abortion, extremism, opinion, Politics, pro-choice, short fiction, Short Story, terrorism

Life/Death

“Anything you need, you got it…”

Roy Orbison on the radio, air freshener in the shape of a prayer card. He switches on the turn signal and pulls into the parking lot of the medical clinic. A dozen other cars packed the small lot. He found a space near the handicapped area. He puts the car in park and listens to the end of the song, the engine is idling and sputters. It is an old car. He turns the key and the car goes dead. He unbuckles his belt and gets out of the two-door 90’s import he drives. He puts the seat down and grabs a bag from the backseat. It is a plastic electronic store bag, and he reaches inside and pulls out a cheap looking throwaway cell phone. He puts the phone in his pocket and locks the car door. He walks towards the clinic, but then he freezes in his tracks. He seems to be thinking about something. He turns around and returns to the car. He unlocks the door and reaches in to the cup-holder. He grabs ahold of some rosary beads. The beads are white and blood read. He looks at the rosary in his hand and then he puts it in his breast pocket.

He locks the car once more and then turns back towards the clinic. He reaches the heavy, barred door and pushes the buzzer. He waits a second until he hears another buzz and he is able to pull the door open. He walks inside and is greeted by a heavy-set man wearing a security guard uniform. The man looks at him suspiciously before asking him to empty his pockets into the plastic tray provided. He did and then he walked through the metal detector. It went off once because he had forgotten to take off his watch. He put his watch in the tray along with his other items and walked through once more. No sound this time. The guard hands him his belongings back and points towards the waiting room. He enters and takes a seat near the front desk. He folds his hands onto his lap and looks around the room. There are half a dozen young women and one or two women in their 30’s and 40’s seated around him. One of the young women is texting furiously. Another is filling out a clip board full of medical information. One of the older ladies laughs at something that one of the nurses says as she walks past. He smiles and leans back in his chair.

The metal detector goes off again. He can hear the security guard apologize to someone, and he hears a young female voice answer back “It’s not a problem.” He recognizes the voice. He does not turn to see the young woman enter the waiting room. She looks around the room and notices the man there. She does not know him, but she does recognize his description. As per her instructions she ignores him and goes right up to the front desk. She is greeted pleasantly by a grandmotherly woman wearing a grey sweater and a clinic name tag. It says “Glenda”. Glenda asks her if she needs a packet of information. She says no and reminds Glenda that she already has an appointment. Glenda looks at her computer screen and finds the appointment in question. Glenda looks back at her and says “It will only be a few minutes. Please take a seat and the nurse will be right with you.” She takes a seat. He looks at her. She is visibly pregnant, but not far along. He looks around the room again and notices that one of the younger women is gone. He wonders for a moment where she got to but then he sees her for a moment down the hall passing from one room to the next. She was in a hospital gown.

A couple comes into the waiting room and they take a seat next to him. The boyfriend or husband looks worried or nervous. His girlfriend or wife just pats his hand and whispers in his ear. The boyfriend or husband looks a little less nervous after this. He turns his focus away from this couple and gets up to walk towards the front desk. “Glenda” has been temporarily replaced by a younger African American woman with short cropped hair. Her tag says “Mandy”. She seems nice. He asks Mandy if a certain Dr. Holbrook were free yet. She says he is not off for another 20 minutes. She asks him why he wants to know. He looks her in the eye and forces a smile onto his face. He says that he just wanted to inform him that the car service he ordered was a little early. He shows her a fake id with the name of a private livery service on it. She has no reason to doubt it is real. This man has picked up the doctor for weeks now.  Mandy rolled her eyes and laughed. “Nice that you are actually early instead of a half hour late for a change.” She tells him that she will let the doctor know that the car is here when she goes back for her payment charts. He thanks her and takes his seat once more.

A phone rings at the front desk and Mandy answers it. She obviously knows the person on the other line as she is smiling and talking quite animatedly into the receiver. After a brief conversation she thanks whoever is on the other end of the line and hangs up the phone. She scratches something on a notepad and then looks up. She calls out “June? June Fellows? The doctor will see you now honey.” One of the women in her 30’s gets up from her chair and heads into the back through the door next to the front desk. He flinches as the door slams behind her. He looks at the clock on the wall. It is 3 minutes to 4 pm. He gets up from his chair and goes over to the young woman. He drops something as he walks past her. She leans to pick it up for him. He thanks her. No one else notices that she does not actually give the object back to him. He leaves.

