Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Baby Steps

Sometimes, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the problems we face in the world today. It is easy to feel like there is nothing we can do that will change anything or make a difference. Today I want to remind you that the little things count, too.
If this sounds a little 'preachy', I apologize. It is an expression of my frustration with all the posturing and finger-pointing that seems so prevalent in our world. I am (obviously) all for pointing out problems, protesting wrongs and working on big changes in our society. But, let's not forget the changes we can make right now, today.
Look around you. Look at your life. What baby steps can you take that would set us all on the road to a better world?

You march around at protests
And proudly wave your sign,
But what have you done today
To change your world and mine?

Did you clothe a shivering child?
Did you feed a hungry bum?
Or did you walk right by,
Carefully avoiding the scum?

Did you plant a community garden?
Share your money with the poor?
Or when they came a-knocking
Did you hide behind the door?

Did you tell someone you love them?
Did you lend a helping hand?
Or did you say that you’re too busy
And trust they’d understand?

Did you comfort a broken heart?
Bring a lonely soul some cheer?
Did you even take the time
To hold your loved ones near?

You brag about your house,
Proud that it’s built right,
Did you offer that extra room,
To a homeless family tonight?

You’ve got a wonderful car,
Great quality & the price was fair.
Did you drive the widow next door
When she needed medical care?

You fill the pews on Sunday
Thankful that you’ve been blessed,
But can you face up to your Creator
And truly say you’ve done your best?

Monday, October 09, 2006

What a Mess!

Let's start with a blast from the past, shall we?
President Bush, in his State of the Union address on January 29, 2002 had this to say...

"North Korea is a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens...
Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror,...
Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror. The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade...

States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred. They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States. In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic....

We'll be deliberate, yet time is not on our side. I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons."

Now, a blast from the present...
North Korea Claims Nuclear Test

To quote CNN.com ...
"North Korea claimed it conducted a successful underground nuclear test Monday, according to the country's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

China, a close ally of North Korea, denounced the claimed test as "brazen" and South Korea said it would respond "sternly." The United States said a test would constitute a "provocative act."

South Korea's president said Pyongyang's claimed test "broke the trust of the international community."
President Roh Moo-hyun said it brought "a severe situation that threatens stability on the Korean Peninsula and in northeast Asia."

South Korea would "react sternly and calmly" with "appropriate measures" in close cooperation with the international community, he told journalists after a summit with new Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Abe told the same news conference his country would work "to make ways to implement action for a tough resolution."

According to the CNN story, the underground nuclear test did happen and was successful. North Korea has now officially joined the rarefied ranks of nations with nuclear weapons.

So, let's recap...
January, 2002, Mr. Bush tells us that North Korea, Iran and Iraq are the "axis of evil" and cannot be allowed to have nuclear weapons.
March, 2003, the United States invades Iraq to take away Saddam's nukes. OOPS! No WMDs in Iraq.
October, 2006, North Korea tests its first nuke.

Did I miss something? Can someone explain to me why thousands of people have died in a non-nuclear Iraq while America stood by and watched North Korea arm itself with WMDs?
Oh, sure, we wagged our finger in their faces and issued "strongly worded" statements "deploring" North Korea's actions. Heck, we even backed UN sanctions against them. But, apparently Kim Jong Il doesn't take that kind of thing very seriously.

Now, we have a real mess on our hands.
Does our Commander-in-Chief invade another country with our overextended military? A country that has the definite capability to retaliate with nukes? Or do we kiss some North Korean hiney and hope they keep their dogs on the leash?

If we choose to shake Kim Jong Il's hand and welcome him to the Nuclear Arsenal Club...
do we apologize to Saddam and get our butts out of his country? Or do we blunder on in the name of the Global War on Terror? And, if it really is a GLOBAL war on terror, how do we justify doing nothing to the newest country to truly hold TERROR in its hand?

How do we explain continuing to 'rattle our sabers' at Iran? Oh, wait! Pre-emptive war, right? We see how well that's working in Iraq. They don't have any nukes! (Or peace, or freedom, or democracy...but that's another post.)

