Friday, August 31, 2007

I have Michael Vick on the brain. I wonder whose fault that is. Oh shit, now I'm blaming the press just like an athlete would. But, really, when did a dog fighting ring become this newsworthy? Peta and the Humane Society ought to be thanking Michael Vick, rather than attacking him. He's done more for animals in a few months than Bob Barker ever did. Maybe that's why everyone is so ready to accept his apology. There must be some reason why everyone was so touched by his 'heartfelt' apology. I wasn't sure it was an apology, but it certainly was well coached and brilliantly non-committal. I'm sorry, but apologizing for "all the things that I've done," doesn't quite cut it. Is this "all the things" he's done ever? Is he apologizing for leaving the toilet seat up, not calling his mom on her birthday, and making questionable decisions in the pocket? What about giving genital herpes to Sonya Elliott? I know it's awful cynical of me, but I thought it sounded like he was apologizing for being caught. Actually it sounded like he was trying to get his career back. I didn't hear him say that he'd realized how brutal and inhumane dog fighting was, but I wouldn't have believed him if he had. He fought dogs, an act he knew to be illegal, because he enjoyed it. He'd do it again if he thought he could get away with it. I'd just prefer there was more honesty all the way around. Vick could complain about getting caught; professional athletes could tell reporters that they support Vick because but for the grace of God ...; fans could say that they just want to see him play again; more people could ask why mistreating an animal was such a big deal; prominent Blacks could throw out the race card ... oh wait ...; and I could admit how much I have enjoyed all of this Michael Vick coverage.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

That I'm having this much trouble, and spending this much time, trying to wrap a theoretical framework around my blog is a sure sign of something that can't be good. Whatever it is, though, I'm stuck with it. After my last effort to place a common thread through my posts, I had a long talk with my audience. I had left my keyboard confident that there was one less bit of untidiness in my life. And then I talked to her, and found none of my tidiness had made it through to her side of the information abyss. She had been quite satisfied with my new focus on the perils of raising a moral child, ignorant that I hadn't meant to focus on that at all. When I attempted to enlighten her, I only confused myself. I could hear the forces of irrationality and disorder celebrating in my head. Or is that the forces of irrationality and disorder in my head celebrating. Either way, I felt defeated and indignant. Why would I want to do anything as mundane as write about laying out a moral framework for my daughter? I gave it no more thought until this morning as I was pouring vats of boiling water down my drain in a race with my own kidneys to clear a clog in our sewer main before I had to clear my own clog. After receiving a unexpected bill for $300.00 and staying up worrying about it, we woke up to yet another potential sewer problem in our biggest investment and the clearest indication that life is a muddle of mistake, opportunity, joy, confusion, fleeting enlightenment, and heartbreak that I have yet run across. And my wife asked God why he was doing this. I wondered how I would explain bad luck, bad choices, and proper reactions to my daughter ... once I'd figured it out myself. And then it hit me. A blog about a stay at home dad's struggle to come to terms with morality in anticipation of explaining it to his daughter. What a great idea. I could continue my meandering commentary, with an eye to explaining what proper choices are in various situations, and more importantly how they can be discerned. And I would do it in a human centered, and God-blind, way. My moral code would be the product of analysis, experience, and over-thinking. It's a great idea, at least right now ...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

"American Gay grabs gold in 100 meters at Worlds." This was one of the headlines on on Sunday. I clicked on the title expecting to see a picture of Carson from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy breaking the tape, arms outstretched and sunglasses only slightly askew. Unfortunately, it was just an article about some runner whose last name is Gay. What a bummer. The sad thing is that this probably would be headline were a male athlete brave enough to tell the world that he fancies other men while he is still actively competing and strong enough to surmount the resulting scrutiny and still have major success. It is predictable. It's been the same way for every Black athlete lucky enough to be the first Black athlete to have success in his chosen sport. It's only in the last ten years or so that fringe and country club sports have been infiltrated (or re-infiltrated) by non-whites. The true revelation will be when a headline like Sunday's headline isn't a head turner.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Commandment Number Five - Honor your folks
