Sunday, October 25, 2009

Religion and Judgment

Some of my Facebook friends are having a mini-discussion about beliefs and issues and what being judgmental means. Most of them are Christians. It almost seems to me that to be religious translates into being inherently judgmental. Religions usually come with a full set of rules and regulations and laws. If you have faith in your religion then you must also believe in these various tenets - so it is natural to make distinctions between the people who abide by what is "right" as your particular dogma defines it and those who don't. Even those especially kindly people who don't condemn their fellow man for straying have, at heart, the desire to bring them into the fold of salvation.

Then there are people like me. I don't believe anything. I don't disbelieve anything either. I'm an agnostic. I just say I don't know. Furthermore, I don't think anyone else knows either, not for sure, no matter how much they profess to have the true answers. Personally, I don't care what faith anyone else follows. More power to them if they find comfort in Christianity or Buddhism or Paganism. Life can be frightening without boundaries to guide us. Sure, we may slip outside them now and then but most religions offer the means to find forgiveness for our transgressions, whether through prayer or confession or apology.

I find that a lot of Christians are offended when I verbalize my lack of belief even if I'm only answering a question and not trying to pry anyone away from their religion, something I'd never do. Usually, their response lies in indignantly quoting the Bible in a "there, take that!" tone of voice, as if they have proven their point once and for all, discussion over. I usually just let it go because if I say what I think, which is that I respect the Bible, even though I don't necessarily accept it, they are aghast. Most often, the discussion ends with being told I'm going to hell (something else I don't believe in, so this pronouncement doesn't affect me much).

If there is a God, I'm not convinced that s/he feels about issues the way we think He does (I'll stick with He here since the most common belief is that God is a male, which considering that most religions were started by men is understandable, I guess). For instance, my own opinion is that God probably doesn't care one way or the other if people are gay since, after all, if he created everything, I assume that means he thought of up the concept of heterosexual and homosexual. Maybe gays are only here to test the rest of us for compassion and understanding.

But even if He does disapprove of same gender sex, it seems like that's their business to work out with Him and not ours. The 85-90 or so percent of us who are straight struggle enough to stay true to our own principles so maybe being faithful spouses and caring parents and generous neighbors and helpful co-workers is what we should concentrate on.

I could think of a hundred Bible quotes right off the top of my head that we ignore every day. "Give what you have to the poor and follow me", for instance, hardly translates into "thou shalt not pass health care." We are lots more focused on the verses that point out the other guys' sins than the ones that point out ours.

I always have to smile in amusement when someone who has just experienced a tragedy, expresses the belief that "I only got through it because of my faith". It is so typical of the sense of superiority that goes along with religious belief. What do they think happens to people who don't have faith? Do we just disintegrate into a puddle of goo? Nope, you know what? We grit our teeth and get on with life just like you do. Christians don't have exclusive ownership of the ability to exhibit grace under pressure.

We say that God created us in his image but, actually, we've created God in our own image. Our God tends to have the sames biases and prejudices as we have ourselves. Imagine that. If I believed in God, my God would be a liberal and an environmentalist. He'd be kindly father figure, tolerant of our frailties, rather than a harsh authoritarian. My God wouldn't be the type to kill anyone's firstborn or to send a plague of locusts to destroy our crops or drown all of us but one boatload.

The fact is that none of us know the absolute truth and we won't until we die....and maybe not even then. In the meantime, all we can do is the best we can.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fall Infestations

Fall is my favorite season but there are a couple things about it that I don't like. One of them is mice and the other is ladybugs. They infest my house, each taking a floor. The mice take over the downstairs; while the ladybugs rule the upstairs.

For some reason, mice have an affinity for the electrical cord on the hand mixer. They ignore the ($5) bag of dogfood sitting on the floor and go directly to the drawer than holds the ($20) mixer, where they gnaw off every bit of rubber coating, leaving nothing but bare wire. This is the third mixer that has bit the dust due to mice. They aren't attracted to any other cord - not the coffee pot or toaster or blender. I'd love to talk mouse talk long enough to ask them, "what the hell is it with you people and the mixer cord?"

This year, I've also had to replace pasta, crackers and cereal which got eaten before I knew the mice had staged their annual pilgrimage to the house. Now the cereal is on top of the freezer while the bread and noodles are crammed into the metal bread drawer along with the mixer.

Mom refuses to allow traps in the house. She says she'd be a nervous wreck waiting for the snap that indicated a dead (or even worse, wounded) mouse. If I wasn't home, she'd have to leave until I got back because she couldn't stand to think of a mouse body in the drawer.

