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    • The Silver Lining of Thanksgiving Past
      I had originally intended to write a rather cynical Thanksgiving weekend post – pointing out that the Indian tribes who helped the pilgrims in that first Thanksgiving feast made a big mistake by helping Europeans figure out how to live and prosper in the new world. Their reward, ultimately, was slavery, scalp bounties, smallpox (sometimes […]
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You know who you are

Some of you may be wondering why I go on and on about fundamentalists. Well, to be quite honest, it’s because my family has been ripped to pieces by religion in general.

My own beliefs are nobody’s business but I’m going to tell you anyway. Here’s where I stand on the matter: I’m not an atheist but my concept of god is pretty abstract. I could be called a panentheist, that is god is ineffable and exists beyond space and time and we exist within that god. My concept of god has been very steady since I was a little kid. Yep, all those years trying to convert me were a waste of time. I don’t believe in a personal god, or an anthropomorphic god and I don’t think prayer is very useful. Meditation is and there’s something to be said for mindfulness. Ironically, I’ve always liked Catholic mass a lot but will never attach myself to a church where half the attendees are second class. As for religious texts, I don’t have any but I have always been drawn to Tolkien who was a devout Catholic who also had a peculiar interpretation of religion and myth with a healthy addition of neoplatonism. That’s about where I am. I’m not a practicing anything and I don’t want to be.

So, when it comes to what tore my family apart, I don’t have a dog in this fight. Since my beliefs do not come with a religious text or tradition, all the world’s religions that do have traditions that are thousands of years old look pretty much the same to me. Worship of Zeus and the pantheon or the Nordic gods once made  a lot of sense and now look silly to Christians and Muslims. But Christianity and Islam and Hinduism are all premised on equally silly things to me. Nevertheless, if that’s what floats your boat, and as long as you don’t stick your faith in my face by either overt proselytizing or covert banding together to reinforce your beliefs and shutting


Luther started it.

others out, I don’t have any problems. What’s in your head should stay in your head and what’s in my head should stay in my head and as long as we don’t insist on everyone else thinking exactly like we do, we should all get along.

Butcha know, it just didn’t work out that way in my family. I blame Martin Luther. Oh for sure, he had some very legitimate points, over 90 0f them from what I can remember. Yes, the Catholic church had become corrupt. Yes, there was a lot to be said about priests keeping the bible out of the hands of common people. But in retrospect, they might have had a point. As Julia Sweeney said in “Letting Go of God” when referring to the bible, “have you read that book??” Sure a lot of people find some wisdom in the bible but that book is also awful in ways that modern humans in this modern world do not approve. And yet, there are people who are willing to kill, shame, pass judgment, and lock into roles other people based on confusing, and brutal texts, taken completely out of context.

Anyway, it started with Luther.

For some crazy reason, there are still people in my family who think that the Pope speaks for all Catholics and they do what ever the Pope says, like mindless automatons. Oh, and priests do all the bible reading and interpretation for Catholics despite the fact that the printing press has been around for 500 years now and Catholics have pretty much given up the battle of keeping vernacular bibles out of the hands of their parishioners. Yes, dear faithful protestants, you can read the bible if you are a Catholic and are free to interpret that nonsense any which way you like. But Catholic masses don’t differ a whole lot from other Sunday services except there aren’t any women at the pulpit and there’s incense and holy water and the communion disks taste like wall paper paste instead of the neat little cubes of wholesome bread you get at a Presbyterian service. It’s all pretty much the same damn service at every mainstream church. Trust me on this. You might even *like* a Catholic mass.

But in my family, we must still believe that there is some gigantic chasm between the protestants and the Catholics, even though, there isn’t. The pope isn’t the dictator everyone thinks he is, most Catholics practice birth control and in many respects, Catholics have a longer history of intellectual thought that many mainstream protestant churches are still struggling with. They have saints and it’s still slightly pagan. And? That just sounds like a brilliant marketing strategy to me and so what? There’s still a thread in Catholicism that reaches back to seasons and nature. But ok, whatever floats your boat. Nevertheless, I’m not going to condemn Catholicism just because Luther uncovered some rather significant problems 500 years ago. As far as I’m concerned, the fight is over. And anyway, I’m just an observer. It’s not personal to me.