She touches her stomach. No one notices when pulls out two wires from under her shirt and connects them. A pregnant woman touching her belly does not arouse suspicion. Glenda returns from the back of the office. She looks busy but focused. She pulls up the appointment list on her computer. “Abigail? Abigail Donaldson? The doctor will see you now sweetie.” She gets up and heads for the door to the examination rooms. She opens it and closes it behind her. Her name is not Abigail Donaldson.

He walks through the parking lot. A woman is walking towards the building and passes by him. She pauses for a moment. “I am sorry, I don’t know if you know this, but I have been getting the run around from what seems like everyone. Is this a real Woman’s Health Clinic or just another one of those “Pregnancy Centers”?”

He turned to look at the woman. He smiled and laughed. “Oh this is the real McCoy. I just went in to get an appointment for my wife. Go on in. It’s not too busy at the moment.”

The woman nodded her head. “Thank you.” She walked towards the entrance of the building and went in. He was happy. Every new body in the building would add to the list of martyrs for the cause. He was proud to have led this woman to glory for Christ and the unborn. He reached his car and opened the driver side door. He put the key in the ignition and turned on the radio. It was a station news break. A baritone DJ was talking about some political uprising in Burma. He turned to look at the clinic. The alarm on his watch went off. It was 5 minutes past 4pm. He began to pray.

Back in the building the doctor enters examination room 3 and sees his young patient. She looks nervous and scared. The doctor comes over to her and asks her if she needs a glass of water. She closes her eyes and begins to pray loudly. “I am a warrior for the unborn. I am a slave of Christ and the Father. I shall not rest until each and every baby is allowed to be born. I beg God for forgiveness.”

The blood drained from the doctors’ face. He rushed to a phone on the wall. He picked it up and dialed the front desk. While it was ringing she took the item that the man had dropped out of her pocket. It was a disposable cellular phone. She pushes the send key.

He finishes his prayer. He opens his eyes just in time to see the explosion. The windows of his car are shattered and he is peppered with broken glass. A piece of a waiting room chair lands 5 feet away from his car. It is smoldering and the cushion is covered in blood. His face is in tattered from the glass and he his deaf from the explosion. He staggers out of the car and falls to his knees. He beholds the flaming apocalypse he had a hand in causing. Tears come to his bloody eyes. He praises his god. Life is indeed sacred.

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Atheism, Philosophy, Religion

Positive Atheism

What is atheism? Is it an antagonistic denial of god or is it is a positive belief in human potential, failings and creativity? Is it a hatred for the adherents of religious faith or is it a celebration of the human animal? Or if it is none of these things yet, what should it strive to become? Atheism has become a topic of conversation for many minds in the left-liberal world; be it in the halls of academia, research laboratories or increasingly in the homes and hearts of many a work-a-day citizen. Many critical of this development see this as a side-effect of many Americans fear of “militant Islam and the American religious right”(Damon Linkler, The Religious Test, page 193) and these movements threat to classical liberal republicanism in a secular society. While I agree that some measure of anxiety over these modern problems has contributed to the growth in interest in atheism, to chock it all up to this would be to grossly over simplify a much more universal and human issue.

Human beings in the modern world are little different from their ancient forebears in one basic sense: we have always had a profound sense of interest in the world around us and our place in that world. It is no surprise that the only animal that has yet proven to be fully self-aware would be the one that also struggles with self-discovery and meaning on a day by day even moment by moment basis. I do not intend to be the one to claim I have any more insight then the next person on what we should base our conclusions of ourselves on. The best minds in the atheist/humanist tradition did not spend their time trying to disprove the existence of some petty deity. They instead focused their efforts on exploring why we ask the questions we do, what observation of the natural world has to teach us, and how we can better ourselves and our fellow human animals. They created philosophies and modes of thought and literature that attempted to enlighten and not obscure or pontificate. From Socrates to Spinoza to de Sade Nietzsche to Kahlil Gibran our great minds have put their greatest effort into designing a more poetic and worthwhile worldview based around love, anger, color, sensuality and exploration. Many have failed, some have come very close to specific answers to important questions, but most reached a point where their ideas about the larger scope of human understanding collided with their own personal hopes. I for one feel there is nothing wrong in this outcome. To expect that in one human lifetime to be able to puzzle out all matters of human conception, material entanglement, physics and ethics is quite a strain on incredulity, an exercise in futility that I think leads to the inevitable Sisyphian disillusionment remarked on with such poetry by Camus. We must strive towards understanding and discovery, not towards an intellectual and spiritual omniscience that has no place in the human experience.