So she puts out De-Con or Mouse Kill. She's been doing this for a couple weeks now. Every day she checks and every day, the bait is gone so she puts more down and by the next morning, that's gone too. I think the mice's digestive systems must have mutated, allowing them to flourish on De-Con.

Meanwhile, I go up to bed to discover huge clumps of lady bugs (not really lady bugs like we used to have, the cute little red and black spotted ones - these are bigger, orange Asian beetles and they bite) in the window frame and lady bugs crawling around on the lamp shade, creating monster bug shadows on the wall, and lady bugs wandering across the ceiling and in the ashtray and on my pillow.

I was afraid to spray the room with Raid for fear I'd die of Raid asphixiation so I sprayed them to death with Rave (hair spray) instead, on the grounds that I've been subjecting my respiratory system to clouds of hair spray for 50 years and if it was going to kill me off, it would have happened by now.

Let me tell you, Rave Mega Hold stops the little buggers in their tracks. It is kind of a lady bug equivalent of embalming. I went to sleep surrounded by a thousand lady bug corpses along with the body of one lone moth.

My secretary told me that I could prevent the influx of lady bugs by placing moth balls against the foundation of my house so Mom got some today at the store. I'll let you know if it works. In the meantime, I wish I knew what to do about the mice.

Success!

Well, the chili cook-off was a huge success again this year. We finally reached a long-held goal which was to have 100 teams register. We worry every year about the weather which can be iffy by the third week in October. This year was unseasonably cold but it didn't seem to stop people from coming.

We worried about the economy this year too and whether it would keep people home but actually, the chili cook-off is a bargain - $5.00 for an afternoon of family entertainment - 100 chilis to taste (if anyone is brave enough to try them all), the creativity of the showmanship contestants, music, the chance of winning prizes and at the heart of it all, the fun of running into friends you may not see often.

For the most part, our committee has consisted of the same people for its entire existence. The cook-off was the brain child of Bill Gerding and Steve Bowman. They conscripted the rest of us to come along for the ride and it has succeeded beyond anyone's wildest expectations. It is now the largest chili cook-off east of the Mississippi. In little old Wabash, Indiana!

There is a moral to the story of the cook off and that is you can do good and have fun at the same time and that starts with the committee itself. We meet in the back room of the Market Street Grill where we drink and/or smoke as we choose. We don't go by Roberts Rules of Order, in fact, we don't have much order at all. People jump in, interrupt, make fun of one another, throw in their thoughts as they please. Sometimes, we joke and laugh, losing our train of thought so that we have to go back and start over.

Somehow, in spite of what might seem like disorganization to those who run a tighter ship in so far as committee meetings go, we get everything done. It all comes together on time. Everyone does their part. Cook-off day dawns and the trains run on time.

I've have been on many boards in my years in government and attended meeting to numerous to count. Recently, I've resigned from all of them. I've done my part. Time to hand the reins over to the younger generation. No more City Council meetings or Board of Zoning Appeals or AACTION or Domestic Violence Task Force or Chamber of Commerce Governmental Affairs or Animal Control Board or..... all with their very formal Agendas and Minutes and Rules and Regulations. The only one I've stayed with is the Chili Cook-off Committee because it's more like play than work which proves, again, that it is possible to do good and have fun all at the same time if you have the right people.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Obama and the Nobel Peace Prize

My main reaction to President Obama winning the Nobel Peace prize was disgust. According to what I've read, the Nobel committee began consideration of nominees in February. February! Obama hadn't even been president for two months then. What could he possibly have done at that point to be a candidate for such an illustrious award?

"Well, isn't it prestigious for America to have our president win the Nobel?" people to whom I've grumbled have asked me and my answer is, "no, it isn't prestitious if its a farce. It isn't prestigious if people believe it was a rigged election. It isn't prestigious if it was based on politics instead of solid achievement."

Did the committee mean for the peace prize to be a reward to the American people, by way of Obama, for having rid ourselves of the evil Bush/Cheney cabal in favor of a more politically correct president (politically corect, that is, in the eyes of people who consider the Nobel a commendation of the highest order). Was it meant as an symbolic honorific to America for proving that we have thrown off the shackles of racism in electing a black leader?

President Obama himself expressed his surprise at having been named the recipient of the Nobel Peace prize. But he shouldn't have been surprized because this has become his m.o. I think his greatest talent is convincing people to give him honors, awards, prizes....and elections he hasn't yet earned. He should be used to it by now.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I Don't Care Who People Sleep With...

My pre-going to work ritual includes watching Morning Joe on MSNBC while I put my make up on. I think I watch this program to get my blood stirring for the challenges ahead because, more often than not, Morning Joe pisses me off, most especially Our Lady of the Self-Righteous, Mika Brzezinski.