"Honour your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, so that your days may be long and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you." Honor your ma and pa. What kind of shit is that. First of all, this is a blatant attempt to enforce a strict seniority system. Many traditional systems were heavily weighted towards age, and against such evils as innovation and the division of rewards (booty, bootie, bootee) based on merit. Second, I have a kid and this whole honor thing sure just isn't natural. It surely doesn't present itself in the first sixteen months. Maybe it emerges in the twenties, like schizophrenia. Maybe it has to be imposed by my co-honoree. As I type this my honorer is proving my point by beginning to evince displeasure at being in her crib 'napping.' She has 'napped' for a few hours, but only napped for about thirty minutes. It's 3:44. So, life sucks. My honorer first decided that four hours of nap was too much to bestow on her honoree. Than consistency was too much to give away. Now, consistency is back but the nap itself has nearly vanished. Third, how exactly would you enforce this? If you have any ideas, let me know. I'll read them later, maybe ... for now, honor and duty call.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The hardest part of blogging for me, so far, has been finding an overarching theme. I need a clear purpose, or at least I've always hoped to have one. I can't stand the thought of this simply being a collection of random musings. Would anyone want to tune in regularly to read a set of random musings, even musings as amusing as mine? If all I have here so far is a set of random musings, then the answer is no. I have come up with a few ideas for overarching themes, but none has really caught on. My interpretive take on the Quran didn't make it past the second entry threshold. I've written a few amusing entries on parenthood, if I do say so myself, but I can't write only about diapers and tantrums. As it is that's most of what I do and talk about, if I write about it to I might as well be a diaper. I have written five entries on the commandments, but my only reader (my wife) has complained and is now boycotting the site. If she doesn't read it, then the blog will be completely revealed as intellectual (or semi-intellectual) masturbation. She likes the parenthood stuff, but she has liked a few of the politically focused entries, particularly the ones that are neither instructional leaflets nor obscenity laced tirades. I don't want to write a completely political blog though, even if it is x-rated. A week or two ago I proclaimed that I would now be writing about morals, from a nuanced and situational perspective. I still like that idea, but I think it needs a little more focus. Additionally, a good author takes his audiences needs into account, and she wants more personality and parenthood. So, from now on, this is a stay-at home dad's take on morality, keeping in mind that stay at home dads, like stay at home moms, have interested that don't run around the house randomly reorganizing our lives. I'm really jazzed about this idea, and think I may stick with it for a while, or at least until I go back to work.

Friday, August 24, 2007

I was wrong about the Michael Vick situation, and I was wrong on three counts. First of all, Vick is being treated differently because he is Black. Second, racism is a very real factor in the situation. Third, this is a symptom of a very serious problem.
There is now no doubt in my mind that Vick is being treated differently because he is black. If he was a high profile white quarterback (Farve, Manning, Brady, etc.), no one outside of the city he plays football in would even be thinking about defending him. A white quarterback would simply be vilified. No one would think of saying that he was a victim of his choice of friends, or that he was being unfairly treated.
So, Vick is being treated differently because of the color of his skin, and thus racism is playing a role. The racists in this case are almost universally Black, but Black's are just as capable of being racists as anyone else. If you defend someone, and simultaneously condone crimes he has committed, because of the color of his skin, you are a racist. You're allowing your fear and hatred to color you're judgement. That is always wrong, no matter how you color it.
What is also always wrong is failing to take responsibility for your own actions. Many Blacks leaders in this country, and a vocal number of ordinary Blacks, are seemingly incapable of accepting responsibility for their own actions. Michael Vick is in this predicament because the Man is out to get him, not because he has covertly killed animals for his own amusement and enrichment for at least seven years. This is evidence of a collective failure to accept responsibility. It is not a problem unique to Black Americans, but, rather, is a shortcoming shared with victims of violent crime, professional athletes, recent Republican administrations, most post-colonial third world administrations, and many Hollywood starlets. As common as it may be, however, when mixed with race it becomes a potent and hard to handle mix.
Race is real, because we have made it real. Ours is a race obsessed country. It has also been, unfortunately, a country paralyzed by this uber-consciousness of race. Hopefully Blacks and Whites who have long been fed up with this mess will begin to find the courage to speak out. When we speak our displeasure and counter the cries of a vocal but hate filled and ignorant minority, their voices won't be the only ones heard and will be relegated to the periphery of our national consciousness.
"Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. For six days you shall labour and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it." That's the Fourth Commandment as it appears in Exodus rather than Deuteronomy. I went with the old school version. I'm an old school kind of guy. I'm so old school, that I remember when even middle class Americans used to lounge around. Now, through the miracle of technology, work can, and does, follow us everywhere. Work can come home, appear at the grocery store, pop at the mall, surface on vacation, and even follow us into the bathroom. If you're not busy with your PDA, cell phone, laptop, or headset, it might just be a safe assumption that you're unemployed. Even unemployment isn't any guarantee of rest. I'm unemployed, and I'm doing my best to put my sleeping time to good use. Now all I can do is try to train my brain to keep working when I'm asleep. I'm sure, however, that I don't have long to wait for a blackberry (or blueberry as my wife's mother has labeled it), that can be plugged into a person's head and set-up with a list of tasks to perform while said person snoozes. I hope we'll also be able to program in good dreams, good quick dreams that even parents have time for.
I had a quaint faux 50's vision of stay at home parenting when I embarked on the experience almost a year ago: not quite bon-bons and soap operas, but certainly the Price is Right and time with Betty Crocker and Bon Appetit. It's not like that. There's no roast beef in our house. Now we don't eat red meat, so that may explain that, but at least one day I'd like to greet my wife at the door in a nice clean house dress, an oven mit on one hand, and some fragrant faux meat and potatoes (the potatoes can be real) dish in the oven. We live in Levittown for crying out loud. The name alone conjures up forced 50's suburban bliss. I wanted to be a Stepford wife, but our Internet age has blown apart my dream. I'm sure mothers have never rested, but now I'm convinced they don't even think about it. A good mother isn't allowed to leave their kid alone for more than a second, even if the child is playing by themselves. Every moment is a teachable one, and every IQ point and hobby which will make them fuller and more dateable people is a mom's personal responsibility. A child is always at risk of shriveling up into a reclusive bitter un-bonded person. God forbid you send your child to day care. And, mom's now often have to contribute more than roast beef. Try fitting a job search into nap time. Plus, we're expected to be interesting, clued in, and, it turns out, women. The conundrum of gendered expectations is a topic for another blog, but it is a source of some stress producing angst. I can make roast beef if I have to, but a vagina is a little beyond my capabilities.
Anyway, all of this is my way of saying I'm busy. We're all busy. Too busy. That's why the fourth commandment may be the most important one. Forget all of the arguing about what day it should be on (yes, believe it or not some people spend time arguing over that), rest should be mandated. I mean, if God wanted us to rest, who am I to question the fucker, regardless of which of the fuckers he is and what statue I choose to worship him through. We all deserve, no need, a rest, even the aliens resident in our towns, provided we let them stay.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Lately Obama has gotten himself in trouble for questioning tried and true foreign policy givens. You don't commit to meeting with world leaders, meetings with the American president are a privilege, a reward given for good behavior. You don't rule out any possible response to a situation, regardless of how remote or irresponsible it is. And you don't offer controversial opinions on intransigent issues like Cuba. Creativity is a big no-no in a presidential election. Apparently, challenging the mindset that allowed for a travesty like Iraq is also a no-no. Iraq isn't a fiasco because we used military force, or because the Middle East is a vortex of policy failure, it's a fiasco because our leaders were arrogant and unprepared and stuck to assumptions regarding America's place in the world and the way in which other countries should respond to America. Obama might be naive, and I think his Iraq policy is mistaken, as is every other democrat's (to start with 'we have to get out and now' is to replace strategic reality and long term policy repercussions with popular discomfort as driving forces for policy). Obama has shown himself to be as willing to challenge the norm as any candidate with a realistic chance of being elected. That Hillary and the others pounce on him for these 'indiscretions' is not in the least surprising, it's what they are expected to do. It's why Hillary is a stronger presidential candidate. It may be why Obama would make a better president.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Racism is not the primary cause of every black man's troubles. Now hold on to your seats, occasionally a black man finds himself in an awful predicament and it has absolutely nothing to do with the color of his skin. I am an idealist, so I choose to believe that ordinary black people apportion blame between themselves and the outside world in the same way as the rest of us, which is to say that they never accept as much blame as they should but they do routinely admit to character flaws that have real repercussions. I am not as sure about famous black people. Maybe it's just the ignorant and overly loud minority that colors my opinion, but it seems to me that every time any black celebrity hits his wife, drives drunk, screws himself in contract negotiations, tests positive for steroids, reveals himself to be a homophobe, or beats a dog to death race is claimed to be a factor in the individual's unfortunate circumstances. I am not saying that these unfortunate circumstances plague only black