But it was personal to others. Religion in my family is like a game of one upsmanship. Lutheranism was superior to Catholicism but not as superior as evangelicalism. Evangelicalism is genuine, until it wasn’t and you had to become a Jehovah’s Witness because THEY had The Truth. But then you had to be born again because that’s where it’s really at. And only if you practice the right brand of Christianity and believe in the signs and condemn the lives of people wholly unconnected to you, can you prove to this capricious, angry, mean and stingy god that you and you alone are worthy to be raptured before the end where you can sit in the clouds and feel smugly superior to all those relatives who didn’t listen to you. Oh, and homosexuals who do all those nasty, dirty things with their body parts (never mind that quite a number of married heterosexuals also do those nasty, dirty things with their body parts, mean spirited hypocritical inconsistencies are required in this version of Christianity), well, they need to be set straight, in more ways than one and it’s the fundamentalists job to be vocal, rude and obnoxious and ruin other people’s vacations.

Like I said before, I don’t really care what you believe as long as you don’t shove it down my throat by either 1.) overt proselytization or 2.) ostracism because you can’t for one second have anyone disagree with you. Both of those things tear families apart.

How did it happen in my family? Well, I think it all began when one family member who was a Lutheran was forced to accept some Catholicism upon marriage. That person wrecked revenge by becoming a Jehovah’s Witness and then relentlessly pursued other family members until they too became Jehovah’s Witnesses. If the whole family had converted, this might have been a different story. But only half converted. Then, when the original Jehovah’s Witness decided to get out after Armageddon didn’t come, the other Jehovah’s Witnesses had to shun her. Yep, no more social gatherings, no more family meals, nada. Scheduling a family event now requires familiarity with GRE logic problems:

“Bob, Sheila and Terry are JW’s and Nina is a JW apostate. Florence is an Evangelical, Ellis is a panentheist and George and Sarah are lapsed Lutheran and Catholic respectively. Bob, Sheila and Terry can associate with Florence, Ellis, George and Sarah but not on any holidays when working people have time off. They can not associate with Nina. Nina is a vocal dissenter of George and Sarah’s gay relatives so inviting her to Sarah’s family gatherings is awkward. Florence can associate with everyone but can’t invite Bob, Sheila, Terry to the same event with Nina. If Nina is not invited to an event, George and Sarah won’t attend in order to protest the JW practice of shunning. Bob, Sheila, and Terry can’t go to the funerals of Florence, George, and Sarah because they will be churches. What day during the year can they all be together?”

I might think shunning is a really stupid and painful practice that Jehovah’s Witnesses use in order to manipulate people into staying in the religion when they otherwise might not but it’s not like you don’t know what you’re getting into when you join the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Essentially, there is no unconditional love or grace with the Witnesses. This is the ultimate truth about Jehovah’s Witnesses that the rest of us have observed even if the believers are in denial about it. Their “friends” in “The Truth” will turn on them in an instant if they even think about putting their families first or decide they’ve spent much of their lives in too much self denial of, you know, just about every thing that brings a family joy.

It should be noted that of all the kids of three siblings that became Jehovah’s Witnesses, not one of us became Jehovah’s Witnesses in spite of the regime of fear mongering indoctrination.

The original instigator went on to become Born Again and watched Jim and Tami Faye Praise the Lord!, which to some of us looked like jumping from the frying pan into the fire but we just had to put up with it. This sibling was the one labeled “Most likely to end up a Buddhist” and, you know, that would have been a relief. But Buddhists are too soft and accepting. No, for this sibling, nothing but the most harsh and demanding fundamentalism would do. We put up with relentless pressure for decades to voluntarily lobotomize ourselves, admit that evolution was a lie, and embrace the end times. And some of the targets of this campaign did eventually give in and became belligerent, judgmental shadows of their former selves while the family continued to atomize. Now, that GRE question has a part B that affects a whole new generation.

Now, one half of us can’t speak to the other half. If we’re not actively shunning because our organization demands it, we’re shunning because the non-believer, and at this point, it looks like I might be the only one, still maintains that women are equal to men, evolution is in fact the way the world works, gay people are born that way and that, in general, all people, even poor ones, should be treated with dignity and respect. For some reason, that makes me the bad one. Well, that and I don’t think the bible is the inspired word of god (“Have you read that book??”) Thus, I am ultimately the one person who can unite the rest of the family in mutual distrust of the heathen.