In a perfect liberal world, Mika would be the Chief of the Lifestyle Police because she knows what is best for all of us. People like me would be arrested and sentenced to walk five miles a day, eat a fat and sugar-free diet, drive alternative-fuel vehicles and watch only Mika-approved television programs (goodbye NASCAR with your ear-splitting, gas-guzzling engines and white-males-only entry application and idolatry of elemental men who settle their differences with skill and speed on a dangerous racetrack instead of smug discussion behind the safety of a podium).

And in the New World Order, we would have to have our sexual relationships approved by Mika. We would be allowed to consort only with our own kind because it goes without saying that in any affair between superior and subordinate, the subordinate is being coerced, at least, if the subordinate is a female. And that is true, even if the woman, herself, is screaming that it was voluntary and consensual and she's an adult who knew what she was doing and doing what she wanted to do.

"No!" says Mika, "you're a weak-willed victim even if you're too dumb to realize it!"

Which brings me to David Letterman. Who had an affair, or several affairs, with women on his staff. Which was found out by a producer who was in a tough financial situation. Who tried to blackmail Letterman for $2,000,000. Letterman went to the authorities who set up the producer and caught him after Letterman wrote him a check. At that point, of course, the story broke and became public. Letterman confessed on his show, rather gracefully, I thought. He handled it in a gently humorous fashion, which is probably what you'd suspect out of a comedian. Most of the people in his audience laughed. Of course, he was trying to protect himself. Wouldn't you?

All of which sent Mika soaring into the ozone layer of outrage. She was indignant that Letterman resorted to jokes when she thought torrents of tears, followed by a hiri-kiri sword would have been more appropriate. She was disgusted that his viewers, for the most part, agreeably, let him off the hook. She was irritated by the men on Morning Joe, none of whom took it quite as seriously as she did, being only mildly critical of Letterman. And Mika was horribly upset that none of the women involved were willing to come forward and file charges for sexual harassment.

Because, of course, it had to be sexual harassment, didn't it? There was no possibility that these were grown women making voluntary choices to have sex with who the hell they wanted to have sex with. Wouldn't surprise me if that didn't happen now. I've read on the blogs that some newspapers and magazines are offering big bucks to the first one who spills her guts. I'm sure Mika will have her on to cuddle and hug and urge her forward to admit how she was taken advantage of and used because she had no clue what was happening. Poor little pitiful thing.

So who will be the manipulator then? The man with whom she had sex or the one (assuming it is a man) who writes her a very large check for her teary-eyed story?

And it seems to be forgotten in all of this that David Letterman himself is a victim - of a blackmailer. And extortion is an actual crime, unlike extra-marital sex. But Mika evidentally isn't concerned about man-on-man offenses because I've barely heard a word about about the awfulness of the blackmailer.

Here's the thing. I don't care who people have sex with as long as it doesn't involve violence or children. I didn't care when it was Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. I didn't care when it was all those Republican representatives and senators whose names I forget now because there were so many of them. I don't care when it is John Edwards. That doesn't mean I don't think he's slime but I don't care. What he does is between him and Elizabeth.

And if it would happen to be me, I don't need Mika Brzezinski rushing to my rescue. I'm fully capable of freely making my own decisions and standing by them without anyone's assistance, thank you very much. I resent being told that my sexual choice was made out of foolishness and that I need my betters to sort it out for me.

In short, I believe Mika should mind her own damn business and let the rest of us do the same.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The More Things Change.....

I have been engaged with a member of my NASCAR discussion group and it has gotten pretty heated at times. He's a long time fan and he hates NASCAR, not the sport, but the sanctioning body itself. NASCAR may be the only sport that is privately owned and operated. It is a dictatorship. NASCAR makes its own rules and enforces them with whatever sanctions and penalties it pleases. At least half of all NASCAR fans believe it is corrupt and dishonest. To them, it does things like fixing drug tests so it can ban a driver it doesn't like or cheating on a speeding penalty or inspection to favor a particular team.

It is ironic that I left politics for essentially, these same reasons (the leadership manipulating elections to dictate the outcome, i.e. Obama versus Hillary) and now find myself embroiled in the same kinds of arguments I fled politics to NASCAR to escape.

