Tag Archives: politics

Thoughts While Biting My Nails in front of the Television Set

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I voted in my first presidential election today. I hope you all voted, too. 

Pray hard, everybody.

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Crunchyville

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There’s this magical little town nestled in a valley in North Carolina that puts the 60s to shame. Every other store is vintage consignment. The stores in between sell local art and incense. People in Birkenstocks and Indian hand-embroidered wrap skirts sit on the sidewalk strumming ukuleles and singing songs about moon phases.  Bearded men wearing berets sit and sip lattes made from free-trade coffee. A college town filled with budding intellectuals and self-proclaimed free-thinkers who want to change the world, so long as they spend someone else’s money to do it.

Oddly enough, I can see myself doing grad school here. I can put up with muddled ideology for a chance to pursue a degree in library science in my favorite little artsy town in America.

Did I mention the vintage consignment stores?

We visit every year, and I always leave seeing the world in shades of tie-dye. You see more peace-signs than American flags. In all honesty, it’s probably more a town of wanna-bes than actual neo-hippies. They like the look, they like the idea of flower childhood, but aren’t so much into the whole Woodstock-inspired freakishness that my father and uncles likes to tell edited stories about.

Which is fine by me. I’m only a hippie so far as I like to buy recycled products, eat organic, hug trees (literally—they’re quite cuddly), refuse to wear make-up, write off-beat and cryptic poetry, wear bohemian clothes, and try to be a good steward of the planet I live on. And I’ll be the first to tell you, that’s as far as it goes. Technically, I’m not really a hippie. It’s just the closest and easiest word to use to describe what I am—currently.

I look forward to this visit every year. I’ve been so many times, I tend to forget I’m still a tourist. Maybe one day I won’t be anymore.

Meanwhile my mother and father go through the shops with me saying things like “Hey, I wore these when I was your age!”

What goes around comes around.

Rambler on the Road Again

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I’m beginning to forget what home looks like, I’ve been away from it so much this summer.

My family and I are on top of Beech Mountain again. What does this mean for you, the reader? Well, this means you might have less email, depending on how good my internet connection is. I may be sending in posts via carrier pigeon.

We’re at the top of a mountain. It’s in the 60’s up here. For those temperatures, I think I can seal with a lack of internet connection.

Meanwhile, I’ve discovered that watching a skunk root around for worms late at night can be just as fascinating as watching the Olympics.

And by the way, the Republican National Committee sent Obama a birthday cake via the Democratic National Committee. Written in icing on the top of the cake was “You Didn’t Bake This.” True story. Made my day.

What also made my day was eating a slice of hot fudge sundae cheesecake with no shame. It’s vacation, people.

Fable

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Once upon a time, in a land not so very far away, there was a farm. This farm had animals from all over the land, raised without cages and not much in the way of fences. The chickens scratched in the cow pastures, and the horses enjoyed mudding every bit as much as the pigs. Every animal was free to do as its nature dictated, and all the barnyard creatures coexisted in peaceful harmony. All of the animals were happy, from the lowliest field mice that lived in the barn walls to the mule in his cushy stall.

All of the animals, that is, except for Bernard, the rooster.

Bernard had always felt he was somehow different from his fellow chickens. He grew up watching the peacocks graze in the lawn and felt a strange yearning to be one of them, complete with the colorful feathers and piercing call. He wasn’t content to be a rooster anymore.

After weeks of fretting, he finally worked up the courage to tell his parents.

“Mom, Dad,” he said, sweating slightly under his feathers. “I want to be a peacock.”

He was met with blank, disbelieving stares. He took a deep breath and continued. “My whole life I’ve felt that I was not intended to be a rooster. I know that I was born to have a comb and strut and crow at dawn. But deep down, I believe myself to be a peacock.”

At first his parents resisted. They tried to talk him out of it—they thought he was deluded. When he threatened to run away from home, they relented and came to terms with their son, the peacock.

News of Bernard’s switch began to circulate around the barnyard. The peacocks were insulted; the donkeys guffawed at the very idea; the hens were distressed because there was one less rooster available; the goats protested; the sheepdog thought Bernard must be barking mad; the cat shook her head; the bull was seeing red.  

