Monday, June 29, 2009

"You're not of the body! You're not!"

You know, I have to laugh at some politicians. Yeah, so what else is new? Some of them make it so easy. The two latest and greatest missteps I find of particular interest occurred in the past two weeks.

Most prominently are the recent chronicles of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford as he brings shame to his stature. Amazing, he acts as if his transgressions hurt no one--he is wrong, of course. He mouthed all the right platitudes with his tearful apologies, but he has clearly betrayed his obligations as governor, his duty to state and his voters, and most importantly, he has hurt his wife and his children--who he used to trot before cameras to enforce his familial righteousness. And yet he remains in office.

If you haven't read about it--or seen it on the news-- here's the scoop! He recently disappeared and--no one, not his family, not his staff--no one knew where he was. His aides told reporters the governor was out on a nature hike in the Appalachian Trails. THEN the truth became apparent. As it turns out, hiking the backwoods was the farthest thing from this man's mind.

Sanford was nowhere in America, not North America anyway, but in Argentina dallying with his mistress (on Father's Day, no less!)! In his confession, he admitted spending five days crying in the arms of his Argentinean lover, all on his state taxpayers' dime.

Yeah. Crying... really? Like I believe that. The governor has claimed he will repay his state for this amorous trip, but would he have done so had he not been caught? And then there's this, just days earlier Nevada Sen. John Ensign admitted he too, had an eight-month extramarital affair with a member of his staff. You really have to ask yourself, what is it with these guys?

Now don't roll your eyes, go with me on this one; in 1966, "Star Trek" aired an episode called "Return of the Archons."

The premise was not so far removed from the current woes of the Republican Party. The inhabitants of planet Beta III lived in a repressed society where uniformity of thought and sexual repression was the norm, not the exception. Except for periods called the "Red Hour," conformity was not only practiced but demanded. During those periods of the red hour, Betans went totally wild; their reserve of emotion ripped from them in total abandonment.

Violence against one another (sexual, emotionally or otherwise) left virtually no one unscathed.

What Betans found most frightening was to be singled out as being (gasp) individual... the words "you're not of the body!" could prove most damning!

This cry strikes me as nearly identical to the mantra of the Republican Party.

Now I am not claiming the Republican Party wears the mantle of impropriety solely. Lest I be accused of partisanship, I've not forgotten about the acts of former N.Y. governor Elliott Spitzer or 2008 presidential hopeful Sen. John Edwards. We all know the Democrats have had their share of scandals; human feelings and weaknesses know no political lines, BUT the Republican Party has made family values the very mantra of what they stand for... and they have perfected the choir where their condemnation of anyone who doesn't agree with them is clearly heard, felt and all too often, punished.

What this really means is, "this is what we believe but don't hold us to it..." and of course, this is the Republicans' version of "don't ask, don't tell." In other words, "DO as I say, NOT as I do."

I tell you, any time a politician gets before a camera and microphone proclaiming "I stand for family values," I immediately wonder who is hidden in his or her closet, AND those who proclaim most loudly are, to me, most immediately suspect.

Back in 1998, Gov. Sanford (then Representative), who like so many other Washingtonian Republicans, stood in condemnation of President Bill Clinton when the details of his affair with Monica Lewensky became public. Sanford was on record saying the President's behavior was reprehensible and he should be removed from the highest office in the land.

Now all these years later, his words have come back to haunt him.

My question is why hasn't Gov. Sanford resigned his office? His recent actions only prove his hypocrisy as he has avoids the same question being posed to him. How are his actions any different?

These are the same men who work so ardently to protect the sanctity of marriage and family values. I think of men like former Sen. Newt Gingrich, Larry Craig, Sen. John McCain, and countless others who, at the very least, stand on shaky ground when professing their morals best represent American traditional family values.

The reality is, these are the very men with whom I want to share nothing. I question what these men are afraid of, and what do they think they are really protecting us Americans from? Which brings me to a somewhat related topic.

In the recent film "Were the World Mine, a TV news reporter confronts two lesbians seeking marriage, "What about traditional family values?" he asks. One of the two women laughs and responds by saying, "We have families, we have values!"

Yes. But obviously not those shared by they who feel they have the right to demand conformity from everyone else, i.e., "my morals are superior to yours."

The problem posed by those who loudly proclaim they are against same sex-marriage think those "nasty homosexuals" who have dared ask for the same protections represent values different then their own. The falsity of this notion is that each and every person is raised in a family unit--whether it was in a father-mother family, a single-parent family, a grandparent, an adopted family, a blended family and yes, even some in a same-sex family... so really, whose values are different?

Family values have been assimilated and ingrained from the moment we are born. Is it so unthinkable, so unreasonable that gays and lesbians would want to perpetuate those same values in their daily lives?

To me, what is most important is to lead our lives honestly, courageously and happily and with the dignity afforded us by our creator. For those who claim their way is the best way--the only way, act as bullies "with a toy" they are unwilling to share; they are deluding themselves and running away from what they don't care to take the time to examine or attempt to understand. Here's the blunt universal truth: love is love. Period.

