Archive for December, 2015

ALL WE NEED TO DO IS STOP TAKING THEM FOR GRANTED

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

First provision of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The United States is predominantly Christian, in its population, but it is not a Christian country.  On the other hand, it is not an “atheist” country.

No, the United States is not a religious or anti-religious country.

Still, it is highly significant that the right to freedom of religion is the first right given us in our Bill of Rights.  However religious or non-religious our Founding Fathers were, religion was very significant to them.

I’ve seen a lot of bumper stickers over the holidays.  Bumper stickers make very good writing prompts.

Yesterday, I saw a bumper sticker that read something like this:

“WITHOUT THE HOME OF THE BRAVE, THERE WOULD BE NO LAND OF THE FREE”

It didn’t quite make sense like that–so I rephrased it in my mind to read,

IF THIS WERE NOT THE HOME OF THE BRAVE, IT WOULDN’T BE THE LAND OF THE FREE.

Still, I sensed misplaced gratitude in this message.

And I recalled these lines from a very popular song, “…And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free.  And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me…”

It is good that we acknowledge the service of our veterans–living, dead, and missing in action.

However, though our veterans have arguably defended our rights, they have not given us our rights.

Our Founding Fathers gave us our rights.  Those who gave us our Constitution gave us our rights.  Those who gave us our Bill of Rights gave us our rights.

And though these men died over two centuries ago, we owe them far more than we owe any of our veterans–living, dead, or missing in action.

Because it was our Founding Fathers who gave us our country, in the first place. And while we owe our veterans our respect and appreciation–we owe our Founding Fathers our lives.  Not our lives in the sense of dying–but our lives in the sense of living.  Our Founding Fathers had great expectations of us, and we owe it to them to live up to their expectations the best we can.

To be true to our country, we must be true to our Constitution.  And we must especially be true to our Bill of Rights.

To take our rights for granted is not to be true to our Bill of Rights.  To ignore our rights is not to be true to our Bill of Rights.  And to abuse our rights is not to be true to our Bill of Rights.

It is only in exercising our rights, in the wisest ways, that we can be true to our Bill of Rights.

Now today, I saw the following bumper stickers on a car from my home state of Alabama:

“PRAY FOR THE PEACE OF JERUSALEM”

and

“STOP GIVING BILLIONS TO COUNTRIES THAT PERSECUTE CHRISTIANS”

It is good to pray for the peace of Jerusalem–it is good to pray for the peace of any city in the world.

Peace is a good thing.

But peace is not enough.

Remember the Pax Romana–the Roman Peace?  Yes, the Roman Empire was very peaceful, within its own borders.  But this peace came at a hell of a price–millions of Roman citizens and slaves were persecuted, tortured, and brutally executed in order to maintain this peace.

North Korea is probably the most peaceful country in the world today, within its own borders.  But its people are arguably the most subjugated in the world–they pay a hell of a price for their peace.

Likewise, if the peace of Jerusalem comes at the cost of the brutal subjugation of Palestinian Arabs there–what good is that peace?

We must not allow our government to give billions to countries that persecute Christians–we must not allow our government to give billions to countries that persecute people of any faith.

But there are a lot of countries like these.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

In other words, the United States will not have a state religion.  And the practice of any religion will be tolerated.

It is because of our Bill of Rights–and only because of our Bill of Rights–that the United States is arguably the freest country in the world.  To my knowledge, no other country in the world has freedom of religion guaranteed in its constitution.

Many religious Americans want America to tolerate one religion only–theirs.  Many anti-religious Americans want America to tolerate no religion at all.  And it is because our right to freedom of religion is guaranteed us in our Bill of Rights–and only because our right to freedom of religion is guaranteed us in our Bill of Rights–that neither of these extremes can have its way.

Of course Communist totalitarian states, like North Korea, tolerate no religion at all.  And theocracies, like post-revolution Iran, tolerate one religion only.

Yet in every country in which freedom of religion is not guaranteed in its constitution, its governmental structure–religious freedom is arbitrary, and religious intolerance is inevitable.

To be true to our Bill of Rights, to live up to our Founding Fathers’ expectations of us, we must not allow our government to support countries that persecute Christians–or people of any other faith.