But Bernard was undeterred. He had convinced himself that he was a peacock. He dyed his feathers purple and blue and green with some leftover paint in the back of the barn. He tried to imitate the peacocks’ cry and tried to model their elegant strut. He flirted outrageously with the girl peacocks, but considering he looked more like a poorly done Mardi-Gras float than a genuine peacock, he had little success.  

He even hurt himself at times, trying to make himself look more and more like a peacock. Once he accidentally swallowed paint, and almost made himself sick after cutting off his comb himself with a rusty nail. The pins that held his fake long tail feathers in were especially painful and gave him awful sores. But he was bound and determined that he was a peacock, despite the laws of nature that told him otherwise.

Slowly, however, Bernard’s abnormal behavior gained acceptance among his fellow animals. More and more chickens decided that they wanted to become peacocks instead. A small group of hens hosted support groups for chickens in transition, or, as they soon came to be known, “cheacocks.” There were Cheacock rallies, Cheacock parades, and a swiftly growing Cheacock population. Soon the entire barnyard had accepted the presence and activities of the chickens pretending to be something they weren’t.

Animals from neighboring farms got wind of the goings on at the free-range farm. They all thought the idea was preposterous. Dogs from the neighboring farms came at night and terrorized the henhouse where the Cheacocks stayed. Pigs from another farm came and painted hateful things on the sides of the Cheacock henhouse. But for all the abuse the Cheacocks received, the more and more support they got from the animals on the free-range farm.

The mule was the unofficial leader of the animals on the free-range farm. Being by far the cleverest of the animals, as well as the most charismatic, he stepped into the head honcho position with ease. After the henhouse-painting incident, he went around from field to pen to stall, asking different animals their stance on the Cheacock issue.

Every animal he spoke to was willing to support a chicken if he decided that he was something that he wasn’t.

Every animal, that is, except the cow.

The milk cow was not much of a public figure. She kept to herself, chewed her cud, talked freely with anyone who visited her in her stall or in the pasture, and was known for her generosity of spirit. She was the honored mother of many bright and respectable calves, and the farmer always regarded her milk as the finest he had ever sold.

The mule sauntered up to her stall in the barn, smiling benignly down at the cow which knelt in the straw.  

“I’m sure you’ve heard about the recent goings-on at our farm, Clotilda,” said the mule. “Those poor, poor Cheacocks. All the persecution they receive.”

Clotilda nodded slowly, smiling a little sadly up at the mule.

“We’re holding a rally in their honor tomorrow at noon. I’m sure we can expect you to show up to support the Cheacocks?” Again, he smiled, his white teeth glistening.

Clotilda regarded him quietly, her face unreadable. After a long pause, she said, “No.”

The mule’s smile flicked off like a light bulb. “I beg your pardon?”

“You asked me if I wanted to join the rally tomorrow. My answer is ‘no.’”

The sheep in the neighboring pen let out a little gasp.

“Am I to understand, then, that you do not support the Cheacocks?” There was a dangerous edge to the mule’s voice.

“No,” replied Clotilda simply. She turned her face away, clearly wanting to end the conversation.

The mule looked ready to blow a blood vessel. “Are you saying, then, that you would trample on the rights of these chickens to pursue their desires to become peacocks?”

“I don’t think what they’re doing is wise, if that’s what you’re asking,” said the cow. “It goes against the laws of nature.”

“The ‘laws of nature?’ Clotilda, how can you allow such archaic thinking to affect your judgment of your fellow beasts?”

“A chicken is a chicken, my friend. And a peacock is a peacock. Nothing is going to change these animals into something other than what they were born to be. To think otherwise is simply foolishness.” She looked up steadily into the mule’s eyes, which were growing redder and redder as his anger reached the boiling point.

“Perhaps you would like to join those dogs, then, and terrorize innocent Cheacocks from their home,” he snarled, “Or maybe you would like to paint nasty words on the side of the henhouse like those pigs! Would that make you happy, Clotilda, to abuse someone different than you?”

“I would not do any of those things,” she said, her brow furrowed. “That would be unkind and unnecessary. All I have is an opinion. How does my opinion hurt anyone?”