Why should we as atheists settle for a simple denouncement of one segment of humanity’s desperate existential contrivance? Should all of our intellectual efforts be focused on a denial? Before I am torn apart by the devotees of the fashionable “new atheism” (some of whose apologists I quite admire, notably the magnificent and sublime Christopher Hitchens) for this seeming display of gross oversimplification I will clarify that my own personal inclination is towards a disbelief in all gods and in any theologies that seek to impose the dictates of these deities onto mankind. As far as I am concern there is no god, there never was one, and there is no need for one…But I am not going to get into another ontological/rhetorical debate about existence versus non-existence. The point of this essay is not to prove anything to another group, but to persuade and enlighten members of my own community of non-believers.

I think, personally, that a bit too much intellectual energy has been spent on disproving the existence or relevancy of god. If any concern exists for the plight of any religious person caught in conflict between their own minds and feelings and those of their community’s and its  theology then rest assured there is more than enough evidence and information out there for them to come to conclusion that personal liberation is a beneficial goal. What about atheists? What about our minds and our imaginations? I fear we are in danger of lapsing into the nihilism and loathing we decry in the religious community. So much of religious dialogue and “creativity” is aimed at prostelatyzing towards, shaming, and plotting the destruction of their secular foes. We must not fall into that same depressing spiral of self-righteous indignation. We must continue to point out that religion is not the genesis of art or of creativity, but in many cases art has been created in opposition to the dictates and restriction of religion, and the best art has almost always been a defiance of the archaic religious idea that to depict the world and its wonders and beauty is a shameful and decadent thing. The examples of Michelangelo and Caravaggio and the like are used as arguments for the idea that religion is the greatest patron and genesis of art. This is a nonsensical argument however; painting Christ on the cross does not make the painting a Christian thing anymore then cookies baked at a church bake sale are somehow infused with the spiritual essence. Art is created by human beings, not by god or by religious patrons. Religion can be a great inspiration for art, and even a motivating factor for some people, but it is not the cause of the human urge to create nor does being religious lead to a greater ability in artistic pursuits. Inspiration has to often become a synonym for spirituality, and this cheapens and makes metaphysical a feeling and concept that is human to its core.

I am sad to say that many popular “new atheists” today do not help our cause much. Beneath many of the wonderful arguments and clever prose of the “big three” and the various blogosphere polemicists there is a nasty lack of intellectual originality that at its worst descends into downright juvenile name-calling, and even worse a staggering lack of empathy for those who think differently. We can disagree with the way people live their lives and think, but we do not have to make every act or thought they have or take an affront to our own humanity. There is no need to dehumanize those we disagree with, nor do we need to pity them. We should convince people with positive ideas and actions, and not with an armed camp mentality that makes us no better than the people we so strenuously denounce. No matter how much it makes us feel better about ourselves simple religious indoctrination is not the moral equivalent of child molestation (Mr. Dawkins), nor is it our collective responsibility as atheists to save every poor child from the tribulations of a religious household. If we truly believe in the veracity and wisdom of our cause then we should realize that a religious upbringing is no real obstacle to eventually coming to humanism. Let’s cut back on the “atheist knows best” attitude and focus on representing ourselves in the best way possible. Sanctimony is unbecoming of us.

I for one am all for the occasional “Christ-tard” crack or communion wafer prank (the non-existent lord knows I have been guilty of committed a few anti-theocratic jokes myself), but I think the line should be drawn at demagoguery. We need not condemn those who we can talk to intelligently: It is always easier to bring someone around to your point of view by appealing to their intellect and sense of human decency then it is to demean and belittle them for their mistaken views. This common sense tact and respect for our fellow human beings should never be confused with timidity or lack of certainty in our arguments and ideas. We should never be afraid to say things that may offend sensibilities or push the envelope in favor of greater expression

That being said I believe atheists have allowed their fear of failing in an argument or being wrong on some small issues or points of fact get in the way of the more general and constructive brilliance that comes from striving for betterment. Falling short and learning from mistakes made is the hallmark of humanism and scientific inquiry. We must move beyond this fear of failing and embrace that all too human attribute called “imperfection”. That is why the idea of a god is so offensive to the atheist/humanist heart and mind; something that is perfect is beyond humanity, and therefore an affront to it and a denial of the basic nature of life itself. Think what you will about heaven and hell, after life and eternity, but do not live for universal existence. Live instead for the moments we have, and more importantly with the moments have. Let us create beautiful paintings, feast upon succulent food, compose sublime poetry and behold the natural, all too imperfect world around us.

