Deep Thoughts From A Student of Symbology…

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My grandfather, who passed away many years ago, was a hardworking man, whether he was running his doctor practice or his ranch. I remember riding beside him on the long bench seat of that old green Chevy step-side truck when we  went to stay at the ranch in Madisonville. This was back in the 60’s, long before trucks had such common amenities as seat belts, cup holders, or air conditioning. We would ride out to the pasture with feed and hay for the cattle and horses, and it was hot, sweaty labor. Grandaddy always carried a blue bandana which he used as a handkerchief, a sweat rag, or an oil dipstick cleaning cloth. Sometimes, when I would get cut by some rusty barbed wire fencing or fall down and scrape my knee, Grandaddy would calmly and gently wipe the blood or my tears away with his blue bandana, all the while soothing me with his firm yet gentle voice which assured me I would live. I grew up with fond memories of Grandaddy and his soft, worn, blue bandanas…

Unfortunately, my grandchildren will never have such fond memories of me carrying a blue or red bandana which I might have used to wipe their tears away, dab their bloody scrapes, or blot their sweaty brows with. No… they will never know that memory, because for over twenty-five years the red and blue bandanas to which I refer have come to represent something entirely within our society. The same bandanas that call to memory a simpler, more innocent age for me now symbolize affiliation with violent gangs, drug trafficking, and drive-by shootings over turf wars. Indeed, if one were to be seen with a bandana of the “wrong color” in the “wrong neighborhood”, it could easily cost the person his life. Furthermore, as a teacher in the public schools and, later, in the prisons, I have not been allowed to carry a bandana as a handkerchief for the very same reasons.

So, the question has been posed, “Does the Confederate flag represent hate and racism?”. Well, like grandaddy’s bandana, it might symbolize different things to different people. It has always been my contention that emotions such as hatred, racism, fear, and ignorance lie not in the inanimate symbology that we as humans assign, but rather in the hearts of men. While the blue bandana may represent love, tenderness, and authority to me, it may represent gang affiliation, drug trafficking, or violence to another. The symbology does not exist in the inanimate object but, rather, in the symbolism that the person applies to it. Many people seem to agree that there are times when the Confederate flag is symbolic of racism or hatred, and, like Grandaddy’s blue bandana, because a subversive sub-group of hateful, ignorant people have bastardized its original symbolism, I would agree. I could not agree more that some of these people who wave the Confederate flag while crying for slavery to be reinstated or using racial epitaphs to demean or denigrate those of different races are acting out of racially motivated behavior or, at the very least, some unfounded hatred towards those who are different than they are. On this, even my liberal friends would most likely agree.

However, if my liberal friends agree with the above statement, then, in the interest of objectivity and consistency of logic, they must also agree that when, for instance, a group of protesters wave a Black Lives Matter flag while screaming racial epitaphs about other races or call for the killing of specific groups of people who are different than they are, then that flag has become equally as symbolic of racism and hatred.

America is composed of many different cultures , and cultural differences allow for many different forms of symbolism in practically everything. Take, for example, the simple concept of a slap in the face. In most cultures that we are exposed to, the slap in the face is a slight at best, abusive at worst. However, in some cultures, the facial slap symbolizes something completely different than our interpretation:

“Slapping is viewed differently by different cultures. In Iceland, slapping of children is viewed as an extreme form of physical abuse, whereas in the United Kingdom it is seen by only some parents as abusive, and even then only moderately so.[14] A 1998 Indian study found a high rate of approval for husbands slapping their wives, particularly among husbands and middle-class Indians.[15]

In some cultures, when girls menstruate for the first time, their mothers often slap them across the face, a cultural tradition thought by some to signify the difficulties of life as a woman.[16][17][18]” Wikipedia

Thus, the symbol is not really the main issue, but rather, the heart of the issuer of the symbology becomes the enemy we must fight against. Allow me to state this another way. Since the passing of the Civil Rights Amendment in 1964, the government has attempted to basically legislate racism out of existence. Has it worked? Well, most people would agree that it has failed miserably. Certainly we have overcome obstacles and witnessed the rise of many successful minorities in positions of power, from the CEO’s of companies to the United States Supreme Court, and even the Presidency of the United States! The law appears to be working after 52 years! But wait! We seem to have more racism than ever today despite these accomplishments. Why?