“Clotilda,” growled the mule, “this farm was founded on the ideal of freedom. Free range, open fences, freedom to do as we please. Would you strip that right from your fellow beasts? Would you take their freedom away?”

“I am grateful for this freedom,” said Clotilda. “I am glad to live on a farm where one is free to make one’s own decisions and do what one believes is right.”

“Then I will ask you again, Clotilda,” the mule hissed through gritted teeth, “will you or will you not support the Cheacocks?”

“No,” she said. “No I will not.”

“You hateful beast!” screamed the mule. “You dare rise against the Cheacock’s freedom!”

“You speak of freedom,” said Clotilda quietly. “But it seems I am only free to say ‘yes,’ and not to say ‘no.’”

“I will ruin you for this!” spat the mule as he stormed from the barn.

And he tried. He succeeded, to some degree. Before long, no one would speak to the cow, calling her nasty names behind her back or even to her face. It made her sad. She knew her opinion would make her unpopular. But popularity had never been of much importance to her.

One day, as she rested in her stall, now plastered with rude messages in white paint, she had an unexpected visitor. Bernard, the former rooster, came cautiously to the opening of her stall.

“Good morning, Bernard,” said Clotilda.

“You’re not going to kick me out?” he said. He was clearly very nervous about this encounter.

“Why would I do that?”

“Or sit on my head or trample me with your hooves?” squeaked the colorful rooster, his feathers puffed out defensively. “They tell me that’s what hateful beasts like you will do to me…but I had to talk to you and see for myself.”

“How very brave of you,” said Clotilda gently. “Please, come in.”

Bernard came in cautiously, eyeing her closely, as if he were entering the den of a dragon and not the stall of a milk cow.

“You hate me.”

“I do not hate anyone,” said the cow.

“You disagree with me,” he retorted, as if that clinched the issue.

“The fact I don’t think what you’re doing is right doesn’t mean I hate you.”

“You don’t think I am a peacock.”

“I think you are a very colorful rooster,” said Clotilda. “But you are still very much a rooster. And you always will be.”

“I am a peacock. I know it in my soul.”

“You are free to believe that.”

“You don’t believe I am.”

“I am free to believe you aren’t, and to say so. At least for now.” She glanced over at the trough of water by the wall. “You must be thirsty, Bernard. Help yourself.”

“Why? So you can drown me in the water?” snapped Bernard.

“No, Bernard,” sighed Clotilda. “You are a beast, and all beasts must drink. You thirst as much as I do.”

Bernard looked at Clotilda, uncertain if she was worthy of his trust. But the colorful chicken finally decided to take a drink. The water was cool and clear and felt wonderful on his throat.

“Thank you,” he said.

“Any time,” said the cow.

Blogosphere Beware

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Ours is a family of nerds. My mother read me poetry before I was born. My favorite movie growing up was a 1930’s version of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. My father would explain words to me by breaking them down into their Greek or Latin roots. One of the first things my mother taught me to do was how to sit down at the computer and type out the alphabet. From day one, I have been shaped into a writer by my two English professor parents.

It may be genetic. Both of my parents are excellent writers. My mother makes a living teaching other people how to write. My father writes safety manuals for a large manufacturing company. Any of you who have read his comments on this blog know that he loves to wax eloquent on…well, just about anything.

Heads up: my father is starting a blog.

I’ve been pestering him to begin one for a while. He has no creative outlet, and for a man as busy as he is, I think that if he doesn’t find a creative outlet soon, he might just explode. That, and he can craft brilliant and convincing arguments, something I simply don’t have the spine to do. He has great ideas. A blog could help him put those good ideas out there.

A few months after my initial pesterings and a few half-hearted refusals from him, he asked me to set him up a blog through WordPress.

He’s so excited it’s downright adorable.

His blog will have a slightly (read: exceptionally diverse) different spin than mine. While mine is a blog of lighthearted fluff, his will be a blog of political commentary. If you want a sample of his writing, just read a post I submitted back in January.

In other words—blogosphere and the current administration beware. My father’s got a blog, and he’s not afraid to use it.

