The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘television’

DODGING A BULLET

As I write this it’s early morning PST on the winter solstice, December 21, 2012.  From a personal standpoint I view this as Gracie’s sixth birthday rather than the Mayan Apocalypse.

Of course, I guess whatever the Mayans had in mind – if they indeed had anything in mind – still has the rest of the day to play out and we won’t really be safe until it’s turned December 22nd everywhere on the globe.  That is assuming that the predicted date was computed correctly.

Did those making the calculations adjust from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, as one example where we might have gone wrong?  Did we start our computation using the correct day – there’s another possibility.  But I know with certainty, that there is something definite about December 21st.  In the western Church’s calendar, it is the Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle.

Whether or not you’re religious, you probably have heard of him through the phrase, “Doubting Thomas.”  He was the disciple who, when told of Christ’s Resurrection didn’t believe it was true.

“Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.”    John 20:25 (KJV)

Thomas was one of those whom we might describe as an empiricist.  He lacked faith and needed to see for himself – and I guess in a certain sense, I have to join with his philosophical view as it comes in our rush to craft yet another law which will further control our lives.

A week after the tragedy in Newtown, CT we are busily working in Washington to fix our problem of violence by restricting gun ownership and the type of weapons that Americans may own.  As a non-owner of weaponry, this is a theoretical event for me – nonetheless I think it is an important one for all of us, because it speaks to our allowing emotion rather than reason to drive our actions.  And I have said repeatedly in these posts that when emotion prevails it is often closely followed by chaos.

If we could pass a law which would eliminate murder in our society I would be the first in line to support it.  Oh, wait, we already have one.  “Thou shall not kill.”  We as a species have been consistently ignoring that since God handed it to Moses on Mt. Sinai.  We have simply found better, faster and more lethal ways to disregard it. 

We have celebrated a culture of violence, exposing our children to all that is vulgar and brutal in our video games and in our movie theaters and on our televisions – and we wonder why children and young adults commit the types of atrocities that Adam Lanza perpetrated on the citizens of a small town in Connecticut.

We have abandoned the two parent family with a spiraling birth rate among unwed mothers and justify that because some of our Hollywood celebrities and sports heroes don’t bother with that staid old institution called marriage.  If it’s good enough for them whom we idolize, why shouldn’t it be just as good for us?

When those of us who object to their behavior as being unprincipled go to watch a movie in which they star or a professional sports game in which they play, we have sullied ourselves and undermined our own right to criticize all that is wrong in our society.  Because we have endorsed the problem and not acted to implement the solution.  And that solution is really quite simple. 

Like Caesar’s wife, each of us needs to accept accountability for her or his actions and try, as best we can, to be mindful that we should always be “above reproach.”  At the very least, we should be thinking about our actions, both as to how they effect our own lives as well as the lives of others with whom we share a place in society. There’s been a lot of “doing” in our society but not a whole lot of thinking.

We have geared our lives to revolve around which pop-culture activities will provide the greatest immediate sensual gratification and we run with that one.  No further value need be inherent in it other than “it pleasures me now.” 

Perhaps that was what ran through Adam Lanza’s mind when he murdered those children, his mother and the other adults in Newtown, CT.  “If it feels good, just do it.”

The cries of outrage are being heard all around the country and all around the globe over Newtown.  And those cries should be heard because they are the sound of pain and anguish.  Pain is the body’s way of telling us that something is wrong. 

But passing another law regulating guns will not silence the rifles or the assault weapons or the pistols.  Those weapons do not fire themselves.  It takes us to pick them up and use them.

If we continue to ignore the narrow path of decency and morality and stay on our present course, in some small but very real way, each of us was that deranged person in Newtown, CT.  And each of us helped pulled the trigger.

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WE THE PEOPLE

A former neighbor forwarded this to me.

There is little that I can, or should, add to this video and statement.

http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=JVAhr4hZDJE&vq=medium

MY WAKE UP CALL

Tuesday Morning

Probably as a result of playing tympani with my grammar school orchestra, I have developed a sort of “internal clock.”  You do a lot of counting when you play most percussion instruments.  So normally, without needing to resort to a watch or other timepiece I can generally tell what time it is within a few minutes.