You simply can not legislate hate, ignorance, or racism away. You can remove every Confederate flag from every statue or building. You can change the name of every southern school and public building to eliminate any reference to Confederate soldiers. You can rewrite the history books and try to hide the events of our past from children. It will not rid our culture of hatred. Because that does not come from a flag. Because that does not come from a book. Because that does not come from an etching on a building. That comes from the heart of the man. Take away one symbol and man will simply find another to replace it. No, in order to battle the issue, education is a more powerful tool than fascism. Educating those who use certain symbols to represent their hate that these symbols will not be used for that purpose, is one step. But we also need to educate those who are ignorant of the fact that the Confederate flag was not only a symbol for the perpetuation of racism or slavery, but of many different beliefs and concepts. Many brave men died in battles fought during that war, and not all of them were fighting for slavery. Many were fighting for their homesteads, for their belief in sovereignty, in defense against taxation, and, yes, many were fighting to maintain slavery.

It would be safe to say, therefore, that to some people, the Confederate flag may represent slavery, to some it may represent racism, to some it may symbolize freedom or pride, or any number of things. Whatever it represents to you, one thing is clear. If you judge a person based on their t-shirt, a sticker of a flag they have on the back of their vehicle, or a tattoo on their arm, then you are guilty of exactly the same sin as those you accuse.

I had a student who, when he was a young boy, got recruited into a hate group. The leaders of the group tattooed a swastika on his forehead. He was raised by this group of subversives until he committed a crime and wound up in prison. While serving his sentence, he gave his life to the Lord. He repented of his sins and learned to love all people, regardless of color. He often lamented the symbol on his forehead, but every person who took the time to get to know him quickly learned his heart had changed and he was worthy of their attention and loyalty. He started a Bible study which was attended by several young men on his row, a group which represented four different races. He once remarked that he had thought of getting the tattoo removed, but decided against it. When I asked him why he simply said, “It’s a reminder of who I was. Now, it doesn’t matter. It’s not who I am.”

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Deep Thoughts From a Fact Seeker

 

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Have scientists proven for a fact that Pluto is, indeed, a star, or is it still a planet?

“When we fail to question science at every turn, science ceases to exist…” A J Jinkins III

A fact is an event that can be proven to happen every time specified conditions exist. Thus, a fact is something that can be predicted with certainty barring any impediments to the study. A theory is a scientific construct based upon empirical data. A theory can be used as evidence of a claim based on empirical data, but may or may not be a fact. Thus, we might say that cigarettes have been shown to cause cancer in some smokers, but we may not say that cigarettes will cause cancer since not every person who smokes develops cancer. Millennials have a difficult time distinguishing between these two concepts.

I got into a “debate” with my nephew, a public school, brainwashed millennial, a few nights ago. The debate was over the concept of “man-made global warming.” I postulated that “man-made global warming”  was a theory, and he blew up and started screaming at me in the theory’s defense. Now, understand that when an idea is classified as a theory, I am not discounting all probability or possibility  of the theory having merit… I am simply saying the theory is, in fact, a theory, and not proven to be fact.

Two thousand years ago,  every scientist agreed that the world was flat. If a scientist questioned this “fact” or disagreed in any manner, they were beheaded and charged with the crime of heresy. The Catholic church was in control of the scientific thought of the day, and the Catholic church wanted everyone to believe the world was flat, so it was…. Do we believe a different “fact” today?

Sixty years ago scientists got together and agreed that using marijuana, an hallucinogen, would cause a person to develop homicidal behavior. Today, nearly every scientist is developing data to suggest smoking marijuana has many medicinal benefits and far fewer risks and side effects than originally agreed upon. Twenty-four states have legalized medicinal and/or recreational marijuana based on the scientific community’s research.

For the past 20 years, former Vice-President Al Gore, armed with “factual data agreed upon by the majority of the scientific community”, ( a community which receives much of its funding for research from government sources), has left the comfort of his many mansions to fly around the world in his jet to spread the fear that all of the ice caps would melt by 2020 as a result of man-made global warming. Today there are more ice caps in existence than at any time in our recorded history, and we are told by many researchers that we will be exiting a warming trend and heading into a cooling trend.

Public policy, to include regulations and taxation, must not be implemented based on unproven data. In other words, if you can not factually prove that my automobile is creating a hole in the ozone layer, your government may not justify regulating my car or profiting through taxation from such a theory until that theory is proven as fact. To date, man-made global warming is theory because it has not been proven as fact, either by empirical data or conclusive predictability.