Nietzsche recognized that men can come up with the most edifying and enlightening of philosophies, but they mean nothing if they are not accompanied by a renaissance of creativity and an exercise of a will towards betterment. Truth can be a terrifying thing sometimes, and the majority of humanity may not want to hear it or acknowledge it, but it is there. Sometimes Zarathustra comes down from his cave to soon…and sometimes the cave itself can be an intoxicating and warm place to hide from existence. Truth cannot always set the world free, sometimes the world prefers to be enslaved, but truth can be made more accessible through the example of art and a love of life. So of course we must continue to add to the debate about the existence and relevance of gods and the afterlife, and of course we can do this through arguments, logical analysis, polemical and rhetorical media and of course cynical and humorous lampooning.

Yet the best argument against god remains a person living life as though it didn’t matter whether there was a god or not. Do not waste your time worshiping the god through your hatred. Every second spent hating a god we know and feel instinctively is non-existent is a second wasted, and a lifetime of possibilities lost. So yes, of course, counter ignorance and religious hatred when it attempts to attack the basis of civic order or the foundations of our human rights. Please do speak up when the faithful misrepresent your beliefs and twist your words, and always feel free to satirize the idiocy and hypocrisy that permeates religion. But always remember that we are not atheists because we fear god or wish to react against it. No, we are atheists because we are human, because we hate the injustice engendered and inspired by religious fervor and most importantly because we cherish the time we have, and the humanity that comes with looking at the world and seeing the potential for discovery and creativity.

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Civil rights, Democracy, history, Liberty, opinion, Politics, racism

From My Warm, Living Hands: Why I Support Gun Ownership Rights…To a Point

I will get straight to the point: I do not support the 2nd Amendment. I think it should be repealed as an obsolete and gravely misused Amendment that is relevant only to the time and place of its ratification in a small, rural, near universal gun ownership culture. In a country of 310 million people and a government that now possesses Abrams Tanks and tactical nuclear weapons I don’t really think the “we must have them to fight a tyrannical government” angle holds much water. Neither do I think that the “we need them for subsistence” rubric is impressive. When was the last time the USA depended upon hunter-gatherers as a primary food source. What are Chicagoans supposed to be hunting, pigeons?

Nor do we need guns for self-defense purposes…At least not fully automatic rifles, sniper rifles, extended clip handgun mags, or semi-automatic shotguns. In the unlikely event that a man with a weapon makes it into your house, and you are awake, and you are able to make it to the gun, and you are able to load it, and you are able to confront the intruder, and he doesn’t kill you first, and your panicked reflexes don’t inhibit your ability to shoot, do your REALLY think you need to put 650 Rounds per minute into the guy with your red-dot scoped AK-74? If you do then either you are make and sell meth for a living or you maaay just be overcompensating. TV shows, local news, and white-majority Home Owners association members may want you to believe that there is a scary cough cough *BLACK* cough cough intruder just waiting to turn your home into a gun range, but the reality is this almost never happens, and when it does I have a feeling that the situation would not be helped by UPPING the number of nervous and adrenaline filled gunmen present. And why is it that we never see black home owners talking about their need to own an assault rifle to keep their family safe? Maybe it is because many African Americans understand first hand what guns can actually do in a community? Just ask the parents of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. Trayvon was shot dead by a white man who just saw him “walking while black” near a gated neighborhood. Because, see, in Florida you are allowed, nay encouraged by the law to stand your ground and confront with potentially lethal force against anyone you believe is threatening you or anyone else.

This happens far to often and comes from real problem with gun ownership as a right, the center of my problem with the 2nd Amendment: it puts owning a gun, and by extension in some areas, using a gun on the same level as speech or religious freedom. Life therefor becomes a secondary concern to the ultimate human right of owning an object designed to end life. This ethos combined with the well cultivated racism and classism of many Southern and Suburban white Americans creates not a right, but a clear and present danger to anyone who by their very existence intimidates panicky white class conscious conservatives. Every angry or scared white person becomes a law enforcement agent wannabe, and uses the  expanded and racially motivated threshold of clear and present danger or “resistance”. Being black and male and alone in a “white” neighborhood is a crime in the eyes of the newly empowered racist with his big bad and constitutionally blessed gun.

