Communities

A little post-Valentine’s Day sweetness

I hit a site called PostSecret every Monday. I’ve written about it before, but for anyone passing by this blog since then it’s worth repeating. The short version is that people send in postcards with thoughts, observations, realizations, that they want to express anonymously. Some are sad, some are funny, some are just plain weird. But they’re all, generally speaking, fairly interesting. 

I found the following this week and thought it was not only interesting, but pretty cool, too. If you’d like to see the rest of the posts for this week, you can visit the site here.

Just Plain Folk

I’m probably tilting at windmills here but I’ve got to be straight – the thinking that aww, shucks, I’m just a normal, every-day-guy is exactly the kind of quality we need in Washington, or our local governments for that matter, drives me absolutely. fucking. crazy.

Take a recent interview with Ted Nugent (see the entire clip here) where Fox host David Asman says the following:

“Well Ted, you have common sense, which probably 98 percent of the people inside the Beltway don’t have. And common sense means much more to living a good life than any kind of degree from an Ivy League university. These government officials, just because they have an Ivy League education doesn’t mean they know more than we do.”

Take away for a moment that, well, it kind of does, and instead consider this: when did having an education become a negative? That former President Bush projected the everyman persona any time he was in front of a camera boggles my mind. That the country elected him twice while he did so makes me want slam my head into a wall. Twice. The right’s continued love of former Governor Palin (due in large part to the same kind of personality) does the same.  

Sure, we elect politicians. But it’s important to note that we call them by another name, too – leaders. And don’t we want our leaders to have a first-rate mind? One that’s informed and analytical and capable of attacking the problems our country faces – problems that are incredibly complex, nuanced, and in dire need of all the brain-power we can put behind them, by the bye – with a little more intellectual might than Joe the Plumber?  

Thoughts?

Thanks to Eileen Smith at In the Pink for the original post.

Bonsai

This image found its way into my inbox under the title of, “a little something to inspire you.” I’ve been thinking about it off and on for the last couple of days and I keep coming back to a phrase I picked up in Japan years ago: Mono no aware. Loosely translated, it means ‘the sadness of the transience of things.’

In other words, things don’t last. 

The brief moments when all is still, music plays softly in the background, and you and your wife cuddle and chat on the couch. Or the bright, sweet smile of your new baby (you know, before they learn the word “no”). Or the taste of a perfectly prepared filet. Or a night out with friends that’s both easy and wonderful. Or whatever. The phrase above tells us that those lovely moments, even when they’re measured in days or weeks or years, will, at some point, trail behind you in the rearview.

Compare that with a conversation I had on Twitter recently that ended with my friend writing, “this too shall pass.” She was having a bad day where everything seemed to go just about as wrong as it could and the only thing she wanted to do was close the book on the day, go to bed, and start over the next morning.

But you have to wonder – how much energy and time and engagement are wasted or lost as we look ahead or behind instead of paying attention to the now? Note to self: kiss your wife, play with your kids, and don’t waste today. It’s not coming back.

image by zest-pk

The man and the flood

You’ve probably heard this story before:

A man, at home during a storm, hears an emergency broadcast over the radio that warns of an impending flood and instructs everyone to evacuate. But he’s a religious man, and sure that God will save him, so he decides to stay. The minutes pass, and as the waters begin to rush into his home he’s forced to move to his roof. 
A short time later, a boat pulls up next to the house and the crew shouts for the man to join them.
“No,” he shouts back, “I’m a religious man. I pray. God will save me.”
As the boat pulls away, the water begins to pour over the eaves. 
A helicopter then appears overhead and the pilot shouts down to the man, “Let me throw you a rope and pull you up!”
“No,” he shouts again, “I’m a religious man. I pray. God will save me.”
But as the helicopter flies away the waters swallow the house, and sweep the man away.
When he arrived in heaven, the man demanded to speak to God.
“Lord,” he said, “I’m a religious man. I pray. Why didn’t you save me?”
God looked down to the man and said, “I sent you a radio broadcast, a boat, and a helicopter. What more did you expect me to do?”