Does this mean that I do not believe we should do our utmost to preserve and protect our beloved earth? Of course I want every person to make responsible choices that protect the earth. My Bible tells me that I should be a good steward over all that I have been blessed with, including my environment. I recycle cans, oil, glass, plastic, and electronics because it is the wise and responsible thing to do. I still drive my car, though, out of necessity, and when Al Gore gives up his mansions, jets, and massive “carbon footprint”, then I will possibly consider lessening my own.

The tiny “hiccup” by Mt. St. Helens is reported to have emitted more fluorocarbons into the atmosphere than all of mankind has in our existence upon the planet. The hole in the ozone layer above the eruption site has already repaired itself according to many scientists. To believe that we are so powerful that our very existence is changing the earth, the weather patterns, the core of the planet to the degree the followers of the “Man-Made Global Warming” religion try to guilt us to believe is extremely arrogant and exhibits a phenomenal degree of hubris. Yes, our behavior has some impact, I am confident. However, the concept of “Man-made Global Warming” is still just a theory.  Gravity is a fact. Climate change is a fact as the climate has proven for all of recorded history that it will change, with or without humans. Man-made Global Warming, like any religion, is merely a theory.

Deep Thoughts From an Average Joe…

“Superman, German Übermensch, in philosophy, the superior man, who justifies the existence of the human race. “Superman” is a term significantly used by Friedrich Nietzsche, particularly in Also sprach Zarathustra (1883–85), although it had been employed by J.W. von Goethe and others. This superior man would not be a product of long evolution; rather, he would emerge when any man with superior potential completely masters himself and strikes off conventional Christian “herd morality” to create his own values, which are completely rooted in life on this earth.”

Nietzsche is generally credited with initially promoting  the concept of the Ubermensch, which most scholars translate to  the “Overman” or “Superman”. The fundamental philosophy posits that there are men who are so vastly more enlightened, transcendent, superior intellectually, morally, and physically that they are actually above the constraints of everyday, or the “average Joe’s”, rules of conduct. Many people in our country today seem to believe in this self-view. However, “herd mentality” does indeed serve some vital purposes. I will get to that in a bit when I put all of this together.

The tone for how the United States of America, or “The Great Experiment”, was established in the Declaration of Independence, a document written nearly 250 years ago and which we, as a country, still value as a guiding force in our collective belief system. In that document, it is clearly stated:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creatorwith certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

 

With much regret and apology to my good friend, Tim Hong, and I don’t mean to be argumentative, (actually, I do), we are, by virtue of our living as citizens of this great nation, held to a series of similar values and ethics… call it a social contract, if you will. In this inherently implied contract, we, by simply living here in the USA, are held to the idea that we all have our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as stated above. Incumbent with my ability to live my life seeking my version of life, liberty, and happiness, I am strictly prohibited from interfering with any other citizen’s search for life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness. Thus, the social contract is established by default or in a negative sum capacity, if you will.

For example: If an American by the name of, say, John Collins wishes to practice a religion called, ” Voyeurism”, and to fulfill the mandates of his religion, he must find a 50 year-old, male virgin and throw him into the fiery pit of the Chapatula Volcano in New Orleans, John Collins can not go and kidnap the Virgin Tim Galvan and forcibly throw him into the volcano. No, indeed. The premise that John Collins has a right to practice his chosen religion CAN NOT override the idea that the Virgin Tim Galvan also has the same rights, and therefore his own puritanistic life is protected by the very same pretexts. So, why is this boring explanation even required in my ramblings so early on a Saturday morning? Allow me to pontificate further.

Recently I posted an article which described a young man, sitting in his own home, (ownership of property is germaine to the concept of the pursuit of happiness), minding his own business, when three… THREE!!!… young men who did not live in that home, nor did they pay rent or have any claim to ownership of that home or part of that home, made the decision to break into that home by force, wielding weapons to secure their own personal safety during the event. Obviously, these three young men did not believe that the “rules” applied to them. They believed they were above the mundane constraints of the rule of law. They were clearly adherents of the concept of the Superman according to Nietzsche. The owner of the home, feeling his life was threatened by these three young men, retrieved his AR15 and shot the three intruders, who subsequently died of lead poisoning. It is imperative to understand that when three healthy, strong, armed men enter one’s house, one’s safety and ability to pursue life, liberty, and happiness can be called into doubt, and fear or threat of losing those inalienable rights allows the individual to do whatever is necessary to once again secure those rights. Side note: This is not because the Declaration of Independence says so, but because these rights are “endowed” by our “creator”…

 

In response to this justified protection of the homeowner’s rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, I encountered a few more obvious disciples of Nietzsche’s philosophy. Generally speaking, I have often heard citizens who tend to lean more toward the liberal political view intimate that, due to their world view and level of emotional awareness, they are ‘enlightened” or somehow more “transcendent” than those who do not adhere to their worldview or share their emotional values. Clearly, these followers evidently believe that there are those who are not accountable to the “social contract” set forth in the founding documents, as evidenced by their responses, to wit:

 

“Why not shoot them in the legs instead of killing them?”

