Friday, December 31, 2004

My Christian Jihad

Read this article first to put this in context

When I read this article in the wee hours of Monday morning, November 8, I became so distraught I couldn’t catch my breath. I went hot and then cold and then hot again. I felt faint. I felt like crying. I felt like screaming. My face flushed hot and my vision blurred. My mind went into a tailspin. I don’t know how long I remained in this state but the tempest in my soul, which temporarily churned my body’s chemical equilibrium, passed as suddenly as it arrived. I was left with one of those rare moments of extreme clarity. The confliction, which had been blocking my creativity for years--locking my words inside a molten cauldron of anger, shame and fear--resolved itself in that instant. I saw how my whole life had been leading me to this moment of decision. I knew then what was required of me if I was to maintain integrity and progress any further on the spiritual path that I set out on in November of 92. Before this moment of clarity could cloud and cause me to reconsider, or give my fear time to marshal rationalizations for caution, I immediately began an email to my sister, who was the one family member I had kept in the loop during my decade long quest and re-creation of my spirit. But I knew that I was about to move way beyond her comfort zone and I needed to let her know this. And I needed to have just one more heart to heart exchange with someone who had grown up in the same petrie dish as I had. The following essay is based on my side of the resulting email exchange over the next several days:

This is the last straw for me. It proves that theocracy is already here. This war has become a Christian Jihad--even worse, a Christian Crusade in the tradition of those fought in the Middle East a thousand years ago. But if this is Christian in any way shape or form, I can no longer even think of myself as Christian. If I must believe Christ countenances this, I opt out. That would make this hell so what do I have to lose? I can no longer keep my mouth shut or my words bottled up about it. I now feel compelled to participate in the ranks of the dissenters. Which is not an easy choice in this political climate. It may well become a criminal offence before long and dissenters be subjected to open ended confinement without legal representation, harassment, torture and even death a la the Inquisition of 600 years ago. My only hope against that was for Bush to lose the election. The right wing has been pushing hard to have dissent in a time of war criminalized as treason and since the war on terror is a forever war which cannot be won (which I can’t help but believe is designed to be un-winnable) the Bill of Rights will be eviscerated and this will no longer be the America of Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin.

But I know this will be the final straw estranging me from the family. I got my Joywrite web site up again and initiated my blog, Joystory. Will soon have Joyread posted too. I was excited about it and about sharing my triumph with the family. Now I don't think so. I need to feel completely free to speak my mind. So, since everything I think about, read about, and write about now is related in some way to these issues, I won’t be sharing the URLs to my websites, in order to keep my mind free of the anxieties of causing pain to my family. This breaks my heart because it means that I can no longer hope to be truly known by anyone in my family in this life. If they were to adhere to Scripture as we understood it growing up, they would have to forswear fellowship with me. As I can no long either love, worship, praise or surrender to a god defined as having any part in these things.
I repudiate the Dispensational theology which purports to explain this. They call the past 2000 years of soul slaughter the Church Age! AKA the Age of Grace?! There are nearing 7 billion souls on the planet right now and my heart breaks for each and every one. War, famine, flood, extreme weather and a global economy that is about to tank because the American economy was the main thing sustaining it and now it is about to collapse under trillions of debt. I empathize with the Iraqis as much as the Americans. And with every other nationality, religious or ethnic group. I cannot understand any world-view--philosophy, theology or doctrine--that writes off 99 percent of every soul born as a matter of course. I cannot imagine enjoying heaven if I were to retain any knowledge of the existence of those souls suffering in hell. And if the knowledge was removed from me that would be a kind of rape of my soul.

Nor can I understand, how the theology of redemption can countenance war, even a so-called just war. For it involves the killing of a soul who might have made a different choice in the next minute or the next day or the next year or even the next decade... How can that be justified by those who believe that the un-reborn are going to be tortured for eons and eons beyond comprehension with no further chance of changing their mind? How could anyone who believed that have a hand in the taking of their lives and then glorify it in the name of their god? They are reverting to the Old Testament and completely negating the New Testament message of forgiveness, redemption, and metanoia--repentance or change of heart, the possibility of a new life set on a radically different course. They set aside Jesus’ own words regarding those who live by the sword also dying by the sword as irrelevant. And with that, they have mutilated the Gospel. Thus I can no longer assent to it without mutilating my heart and mind.

Let me clarify some things. Note that I did say 'if' in several places. The weight is on the 'if'. I had found peace in the understanding that there was more than one way to understand certain doctrines and that one could have a personal and private understanding of them and a personal and private relationship to the Ultimate Other, the Source of All, the Ground of All Being. No matter how you name it a name cannot define it. Names by their nature delimit. Words in any language accrete new meanings over time as snowballs rolling down a snow-covered hill gather snow, gravel, twigs, leaves, gum wrappers, etc. The English word ‘god’ has acquired so much baggage, I find it difficult to use it at all without wanting to write whole pages of clarification, thus I avoid it when possible. It would be a misreading of what I admit was an emotional rant to assume that my disgruntlement is just a result of my filling my mind with things that support a false sense of the ‘True God’. The definitions of god that I was ranting against are not mine. Mine are rooted in the Fruits of the Spirit which are my guiding principles. I weigh all that I read, see, hear and experience through the lenses of love, joy, peace, patience, temperance--balance, equilibrium, tolerance and self-control are all concepts embedded in the Greek word translated as ‘temperance’ in the KJV--goodness, kindness, gentleness and faithfulness. Also grace, mercy, justice, hope, liberty of body and mind, truth, logic or reason (though it has its limits) understanding, redemption, healing, forgiveness, compassion, beauty (as a spiritual concept) among others. I rooted my faith in my personal experience with these Fruits of the Spirit and a relationship with that Spirit as it was and is exemplified in the life of Jesus and the Living Christ.

I began to relax when I finally understood that the Brethren of our meetings did not have any power over my life, my mind or my spirit. What is disturbing me now is that men like them have maneuvered themselves into power in our country which was founded on the principle that freedom of conscience was a profound human right. But these men do not believe that. I heard one interviewed on CNN shortly before the election. He said 'truth is not a democracy.' This statement scares me. I can not disagree with its plain meaning: that truth by its nature is not something which can be determined by majority agreement. But that was not the context in which this man spoke. The only ‘truth’ he was interested in was that which is defined by his Fundamentalist Doctrine and his implication was that those ‘truths’ needed to be imposed from above on all citizens. I remember how painful, how damaging to personal, familial and community relationships the power of excommunication was when the Bible Meetings I was raised in were disintegrating twenty years ago. It gives me shivers to imagine any of those Brethren having the power of life and death over those who disagreed with them? It has happened before in the history of the church. Many times. It had happened within the memory of America’s founders, which is why they created the separation of church and state. The state should not have power over people's consciences.

But the Fundamentalists who are now gaining power in the government have as their highest priority to abolish the separation of church and state. Once they have done that it won't be long before they begin to use their power over other Christians who disagree with them. The state has the power of the death penalty. They have other powers as well. Excommunication used at the level of the state would mean that dissenters could be denied things like jobs, voting rights, food stamps and other government aid, passports, bank credit, mortgages, public office, positions as teachers, civil service and other government jobs, business licenses, building permits, custody of their children, etc.

It is the Fundamentalist theology that I cannot assent to. It is their definition of ‘god.’ their definition of ‘doctrine,’ and their definition of ‘Christian’ that I opt out of. As long as they did not have the power and as long as their version was not the common understanding of the meaning of 'Christian' I still felt safe to think of myself as Christian. Now I feel a shame attached to that name. And not because I am ashamed of Christ or Jesus. But because I am ashamed of the arrogance, the mean-spiritedness, the narrow-mindedness, the hate-mongering, the warmongering, and the fear-mongering of those who have currently commandeered the common understanding of the meaning of 'Christian'--at least here in America and thus how American Christians are being perceived world wide.. And that is why I feel the need to join the ranks of the dissenters while it is still possible to do so without incurring dire consequences. Since word craft has been the gift I have been entrusted with and coupled with my strong sense of justice and my empathy with the vulnerable it could be a powerful force for re-awakening the American conscience. Not to mention the Christian conscience. I now feel obligated to use it thus.

