Saturday, January 31, 2009

When There Is A Different Standard

This will not be one of my more popular posts - and ordinarily it would fly under my radar and I wouldn't even mention it - but I'm sick of the headlines already and no one else seems to be saying it so I will.
Jessica Simpson recently made an appearance at the Radio 99.9 Kiss Country's annual Chili Cookoff in Pembroke Pines, Florida and the celebrity press was immediately on fire with reports that she looks like she has gained a noticable amount of weight. Opinions differ on whether it is real wight gain or the clothes she was wearing, but it seems more likely that it is both: she has gained some weight and the clothes she was wearing were certainly not the type to disguise this fact. Various celebrities have jumped to Simpson's defense with the usual "size doesn't matter" arguments but the one that tipped the scales for me (sorry, I couldn't resist) was Simpson sister Ashlee who complained, "All women come in different shapes, sizes, and forms and just because you're a celebrity, there shouldn't be a different standard."
Actually, yes there should be. Celebrities are famous for a reason and if that reason is appearance then a significant change in appearance warrants headlines, at least in the celebrity press. Sorry for those like Simpson who would like to believe otherwise, but Jessica Simpson's claim to fame is her body. Both her music and acting careers have routinely bombed and she is really only famous because a large number of people consider her to be hot. That being the case, her weight gain is celebrity news.
Face it, if you or I put on a lousy performance at a karaoke bar, no one is going to care except for those who had to listen to it. If, on the other hand, some famous singer were to butcher the same performance, it would be news. There is a different standard for celebrities based on why they are celebrities. That's reality. Whining about it isn't going to change it.

Redefining The Word "Expert"

She is already the talk of the town but now she wants more. Unfortunately for her (but fortunately for the rest of us), the talk now seems to be going in the other direction.
Last Monday, Nadya Suleman, an unemployed 33-year-old woman in California, gave birth to octuplets after being the recipient of in vitro fertilisation. It was quickly revealed that Suleman was already a mother of six before this event, meaning that she now has 14 children, all under the age of 8. Her parents bought her a two-bedroom home but then they had to file bankruptcy and move in with her. Her father, an Iraqi native, is now saying that he will return to his native country to find work. So we have a minimum of 16 people and 0 jobs living in one two-bedroom house.
Not to worry, though, the Miracle Mom plans to launch a TV career as an expert in childcare and is looking to Oprah Winfrey and Diane Sawyer to get her started. Does anyone else find this situation more absurd than words can describe?
While the saying may be "practice makes perfect" and it is certainly true that this woman will be getting lots of practice, it is not a given that practice makes an expert. In fact, the irresponsibility that Suleman has demonstrated comes mighty close to showing her to be the exact opposite of an expert in childcare. How well has she cared for the six children she already had? How much care was she showing when she allowed herself to be implanted with at least twice as many embryos as is generally accepted with this process? [That, itself, is sparking an ethics investigation.] How is a woman who describes herself as a "professional student" who lives on government grants an expert at anything?
On the plus side, while I am not a big fan of either Winfrey or Sawyer, I do believe that both ladies have more respect for themselves and their audiences than this. If nothing else, the tide of disgust that seems to be coming from the general public will probably make these two notables extremely hesitant to throw out the millions that Suleman expects. While certain other daytime talk shows might like this kind of fodder, I don't think they pay quite as much.