“Why did he have to use an AR with multiple rounds? He could have used a shotgun!”

“The boys had knives and brass knuckles, not guns…”

“How could he be sure (homeowner) that his life was in danger?”

 

Really? These people are so intelligent, so enlightened, so transcendent, that they have forgotten there are rules that everyone must follow? They truly believe that the color of one’s skin, or the age of a person, or the political beliefs or worldview of a person should be what determines whether the person should have to follow the same rules and guidelines of human decency that all others follow? I work in a prison. I have taught convicts that, at the age of twelve, killed entire families with their bare hands. I teach black, white, Hispanic, Asian, murderers, rapists, drug dealers, pimps…  all whom thought they were above the law and could not get caught.  I am amazed at the foothold that the concept of the Superman has taken in our society. These geniuses that believe they are above the law will continue to get killed by those of us who cling to our guns and Bibles, who are so ignorant and unenlightened, so deplorable, that we have not transcended yet. I will protect my right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness very time… I am an average Joe…

Deep Thoughts From a Lover Not a Fighter

Deep Thoughts From a Lover Not a Fighter

16835797_1469124599767220_5318193433463548316_oThis week I celebrated my 25th Wedding Anniversary with my lovely wife, Laura. Although it seems I have made it to 25 years DESPITE myself rather than BECAUSE of myself, I nonetheless take pride in this accomplishment, one which a majority of Americans will never know. It is not with an attitude of arrogance or with the intention of bragging that I say that almost everyone I know has been married more than once and divorced at least once; I simply can not say that. This was my first and, God willing, my last. I say this not only to praise my wife for raising me right and refusing to allow me the opportunities to screw up my marriage too much, but to illustrate another concept involved here that can lead to a valuable discussion of thought processes: Consistency. Laura and I have lasted 25 years (despite my original wedding party betting we would not make it 6 months, a year, or five years) because of consistency of thought. Simple as that. Allow me to explain.

When Laura and I got married, we made some promises to each other beyond our wedding vows. One of those promises was that we would never utter the “D” word in our home. The escape hatch of divorce is one of the major plagues besieging young couples today. In our disposable society with our “I want to be happy now” mentalities, it is very easy for young people to make the mistake of not realizing that “love” is not so much a feeling, but rather a choice. When I first met Laura we were both young, healthy, idealistic, HAWT! But the years have taken their toll. Some of our idealism has been beaten into pessimism or, at the very least, realism. Our bodies ache, pop, and creak when we wake up in the morning. We have the bodies of people in their fifties now and not those we started with in our twenties. When I look at Laura, I do not see the young hottie I married; that is a ridiculous thing that people say. I see a fifty-something woman who is growing older. Now, before she gets angry at me while she is reading this, let me explain my comments.

Any person who expects their spouse to be the same person 10, 20, 30 years down the road has unrealistic expectations of their relationship and that relationship is doomed to fail. I once knew a young woman who woke up every morning before her husband so she could dispense with the morning toiletries and grooming. She would make herself “beautiful”, then crawl back into bed to wake him up as if she had just woken up herself. She did not want him to see her in her natural state because she wanted to keep the appearance of the fantasy alive. In my opinion, that is not what love should be based upon. Rather, love is based on the concept of breaking those barriers and surviving them together and CHOOSING to keep running the race together regardless of those changes.

When I look at Laura, I see a different person. I see a person who has stretch marks and extra “body”, a sacrifice she made to give birth and life to our daughter. I see a grey-haired woman who pays top dollar every six weeks to get her hair dyed, and I am quite sure that most of those grey hairs came from the stress of being my wife and trying to make a life out of the little I have brought to the arrangement. I see a warden who, over the years, has learned how to hold a mirror to my stubborn face and show me that what I am doing, despite my yahoo bullheadedness, is not the right thing for our long-term success and maybe I should think about this. I see the woman who grabs my dreams and researches the details, details, details… to make my dream a reality. I see the woman who, even when I had NO clue what I was doing and had NO confidence that God would take care of us when I lied and told her I had received confirmation that God wanted us to do this, stood beside me and said she would follow me anywhere… and then made it work for us with His help.