What do we say to our allies when we need their continued help to fight our war in the Middle East? "Gee, don't worry about the little Asian guy with the nukes, the real threat is over here! Have you seen how badass those IEDs are?"

I'm not into making predictions, but I just don't see a neat way out of this one. It's gonna get ugly, folks. Real ugly. :-(

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Open Letter to America

Dear Apathetic American,
I spent the last several hours reading, researching and writing an important message to you today.
I was going to express my dismay and disgust that, while you were combing the web for every salacious detail of Mark Foley's alleged attempts to molest a Congressional page, the entire United States Congress molested you and you didn't even flinch.
I was going to point out the the outrages perpetrated in the Military Commissions Act of 2006.
I was going to explain and protest it's definition of "unlawful enemy combatant", it's suspension of the right of habeus corpus, it's approval of torture, it's gutting of the Geneva Convention and the 'blank check' power it gives to the President and the Secretary of Defense.
I was going to define tyranny, autocracy and dictatorship; then point out the commonalities between those things and our present government.
I was going to discuss the 14 Points of Fascicsm and how our country now meets all 14 of those points.
I was going to illustrate the parallels between the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and the German Enabling Act of 1933 that gave Adolph Hitler the unfettered power to commit atrocities against his own citizens.
Then, I was going to remind you of the statement in the Declaration of Independence that "...all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
However, it was another statement in the Declaration that brought me up short and pointed out the futility of my endeavor. That statement was this...
"...and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."
Translated into modern English this tells us that people will put up with almost anything rather than make changes in what they are used to.
What a sad and pathetic commentary on mankind it is that, even with all the advances we have made, those words are as true today as they were 230 years ago.
Why should you care what laws Congress passes or what kind of power the President has, as long as they are not messing up your life at this very second?
Who cares whether you live in a Constitutional Republic or a Fascist Dictatorship, as long as the Yankees still have a chance to win?
Why would anyone ever expect you to take steps towards "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness", if those steps might upset your family, your friends, your boss, or your comfortable routine?
Hell, everybody knows that Life means you're breathing, Liberty means you're not in jail and Happiness means nobody's pissed off at you, right?
So what if, every once in awhile, you wonder if there is something more? So what if, sometimes, you feel a little uneasy about the way things are going? So what if, on occasion, you get a little depressed? That's just the price of living, right? You can't actually do anything about it, can you? The world is the way it is, people are the way they are, and that's all there is. It may not be a perfect system, but it's comfortable, for now. Why make waves?
Believe it or not, I understand. I don't agree, but I do understand. It is much easier to live a life of "quiet desperation" than it is to "march to the beat of your own drum". It is easier to go along to get along. It is easier to keep your head down and your mouth shut.
But...let me ask you this? What kind of America would you be living in if our forefathers had felt that way? What kind of world would you live in if the people of Germany hadn't felt that way? Where would you be if your ancestors had never said "I've had enough...I'm going to make some changes..."? What kind of life would you have if no one had ever wondered "What if..." and then taken steps to find out?
Just something to think about...while you're still allowed to think for yourself.
An UN-apathetic American

Thursday, October 05, 2006

What About Love?

Yesterday's post was about love gone wrong. It's a pretty depressing subject. So, I thought that today would be a good day to post some thoughts on when love is right.

I think it is fairly safe to say that most, if not all, of us consider love a necessity for a full life. Life just seems so much better when we have people we love, who love us in return, to share it with. Now, everybody has their own idea of the 'perfect' love and what is perfect for one may be imperfect for the other. Rather than fill the page with my own ideas, I thought I would post a few examples of what others have had to say on the subject.

Enjoy these! And, tell the people you love how you really feel today. They can never hear it enough.

The best ever definition of love (in my opinion):
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8

One word frees us of all the weight and pain in life, that word is Love.

True love does not come by finding the perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.
Jason Jordan

To love and be loved is to feel the sun from both sides.
David Viscott

True love cannot be found where it truly does not exist, nor can it be hidden where it truly does.