Friday, January 30, 2009

On A More Positive Note

In keeping with the theme of following the comments sections of various reports, one was forwarded to me today that actually made me smile. The article itself did not make me smile, but the comments came close to making me want to cheer. Every now and then, when I am close to giving up hope on the human race, people step forward and remind me that there are people worth knowing.
The article in question was a movie review for a film that was recently screened at Sundance called Taking Chance, based on the true story of Lt. Col. Michael R. Strobl (played by Kevin Bacon) escorting home the mortal remains of PFC Chance Phelps after the latter died in Iraq. The movie is intentionally apolitical, takes no stand one way or another on the war, and only pays tribute to the heart-wrenching final journey of a fallen marine. I haven't seen the movie but, based on the synopsis and what I have read, neither apparently has the reviewer, Ray Greene.
There is not a single word in this review about anyone's acting, though there are a couple statements about Mr. Bacon's personal life. There is no mention of directing, lighting, or sound either. There is, in short, not a single thing in this review that one should expect to find in a movie review.
What you will find is an apolitical movie given a bad review simply for being apolitical. Read that very carefully. Mr. Greene does not criticise this movie for anything it did or did wrong. He criticised this movie for not being exactly what it's makers did not want it to be. Mr. Greene's only complaint that actually pertains to the movie itself was that it was predictable.
I have a question: How many of you who have not served in that military capacity or who have not been directly affected by the death of someone in the military actually know anything about the process of bringing home a fallen soldier? I'm betting there are not many hands raised. So much for "predictable".
However, I said this was going to be about the comments and was going to be positive, and so it is. The comments section that followed this review was wonderful. It contained two posts from Mr. Greene attempting to justify his position and every single other post was basically what I have said here. The comments were from people who identified themselves as military and non-military, pro-Iraq war and anti-Iraq war and every single one of them said essentially the same thing. Every comment took Mr. Greene to task for not actually reviewing the movie and for inserting his own politics into an apolitical movie and every comment took a moment (at least) to pay respect to PFC Phelps' family.
Most of the time, reading the comments sections makes me very nervous about the direction our country is going and then I find a gem like this. I am reminded that the main difference between the quacks that fill most comments sections and the people who are the backbone of this nation is the simple fact that the quacks will sound off loudly about anything while the regular people will mostly keep to themselves unless you really push their buttons. The loudmouths do not necessarily represent the whole and, apparently, disrespecting a tribute to our fallen defenders pushes some pretty common buttons.
To the family of PFC Phelps and to the families of all of those who have lost loved ones in service to hearth and home, my deepest respect and sympathy. To the Ray Greenes of the world, step out of your towers once in a while. You might find the real world an interesting place to visit.