I have been watching developments in America over the last twenty years--Reagan's second term on--and I have been seeing a pattern developing that is very similar to the rise to power of the Nazi’s in Germany after W.W. I And I am tired of just watching with trembling bones. It may be comforting to think that this fear is generated by my being hoodwinked by my sources of information--books, Internet, mainstream media etc. But, having once had to take back by force of will the authority over my own mind from inimical ideologies, I have been sensitized to the potential, which makes it unlikely. As does my extensive research into how knowledge is communicated in its various forms from the structure of language to the ligaments of rhetoric. I have studied logic and the uses of logical fallacies in propaganda and I have learned how to tell the difference between fact and opinion. I am a cynic and a skeptic when it comes to these things. That's why I like to trace the source material as far back as possible to primary sources or primary established facts before I solidify my opinion. But my opinion seldom gets solidified beyond the stage of Jell-O since I do not believe that humans have the capability of knowing anything with absolute certainty. I have learned how to get a sense of the underlying philosophy of a writer from the way they organize and present their material, how they use facts and the spirit that infuses their words. I am not easily snookered.

Having an open mind does not mean agreeing with everything your mind encounters it just means being willing to consider a thesis or hypothesis in light of presented evidence. But evidence can often be distorted or irrelevant and I understand that. And knowing that today's mainstream media is nearly 100% owned by corporations that also own defense industry or energy industry companies, I realize that although some facts still make it into the news they are always skewed to favor the interests of the owners. Then there is the fact that all mainstream news sources are supported by advertisements and this also effects what gets reported and what does not. As the media corporations’ bottom line is about profit before it is about truth. That is why I do not depend on them for facts or understanding. I only continue to watch and read those sources to keep myself informed on what most other Americans are being told, and to follow the trends in the propaganda. I have other sources online and elsewhere who add other facts that help me put information from the mainstream media in wider context. And it is some of those sources which have convinced me that our American liberties are in dire danger: Thom Hartmann, Orcinus, the Yurica Report, Public Eye’s watch on the far right, Alternet’s Rights and Liberties are just a few.

It just finally hit me that I needed to put up or shut up. That my unique experience could be of help in the struggle to maintain those liberties for all. In any case, I need to make my stand where my conscience is rooted no matter the cost. Isn't that the quintessential Christian concept? It is time for me to join the dialog because I have important insights to contribute to it. It was my fear of my family's alarm and disapprobation when they come to learn of my views on certain things that was holding me back. Thus I understood that my conscience was still constrained by fear of disapproval. That is unacceptable. That is as much a prison as the old doctrines. The moment I concluded that, the words that had been dammed up in my heart in a molten lake of dismay began to flow and they have not stopped flowing since. Day and night, asleep or awake, they flow. I can't catch them all on paper or keyboard. But this seems to indicate that I have found the meaning of my struggle--my personal Jihad--and my purpose. Maybe it is a futile endeavor. But many thought David's duel with Goliath was too. Sometimes the little people with an insight need to have the courage to stand up and speak truth to power. In a way, that is what every one of the O. T. prophets were doing.

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One Parent's Odyssey of Grief

“At the hospitals he saw youngsters dying from the lack of medicine and learned
that a number of others had been killed picking up unexploded cluster bombs or
when trying to hand them in to U.S. soldiers.
“The bombs look like tennis balls or beer cans, Suarez explains. And when the children try to give them to U.S. soldiers, they are shot on the spot -- military orders.”
Does anyone still have any illusions that this is a just war?

Read the rest of this article about the efforts of the father of one of the first U.S. Marines killed in Iraq, (killed by unexploded U.S. cluster bombs, weapons which are illegal under the Geneva Conventions) to bring medicines and other aid to Iraqi children affected by the war. Read how the Bush administration tries to paint his efforts as giving aid and comfort to the enemy. And ask yourself, if Iraqi children are defined as the enemy, where does that leave our consciences as a nation? Where does that leave hope for an end to the war? Especially an end to the war on terrorism?


And consider what it ought to do to the psyche of a ‘good’ guy, a soldier under orders, to shoot dead a child trying to hand him what looks like either a toy or a soft-drink, and then ask yourself if ‘support the troops’ necessarily means ‘support the war’? For if the ‘good’ guy follows orders and kills the child, he ought to be plagued day and night by nightmare producing despair. But if his ‘excellent’ military training has trained the compassion out of him and he is able to justify such an atrocity--then what kind of a human being have we had a roll in creating? What kind of a citizen of our nation? Of our world? And if you don’t like the answers to those questions you should consider that the best way to support the troops is to bring them home so that they are not subjected to moral dilemmas they are unequipped for while under the leadership of those who have trashed the moral compass of compassion.

And let’s go even further and ask yourself, if you need this kind of action on the part of your government in order to feel safe? Does it take the murder of another mother’s child in order for you to feel your own child is safe? Do we still live in the age of blood sacrifice?

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Thursday, December 30, 2004

The Relevance of Fiction in an Anquished World

This essay taken from a talk given by Susan Sontag last April, ends with her declaration that we need fiction to stretch our world, as a response to the dilemma she presents above: how to live with the knowledge of the simultaneity of existence--the knowledge that terrible misfortunes and evil occur in the world at the same time as wonderful goodness, contentment and joy. This couldn’t have been republished at a more opportune time in the wake of the tsunami in Indonesia. It helps me reassert my own commitment to my fiction writing, which I had been struggling with this week, trying to justify its relevance in the light of everything else that has been capturing my attention and my angst. The war, the tsunami, the threat of lost liberties at home. All of these ‘serious’ issues seemed to mock my continued desire to express my understanding of the world through fiction. Thank-you Susan Sontag. We will miss you. And may the legacy of your stories continue to inform us for long and long.

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Anger and Admiration

I feel less alone in this world when I read essays like this one.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Academic Freedom = The Freedom to be Ignorant?

Conservative students are suing for the right not to be subjected to ideas that offend them. They accuse profs and admin of liberal bias, of bullying in the classroom and of grading with liberal bias. The profs accuse the conservative students of not wanting to be exposed to new ideas, which is the purpose of a college education. I remember the mindset of these students. And I remember what it was like to feel abused by the teachers who required proof of an understanding of the course material for a passing grade. I remember flunking Genetics in high school because I refused to give the answer I knew the teacher was looking for in a multiple choice test. I do think that was power abuse by this particular teacher. He could have worded the question in such a way that I, and a number of those like me, could have given the answer he wanted with a clear conscience--by qualifying the response with a phrase that put the burden of belief onto the scientists, researchers or other sources, instead of making it sound as though I subscribed to the truth of the answer. (i.e. so and so hypothesizes, or so and so maintains, or such and such an experiment seems to prove that…) But instead he set a trap for all the Creationists in his class and he knew there were at least half a dozen in this class of nearly thirty. And he mined the test with several of these so that missing them required getting a perfect score on the rest of the test just to pass it. I think this was uncalled for in a small town high-school (Longview, Washington) where you are dealing with students who are still minors and thus still living at home and still under the authority of their parents.

But college and university is a whole other proposition. That kind of power abuse would still be uncalled for but at the same time, the intransigent mental insulation that fundamentalists of all stripes practice is also uncalled for in a forum whose whole purpose is to expose ideas to each other in open debate. Learning how to differentiate fact form opinion and to use the first to buttress the second is the whole point of a post-secondary, academic education. Learning how to think for oneself is a mark of adulthood.

The disturbing thing about this development is that it isn’t a few isolated cases but seems to be a concerted and organized movement with a prominent public figure promoting it--David Horowitz, a conservative commentator who was once a liberal activist on campus. Beware the zealotry of converted zealots!!! I daily guard against a similar phenomenon taking hold of me. So I sympathize to a certain extent with Horowitz and his disciples but am deeply concerned that their movement will succeed in subverting the last institutional bastions of freedom of thought for the cause of enforced consensus of conservative agendas.

See also Dr. Teresa Whitehurst’s essay: Careful not to get too much education…or you could turn liberal.

