Friday, September 10, 2010

religion and citizenship - all tears are the same

I realize this is a touchy topic, but most would agree with what I think. The debates that are happening currently about Islam vs Christianity, the question of whether or not people of faith and people of non belief can coexist peaceably have had my blood boiling for weeks.

When I learned of the plans for the Park51 Muslim cultural center in NYC several months ago, it didn't seem to be a big deal. It is being planned at a site 2 blocks from Ground Zero, and will be placed where now an abandoned Burlington Coat Factory remains. Emotions ran high as the months waned, and several protests have been staged. The national media has played a role in this with right leaning Fox News leading the charge against, and left leaning MSNBC leading the charge for it. Where I stand on this is no secret and I won't bore you with it.

What interested me, more so than the debate itself, was the frenzy that was generated. Masses of people, being fed misinformation, with avarice toward Islam who still, as we all do, feel the punch to gut we got that Tuesday morning 9 years ago. They took to the airwaves, the streets, the blogs, and made their voices heard. And to think, 6 weeks ago we were all watching as the gulf got covered in oil, and for a little while, we cared about our neighbors and reached out.
Now we're back to fighting with each other. It's worth noting that many who were lost on 9/11 were in fact Muslims. And immediately after 9/11, most of us, though angry, and hungry for revenge, when we heard someone say "let's round up all the Muslims and get them out of here", we listened to our better selves. We, and much to his credit our then president George W. Bush, leaned on our consciences and said no. We said at the time, that this wasn't the work of all Muslims. It was a group of thugs, and dirt bags with nothing to lose.

9 years later, we ignore our better selves, and don't think twice to spit on our Muslim neighbor. Or our gay neighbor, if that's your particular hang up.

I am a Christian. I believe in the redemptive work of Christ at the cross, and in the sacraments of the church. I am also an American. I take "love thy neighbor" quite literally. My neighbor is my fellow man. When he needs help, if I'm able, I'm there to help. And, I don't bother him if his life is different than mine.

There are a few axioms in addition to Loving My Neighbor that I have taken to heart. The first one is "Do what ye will. Harm none." I am fully aware of the pagan overtones of this phrase. But, that doesn't make it wrong. It's practical. And, it's good civics. If they aren't hurting anyone, then it's none of my business.

Another favorite of mine is "Not all who wander are lost". This one speaks to me as an artist. I'm a musician and a struggling song writer. Struggling only in the sense that I want to be published, and recorded and it hasn't fully materialized yet. But I think looking at the world from only the one lens we have is a sure way to become jaded and unpleasant. I do believe there are absolutes, and rights and wrongs. I also believe that I haven't been where you've been, so I can't possibly judge who you are. Explore and expand.

And the last one of these axioms that I enjoy is "all tears are the same". I once sat in on a lecture from a sociologist at a college in Texas, and she made a point that is the only thing I remember from her lecture. She said "I've seen a variety of different cultures, on 6 different continents. I can tell you that every culture has 2 things for sure in common: they all smile, and they all grieve."

That stuck with me. All tears are the same. What makes us different, and what makes us fight with each other, may be important on some level. But, if, God forbid, a tragedy like 9/11 were to strike again, would you think twice about helping out your Muslim neighbor? What about the gay couple down the street? Would you think twice about saving their lives? Of course not. It's part of what makes us human. We look out for each other. All tears are the same.

I made up an axiom of my own a few years ago. I never wrote it down, and I never put it in a blog, in a poem, or on facebook. I just kept it in my heart until now, but it's served me well: We have to live on this planet together, so we may as well learn to get along.

It's longer than most, but hopefully just as heavy.

Peace out, and take care of each other.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Labor Day Rant (warning: left wing politics being espoused. read at your own risk.)

I worked all weekend, so the 3 day weekend idea is out the window. But I did get today off. When most people think of Labor day, they think of the last gasp of summer before the fall begins. I think of something else.

I think of my dad getting laid off after 25+ years with the same company. The company fired 15,000 people, and did it on Labor Day in 2002. My dad was a Teamster, and because of that he was able to keep his retirement, work a few more years, and get his pension. Had he not been in a Union, those 25+ years would have been lost. And sadly, this happens more often than people would like to believe.

We'd like to believe that private industry does the right thing. The idea of businesses policing themselves is a nice idea, but companies are outsourcing more, paying their employees less, slashing benefits, and despite healthy revenue streams they aren't investing.

And now, we have a party that has fought hard against federal funds for schools, so teachers are getting laid off. They fought against money for infrastructure, so roads are literally being unpaved, and many state and local governments are cutting back services, and firing workers.

Spending for the poor and middle class = bad.

Tax cuts for upper 3% of wage earners =good. Just like Jesus said.

Despite all that, the same people fighting against the middle class and fighting for the ownership class, are now accusing the president of failing on his stimulus package. Even though the most stimulative parts of the stimulus package were bargained out to get Republican votes, which never materialized.

Progress indeed.

And has the President found the courage to finally tell his critics they can take a flying leap and that he answers only to the American people who elected him? No. He wants to play it safe. He tries to straddle the middle of the fence, and what's trickling down now is only more suffering, and more misery.