Let’s look at two of these: the Zionist State (“Israel”) and Communist China.

The modern state of Israel was forcibly established, in 1948, on land already inhabited by Arabs for over 1300 years.  These Arab inhabitants were driven off their land–any who resisted displacement were gunned down–just as any who resist confinement to Gaza, the West Bank, or East Jerusalem are still gunned down. The modern state of Israel was a Jewish state, from the beginning–as it still is.  Judaism was–and is–the state religion of Israel (though many Jews consider it to be a travesty of the true Jewish faith).

And the Zionist State–the modern state of Israel whose state religion is a variant of Judaism–persecutes Christians, indeed kills Christians.  No, it doesn’t persecute and kill Christian tourists from the United States or other countries.  It persecutes and kills Christian Arabs.  The establishment and continued support of the Zionist State (“Israel”) is an ongoing atrocity against the Arab People and against Muslims, in general–this is true.  But it is also an ongoing atrocity against Christians–Arab Christians.  Because–though the majority of Palestinian Arabs are Muslim–a large minority of them is Christian.  And the Israeli military is every bit as brutal and deadly toward Christian Arabs as it is toward Muslim Arabs–it makes absolutely no distinction.

And the United States Government–our government–gives billions of dollars (at least three billion every year), plus countless weapons, to the Zionist State (“Israel”)–a country that persecutes and kills Christians every year.  Countless Christian Arabs, along with countless more Muslim Arabs every year.

And Communist China.  We never use the term “Communist” for China anymore–though it’s just as Communist as ever, in its governmental policies.  Freedom of religion is arbitrary there, at best–and completely obliterated at worst.

Just as the Palestinian Arabs (both Muslim and Christian) are continuously persecuted and slaughtered in their own land by the Zionist State of Israel, the Tibetan Buddhists are continuously persecuted and slaughtered in their own land by the Communist State of China.  Even the Dalai Lama (the Buddhist equivalent of the Pope) has been exiled from his Tibetan homeland.

And the United States Government–our government–gives billions of dollars–in loan payments–to Communist China–a country that persecutes and kills Buddhists every year.

Why the United States Government borrowed any money from Communist China, in the first place, is beyond me–but it makes no difference.

Still, the biggest contribution the United States Government–our government–makes to Communist China is that made to Communist China’s economy.  And how does our government make this contribution?  By allowing American corporations to outsource American jobs to Communist China in an economic practice of treason.  Not free enterprise–treason.  The American People made American corporations the prosperous and powerful enterprises they are.  And how do these American corporations pay us–the American People–back?  They outsource our jobs to foreign countries–especially Communist China.  And the United States Government–our government–does absolutely nothing to stop this collective act of treason.

Understand–ISIS is nothing compared to Communist China–it is ridiculous that we worry so much about the threat of a Digital-Age terrorist group when we gladly accept Trojan horses from Communist China into our homes, into our cars, into our lives every single day.  Products from China contain lead, mercury, and God knows what else–the Communist Chinese Government is laughing its ass off because it is literally poisoning American citizens while taking American jobs, via treacherous American corporations, from American citizens.

And the Communist Chinese Government is using our money to persecute and kill Tibetan Buddhists–and any others who dare demand freedom of religion.

Our economy–once unrivaled in the world–is being sold out to Communist China like a crack whore–and we’re worried about ISIS?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

Just as we take so many others of our rights for granted, we take our right to freedom of religion for granted–and this is bad.  But we also allow our government to support countries that tolerate only one religion, or no religion at all–and this is worse.

What tools do we have to stop our government’s support of countries like the Zionist State (“Israel”) and Communist China?

Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech…or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

These tools:

Our right to freedom of speech.

And our right to peaceably assemble, and demand that our government do right by us. 

And all three of the above rights are included in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

All we need to do is stop taking them for granted.

THE WORLDS ARE BEING TOLD LIKE BEADS

The river and its waves are one surf:  where is the difference between the river and its waves?

When the wave rises, it is the water; and when it falls, it is the same water again.  Tell me, Sir, where is the distinction?

Because it has been named as wave, shall it no longer be considered as water?

Within the Supreme Brahma, the worlds are being told like beads:

Look upon that rosary with the eyes of wisdom.