Let’s face it, you can be a decent person, don’t do drugs, don’t steal, don’t kill people, put up with years of crazy and abuse at the hands of some very selfish people who hide behind their religion and never ask for a penny from anyone but if you do not believe that THAT BOOK is the inspired word of god, you are a baaaaad person and people will feel that it is Ok to not be nice to you.

That book, is subject to their interpretation, whoever they happen to be at the time. They can all contradict each other and ridicule each other’s interpretation, and they do, regularly. But they all agree that That Book is the ultimate authority. Of everything.

This is not mainstream Christianity. I can hang out with Catholics and Presbyterians and even some Methodists and never feel baaaaaad. No, it’s the fundamentalists who absolutely cannot tolerate any dissent. In the US, we don’t do honor killings. But it’s perfectly Ok to demonize anyone who is independent, who thinks for themselves without reference to that book, and who by their very presence threatens to tear a hole in the perfect fabric cover that protects the believer from the anxiety over whether they are good enough to survive the wrath of a god who seemingly does not appear to possess self control. This is a god that throws temper tantrums if gay people get married and smites innocent dying people who accept transfusions to save their lives. This is a god that demands that we disavow the laws of nature and choose deliberate ignorance over intelligent understanding. This is a god that would prefer that women suffer their entire lives for forgetting their oral contraceptives. This is a god that insists that we shame and dehumanize women so that their lives and the lives of those who would help them, are at risk of being snuffed out by a person vulnerable to speech that is nothing but an invitation to do violent things.

That book is not the cause of the problem. The problem is that as herd animals, some of us are still not able to tell when the herd is headed off a cliff. And some opportunists and politicians are all too willing to take advantage of that to attain power. They’ve spent the last half century dragging this country back. Where women are concerned, they’ve been very successful, because fully raw cannibals will have equal rights before women do. They’ve not been so successful when it came to gay marriage, probably because there are more powerful men with money backing that. I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing but it does show what you can achieve if you’re male and have money. The fact that lesbians also benefit is just icing on the cake.

Recently, the Mormon church delivered a killing blow to any progressive Mormon who thought the church’s stance on homosexuality was softening. This new guidance from the quorum of the twelve Mormon apostles says that not only will married gay couples now be subject to disciplinary councils and expulsion for apostasy, their children would no longer be baptized or blessed. Yes, gay mormons do exist, probably in greater numbers than we think, and because the church strongly emphasizes marriage and families, some gay mormons have been compelled to marry heterosexually and have children. Then when they can’t deny their authentic selves anymore, and marry a same sex partner, their children are instantly ostracized from the church. Imagine what kind of message this sends to LGBT teenagers. Don’t tell, don’t step out of line, because we don’t want you here and your families will be condemned. Furthermore, your children will need to disavow your lifestyle when they become adults if they ever want to become members of the church.

John Dehlin at Mormon Stories has interviewed quite a number of people in the wake of this decision. Some people think this is a legal technicality to prevent the church from being accused of alienation of affection from parents because of its strict condemnation of homosexuality. But the only explanation that rings true to me is that the ultra conservative churches have won the battles but are losing the war. They are now circling the wagons, getting less inclusive, forcing out all dissenters, doubling down on the mean and the judgmental and the fundamentalism because that is what distinguishes them as different and purer and better than anyone else. In fact, making themselves more exclusive in some ways polishes their prestige. If you can endure this demand for perfection, conformity and hard edged faith, no matter how ridiculous that faith might be to the rest of the world, then you know the church must be true. You’re the only ones who see it, you are persecuted by the state for these beliefs and you’ll go down fighting all the way.

Fine. Just do it somewhere remote.

Leave the rest of us alone.

The shooting at Planned Parenthood is just the latest outcome from the barrage of hate and dehumanization that emanates from the mouths of Rush Limbaugh and fundamentalist churches and patriarchs and the politicians they support. It’s also the result of wishy washy Tut-tutting from the likes of Barack Obama who can’t seem to bring himself to stand with Planned Parenthood because he’s the father of two females. I find that almost as disgusting as the overt foaming at the mouth fundie speech. The most powerful man in the world either feels no confidence challenging the money fueled consensus reality or he’s just another conservative guy pretending to be a progressive. Either way, he’s no champion of females, not even his own daughters.

