Sunday, October 24, 2010

War Does THIS to Your Mind

A Sunday ponderable for a "Christian" nation:

Imagine what "this" might be.  What might war do to your mind? 

Not the mind of a soldier or a president or political operative.  Your mind. 

What if this sentence described your life?  
In her 40 years of life, Khamad Jan's mother has experienced 30 years of war.
What might a lifetime of war have done to your mind?

And what happens when you think about this possibility?
Neither she nor her daughters had ever heard of the 9/11 attack in the US. Nor were they aware that the US had invaded their country in October of 2001.
What would a seemingly arbitrary invasion of your homeland have done to your mind?

Please read this short article. War Does This to Your Mind

Then think about what war has done to your mind. 

Has it made you more inclined toward hate or love?  Fear or hope?

War or peace?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Thinking About Water

 Perhaps you've endured some kind of breakdown in infrastructure in your city or neighborhood that has cut off easy access to clean running water temporarily.  But a lifetime without clean water within arm's reach?   Is there a citizen in the United States who can imagine such a thing?

Just today I threw out two half-full glasses of water left overnight on the bedside tables.  Then I poured fresh water into those glasses to drink with breakfast. I hope I actually drank mine.  I boiled eggs in clean water, which I threw down the drain as soon as the eggs were cooked.  I made coffee with the bottled spring water I keep in my pantry.  I ran the dishwasher, flushed a couple of toilets, watered the lawn.  I ran untold gallons of fresh water down the driveway in the bi-weekly pool filter backwash.  I came inside and drank a full glass of clean water.  Next is a 5-minute shower, which means I'll consume more water washing than a person living in a developing country slum has access to over an entire day.

Meanwhile, 884-million people lack access to safe water supplies...approximately one in eight people in the world.

In September of 2000, the world's leaders got together and made a list of hopeful promises to people around the globe who live in extreme poverty.  These promises have come to be called the Millennium Development Goals.  Within these goals is a pledge to make sure at least one in FOUR people in the world has access to clean water by the year 2015.

Our world is in chaos.  People with plenty on this planet seem to be in a world of worry to keep what they have. I fear the least of these among us are about to be completely forgotten.

Will you join other blog readers from across the globe today and sign this petition to the United Nations, reminding the powers that be that we want to be people who keep our promises? 

Petitions by|Start a Petition »

Thank you. Peace.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Why There Will Never Be Peace on Earth

Everything I needed to know about why we can't have peace on the planet I learned at a music festival.

Not just a music festival...the Austin City Limits music festival.  This is no fly by night event...this is 70,000 people savoring 3 days of deliriously premier rock and roll, and meandering through the most magnificent consecutive October days anyone planning to be outside in Texas could imagine.  ACL 2010.

 My weekend began in the spirit of Texas tradition with Asleep at the Wheel at noon on day one...was driven to the edge of fainting joy with Balmorhea opening day two...and ended with none other than The Eagles sending us out the exit almost airborne on day three.  It borrow a phrase from a generation one or two behind me...epic

This kind of thing works in my city because we are cool.  My favorite piece of evidence to support that statement is the unwritten rule of Living in Harmony that allows the spreading of a blanket on the ground to represent a reserved seat.  This happens wherever you go in Austin.  If it's an outside event that begins at 8 PM, a blanket can be placed at 8 AM and it will be where you left it when you return at 7:55 PM.  It's the Law of the Live Music Woods around here.

I told you we were cool.

So yesterday, knowing we would want a decent spot to see our beloved Eagles at the end of the day, on the festival's biggest stage, the Peace Papa and I arrived an hour before the gates opened to dash for a spot under a tree to spread our blanket.  The plan actually served two purposes.  It gave us shade to rest in when the day started to wear on us, and eased our worries about pushing through the human stew to try to catch a glimpse of Don Henley & Co. at 8 pm, when every festival stage but the headliner stage went dark.

We were not the only old folks with this idea.  In fact, by the time we got to the sprawling oak at 11:02 AM, it was almost packed.  But we got a spot.  A good one.  Within 5 minutes, even more 50-something music fans showed up and began spreading out in front of us.  The security guard on duty let them know they'd be the front row of the chair and blanket bunch.  We were all pleased.

Except the people who'd been designated "front row" apparently spent their day enforcing the status they worked so hard to earn (?) while the rest of us went about our business enjoying a day of music. Everyone who tried to sit in front of them heard this: "We got here at 11 this morning.  This is the front row."  And if folks didn't move, as commanded...these entitled grumps got security to help them out.  I'm not kidding.

It gets better.