Kabir

(translated by Rabindranath Tagore)

SINCERE, ACTIVE LISTENING INVOLVES SHARING THE PAIN OF ANOTHER

This is the worst holiday season I’ve ever had in my life–and most definitely the worst Christmas I’ve ever had in my life.  One reason is that my parents have never been so indifferent, insensitive, and downright cruel to me as they are this holiday season.  And it is in their verbal and nonverbal communication with me that they are so indifferent, insensitive, and downright cruel.

I would email the following words to my parents, if it would do any good.  But it wouldn’t–they are completely incapable of honestly looking at themselves–they will go to their graves believing they were always right, and I was always wrong.

Still, the following words are arguably the best I’ve encountered on the topic of sincere, active listening–and we would all do well to heed them.

They were written by M. Scott Peck, and are included in his book, Further Along The Road Less Traveled.

“There is much solace we could take from Eliot’s example as we ourselves struggle along with our rocky path and our pain.  We need some comfort on our journey, but one of the things we don’t need is quick fixes.  I have seen a lot of people who literally murder each other with quick fixes in the name of healing.

“They do this for very self-centered reasons.  For example, let’s say that Rick is my friend and he is in pain.  Because he is my friend, that causes me pain, but I don’t like to feel pain.  So what I’d like to do is to heal Rick as quickly as I possibly can to get rid of my pain.  I’d like to give him some kind of easy answer like: ‘Oh, I’m sorry your mother died but don’t feel bad about it.  She’s gone to Heaven.’  Or: ‘Gee, I had that problem once and all you have to do is go running.’

“But more often than not, the most healing thing that we can do with someone who is in pain, rather than trying to get rid of that pain, is to sit there and be willing to share it.  We have to learn to hear and to bear other people’s pain.  That is all part of becoming more conscious.  And the more conscious we become, the more we see the games that other people play and their sins and manipulations, but we’re also more conscious of their burdens and their sorrows.

“As we grow spiritually, we can take on more and more of other people’s pain, and then the most amazing thing happens.  The more pain you are willing to take on, the more joy you will also begin to feel.  And this is truly good news of what makes the journey ultimately so worthwhile.”

PROVE ME WRONG

Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?

Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?

Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?

Matthew 7:9-10, and Luke 11:12

If your son asks for your love, will you give him a cellphone?

If your daughter asks for your love, will you give her an iPhone?

If your son asks for your love, will you give him a smartphone? 

Millions of Christians, already addicted to mobile devices themselves, give mobile devices to their children for Christmas.  These same Christian parents, who never considered the consequences of getting mobile devices for themselves, likewise never consider the consequences of giving mobile devices to their children.  They, knowing what is good for them, give mobile devices to their children, who do not know what is good for them.  These Christian parents had the chance to escape this mass addiction, their children do not.

You might as well give your child a stone, or a serpent, or a scorpion.

For that matter, you might as well give your child a carton of cigarettes, or a bottle of liquor, or a subscription to Hustler.

On Christmas–and every other day of the year–your lord and savior is not Jesus Christ, but your smartphone.  Your god is Digital-Age technology.

You give up your freedom of speech for your guns, you give up your freedom of religion for your guns.

But you would give up your guns for your mobile device.

You would give everything you have for your mobile device.

Why, you might even give your soul for your mobile device.

You say I’m wrong?

Then prove me wrong.

FOR GOD’S SAKE, FOR YOUR SAKE, AND ESPECIALLY FOR EVERYONE ELSE’S SAKE

I saw something about a driver killing in Las Vegas on AOL Monday.  Of course I didn’t look at the AOL article–AOL is arguably the most unreliable source of news there is.  I set my DVR to record the PBS Newshour.  Surprise–there was nothing at all about this on the PBS Newshour.  I had set my DVR to record my local news (ABC affiliate) for the weather forecast, as usual–there was a ridiculously short clip on that news broadcast about this incident.

So yesterday I picked up a copy of The New York Times.  This incident wasn’t reported on the front page at all–which was really surprising.  I had to look all over the place to even find any mention of it in an index.  It was on page A19–in the back half of Section A–and only in a tiny corner of the page: Murder Charge to Be Filed in Crash on Las Vegas Strip.