I heard this story again watching an old episode of West Wing a couple of weeks ago. The bulk of the episode followed the President as he agonized over the decision of whether or not to grant a stay of execution. Each of the three people he talked to over the course of the show told him that capital punishment was, for various reasons, wrong and that he should make the call. And while he agreed, he ultimately decided he couldn’t justify a stay based solely on his feelings.

Shortly after the prisoner was executed, the President sat with his old parish priest and expressed his frustration with God. “I prayed, Father, I really did. But nothing came.”

The priest, Father Cavanaugh, then told him the story you read above. When he had finished he said, “Mr. President, God sent you a Rabbi, a Quaker,  and a priest. What more did you expect him to do?”

A little more than three weeks ago, John Allen Muhammad – the “D.C. Sniper” – was executed in Virginia by lethal injection. His accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, will spend the rest of his life in prison. It’s been reported that Muhammad was silent throughout the process. He refused to acknowledge questions or the gallery; completely silent until pronounced dead.

Good riddance, you might say.

Me, I’m with Father Cavanaugh, the Rabbi, the Quaker, and the priest. I think the death penalty is just wrong. And while I could give you a host of logical, rational reasons why I feel that way, chances are the impact of those arguments would be very little if your beliefs swing the other way.

Meaning, if I were to show you data that unequivocally proves a black man is far more likely to be given the death penalty than a white man, for the same crime, that information probably wouldn’t change your mind. If I were to show you that an unattractive woman is more likely to be given the death penalty than a pretty, dimpled lass, that wouldn’t change your mind either.

In other words, the fact that our judicial system dispenses punishment unequally probably wouldn’t be enough to change your mind if you favored the death penalty.

So I’ve been thinking about hypocrisy.

Keep in mind, I’m fully aware this is a pretty massive generalization, but in many cases if you favor the death penalty there’s also a pretty good chance you’re pro-life. And I just don’t get it.

It’s okay to kill here, but not there. This is justified, and that’s a sin. One right and one wrong.

To be fair, I’m fully aware that the hypocrisy swings both ways. Like many of my ilk, I’m both pro-choice and anti death penalty. Again, like above, death is okay here but not here. My only explanation is that my beliefs for both are founded on the rational rather than the spiritual. Take that for what you will.

So I’d like your opinions. How do so many of us justify these contradictory beliefs?

Happy Birthday, Marine Corps – 2009

Eagle, Globe, and Anchor

It’s 10 November, and today marks the 234th birthday of my Corps! My, does the time fly. For your reading pleasure, the Commandant’s message is below. Happy birthday, Devil Dogs… 

UNCLASSIFIED//
ALMAR 033/09
MSGID/GENADMIN/CMC WASHINGTON DC DMCS//
SUBJ/UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS BIRTHDAY MESSAGE – 10 NOVEMBER 2009//

GENTEXT/REMARKS/

1.  UNITED STATES MARINES REPRESENT THE BEST YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN OUR NATION HAS TO OFFER.  TO BE A MARINE IS TO BE A MEMBER OF AMERICA’S WARRIOR CLASS – TO BE ONE OF THE FEW WHO STEPS FORWARD WITH THE COURAGE AND CONVICTION TO FACE WHATEVER DANGERS AWAIT.  OUR NATION EXPECTS HER MARINES TO BE READY WHEN THE NATION CALLS; TO LEAVE FAMILY AND THE COMFORTS OF HOME BEHIND; TO MARCH INTO BATTLE AND THRIVE UNDER AUSTERITY; AND TO COME HOME UNDER A VICTORY PENNANT.

2.  FROM AL ANBAR IN THE WEST OF IRAQ, TO HELMAND PROVINCE IN THE SOUTH OF AFGHANISTAN, OUR CORPS OF MARINES CAN ALWAYS EXPECT TO BE FOUND WHERE THE FIGHT IS TOUGHEST.  SUCH IS OUR HISTORY.  TODAY, AS WE WRITE THE FINAL CHAPTER ON OUR VICTORY IN IRAQ, WE WILL INCREASINGLY TAKE THE FIGHT TO THE ENEMY IN AFGHANISTAN AND ADD NEW PAGES TO OUR LEGACY IN PLACES CALLED DELARAM, NOW ZAD, AND GARMSIR. ONE DAY, WE WILL RETURN TO OUR NAVAL HERITAGE AND PATROL THE HIGH SEAS WITH OUR NAVY BROTHERS.  SUCH IS OUR FUTURE.

