Thursday, January 30, 2014

How Does Prayer Work?

I have hesitated to write this blog because I don't want it to be misinterpreted although I know it probably will be by some. Please know it is not an attempt to be disrespectful but a genuine curiosity to understand what people believe.

Several of my friends have recently experienced serious illnesses in their families. When this happens, they always ask for prayers and many respond with messages that they are, indeed, praying for a positive outcome. That is a very good thing because it lends strength to the one who is suffering.

Those who read what I write or joust with me on Facebook know that I consider myself an agnostic. I don't deny God, I simply say I don't know the answers. Having said that, I've experienced situations when it certainly appeared that something outside the norm intervened in a person's life. What I wonder about is why some times and not other times?

So, how does prayer work? How does God decide which ones to honor and which ones to ignore? Surely, numbers don't have anything to do with it. God wouldn't conduct a "fan vote" to influence his choice. It can't be a popularity contest but yet the urgent requests for "everyone to pray" make it seem as if we do believe that the more prayers, the more likely He is to respond. Is this true? Are your prayers more likely to be answered if you have lots of friends and church people and co-workers praying for you than if you don't?

My aunt was always quite pleased because she prayed constantly for her sons not to be sent to Vietnam. And they weren't. She felt it was God answering her prayers. What does this say about the other Moms sending up the same fervent prayers? Did they not pray hard enough? Long enough?

We know that all prayers aren't answered. Some children recover from leukemia and some die? Why? I assume that every single one of them have loved ones sending pleading prayers to God.

If our assumption is that all of us have missions we are supposed to accomplish here on earth and when we've accomplished them, our lives come to an end, then prayers really wouldn't have much to do with it. When you time is up, your time is up, regardless of how many people are praying for it not to be so.

I truly do not understand how people believe this works. Can anyone explain it to me?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

I'm Hoping For A Go-To-Hell Speech

    The first item on my list of things I'd like to hear from the President in his State of the Union address is that we are getting out of Afghanistan A.S.A.P. Of course, it will go back to the Afghanistan it has always been as soon as we leave, whether that is sooner or later (just as Iraq has). Americans are still getting killed for no good reason. We are supporting a corrupt government in Hamid Karzai just as we did in Vietnam back in my day. If we feel as if we're letting our "allies" down, leave all our stuff behind. If Karzai can't hold on to power with all the equipment and material America has in Afghanistan, too bad. That's probably billions in aid right there but I don't care. Just bring our people home.

Secondly, I'd like to hear Obama talk about the minimum wage and the plight of the working class and our increasing income inequality, in general. The rumor is that he's going to raise the minimum wage for low-ranking government contract workers to $10.10 by executive order. Good. That's a start. The problem is that America's minimum wage is pathetic but this is about as far as the president can go on his own and we know how likely it is that he'll get any cooperation from the Republicans. Raising the minimum wage would lift millions out of stark poverty and it's popular with the voters but I doubt that makes a difference to the hard-liners. That's why the minimum wage needs to be tied to inflation, so that it rises automatically.

I'd like Obama to hit climate change hard. I know, I know - weather is boring and the unbelievers will scoff but we have to keep trying. This is the only planet we have and if we screw it up beyond repair, it's light's out for all of us, proponents and skeptics alike.

Of course, the problem is that Congresspeople are no different than every day Americans on social media. They pounce on the posts that support their own world views and close their ears to opposing ideas. And that is what will happen during the State of the Union speech. The Democrats will jump up and cheer and the Republicans, for the most part, will sit prune-faced.

So, I hope the President says that he intends to use executive orders to the fullest extent possible to bring about the changes he thinks America needs. If Congress has become simply a stonewalling roadblock, then the president has a right to try to forge on and accomplish whatever he can without them.

Then we can all sit back and listen to the howls from the right-wing about "constitution-shredding". But constitution-shredding is in the eye of the beholder and I think a lot more constitution-shredding has come from the conservatives than the president. (Nullification of laws they don't like by refusing to enforce them, threats of secession, governing our country by means of crisis management by engaging in government shutdowns, debt ceiling crises, threats of default, downgrading of our credit rating, fiscal cliffs, sequester, record-setting number of filibusters, etc.)

If I have a problem with Obama, it's that he's too nice. He tries to hard to get along. He's not a brawler and I think this class of Republicans called for a brawler. We'll that's simply not his style but I would like to see this speech be a go-to-hell speech. "Just so you know, I'll do everything I can without you...oh, and if you don't approve of my vacations or Michelle's dresses, you can kiss my ass."

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Is Our Democratic System Dying?