We were all in our places at 8 PM...and of course the area had, um, filled in.  (see above mention of 70,000 people)

Did I also mention our coveted tree spot was right in front of a long wall of porta-potties?  Needless to say, a few of the music fans who had worked hard to stay hydrated under the Texas sun all day (thank you Budweiser) decided it was time to visit the potties.  But the music had begun, and our friends on the front row would have NONE. OF. IT.  Seriously.  Imagine a sea of people and camping chairs and blankets and coolers and backpacks and water bottles - and three nasty bermuda-shorted seniors standing with their arms straight out in front of them to block the path to the bathroom.  When arms out didn't work...they wagged their fingers in kids' faces and said, "Go back.  You can't go through here.  WE'VE BEEN HERE SINCE 11."    I was sure someone was going to get slugged.

These people chose this approach instead of taking one step forward to get out of the traffic flow.  They did this instead of enjoying the music.  They did this until they finally packed up their gear and left.  Really.  While The Eagles were on stage.  While the music they had spent the whole day planning to hear was playing.

Apparently someone forgot to tell these music lovers that - yes - a blanket and a couple of chairs holds your space.  But - no - it does not give you any rights beyond your 4' x 4' square.  And, honestly old's a music FESTIVAL, not the ballet.  There are no reserved front rows at a music festival.  I'd venture a guess that even if these folks had held their noses on the floor of the stage all day long, someone with a little more spring in their step and a few less inhibitions about propriety would have managed to wiggle in.

It was a music festival!

So, there it is.  We humans are ridiculous.  Even at a music festival, where everyone shares a common interest in what's going on, and there are no obvious philosophical, political, or religious differences between us...

Even under these circumstances we feel a need to protect what we believe we're entitled to.  And we'll fight with someone to do that if we have to. 

I give up.

And as much as I love The Eagles, I have to tell you, I was longing for just one sweet song from The Youngbloods.

C'mon people now...


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Inalienable Right to Hate

I was absolutely going to stay out of the discussion about Fred Phelps and his band of relatives who call themselves Christian while they run all over the country carrying signs that read: Thank God for Dead Soldiers and God Hates Obama and Fags Die, God Laughs.

I do not like Fred Phelps.  I will borrow an evocative phrase my mother uses from time to time:  I wish God would just pinch his head off. 

And so it didn't seem right for me to comment on the Supreme Court wrangling over the rights of Fred Phelps, et al. to crash a funeral for an Army Lance Corporal who died in Iraq in 2006.  Seems members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas stalk military funerals so they can see and be seen by people who might disagree with their ideas about Sin in America. Here's how the faithful followers of Rev. Phelps like to show up for these military services:

Freedom of speech is protected in this country - even if it's tasteless and cruel and full of lies and hate. 

So...I was going to stay out of it.

But then I saw this photo:

And now I really don't know what to say, except I'd like to find these children and tell them that the person who pulled these shirts over their heads and took their picture is wrong. I'd like to ask them what kind of house they live in...because if it's one in which God and Hate are used in the same sentence, I'm betting they've been horribly abused - if not physically, certainly emotionally.  I'd like to ask them if I could pick them up for ice cream this Friday night...

Because that's the night I'm asking God to pinch off some heads...

and I'm hoping they don't have to see that, too.


You Couldn't Live On It

That's my message to Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele tonight.
Perhaps it's all he needs to know about minimum wage. 

In case you didn't know, your local Tea Party movement is backing candidates running for spots on the national policy-making stage who favor eliminating federally mandated minimum wage. (FYI: 90% of the world's countries have minimum wage law). 

So, last night MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell tried to find out if the GOP Chairman is on board with candidates who think that way. Here's what happened:

Of course Michael Steele doesn't know minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.

He makes $107.21 an hour! And this is just his base pay for heading up the Republican National Committee.  He reportedly earns another $8K-$20K whenever he makes an appearance or delivers a speech.

That hourly rate adds up to $223,000 a year.

On the other hand, a person making minimum wage who is lucky enough to work 40 hours a week makes $15,000 a year.  The minimum wage earner who is only scheduled for 30 hours a week (so his/her employer doesn't have to offer benefits) makes just $11,300 a year. 

Do you know anyone trying to live on $7.25 an hour, Mr. Steele? I'm betting not.

Same for this guy...

Tonight,  Newt Gingrich declared the GOP is the "party of paychecks"...(which seems funny since GOP leadership has no idea how much pay to put in checks).  Even so, Gingrich is stumping for Republican candidates with this good guy/bad guy mantra:  Republicans are the party of paychecks.  Democrats are the party of food stamps.

And this is supposed to make people run away from Democrats?

The case could be made that Democrats at least seem to know that $15K a year is not enough income to put food on a table.

I won't even bother to pitch the case that the GOP is the party that made the economic mess we're in right now.  But I would like to suggest that people who don't have a clue what they're paying their housekeepers, their gardeners, the guy making their coffee, the woman ironing their shirts...

These are not the people who should be allowed to decide whether or not minimum wage legislation is important. 

I hope Main Street is paying attention.