, unlike current cartoons, does not involve masses of animals (or humans) being swayed this way or that and dying for this or that, but which begins in the small dim "rooms" of our own minds.

 

November 1, 2008                                   Valparaiso, IN

I have a friend who has rubbed shoulders closer to some fundamentalist Christians than I ever have, I guess.

I was wondering why fundamentalists seem to have a reputation for being intolerant at the very least.  It seems to me as if the Bible-thumpers are some of the most hypocritical, judgmental people extant.  (Is it because I have seen the falls of too many televangelists?)

My friend thinks it is because they believe that as soon as they say, "I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior" they can do ANYTHING!  They are already forgiven!

There is a sense of entitlement that seems to come with being a fundamentalist Christian that puts you above your spouse (if you are a male) and above all the other species of the world if you are merely human.

Am I wrong?  Tell me!  Am I being unfair?  How do you feel about what is called Christian Fundamentalism?

Are there any Christian groups that call themselves Fundamentalists?

  

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