And then there is the media that doesn’t want to piss off the religious contingent by telling it like it is: we have spawned our own religious fundamentalist extremists right here in America.

Those of us who don’t have a dog in this fight see very little difference between the Islamic State and the right wing patriarchs in Arkansas who pick their daughters’ husbands so they can churn out “Christian Soldiers” who pray that they will one day enforce biblical law on the rest of us.

It’s not benign. It imposes suffering on people every day from family members to people whose lives are nobody else’s business.

If this is the last charge at the end of the war, then I can not wait for it to be over. And I believe it will eventually end. But not before it has wrecked destruction on our families and ruined what should have been love, support and friendship for some of us for most of our lives.

If there is a heaven, they have a lot to answer for before they get in.





Why fundamentalism of any kind is dangerous

I’m sure I’ve posted this before but the video below bears repeating:


What Crossan didn’t mention is that fundamentalist religious extremists, regardless of faith, hold God as their ultimate authority. They do not answer to a secular state. All that talk about respecting the law is just balderdash if they think they have to defy it in order to answer to a higher authority. That’s why at least one police officer in Colorado Springs is dead tonight.

They don’t care about anything but their own salvation. They might not decapitate but their victims are just as dead. And they have a lot of guns.

Better not rile them up, eh, Marco? What do you say, Ben? Ted?



RWNJ’s utterly stupid response to the Planned Parenthood hostage crisis and shooting

So, this is the best they can come up with. It’s not that there’s a shooting at Planned Parenthood. No, it’s a strip mall and the shooter was robbing a bank in the same building. So, see, you stupid libs? You are all wrong about this. It’s just another typical mass shooting in Colorado.

Um, Ok, then.

It’s my Birthday and I’ll Blog if I Want To

Tuesday: ExasperationThis has been a rough week. Don’t even ask. It’s like 2 steps forward and one yank back. I *hate* that. The good thing is I *finally* have a job making a decent wage and I have health insurance again. When I say decent, I don’t mean anywhere near what I was making before and I have to teach myself a whole new technology. Not to worry, I can do this. I like challenges. But I will always miss my old job, not that there’s anything for me to go back to. Oh, look, drug resistant bacteria dragging us back to the dark ages. Lovely. If only there were a pool of drug designers, chemists and biologists who had been diligently working on new antibiotics for the past four years…

What am I saying?? That’s crazy talk to a shareholder.

But anyway, it’s my birthday and I’m going to the Oakmont Bakery for a Doughsant with something really decadent in it. I might even buy a pepperoni bread. Oh, yeah, I’m wild. I can’t be stopped. Because this is what you do after you’ve been shut out of the job market for 4 years. You spend no money on anything. In fact, my first goal, now that I have a regular salary is… to save up for my next layoff! Welcome to America, Dr. Krugman!

From the looks of the last thread, there is still plenty to say about terrorism, strategy, ISIS and many other things. RU Reddy needs to cut back on the caffeine though. I approved the pending comments. Sorry about that. I don’t spend as much time on the blog as I want to. Too many other annoying and disturbing things are taking my attention. The saga continues. There’s a book in here somewhere. I have already written a Hollywood ending and want someone thinner to play me. Preferably, someone who doesn’t go to the Oakmont Bakery to fill up on pastry.

Today’s the day I say what I really think. Hence the title. So, at the risk of hurting anyone’s feelings, I don’t approve of any plan that excludes Syrian refugees from the US. By the way, I have actually met and talked to a genuine Syrian refugee. He was a building manager in Syria and his wife was a dentist. He had a sponsor bring him to Pittsburgh where his wife can’t practice and he is washing dishes in a restaurant. His son is autistic. He was frantic, overwhelmed, bereft, angry, frustrated and nearly hysterical. The fact that he would pour out his heart to the lady in the retail store (at my previous underpaid and stupid job) is indicative of his desperation. He told me about his culture, how it was being destroyed. It was making him crazy. He worried about his son. He tried to tell me about what it was like. He was so distraught. I couldn’t know what that was like because I had never lived in a war zone. But the fact that he spent 30 minutes talking to a perfect stranger about it gave me contact anguish.