Monday, January 26, 2009

State Of The Union

I have mentioned numerous times that I spend at least as much time reading comments sections as I do reading news and editorials. You can learn more this way; learn more about what people think. The comments sections are not usually full of the professional thinkers and writers. They are, instead, full of the average reader for whatever publication is hosting the comments. As such, a comments section can be a better barometer for the social, mental, and emotional state of a population than an entire newspaper.
Imagine my disgust, then, at the comments I read so often.
I read one today on the Washington Post's website. The story isn't particularly important to this discussion but, for background, it was about the continuing controversy over President Obama telling a collection of politicians that they "can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done."
Full disclosure: I did not vote for Obama and I have never listened to Rush. If that double negative throws off some preconceived notions on where I stand, too bad.
At any rate, a person posting under the name "Changeontheway" had some things to say that I find very disturbing. This person states that Rush Limbaugh has repeatedly said that he wants President Obama to fail (a point that may or may not be true - I have no way to judge) and, in this same paragraph - so, I must assume, for this reason - claims that Limbaugh is "a terrorist with a mic".
Had that been all that Changeontheway said, that would have been bad enough. To compare an editorialist with a suicide bomber is the ultimate in false identification. If people like this honestly cannot tell the difference between vehement disagreement and intentional mass homicide then our democracy is doomed already. Just imagine what happens when you get too many people this stupid voting.
That was, however, not all this genius had to say on the matter.
The next paragraph is two simple sentences: "First, Limbaugh has committed treason against the United States. His comments warrant criminal charges."
I just love how much this word "treason" gets thrown around these days. You would think that we were living in a totalitarian society where speaking out against the ruler warrants a death sentence or where "treason" is a wide word with a vague definition. In America, however, such is not the case. In America, the word "treason" has been carefully defined by nothing less than the Constitution itself. Article III Section 3 states: "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort." [Stress added by me.] I am fairly certain that even Limbaugh's most ardent opponents would not attempt to claim that he adheres to the enemies of the United States or that he has attempted to levy war. The fact that Obama has already been quite vocal in expressing many ideas that would be antithetical to the conservative position combined with the fact that Limbaugh is a very vocal conservative would make it self-evident that Limbaugh would hope Obama fails in these policies. Most conservatives probably hope for the same thing. I am not, strictly speaking, a conservative and I'm hoping for quite a few failures myself. That is not treason, under our laws, and it is protected political speech. The very type of protected speech, in fact, that liberals usually spend so much time screaming about. It's so nice to see that the double standard is alive and well.
Changeontheway goes on to say that "the FCC should shut his program down. This man has been convicted of doctor shopping, due to his addiction of medications, he has made threats to our new administration and is overall offensive." We'll take those in order, if you don't mind. They won't take long.
There is no FCC regulation barring someone with a conviction from having a broadcasting career and such a regulation would be ludicrous in the extreme. What does one even have to do with the other?
What threats has Limbaugh made toward any administration? While I've already stated that I don't listen to the show, I am fairly certain that any such threats, coming from one of the highest-rated voices in talk radio, would have made the national news. I don't recall seeing any headlines to that effect and, as you might imagine, I am something of a news junkie. Hoping that someone fails, if that is what is supposed to be the threat here, is hardly the same thing as threatening someone. Even if Limbaugh has threatened to help Obama fail, that is not the type of threat that is punishable. Obama has threatened to veto certain legislation if it does not meet his approval. That is his job. Convincing his listeners to help stop the policies of which he does not approve is Limbaugh's job, and it is a legal job. Threatening to do your legal job is not the kind of threatening that is illegal.
As for "overall offensive", that is nothing more than a matter of opinion. The fact that Limbaugh is one of the highest-rated voices in talk radio clearly states that many people disagree with Changeontheway in this matter. What the FCC views as actionably offensive is as clearly defined as is the word "treason" and somehow Limbaugh doesn't strike me as someone to use foul language or do such things as perform sexual acts on his radio show.
In short, Changeontheway has not demonstrated any reason for the FCC to interfere with Limbaugh's show. He goes on to compare Limbaugh with the Don Imus controversy but it is worth noting that the FCC did not shut down Imus. His advertisers did. Limbaugh's advertisers quite obviously love him.
As I said at the beginning, these comments can be a useful barometer to what the average people of a certain group are thinking and, while I have only dissected one comment here, I see such comments on a daily basis. There are far too many people in this country who want to outlaw anything with which they disagree. Worse, there are far too many people who act as though they truly believe that anything they oppose is already illegal. These people, the voting public, have no idea what freedom means or what America stands for. That thought, alone, should chill your blood. I know it does mine.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

How To Kill A Career

Bijou Phillips, one of the lesser known celebrities associated with Scientology, gave an interview recently with Paper Magazine where it was demonstrated once again that most celebrity Scientologists are incapable of not offending the public at large. Commenting on psychiatry and psychiatric medicine (those favorite whipping children of Scientology), Phillips was quoted as saying, "Just buck up and get over it. Stop being such a f---king pansy." Now there is a compelling argument if I ever heard one.
It is not ordinarily in my nature to bash any particular religion - they all have their bashing points, but bashing is far from a constructive activity - but I am beginning to wonder if there is an actual Scientology plot to offend as many people as humanly possible. I'm not a huge fan of psychiatry and I do believe that there is an over-dependance on prescriptions in modern psychiatric medicine, but there are times when the shrink and the medicine are actually necessary or might really help. For these people whose only contribution to society at large is to smile for the cameras and whose only education - most of the time - comes from what they've learned on a film set, there seems to be an abundance of short-sighted arrogance.
I understand that the religion of Scientology is opposed to the practice of psychiatry. I get that and I don't really have a problem with it. Most religions have their own little things that they are against and people outside of the particular religion might not understand it. Most of them, however, do not routinely go out of their way to insult everyone who disagrees with them. Even worse, most of them do not send out the very people who were recruited for advertising purposes with instructions to blatantly piss off a significant percentage of the very people they are supposed to be trying to win over. There is a logic to this that is escaping me.
When Tom Cruise went on his little tirade a couple years ago, it damaged his career and the reputation of Scientology (not that Scientology had such a great reputation with most people anyway) and he is now back-pedalling as hard as he can to try to repair some of this damage. Bijou Phillips doesn't even have much of a career. Is it really wise for her to go racing down the same path that a Hollywood superstar is already repenting of?
The powers-that-be in Scientology love to draft celebrities to be their spokespeople. Maybe they should spend a little time teaching them some smart things to say before letting them lose on the general public.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Buried Debt