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Sunday, December 26, 2004

Abusing Jesus

This is a small excerpt from a lengthier essay I’ve been working on since April when the Abu Ghraib scandal first broke in the news. I hope to publish the full version with quotes, links and citations on my web site, Joywrite in the not too distant future. But I feel moved to put this out there right now. Partly, I suppose by the incongruous juxtaposition between the plethora of traditional holiday images and icons with those images of the war and of the prisoner abuse that have held uneasy cohabitation of my thoughts for the last several weeks. Partly too because I am just plain impatient and incredulous that, with all the bloviating about values and morals associated with the election this year, that no one has made this connection which seems so obvious to me. Now suddenly it feels urgent to me to get this meme out there and I know myself well enough to anticipate it could take me several more months to get my more formal essay whipped into shape--I wrestle with excruciating perfectionism sometimes. So here it is in abbreviated and informal condition:

I was not surprised by the revelations coming out of Abu Ghraib. I’ve been reading about similar incidents associated with the CIA and the School of the Americas, and those that have become almost policy at many American prisons and jails for nearly twenty years. This is one of those issues that is a sticking point for me. I have been waiting in vain for a massive reaction of revulsion and repudiation from the moral values crowd who claim to be the spokesmen for God and Jesus. The fact that they have not stood up and roundly condemned this atrocity with the same passion they promote prayer in school and pro-life causes, brings me about that close [] (picture a piece of paper between my thumb and finger) to renouncing my own Christianity and giving back the gift of eternal life. If (please note the if) I have to believe that God and Jesus and the Gospel have any part in the theory that justifies such things, I have no wish nor desire--even an active repulsion--at the thought of spending eternity with such a pack of bloody handed, bloody minded, soul-sucking hypocrites or any god who desires their love and praise.

It’s not like there isn’t plenty of scripture to support a stand against such abuse of power, such egregious injustice. Matthew 25 has Jesus say that ‘what you do unto the least of these you have done unto me.’ He is referring to the good deeds--the giving of a drink of water to the thirsty, clothes to the naked and the visiting of the imprisoned. The logical corollary of the proposition that showing kindness to a prisoner is the same as showing kindness to Jesus, is that abusing a prisoner would be the same as abusing Jesus.
Jesus didn’t differentiate between the guilty and the innocent which implies that neither should we. In the world-view of Jesus and his followers and of most Christian’s today there is no such thing as human innocence anyway. But this can be viewed from within two different contexts and the real world application of the logical consequences of each view are diametrically opposed--matter and anti-matter. The first, rooted in the ancient Law of Talion-- retaliation, vengeance equals justice, eye for an eye--requires revenge and punishment and cruel coercion to enforce conformity to standards of behavior and it encourages seeing ones own sins relative to another’s and taking solace and even pride in being guilty of only ‘lesser’ sins and not of those ‘heinous’ or ‘evil’ crimes of ones neighbors or enemies.

The second, rooted in the gospel and the parables, sermons and life of Jesus and espoused by his early followers, is a leveler of hierarchy. It emphasizes that ‘all have sinned and come short of the glory of God‘, that all sin is equal, that all sin disconnects us from our Source. It encourages forgiveness, bowels of mercy, empathy or compassion, and posits the possibility of repentance or change of heart. It proclaims that only the sinless can cast the first stone, which implies that only the sinless can enforce death penalties. It requires us to forgive, even the same individual, beyond 70 times 7 times. It warns that we must not judge if we do not wish to be judged, that we must remove the lumber from our own eye before we attempt to remove the sliver from our brother’s eye. It affirms that kindness, patience, forgiveness, humility, gentleness and joy are among the highest virtues with which to engage life. It constrains us to think of each other as a brother or sister or even better as one’s self and thus to treat one another as we would wish to be treated and to refrain from treating each other as we would dislike being treated. And, most relevant to my thesis, it enjoins us to conduct every encounter with another as though it were with Jesus himself.

So here we are 2000 years after Jesus walked the earth celebrating the advent of the Prince of Peace, and we are bombing the manger in Iraq and applying electrical shock to Jesus’s testicles. All in the name of bringing peace on earth and security to the children of Empire. Rome REDUX. And just as in the age of Constantine, those who claim to be disciples of Jesus are espousing these values and glorifying the empire, trading the gospel of Jesus back in for the law birthed from a belching volcano. Jesus would say to those who perpetrate and perpetuate these things--whether they ordered, carried out, condoned or complacently sat by thinking ‘what is it to me’--”I never knew you ye workers of iniquity!”

If you need to refresh your memory, here are some of the photos & more photos.

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Saturday, December 25, 2004

End It Now!

Andrew Greeley’s plea to end this unjust war now.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Winter of My Disc Content

The month of November was once again full of significance for me. Not only did it begin with the event of the election full of such profound symbolism for the path I’ve been on for twelve years, but it was one of the most productive in terms of new attitudes, new skills acquired and most important of all, the highest word count of new material other than my journal in this first year of rededication to my avocation after the two year hiatus imposed by the loss of my computer and paper files in 2001. I am most pleased with the rebirth of my two web sites, Joywrite and Joyread and this, their newest sibling, Joystory. And now that they are posted and I find I am not ashamed of them, it is time to learn the new skill of promoting them. But that is going to have to take second place always to the imperative of producing new content for them

And for a time, I need to declare securing the safety of my work product a very close second to new production. The events of November 17 re-sensitized me to the fragility of paper files and the ephemeral nature of computer files. I need to dedicate some serious attention to finding ways and means of backing up my files in multiple formats and multiple locations so that I am never again faced with such a serious loss of morale that work stops and life loses its passion for years. Nor ever again forced to risk life and limb to rescue my files. This time it turned out I was not in real danger (at least from fire, though in my panic I could have seriously injured myself even fallen and succumbed to hypothermia before I was found) but I believed I was and chose the safety of my files over my own. So, in honor of the first day of winter, I have declared this the Winter of My Disc Content and am requiring of myself to have solved the problem before the crocus break ground in February.

Even as I make this commitment I am feeling overwhelmed by it. My time on the computer is so limited and my projects are proliferating as well as word count. And just as I got the ball rolling so well on my three web sites, my use of the computer, which is not mine but my in-laws, became even more curtailed when the living room couch became my sister-in-law’s bed. Now I am working only by the light of the screen and typing slow and careful to minimize the clicking of the keys on this noisiest keyboard I’ve ever worked with since my last manual typewriter. This makes it quite difficult to compose new material because I am forced to type soooo much slower than I think. Slower even than writing by hand. (Which is why I have been spending most of my sessions reading articles and occassionaly blogging them. It is not my intention for this site to be primarily an amature pundit zone.)

Although my sister-in-law has graciously said that my working at the computer doesn’t bother her, I’m not so sure that is true and I can’t help but feel that her paycheck-job trumps what is essentially my hobby at this point. But in spite of my guilt feelings I continue to work several hours each night. And sometimes on into the morning hours after those with paycheck jobs leave for work. When I can get a few tasks requiring light and/or rapid typing done. But then I am contending with a very loud TV as my father-in-law enjoys his Westerns and Game Shows. Nor can I be online except for very brief excursions after six when phone calls become more likely. This forces me to split my sleep schedule into two or more naps instead of one normal length sleep. Don’t know how long I can keep that up without doing serious damage to my mood and energy levels which are essential resources for my work. If I believed in Santa I would ask for a laptop and a connection to the net that doesn’t share a line with the phone so that I could work at my own discretion. But wishing for that is about as helpful as wishing for a cure for my RP in my life time. And I must keep in mind that I still have things better than many. I think especially of one of my favorite bloggers.



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Ghostwriting the Law

Ghostwriting the Law:
"In another instance of profitable policymaking, ALEC drafted a model 'truth in sentencing' bill that restricts parole eligibility for prisoners, keeping inmates locked up longer. One of the members of the task force that drafted the bill was Corrections Corporation of America, the nation's largest private prison company, which stands to cash in on longer sentences. By the late 1990s, similar sentencing measures had passed in 40 states."
And so it begins. Now that there is a profit motive for keeping prison sentences longer, how long will it be before profit motive decides which crimes require incarceration. Debtor prison anyone? These are not things that should be decided by corporate lobby lawyers hobnobbing with elected representiatives behind closed doors.

Read this article to find out more about ALEC and the other stealth laws they have helped draft.

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Monday, December 20, 2004

Old Fables Age Like Cheese, Gaining Flavor and Power

Sometimes you just gotta smile through your tears.

Read H. D. S. Greenway's take on this old fable and then read my poem.

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Sunday, December 19, 2004

Unacceptable

The Impact of War on Women and Children.

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Incongruities Abound

Celebrating the advent of the Prince of Peace when our country is waging war in this encroaching dark age.

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Saturday, December 18, 2004

A Warden of Justice Who Tortures the Law?

A Nation’s warden of Justice who espouses torture and subverts law? Shame, shame and shame on any congress person who votes aye! Especially if your motivation is to garner votes from your minority base. That very minority base should be the first to cringe at the very thought of such a one as him set up as a sop for their allegiance. They would be the ones most familiar with the reality of government sanctioned torture and unbounded power to bind men over to indefinite internment.