celebrities. Last time I checked Brittany Spears, Ty Cobb, Chris Benoit, the Coreys (Haim and Feldman), and Marv Albert were all white. The black celebrities are almost always, however, relieved of a little responsibility, at least in popular discourse, solely because they happen to be black. Racism is real, but it can not be assumed. It must be shown to be present, and it's impact must be judged on a case by case basis with a great deal of attention being paid to context. The full context of an individual's life and the incident in question must be taken into consideration. People should think before they throw around the accusation of racism. Unfortunately, it's just become way too easy for people to say that racist white people are to blame for fill in the blank. If Peyton Manning were in Michael Vick's shoes, it would be different. The white people are out to get all successful black men. Vick isn't a criminal, he's just a product of his culture. I keep wondering when the people who make these statements will realize that they are insulting black people, and eliminating in one breath the tremendous diversity present within the black community. Or when they will realize that racism isn't their own personal cross. Every black person has experienced racism, as has every Korean, every Latino, every Arab, every Muslim (Muslim doesn't the reverse)), and all Native Americans. And every 'white' person too. It might be called prejudice, or ethnic hatred, or just plain old hatred, but it's the same thing. All of us have experienced 'racism,' and none of us lives perpetually under it's shadow. Maybe the biggest victim of this dumbing down of racism is our understanding and appreciation of the horror of real racism.
I could keep going, but what's the point. I'll just end by summing up simply. Vick is a criminal. He participated in the execution of living things for thrills and cash. He would be headed to prison regardless of his color, and it is sickening to excuse any little bit of what he has done by pointing to the color of his skin. If you think that way, you are as much a criminal as Vick, and if you ask me you deserve some prison time too. Your victim isn't just a handful of dogs, after all, it's every black person who wants to be judged on his own merits and every person everywhere who is forced to live in the climate of fear and mistrust that you cultivate.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

"You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name." Don't swear. Don't use God's name in a vain, insincere, or pointless oath. Don't use religious language in the commission of the crime (But using religion itself is apparently OK). Don't participate in occult practices (no Halloween, Halloween is a real threat to Western Civilization, freedom, and honor, just like Thanksgiving and any tale that ends with happily ever after and includes individuals who occupy traditional gender roles). Don't refer to God and his works with anything less than the utmost reverence (since God created everything, what are you allowed to bombard with damnation and f-bombs?). Don't make any oath other than your oath to God (no pledge of allegiance, no judicial oath, no boy scout oath (I throw that in there to raise the ire of homophobes everywhere)). The third Commandment may encompass any or all of the above, and may involve some aspects not yet mentioned. Whatever it involves, it is hard to envision it as anything other than a mechanism meant to maintain a power structure beneficial to a particular manifestation of the church. If that's not what it's about, than it seems a bad candidate to be on a top ten law list, especially now. In America, there are now quite a few alternatives available for the provision of security and predictability in the human relationships. Without any role in enforcement of pledges and promises, is this rule really on the same level as thou shall not kill and respect the property of others? And aren't deeds more important than words. Objectively, this law is at best necessary for the maintenance of order. Unfortunately the order it maintains tends to be enmeshed with patriarchy, inequality, and intolerance.
This whole Commandment expose is beginning to seem repetitive and a less than enthralling, but I am certain it will get more interesting. Maybe the real weakness that secularists (it's the best label I can come up with for now ... smart people seems a tad bit pejorative) have is that they are bored by religious-types (again my restraint has kept me from employing the word wacko). Nothing that boring and obviously flawed could possibly be a real threat.

Monday, August 20, 2007

"You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth." So, should Simon Cowell be trembling in his shoes? I suppose the answer depends on what in the hell this Commandment means, a small point on which there seems to be little agreement. The most common interpretation is to say that you shouldn't worship false Gods. But what is a false God? Is it a statue of a cow, or is it anything that you value in your life apart from God? It is also argued that what is prohibited is worshiping any image of God. This is close to the position Muslims take regarding Muhammad, and the reason that the Danish cartoons caused such a uproar. Today I read on, that what is prohibited is not the representation of God with a symbol, but rather the representation of God as something less than he is. According to this enlightened scholar, the second Commandment is very relevant today because the God worshipped today is the supreme being and the most powerful force in reality, but not the transcendent cause of everything. We conceive of God as potentially "thwarted [by] [s]atan, demons, [or] human free-will," and thus "we have made ourselves polytheists and have failed to obey the second commandment." I love that. Human free will is comparable to a demon or Satan. Wow. Very cool.