Why would I want to exclude people like this from my country? I want them to feel safe and protected so they can regroup. I don’t care if he’s Muslim. He’s a human being. We don’t tag human beings, by the way. That’s a dangerous slippery slope.

As for ISIS, I would like to do a Dresden on them. And that’s why I’m not in charge. Because to do that could have downstream repercussions that I haven’t even thought of yet. So, strategy is key, as is timing. And maybe we don’t have to bomb them back into the stone age. But to do nothing or exclude the people who need our help the most only encourages IS to keep doing terrorism because they would know it works. So, we can’t be afraid and we can’t bomb the shit out of them. We have to be clever and deadly and brave.

We used to be good at that before we stupidly got into a land war in Asia. I guess if I had one birthday wish, I would rewind the clock back to 2003. I would destroy the super funded right wing scream machine that twisted consensus reality and made everyone think we needed to go to Iraq and I would invent a device that would deliver a dope slap to every ditzy American who thought we were going to go back to gas at 50 cents a gallon by kicking Saddam Hussein’s ass.

But that’s just me. What about you?

For the rest of my day, I am going to binge watch The Man in the High Castle. Number one child called to say Happy Birthday. That made my morning. Now, if I can only hear from the other kid, that would make my day.



French Grey

At this point, I don’t think there is anything I can add that hasn’t already been said by people who are more closely connected to the tragedy.

Some of you may know that I once worked for a French company. I loved it. It was the best job I ever had. I had many French colleagues and visited France several times on business. Brook went to France with me one time. One of my best memories of France was ditching our luggage at the hotel and running off to the Eiffel Tower because she was so excited to climb to the top. She was only 8. Silly girl. We got to the fourth level and took the elevator the rest of the way.

It was a cloudy day at the top overlooking the Seine. Some irritable toddler was crying incessantly. But Brook and I took in the view of Paris while she struggled to keep her heavy lids open. I was wide awake, glad to have such a “rash and inexperienced traveller” as my companion. Once she got on the Metro without me and I had just seconds to pull her off before the doors closed. There might have been a good children’s story about Brook’s adventure in Paris, lost on the Metro, but I nearly had a heart attack, She crushed a waiter’s heart when she turned up her nose at a hot dog on a baguette with a delicious gratin on top and ate nothing but crepes and nutella from street vendors for more than a week. In the Louvre, she used her innate radar to tear through the galleries and stand transfixed in front of the Mona Lisa. Six years later, she returned to France for a two week company sponsored exchange program. When I picked her and our French student up at the airport, she told me, “Mom, learning French in France is much harder than it is in school.” Then she turned back to our French student and spoke to her in what sounded to me like near fluent French.

Someday, I hope to go to France with the other child, the one who lives to eat. Ahhh, I can almost taste the fois gras.

My French colleagues on both sides of the Atlantic were accommodating of our American inability to learn their language. One in the Paris facility told me that he went home with a headache on the days we came to the site. I liked them. They weren’t afraid of arguing, that’s for sure. American companies don’t like it when coworkers argue. They would prefer to hire people who have all the social skills of a kindergarten teacher and who swallow their anger rather than confronting a problem and trying to solve it by strenuous debate and a lot of “Non!, Non!, Non!”

They also aren’t afraid of enjoying their lives, taking vacations, spending time with their families and drinking wine at lunch.

When I think of Paris, I think of the light. There are certain places on the earth where land, sea and sky converge to change the light and in Paris, the light seems slightly grey to me. Sometimes, a little silvery grey. It’s like very old light or memory of light. Maybe that comes from the stone facades of the buildings or the clouds. It softens and ages the city. It has seen a lot of things, some of them beautiful and some harsh and devastating.

One of my French colleagues told me that Americans are too optimistic. We have an unreasonable expectation that things will work out in the end. We smile too much. I think she is right. The Great Recession has been incredibly hard on some of us and there is a lot of cruelty in the good ol’ US of A. When I was laid off in 2011, many readers tried to make it sound like a new opportunity. They told me another job would come, don’t you worry, and it would use talents I never knew I had. And I know they meant well, but, I’m here to tell you that bad stuff does happen. It’s the way you respond to it that makes the difference. I just kept on keeping on and had to block out every other distraction to get through the many hundreds of days in order to get a new job that gave me a modest return to the satisfaction I had before I was laid off. But I have learned that economic security in America is pretty much a fiction compared to what the French have.