Except for a few of my more rational friends, I have almost stopped debating politics on Facebook because, can you really take anyone seriously who thinks this post is funny and/or true? Is it even possible to have a genuine discussion with someone who takes their attitude from a website named Barack Obama's Dead Fly?

God only knows where these people will all end up before Obama's second four years as president is over (assuming, of course, that they don't successfully impeach him or imprison him or hang him for treason or all of the above, as they are clamoring constantly to do). I suspect we may have to build more mental hospitals for the victims of raging cases of Obama Derangement Syndrome before it's over.

There is absolutely nothing that is too baseless, to classless or too vicious for them to post about Obama and Michelle. They despise them with an unreasoning loathing that I believe has its roots in racism although they swear it doesn't (and perhaps they even believe it). Its the same atavistic impulse that caused them to automatically believe that George Zimmerman had an absolute right to shoot that little black thug, Trayvon Martin, dead. They seem incapable of feeling any sympathy for Trayvon's parents or the Obama children.

They believe Obama has created death squads and detention camps (using FEMA) for people like them although, courageously, they continue to put the most scathing posts on Facebook. Because, you know, they are sort of like the original American revolutionaries, fearless in their defense of "their" country. With pride, they defy our Muslim dictator, yeah, by posting on Facebook though they might end up dead or behind barbed wire. Never mind, that we haven't heard of anyone being killed or consigned to a concentration camp. (What the heck do you suppose Barack is waiting for? Maybe it's to confiscate all their guns. Oh, wait, they haven't confiscated anyone's guns.) Anyway, Obama is a piker in the killing department, being way, way behind the death-dealing (as the rabid right-wingers assert) Clintons.

They resent Michelle's clothes and the Obama vacations, as if no First Lady ever wore designer clothes and no First Family ever took vacations before this one. They call her, as in this picture, Moochelle and they call him Obummer and Bobo and other demeaning names. They have contempt for her projects such as her push for kids to eat healthy and get fit though what in the world could anyone find offensive about that? Is it any different than Nancy Reagan telling young people to Just Say No or Barbara Bush encouraging them to read more?

They want to believe he is a non-American Muslim mole and so they do and no amount of documentation could change their minds. They wave off the massive conspiracy that would have to be in place for such a thing to happen, the thousands of people who would have to be involved.

Have we ever denigrated a president, a first lady and the very presidency itself quite so scurrilously before? Not that I can recall and I've been an adult since Jack Kennedy. Even during the Bush Two era, when we Democrats thoroughly disliked Dubya, we never accused him of being a traitor. We thought he was wrong about many things but we didn't think he was disloyal to his office. We never posted pictures of Barbara Bush as a bulldog or a gorilla as I have seen with Michelle.

They give Obama no credit for even one single thing. Everything he does is wrong. He could heroically save a child from a burning building and they'd swear it was a publicity stunt.

With every year that passes, they pass farther into a world of sheer lunacy. And if Hillary becomes our next president (or any Democrat for that matter), I fear we're only in for more of the same. I'm not sure how a country can exist if we have no respect for our system, our leaders or the voters that put them in office.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

If I Was Queen for a Day.....

You talk about your executive orders......if I was Queen for a Day, I'd stay up all night issuing directives.

- I'd tell my generals to get us out of Afghanistan A.S.A.P. If our 13-year investment of blood and treasure into that country hasn't accomplished our purposes by now, it's never going to. What was our purpose anyway? Oh, right, getting Bin Laden and Al Qaida, wasn't it? What is the rationale for staying now?

- I'd close Guantanamo immediately. That terrible place is a shameful stain on our country's honor (not to mention a drain on our resources).

- I'd have to have a serious discussion with advisers to be sure but my inclination would be to pardon Edward Snowden. I think he brought some issues into the light of day that needed to be revealed about the secretive and massive way our government has gone about tracking our lives. At the least, we need to have a national discussion about how much of this surveillance we believe is acceptable.

- I would legalize gay marriage in every state in the union. I see it as a civil right, not a state's rights issue.

- I'd legalize marijuana nationwide. I might even decriminalize all drugs seeing as how our decades-long Drug War has been such an epic fail when we have more people in prison than any other civilized country in the world.

- I'd parole the people who were incarcerated for minor drug crimes that didn't include violence.

- I'd order all red states to remove their onerous restrictions against abortion, a constitutionally protected right.

- I'd convert Obamacare into a single payer system - Medicare for all.

- I'd appoint a non-partisan commission to reset all the voting districts in the country to be fair and unbiased toward any party - Republican or Democrat. I'd nationalize voting so that all states used the same hours, the same machines, the same rules for early registration and internet voting, the same number of polling places per population, the same forms of identification.