This Commandment is very much like the first one: it's idiotic. First of all, there would appear to be quite a bit of evidence that humans cause a few things, and that human free will is real and leads to a wide variety of ends ranging from 'good' to 'bad' and encompassing everything in between. Of course, logic is probably another demon. Rather than relying on centuries of accumulated research and experience, let's rely on a book written many many many years ago by people who had never seen a printing press, a phone, a microscope, a telescope, a computer, a camera, a car, a boat, a train, a laboratory, a test tube, a strand of DNA, or any of Robert Frost's poems. Second, aren't there more important things to worry about. If I want to worship a cow, why not let me? Third, who gets to determine what is a false idol. Why should it be a Christian? Fourth, while it is clear that many people have misplaced priorities, I wouldn't include a doctor spending many nights searching for a cure for cancer rather than attending church. In fact, misplaced priorities seem to be a speciality of many conservative Christians. In many parts of Africa people are starving , AIDS is running rampant, children are being kidnapped and forced to fight in wars, natural resources are being stolen and little given in return, and, worst of all, some groups are distributing condoms. How horrible. What do you think. Fifth ... well maybe I can stop, because I think the point is clear. If the Christian God was real, this Commandment would be unnecessary, thus the Christian God can't be real and worshipping him is a sin.

Friday, August 17, 2007

"You shall have no other Gods before me." This is the first commandment, at least for Protestants. Apparently Catholics and Jews have slightly different lists. I was raised Protestant, so that's the list I'm going with. Besides, "I am the Lord" doesn't sound much like a commandment to me. So, I'm sticking with "you shall have no other Gods."
This is a pretty easy one for me to dissect. It's absurd. There, I'm done. I'll see you all next time when I talk about false idols.
It should be that simple, but it's not. The problem is that finding the statement to be an absurdity as a law depends upon the use of logic. It has to matter that there is no scientific proof of any God, let alone a specific one. It has to matter that a sixth grader who's been to his local natural history museum could prove just about any creation story to be nothing more than an ancient myth developed to explain what the unknown, some of which ain't unknown anymore. It has to matter that no one religious tradition is any more believable than any other one? It has to matter that the Bible was written by men years after Jesus, likely also a man, had died. It has to matter that the Bible sanctions slavery. It has to matter that we don't live in 1 A.D. or 700 A.D. The constitution has to matter. Today has to matter. Logic has to matter. Proof has to matter. Evidence has to matter. Context has to matter. We all have to be having the same conversation, and we aren't even in the same room. Nothing makes that more clear than this first Commandment. That's why, at least for number one, an argument on the merits is beside the point. The argument is all about procedure. This may sound blasphemous, but tough shit because it is the truth. The commandment has to be supported by more than it's label as a commandment. This one is out of touch with our societal mores. It is directly contrary to the freedom of religion that is one of America's core values. It is out of step with any reasonable shade of scientific opinion. It is intolerant, which would seem to be at odds with the emphasis on charity and compassion that is claimed by some to be the motivating force of Christianity. And, in a world with many many Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc., it is out of touch with reality. Law that is out of touch with reality isn't necessarily absurd, but it is entirely beside the point.
There have been many Gods before Him, and a few after. So He's having an issue with enforcement. He's not a very effective God, is He?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I don't understand a lot. I don't really have to write that out, as it should be beyond obvious. I have found, however, that much of what I assume is obvious and needs no explanation, is, for a mind blowing number of people, actually quite far from obvious. Many people actually act as if they understand nearly everything. They are able to defend this seemingly indefensible position by claiming that their understanding comes not from themselves but from God. It's actually quite funny that people who claim to be flawed and empty vessels have so much wisdom to impart to others. But again, it's not their wisdom, so ... I guess it makes for a simple life if you believe God is responsible for everything. It certainly leads to a simple approach to the world, which should be all the evidence necessary that it's the wrong approach. Nothing having to do with human beings is ever simple. This seems beyond the need for proof, and yet still people believe that we are simple sin filled people who have only to follow ten simple rules to transcend are flawed lives and join our creator in heaven. How anyone can seriously believe in the Ten Commandments is beyond me. It is illogical, but then that might be my problem. I probably shouldn't apply logic, but I just can't help myself, so here goes.