This all started with my fellow discussion group member practically from the beginning but it has recently gotten more intense. Our latest round of debate was precipitated when NASCAR took Jimmie Johnson's and Mark Martin's cars back to the R&D Center for a post-race inspection after they finished one, two at Richmond. NASCAR said that it warned Hendrick Motorsports that while both cars were legal, the tolerances when the templates were used, was so small, they risked failing inspection if measurements varied by so much as a thousandth. They advised Hendrick it might be wise to back off rather than taking that risk. Which is where the story should have ended. But it didn't, because rumors became rampant that Jimmie (not Mark though, of course, because it isn't p.c. in NASCAR to say anything detrimental about Mark Martin) actually failed the inspection but NASCAR lied so as not to have to penalize him.

It all boils down to me preferring to take NASCAR's word and my friend (?) preferring to believe the sanctioning body is willing to risk it's multi-billion dollar industry to lie, cheat, steal and I don't know, probably commit murder as well. He gets off on his anti-NASCAR passion.

It is somewhat amusing to look back on our past posts. I am the classic Democrat, trying to use soft persuasion, walking softly so as not to hurt feelings, speaking in weasel phrases, like "I could be wrong, but...", never resorting to name calling or making the deads nuts claim that I couldn't possibly be wrong. Meanwhile, he's 100 percent Republican in his debating style. (I don't really know his political affiliation but I assume he'd consider this opinion on my part a compliment)

He accuses me of living in a fairy tale world and in a land of "Jimmie love" in which I refuse to accept that my driver is a cheater. He's got his 40+ wins and those 3 championships, not through skill and luck and strategy, but because NASCAR has the fix in for him. I am the soft-headed romantic while he is the tough-as-nails realist. I am obviously too stupid to know when I'm being conned. Occasionally, he apologizes if he "offended" me but then he goes ahead and offends me again, or he would if I offended easily, which I don't.

So, I left the bare-knuckle warfare of politics to find peace in NASCAR, only to discover that nothing much has changed.

Democrat Disappointment

I'm sorry for some of my friends. They had so much faith in Barack Obama, it was scary. I was a Hillary supporter but even if I hadn't been passionately in her corner, I would have been uncomfortable with the Obama worship some of them exhibited. To me, it verged on the cult-like, although it made them furious if you expressed that view. If you tried to talk them down, they lobbed ever more extravagant adjectives at you. "Obama, the Enlightened One".

I was accused of being old and cynical and perhaps I am, but I don't believe in putting human beings on pedestals - not movie stars, not athletes, and certainly not politicians. People who impute near God-like qualities to other men or women are bound to be disappointed. There are some folks who excel in various areas - in charm, in skill, in intellect, in courage - but in the end, they're simply people with their own fears and frailties.

Some of the Democrats really bought into the whole bipartisan concept the Obama campaign pushed so relentlessly. They truly believed that through the sheer power of his mesmerizing personality, Barack would win over the Republicans, so that we'd all be singing Kumbaya together, unlike, of course, my gal, Hillary, whom they would fight tooth and nail. With Obama, the lion would lie down with the lamb.

Uh huh, sure thing. The Republicans impeached Bill and they swift-boated Kerry but Obama would pass his hand across their heads and convert them? I never believed that for one minute. For whatever reason, our national politics have degenerated into civil war. The Dems still don't want to admit it even as the Republicans are launching nuclear warheads in their direction.

Under the circumstances, I thought the best thing the Democrats could do was send a proven warrior to the front lines but a majority of my party disagreed. They were in favor Mahatma Obama and peace negotiations. How's that workin' out for you, folks? Have you seen any signs that the Republicans are starting to come around yet?

Think they are going to lie down and help Barack pass health care? If you do, you must see pots of gold at the end of rainbows. I think that, once again, a health care plan was murdered in cold blood. Oh, something may be passed that is sold to us as an "incremental improvement". They'll display the corpse and try to convince us it's still breathing, but don't believe it. The insurance companies and the politicians in their pockets, have screwed us again and the saddest thing is how enthusiastically we cooperated in our own betrayal. "By God, don't you dare give me healthcare!" citizens screamed at town hall meetings, convinced by the gazillion dollar pay-offs industry lobbyists made to our representatives and the booming voices of people like Rush Limbaugh who are able to pay for their drug rehab with a personal check.

Some people expected miracles from Obama but so far, they aren't coming to pass and I doubt they ever will. I never thought he had super-natural abilities. I thought he was bright, a nice guy, a well-intentioned guy, a not very experienced guy. I thought he'd probably be a decent president if he was tough enough not to be destroyed by the Republicans. I also thought he was a middle-of-the-road guy and not at all the liberal knight in shining armor so many Democrats were praying for. I thought he was a half-a-loaf compromiser.

So far, I'm not disappointed because I never annointed Barack Obama as the Democrat savior. For those who did, reality is beginning to bite.