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.
Lao Tzu

There are no guarantees. From the viewpoint of fear, none are strong enough. From the viewpoint of love, none are necessary.
Emmanuel Kant

Love sought is good, but given unsought, is better.
William Shakespeare

Where there is love there is life.

And, finally, one of my favorites...
Love doesn't make the world go round, love is what makes the ride worthwhile.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Love Shouldn't Hurt!

How many of you can remember dancing to the song "Love Hurts"? It is one of my favorites and I still crank it up and sing along when I hear it. But, with apologies to Nazareth, love shouldn't hurt! This subject is particularly close to my heart, so please forgive me if this starts to sound like a rant.

I got a phone call last night that really upset me and triggered this post. A couple of weeks ago my niece was involved in an argument with her husband that ended with him pulling a gun and threatening to kill her. She managed to escape with her two little girls to her parents house and we all breathed a sigh of relief that it wasn't any worse. Well, unfortunately, he talked her into coming back to him. Yesterday, after less than 48 hours back home, he viciously beat her & stabbed her with a fork because he didn't like the way she cooked supper. She and the girls are safe, for now, but who knows how long that will last?

Why did she go back? She has a simple answer. She loves him and she didn't want her marriage to be "a failure". She is, unfortunately, not alone.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence statistics, in 2001 (the latest year they have numbers for) there were 691,710 non-fatal incidents (PDF) of domestic violence in the United States. From that same report, we find out that in the year 2000 there were 1247 women and 440 men killed by an intimate partner. Yes, men are victims of abusive relationships, too. However, they are much less likely to report it.

Relationship abuse cuts across all lines of gender, race, religion and socio-economic status. Just because someone is a 'really nice person', 'with a good income', who came from a 'great family' doesn't mean they aren't an abuser. And, it's not only about fists and broken bones. Abuse can be emotional, verbal, sexual, or economic. The National Domestic Violence Hotline defines abuse this way...

Abuse is physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure or wound someone.

Why are there so many abusive relationships and why do people stay in them? There are as many different answers to that question as there are different people. Economics, societal pressure, cultural pressure, even religious pressure can all play a part. Some folks simply can't afford to get out. Some feel the push from family & friends to "make it work", no matter what. Others have religious beliefs that tell them ending a marriage is a sin. Often times, the abuse has built up slowly and degraded the abused partner's sense of self to the point that they feel it is their fault or they don't deserve any better. Their own sense of guilt or inadequacy keeps them there. Other times, it is as simple as my niece's answer. "I love him/her." But, they fail to understand that you can never truly love another unless you love yourself and loving yourself means refusing to be a victim.

I am a survivor of an abusive relationship and I have a little insight into the problem. I can tell you that, for me, there were issues of self-esteem and guilt. I always felt that if I could just... love enough...give up enough...give in enough...try harder to be understanding...try harder to be a 'good person'...shut up...everything would change. If I could prove that I would honor my committment to my partner, no matter what, they would suddenly wake up and see my value and it would all be OK. I didn't want to face my family and the world and say "I couldn't do it." I didn't want to be a failure, a reject, a quitter. I didn't want it to be my fault that everything went to hell in a handbasket.

Does any of that sound familiar to you? Are you reading this and thinking "I know exactly what you are talking about!" Are you in an unhealthy relationship? How can you tell?

Here are some warning signs to look out for...

• He/she is jealous and doesn't like you talking to others of the opposite sex, or people he/she perceives that you might have a sexual or romantic interest in.
• He/she criticises your friends and wants you to stop seeing them
• He/she wants to know where you are and who you are with all the time
• He/she tries to control your contacts with members of your family
• He/she often criticises what you wear or how you look
• He/she often criticises what you say and do
• He/she questions what you've spent money on
• He/she expects sex on demand when he wants it
• He/she tells people about things you did or said that are embarrassing and makes you feel stupid.

• He/she blames you for things that go wrong for him/her.
• He/she makes jokes which put you and other people of your gender down.
• He/she calls you fat, lazy, stupid, ugly, a slut, or other things to make you feel bad.
• He/she ignores your opinions or objections and does only what he wants
• He/she drives too fast or does other dangerous things which scare you .