In the next few blogs I am going to focus on one of those objects of belief that appears to me to be pure bull shit: The Ten Commandments. The very idea that humans could be governed by ten immutable laws is absurd. No law that effectively governs people is immutable. The mutability can come in through the law itself, through legislative intention separately recorded, through enforcement, through the way it interacts with other laws, among others, but it must come in. For example, drug use is not completely forbidden anywhere. First of all, nowhere are all drugs made illegal. Second, very seldom are casual users of marijuana treated the same way as cocaine dealers. This difference might be written into the law, or it might play out in the ways that the police and the judicial system enforce the laws. And, not only must a law be applied in a nuanced way, it must changed over time. No shoes, no shirt, no service makes sense in 20th century Chicago, but not so much sense in ancient Rome. Context is everything when it comes to understanding people, and laws, if they are to be effective, must take context into account.
The Ten Commandments are a joke, or at best a quaint recital of idealized goals. The joke, however is on us and it won't be at all ideal, if we don't seriously and methodically debunk the Commandments. So, that is what I will do, but in normal language and utilizing common sense rather than in scholar-speak citing studies and books that only a handful of people will ever read, I will look at each of the commandments. Tune in tomorrow for my explanation of why other Gods are where its at.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Yesterday a bird dropped into our lives ... literally. My wife was leaving for work, and my daughter and I were busy performing our part of the daily door ritual. My job is to hold the fifteen month old, and the fifteen month old's job is to hold the door, and once every twenty or thirty seconds pop her head around the door and smile and giggle at her mother and then pop back behind the door. I was behind the door for what I had decided and announced would be the next to last time when I heard a thud followed by my wife's PG-13 rated exclamation of surprise. (For the record this show takes place between 7:30 and 7:45 every morning ... the neighbors must love us!) "Sam, look at this." AT that prompt, two of us poked our heads around the corner and were greeted with two sets of eyes on the other side. One set of eyes matched the blue pair attached to the remarkable and unfathomable being I was holding. The other set matched those of someone in Hubert Sauper's Kisangani Diary, someone not moving alongside the road. This bird was moving and it had all of it's body parts intact and maggot free, but on all accounts not by much. It looked like it had received a really bad haircut, engaged in an argument with the barber that turned violent, and been the victim of a failed attempt to gauge it's eye out (failed in the sense that the eye was still there, but not failed in the sense that much of the face was). I moved close to assess the situation, assessing situations is what I do best. My wife freaked out and told me to stay back. Had we been newly married, she would have launched into a litany of the diseases that I could contract and a description of the level of foolhardiness and even dereliction of duty that I was on the verge of engaging in. We've been married five years though, so she and I thought these things at the same time, glanced at each other, then altered our actions appropriately. Once she was gone and my daughter asleep, I glanced out. The bird was still there. Still alive. My experience told me that the bird wouldn't live for long, so I decided that inaction and periodic surveillance was the best course of action. You may ask "what experience?" Well this is only the fourth of God's creatures to come into our lives in less than pristine condition since we purchased our house less than a year ago. The first two were dead by the time we noticed them, and the third (the first bird), died shortly after I noticed it and ascertained that it was letting me walk right up to it. So, I expected this bird to die too. Maybe if I was lucky it would die before the garbage was picked up so I could just throw it away like I did the last bird. I didn't want to have to bury it the way I did the maggot filled and seriously decayed and stinky rabbit. I kept a close watch so that I could be there to hurry it to it's final, yet temporary, resting place. I watched to no avail. It didn't die. Once my daughter was up from her nap, we were in and out the front door quite a bit. The bird was always there, never far away, but never in the same place and never dead. It was mid afternoon that the voices of compassion and healing became louder. Should I have done something to put it out of its misery? If I had, I wouldn't be worried about it now. Should I have called a bird rescue place? Do they have them in Levittown? Should I have fed the thing? That last one appeared to be manageable. So, I decided I would do that if the bird's continued living corresponded with my daughter's next nap and me performing some of the basic tasks I needed to accomplish. These streams never converged, but at 4:00ish my daughter and I headed out to drop a few pieces of bread off. Once our mission of mercy was over, we headed upstairs. An hour later the bird was gone. How did I feel about it's disappearance. I was relieved, especially once I looked all around for it and failed to find it. I also felt as if maybe I'd been had by some elaborate bird begging scheme. At least I didn't have to bury the bird and wonder whether I should have done more. I do wonder what's next? A rabid opossum? An amputee skunk? A mole that can see?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I was shopping at Aldi yesterday. Aldi is a funky, yet cool, little store. You put in a quarter to obtain a shopping cart, bring and pack your own bags, and feel a little different than you do at Genuardis (or Berkeley Bowl or Whole Foods or the Willy Street Coop ...). I like Aldi. It makes me feel thrifty, and reminds me just a little of my days living back in Emeryville and shoppin' at the ol' Pac n' Save. Sometimes reminiscing is a good thing, and sometimes ... Yesterday there was an interesting group weaving in and out of the three aisles. There were two tall and skinny young guys, both in t-shirts and both engaged in a lot of posing. One was working hard at combing his nascent fro, and the other seemed to be a contestant in his own little Mr. Universe pageant. They were accompanied by a young woman who was busy shoving a little girl in one of the freezers. This really bothered me. I was afraid for the child's life. The whole party was led by two obscenely obese women, and who knows what might have happened had they found the girl in the freezer and not recognized her. They'd either had one hell of a funeral, one hell of a barbecue, or both.
