Friday, December 31, 2010

Blogging into the New Decade

Here we are at the close of 2010.  I have completed my second full year as a blogger.  Last year I noted my progress and reflected on the fruits of blogging.  This post is a continuation of that tradition.

I closed out last year with a total of 9 public followers.  I am now up to 30 public followers by the blogger counter and 8 through networked blogs.  Three of those are duplicates from the blogger counter.  So I now have a net of 35 public followers.  I have found my blog linked on other sites that are not in my public counter.

Last year I posted 27 times this year 45 (including this entry)  My topics of interest have been consistent: politics, religion and living in Utah.  I have had a couple of posts that have stimulated robust conversations.  I have seen many more of my posts linked in the Sunday in Outer Blogness feature at Main Street Plaza which I have found flattering.

My blog has received over 5000 page views and  140 comments.

My goals for blogging in the coming year are:

  1. Post with more frequency
  2. Post with relevance
  3. Continue the "Children are the Challenge" series
  4. Attempt to stimulate thoughtful discussion on posts I submit
While my blog does not have a universal appeal here in Utah or among many folks who hold very fundamental beliefs either politically or religiously; I hope to expand the reader base.  I prefer a diverse audience because it brings great discussion.  However, I will not likely tone down my rhetoric in that vein.  I am however willing to facilitate discussion and to have conversations regarding what I post in hopes that discussion brings understanding and in some cases may sway my opinion on the matter.

Here's to the adventures that 2011 will bring!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Charity... what is your position... can you admit it?

If you really want to find out what people believe you look at how they behave and not what they say.~Roger Nygard

The above video clip has got a bit of attention on facebook this week.  My liberal theist friends have posted it and some have alluded to the fact that Colbert's comments are almost prophetic.  My conservative theist friends have been outraged at the audacity of Colbert to poke fun at them and to take the New Testament out of context.  

The Christmas season brings out two polls on the questions of how we deal with the poor and sick and less fortunate.  Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is the standard by which we measure a person's commitment to the season.  You are either a Tiny Tim/Bob Cratchit or and Ebeneezer Scrooge.  Nobody wants to be seen as a Scrooge during this season and so there is a bunch of talk about Christian principles and keeping Christ in the season..... while arguing that our government has no business using tax dollars to look after the general welfare of the American populous.  After all, the government cannot tell who is faking it and who really needs the help.

One of my favorite quotes from the Dickens' classic is the result of the dialog between Scrooge and his Nephew Fred.  Fred optimistically states why he loves the Christmas season.:
 ..and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.
Immediately, as Fred exits the office Scrooge is met by two solicitors.  Both, in contemporary terms, bleeding heart liberals:
"Scrooge and Marley's, I believe," said one of the gentlemen, referring to his list.  "Have I the pleasure of addressing Mr. Scrooge, or Mr. Marley?"
"At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge," said the gentleman, taking up a pen, "it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time.  Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir."
"Are there no prisons?" asked Scrooge.
"Plenty of prisons," said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.
"And the Union workhouses?"  demanded Scrooge.  "Are they still in operation?"
"They are.  Still," returned the gentleman, "I wish I could say they were not."
"The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?"  said Scrooge.
"Both very busy, sir."
"Oh!  I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course," said Scrooge.  "I'm very glad to hear it."
"Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude," returned the gentleman, "a few of us are endeavoring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink and means of warmth.  We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices.  What shall I put you down for?"
"Nothing!" Scrooge replied.
"You wish to be anonymous?"
"I wish to be left alone," said Scrooge.  "Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer.  I don't make merry myself at Christmas and I can't afford to make idle people merry.  I help to support the establishments I have mentioned -- they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there."
"Many can't go there; and many would rather die."
"If they would rather die," said Scrooge, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.  Besides -- excuse me -- I don't know that."
"But you might know it," observed the gentleman.
"It's not my business," Scrooge returned.  "It's enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people's.  Mine occupies me constantly.  Good afternoon, gentlemen!"
The section in bold came to mind as I engaged in a debate with a facebook friend who did not find the Colbert video funny.  This is the end of the discussion:

  • Him:.....

    You love to put groups of people into boxes and summarily dismiss the entire box, and that is just wrong. I know many liberals and many conservatives that give of their time and money to help people. I think if you gave them the chance to do the bulk of what is needed to help people who are underprivileged, they would surprise you. There is no one category of people who need help. Every person has a different reason, a different trial or problem. Some are self inflicted, some are not. Some people are truly helpless, others are simply irresponsible. The government doesn't distinguish between the two.