When I first saw anything about this, on AOL, I immediately recalled a similar crash in Las Vegas many years before.  And I remembered that incident was all over the front page of every newspaper in America–and all over the television news media.  That occurred in 2005.  The perpetrator was Stephen Ressa.  He intentionally drove into a crowd, killing three people, and injuring many more. And he was White.

The perpetrator of this latest crash is Lakeisha N. Holloway.  She intentionally drove into a crowd, killing one person, and injuring many more.  And she is Black.

The American press is going to great lengths to keep this incident in the background–barely mentioning it at all.

Why?

Given the American press’ practice of inserting the race card into every single act of violence in the last year–yet only when the perpetrators are White, and their victims are Black–its downplaying of this act of violence is due to the fact that the perpetrator is Black, and most of her victims are probably White.  What other credible explanation could there be?

Consider this section of the article:

Sheriff Lombardo said repeatedly that Ms. Holloway’s motive was unclear, though he said she had offered an explanation of sorts to officers, “and I’m not comfortable disclosing that.”

Why?

Perhaps because this violent act was racially motivated, and the sheriff wouldn’t dare admit that a Black person could commit a racially motivated act of violence.

Sheriff Lombardo is later reported to say, “As of now, we do not believe it to be an act of terrorism.”

Well of course not!  Lakeisha N. Holloway is not a Muslim–and as God-fearing, patriotic Americans, we all know that only Muslims commit acts of terrorism, don’t we?

Finally, there is this:

Steven B. Wolfson, the Clark County district attorney, said, “We are going to start off by filing one count of murder with the use of a deadly weapon.”  He added that he expected to file more charges later, including “multiple counts of attempted murder with use of a deadly weapon…”

Wait a minute–this woman drove her car into a crowd of people.  Since when has a car been a deadly weapon?

Since cars were invented–in the late Nineteenth Century.

A motor vehicle, in the right hands, is a machine used for transportation.

A motor vehicle, in the wrong hands, is a deadly weapon.

A motor vehicle, used carefully, is a machine for transportation.

A motor vehicle, used carelessly, is a deadly weapon.

Now this woman, Lakeisha N. Holloway, intentionally used her car as a deadly weapon–just as that man, Stephen Ressa, intentionally used his car as a deadly weapon in 2005.

But your motor vehicle can be used as a deadly weapon whether you intend it to, or not.

Of course if you have so much alcohol in your system that you cannot safely drive, and you kill someone–your motor vehicle is a deadly weapon.

But get this–if you are using a mobile device (cellphone, iPhone, Smartphone, Blackberry) behind the wheel, you cannot safely drive–no matter how sober you are.  Whether you’re texting on it, playing a game on it, accessing the Internet on it, checking your emails on it, or just talking on it, you are engaging in willful distracted driving if you are using a mobile device while driving.  And no matter how careful you try to be, you cannot be careful enough to drive.  You will kill someone–sooner or later–and your motor vehicle will be a deadly weapon.

Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s right–willful distracted driving is just plain wrong.

If you kill someone by using your mobile device while driving, you might as well have been drunk off your ass while driving–indeed you might as well have intentionally used your motor vehicle as a deadly weapon–it makes absolutely no difference.

And if you kill someone by using your mobile device while driving, you might as well have shot that person to death–it makes absolutely no difference.

If you insist on carrying a mobile device, turn it off when you’re behind the wheel of your motor vehicle–for God’s sake, for your sake, and especially for everyone else’s sake.

Seriously, if you use a mobile device while driving, you have no regard for human life.

Is that too harsh?

Then if you use a mobile device while driving, and you have any regard for human life at all, you certainly don’t show it.

Hang up and drive.  Put it down, it can wait.  Leave it off while you’re driving–for God’s sake, for your sake, and especially for everyone else’s sake.

GANDHI AND CHIEF SEATTLE: WHAT THEY REALLY SAID

This morning, I was going to write a post applying words attributed to Gandhi. But I had seen two ways in which these words had been written, so I looked for the authentic one.  To my annoyed surprise, there was none–because Gandhi had never said these words at all.