So what should be the limits of gun ownership, use, and responsibility? The first limit is clear: we must abolish the right to a deadly weapon and the accompanying extension of that right to include the necessity of an armed populace to a Democratic Society. The Second Amendment should be repealed and laws dealing with guns should become just another commerce and regulatory issue that can and should be legislated on. I gun should be a privilege for those who can prove that they will use and treat their firearm with respect for the lives and safety of others and of society. I would further suggest that all automatic weapons be banned for civilian use, along with all scopes and laser sights and extended magazines. No one should be allowed to own more than one semiautomatic handgun, but guns made before the Second World War would be treated as collectors’ items if properly treated and stored. Every gun purchase would also include a federally designed and administered class on use and safety, a trigger lock that must be used whenever the gun is not in use, and a limit on ammo purchases per month and per person.

Classes of gun ownership should be established, classes that do not overlap. Class 1 would be Hunting and Sport and guns purchased within this class would be permissible to use only within the context of hunting or shooting sports. Class 2 would be Personal Protection and these weapons, which can never include shotguns or high powered rifles, and if these weapons are ever discharged there will be an automatic removal of the weapon by the authorities for a full investigation of the circumstances of discharge in concert with local investigating authorities. Class 3 would be Collector Pieces and Antiques and these weapons are never to be discharged unless at a legally owned, licensed and run shooting range. Ammunition would only be available for these weapons at the aforementioned class of shooting range. Class 4 would be Law Enforcement and Military weapons, and these would be regulated by the relevant authorities and departments.

I think it is more than fair to ask potential owners of the most dangerous weapons accessible to the general public to follow these simple regulations and laws. In addition we must stop as a nation encouraging violence as a means to solve all disputes. We must abolish all “stand your ground” or “preemptive defense” laws, and we must also outlaw concealed carrying in public and ban weapons entirely from schools, universities, and places of work. Most people will be able to comply with these simple but serious rules…If they cannot meet these expectations and responsibilities then perhaps they should not be owning or using firearms? The Founding Fathers may have had their own reasons to include the 2nd Amendment on our list of essential right, but that does not mean that we as a evolving and ever changing society cannot reexamine the assumptions and even the failings of our foundation and laws.

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Civil rights, history, News, opinion, Philosophy, Politics, racism, the south

Reconstruct THIS: A Modest Proposal To Re-Invade The South

When the GOP colluded with the Democratic Party to hand the election of 1876 to Rutherford B. Hayes over Sam Tilden (the actual winner) a decade long experiment in Federal Civil Rights activism was brought to an end. When the Union Army left the Southern states they left millions of African Americans behind to fend for themselves in a society that once more became dominated by racist patriarchal corporatist religious fanatics. The African Americans and white liberals elected to state and national office in the South by newly enfranchised black male voters were swept away almost overnight, and were replaced with demagogues with one aim in mind: Reinstate the Antebellum status quo. This they did gleefully. By the end of the 19th century nearly all the gains made by the African American community, with reluctant but  at times quite real help from the Federal Government and former abolitionists, were wiped out. In their place was a new set of draconian and terrifying racist laws and unwritten social codes of conduct known collectively today as “Jim Crow”. The Klan reemerged as a political as well as a terrorist force in the South, voting, property and economic rights were stripped away and African Americans were once more considered one step bellow human. All this for a President who is best known for his ridiculous beard.

Jump forward nearly a century and a half and we find things are immeasurably better for minorities then they used to be in the South, but at the same time immeasurably worse then in rest of the country and indeed the rest of the Industrialized world. African Americans are still underrepresented at the state and national level, and while this problem is not limited to the South it is striking that there has been no black Southern senator in over a century. African Americans still find themselves harassed legally and extra legally at the polls and in the workplace and even in the streets. And now add to that list gays, women, children of low income families, non-Christians, and even non-protestants. Schools are still largely segregated in many deep south communities and when they are integrated they are controlled by racists who attempt to shut African Americans and gays out of activities and opportunities. Religious fanatics have more control over public policy then do legislatures or voters, and even the court system is biased in favor of enforced Christian theocracy (Hello Roy Moore!) Does this sound like deja vu to you too? Things don’t have to be that drastic to have a negative affect on minority rights though: most of the Southern States have enacted restrictive voting rules and laws akin to the old poll taxes and voter tests of ye olden days. There is still widespread violence against African Americans, men in particular, and also horribly bigoted laws against gays and women’s rights (see the attempt by Alabama & Virginia to force vaginal ultrasounds on women wanting abortions, the recent Jena 6 case along with Matthew Shepherd’s murder in Texas, and the “don’t say gay” bill in Tennessee)

The South is behind the rest of the nation in almost every basic economic and social category. Texas now teaches its children about creationism instead of abortion, and claims that Jefferson played less a part in the American Revolution than did Moses. Adult and infant mortality rates, obesity rates, school drop out rates, literacy rates, poverty, healthcare, crime, pollution…On almost every issue of importance to modern Americans the south is hopelessly backwards. It would be hilarious if it were not so tragic.