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Thursday, December 16, 2004

Just Deserter

The case of Jeremy Heinzman a CO seeking asylum in Canada.

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Just Say No

Some wars demand of heroes an uncommon courage. The courage it takes a soldier to “Just say NO!’

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Wednesday, December 15, 2004

R.I.P. Gary Webb -- Unembedded Reporter

R.I.P. Gary Webb -- Unembedded Reporter
There are so many issues raised in this article I can’t even offer a synopsis of it. You have to read it. And then read it again. And then ask yourself, ‘If this is the Government I am trusting to protect me from world wide terrorism and this is the media I am trusting to keep me informed on the issues that relate to my life and to my duties as a citizen of a democracy, where does that leave me?’ I am also asking if anyone is taking a real hard, skeptical look at the suicide of Gary Webb, hero journalist. It seems much too convenient to me. But I probably watch too much CSI and X-Files. And read too much Ludlum, Le Carre and Koontz.

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Progressives Must Learn to Refuse Abuse

Michael Moore presents an essay of a friend of his who likens the progressives to victims of abuse who keep blaming themselves for the abuse and trying to please the abuser.

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The Delusional Is No Longer Marginal

Bill Moyers, in a speech as he accepts Harvard Medical's Global Environment Citizen award, sounds the alarm for journalists about the unique challenges in covering enviromental issues in an era when more than half of the Legislators, Most of the Executive administration and nearly two thirds of the voters who put them in office, believe that the destruction of the enviroment is a prophesied precursor to the return of Christ and that it is their mandate to 'bring it on' so that the rapture of the righteous can commence and the rest can be judged with pestilence, quakes, famine, draught, storms, plague and war until the earth and all its oceans are all but lifeless. And then God will restore the Earth with a wink and blink to the condition of Eden for the 1000 year reign of his Son. How does one move their reader's to act on behalf of the enviroment when they tend to believe it is already a foregone conclusion, and anyway they and theirs are not subject to the repercussions for of course they are among the righteous to be rescued before it gets too nasty?

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Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The Price of Fear Is Paid in Lost Freedom

The Price of Fear Is Paid in Lost Freedom
And in another good follow-up Joel Agee talks about the difference between fear and danger. And about the ease with which we are giving up our rights to assuage our fear. And about how today’s America is beginning to look and feel a lot like the Soviet Russia he was raised in. Not only does he raise some of the issues I am most concerned with, he has a literary voice with which to do so. He also has a new book out. In the House of My Fear. In this essay, Joel Agee explains better than I can just what the significance of incidents like the one in my previous post--10 year old children handcuffed for possession of school project implements suddenly labeled and treated as weapons. When would that kind of re-labeling stop? After all there are a great many everyday items that could double as weapons. One could put out someone’s eye or impale their brain with a Barbie Doll’s foot! Strangle someone with a shoelace. Who gets to make the lists. And who decides when or if or how we are notified an item has been made verboten?

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After

A good follow-up for the preceding post is this book review I've recently written:

After
By Francine Prose
© 2003
Harper Tempest
330p

An eerie story. A kind of parable of what is going on in America at large. The sense of something incredibly off key was reminiscent of the state of affairs in our nation today. It is high-school as microcosm and metaphor. The something wrong slips up on you bit by bit and by the time you realize you are royally screwed it is too late. A Columbine type incident happens at a high school fifty miles from the town of the teen narrator of the story. And the next thing that happens is their school implements a whole slew of new rules. Metal detectors and bag and body searches. Random drug tests. Clothing codes like no red except the red in American flag pins. No cell phones. No chewing gum. Books start disappearing out of the library. A list of disapproved of books and music which they cannot have on school property. Catcher in the Rye among them. Holden Caulfield is suddenly a bad role model for teenagers. (This sentiment I can sympathize with; but not the censorship.) They put TVs on the school buses that spew out alternative history lessons. Like claiming that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were desolate unpopulated areas when the U.S. dropped the atom bombs on them. But the TV’s also masked cameras that were monitoring the kids. One of the narrator’s friends is caught making a dissident comment and is shipped off to reform school. The school inundates the parents with nightly emails that seem to hypnotize them to the point that they were unable to contradict the authorities at the school or stand up for their kids. Kids that defied the rules were sent to reform camps and never came back. A teacher that defied the rules one time also disappeared. No explanation. And something was definitely strange about the ‘retirement’ of the principle. All the enforcement of the rules was done by the new ’grief’ councilor provided free by the state after the tragedy. Altogether a spooky situation. And it ended on a spooky note. The narrator risks loosing everything by sitting his dad and his dad’s fiancé down and explaining the situation in graphic detail. He is hoping that his dad had not been captured by the school’s emails and the fiancé had not been exposed to them. The three of them decide to go check out the high school where the tragedy had happened to see about the rumors that the student body and all but disappeared. While they were on that school’s property his dad’s cell phone rang and it was the grief councilor suggesting the father and son meet with him at his office the following day, Sunday, to discuss their unwarranted interest in the other school. This convinces the father that it is too far gone to get help inside the community. They return to their house and pack as for a long weekend camping trip. His father asked if he had friends that might be interested in going. There was his girlfriend and the last of his buddies not already sent away. His buddy had to sneak away from his home as his parents were already snared by the school’s email brainwashing but his girlfriend’s mother had been like his father who had not given the emails much attention. His father had stopped reading them because they were too time consuming, she had stopped because the theme of whittled away freedoms and the justifications for it made her uncomfortable and angry. She asked to come along. So the six of them piled into the fiancé’s van and left town. And that is how the book ended. It may seem I have given away more than is proper for a book review that hopes to entice readers to pick it up for themselves. But this synopsis cannot take the place of the experience of reading the story and being immersed into a certain milieu, familiar to anyone who ever attended high-school in America, and then experience that milieu being deformed out of all recognition in such slow increments that most were like frogs put into cold water that is slowly brought to a boil--they never bestirred themselves, having no sense of danger. Someone should make a movie of this story. It is a parable of what is happening with America since 9/11.

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Scissors get girl in legal trouble

Philadelphia Inquirer 12/11/2004 Scissors get girl in legal trouble: "The 10-year-old was handcuffed and taken to a police station after scissors were found in her book bag."

This is not OK. Not even a little bit OK. This is what a police state looks like. It is imposed by incremental steps like this. You are brought to believe that certain things must be done to ensure our safety or our children's safety and so rules or laws are put in place and the discretion of the individuals on the scene to react to the unique situation and the unique individual is removed in the name of 'fairness' or 'procedure' and you end up with small children, handcuffed in the back seat of police cars for the 'crime' of having implements for school projects in their possession.


This reminds me of an article I encountered several months ago, which I cannot relocate, the story of a woman treated in just this manner at an airport when a bookmark--a short leather strap with lead weights on its ends--was found in her purse. You can imagine how I indentified with that woman! I may never fly again. And not because I am afraid of terrorists but because I am afraid of being arrested for possesion of something I could have no prior knowledge of it's 'illicit' nature. I would also fear being forced to disgard such items or forfeit my ticket. I tend to be attatched to the items in my purse. Or they wouldn't be there in the first place.

My point is that if these kinds of scenarios do not boil your blood, then America could already be lost. Because that must mean this is already the new normal in America. And that is not just sad. It is terrifying. And no amount of military superiority, no amount of megatonnage of bombs, no amount of 'free' elections imposed at gunpoint on the other side of the globe, is going to alleviate that terror for me.

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Monday, December 13, 2004

My Bloody To-Do List

My Bloody To-Do List
I feel a kinship with the heart of this young adult fiction author and Assistant Professor of English at Eastern Connecticut State U., Lisa Rowe Fraustino, as she finds her attention to her work in fiction and to the mundane task of daily living is compromised by her obsession with the Iraq war--needing to hunt for the truth that mainstream media denies us, needing to find a way to do "something to stop senseless wars", feeling like personal needs on her 'to-do list' like calling a dentist are meaningless in light of the enormity of Iraqi kids dying and suffering by the hundreds in a meaningless war.

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A New Game Plan for Progressives

Would taking pages from the Radical Right's playbook give Progressives a winning game plan? Ruth Conniff of The Progressive contemplates how that might work and shows how some have started running with the idea already.