If we were to all make a list of the most despised occupational groups on the planet, it is a safe bet that certain groups would show up on the majority of those lists. They would show on such a large majority of those lists, in fact, that we could almost call them universally despised. I would go so far as to say that, if we made a composite list, the top three would be lawyers, telemarketers, and bill collectors (not necessarily in that order, but it is certainly a possibility). My personal "favorite" would be a hybrid of numbers two and three: the phone calling bill collector, especially the ones who use a computer to make their phone calls so they can't even determine if they are calling or talking to the right person.
Amusingly enough, those bill collectors often have a legitimate claim. Even then, though, their arrogance and heavy-handed manner still usually makes them the lowest form of slime on the face of the Earth. We have all but legitamized the knee-breakers of the past and set them lose upon the population. I came across a news story the other day that demonstrates this fact in prime fashion.
Roco and Laurie Crimeni of New York have been plagued by calls and letters from bill collectors looking to collect on credit card debts. There are two major problems with these collection attempts: 1. The debt is owed by their son, not by them. 2. Their son is dead.
Yes, folks, the bill collectors are harassing them about debts owed by their dead son. Is it any wonder why this is such a hated group?
The son, Vincent, left no estate or assets and, according to his parents, all of the debt in question was exclusively in his name. The collectors have been told by phone, by letter, and by lawyer that Vincent Crimeni is dead, yet still they call. Ordinarily, I am not a big fan of lawsuits, but I am seeing ample grounds in this case.
Here is a simple message to the bill collectors: Roco and Laurie Crimeni do not owe you a dime! When a person dies, it is only common sense that his or her debt dies as well. If there is an estate then there is certainly reason to collect what can be collected from that estate but, when there is no estate, the collector is simply flat out of luck. Someone else does not magically owe you the money just because they happen to be related.
I honestly do not know exactly what the laws say on this matter but I also do not care. If they say anything different than what I have said here then they are wrong, morally, ethically, and by any sense of legal justice. A person who did not sign on for a debt should not ever be legally obligated to that debt and the mere fact of giving birth does not equate to signing on to a debt once that child has become an adult.
Going after the parents for the debt of adult offspring is tantamount to bullying and extortion. Going after those parents in their time of grief when that offspring is dead is like pulling the wings off of butterflies or lighting cats' tails on fire. It is cruel and inhumane and any child caught doing so should be severely reprimanded.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Hooterless Hooters