So what do we do about all of this? The state governments refuse to do anything to help their people move forward out of poverty (Florida even went so far as to DRUG TEST welfare recipients…Am I the only one who sees a serious racial angle to this law?). The southern state governments do not seem to think it is anyone’s business how corrupt, backward, poor and stupid their states actually are. So what do you do when the leaders of a large segment of the American family has refused to do anything to advance progress in their communities? Well, I have have a “Modest Proposal”: Re-Invade the states of the former Confederacy!

You may think I am insane, but reconstruction was an amazingly effective program. The federal government took land once farmed by slaves from former slave holders and gave them to black farmers and businessmen to use, which helped some African Americans pull themselves out of poverty. The army protected  Black Men who went to vote in elections, and the Federal Government mandated that the Southern States ratify the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments as a condition of once more becoming a part of the USA. African Americans were helped by government employment and schooling programs that were funded by steep taxes on former Confederates, slave owners, and war profiteers. Universal public education was mandated and new pro-civil rights constitutions were written and ratified with the input and participation of African American politicians, philosophers, thinkers and businessmen. African Americans were free for the first time to gather in public, protest for a redress of grievances, and fully participate in the free market of ideas as well as the economic market. African Americans were elected to state legislatures in drives and even a few black men were elected to national political office. Of course this was not all done by the Federal Government: countless men and women at a community level fought long and hard for their rights and improved their communities from the inside out. But things were made much easier and safer with official Federal Protection and aid.

These accomplishments are the honest truth, and so is this: The Federal Government has the resources and the intellectual capital to once more come to the aid of African American community organizers, leaders, business-people and citizens. On top of that the government can also bring much needed aid to communities of all colors, creeds and orientations who have been held back by racist and patriarchal State Governments. The 14th Amendment has yet to reach anywhere near its full potential as a ratified Amendment in the South, and as its passage and implementation was a condition of rejoining the Union I see no problem in calling in the heavy debts that Southern States owe their people. The Federal government did well when it intervened militarily and politically and judicially in the late 50’s 60’s 70’s and 80’s.

But they did not do enough, and we can still do more. Send Federal troops to keep all poll stations open on election day, recall all State representatives who do not sign an oath to pass laws that uphold the 14th Amendment, The Civil Rights act, The Voting Rights Act, The Americans With Disabilities Act, and anti-Gay discrimination laws. The Federal Government would also mandate certain levels of minority representation in state houses. Heavily tax southern corporations and landowners who still exploit African American labor for profit, and use the proceeds to fund education programs in poor rural and urban communities in areas most impacted by racist and bigoted laws. Anti-Minority militia, social, and political groups should be banned and their leaders hunted down and prosecuted on Civil Rights and Terrorism charges. Affirmative action should be enforced in all Public institutions, especially state schools famous for their racism and discriminatory policies. Sports programs especially should be reformed to allow for more academic support for minority athletes and to erase all the hateful racist imagery that still pervades much of the academic sports world. And this is just a start.

The South is not the only region of the nation that is far behind where they should be, but no area has more issues with minority rights, economic rights, workers rights, women’s rights and gay rights then does the American South. Jim Crow is not dead, but the Federal Government in partnership with Southern Civil Rights activists can finally send him to the historical dust-bin where he belongs.

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art, Cards, games, poetry, Short Story, Smoking

Quatorze (A Short Story)

The rather dowdy man smoked his meerschaum pipe. The pipe was intricately carved to look like a Medieval Saint (Francis Perhaps?)

The younger man laughed. “How wonderful! Where did you acquire such a special piece?”

“Gallipoli. Took it from a Turk. Believe it belonged to his grandfather.”

“How would you know such a thing?”

“I asked him. Just because I have to kill a man does not mean you have to be discourteous to him.”

“And he freely provided the provenance of his prized pipe?”

“The man was dying. He was not doing anything freely. But, if you mean did I have to prod it out of him then no. I asked him where he had got it from, and he told me.”

“I am amazed at your storytelling abilities Sir Henry. Carte Blanche.”

Sir Henry’s eyebrows stood at attention. A martial tune whistles from his nostrils. “Hmph. Hmph. I enjoy having the advantage. Tactical ramifications all such.”