I normally set the television in my bedroom to turn on at 4:30 a.m.  It’s one of the few advanced features on this eight year old set that I know how to use.  Well, that and the remote (at least some of its features).  But when I was awakened, it wasn’t because of the television.  That was still dark.  It was because I had three hundred pounds of dogs in bed with me, all jostling to find a comfortable position somewhat oblivious to the fact that I needed to take up some space as well.

If you have an oversized spouse with whom you share a bed, let me assure you that four dogs of the same total weight as him or her require a lot more room than one human.  So as I arranged them on the bed so that all five of us had room I looked forward to catching a little more rest.  My internal clock told me it was only a little past three.

At 4:30 the television sprang into action.  Typically, that wakes me to the point where I will prop up my pillows and see what CNBC has to say is going on in the world.  But I think because the dogs awakened me early I was reluctant to let the Sandman go that morning.  I lay back down and vaguely remember listening to the conversation between the three anchors.  This went on for some time and as two of my canine companions had made for the cooler bathroom floor, I luxuriated in my new found room.  I dozed back off.

As I was lying there in that twilight between wakefulness and sleep, a new person had apparently been introduced to the television set.  I didn’t know who he was – and I didn’t recognize his voice.  (That’s another benefit of musical training.  If I hear a person speak once I know who he is.  I may not always remember his name – but that’s another story).

I started to come to, partly because Kali, the Golden Retriever daughter and youngest of the group, had decided that she wanted to awaken me with a kiss, or more correctly a lick, or in all honesty a shower-full of licks.  It’s hard to sleep when a wonderful companion animal is doing that.

So I propped myself up realizing that it was a little after 5 o’clock and I should be starting my day.  I try to get the puppies to the dog park just after six as it is still relatively cool.  But I was delayed by the guest who was on the show.  It was Senator Marco Rubio, the junior senator from Florida.  Of course I knew his name and some of his background, but I had never heard him speak.

Now if you’ve read any number of my posts, you know that I lay most of the problems in the United States squarely at the feet of those in Congress.  And the primary reason is that our politicians do not offer common sense solutions to the important issues facing us but are more concerned about their political futures than our future as a country and people.  At least, so I believe.

Of course, we voters also bear a share of the responsibility as we keep returning the same under-performers to office.

I cannot tell you how refreshing it was to hear Sen. Rubio.  The man spoke from his heart, elegantly and eloquently without the need for a teleprompter.   He spoke with humility, discussing his family’s poor financial background and of the hopes his Cuban parents had for him and his siblings when they came to America.

He spoke from a background of values – those same values which the Founding Fathers incorporated into our Constitution.  He spoke intelligently and he spoke honestly.  He made sense.  He is obviously one of the bright stars in government.

It gives me some measure of hope that there are at least a few people of his caliber who are involved in governing this land.  I have no doubt that one day, Sen. Rubio will be called upon to accept the position of President.

For now, I hope that he gets elected as Vice-President this November.  America desperately needs leaders of his stature.

THE SWEETEST KISS

When I first moved west, the group of guys whom I had trained to trade (and actually make a living at it) decided to pitch in and buy me a house-warming present. It was a television. Well, that was eleven years ago – and their television was one of those that sat on the floor and measured about two feet in depth. It had the biggest screen of anything that I had ever seen short of going to a movie.

Of course, by today’s standards it was primitive – but then so am I – so I truly appreciated their generosity. Although it died five months ago I have left it in its place – debating whether I wanted to replace it with a new model which I doubt would provide me any better content than the old one. So, for the moment, the “family room” is officially “dark.”

But when Mr. Monster television was working, I think that Gracie liked to camp out in front of it because it threw off some warmth. Or perhaps she just liked the feel of the vibrations that came from its two internal speakers. Whatever her reason, she would lie in front of it while Spenser would cuddle up with me on the couch.

About a month or so before the television was officially declared dead, Gracie was in her usual position, lying sprawled out in front of it. She was obviously asleep as she was snoring like a drunken sailor. (I have to have her adenoids checked out). Suddenly, she awoke.

Without sniffing the air or looking around, she proceeded to get up and stare at a place on the floor that was about half way from where she had been lying and where I was seated on the couch. She kept staring at this spot and I wondered what she found so interesting. Because I installed a multi-colored granite in the floor I couldn’t see anything from where I was seated.