Workers are bearing the brunt of the tax burden, and being asked to sacrifice so the upper 3% can be given a 700 billion dollar tax break. I say no. Hell no.

And it's about time those who claim to represent the working class say "Hell NO!" too. When they tell us "What's good for business is good for workers" we should scream "LIKE HELL IT IS!" When they tell us "Union bosses are thugs" we should scream "PROVE IT!" And when they say that 700 billion dollar tax break for the rich will generate lots of new jobs and investment in the economy, or that the private sector is great at creating jobs we should stand up, and at the top of our lungs demand "THEN WHERE ARE THE JOBS?!".

Do politicians exploit labor at their peril, or ours.? Time and resolve will tell.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"In Our Bedroom, After the War" - Final Fantasy VII

Monday, August 30, 2010

Food Stuffs - What's so great about local farms?

I'll be honest. I love a good bacon cheeseburger. I like bisquits and gravy (I was raised in Texas), love a good cup of coffee, and unsweet tea. I also enjoy bacon, scrambled eggs, and Bud Light Lime. That said, I don't fear salmonella poisoning.

We began buying meat and poultry products from a local farm this year. We get red meat, eggs, milk, and whole chickens directly from a farm. And this farm isn't a corporate breeding mill like the ones that have been talked about on TV lately. This farm is an all organic, free range, and grass fed farm. The chickens aren't stacked hundreds in a cage in laying houses. The cattle aren't being fed HGH and grain, and we don't have to worry about arsenic in our eggs.

The recent recall of millions of eggs should serve as a clarion call for us to wake up about our food supply. Our diet of fast food right away has given us record levels of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and a whole host of other unpleasant things.

We as Americans, have to start voting with our feet, and our pocket books.

When you buy a huge, perfectly plump tomato at wal-mart in the middle of February, for example, what you're actually buying is the idea of a tomato. It's full of preservatives, and growth hormones that you're dicing up into a delicious salsa, and serving to your Super Bowl party guests. Don't get me wrong, I love good salsa, but not that much.

And what of the HGH? Human growth hormones. The average age that women began menstruating a generation ago was 16. The age now? 12. Boys began puberty around 13. Now? 9. And not only are our children's bodies growing far faster than their mental or emotional development, which ends around 26, they'll also age faster. They'll have weaker immune systems, and they'll die younger than their parents.

So, what's the alternative? Buying from a local farm was a good start for us. The food is not only much healthier for us, but it tastes better. The steaks are juicier, and more tender. The eggs are amazing, and we've had some great chicken dinners. We also buy produce from the Farmer's Market here in town. Every Saturday morning at the fair grounds, my wife brings home locally grown fruits, and vegetables, and she asks about how the food is grown and harvested.

And after you've eaten healthier, get out of the house and do something. Turn the TV off and go for a walk. Exercise is not only good for the body, but excellent for the mind. If we're going to change the way this generation lives, and survives, we're going to have to get serious about what goes into our bodies, and what our bodies do.

Food is life. Knowledge is power. Choice is king.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Rock and Roll Radio - Ramones

Getting to know me.

I lifted this from Gini, a dear friend.

1. If you could host a Reality TV show, which one would it be?

It would be a prank caller reality show where we call American Idol, SYTYCD, America's Got Talent, and every last one of those cooking shows and cause the producers, stage hands, and hosts to have a coronary. I want one good shot at that guy from Hell's Kitchen.

2. Do you put your seatbelt on before or after you start the car?

After. You gotta get the air going first.

3. Shave or hair removal cream?

Shave. I don't roll large enough to get hair removal. Plus, in the winter time, I need my hair.

4. What's your favorite feature in a house?

I am a big fan of dumbwaiters. But if one of those isn't available, I also like a grand room, or large living area.

5. What is your favorite "Fall" scent?

Apples and cinnamon. Also, the smell of beer at a hockey game. God I love fall.

6. What tv show are you looking forward to seeing the most this Fall??

That Mike and Molly looks like it has some promise. I'm looking forward to House, and the Big Bang Theory. I want to finally see how Ted met his kid's mother on HIMYM, and then keep the show going for another 3 or 4 seasons. I also want to see how Ted morphs over the years into Bob Saget. The Middle became one of my faves last season. I love that kid Brick. And of course NBC Thursdays and Fox Sundays. Enough said there. Actually kind of a good time for network TV right now.

7. Personal Shopper or Personal Chef?

Personal chef. But that's just how I roll. You may roll differently. That's cool too.

8. What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of "Fall"?

Cooler temps. Sweaters. Football. Hockey. The earth tone colors on the trees. Crisp morning air. Seeing your breath in the morning, and shedding your jacket in the afternoon. Kids in school, and life being good and normal. Fall is the best.

Martin Luther King "I have a dream"

Contrasts. What matters and what doesn't.

I notice contrasts. I notice them in media, because I work in media. You're around something all the time, you notice differences. While I don't work for a news organization, I do work for a company that delivers media in a variety of ways.

