A willingness to love your country by looking at it clearly.
What The Constitution Means To Me, nominated for two Tony Awards, and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, the show is inspired by her time as a fifteen-year-old high school student competing in American Legion speech and debate contests, where she spoke about the meaning of our founding document.
When I listened to last weeks show I contemplated recording myself reading some of I am a Patriot and sending it to Preet, but as usual my absolute terror of speaking in front of a group (even time-delayed speaking) drowned the idea and hid its body in the woods until the submission time had passed. There were still a respectable number of submissions, and the editor of the podcast (who doesn’t appear to be named anywhere) blended them together in a nice tribute that probably took several hours to get right. This episode is well worth the time it takes to listen. Maybe I’ll be able to catch Heidi Scheck’s show when it goes on the road.
The National Forensics League is a nationwide organization that gives high school students the opportunity to polish their speaking/acting skills, compete in regulated National tournaments, and be a part of a lifelong organization that promotes solid speaking skills and intelligence. Bruno E. Jacob began to contemplate the foundation of the NFL when asked if there was an honor society for high school debaters. Realizing such a thing did not exist, Jacob drafted a proposal and in 1925 the NFL was born. It is now the oldest and largest honor society for speech and debate high school students. The NFL continues to exude excellence by promoting achievement in debate, speech, and academics. For instance, the NFL awards around $153, 000 in college scholarships every year to help members who otherwise might not be able to afford college.
The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.
Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind, (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight,) the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.
It serves always to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration. It agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.
He might as well have named Donald J. Trump, the description fits so well. A hat/tip to Justin Amish and the Washington Post for publishing his opinion piece today. It motivated me to go look up Washington’s farewell address just to verify that was the language in the document.
Today, I am declaring my independence and leaving the Republican Party. No matter your circumstance, I’m asking you to join me in rejecting the partisan loyalties and rhetoric that divide and dehumanize us. I’m asking you to believe that we can do better than this two-party system — and to work toward it. If we continue to take America for granted, we will lose it.
“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
Robert Reich contrasts the quote from Lincoln’s first inaugural with one of the Orange Hate-Monkey’s recent tweets, in a cynical strategy illustrating just how little of the progressive Republican spirit, so present in the election of 1860 and in the body of Abraham Lincoln and his presidency, remains in the Republican party. I’ve beaten that dead horse enough. Appealing to conservatives (the bulk of modern Republicanism) requires looking to the distant past, preferably a past they hope to emulate. So they get Lincoln from his first inaugural sans any reminders of just how low their current leadership is on the scale of great leaders from American history.
Everyone else can read on and enjoy the paragraph from Stonekettle Station’s latest post on the subject of the military and how we honor them.
You don’t think the military is appreciated in this country? Seriously? There are two national holidays dedicated to the military and I don’t know how many state holidays. None for teachers or doctors or peacemakers. But two for the military and they’re trying to turn all the rest of them into some statement on military service too. Every town in this country suddenly has some sort of park or monument dedicated to veterans. There are parades and fireworks and TV shows. There are two Executive departments of our government dedicated to the military. TWO. We spend more than 50% of the national budget on the military. Every car has one of those idiotic magnets on the back of it, or some sort of bumper sticker. I can see three of them from here. Every goober in this store is wearing some sort of military shirt with eagles and guns and flags on it. We idolize the military. It’s a goddamned fetish! (I might have been shouting by this point). What the hell are you even talking about?”
I’m hoping the people who try to burn down our neighborhood every 4th of July will finally make friends in the country so they can go out there and frighten the wildlife. Either that or get someone to drive them downtown for the city’s fireworks display. My dogs hate the explosions and I haven’t celebrated independence day for almost a decade now. Between the dogs and my own disabilities, there is little sense in mucking up the air with burnt offerings to the gods of independence. All of us are dependent on somebody. Some of us are just more cognizant of this fact than others.
The episode of On the Media that was playing in my headphones when I started writing the reply to the above status post was topical for the looming July 4th holiday. A similar holiday also happens on July 1st in Canada. Canada is celebrating 150 years as a nation. Except they really aren’t. Celebrating, that is. Not in the way Americans would recognize.
“Canadians kinda don’t need [patriotism] we have hospitals”
Snark aside, there is something about the July 4th holiday and the near-manic manner in which it is celebrated that leaves the outside observer and likewise the cynic wondering “what do they have to celebrate?” With incomes at all-time lows for the average American, with poverty on the rise and the mega-rich in ownership of the entire US government; with popular denial of science leading to defunding of scientific ventures like the SSC, the international space station and the space program which in turn has led to Europe breaking new ground in science exploration over the last decade, one really wonders what it is about America that we really are celebrating.
