January 2007


Last night, I had a conversation with a friend of a friend.  Rather than listen to my point, he tried to shut me up and said “Let’s agree to disagree.”  I was a little angry because it was clear he wasn’t going to hear my side of the point.  I didn’t want to change his view, just to let him hear an alternate viewpoint.  How often do we (myself included) close ourselves off to a different point of view?  When we treat our point of view as absolutes, do we miss out on learning and carrying on a discussion that actually benefits both sides?  Often the internet is treated as a place for people to rant, get out their emotions and skewer the other side.  Just another place to fuel absolute views.  Those of us who try hard to listen to both sides are dismissed as fence sitters or without principles.  We have  firm principles, but personally I find that people with absolute views, even if I agree with them, creep me out.

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Cokie Roberts writes about a different time here in DC………..

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I think its really cool that african americans are embracing Indy rock, but I find myself a little disappointed that they feel the need to separate themselves from the rest of the hipsters…

 

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A Few Words in Defense of Our Country

By Randy Newman

I’d like to say a few words
In defense of our country
Whose people aren’t bad nor are they mean
Now the leaders we have
While they’re the worst that we’ve had
Are hardly the worst this poor world has seen

Let’s turn history’s pages, shall we?

Take the Caesars for example
Why within the first few of them
They had split Gaul into three parts
Fed the Christians to the lions
And burned down the City
And one of ’em
Appointed his own horse Consul of the Empire
That’s like vice president or something
That’s not a very good example, is it?
But wait, here’s one, the Spanish Inquisition
They put people in a terrible position

I don’t even like to think about it
Well, sometimes I like to think about it

Just a few words in defense of our country
Whose time at the top
Could be coming to an end
Now we don’t want their love
And respect at this point is pretty much out of the question
But in times like these
We sure could use a friend

Hitler. Stalin.
Men who need no introduction
King Leopold of Belgium. That’s right.
Everyone thinks he’s so great
Well he owned The Congo
He tore it up too
He took the diamonds, he took the gold
He took the silver
Know what he left them with?
Malaria

A president once said,
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”
Now it seems like we’re supposed to be afraid
It’s patriotic in fact and color coded
And what are we supposed to be afraid of?
Why, of being afraid
That’s what terror means, doesn’t it?
That’s what it used to mean

The end of an empire is messy at best
And this empire is ending
Like all the rest
Like the Spanish Armada adrift on the sea
We’re adrift in the land of the brave
And the home of the free
Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye.

Published on Thursday, January 18, 2007 by the Baltimore Sun (Maryland)

 

Captain Ahab assembled the crew of the Pequod and told them that they could not afford to fail in the quest to kill the great white whale, and so he had come up with a plan. The Pequod lay becalmed on a glassy sea, the sails hung loose, the ship drifting with the current. The Captain had mulled over the recommendations of the Moby Dick Study Group and rejected them. “If we turn back to New Bedford now, as the Old Ones suggest, we risk the loss of the high seas.” And so he had decided to put 10 oarsmen in a longboat and to row ahead, towing the ship, “surging” it forward.

In addition, a pair of his pants would be towed in the water behind the ship to lure the great whale within range of the harpoon gun. And finally, the heavier men would stamp their feet on the deck and thereby disorient the creature. It was a three-pronged plan.

Ahab stood on the poop deck, one hand in his vest, Napoleon-like, his eyebrows arched, gazing horizonward, turning the wheel, as if the ship were moving and not becalmed, and he looked very commanderly except that he had no pants. The crew stood at formation below him, from which angle it was hard to ignore the captain’s bare leg. (The white whale Moby Dick – WWMD – had chewed up the other leg some time ago.)

Lieutenant Rice stood behind him, her jaw high, and next to her, Lieutenant Cheney, his hooded eyes scanning the rank and file, a whip in hand, daring anyone to whisper.

“It’s going to be hard, killing a white whale. We know that. This is a different kind of whale we’re dealing with, not the old blubbery kind. It’s an evil one, bent on our destruction. And I will hunt him down even if I must sail the ship and man the harpoon myself,” the Captain said.

The men stood silent, looking straight ahead. The Captain was a lunatic, clearly, but then lunacy is common in the upper ranks. They had learned to accept it.

(In years to come, students would write term papers about this tragedy, though some would argue that tragedy demands a noble hero, one with pants. The Temple of Ahab at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, however, would not see him as tragic hero but as a prophet. God told him to do what he did, and that is all you need to know. Had he not hunted the whale in its own waters, something terrible would have happened to us at home. Either you believe this or you don’t.)

And there, on the deck, sat two traitorous seamen who had dared question God’s will and whom Lieutenant Cheney had chained to a scupper and covered with gallons of tar.

“To give up now would mean that I have lost my leg for nothing!” the Captain cried. “Shall I allow creatures to chew on me without fear of retribution? Am I meant to be a lunch for leviathans? We cannot stop until the monster is dead.” And yet, clearly, the ship was stopped. There was no wind. “We have no choice but to go forward!” he cried. “Onward! Surge with me, men!” Lieutenant Cheney snapped to attention – “Once again, you have inspired us with your steadfastness, my captain! Blow, men! Blow!” And the crew raised their heads toward the limp sails and they blew with all their might. The smell of beer and onions was strong in the air.

Lieutenant Cheney said, “We shall not fail you, sir.” And Ahab, a tear glittering on his cheek, seized Lieutenant Cheney’s hand and shook it, only to find that it was covered with tar. Lieutenant Cheney had been smacking the traitors whenever they whimpered, and his hand was quite black, and now the Captain’s hand was too. He clutched at the wheel and his hand stuck to it.

Just then, loud shrieking sounds came from below as several whales rubbed their backs against the ship’s beams and the Pequod shuddered. The Captain lost his balance and fell into Lieutenant Rice’s arms. “The ship is surging, sir!” cried Lieutenant Cheney. The 10 oarsmen leaned to their oars and the crew kept blowing. They took turns, 10 at a time, huffing and puffing. There was no white whale to be seen, but there was a sense of something happening, of a surge.

The Captain went below to clean his hands and to pray for further guidance

http://www.commondreams.org/views07/0118-22.htm

I love my country.  While I’m not much into nationalism, I do love my country, warts and all.  Well, not so much the warts, but I love it wide eyes open if that makes sense. Yesterday, I opened up the poetry book I left at my office last month and turned to this poem by Alan Ginsberg.  I then read the poem again. 

*Warning* Poem contains graphic language…

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I don’t think I’m going to edit this–Scribble I wrote last week. 

Over the holiday break I was pondering about why I was pushing the buttons of a certain friend in a debate last month.  I realized its because I have a strong bias against absolutes.  Although, I believe in good and evil as an active member of my faith–I hate the words–good, bad, black, white etc and their application in daily conversation, articles, discussions, debates etc. etc. 

When I come across someone who thinks in absolutes–I try hard not to dismiss immediately what they say, because I find analyzing their style-how they think-their use of rational thought-fascinating and I want to figure out how they arrive to their conclusions.  However, at the same time,  I find their oft-usage of qualitative language to describe quantitative behavior or facts bewildering and oftputting.  

As I started thinking about absolutes, I wondered if I was a hypocrite–and I realized as much as I’m human (humans are naturally hypocrites in my opinion–and we’re usually hypocrites in pointing out the hypocrisies of others)–I’m not really absolute in day to day life even though I do have strong opinions. 

 What’s funny is that this phobia of absolutes corresponds directly to my politics.  I usually score right down the middle of political compasses. 

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