And finally, this is why Gov. Sanford and hypocrites like him need to examine their own values before passing judgment on others. Personally, I do not believe anyone has the right to make people's lives here a hell on earth. You know, the lines in the Holy Bible "judge not lest ye be judged" says it best.

I love this guy!

Bill Maher speaks for me!

Visit this link for a great moment recently aired on his program.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

You want inspirational?

When I was searching for photos that could inspire, initially I was searching for a quadriplegic runner. Then I found this one and was touched by its subject-matter. It wasn't until after I had decided to use it that I really paid attention to the details. At first, I thought it sweet that a little girl would run with this man, her daddy perhaps? BUT the details finally sunk in and then I caught it... if you want inspiration, this photo is it... 'nuff said?

About the photographer: Andy Hooper was born in Dorset in 1963. He studied at Salisbury Art College where he gained a Higher Diploma in Photography. Winner of the prestigious Royal Photographer of the Year, Andy is a multi-award winning photographer. He is based in Surrey with his wife and three young children.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

You won't believe this

This week I had planned on writing about our leanings toward political and social identity groups, but somehow the events of yesterday sidetracked that idea... and to be honest, this week's comments are far removed from anything I ever expected--or wanted to talk about.

So you ask what happened yesterday? Well, you are not going to believe this.

Since returning from Afghanistan I have not had much luck of establishing a regular sleep schedule and I find myself asleep (annoyingly so) during the day, as was the case yesterday afternoon. While napping, I was instantly awakened to the noise of three loud slamming bangs against my front door that shook the house and sent my cat Billie running for her favorite hiding place.

I jumped up, ran to my front door, opened it to see three male teens running away from my house. I then examined the door which is now cracked, the door jam splintered and it immediately dawns on me the the three had just tried to batter my door down! In broad daylight! In the afternoon, no less!

Naturally I immediately called the local police department with a police officer arriving just shy of three minutes. He records my information. One by one--four police cars in all--appear within seconds after that! I compliment our police force for being so prompt!

In any case, the officer toured my yard looking to see if anyone is hiding out in the backyard--or for any evidence left behind. Not finding anything, we talked for about fifteen minutes about what just happened.

The officer tells me that this kind of thing has been happening with a disturbingly increasing frequency. One: he tells me my neighborhood is experiencing difficulties. No kidding! This is not my first brush with such idiocy! While serving in Afghanistan last year some local kids (and not apprehended) were playing with matches and nearly burned down my garage and in August someone--in the dark of night--stole my central air conditioning unit!

Seriously. It is bad enough that these events have occurred, but more so since I was overseas defending our nation and not here to protect my home. It is downright insulting!

Two: the officer tells me things are getting worse as our country's economy turns south. Last month, a similar event occurred, only this time the perpetrators, also reported to be teenagers, gained entry and beat up an 89-year old lady while ransacking her home. This too, occurred in the light of day.

One has to ask, what the hell is going on in my city, and in our country?

Having resided in my current home for the last thirteen years--and in South Bend for 27 years, I have seen the ups and downs (mostly downs) of my neighborhood. The police officer tells me this used to be a nice Polish neighborhood. I agreed, but I know those days are pretty much a memory.

Sadly, my neighborhood has turned into an area that is depressed with many abandoned homes and perhaps the most telling change is that it has primarily become a rental community rather than like its origins where families owned their homes, improved their homes, lived in their homes, raised their families here, and took pride in their neighborhood.

That too, seems to be of a bygone era.

Our local government, well aware of the problem, has in recent years taken some superficial steps to remedy the problem (such as tearing down longtime abandoned buildings, more police patrols, etc.), but not fast enough to suit my tastes.

Ironically, I see some similarities here of some conditions I observed while stationed in Afghanistan.

When poverty takes root, it isn't long before one can see civility and citizenship slide away to be replaced by despair, ugliness and crime. Three: When I mentioned to the officer I was shocked someone would do this in broad daylight, in a home where I have a home security system. His reply was rather disturbing.

He said that these kind of crimes follow a similar scenario: The burglars burst into a home, look for light, easy, valuable things to grab such as DVD players, TV game systems, computers and other valuables... and if necessary, rough up a resident if they happen to be home, and then run for cover.

The criminals, and that is what they are, are in and out of the house in a matter of minutes--much faster than police can usually respond.

After the police have left me standing in my front yard, I make the usual phone calls (I hate to say 'usual' in this kind of situation) to get matters under control. I hear the expected comments: "I'm shocked! Can I help? Are you okay? Please, sell your house--get out--please!"

Now you can call me stupid, but leaving, to me, is not really an option. I like my home, simple it may be, but it is mine; I plan on living here and retiring here someday; AND seriously, who wants to be run off by the random acts of cowards and criminals?

After my friends John and Sherri come over to help me begin the process of repairing the door I began thinking of what I need to do to make sure this does not happen again.

John tells me we need to fortify my house. Sherri questions this, saying, "who wants to live in a fort?" A sentiment I happen to agree with, but when it comes down to it, I can be logical about this situation or I can be reactionary. I choose the former, but... to some degree John is right.