I mean, we aren’t the free-ist. We aren’t the happiest. We aren’t the richest. The one thing you can put your finger on that we do better than anybody is build an impressively large military, spending more on our military than the next 8 countries combined. We pay a lot more for healthcare than any other country, and we get some of the shoddiest results from this overspending. We consume the most. We throw away to most. We throw away so much usable stuff that there are countries whose economies are benefitted by buying our cast-offs and putting them to use.
I set this piece up with the chorus from Jackson Browne’s song I am a Patriot several years ago. Before Trump. Before Obama’s second term. That is how long I’ve been stewing on these ideas I’m putting down here, the conflict at the heart of America’s need to scream their love of themselves at the world. There is something really, horribly wrong with this picture.
I am a patriot And I love my country Because my country is all I know I want to be with my family The people who understand me I’ve got nowhere else to go
This observation is at once achingly true and laughably simplistic, which is why this song rings true with me. Most people are patriots because, what else would you want them to be? Hate their lives and where they live? Who lives long in that state of mind? Not too many people. Consequently, everyone is a patriot and no one is, simultaneously. This is a truism just as everyone is as free as they want to be is a truism. Absolute freedom is to be released from constraint, to not have to eat or sleep or breath. Not have to feel pain or feel anything at all. Absolute freedom is death, to not know constraint of any kind. Are the enslaved then to blame for their own enslavement? Only if you believe death is a preferable state of being. Of non-being. Embracing freedom as a concept that can unite all people in the third verse is an acknowledgement of the universal appeal of these fuzzy concepts, and yet freedom is as indefinable as patriot in the real world.
So I don’t hate my country anymore than the next fellow. I just don’t understand why it is we in the US feel compelled to try to burn the whole place down every 4th of July. If I had to pick one thing, just one thing, that I thought was superior about the US, about America, I can give that answer without much thought. The best thing about our country is the first amendment to the constitution. Freedom of speech makes everything else possible, because the ability to form concepts and communicate them to another is possibly the most human thing we do. The most distinctive thing about us as living creatures. It is the first of the four freedoms for a reason.
That is why when the US fails to live up to the promise of the First Amendment, it can be so devastating to those caught in the crossfire. People like Aaron Copland.
“Copland’s scores and recordings were banned in hundreds of overseas libraries. Access officially denied.”
Every Independance Day for the past decade and more I have sat down and watched movies with The Wife. My go-to film is 1776on laserdisc. I like this version better than the streamed or bluray offering because it is actually a statement on the divisive nature of American life. Visible across the length of that film are splices and ink-marks and scissor cuts where Jack Warner at the direction of the Nixon White House cut scenes and whole songs from the film. Nixon didn’t approve of the apparent cowardice of the conservatives as portrayed in the play. Their stated willingness to allow others to risk so that they could preserve their wealth and security. The words may be placed in the mouths of the actors on the stage, but the sentiment of the time is beautifully captured in the verse of the songs, the fervor of John Adams, the melancholy of the (real) dispatches from George Washington in the field. Franklin’s open pragmatism. The feeling that America must be free to find her own destiny, not ruled over by Europeans intent on subjecting it for the purpose of profit for themselves, no matter the cost. This version speaks to me in my soul, the tension and conflict then and now. The pulls in different directions, to risk for the sake of principle, to recoil at the prospect of loss. This is life in the US and possibly life as it is throughout the world.
The Wife watches either ID4 or Live Free or Die Hardsometimes both of them. Over-the-top explosions, hammy one-liners and the good guys winning in the end. I think she shares more with the sentiment of the average American than I ever could just in her choice of movies. Nothing in life has ever been that simple for me, and maybe that’s the point. She seeks escape in her movies. I seek new ways of looking at the world and myself, insights that have never occurred to me before. That I haven’t driven her screaming mad in 30 years of life together is more a testament to her strength than it is to my willingness to compromise on what movies I will sit and watch repeatedly.
A few years ago on Facebook, I posted this image to The Wife‘s wall. Silly me, I was thinking I could entice the woman I love into engaging in some Rites of Spring when I posted it. Easter is the traditional holiday that most closely corresponds with the Vernal Equinox, the celestial demarcation for the beginning of spring. Easter is promoted as the original spring festival, unlike the Hallmark created holiday of Valentine’s day which is as like a real celebration of spring as porn is a representation of sex.