The younger man, who was Edmund, slapped his knee. “Ah! I have no luck. I cannot enjoy the company of the nobility, even in playing card form. My blood is a very distinct shade of red, and last I checked blue cannot from red be made.”

“I will be exchanging four.”

“Well perhaps I am not so desperately disadvantaged after all! You mentioned Gallipoli. How old does that make you? I can gather from your few words that you took part in some way. Infantry?”

“It’s my mustache that gave me away isn’t it? Yes, 52nd Division of HRH Infantry. I saw a good bit of the old Hellas that trip. Made Thucydides proud I suppose. Xerxes made no further advance west, that I can assure you.”

“Sir Henry, are you attempting to be sardonic? I am young but I can tell when a man is attempting to make a fool of me.”

“Draw your cards or I will draw again. Forgive me. I have always been sardonic. It is my chief fault. Ask any of my wives… but not the first one as she is dead.”

“I shall keep that in mind when I call on her. Three cards. How many men did you kill during the campaign?”

“Details. Well, the one with the pipe, and two more besides; a young Turkish sailor who surprised me while I was releasing myself, and another man who I shot at quite a distance. Well I suppose you could say two and one half as I am only half sure that I killed the third. I never got the chance to see for myself.”

“Only three? Now that seems odd to me considering the casualties the Turks took in that campaign.”

“It is not odd at all. You must understand; most men shoot a foe at a distance, and are never sure whether or not their target has died or was merely wounded. It is the rare man indeed who has more than one or two close quarters kills. We have far too many beautifully maintained instruments of chaos and massacre to leave all the killing to the boys in the trenches. An engineer with a plumb line will kill you as surely as a bruiser with a bayonet. The bruiser gets a medal for his manslaughter. The engineer gets a job with his father in law after the war.”

“So you were neither a bruiser nor an engineer? What were you then?”

“A pipsqueak from Manchester.”

“Remarkable.”

“Point of three.”

“Good.”

“Huzzah! You remind me of my son.”

“Perhaps that is because I am your son?”

“No. My son died in Tasmania. He was a logger, and he caught a nasty case of influenza. He was only 23 the poor dear. Left a pretty little wife and son behind. They live with me now, and the little one is always going on about his father. Poor child. Run of three.”

“Not good!”

“Wonderful. I was waiting for a bit of action… give me a minute, I must retrieve my glasses. You mentioned earlier that you worked in publishing?”

“No, printing. It is an easy mistake to make though. I sell parts for type setting machines. It is rather droll work but it has a future in it I think. I want to open an independent printer when I get enough money saved. Maybe at that point I might even get into some publishing. My sister was a writer, poetry, and I would love to be able to help her get her work read.”

“Well I have eyes young man… Do you have an example of her work handy? I paid the most attention in classics and literature so I might have something of an appreciation for good work.”

Edmund patted his chest and his legs, searching his pockets for the scrap of paper he know was crammed therein. “I always keep one that she gave me on my last birthday. It reminds me why I pursue my dream not just for me, but for her as well. Ah! Here we are. Please do have a look, and be as candid as you can possibly be; my sister cannot abide by those who hold back their criticism out of the pretense of being polite.” He handed Sir Henry the slip of paper.

He relit his pipe and puffed the smoke up around his head like a dusky halo. “mmm. Let me read this now… It is your turn to deal by the way.”

“I believe you are correct.” He shuffles the deck and deals with a deliberate hesitation that allowed Sir Henry to finish the poem.

Seeing the last train leave the station

With my very own mind and soul aboard

I blow a kiss to my exiled essence

And I finger the coins in my pocket

“Oh my.”

“Sir Henry?”

“I am… I don’t know what to say. It is quite touching. The last line though… It seems to suggest that she lost her train of thought.”

Edmund smiled. “I think you just came to the point of the poem. A subtle play on the word train, with a cleverly placed diversion in the last line. She never had to make the pun… your mind makes it for you.”

Sir Henry nodded his head. “She has talent. Alas I fear it is the type that will seem trite to many of our more philistine fellow citizens. I am so glad to see that the art of a good pun is still appreciated, and practiced in such a creative way. Thank you for sharing this with me sir.”

“Poems are for sharing. My sister would be proud to hear you liked what she had written.”

The pipe had extinguished while he had been reading the poem. He took a single match from the left breast pocket of his smoking jacket. He lit the pipe again. The smoke seemed to soak into the wrinkles in his face. He smelled of smoke. Tobacco.

“You mentioned young man that your sister was a poet. Did she give up her art?”