• He/she goes too far when you are playing around and hurts you or holds you down to make you feel helpless.
• He/she gets angry or violent when he/she drinks or uses drugs.
• He/she threatens to break your belongings or destroy your property.
• He/she threatens to hit you, hurt you or your friends, your pets or family.
• He/she threatens to leave you or to kill himself if you don't do what he wants.
• He/she forces you into sexual acts you don't want - by threats, coercion, or physical force.
• He/she gets very angry about small unimportant things.
• He/she won't express his thoughts or feelings and then he/she blows up.
• He/she hits or physically assaults you in some way - he/she may express regret and guilt afterwards but that doesn't stop a repeat of the behavior.

If you recognize ANY of these signs in your partner or yourself, get help or get out! It is NOT your fault and you can't fix it by yourself. Follow the links in this post for information on where to get help.
If you feel like you or someone you love is in eminent danger, don't wait! Get out! Your family will get over it, your church will get over it, your friends will get over it. Believe it or not, you will get over it. Yes, it will be hard. Yes, it will take courage. Yes, it will hurt like hell. But, one of the wisest sayings I ever heard was this..."It's a choice between an end to the pain or pain without end."
Love shouldn't hurt! Ever!

National Domestic Violence Hotline - 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Gotta Have Faith

We hear about faith all the time. Songs about faith, television shows about faith, books about faith. Heck, even our government has special "faith-based initiatives". So, just what is this thing called faith? What purpose does it serve? How do we know when we have it? What do we do with it? I am not going to claim to have the answers, but here are a few thoughts on faith that rang the bells in my head.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Hebrews 11:1

Faith is to believe what you do not yet see; the reward for this faith is to see what you believe.
St. Augustine

Faith is courage; it is creative while despair is always destructive.
David S. Muzzy

Faith makes the discords of the present the harmonies of the future.
Robert Collyer

Faith is not complacent; faith is action. You don’t have faith and wait. When you have faith, you move.
Betty Eadie

Faith is not trying to believe something regardless of the evidence; faith is daring something regardless of the consequences.
Sherwood Eddy

He who has faith has... an inward reservoir of courage, hope, confidence, calmness, and assuring trust that all will come out well - even though to the world it may appear to come out most badly.
B. C. Forbes

For faith to be true, it has to be generous and loving. Love and faith go together, they complete each other.
Mother Teresa

Faith makes all things possible. Love makes all things easy. Hope makes all things work.

And my absolute favorite thought on faith...

When you walk to the edge of all the light you have
and take that first step into the darkness of the unknown,
you must believe that one of two things will happen:
There will be something solid for you to stand upon,

or, you will be taught how to fly

© Patrick Overton

The Leaning Tree, 1975

Let's learn to fly!

Monday, October 02, 2006

What We Need

Lots & lots of SANE ASYLUMS! I've got one started, why don't you start one?

Because we recognize that modern society provides very few opportunities for true respite of the Soul and because we further recognize the need for a haven of Love, Peace and Sanity, we, the founders of the Sane Asylum, do hereby Ordain and Affirm:

1) This place is a Stronghold of Love.

2) It is a Haven of Peace.

3) It is a Sanctuary of Sanity.

4) It is a Refuge for Free Thought, Free Speech & Free Spirits.

5) It is a Retreat for the weary Soul.

6) It is a Shelter from the storms of Life.

7) It is blessed with Abundance & Good Fortune.

8) “Live, Love, Laugh & Eat desert first” is the primary philosophy of those who abide here.

9) All activities & conversations within this dwelling are for the purpose of bringing Joy & Happiness to those present.

10) All activities & conversations occurring here are dedicated to the cause of mutual Enjoyment, Understanding & Enlightenment.

11) Moreover, all activities & conversations which transpire within the Sane Asylum will remain within the Sane Asylum, except as they may contribute to the greater good of the outside world.

All who enter here are welcome.
We seek no judgment & offer none in return.

“In a mad world only the mad are sane.”
Akira Kurosawa