It is no secret that I believe that lawsuits are out of control and that our whiney, "I can have anything I want" population has reached a point of shame that is disheartening, to say the least. People looking back through history at this time right now will shake their heads and laugh at what people today thought was important enough to sue over or feel alarmed at how amazingly self-indulgent the people of the late 2oth and early 21st century were. I hope they will, at least. That will mean that something that can truly be called human survived and that we, maybe, got past this period of idiocy.
I hate to admit it, but the current winner for my Wall of Shame for stupid lawsuits hails from my original stomping grounds. Nikolai Grushevski, of Corpus Christi, Texas, has sued the restaurant chain Hooters, claiming that they denied him a job purely because he is male. On the surface of it, the claim is false because Hooters does have a number of jobs that use male employees. Bartenders, cooks, hosts, even managers all include male employees. Grushevski, however, specifically wanted to be a waiter and, of course, we all know that Hooters does not employ male waiters. It is rather implicit in the name of the place.
According to Grushevski and people like him (this is actually not the first time such a lawsuit has been filed against Hooters), this is sexual discrimination. They say that waiting tables is not a gender-specific job and gender should not be used as a hiring criteria. Grushevski even claims that he applied for this position because it is one of the better paying jobs in town. Having grown up around Corpus Christi, I find that claim hard to believe - there are a number of waiter position in the Corpus Christi area that would both pay better and receive higher tips - but it isn't even relative to the suit. Is Grushevski claiming that a bartender at Hooters would make less than a waitress?
Having been a waiter in south Texas, I can dismiss Grushevski's money claim out of hand. Male waiters in south Texas do not, on average, make nearly the tips that female waitresses do (I state this having been one of the highest tipped waiters in my area at the time) and a male waiter at Hooters would make pretty close to zip because he would have offended a significant portion of the customers just by being there.
That last part, however, is the important part. Hooters has spent years building up a particular brand image, and doing quite well with it. In this particular case, the job of Hooters waitress is as gender-specific as the job of Chipendale dancer. Women - most women, at least - do not go to the Chipendales expecting to see female dancers and men, on average, do not go to Hooters expecting to see male waiters. Is that discrimination? Absolutely not! There is nothing that prevents anyone from running a complimentary female dancers group (in fact, there are plenty of them) and there is nothing that prevents anyone from running a complimentary restaurant with scantily-clad male waiters.
Comparisons have been made to such ground-breaking discrimination issues as allowing women to be firefighters or men to be nurses, but the comparisons are not valid. We are not talking about businesses catering to specific customers in those cases. It would be ludicrous to open a second firehouse to hire only female firefighters (though there could definitely be a calendar and Playboy spread in the idea) and a dying person does not care who is helping so long as the helper is capable of the job.
It isn't about the vagaries of the law or the fine-tuning of social consciousness. It is about common sense. So long as the variety and options continue to exist in the wider spectrum, there is nothing wrong with a business using their own brand image requirements for hiring. An advertising campaign looks for a specific appearance in the people they hire for specific advertising jobs. Is that discrimination? The Hooters girls are Hooters biggest advertising campaign and Nikolai Grushevski needs to just go submit applications elsewhere.

Not Washed Away

Just for the record, the flood is over, the water is gone, and we didn't wash away. All things considered, it was not nearly as bad as predicted, though there are still people in need of help and support. However, your friendly host here is not one of them. We came through unscathed. Thank you for your thoughts and concerns and now, on with the show.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Washed Away

Mother Nature is thumbing her nose at my part of Washington again, so I don't know how much I'll be able to blog for the next few days. We're looking at some serious flooding only two weeks after record-level snowfall so the local infrastructure is stretched rather thin. I don't expect any serious problems here at home, but we're stockpiling water and batteries just in case. I'll stay in touch as I can.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Truth In Advertising