Anyway, jokes aside, this assemblage was a little frightening. To begin with they were loud. Their conversations weren't carried out with indoor voices or enlightened vocabularies, and they were generously sprinkled with unnecessarily colorful language. "Fuck you, get me some peas." "Bitch, get yo own peas." "Rayshawn." "Rayshawn!" "RAYSHAWN." "RAYSHAWN!" "WHAT!" "Get some peas." "Bitch." Maybe to end with they were loud. They did block the aisles and goof around with the meat, but who doesn't. Well, I don't. And people who do piss me off. And what pisses me off the most is that some will say I am a racist for being pissed off, and that I am failing to accept another person's unique culture. I think we, as a society, need to engage in a more active and open debate about what it means to be black (did I mention that the entourage at the source of this rant was black (Black, black, Blackamerican, whatever ... just not African American), what it means to be poor, what it means to come from an urban area, what it means to be illiterate and uneducated, what it means to be a good person, and what it means to be a bad person. Too often unacceptable behavior is excused as 'part of their culture," and any dissent is labeled as racist.
So there are two problems. The behavior itself is a problem. We live in a free society, but it only works if we all adhere to certain standards. Those standards must, of course, be open to debate and frequent alteration, but they must exist. The second, and bigger problem, is the lack of an open and free debate on any issue perceived to challenge the 'African American cultural' defense. Labeling someone who disagrees with you as a racist is reprehensible, and the stock and trade of those whose arguments are too weak to properly support.
Maybe there's a third problem. I have to put up with this fucking shit everywhere I go.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Most of us wouldn't walk up to a car, break the window, and rip out the stereo. We wouldn't even consider it, or if we did we certainly wouldn't admit it, because we perceive such theft as wrong, unacceptable, immoral, bad, etc. Even those who would steal a car stereo, do so with an understanding that it is generally frowned upon and maybe even with the knowledge it is wrong in some sense. The criminal, however, balances the wrongness of the act against other considerations and decides that on balance the act is justified. The criminal is at least a step or two ahead of the rest of us, at least in terms of approach to the problem. The criminal is not adhering to a hard and fast rule, but balancing many considerations. He or she may not balance these considerations in the way the rest of us would, or in the way the rest of us would like him or her to, but at least he or she is using the right process. The criminal recognizes, at least subconsciously, the importance of context and nuance, and thus is light years ahead of the Christian moral absolutist who would never smoke, drink, marry someone of the same sex, or abort their baby under any circumstances. Both the criminal and the Christian are, through their actions, answering questions about what is right or wrong and why; about what is moral.
From now on, this blog will investigate morality. What is it? Where does it come from? Where should it come from? If it is a product of negotiation, how should that negotiation be conducted and by whom? And on and on. Rather than directly tackling these questions, I will start, in future entries, to look at real life situations with an eye to questions of morality. These discussions should pave the way for future mind numbingly boring definitional monologues. For now, I will depart with the following question which I will keep in the forefront of my mind as I write my entries in the upcoming days. What is the source of moral rules? Is it the bible? Is it the Constitution? Is it the mass of local, state, federal, and international laws? Is it contemporaneous consensus?