If what he writes is responsible for turning the world upside-down for the better, than perhaps I can feel as though I had a part in it. After all, I’m his tech support.

Not to Beat a Dead Horse, But…

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Hello, friends. No, this is not the World speaking, but Miss R. Rambler speaking in italics. Due to an extreme lack of sleep over the first three days of the week, I went to bed early and slept in late this morning in order to get seven hours of sleep. In other words, I used my blogging time to sleep. Forgive me, but it had to happen—it was either that or collapse from exhaustion and end up taking a nap in my lunchtime salad. So in order to avoid snorting ranch dressing, I gave up today’s official article writing time last night.

Today’s article comes courtesy of my father, Papa Rambler, a frustrated debater and essayist who has a knack for explaining things that otherwise would make no sense. He’s my hero and one of my biggest fans—which works out pretty well, considering I’m one of his.

He left this beautiful explanation of SOPA/PIPA in the comments to yesterday’s post, just like I hoped he would. After I read his reply, I immediately blacked out my site (even though I know I said I probably wouldn’t), because suddenly I found myself wanting to rally around the cause for free speech. For those of you who were wondering what all the fuss was about yesterday, I hope that this explanation will make this clearer:

Tyranny reigns within the heart of everyone, desiring to squelch others’ liberties in order to acquire yet more power, prestige, position, and privilege. Often this tyranny is couched in subtle and disingenuous terms in order to disarm those who might otherwise resist such flagrant arrogations and usurpations.

The mouthpieces for the multi-billion dollar entertainment industry, among the most prominent of those supporting the currently proposed SOPA and PIPA bills, are masterful at such appeals. Consider, for example, the following:

“More than 2.2 million hard-working, middle-class people in all 50 states depend on the entertainment industry for their jobs and many millions more work in other industries that rely on intellectual property,” Michael O’Leary of the Motion Picture Association of America said in a statement. “For all these workers and their families, online content and counterfeiting by these foreign sites mean declining incomes, lost jobs and reduced health and retirement benefits.”

Oh, what a champion of the Little Guy! What a big heart! What compassion!

What a fraud.

That number–2.2 million–represents approximately 7/10 of 1% of total U.S. population–hardly a significant number. So these besotted power-brokers in the entertainment industry want to use the power of the federal government to shut down broad swaths of the internet–a medium they despise, if the truth be told–on the pretense that they are suffering loss by copyright violation.

Seen another way, the one percent (see above) wants the federal government to punish the 99%. Hmmmm.

Additionally, the supposed sympathy of the Lords of the Entertainment industry smacks of hypocrisy. They have for decades assailed any and all technology that threatens their money stream, from videocassette recorders to compact disk burners. They simply cannot keep up with technology–that is the beauty of freedom. Innovation thrives in the lives and minds of a free people. But those who relish a static world that never challenges their status quo hate such innovations. Whip makers and carriage builders did not welcome the automobile with open arms!

The intent of both SOPA and PIPA, like so many other supposedly high-minded bits of legislation, is to provide the government yet one more tool to stifle individual liberty and to increase the scope of its leviathan-like reach into every facet of the public’s life. Tyrants despise liberty. They want control. And they will stop at nothing to ensure that control. Our founders established a constitutional order designed to exalt the individual and individual liberties (inalienable rights), clearly delineated in the Bill of Rights, and intended to keep the wretched heart of tyrants locked behind the supreme law of the land with its separation of powers and limitations by checks placed by the several states.

Jefferson rightly understood this principal when he wrote, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

While I am not yet ready to join the madding crowd marching in the streets, I enjoin all fellow citizens not to fall prey to the subtle arguments being offered by supporters of these two bills. The bills are not necessary (we have laws that allow the pursuit and prosecution of copyright violators); they are not prudent (they cede too much power to too few persons); and they are not in the best interest of individual liberty. While I rarely join in with groups I don’t know, when Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia), Tumblr (the micro blogger site) and a host of other heavy-hitters in the information world howl in protest on the basis of fundamental liberties, I have to stand and heed–for with Patrick Henry, I too prefer liberty to life. As one of these folks wrote, “If you want an Internet where human rights, free speech and the rule of law are not subordinated to the entertainment industry’s profits, I hope you’ll join us,” (Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing).