Gandhi never said:

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

or

“We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”

What Gandhi actually said was this:

We but mirror the world.  All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body.  If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.  As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.  This is the divine mystery supreme.  A wonderful thing it is and the source of all happiness.  We need not wait to see what others do.

Then this afternoon, I recalled another misquote–this one attributed to Chief Seattle.  Like “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” or “We must be the change we wish to see in the world,” this quote is a good teaching–it does have value.

But Chief Seattle never said:

“The earth does not belong to man–man belongs to the earth.”

What Chief Seattle actually said is debatable, primarily because of translation issues.  But the following translation is considered the most authentic:

Yonder sky that has wept tears of compassion upon my people for centuries untold, and which to us appears changeless and eternal, may change.  Today is fair.  Tomorrow it may be overcast with clouds.  My words are like the stars that never change.  Whatever Seattle says, the great chief at Washington can rely upon with as much certainty as he can upon the return of the sun or the seasons.  The white chief says that Big Chief at Washington sends us greetings of friendship and goodwill.  This is kind of him for we know he has little need of our friendship in return. His people are many.  They are like the grass that covers vast prairies. My people are few.  They resemble the scattering trees of a storm-swept plain.  The great, and I presume–good, White Chief sends us word that he wishes to buy our land but is willing to allow us to live comfortably. This indeed appears just, even generous, for the Red Man no longer has rights that he need respect, and the offer may be wise, also, as we are no longer in need of an extensive country.

There was a time when our people covered the land as the waves of a wind-ruffled sea cover its shell-paved floor, but that time long since passed away with the greatness of tribes that are now but a mournful memory.  I will not dwell on, nor mourn over, our untimely decay, nor reproach my paleface brothers with hastening it, as we too may have been somewhat to blame.

Youth is impulsive.  When our young men grow angry at some real or imaginary wrong, and disfigure their faces with black paint, it denotes that their hearts are black, and that they are often cruel and relentless, and our old men and old women are unable to restrain them.  Thus it has ever been.  Thus it was when the white man began to push our forefathers ever westward.  But let us hope that the hostilities between us may never return.  We would have everything to lose and nothing to gain.

Revenge by young men is considered gain, even at the cost of their own lives, but old [men who stay] at home in times of war, and mothers who have sons to lose, know better.

Our good father in Washington–for I presume he is now our father as well as yours, since King George has moved his boundaries further north–our great and good father, I say, sends us word that if we do as he desires he will protect us.  His brave warriors will be to us a bristling wall of strength, and his wonderful ships of war will fill our harbors, so that our ancient enemies far to the northward–the Haidas and Tsimshians–will cease to frighten our women, children, and old men.  Then in reality he will be our father and we his children.

But can that ever be?  Your God is not our God!  Your God loves your people and hates mine!  He folds his strong protecting arms lovingly about the paleface and leads him by the hand as a father leads an infant son.  But, He has forsaken His Red children, if they really are His.  Our God, the Great Spirit, seems also to have forsaken us.  Your God makes your people wax stronger every day.  Soon they will fill all the land.  Our people are ebbing away like a rapidly receding tide that will never return. The white man’s God cannot love our people or He would protect them. They seem to be orphans who can look nowhere for help.  How then can we be brothers?  How can your God become our God and renew our prosperity and awaken in us dreams of returning greatness?  If we have a common Heavenly Father He must be partial, for He came to His paleface children.  We never saw Him.  He gave you laws but had no word for His red children whose teeming multitudes once filled this vast continent as stars fill the firmament.  No; we are two distinct races with separate destinies.  There is little in common between us.

To us the ashes of our ancestors are sacred and their resting place is hallowed ground.  You wander far from the graves of your ancestors and seemingly without regret.  Your religion was written upon tablets of stone by the iron finger of your God so that you could not forget.  The Red Man could never comprehend or remember it.  Our religion is the traditions of our ancestors–the dreams of our old men, given them in solemn hours of the night by the Great Spirit; and the visions of our sachems, and is written in the hearts of our people.  Your dead cease to love you and the land of their nativity as soon as they pass the portals of the tomb and wander away beyond the stars.  They are soon forgotten and never return.  Our dead never forget this beautiful world that gave them being.  They still love its verdant valleys, its magnificent mountains, sequestered vales and verdant lined lakes and bays, and ever yearn in tender fond affection over the lonely hearted living, and often return from the happy hunting ground to visit, guide, console, and comfort them.  Day and night cannot dwell together.  The Red Man has ever fled the approach of the White Man, as the morning mist flees before the morning sun.  However, your proposition seems fair and I think that my people will accept it and will retire to the reservation you offer them. Then we will dwell apart in peace, for the words of the Great White Chief seem to be the words of nature speaking to my people out of dense darkness.