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Sunday, December 12, 2004

Guarantee the Right to Vote

Guarantee the Right to Vote:
John Nichols encourages all who care about the right to vote to get behind the list of suggested reforms to our voting system presented by the group Progressive Democrats of America:

'--A Constitutional amendment confirming the right to vote.
---A required paper record for all electronic and electronically tabulated voting systems.
---Same-day registration for all Americans.
---The creation of unified federal standards for national elections.
---Meaningful equal protection of voting rights by such means as equal voting systems, equal numbers of machines, and equal time to vote.
---An end to partisan oversight of the electoral process.
---Extended voting periods to allow all voters a meaningful opportunity to vote.
---Instant Run-off Voting and Proportional Representation.
---Publicly financed elections for federal offices.'

This should be a bi-partisan activist agenda. It can only be to the benefit of all
concerned that the process be accountable and guaranteed to be fair and just. The article also presents the proposed amendment to the constitution proposed by US Rep Jesse Jackson Jr. D-Illinois which is worth a serious look.

This is all especially important in light of the allegations of fraud in the last two presidential elections. See Professor Theodore D. Graves explanation of the evidence.

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Evaluating Our Values

What does it say about the wealthiest nation on earth that

So far in 2004, 35 percent of Americans have had to choose between food and rent, while 28 percent had to choose between medical care and food. Others, forced to stretch their budgets ever further, are buying less expensive but often less nutritious food.?

What does it say about the values of a people willing to spend $150 billion dollars on a war of choice while
...an estimated 13 million children are living in households that are forced to skip meals or eat less due to economic constraints.?

What does it say about an economic system when the laborers whose job it is to put cheap produce on the tables of others, go to bed hungry and cold in substandard housing often within sight and smell of the bounty in the fields they labor in?

Values anyone?

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Saturday, December 11, 2004

Playing Politics With Intelligence Reform

Playing Politics With Intelligence Reform
If you don’t get the chills the first time you read this article by Senator Robert C. Byrd, read it again. And again. Until you understand all the implications. Like the fact that the bills our Congress vote on are not written by them but rather lawyers lobbying for corporate interests. That the bills they vote for and pass are then taken into closed door sessions and re-written by a partisan committee and then presented for vote with a pressing deadline that cannot accommodate the reading, review and debate of a several hundred page document. Did you know that your representatives regularly vote for bills they have not even read? If that doesn’t give you chills you must be comatose.

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The US Administration and The ICC

The US Administration and The ICC
Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich advocates for suport of the ICC as the best hope for addressing global terrorism:

"In times when principles of international unity are under attack, it is urgent
for all those of us who appreciate the endless ways in which the people of
the world are interrelated and interconnected to stand up, to assert and to
enact principles which respect, assert and codify the imperative of human
unity. Each of us has the responsibility and the gift to work within our sphere
to construct a world where all may survive and thrive in peace and justice"

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Friday, December 10, 2004

The Smoketown Six: Anti-Bush Protesters Plan Lawsuit Over Arrests

The Smoketown Six: Anti-Bush Protesters Plan Lawsuit Over Arrests Watch our civil liberties going up in smoke.

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Thursday, December 09, 2004

US Media Still Hiding Bad News From Americans

US Media Still Hiding Bad News From Americans Re the media coverage of the war and the controversy over whether there is enough coverage of good news. The take on most journalists who are on the ground in Iraq is that there is precious little good news to report. Meanwhile reporters are being trashed and sidelined and their reports belittled for telling the truth as they are witnessing it.

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The Limits of "Man Bites Dog" Stories

The Limits of "Man Bites Dog" Stories Media critic Norman Solomon advocates more ‘dog bites man’ stories, saying:

"The dogs of top-down class war keep biting men -- as well as women and children. Those humans shouldn't need to bite back before such daily realities are newsworthy.

And, as a practical matter, journalists are part of the story. Their reporting decisions can shift the public view, if only momentarily. They shouldn't wait for some flashy or unusual event before proclaiming a Really Big Story. The momentous news about the typical is right in front of us, every day, hidden in plain sight. "

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Wednesday, December 08, 2004

'The Power of Nightmares': Hyping Terror For Fun, Profit - And Power

'The Power of Nightmares': Hyping Terror For Fun, Profit - And PowerAbout Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz perpetrating a similar WMD scare on America during Ford’s administration which led to increased defense spending with money going to defense contractors who later gave jobs to the government employees who directed the money their way. deja vu anyone?

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Monday, December 06, 2004

Birth Announcement

Announcing the re-birth of my fraternal twins, Joywrite, which features my stories, essays, poems and occassional musings about the art and the heart of writing to live and living to write; and Joyread, which features bookreviews and occasional musings on the work and the wonder of encountering the world in story and the story of the world via a multitude of voices across millenia. Enjoy.

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Sunday, December 05, 2004

Senile Supreme?

Is Scalia senile? That seems to be the most generous interpretation of this. Else I would have to believe he is a completely Machiavellian manipulator. I hope his audience knew their history--there own story--better than he pretends to. Surely, even in America, an Orthodox Jewish Synagogue audience would not be taken in by this scabrous gloss on history less than a century behind us, history Scalia himself lived through in his own youth. Surely memory is not so fragile as that in an information-rich, high-tech civilization?

But as long as some remember, or at least trouble to inform themselves, there is hope. At least as long as we are allowed to tell the story and as long as enough of the primary sources exist and continue to remain accessible. When the primary sources are lost (including eyewitnesses lost to time’s inevitable creep) or locked away, the memory hole is deep and the dark ages long.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Conscience vs. Consensus

I have been reading James Bovard’s Terrorism and Tyranny: Trampling Freedom and Justice, and Peace to Rid the World of Evil. This book represents an aspect of the whole of all my reading over the last four years and more that my attention and passion have been zeroing in on. More specifically the themes of freedom vs. safety, democracy vs. tyranny, civil rights vs. abuse of power, individual conscience vs. the tyranny of the consensus. In my thinking and reflection, daydreams and nightmares, this is where I feel my stifled voice straining to be freed. The fear that the freedom to use my voice will be gone before I have broken through the inhibitions of my past and claimed my right to speak is creating this sense of an awesome scream welling up from within. But it is still mostly an incoherent ‘NO!’ As it was Nov. 2, 1994, the day of my emancipation from the mental and spiritual slavery of Fundamentalism. I fear that releasing it before I can contain and direct the passion into a resounding ‘YES!’ to something, I would only be contributing to the discord and dismay that is already too abundant in the world. Because discord and dismay is what fills my soul right now. Especially as I try to comprehend the possible repercussions of the election.

This election held so much symbolism for me this year. I saw in it all of the same themes which had gripped me on the day of my emancipation and shook the foundations of my soul. That may sound to some ears like hyperbole, like pure exaggeration for effect. But it is the most accurate description of what happened to me that night. Everything I thought I had known for sure up to that point, everything that made me who I was, everything that gave meaning to my life, that gave me a sense of security and peace--everything was called into question and my sense of self--my soul--was left inhabiting an edifice as shattered as any wood-framed structure which has just gone through an earthquake, tornado, hurricane or tsunami.

As it was, I was already marking the two year anniversary of my claiming the right to think for myself. Two years previous in the month of November 92, I had stopped trying to figure out which side of the fence erected by the squabbling Brethren of the Fundamentalist sect I was raised in to come down on. In witnessing the suffering inflicted on the children in the families who were torn asunder by doctrinal dispute and the willy-nilly wielding of excommunication, I saw the fence itself as the evil. Full of righteous indignation on behalf of those children I wrote my first ever rant which served also as my declaration of independence from the Meetings it was also the last one until I started letting loose in my daily journal and in occasional emails to trusted correspondents in the past year:


“All those sober Elders who appointed themselves our teachers, who
point proudly to the missing Rev. before their name and the lacking Ph. D.
following, are far from lacking in B.S. Their head’s and heart’s are stuck so
far up inside their hollowed out egos--that echo chamber where they hear nothing
but the sound of their own voices, but think it God’s--they couldn’t see the
light if the sun orbited their eyeballs and they couldn’t know God’s love if
Jesus himself walked up and kissed them on the nose. None of them will ever have
any further authority over me, body, soul, or spirit. I would wash their feet in
my spit! And anoint their brows with the sweat of my pits! They are worse than
the blackest hearted crook. They are hypocrites! When they try to make out like
they got god’s mouth in their ear, I want to ask how far he sticks his tongue
in!”