So I got up to see what fascinated her. I couldn’t believe it when I saw that she was hovering directly over a scorpion that had made its way into the house. I moved her away from the scorpion and went into the kitchen where I pulled two paper towels from the roll and picked this animal up. Then I put it and the paper towels outside where it belonged. The next morning I retrieved the towels and saw that the scorpion had made its escape into its natural environment. I was glad for that.

I have learned over the years to rely on the instincts of my companion-dogs far more heavily than on anything else. Although I have a home security system, my dogs are worth ten times the amount I pay for that in terms of deterrence. The story of the scorpion merely re-affirms that belief. Dogs have an innate sensitivity to things that we humans miss.

Because I have been taking Gracie to the dog park at least twice a day since Spenser’s death, I have had the opportunity to meet many new dogs who are associated with other people. A large number of these will come up to me and extend their paws in friendship or lean against me and allow me to pet them. Some of them will over-extend themselves and kiss my  face.

I am always surprised when their guardians react to that with an admonition – “Duffy, don’t do that” – and then they apologize for their dog’s “indiscretion.”

To me, there is no greater compliment that I could ever receive than that one of these wonderful creatures could have the confidence to respond to me in this way.

And in this entire world, there is no sweeter kiss I could ever hope to receive.

 

ON INDIVIDUALITY

The Fairly Intelligent Fly”

 

A large spider in an old house built a beautiful web in which to catch flies. Every time a fly landed on the web and was entangled in it the spider devoured him, so that when another fly came along he would think the web was a safe and quiet place in which to rest. One day a fairly intelligent fly buzzed around above the web so long without lighting that the spider appeared and said, “Come on down.” But the fly was too clever for him and said, “I never light where I don’t see other flies and I don’t see any other flies in your house.” So he flew away until he came to a place where there were a great many other flies. He was about to settle down among them when a bee buzzed up and said, “Hold it, stupid, that’s flypaper. All those flies are trapped.” “Don’t be silly,” said the fly, “they’re dancing.” So he settled down and became stuck to the flypaper with all the other flies.

Moral: There is no safety in numbers, or in anything else.

-James Thurber

Fables For Our Time”

When I first read this story many years ago, I immediately thought of a lecture that mom would deliver if I wanted to do something that was childishly stupid. (I provided her ample opportunity to pull out her oratory skills and deliver her polemic). The lecture was brief.

If your friends all jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge would you want to do that?”

Point taken – score one for mom. The fact that everyone in my peer group was doing something was not sufficient validation that I should also engage in the activity. As children we have a desire to “fit in” and be a part of the group. To our young minds, there is security in doing something that we know everyone else is doing.

But we grow up, hopefully. We begin understanding that even if the majority of people act in a certain way that doesn’t mean that behavior is right – or at least right for us. If we give up our right to hold on to our individuality, we have given up our life.

When the television show, “The Outer Limits” was in its second incarnation, I remember one episode in particular. (Sorry, I don’t remember the episode’s title).

The story dealt with a young boy and his family who lived in the egalitarian society into which the world had evolved. It was an idyllic place – everyone being equal and all. The young man came to the attention of the state because he really didn’t fit into this utopian world. There were reports that he far outdistanced his schoolmates in his intelligence. This, of course, was disruptive to a world in which everyone was – or were supposed to be – equal.

So the state administered a test to the young man to determine if he was brighter than the norm that the state had established. The test was administered after he had been given a drug so that he had to answer the questions truthfully and to the best of his ability.

Sadly for the young man, the test proved that his level of intelligence far exceeded the level the state had determined was acceptable. As a result, the state did its duty on behalf of all its citizens – and euthanized him.

Imagine a world that had not been touched by the likes of Leonardo daVinci, Emily Dickinson, Galileo, Alfred Hitchcock, Einstein, Mother Teresa, Elias Howe, Marie Curie, Steve Jobs – well the list goes on and on. People who took a different tack, defied the norm and who changed the world. Imagine a world in which their creativity and vision were repressed or destroyed. Imagine the world of George Orwell’s, “1984.”

Although it is currently the “politically correct” view to proclaim everyone’s equality, there is something important that we should remember.

The individuality that is lost may be your own.

 

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