In any free society, it is far preferable that a million guilty persons walk free than that one innocent one should be incarcerated. SOPA and PIPA turn that principle on its head by creating a framework to act at the behest of a few well-connected persons to the detriment of the broader society.

These bills must not become law.

 

Protesting for the Sake of Protesting

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When TIME named The Protestor as the person of the year, they made the shrewdest call I’ve ever seen in the publishing industry.

Just yesterday I found out about the SOPA/PIPA protests and how the internet—yes, the internet—is fighting against a well-intentioned, but nearsighted and clumsy bill that could lead to unintended side-effects down the road.

I’ve read about SOPA. I don’t understand all of it. I won’t pretend to know a great deal about things I don’t get—I’m no liberal. But from what I can understand, it’s an attempt to smack down on piracy that could eventually result in systematic shut-downs of some of the internet’s most notable pillars, even the almighty Google.

So sites like Wikipedia and WordPress are blacking out, putting up black screens of protest with a brief, bold explanation of why they don’t want this bill to pass. Eventually, they say, this bill could be used by internet competitors to blacklist and eliminate sites that pose a threat—whether the sites are connected to illegal activity or not. SOPA and PIPA, though created to protect copyright holders, could turn around and bite us one day.

Being the paranoid soul that I am, I’m envisioning a day when people like me—Christian and outspoken about it—will no longer be allowed to express our faith online without being censored. Give today’s government an inch, and they will slowly take a mile.

As I said, I do not pretend to fully understand the implications of this bill. I don’t want to defend piracy or other illegal ventures on the internet. But there are other ways to fight the problem without opening the door to a mass slaying of the sites of independent thinkers.

All that to say: that is why there is a black ribbon in the upper right hand corner of my blog. That ribbon is there because, from what I have read, I believe the SOPA/PIPA bills are a waste of time and energy, and that the problem they are intended to solve could be taken care of some other way. Because I do not know all I would like to know about the bills, I will not be participating in the blackout. I don’t want to be accused of protesting for the sake of protesting. But I do want to encourage my readers to read, to think, and to do all they can as citizens of America to protect the freedom of speech that their ancestors died to protect.

That said, I’m sure my father will leave an adequate description and explanation of the bill and its ramifications in the comments. So scroll down if you want a more enlightened perspective.

Hypocrisy

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If there’s one thing that most people react strongly to, it’s hypocrisy. There’s got to be a decent explanation for this. Perhaps it’s because we abhor falseness in others. Perhaps it’s because we are so strict on ourselves when it comes to our own morals, whatever they may be, that we think it’s unfair when anyone else compromises their standards…and gets away with it. And our judgment of hypocrisy increases exponentially based on the degree of authority the supposed hypocrite has.  The higher they are, the harder they fall.

The judgment piles even higher when someone who is seemingly passionate about a cause or a principle abandons that cause or principle when it no longer works in their favor. I think of Thomas Jefferson, who spoke out against slavery while keeping slaves of his own. Or Newt Gingrich, who claims to defend God and Christianity while indulging in affair after affair (thanks, Newt, for giving a bad name to those Christians who try to live right). The list of historical hypocrisy goes on and on and on.

We almost live in fear of hypocrisy. We stare at ourselves in the mirror every morning and ask ourselves if we’re living up to the standard we’ve projected about ourselves.

So recently I found myself wondering whether I, too, am a hypocrite. I went to donate blood on Tuesday. I stood in line, filled out the little form, got in the Blood Connection bus (or “Blood Vessel”). And then the nurse took a blood sample from my finger. After a little fiddling with the pipet and some mysterious chemicals, she told me that my iron was too low. But she said to go get a t-shirt anyway.

I’ve seen these t-shirts around campus. They do not say “I donated” or any other similar slogan. But wearing one is an unspoken declaration of donator-ship. By donning that shirt, I’m saying that I gave blood. Which, due to my iron count, I didn’t.

I gave a drop. Does that count?

In the meantime, my shirt is still in my bag, unworn. I’ll wait to wear it until my conscience feels better about it.