    December 17 at 3:57pm · 

  • Me: ‎"Some people are truly helpless, others are simply irresponsible. The government doesn't distinguish between the two."

    And based upon the Christian Dogma who is the one who is qualified to make that determination?

    December 17 at 4:04pm · 

  • Him: Only somebody who develops a personal relationship with the person in need. True charity involves giving yourself to serve others and listen and learn, not just give money.

The problem as I see it is that as Americans we are spoiled children of privilege and as Scrooge says:  "It is not my business."  So who's business is it?

My mother is dying of emphysema.  She is in the very advanced stages and is in incredibly poor health.  She also suffers from Post Polio Syndrome.  She struggles to breathe and is in constant pain.  One of the conditions she did to herself.  In fact she still smokes with the O2 turned all the way up.  The other she is a victim of.  She dedicated 30 years to raising her children and did the best she could with the tools she had.  While we do what we can for her including grocery shopping, taking her meals, and getting her to the doctor;  we are of humble means and cannot pay for her care.  She was on a medical retirement for 10 years and now is on social security and a meager pension.

While I agree with my friend that charity, true charity requires a personal touch, I also think it is unrealistic and impossible for everyone.  I pay into Social Security, I pay income and sales taxes and while it is not my favorite thing to spend my money on; I recognize it is necessary.  My Mother has us.  Many others have no one and the only care they get is the care Medicare of Medicaid covers.  Whether you are homeless by your own choice or because of mental illness; whether you liver is failing from alcoholism or NASH; whether you have lung cancer from smoking or working in asbestos; you deserve the best care you can get and to be comfortable on your way to returning to health or in my mother's case as you prepare to die. If you want to question where the money goes and who deserves it ask yourself who really profits from defrauding the government.  The answer lies in the lobbyists and the capitalist who exploit the system to the tune of billions.  Not the poor who benefit from the programs and exaggerate their conditions to get a few more dollars to live on.

It's time this "Christian Nation" put its money and compassion where its mouth is.... or acknowledge you are hypocrites and just don't want to do it!


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Should we Limit Expression that Causes the Rabid Right to Get their Panties in a Wad.

I had a brief (no pun intended) conversation with my Facebook friend Thomas on the fact that there are few American Artists who's work is compelling, edgy, and that tells a story.  In fact, the object of that conversation is posted below:

I responded to the post with this comment:
If we had artists like this they would be censored and their works hidden from public view. Maybe not at the hands of the government but by way of right wing hysteria.
And the following morning this story is featured on Fox 13:

This is exactly the same "Right Wing Hysteria" I was talking about.  I remember, while I was a college student, the Salt Lake City Public Library had some nude paintings on display. The ridiculous outcry was all over the news including one mother who was completely distraught because her little boy was having nightmares over the paintings.  The ilk of the Knitting Needle Mafia have instituted plastic covers for magazines in our grocery stores to censor what they deem inappropriate material.

There is the rub... it is what they deem inappropriate.  As the video indicates the law is clear as to what can be determined pornographic and a woman wearing the equivalent of a bikini is does not rise to that level.  Nor does the word SEX on the cover of Cosmopolitan.

So it is the ads in the mall, the magazines in grocery store and what is next the art in our museums...

I enjoyed the hosts final comment:
I don't think it is up to anyone to tell me what art I am and am not allowed to see.
The point of this post is that if we allow the fundies, the pious, the superstitious, and the rabid right to control the media they also control the message.  Watch this video that discusses the outrage over the Atheist bus ads in Fort Worth Texas.  Note how fauxrage over the freedom of expression will drown out a minorities message:

The bus system will likely stop carrying this type of ad and the Mayor of Fort Worth has threatened to change the makeup of the board if they don't agree with him.  They take away an outlet for those who are non religious to engage in what is really a benign and in offensive message.

John F. Kennedy said:
The artist, however faithful to his personal vision of reality, becomes the last champion of the individual mind and sensibility against an intrusive society and an officious state. The great artist is thus a solitary figure.....

If sometimes our great artists have been the most critical of our society, it is because their sensitivity and their concern for justice, which must motivate any true artist, makes him aware that our Nation falls short of its highest potential. I see little of more importance to the future of our country and our civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist.

If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him. We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth.

And as such we should resist restrictions of expression whether the art is commercial, the art is edgy, or the art is just beautiful.  Restrictions of expressions of points of view that are not your own is tyrannical.  This is certainly not what the First Amendment is about.  But if you are a fundamentalist I guess the First Amendment was inspired by God to protect your point of view only.