And we were taken completely by surprise when 9/11 happened. We had this incredibly naive notion that terrorism would never happen here. We are separated from the rest of the world by two oceans. So when it did happen here, it tore a hole in the fabric of that optimistic identity we had and we overreacted to patch it up. And we opened ourselves up to very opportunistic and malicious people who would use psychological manipulation of our fear to lock us in to bad economics, meanness and callousness towards one another.

France, on the other hand, has always been vulnerable. It sits in the middle of Europe and has been used as a highway for the English, Germans, Spanish, Moors. Vikings, princes and their armies have tramped their muddy boots through its fertile plains for millennia, raping and pillaging. It fought the Romans for a couple of centuries and drove off the early Muslim invasion in the 8th century. The 14th century was pretty awful for France, as told by Barbara Tuchman in her book A Distant Mirror. Nothing but disease famine and war for almost 100 years. Then there were the religious wars, St. Bartholemew’s Massacre, and the Revolution, followed by two world wars and a humiliating occupation. The French have survived it, probably because they understand better than we do that bad stuff happens. They survive it, remember their friends, learn to enjoy their lives again and get on with it.

With World War II fading as a distant memory, the French are well fed and healthy, and the survival instinct may be more tested this time. I can almost hear the meetings that Rupert Murdoch’s empire is having, trying to figure out a way to get inside the minds of the terrified Parisians and give the right wing more of a foothold in a country that has stubbornly refused to eat its poisoned economically conservative mushrooms.

While a Gallic shrug is not the right response to current events, it might be the ability of the French to see the grey that will save them.

That and a vigorous and deadly hit back at ISIS.

Democratic Debate 1: Let’s Do This Thing

Hey, does anyone remember that Berlin Wall thing? Whatever happened to that anyway?

Tonight’s the night we hear the other side, after months and months of silly twits pissing on double layer fences to keep the Mexicans out and generally trying to out mean each other. By the way, did anyone but me wonder why Republicans are comfortable with a double layer fence that not only keeps the illegal immigrants out but also keeps all the ‘Muricans in? Anyone remember the Berlin Wall? Anyone? Bueller?

Anyway, I got a message today from the Clinton campaign. Oh, heck, let’s be honest, I get about 20 emails a day from Hillary. Look, it’s not that I don’t care. I just don’t care yet.  I get it, Iowa (who the hell cares about Iowa??) is only a couple months away but you know, I’m just not as engaged as I was in 2008. The financial collapse, years of lost income and ongoing income instability can just make a person go “meh”. You know that sound, “meh”. Sounds a bit like a soft quack dosed with ennui. Meh.

So, Hillary wanted to know what question I would like the moderators to ask. And you know, I actually have one. It’s been on my mind for some time now. It has nothing to do with Benghazi or abortion or gun control or illegal immigrants. No, my only question for these two candidates who are so damn determined to save America is:

Where the hell were you in 2012?

That’s it. Because I don’t remember hearing much from either of them. Well, I take that back. There was the Filibernie. But neither of these two challenged Obama or the people who swept him into office and then concretized long term unemployment, poor educational reforms, an ongoing student debt crisis, the attacks on women’s agency, and the disintegration of labor standards.

It was like they weren’t even there. OooooOOOOoooooooo! Cue the scary Halloween music.

So, let’s just say that in my humble opinion, these two have some work cut out for them because I might still think that Friends don’t let friends vote Republican but I have yet to hear why we had to wait four loooonnnggg years for these two to challenge what the nasties have been doing to undermine the middle class.

Go on, let’s hear it. Convince me.

Live blog, if you feel up to it. Here’s the link to CNN’s Debate Central Hub Nexus Headquarters

There’s a Bathroom on the Right

We’re on the eve of destruction according to Mormon author Julie Rowe. According to The Guardian:

Well, while we wait, let’s all sing-a-long to CCR’s prophetic words:


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