I have a question that has puzzled me for quite some time and if any of you even think you might have an answer, I would be much obliged for the input. Why is it that those people who claim to be delivering moral messages do not feel bound by any notion of truth or honesty? I'm sure I've commented on this more than once at various times in the past and concerning various groups and messages, but it has dawned on me that it is a trend that is more than a little alarming.
One of the most obvious examples is that organization that goes by the misnomer of Not only do they fail the basic manners test (Does anyone know of an advertiser who tries harder to be rude, disgusting, and tasteless?) but they make a double mockery by calling themselves "truth" while spouting constant lies. I'm sure there are those of you (especially the non-smokers) who are just sputtering at me right now. "They point out that smoking kills! That is not a lie!" No, that is not a lie. I, a smoker, freely state that. Why, then, do they abandon this honest high ground with their hyperbolic commercials? If you think I am exagerating, start jotting down their death numbers whenever you see one of their commercials. It shouldn't take long at all to realize that not one of those commercials agrees with another when it comes to numbers. The reason for this is simplicity itself: there are no hard numbers. Medical research has failed to reach any consensus on exactly what role smoking plays in "smoking-related" deaths and no one has any real clue how many people a year die as a result of smoking. The fact of the matter is that most of those "smoking-related" deaths also include so many other poor health or bad risk factors that no true numbers are even possible. That doesn't stop the good people at from throwing out those numbers as though they alone had the hard facts.
Environmentalist are another group of moral preachers who have a less than favorable relationship with the truth. This is another area where there is so much research and so little hard consensus that you would think anyone with a rational commitment to morality could not possibly utter any more direct statement than "we do some things that we should not do but we do not know exactly what impact those things have." Instead, we have prophets of doom who want to tell us exactly what we are doing wrong and exactly what we must do to fix it. Again these people do begin with a moral high ground. There are things that we are doing wrong - Poluting the planet makes no more sense than fouling your own bed! - and there are things that we know that we could do better. There are many things that we do not know, however. Take Global Warming, for instance (and while you're doing so, please do not overlook the fact that they have craftily changed the name to "global climate change"). Thirty years ago the boogyman was the next ice age (we were, according to the same so-called scientific consensus that the press is throwing around today, long overdue) but now, in such a short amount of time, we are cooking the planet through our own behavior. Short of all-out thermonuclear war, I am hard pressed to conceive of any way that we could change the entire planet in so short an amount of time. Never mind that the actual predictions are a measly 5-10 degrees over 100 years. Never mind that even those numbers do not account for continuing scientific advancement that may or may not offset such changes. [For comparison purposes, it was widely believed in the 70's by certain people in the scientific community that we would be seeing global famine and catastrophe by the 1990's caused by overpopulation if we did not take drastic steps immediately. Not only did we not take those drastic steps, our population actually increased faster than those people feared and yet, no global famine or catastrophe occured. The reason for this is that our scientific advancement progressed at the same accelerated rate and we became able to feed people at more and more efficient rates. The same principle could quite likely apply to the current "imminent crisis".] Never mind the fact that those numbers are coming from the very same people who cannot accurately be depended upon to predict tomorrow's weather! According to the loudest voices in the environmental movements, we are all doomed (and evil to boot) if we do not take exactly the steps they decree immediately.
I will let one more example stand for the whole.
If you receive email forwards as often as I do, you have no doubt seen the dire warnings of the removal of religious liberties from public places. They are removing God from our schools (never mind the long list of federal laws expressly protecting religious liberties on school campuses, from equal access to church related student groups to religious exceptions to various school activities). They are removing God from the public square (never mind the federal laws that expressly require equal access there either). They are removing God from our politics (never mind the religious litmus test that every president we have ever elected has had to pass). They are removing God from television (never mind the fact that TV stations are privately owned and can show almost anything they want assuming there are enough viewers to secure advertising and that the programs do not violate certain decency standards, standards that have been established by the same religion groups passing these emails, oddly enough). I do not deny that there have been over-zealous individuals who have done (or tried to do) every one of these things but they have been slapped down in every case by the same laws that these emails claim are removing your liberties. If you are Christian, there is no concerted effort to remove your religious liberties and, in this country at least, never has been.
This is a small list of examples to which I am sure we could all add many, many more. Most of the people who pass around these falsehoods are honest people who simply believe what people they trust have told them to believe. The fact that lies are being spread by honest people does not, however, stop them from being lies. It only means that honest people need to be more diligent in the efforts to verify the information they pass along as fact.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Remember The Alamo