It matters little where we pass the remnant of our days.  They will not be many.  The Indian’s night promises to be dark.  Not a single star of hope hovers above his horizon.  Sad-voiced winds moan in the distance.  Grim fate seems to be on the Red Man’s trail, and wherever he will hear the approaching footsteps of his fell destroyer and prepare stolidly to meet his doom, as does the wounded doe that hears the approaching footsteps of the hunter.

A few more moons, a few more winters, and not one of the descendants of the mighty hosts that once moved over this broad land or lived in happy homes, protected by the Great Spirit, will remain to mourn over the graves of a people once more powerful and hopeful than yours.  But why should I mourn at the untimely fate of my people?  Tribe follows tribe, and nation follows nation, like the waves of the sea.  It is the order of nature, and regret is useless.  Your time of decay may be distant, but it will surely come, for even the White Man whose God walked and talked with him as friend to friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers after all.  We will see.

We will ponder your proposition and when we decide we will let you know.  But should we accept it, I here and now make this condition that we will not be denied the privilege without molestation of visiting at any time the tombs of our ancestors, friends, and children.  Every part of this soil is sacred in the estimation of my people.  Every hillside, every valley, every plain and grove, has been hallowed by some sad or happy event in days long vanished.  Even the rocks, which seem to be dumb and dead as swelter in the sun along the silent shore, thrill with memories of stirring events connected with the lives of my people, and the very dust upon which you now stand responds more lovingly to their footsteps than yours, because it is rich with the blood of our ancestors, and our bare feet are conscious of the sympathetic touch.  Our departed braves, fond mothers, glad, happy hearted maidens, and even the little children who lived here and rejoiced here for a brief season, will love these somber solitudes and at eventide they greet shadowy returning spirits.  And when the last Red Man shall have perished, and the memory of my tribe shall have become a myth among the White Men, these shores will swarm with the invisible dead of my tribe, and when your children’s children think themselves alone in the field, the store, the shop, upon the highway, or in the silence of the pathless woods, they will not be alone. In all the earth there is no place dedicated to solitude.  At night when the streets of your cities and villages are silent and you think them deserted, they will throng with the returning hosts that once filled them and still love this beautiful land.  The White Man will never be alone.  Let him be just and deal kindly with my people, for the dead are not powerless.

IT’S IMPORTANT TO QUESTION EVERYTHING–EVEN ONE’S OWN QUESTIONING

It’s important to question everything–even one’s own questioning.

NOT TERRORISTS UNLESS THEY’RE MUSLIMS?

I wrote, in a previous post, that it appeared that the perpetrators of the latest mass shooting in the United States were homegrown terrorists.  This was based only on what I’d heard at the time–I knew no more than anyone else.

Still–I thought it strange that terrorists would pick such an out-of-the-way location.  And when I learned that they had killed people they knew–at an office party–I became even more skeptical that this was a terrorist act.

The terrorists who terrorized Paris last month were typical.  They killed people they didn’t know, in different locations in the center of one of the most populous and frequented cities in the world.  They killed these people on an evening when these locations were packed with people. Terrorists have one purpose–to terrorize.  And this is what they did.

The Oklahoma City bombing was considered a terrorist act.

But the mass shooting at Columbine was not considered a terrorist act.

And the mass shooting at Newtown was not considered a terrorist act.

And the mass shooting at Aurora was not considered a terrorist act.

And the mass shooting at Charleston was not considered a terrorist act.

And the mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic was not considered a terrorist act.

And none of the mass shootings before the above, and between each of the above, were considered terrorist acts.

Yet the latest mass shooting in the United States is considered a terrorist act.