Let's face it, crime is not a matter of logic. And not wanting to be a victim, I have begun considering what options are available to me... some are cheap and easy, some not, some are hard choices and again, some not:

* Move out... not really a choice as far as I am concerned.

* Buy a gun for protection. This, perhaps, is the hardest choice to ponder. In my case, not bloody likely as I have always despised guns! Sure, I know how to use one. I just do not want one in my home (give me a good working phaser, however, and I could probably be coerced).

* I called the police late last night asking if I "could pick her brain" for a few minutes. I asked for advice for someone who does not want a gun... she suggested I keep mace in strategic locations (it does one little good to have mace in the upstairs rooms if criminals were to burst in and you are on the first floor)... she also suggested keeping mace on my car's key chain.

* Ask the police to inspect your home; they are always happy to give helpful tips to crime-proof your home.

* Make sure your doors are sturdy. Mine are--obviously, since the criminals (luckily) did not succeed in busting the door in. Next, and this should be a simple idea, but one so many people never give a moment thought: Lock your doors--day and night... whether you are home or not... ALWAYS!!!

* Keep all windows locked at all times. Outside your home, plant thorny bushes below the windows to make it painful for any would-be intruders, dissuading them from an apparent easy entry.

* Have a home alarm system installed (I have had one for years). If you have an alarm system, test it quarterly (for example, making sure its batteries are working).

* Bond with your neighbors so that everyone keeps an eye out for each other.

* Enclose your property with a security fence.

* Install night-time security (with motion detector) lights.

*Watch your neighborhood for strangers who seem to have no visible purpose being in the area.

* IF you happen to be home when criminals break-in, try to remain calm, do not confront or antagonize the criminals--and if at all possible, get out before you can be harmed. Your things are replaceable, you, on the other hand, are not.

* For some, buying a dog is an answer-- for me, not possible as I am allergic to most dogs.

* Most importantly, know the local police station's phone number... as a reminder, for emergencies call '9-1-1.'

You know, I could get angry (and believe me, yesterday I was); I could wring my hands crying; I could get all reactionary, but really what would that accomplish? And frankly, I refuse to give such lowlifes the satisfaction.

So now a day afterwards, I am sitting here at home tonight thinking about taking care of this situation. But to me, there are matters far more pressing. I am still seeking meaningful employment, still trying to get acclimated to home-life after being deployed overseas for a year, and I really hate having such stupid distractions.

But as they say, this too shall pass--and still, who would have believed it?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

And awaaaaay we go

I'd like to let loose my voice in a more public forum--one that is simply my opinion and not necessarily those of the U.S. Navy (I am a Sailor in the Navy Reserve) where I have proudly served as a photojournalist for nearly fifteen years now (and counting).

What would you, the reader, expect to see here on this site? Lots.

So where to begin? First off, I see myself as an outspoken social commentator. Unlike the majority of servicemembers serving in our Armed Forces, I consider myself a liberal-minded democrat whose opinions, at times, rival the liberalism of Senator Edward Kennedy. You see, I don't see 'liberalism' being the dirty word for which so many would like to paint it to be. I see liberalism, especially socially, as a means of rectifying the social ills that I see plaguing our nation... and yeah, our world.

I suppose on a more personal level I am rather conservative in how I lead my life. Gee, a social liberal and a fiscal conservative mix. What will they think of next?

I pay my bills. I like to treat others as I wish to be treated. I volunteer when and where I can; I laugh; I put my pants on one leg at a time; and believe that people, for the most part, want the best for everybody else--and especially want to leave things better for our children.

So in one aspect, as I write these logs, I expect to foster discussion; I hope to provoke thought; and I will share my thoughts on so many wide-ranging topics...You might see me discussing foreign policy in one breath and how great the new "Star Trek" movie is in the next (really, it is!).

You can expect to read about politics, religion, how I feel media is leading people through manipulation (some ways good, some not so much)...You can expect reading about commercialism, gun ownership rights, literature, the arts, crime (and punishment), capitalism, people's lib (do they still call it that?), animal rights, consumer rights, children's rights, environmentalism, global warming, parental rights, space exploration, education, gay rights, music (yeah!!!), hypocrisy... and countless other topics.

One thing I hope not to do is to demonize those with whom I vehemently disagree--and believe me, there are plenty. I see that as a major problem today. Instead of talking, working to bridge differences, I see people lining up, taking sides and refusing to work rather than moving towards a common goal--that of making for a better life for everyone.

So, one thing I hope we can all agree upon from the onset is that sometimes we will not agree, BUT we will be civil... and we will be respectful of all opinions.

I will post ground rules for discussion later on... hey! this is my first posting and I will learn more about this as I go along.

So might you ask if I am an expert on all of the topics I listed above?

Oh hell no, but like you I do have opinions. This blog will be a journey for me to travel upon-- and I invite you to come along for the ride. Who knows where it will lead, but I hope to have some thought-provoking conversations down the pike.

As the Dave Matthews song says... "so much to say, so much to say..."