Realizing that I had never learned how to think for myself I set out on an intensive quest to learn to do so and at the same to time to study the history of religion, the history of Christianity and most especially the history of the sect which I was raised in--an offshoot of the Plymouth Brethren which sprouted in Texas between the world wars. But until the night of November 2, 1994, I continued to believe that my quest would not take me all that far from my roots.

On that night I witnessed a battle of wills between a father and his one-year-old son in which the infant was disciplined for screaming by a hand over his mouth during every exhale to ‘deprive him of the reward of hearing the sound of his own voice’. This took place in a roomful of adults and children who nearly all acted as though nothing out of the ordinary was happening. But as I sat there trying to remain calm while holding another sleeping infant, I began to feel the stifled screams of the struggling baby as if they were my own and memories from childhood flooded in and I saw that it was the very teachings of the Meetings that sanctioned this, that made it not just acceptable but a duty of the father’s to break his child’s will and severely constrain all expression of self that did not conform to expectation. It was the belief that though infants are innocent when first born they are still ‘born into sin’ into the ‘weakness of the flesh’ and that from the moment, sometime during the first year of life, that they begin to form thoughts and intents of their own they must be held suspect since the Bible says that mankind’s thoughts and the intents of their hearts are ‘only evil continually.’ We were taught to distrust our every thought, every intent, every perception and every emotion. The hours of all our days and nights were suffused with shame and guilt for always falling short of that very ideal we were told we were incapable of achieving anyway. And since that ideal was unachievable the only acceptable substitute was perfect submission to authority--the authority of God through His Word via the authority of the Brethren who interpreted it. Somewhat buffered--depending on the temperament of the man involved--by the authority of the fathers over their children and husbands over their wives.

The moment I understood this connection between the doctrine and the squashing of our spirits, something in me said a ‘No’ so powerful and resonant I still hear its echoes. I knew that I could not comply with a doctrine that defines humanity as incapable of independence and yet holds that they are responsible for their choices and thus merit eternal torment for making the wrong choice. It was at that moment that it first entered my mind that not only were the doctrines of the Meetings I was raised in suspect but so was the entire doctrinal and theological edifice of Christianity itself. I was terrified. That is not too strong a word. I was terrified to stay and I was terrified to go and this terror paralyzed me for months afterward. I was repulsed by the vision I had of a ‘god’ that held humanity in his hand in the same way that father held his infant. But I was bereft by the loss of confidence in the ‘Abba Father’ of the teachings of Jesus. The metaphors of Christianity were deeply interwoven in my soul and I could not disown them without disowning my own self. And so my quest continues and is apparently going to be an open-ended life-time struggle--a personal spiritual Jihad--with the stories that shaped me and That Source of All Being (That I AM) in which I live and breathe and have my being.

A year ago, right around the ninth anniversary of my emancipation, I became aware and then astounded by the common themes between that event and certain current events in America. The fact that election day was to fall on the exact day seemed a powerful sign to me as well. I have been obsessed with reading, writing and thinking about these themes. Bovard’s book is just one of dozens and books are just one of a number of sources of info on these themes which I am sure will continue to occupy me for some time to come: Abuse of power. Stifling of voice. Equating empathy with weakness. Denial of the pain at the root of rage and thus justifying a cold blooded resolute use of overwhelming force to punish the expression of the rage with either no cognizance of or a willful acceptance of any ‘collateral damage’. And of course, the underlying theme that it is done for the victim’s own good, that the end’s justify the means when good is confronting evil, (even when the ‘evil’ is, as on that day ten years ago, the willfulness of a one year old child) that we can inflict pain and terror in the name of love, or the name of god, or the name of order, or the name of justice, or the name of peace, or the name of freedom, and expect an outcome that in anyway reflects the ideal in the name of which we justify our actions.

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Failed Experiments

My experiment with NaNoWriMo fizzled. As I should have anticipated, overnight guests and other holiday doings curtailed my time on the computer. And my first attempt at generating word count was a discouraging dud. I squeezed out less than 2000 words that were nothing like coherent narrative but rather a collection of names, and phrases of description and lists of potential actions and plot twists. It would have made more sense as a bulleted list than as a story. And of all things to get hung up on, I spent hours trying to settle on a name for my protagonist and could or would not be satisfied. I could not get emotionally attached to the character without giving her a name resonating with my vision of her. I was reminded once again of the loss of my collection of baby name books which aided me in this task in the past. I tried using the phone book but that was only of moderate help for the support cast.

So I essentially gave up on the contest and went back to working on creating my web page. I had spent most of the week my in-laws were gone designing Joywrite with the Geocites online page builder but I was increasingly dissatisfied with it. Aside from the fact I had to be online to work with it and did not want to waste my online time that way, it would not let me do things I wanted to do and the ‘text boxes’ seemed to be limited to less than 1000 words so that longer essays and stories would have to have multiple pages created for them and then be linked together with forward and back links. A hassle I did not want to commit to.

When I complained to my husband about it he encouraged me to experiment with Selida, a WYSIWYG he had downloaded a few weeks previous. And he proved to me that a page created with Selida could hold indefinite text content and could be uploaded and linked to the other pages already existing. But the look of the pages I had created online could not be duplicated in Selida nor could pages created in either be edited in the other. It was important to me that the site have a coherent look. So another experiment was failing on me.

I was intimidated by Selida as I am by any new application but more so when it involves having to work with actual code. Selida is not as sophisticated a WYSIWYG as I remember FrontPage to have been in 98. The user interface and the help files are not as friendly to a non-tech savvy word wright. But I took my husbands advice and started playing with it. And before I knew it I was learning my way around the code. Not so that I could write it in any fashion but I was beginning to comprehend the purpose of certain elements. It was a language after all and I do know language. They even call it syntax--certain code elements that is. I played with templates of pages created by Selida by changing colors and sizes of tables and fonts, inserting and deleting using the WYSIWYG design mode and then studying the code to see what had been added or subtracted. In the process I created a look I liked.

I even went into the minimal Paint program on the computer to create my own graphics--logos and buttons. And then I got very brave and started with a new blank document and tried to recreate from scratch the look I had cobbled together by manipulating the template created by someone else. I wanted to do this because I had already begun to notice that all the cutting and pasting had left behind straggling bits of code that no longer served a purpose and they offended my sensibilities. I was surprised at how easy it was. It took me only minutes to recreate what had taken me several all night sessions at the computer to learn to do. And once I had a working template it became a simple task to insert the text of the already existing essays, stories and poems and create the links to knit the site together. And once I had reached a point where it was ready for a test drive online, I decided that I might as well go ahead and get Joyread ready to go first so that I could post them simultaneously with all the links woven in and thus existing in the templates that will be used to produce new content pages for the sites. A little extra work now will save a lot of tedious fixing and tweaking later and will leave me free to focus on the content creation which is my original passion. I expect to be posting both sites within a few days.


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Tuesday, November 23, 2004

NaNoWriMo

I discovered this site in late October and was seriously considering signing up to participate. But then the events of early November distracted me. But after the events of November 17 and the following day when I produced a 5000 word narrative journal entry about it and also in the same day two fresh and polished essays--Daydream Believer REDUX for Joywrite Reflections and Decision 2004 for Joystory(see last post)--I decided it wasn’t such a hopeless proposition after all even so late in the game as the very last week. I thought it could be instructive as an exercise if nothing else. So I am a proud participant of this year’s National Novel Writing Month contest.

The novel idea I am playing with is titled Majoring In Marine Biology and is about the teen bride of a Marine, daughter of a backwoods pastor who dreams of swimming with the whales and dolphins and hopes to study marine biology someday--maybe while her husband is stationed at Oceanside California. But instead she is forced to supplement their income by working as a maid in a motel catering to Marines on off duty passes and gets an education in Marine biology.

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Sunday, November 21, 2004

Decision 2004

Retreat is not an option. I Pulled my head back into my shell for five days but I discovered the sense of safety was an illusion. My sanity was at risk and my sanity--integrity of heart and mind--is infinitely more precious to me than my reputation or my physical safety. November 2 is a hugely symbolic date for me and I had loaded the coincidence of this year's election with all its related themes falling on that date with an unwarranted significance. So the outcome hit me even harder as though I were being told that I had been on the wrong path for the last ten years, that I might as well give up and surrender once again to the fundamentalist mindset that I had begun my escape from in November of 1992 and made a definitive break from on November 2, 1994 when the essence of its heart had been revealed to me as corrosive fear and nothing to do with faith or God or even truth. Not one whit!