Why?

The Columbine shooters were not Muslims.

The Newtown shooter was not a Muslim.

The Aurora shooter was not a Muslim.

The Charleston shooter was not a Muslim.

The Planned Parenthood shooter was not a Muslim.

But the latest mass shooters were Muslims.

Am I to understand that no mass shooting in the United States is considered a terrorist act unless it is committed by Muslims?

FAR MORE DANGEROUS THAN GUNS

Guns are dangerous–but motor vehicles are far more dangerous.

Every car or truck is a loaded gun.

And this is why mobile devices are so much more dangerous than guns could ever be–because drivers are allowed to use mobile devices while driving loaded guns. It’s like shooting blind.

Understand–there is no way in hell that you can carry on a phone conversation and focus on your driving.  And there is no way in hell that you can access the Internet or text anyone and focus on your driving.

As dangerous as handguns are, for example–I would rather every driver have a loaded handgun beside him or her than a mobile device.  Because he or she wouldn’t use a handgun.  He or she would know not to use it–at least while driving.

Mobile devices (cellphones, iPhones, Smartphones, Blackberries) are far more dangerous than guns–because they seem so innocuous.  What possible harm could it do to answer that call on your cellphone while driving, or text someone while driving, or see who emailed you while driving…you’ve just killed someone. Even one distracted second is too many.

If you carry a mobile device at all–for God’s sake (and yours, and everyone else’s), keep it turned off while driving.  It really is more dangerous than a loaded handgun when you’re behind the wheel.

Mobile device usage while driving is willful distracted driving.  And though this willful distracted driving is killing more people than drunk driving is, it is not a crime.  And this is a crime, in itself.

I spoke with a cable technician a while back who maintained that our right to keep and bear arms does not necessarily give us the right to use them.  And this made sense to me.  Generally speaking, people who have guns don’t use them carelessly.  But generally speaking, people who have mobile devices use them carelessly–constantly.

If you kill someone by using a mobile device while driving, you might as well have shot that person to death–it makes absolutely no difference.

It is because they are used while driving that mobile devices are far more dangerous than guns could ever be.

DEALING WITH THE GODDAMNED DIGITAL AGE PART 2: PENSACOLA, FLORIDA

(DEALING WITH THE GODDAMNED DIGITAL AGE PART 1: MOBILE, ALABAMA)

Because of circumstances beyond my control, I had to move from Mobile to this house in Pensacola in March, 1998–I simply had nowhere else to go.  This was my paternal grandparents’ house.  Though my grandfather had died in 1974, my grandmother was still living.  But due to severe loss of blood in a heart operation, her mind was like that of a lost child.  And when I moved here, this house had been vacant for a year–Grandma was in a nursing home.

I didn’t mind moving to this house, I just wished it were in Mobile.  I was attending graduate school at the University of South Alabama–and between the stress of moving and my dad’s constant badgering of me to move to an apartment (he was letting me stay here begrudgingly and temporarily–he wanted to sell the house), I couldn’t finish a paper for the one required class (Theory of Literary Criticism)–thus failed the class, and failed-out of graduate school.

I ended-up staying here for good–my dad soon found he could get a tax break if he let me stay here.  And I spent as much time as I could with Grandma, visiting her at the nursing home, and taking her places.  She died in 1999.  I still miss her–not the way she was, having Alzheimer’s-like symptoms–but the way she was before that.  And I miss my grandpa even more.

In 1998, I found a Toastmasters chapter here (Toastmasters International is a public-speaking organization).  I joined it, and made some acquaintances and a friend named Pat.  Like many members of Monday Nite Toastmasters, Pat was somewhat conservative.  And he told me about the Fox News Network.  Fox News was refreshing–the only right-leaning television network amidst a sea of left-leaning television networks.

During that time, there was a lot of discussion and debate on Fox News about cellphones–especially, as I recall, on Bill O’Reilly’s show.  I can’t remember whether the installation of cell towers was discussed, but I definitely remember that cellphone usage while driving was discussed and debated a great deal–specifically whether cellphone usage while driving should be legal at all.

But I paid little attention to this–I had never seen anyone using a cellphone while driving in Mobile–and I didn’t ever see anyone using a cellphone while driving in Pensacola.  This epidemic of willful distracted driving had simply not spread here yet.