Why is it that preservationists always seem to feel required to go psychotically overboard in their preservations? Aside from that, why is it that the preservation instincts are triggered by certain names and not by others?
In a place called Locust Grove, Virginia those questions are being acted out right now. Wal-Mart is looking to build a new store in a location that is about a mile from the protected and preserved Wilderness Battlefield, an important Civil War memorial. The preservationists, for some reason, believe that this proposed location is too close to the battlefield and want to stop the Arkansas-based retailer from building. Mind you, there is already a bank and a strip mall in the same general area so what, exactly, are the preservationists trying to stop? Are they afraid of building near the site or are they merely afraid of this particular building?
As a man who grew up in south Texas and is rather more intimately attuned to an earlier break-away conflict, that of the Texas Revolution, the one thing that comes instantly to my mind is the Alamo. If there is any location that is more sacred to that state's history than this small mission in San Antonio you would be hard pressed to prove the point. The memorials at San Jacinto and Goliad are certainly close (San Jacinto was the location of ultimate victory and Goliad, like the Alamo, was a part of the battle cry that roused the Texans to that victory) but the Alamo is arguably the only battlefield from that war that has captured the imagination of the entire nation. It was, in many respects, a Texan reenactment of the famous battle of the 300 Spartans, with much the same results. It was, in short, a massacre of people who were fighting for their lives and their freedom waiting for reinforcements that would never come.
And where is that sacred shrine to be found? Almost downtown in one of the largest cities in the state. One of the largest cities in the country, in fact. If you were to vist Alamo Plaza today, you would find strip malls, banks, and retailers of various flavours sharing its streets. Not a mile away, but across a small park. Last time I was there, there were even tawdry little tourist traps in the same neighborhood.
Yet none of this has diminished the honor, the beauty, or the sacredness of the Alamo. I have taken people not from Texas, not versed in the meaning of that building to the Alamo and they instantly felt it's presence upon entering. Everything that is outside, everything that is not of its memory disappears when you step onto that hallowed ground.
I have a feeling that the preservationists in Virginia aren't really fighting to preserve a memory in this particular fight. They are fighting against a retailer they have decided they do not like. If it were otherwise, why are there already businesses in the location they are fighting? If they are truly concerned about the integrity of the Wilderness Battlefield then all I can say to them is one half of the battle cry from San Jacinto: "Remember the Alamo." You'll find that truly sacred sites are more difficult to diminish than you might believe.

Friday, January 2, 2009

And A Happy New Year

We have come to a new year and, hopefully, new hope. I must admit that I am not exactly holding my breath but then that is not exactly my nature. I am not a breath holder.
If you were to divide the world into optimists and pessimists, I would have to sit on the outside and watch. I am neither optimist nor pessimist but I am also not what most people call a realist, since that is usually just a cynical way of saying pessimist. Optimists are easily cut down when the world inevitably throws a curveball and pessimists couldn't build a better world if you handed them an instruction manual with full-color, three dimensional illustrations. If we are to truly ever have a chance of making one year better than the one that preceded it, we must put aside the ideas of Do Gooders and Doom Sayers alike.
On the one hand, we must be willing to admit when something is bad, when something is wrong, when something is contrary to our ideal. Note I did not say different from our ideal. Different and contrary are not necessarily the same. If we are going to improve anything we must first recognize that something needs to be improved then we must be willing to do the improving. We cannot expect that everything we do "for the good" will actually result in the good. We cannot assume that because someone says they are for the good then what they do is good. We must be willing and able to see things as they are and work accordingly. There has never been a utopia on this earth and there has never been reason to believe that would be otherwise.
On the other hand, we cannot dismiss every possibility as failure before it has even begun. We have to be willing and able to recognize that things can improve and can be done right. The world is not going to hell in a handbasket and, despite centuries upon centuries of prophets of doom, we are no closer to destroying the world than ever before.
Our world is not great and it is not terrible. There are great spots and there are terrible spots, but spots do not make a whole. Take those spots that are great and use them as examples of what to do. Take those spots that are terrible and use them as examples of what not to do.
I said I was not a realist as the term is commonly used, but I am a realist as the word itself implies. Reality, what is, is the best teacher and reality teaches that everything can change and that change can go in virtually any direction. It is a new year but whether or not it is a happy new year depends on what we choose to do with it. We can waste time by denying reality through foolish optimism or destructive pessimism or we can face reality head-on and do what it dictates to make a happy new year.