But the thought of returning to that mindset is so repulsive to me that I find I am more afraid of that then of the possible consequences of once more standing up to an authority which has no integrity. Even though this time the authority may soon have the power to make life a misery for dissenters or even take it away altogether. It is no light matter this new meme (an idea with the properties of a virus) propagating through the culture with rampant rapidity and an astonishing level of acceptance: that dissent in a time of war is tantamount to treason. Especially when the war in question--the 'war on terror' has been carefully designed to be a perpetual one--un-winnable because the very act of fighting it promotes the rage and the sense of powerlessness in those who use terror as a tactic against those who abuse their power.

And so I concluded that it was no longer enough to continue to use my freedoms without starting to do my part to help ensure that they will continue to be a vital part of our society. It also occurred to me that defense of freedom is not a job for a loner. It cannot be accomplished in isolation. It took a community pulling together to create the society founded on the principle that there are certain rights that belong to individuals which cannot be usurped by others--not even the state. And it takes a community to keep those rights protected as the precious jewels in the crown of our common endeavor they are. My fear of the herd makes me wary of getting involved with groups. But a community of autonomous souls creating a society that works for the betterment of all its members while harming none is something I can acquiesce to. The trick is in preventing that tempting slide back to the comfort of the herd mentality.

Ten months of vigorous surfing, reading, research and lurking online revealed to me the plethora of communities out there who were working for these ideals and searching each other out and coalescing to consolidate power and resources. I realized that my unique set of talents and experience was a good fit both for the needs of this spiritual battle and for the forum provided by the internet. I would have to stop hiding my light under the bushel as the old Sunday School song says. No sooner did I make this determination, I came down with a cold which compromised my impaired vision further not to mention the energy and stamina for working, even thinking. It didn't stop me, only slowed me. But I found it too difficult to work with an unfamiliar application--the blogger program and the on-line WYSIWYG where my website is hosted. So my high ambitions toward the end of October took a bit of a nose dive. But it was only temporary. I am more determined than before to continue down the path I have begun.

The theme which November 2, 1994 and November 2, 2004 have in common for me is the hijacking of one's voice by abuse of power. When I witnessed the discipline of a one-year-old infant for crying by the application of a hand over the mouth--as a means, as explained to me, of depriving him of the reward of hearing the sound of his own wails--it constituted the final and irrevocable break with the Fundamentalist sect I was raised in. In a profound epiphany, I saw that this person I loved, admired and greatly respected was operating from the underlying principle of the philosophy that shaped our lives--that it was necessary to break the will as the will was the source of all evil because our hearts and minds were full of evil continually and incapable of governing themselves or our lives. I experienced a visceral repulsion towards this idea and with it the entire world-view it sprang from. I could no longer assent to it. Even if it meant isolation from many of those I loved--both blood relations and the 'Brothers and Sisters in the Lord' as we had been taught to think of one another. And it had seemed to me a large, spirited and joyful family for most of my life. Until, that is, the late eighties when dozens of the Teaching Brethren began to excommunicate one another and their entire families left and right for heresy in an unfathomable doctrinal dispute. This split up many of the very inter-married and otherwise intertwined families. When I witnessed the pain and confusion this brought upon the innocent children involved, I began to question the entire edifice of doctrine but I realized that I did not know how to think for myself. That had been actively discouraged. So in November of 1992 I set out on an autodidact program to learn how to think. I was two years into that and still not feeling very competent at it when the incident of November 1994 occurred and I was forced to choose between the safety of conformity and the challenge of freedom. But there really was no choice. It was already too late to retreat. I could no longer stuff my mind into that mold. It was either go forward or succumb to despair.

I decided then to go forward and it has not been a smooth path. For years afterwards, I dreamed of buildings collapsing, under construction or appearing to be fine but walls would fall when bumped against and rugs would fall through a floorless void when walked upon. But I persevered and soon began to test my fledgling voice and developing world-view through my writing. First through a commitment to daily journaling in the summer of 1996. Which led to the development of a personal voice and of mature themes in my creative writings--poems, essays and stories.

As for the outcome of Election 2004 and the seeming assent of over half of the voters to the exchange of liberty for the illusion of security and the growing demand for conformity with a concomitant defining of dissent as treason... It changes nothing. Yet it changes everything. It changes nothing because the issue is the same for me as it was in 1994--having freedom of conscience or being fenced in with a herd; a voice unleashed to speak its truth or muzzled by the force of authority (that of the herder or that of the herd itself); a will and a spirit free to create a life worth living or a choice between joining either the herd or the pack of wolves that hound and hunt the frail ones who, having given their will over to a herd find that it will not or cannot protect them when any deviation, any accidental straying makes them easy prey for the ravenous and devious will of those who feed on the energy, labor and spirit of the vulnerable.

Both of those choices repel me and not just because I no longer fancy being a joiner of any kind. I have both witnessed and experienced the pain of the abused and have no wish to be either partaker or imparter. And I have had a taste of the freedom outside the fence without the herd and have no wish to return. I sat on the fence for a long time but no more. For awhile I kept the fence at arms length where I could reach out and touch it for a reminder of that sense of belonging that once gave me security. But I am no longer nostalgic for the herd and the fence was beginning to give me a sense of security only because it was keeping the herd on the other side. But lately I've been getting the sense that both the herd and the wolf pack are eyeing that fence with the idea that it is no longer needed because the wolves can serve the purpose of keeping the herd corralled and culling the non-compliant. With this collusion between the wolves and the herd it is incumbent upon those who value the rights of individuals to apply themselves to the work of defending them from erosion by the greedy and the fearful.


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Thursday, November 18, 2004

Bouncing Off the Walls


Relating this event in my journal consumed five hours and five-thousand words. I have no intention of giving it that much time or space here. But I need to mention it because it has become so pivotal. It was the wake up call I needed and it motivated me to get serious about getting my web sites posted as one way to secure at least some of my most important files. That is just a partial solution but it is a start. The event in question had me literally bouncing off the walls in an attempt to rescue what I could of my manuscripts and library books from what I thought was a fire.


It began at 7am on Wednesday, November 17. My in-laws were spending the week at the coast and my husband had just left for work. I was getting ready to sit down at the computer. But first I wanted to take the edge off the chill in the house. It was in the low thirties outside and I had just taken the garbage out and gotten my slippered feet wet. I stood in the hall after turning up the thermostat of the gas heater talking to my two cats as I waited for the heat to start blowing through the vents. I was giving my cats some attention before having to shut the door and leave them alone for most of the day as they are not allowed free run of this house. But instead of the blower kicking on, the gas kicked off and a second or two later the fire alarm went off over my head. And then I smelled the distinctive smell of an electrical fire. The acrid smell of a lightening struck rubber tire.

I raced to the back door and then the front door to throw them open and then raced back to my cats to unhook and untangle their leashes so I could take them out and leash them to the stake in the back yard. I knew from watching such shows as What would you do?, 911 and Oprah that once you are outside you should never go back in but go to a neighbor’s to call 911. But while I was dealing with the cats, the smoke alarm had ceased clamoring and so I risked going back for my manuscripts. My papers and notebooks were spread all over the living room as I had been working with them since Sunday night without the necessity of gathering them up daily since my in-laws had left Monday morning and I had stayed on the computer all day. It had been a long time since I’d had such luxury but that made it the most inopportune time for an emergency. I was stuffing papers and notebooks willy-nilly into my soft-sided attaché case until it bulged. I brought it out to the front porch where I left it on the chair my father-in-law sits to smoke. Then I remembered there were more papers and notebooks in the bedroom. And I went after them. And while I was in there I laid eyes on my library books and the number 64 popped into my head--the number of books I have checked out as the librarian had told me on the previous Friday. At an average cost of replacement of $20 per book that gave me a liability of around $2000 bucks. I could no more bear to be bereft of my library privileges than of my manuscripts. So I began schlepping the books out as well. The first stack I took out to the front porch and put in my husband’s smoking chair. But that was the last safe surface out there. Everything else was covered with the moisture applied by the morning fog. The rest of the books I brought only as far as the front room couch where they would be easier to take the rest of the way if it became necessary.