3.  AS WE CELEBRATE OUR CORPS’ 234TH BIRTHDAY, WE FIRST PAUSE TO REFLECT AND PAY TRIBUTE TO THOSE MARINES WHO HAVE GIVEN THE LAST FULL MEASURE IN DEFENSE OF FREEDOM.  WE EXTEND OUR DEEPEST GRATITUDE TO OUR MARINE CORPS FAMILIES – THE UNSUNG HEROES WHO ENDURE HARDSHIP AND SACRIFICE SO THAT WE ARE ABLE TO GO FORWARD AND ACCOMPLISH ANY MISSION.  WE EXTEND OUR APPRECIATION TO OUR COUNTRYMEN WHO HAVE ANSWERED OUR EVERY NEED.  AND WE CELEBRATE THE MAGNIFICENT MEN AND WOMEN WHO WILLINGLY AND SELFLESSLY CONTINUE TO GO INTO HARM’S WAY TO PROTECT THIS GREAT NATION.

4.  TO ALL WHO HAVE GONE BEFORE, TO THOSE WHO WEAR THE UNIFORM TODAY, AND TO THE FAMILIES THAT GIVE US THE STRENGTH TO FORGE AHEAD – I WISH YOU ALL A HEARTFELT HAPPY 234TH BIRTHDAY!

5.  SEMPER FIDELIS!  JAMES T. CONWAY, GENERAL, U.S. MARINE CORPS, COMMANDANT OF THE MARINE CORPS//

Why U2 is the shizzle

towers

Eight years ago today the unthinkable happened.

I remember most of that day very clearly – the phone call from the lovely woman who would one day become my wife, standing in front of the television and watching one horror after another, or later trying to interact with guests when I pulled a double behind the bar.

That was a long, long twelve hours, I might add. Right up until I wiped off the last tap and handed in my drawer, each of my guests had sat quietly, watching one of the televisions that hung suspended from the ceiling, nursed their drinks, and spoke almost not at all. And for me, things seemed to stay like that for almost a month and a half.

And then U2 came to town.

The concert was , in a word, awesome. They did their new stuff, which was great, but about an hour in to the show the red Joshua Tree backdrop lit up across the back of the stage and Bono and the rest of the crew  started pouring through the music most of us there had fallen in love with in the first place; from albums going all the way back to Boy. We were dancing, singing, laughing, and really letting go.  

The weight that had settled onto my chest and into my spirit, the one that I hadn’t even realized was there until the moment it lessened, seemed to slowly shrink and fade, and without warning I found I could suddenly breath again. All of us could.

But they weren’t done.  

Near the end of the concert the band went silent and two large screens slowly descended from above.  Most of us were still smiling and swaying a bit from the previous tune and we looked at the screens and then at each other? What’s this? No idea, but it’s going to be cool. And to be certain, we were right, but not in any way we imagined. 

As we stood, growing more still and silent, names began streaming down each screen, one after another after another, and Bono finally stepped up to the mic, paused a moment, and said, “For all of those lost in September.”  And as the first quiet notes from Edge’s guitar reached us we realized that we were seeing a list of everyone who had died on 9/11.  And it seemed to go on forever.

But during those moments a wonderful thing happened. We stood there, quietly watching and listening, lighters or cell phones winking in and out, and people began to truly let go. There were sighs and coughs. Then there were sniffles. And finally sobs. People held one another tightly, and all around me there were tears and grief and strangers again connected by what had happened. But when the lists finally came to an end there were actually smiles and hugs, and as the last notes faded away we realized that a first essential and powerful step to healing had just happened, and man, we went absolutely fucking crazy. Cheers, claps, shouts, even roars. Joyous, lovely roars as Larry started pounding away at his drum kit.

Thank you, U2.

Readers – what’s your story?

Image by Sister72