- I'd overturn Citizens United and institute public funding of campaigns with strict limits on how much could be spent by each candidate.

- Groups that are a front for politics would flat-out lose their tax-exempt status. None of this farcical "oh, we're an educational group who happens to dabble a little in politics."  Sure thing, Karl Rove.

- I'd forbid the killing of wolves and wild horses. We have treated those two species like we treated the Indians. We take over their territory, shoving them into smaller and smaller habitats, then become outraged when they do what they do to survive.

-  I'd shut down all puppy mills.

- I believe in the Second Amendment but I would institute some commonsense gun control, such as background checks on all purchases and yes, the banning of high capacity magazines.

Oh, my gosh, here it is, almost midnight and I still have a ton of stuff I want to do! I wonder if I could have just one more day......

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Help Us Out Here, 2014

Ah, 2014 - welcome! 2013 was not an especially good year and I'm hoping for better things from you. I never make predictions but here are some of my wishes for 2014:

1) I'm hopeful that some of the Obamacare obsession will die down. The ACA is a done deal. It is rolling down the track and picking up steam. It may experience some bumps and it may need some tweaks but the law itself has gone too far to be repealed. After a couple of years of "all Obamacare, all the time", the Republicans to need to jump on board and cooperate in fixing what they think are the ACA's problems....with sincerity, not in the hope of sabotaging it.

I see healthcare as similar to public education. My son is in his 40's; I have no grandchildren - and yet I've paid taxes for decades to support the public school system although there is no benefit to me except my belief that a society is better if all its citizens are educated. In the same way, the entire country is a more prosperous and happy place if all its citizens have access to healthcare. And I don't mean finally going to the emergency room when your condition deteriorates to the point you can't bear it. I mean having the ability to be treated before you get to that place.

2) In fact, I hope Obama Derangement Syndrome will begin to subside and the Republicans will once again see themselves as partners in government, (the loyal opposition, if you will) rather than simply spoilers. Obama has been president for five years now. He has not come for your guns. He has not had the NSA spies track you down based on your Facebook screeds against him and the government and hauled you off to a detention camp. He has not sent Death Squads to kill you. And believe it or not, he (and his family) have not spent anymore on vacations than any other president, he has not used executive orders anymore than any other president, he has not "shredded" the Constitution and he has not sold America out to the Muslims.

3) This is probably impossible in the era of Facebook, but I hope the extreme reactions to disagreement will dissipate. If you hate Phil Robertson or Paula Deen or Rush Limbaugh or Rachel Maddow or whoever, don't watch or listen to their shows or buy their products. If enough people agree with you, they will fall of their own weight. If not, well, that's the way it is in America. It's fine to post your opinion, even argue with your opponents, but that can be done somewhat respectfully. Contempt feeds on itself and grows.

4) I hope people begin to turn their attention to real problems, not stupid ones, such as - "I am outraged to have to press one to hear this message in English!"  Oh, for Pete's sake, get a grip. If pressing one is the hardest thing you have to do, you're in pretty good shape. "I'm outraged that poor people have cell phones...or that I have to help pay for food stamps!"  Really, would you want the rest of us to help if it was your family? And it could be, you know? Unless you're Mitt Romney, you're not immune from the possibility of bad luck and hard times. "I'm outraged that hunters post triumphant pictures of their kills on Facebook!". I try to scroll quickly past the pictures of bloody dead corpses too but hunters have as much right to post their hunting pictures as you do to post your videos of precious puppies.

5) I hope Pope Francis' new focus on the poor and vulnerable, as opposed to divisive social issues, takes hold throughout the Catholic Church and beyond to all churches. I hope some of the conservative Christian churches decide to focus more on love than disapproving judgement. I hope good and faithful Muslims begin to speak out and oppose the way their radicals have perverted their religion into a thing of hate and vengeance.

6) Most of all, I hope we decide to pay more attention to our poor treatment of this earth, which is the one thing we all have in common and we all need to survive - blacks and white and reds and yellows, Christian and Muslim and Jew and Buddhist, males and females, gays and straights. The ground and air and water are far, far more important than gas and coal and copper and gold. Bees are more valuable than seeds genetically perverted to produce mega-crops. Birds are more important than weed-less fields. Fish are more important than oil pipelines. For those who truly believe in God, it seems to me that protecting this planet he gave us, and all that is upon it, should be the highest priority of all. It is the only thing that we can't go back and fix if we brutalize it to the point of no return.