I say silly me because I spent the better part of that Sunday fending off attacks from friends affronted by the notion that Easter is in any way sexual or that the fertility goddesses alluded to in the image have anything at all to do with the resurrection of their savior or the holiday that Catholics created specifically to counter the carnal celebration rituals which had predominated societies of all kinds prior to christianity’s rise.
This year Easter will arrive almost comically late to the spring scene, April 16th. The trees have been budding for about a month here in Austin as I write this. The birds will already be on their way further North from here by the time we get to Easter, so the sexually repressed will breath a sigh of relief knowing there will be little confusion between their sacred holiday and the equinox. It is a testament to the sexual repression present in the US that there isn’t even a wiki page on the subject of Rites of Spring that isn’t about music. Another testament is the fact that I can’t even say exactly when I posted the image to The Wife’s Facebook wall, because the image is consistently removed as offensive every time it is posted there.
I am sorry that the fact that spring is the time of rebirth, of fertility and sex, gets in the way of a deathcult-like obsession with afterlives and resurrection that is found within the various flavors of the christian religion when it comes to their spring celebration. The sexual repression that Paul introduced into the church from it’s earliest days has seized hold of the majority of the religion’s followers in the US, causing them to reject all things sexual as anti-christian. Jesus was not a sexist, he saw no need to place women in an inferior role in the world.
There is also a hemispherical bias at play here. I’ve often wondered what an Australian would think of the hubbub common in the Northern hemisphere surrounding this issue. Easter is in the fall in the Southern hemisphere; consequently the death-cultish air that bothers me about Easter probably is a nice foreshadowing of the oncoming winter when viewed from South of the equator; a preparation for the dying off of plant life, the hibernation of animal life, with a spring resurrection waiting at the other end of winter.
I originally entitled this piece Easter-Ishtar-Astarte. How about Tammuz? Because I wanted to push back at the near-hysterical responses I got from offended christians on Facebook. The offense has since spread all across the internet, with rebuttals on nearly any christian site you care to look at (no I won’t link any of them) most of them rather petty in tone. Also, most of them cherry-pick history to prove their points, largely relying on Bede and Herodotus who give the preferred twist to the pagan spring rituals that pre-date christianity.
One would think there was no basis for the worshipping of the feminine, a common theme in the pre-monotheistic times, if you listen to modern christian apologists. That there was no goddess Asherah mentioned in some versions of the Old Testament, that she wasn’t worshipped as an equal right alongside the shrines to Yahweh in ancient Israel, before the cult of men, the cult of the penis asserted itself and made itself the lone holiness to be worshipped.
The truth is that the facts are much harder to tease out than those people who simply want to prove their worldview try make them. For example. The article at Scientific American on the subject of this meme cites the Germanic deity Eostre as the basis of the word Easter, as many of the christian apologists do. However, the sole source of this proposition remains Bede. In the end, the need to prove that Easter is or isn’t some phonetic variation on Ishtar is pointless and petty, a hallmark of the vast majority of Facebook content. As one of the commenters to the SA article pointed out;
Actually, there is a connection between Oestre and Ishtar. Ishtar is associated with Venus, which is often referred to as the morning star, or light-bringer with its association with Lucifer (lucis = light). Venus is the planet of love and marriage traditionally.
There are Babylonian egg myths too featuring Ishtar being hatched, and the mystic egg falling from heaven to the Euphrates. These same myths are recycled from their Egyptian/Babylonian origins and do seem to be connected to the old pagan rites.
The mythology of Astarte (Greek) and Ashtoreth (Jewish) seems very similar too. Everything seems to have a common origin.(emphasis added)
The rest of the meme is even more questionable than the assertion that Easter and Ishtar are one and the same. Further down in the SA article is the observation;
The cosmic egg, according to the Vedic writings, has a spirit living within it which will be born, die, and be born yet again. Certain versions of the complicated Hindu mythology describe Prajapati as forming the egg and then appearing out of it himself. Brahma does likewise, and we find parallels in the ancient legends of Thoth and Ra. Egyptian pictures of Osiris, the resurrected corn god, show him returning to life once again rising up from the shell of a broken egg. The ancient legend of the Phoenix is similar. This beautiful mythical bird was said to live for hundreds of years. When its full span of life was completed it died in flames, rising again in a new form from the egg it had laid (4).