My first unpleasant experience with mobile devices occurred off the road–when my sister Elaine, brother-in-law Jeff, and nephews Jeffrey and Jonathan went to visit my parents in Mobile.  I drove over there, to my parents’ house. Seemed like half the time I wanted to talk to these four family guests, they were using mobile gadgets–mostly texting.  It made no sense to me–why would anyone go to the trouble to type-out a message when he or she could simply talk?  And it hurt my feelings–instead of visiting with my parents and with me, they were texting people miles away.  At one point, Elaine used a mobile device, Jeff used a mobile device, Jeffrey used a mobile device, and Jonathan used a mobile device–all at the same time.  This hurt my parents as much as me.  I asked my mom what their problem was–why they seemed to prefer the company of their little gadgets to us. I felt like just telling them all how rude it was.  But my mom insisted I keep quiet about it–she didn’t want them to stop visiting altogether.  One of the gadgets used was called a Blackberry–I had to ask what it was.

If this were an isolated case–just one family addicted to mobile devices . . . but it wasn’t.  This was already happening all over America.

Back in 2000, I worked briefly at the public library in downtown Pensacola.  This is where I first came in contact with digital video discs (DVDs).  This was Digital-Age Technology.  DVDs were quickly replacing videocassettes at the library–patrons were checking them out daily.

Then in 2004, I dated a woman who had a DVD player.  She would often rent DVDs, and I would watch movies with her and her daughter.  It really was amazing how much clearer the picture came in on DVD.

And several years later, my parents gave me a DVD player for Christmas.  I cannot recall my first DVD, but I began amassing quite a collection, from that point.

In 2007, my word processor stopped functioning.  And I resumed using my late-brother Mike’s electronic typewriter (I joined a writers’ group in Pace, and resumed my fiction and poetry writing).

During this time, my parents considered giving me a second-hand computer, so I could have Internet access (I mention having a computer before then, in a short, nonfiction piece I wrote in 2007, but I cannot recall that).

My parents had already given me a MailStation email machine.  This was Digital-Age technology.  I could send and receive emails with this, though I could not print them out.

I was ambivalent about my having Internet access, but so was my mom.  She worried that I might get into Internet pornography.  It always amuses me, looking back at this.  As I would soon find out–Internet porn was not free-of-charge.  And it was not practical.  I had been getting soft-core porn magazines for decades. Most of these were British.  I preferred the British women because they had better figures–the American porn models were underweight, often grossly so (the only exception being those in Leg Show, which is (sadly) no longer published).  So why would I bother with Internet porn, when I could get my jollies from good-old-fashioned girlie magazines?

No–my mom had nothing to worry about, in the area of Internet porn.  I would end up getting into those damned political forums provided by AOL instead–where I would spend hours arguing with obnoxious bastards who were as opinionated as I!

My parents gave me the second-hand computer.  Now I had Internet access, via a dial-up connection.  This was Digital-Age technology.

My involvement with those AOL forums ended when I finally realized that, no matter what I argued, and no matter how well I argued it–I could not change anyone’s mind.

I began reading my niece-in-law Jessica’s blog instead–then other blogs. This was a lot more constructive.

Blogs were the most misunderstood medium on the Internet–as they still are.  I remember my mom saying how she didn’t understand why anyone would want to share personal information on the Internet–and my failure to understand it, as well.  And it wasn’t until I began reading blogs, and commenting on blogs, that I realized they were not just public diaries.  They were also venues through which people could share ideas, and get almost immediate feedback.  They were even places where bloggers could get to know other bloggers–thereby forming the blogosphere, a community of online writers.

I had been keeping a personal, written journal since 1992, on spiral notebooks. But this wasn’t to be read until after my death.  With a blog, I could share ideas that could be read before my death–and read by almost anyone in the world. How could I resist such an opportunity?

I asked Jessica how I could set up a blog–she didn’t just give me advice, she set up my blog for me.  And for this, I am grateful to her–to this day.

And if you look in my archives, you can see that I began expressing ideas on my blog right away–with my second post, in fact (MY CREED, November 20, 2008).


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