Since fifteen minutes had now passed and there was no further peep from the alarm and only a dissipating odor to account for the potential tragicomedy (or potential farce) I was participating in--I was becoming bolder about staying inside and started gathering more items like a change of clothing, shoes and socks, jackets, grooming items, purse and personal papers. All this time I was in a panic but it was unlike any panic attack I’d ever experienced. I wasn’t paralyzed by it but highly motivated. And focused. And since I was moving much too fast to watch where I was going, in the careful way my visual impairment requires, I was bouncing off walls and door casings as a way to propel myself around corners and feel my way forward at high speed. In the moment I was living it I was aware of the ridiculousness of the whole scene. And also that I’d set myself up for it by not doing the kind of maintenance of my files that I knew was necessary. How many times did I have to learn this lesson? 1st, 2nd, 3rd

These were the thoughts I carried through the event and on into the following hours and days. And I made some new commitments in response which I will discuss in future postings here or in Joywrite Reflections .

There was much more to the events of that day but of little relevance to the theme of this posting. So suffice it to say that I learned later that day that neither the cats, my files and books, nor myself were ever in danger as when the heater’s fan motor had died the entire mechanism had kicked itself off and the circuit had blown which, I am told though I don’t really understand, prevented the fire spreading.

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Thursday, November 04, 2004

Just Can't Wrap My Brain Around It

Just can’t wrap my brain around it. I wish I hadn’t got my hopes up. Six months ago I was still of the opinion there wasn’t much hope of a regime change for America, seeing as how dirty a game they play and how intent on keeping their power they are and with what distain they hold the constitution and what contempt they hold the voters.

But I allowed myself to hope as I got deeper into the progressive blogs and online publications. There seemed to be a strong and growing movement with a lot of prominent voices and a lot of fresh and creative ideas and a lot of money to go with it. Someone is supporting these web sites. Many are still shoestring but most of the ones I visit regularly are not. Someone with bucks is funding them. And even if it is mostly readership contributions, that would mean the support for their agenda is strong and growing. So why couldn’t Kerry ride that tide? Unless it is because he remained so camouflaged the progressives couldn’t identify him as one of theirs. He does seem to be more in tune with the corporate agenda than the common man. And he doesn’t articulate his views in a manner easy to understand and hard to misinterpret.

And Cheney used the word ‘mandate’ in his acceptance speech this morning. The arrogance is astonishing. Just can’t wrap my brain around it.

I just had an eerie flashback to an incident on October 12 as I was walking home from the bus stop after going into town to register to vote. I was feeling so optimistic and so pleased with myself for having braved so many of my fears to make the excursion to the county clerks office. As I was walking down the drive leading into the trailer park where I live, there was a gentleman walking past, whom I don’t remember ever seeing before and haven’t seen since. He could have been any age from forty to sixty. He was wearing a baseball cap that shielded his eyes and my own eyes were shielded by sun glasses. He was speaking as he passed by and at first I did not realize that he was speaking to me. But he paused and waited as though for a response so I turned to look more directly at him but he averted his eyes and repeated what he had been saying three more times in the sing-song voice of the Rain Man. “Bush is gonna win. Bush is gonna win. Might as well put yourself in the garbage can. Bush is gonna win. Bush is gonna win. Might as well put yourself in the garbage can.” He was staring straight at the bottom half of my white cane as he then asked as though it must be a given, “You’re for Kerry, right?” and it occurred to me that he was addressing me as a fellow disabled person.

I stood still as he continued speaking. Now he was quoting in meticulous detail the results of polls from the TV. I wanted to reassure him that the polls were not definitive. That there were so many reasons why they could not be relied on: bias in the questions, bias in the fact that only those with home phones get polled and then only if they answer--think of all the answering machines screening calls; bias in the fact that only those registered to vote get polled and only those who actually voted in the last election get counted as likely to vote this time. So many assumptions are so many divergences from fact into supposition. But all I could do was nod and say “There’s still hope.” But he shook his head as he wandered on his way continuing to intone, “Bush is gonna win. Bush is gonna win. Might as well put yourself in the garbage can.”

I was spooked a bit by that encounter at the time. Now I get a chill remembering it. Can’t help but think that little Phoenix, Oregon has got its very own prophet of doom. Or was he even real and not a figment of my sleep deprived imagination? But to the best of my knowledge I’ve never hallucinated in broad daylight before. :)


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Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Hope Deferred

My purpose in choosing last night to create my blog was rooted in the hope of participating in my own small way in the celebration of John Kerry's win. Now it seems pointless. And worse. The strong numbers in Bush's favor will likely give his administration a sense of a mandate and thus permission to pull out the stops and push their agenda pedal to the metal for the next four years. I have looked into that potential future with nothing but fear and despair ever since the fallout after 9/11 made it clear how the Bush administration was going to use that event to push an agenda of fear mongering and war mongering, the steady eroding of civil rights and civility, along with the dismantaling of the social safety net and the middle class and the progressive economic system that supports prosperity and hope for the many and not just the few.

The sense that a majority of americans have somehow given their assent to the proposition that safety and conformity are more essential values than freedom of conscience and privacy is the most dissappointing. And the most fearful. Just contemplating the implications of that and what John Ashcroft could do with that mandate...Not to mention a re-vamped Supreme Court..Oh it all just makes me so weary. And my tender, newborn voice which has just recently found the courage to speak up loud enough to be heard outside the confines of my head, is now shivvering with a sense of nakedness. What if another four years of the Bush agenda creates an atmosphere in Americal like that in 1930's Germany? The outcome of Election 2004 seems to indicate that a majority of Americans would be content to see that happen.

I hope I feel more hopeful and couragous after a good long sleep. I've had nothing but cat naps for over three days. Maybe I can also recover my courage in my dreams.

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Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Obsessions

Well, I've been obsessively reading blogs since I discovered them last January when my discovery of them coincided with and fed several of my obsessions. Those referred to in the subtitle above: Reading, Writing, Thinking & Being. But most especially my obsession with freedom of conscience, freedom of speech and the impact on them of the Bush administration, the Iraq war, the Economy and the political climate since Election 2000 followed by 9/11 and the new "Dissent = Treason" meme. As I will relate here later, when I have more time, I spent the first 37 years of my life in the mental prison called Fundamentalism. I just spent the last 12 years strenuously and painfully and meticulously extricating myself from it. And just as I was about to find the courage to start speaking my true mind, the whole entire country seemed about to be taken over by clones of the enforcers of thought that I had just finally convinced myself were in a slim minority and thus of no danger to me or my mind anymore.

So, as you can imagine, my current obsession is with today's election. And has been since the nightmare of Election 2000. I wish I could stay online and stay plugged into my favorite blogs all day. They are so much more reliable than CNN or any of the other TV based news sources. So much more interesting too. At least the ones I frequent. I wish I had time to add links to some of my favorites but I'm going to have to give up the computer any minute. I only have dibs on it from about 10pm to about 5am when my in-laws get up. My husband and I have been living with them since he lost his dot.com job and we found ourselves living on the streets of Santa Clara for two weeks in August 2001. Hence my obsession with the economy. A story for another time.

I usualy go to bed about now but I have to stay up until the library opens this morning as that is where I need to go drop off my ballot. Oregon has a vote by mail system but you can turn in your ballot at various sites right up until polls close at 8pm. All library branches and the County Elections Office are among the sites. I meant to do it yesterday but it took me five hours to fill it out. Here in Oregon, we have a plethora of initiatives and I am an inveterate procrastinator. I thought I knew my position on all of them and it would only take me a few minutes and then I could sleep and get up at noon to walk it over to the library. But then, wanting to be a conscientious voter this first time out since 96, I started reading the voter pamphlets. And next thing I knew my brain was scrambled. I consider myself a seasoned reader, practiced at finding the meat of a paragraph and getting the point to be got. But I was reading the silly pamphlet for an hour before I realized that the "In favor" and "In opposition" entries were not a 'just the facts mam' rendition. They were, in fact, paid advertisements and some needed to be held at arms length with clothespin for the nose. Like many of the TV ads. But at arms length I can't read them. I could barely read them at six inches from my nose. What with the small print on newsprint easily smudged by handling. Especially hard for someone who is vissualy impaired as I am. Legally blind from RP aka Tunnel vision. A story for another time.

Thus it was after noon Monday by the time I finished shading in the little ovals on my ballot and I had not slept nor eaten and with the eyestrain and sleep depravation, I was in no shape to be wandering the streets by myself. So I postponed it. But I am in little better shape now after a seven hour stint on the computer and having had only three hours of sleep Monday evening. And I still have to wait four hours before I can leave here. Probably should get a nap instead of trying to stay up to do it. But I am so afraid I will oversleep, or wake up with a headache. Or some other thing that makes me unfit to walk out on my own.

Well I just ran out of time. Gotta sign off until tomorrow night.

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