Eggs appear to be central to almost all of the spring rites and creation stories. They lend themselves quite handily to the theme of new life arising from an apparently inanimate object. There is no specific linkage between Ishtar and eggs that I could lay hands on; but then there doesn’t need to be, since the egg is all over the various mythologies of the day as being the beginning of life.
The hardest facet of current Easter practices to track down is the Easter Bunny. Theories abound, and I even have some thoughts of my own on the subject as relating to the Wolpertinger and the Jackalope, both icons of Germanic influence in the US. The rabbit’s springtime mating antics do bring me back to the point I started with. Like so many things human, the trappings of tradition cloud the purpose of the celebration.
The Rites of Spring from a human standpoint are necessarily sexual. That is how we renew the species, creating children who go on to make the future of the human animal a reality. Nearly all of the celebrations of spring outside of the deviancy of the christian religion are sexual in nature, as they should be. If you want an example of this, wander through the galleries of ancient temples dedicated to the subject. Read about the fertility rites that are still practiced in Asia. These are not perversions any more than christianity’s sexless renewal celebration is a perversion of nature as well.
The US is demonstrably repressive when it comes to the subject of sex. Demonstrably repressive, and at the same time unhealthily obsessed with meaningless sex like pornography, which can be found all over the place in spite of the almost reflexive repression present everywhere in the US that isn’t the internet. Or San Francisco. Naked bodies being used to sell every single product you can imagine, whether that sales strategy makes sense or not.
Pornography is not really sex in the same way that film is not real life. The proverbial money shot, a hallmark of pornography, defeats the entire purpose of the sex act. If the male’s bodily fluids aren’t left inside the female’s body, what is occurring is no more meaningful than a daily walk in the park. A session of weight lifting. Swimming a few laps. It is exercise; and in the case of pornography, exercise engaged in for the purpose of display only. As Robin Williams once famously quipped pornography is “an industrial film covered in fur”.
Sex is a joyous celebration of life. It is central to the human experience. No adult life is complete that doesn’t include some form of sexual interaction with a willing partner on a regular basis. Good health requires this and I consider it a travesty in the US that we cannot come to grips with the existence of sex all around us all the time, much less be unable to declare that the Rites of Spring should be founded around sex.
I have a solution to this frustrating issue from a non-believing perspective. I’m simply going to stop acknowledging Easter as a Spring holiday. The Vernal Equinox is the holiday now. I’m done with the vagaries of Easter, aside from the chocolate of course. Dopamine rewards being what they are I’ll take them where I can get them. I’ll just wait til Monday April 17th to go chocolate and Blackbird egg shopping this year. I can wait a month. We’ve got these dice to play with. Should keep us busy for at least that long.
Every day should be a learning experience. If each day is not a learning experience, you are doing it wrong. The apparently obvious is not apparent or obvious until you trip over it. The mundane day to day events in human cultures sometimes never get communicated to people from outside that culture. The Vernal Equinox, for example, is also the first day of the Persian New Year. I discovered this while listening to A Bittersweet Persian New Year.
Lacking the ability to just move the New Year around willy-nilly myself, and also lacking a desire to mix one celebration with another, I’ll have to simply wish celebrants of Nowruz a Happy New Year! and leave it at that. However, a two-week festival leaves plenty of time to celebrate beyond simply observing the Rites of Spring, so I may have to explore this festival idea some more.
The Wife and I did our Valentine’s outing at 9pm last night. I recommend not doing anything social on the Fourteenth of February unless you like lines, crowds and unpleasantness. Also, don’t buy flowers or chocolate until February 15th. Take this advice from someone who has been poor all their life. Take the hit to your romance, not your wallet. If they love you they’ll be even happier you saved a few dollars that the two of you can spend on something else.
A word of warning. Do not attempt to economize on Valentine’s gifts without getting the buy-in of your significant other. They will slam the door in your face if you fail to mention this plan to them in advance. You might also take the time to plan other activities you can engage in while presenting said love tokens. Just a thought.
What’s interesting to me is that all of this happens in a culture that values lifelong monogamy. It seems like we want it both ways: we want love to feel like madness, and we want it to last an entire lifetime. That sounds terrible.
This was a thing again this year. FOX News declaring that Santa is white. Why is it important what color Santa is? Why does anyone care? The fact that this is still a thing makes it even weirder than it was way back in 2013 when Jon Stewart riffed on the subject in these segments from his show,
Fox News debates Santa Claus’s ethnic background, and Jessica Williams concludes that Santa Claus could not possibly be black.