The last combat brigade left Iraq last week. I watched the tanks and armoured humvees cross from Iraq into Kuwait on live Television. It was a great moment. You could see the elation on the faces of the troops. I saw this on MSNBC, a decidedly more liberal leaning network. I wanted to see how Fox was covering the story. When I changed the channel, Bill O'Reilly was castigating Senator Harry Reid for changing his position on immigration and showed a truly damming video from 1993. Which is useful because certainly, no one's opinions or social attitudes could possibly change in 17 years. Even after 9/11 which we were told changed everything.

I couldn't believe it. The next hour didn't start with a "Fox news Alert" and then footage of the last combat troops exiting Iraq. It began with Sean Hannity attacking a New York Imam for being an Imam in New York and wanting to build the Muslim equivalent of a YMCA 2 blocks from the Northeast corner of where one of the WTC towers had stood.

This couldn't have been right. This network was cheerleading the charge to go to war in 2003. They branded anyone who disagreed as an Old Glory burning, Fidel Castro loving, pot smoking, NPR listening, Birkenstock wearing, cissisified homo who should move to Cuba. The best answer we could get for the question of "where are the WMD's?" was, "We'll find them".

Bill O'Reilly even said after the war began that if we didn't find the weapons in 6 months, we should leave and he would say the war was a mistake.

9 years removed from 9/11, 7 years after the declaration of "mission accomplished" in Iraq and the combat mission officially ends next week with a whimper. And the bluster we heard in 2003 that was directed at Saddam Hussein, a murderous thug certainly, is now being aimed at an Imam in New York. The latest thing to scare Americans is that Muslim groups build cultural centers and places of worship in America. And if they do, we'll all end up with Sharia law, and worst of all Megan Fox will have to cover up her figure with a burqua. God help us all.

We haven't learned anything. Not that our neighbors aren't terrorists. Not that politicians stoke fear when they're out of answers (color chart that magically retired after the 2004 elections). Not that corporate owned media has a bias. Not that media and politicians collude to turn an outraged citizenry on each other. If they can get white southerners to start turning on their hispanic neighbors, Christian and Jewish New Yorkers on their Muslim neighbors, White Americans against Black Americans, then maybe we won't notice when they push through more tax cuts for the upper 2 percent, and still leave the task of instituting a national "living wage" undone.

They keep us fighting with each other so we won't notice our 401K and disappearing savings accounts, and ever plunging credit scores which allows us to continue earning a living to support corporate America for generations to come. And you may not notice when the war ends without fireworks, that the war was sold on a damnable lie in the very beginning, but 7 years have gone by and we have short memories.

This weekend, Fox News host Glenn Beck is holding a "Restoring Honor Rally" which will feature, himself, Former Governor Sarah Palin, and Dr. Alveda King (niece of MLK). It's been called by others "Beckapalooza" Glenn says he's only writing some bullet points in the event that God (the spirit) wants to speak through him about "freedom" or something.

In contrast to the GB pep rally, Keith Olbermann and viewers are sponsoring a free health clinic through the The National Association of Free Clinics in Greenville South Carolina.

The contrast of what matters, and what doesn't. Media, and politcians all agree on one thing: they don't want you to notice the important stuff.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Social Media Is Going To End Us

In George Orwell's opus, 1984, Big Brother controls thought, action, and demands absolute loyalty. It was written during a time when communism was a global threat, radio and print were primary modes of mass media, and 1 income was enough to satisfy an average family budget.

Technology has given us some wonderful things since that time, like VHS tapes, cable TV, Pay Per View sports, Microwave ovens, TV dinners, Color TV, Personal Computers, Betamax, Laser Disc, DVD, HD-DVD, Blu-Ray, Hi-def TV, Mac, PC, Smart Phones, iPods, MP3 players, Zunes, iTunes, Rhapsody, and Justin Bieber.

But, how much is too much? When the social networking site MySpace launched, millions flocked to it. However, blogging sites like blogger, blog-spot, live journal and others had already been in place for several years. And it was a place to exchange ideas, stories, musings, whatever popped into your head. But, it didn't get too personal. Fast forward 6 years.

It's 2010. The idea of a blog now seems nostalgic. I haven't actively kept a blog for a couple of years. And the idea of it seems quaint. But refreshing in comparison to what is happening with Social Networking. Your friends, family, colleagues, etc. may be fine people. They may be terrific. But they have too much access to you. They can read your innermost thoughts, they can attack you in print, and now thanks to GeoLocation technology, they can always find you.

Folks, this isn't a good thing. Not everyone needs to know everything. Think of how easy it is now with a Smartphone, to take a picture or a video of someone. Someone who doesn't want to be photographed or filmed is now at the mercy of an iPhone. And their image can be used in whatever way the holder sees fit. And, my interesting web savvy friends, don't expect the laws to catch up with the times anytime soon. Things move slow in Washington. Unless it involves bailing out a large bank. Then, they're right on top of it.

With average people having access to you, your image, a camera, and a 3G connection, we are all at the mercy of each other. The honor system, such as it is, is in place. Big Brother with his cameras, microphones and thought police, doesn't have to do a thing. Little brother, with his cell phone camera, is doing all the work for him. May God have mercy on us all.