Years ago we got an old leather-topped coffee table that had belonged to my grandparents. This coffee table had burn marks on top where my grandfather’s cigars and my grandmother’s cigarettes had burned holes in the leather. Laura said several times that she would like to have the table’s leather redone, but I refused. In the circles left by the whiskey glasses, the marks left by the cigars and cigarettes, in the gouges left by the letter opener I played with as a child, I saw scars on that table that told stories and created a tale of a life that had been lived by people who had experienced it together.

To me, consistency in thought is the key. Standing steadfast against the storms of life that beat against the doors and windows and refusing to allow the daily attacks to erode your resolve to do what you know is right and making the choice to stand by that decision is the only way to survive. When I look at Laura, this is what I see. After 25 years, I do not see a beautiful, young, sexy thing. I see a part of me that has consistently withstood the trials of life and yet remained true and has stayed the course. To me, that is more beautiful and sexy than anything else in this world, and the stories we can tell! I think I will keep that old coffee table.

Deep Thoughts From an Obtuse Ass

January 24, 2017 My first Blog.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution assures the freedom of every American citizen in the areas of speech, religion, press, assembly, and petition. Every citizen enjoys the freedoms outlined in this amendment. The freedoms are not given to us by the first amendment, nor by our government, but, rather, they are endowed upon us by our creator. The Constitution is merely a piece of parchment upon which we have written and agreed to its terms. The requirements for being secured these rights are fairly simple: If you are a citizen of the United States, then you are protected under the Constitution’s provisions.

A muslim woman, working in a grocery store, asserts her first amendment right to freedom of religion by informing her employer she can not touch pork or alcohol. It becomes incumbent upon the employer to post a sign at her register informing customers who have pork or alcohol products to go to another register. This seems to be okay with the masses as they do not protest.

A football player kneels down during the Pledge of Allegiance under the protection of his first amendment right to free speech in order to protest perceived injustices, and people argue that it indeed is his right.

But a baker in Oregon politely informs a homosexual customer she will not bake a wedding cake for her based on her freedom of religion, and the baker is sued, loses her business and her life savings, and is held up as a mockery of the Christian faith. Most people argue that her religious beliefs are not protected by the first amendment.

North Carolina passes a law stating that men will use men’s restrooms and women will use women’s restrooms and the entire entertainment boycotts that state under the protection of the first amendment.

Now, at least one state has introduced legislation that would allow health care providers to refuse to provide for patients whose choices of lifestyle are counter to their own religious beliefs. I will first state unequivocally that, as a professional, I do not know many in the health care profession who would let the zealousness of religion mandate that they refuse service to anyone in need; I certainly provide my craft to anyone who for I am charged to do so . I have witnessed outrage and fear from the possibility that this legislation might be passed by the state in question.

So I ask: Why is it any different in the medical profession than any other profession? And because I ask, I get called an obtuse ass.

I remember reading a book in school by George Orwell called Animal Farm. The significant line, for me, from that book was one of the rules laid down: “All animals are equal”. After things started going off track from the original purpose of the animals’ coup, they went back to read the rules they had established in the beginning, and the rule had been added to with some more words. Now the rule read: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”. It certainly seems that this is the way our country is headed as far as determining whose rights should be protected and whose should not. Basically, we desire protection for those with whom we agree and not for those with whom we disagree.

I have recently had to defend a woman I can not stand and have not liked for over 35 years: Madonna. There is a series of memes calling for her arrest for her words at a women’s march at which she spoke passionately of her thoughts on Trump and the United States. Many intelligent people I call friends agree that she should be arrested. I do not. Her speech was repugnant, vile, and laced with hate and vitriol, but she did not violate any laws and the speech was, in my judgement, protected by the first amendment.

The argument has been made that doctors and cops are professionals and so should not let their personal faith interfere with their job duties. Well, a quarterback who makes $72 million is, by definition a professional. A cashier who gets paid for doing her job is a professional also. Bruce Springsteen can not be considered anything other than a “professional”. Does “professional” mandate that your rights are stripped away and you are not protected by the first amendment?

I am simply looking for some consistency in logic, some uniform thinking among people. I believe that the first amendment should protect every citizen: professional, entry level worker, unemployed, regardless of skin color, religion, sex, or sexual orientation. The protections guaranteed by the amendments should protect every citizen. If the law does not protect every single citizen, then the law protects no one… If you can’t understand that, then maybe you are the one who is the obtuse ass…