I really do miss Jon Stewart. News was a lot more fun with him around.
Listening to NPR’s Code Switch for December 19th, 2017 turned me on to the inspiration for Megyn Kelly’s rant,
So let’s ditch Santa the old white man altogether, and embrace Penguin Claus—who will join the Easter Bunny in the pantheon of friendly, secular visitors from the animal kingdom who come to us as the representatives of ostensibly religious holidays. It’s time to hand over the reins to those deer and let the universally beloved waddling bird warm the hearts of children everywhere, regardless of the color of their skin.
“There is a Santa Claus but it’s an idea, it’s not a person. Santa Claus is doing good things for people, just because; and so long as you keep doing that throughout the rest of your life, there will always be a Santa Claus” – Rebecca Watson relating her father’s words in SGU#74
I find that atheists and skeptics generally step on the sense of wonder in their haste to squash pseudo-science, religiosity, false-piety and fear-mongering. I understand their goals and for the most part agree with their principles if not their ham-handed practices.
One of the subjects that gets trodden most savagely in the dust of shattered illusions is the story of Santa Claus. I’ve lost count of the number of people (Penn Jillette in particular) who have specifically targeted Santa Claus in their personal lives, trumpeting raising children without fostering a belief in imaginary beings. I couldn’t disagree more.
I celebrate the secularized solstice holiday referred to in the US as Christmas, which involves a jolly fat guy who delivers presents dressed in a red suit. We spend the holiday with family and friends, giving gifts and trying to brighten the dull central Texas winter days. I also spend time reflecting on what the passing of this year means to me, and preparing to celebrate the New Year.
The Wife and I discussed whether or not to share the myth of Santa Claus with our children before they were born. I was all for bursting that bubble; better yet, just not even going there. My memories of Santa Claus are anything but pleasant.
My mother and father did Christmas to the hilt. Large tree, Santa decorations, pictures with Santa, the works. Once, when we were staying at our grandfather’s house in Sacramento, my sister and I heard a noise in the living room. We nearly made it to the door before our fear of being discovered, and not getting any presents, sent us scurrying back under our covers where we finally fell back to sleep. When we awoke the next morning, there were snow footprints on the fireplace hearth. That was the best year. The next to worst was the year when we were particularly nasty to mom and dad, and got switches (sticks to get spankings with, for the uninitiated) in our stockings instead of candy.
Why is that the next to worst? Because the worst year was when we found out that there was no Santa, and suddenly the magic was gone from the holiday. Santa never came to our house again. Not too long after that, there was divorce and hardship of an all too real nature as the family was torn apart, and there was no more talk of silly little things like Santa Claus. So you can imagine the mindset that I carried with me to the discussion.
For her part, The Wife never experienced an end to the myth. Even after she knew there was no physical person named Santa Claus that visited her house on Christmas eve, the presents from Santa still showed up. The stockings still were filled, even for mom and dad. It wasn’t until I met and married her that there was any magic during the holidays for me, and then only because of her.
So, I tell my children that Santa comes to our house, and there is no lie involved in that statement. Santa Claus is the Spirit of Giving, the anonymous benefactor who gives out of the kindness of their heart and doesn’t seek to be recognized for charity. He leaves presents that are from no one, and fills stockings for the people sleeping under our roof, no matter the age. His is a kindly old soul that doesn’t get recognized enough these days.
The Daughter figured out that spirit meant just that, a feeling that comes from within, a few years ago. I know that she has figured it out, because gifts appear under the tree, or in the stockings, that The Wife and I have never seen before. Santa Claus lives on in my house.
You can point to the Wiki entry on Santa Claus and tell me how he’s actually St. Nicholas, how his gifts were given personally. That he was a real person and he is really, very dead now. Or you can say that he’s the mythological figure, Father Christmas, and that as a mythological figure he never existed at all. It’s all fine by me, I love a good story. The Red Ranger came calling is an excellent story about Santa Claus, and it’s just about as true as any of the rest of them.
You just go right on believing whatever suits you. I know Santa will visit this house on Christmas Eve, no matter what anybody else believes.
It is a game, the same game it has always been. A game shared by adults and children down through the years whether they knew it or not. It can be a fun game or a hurtful one, but it is a game; as an inveterate gamer myself, it’s one I’ve come to enjoy now that I understand it. It can be a valuable teaching tool when used correctly, and a crushing burden when used incorrectly. So play it wisely, always with the knowledge that a game should be fun. If it isn’t fun and you have a choice, why play?