Edmund looked down at his cards. “Point of three. No, she would have continued with the poetry forever if she could have. I lost her to cancer of the breast a year ago. Terrible illness runs in my family; lost an aunt, a great aunt, and a grandmother to the cancer. Come to think of it all those poor women enjoyed writing as well. Shame that they were not allowed to share the music in their hearts with me, and with others.”

Sir Henry shook his head. “Shame. Terrible shame. Useless disease it is. Shame. You are much to young to have experienced such loss. That is what us old people are for. We lose what we have had for far too long. Still quite impressed by that poem by the bye.”

“It impresses me as well. I am proud my sister wrote it. Pride is the best keepsake I have of my sister.”

The old man emptied the pipe into an ashtray. “When did she give you that poem?”

Edmund drew his cards. “She gave it to me a week before she passed away. It was wrapped around a caramel candy.”

The two men continued to play.

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Democracy, economy, Free Market, News, Philosophy, Politics

Theory of Free Market Political Bias OR Why It is ALWAYS the Liberals’ Fault

Rep. Allen West (War Criminal-FL) claimed today that the growth and improvement in the economy this year (and by extension any year) is because the markets are getting so GODDAMN excited about the possibility of a GOP takeover of the White House. Uh huh. This is of course patently bat-shit insane, but there is a nugget of interesting data in there. Namely, this story confirms my Theory of Free Market Political Bias, which I shall now present to you here:

  1. If the Economy is struggling under a liberal president: it is the president’s fault. This is true regardless of who controls the congress.
  2. Economy is struggling under a conservative president: It is the liberal congresses fault for not implementing the GOP president’s ideas or in the case of a conservative congress it is because they were able to stymie the Liberal president’s agenda.
  3. Economy is prospering or recovering under a liberal president: it is either because of the conservative controlled congress or the free market is working as it should in despite his ideas and programs.
  4. Economy is prospering or recovering under a conservative president: It is the president and his ideas and programs alone that have made the economy good because he understand the market or in the case of a conservative congress it is because conservatives control government and they understand the market. In the case of a liberal congress the president did it despite liberal efforts to derail him and the economy.
  5. Prospering economy tanks under Democratic president: He is a failure and singlehandedly did it. If the congress is controlled by conservatives then the economy failed because of the liberal president despite their best efforts to stop him. In the case of a liberal congress the reason for the tanking economy is liberal government and their lack of respect and knowledge for the free market.
  6. Prospering economy tanks under conservative president: the market just goes through adjustments and fluctuations or in the case of a liberal congress it was the liberals who blocked his free market agenda and derailed the economy despite the conservative president’s best efforts.

 

SUMMARY: it is NEVER the fault of the conservative[s] for the struggling or tanking economy, but a prospering or recovering economy is always because of the conservative[s] respect for the free market.

Conversely, it is ALWAYS the Democrats fault for a struggling or tanking economy, but a prospering or recovering economy is always because of the conservative[s] respect for the free market.

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art, Dekalb, Fiction, Short Story, Trains

The Train Goes By (A Short Story)

                The train went by and the rattle and roll of the wheels on the track scar my clean, still mind.

“I actually don’t want to be part of any kind of organized political party or movement. I don’t want the demarcation lines of a political outfit keeping me from acknowledging truth I see in places that are not quite kosher politically.”

She kept talking and I listened. I liked to hear her speak. She had a voice that was beautifully high pitched and punctuated by the lightest of lisps. Without even thinking she was holding my hand as the train went by. She was a sweet person.

“Nothing bothers me more than a guy who will go on and on about some political topic and not stop for one minute and ask a woman what she thinks about it. I mean all that liberal shit if fine, and you know I am no Sean Hannity, but sometimes you liberal men (not you of course, you are so sweet and you listen) really just think you are Allah’s gift to the world and that bitches are just going to fall over themselves to fuck you after your reading of Marxist poetry. I mean UGH…We like the activism and the socialism, but come on…don’t be a douche while denouncing general douchery. You know what mean?”

I said I did, and I really did mean that I did, but my attention had been caught by a young woman in black tights walking into a café across the street. She had light brown hair cut to her neck and a cute round face. She had a nice figure, small but curvy, and I could not help it, my brain started writing a poem. For some reason I cannot see a beautiful woman without associating it with poetry. I’m not the type that will write a poem like “oh your rear end was like a heart turned upside down” or some shit like that. No, more often than not when I saw a woman who I felt attracted too (and this was not a small category as I find beauty in almost every person I see) I would think of something else that attracted me in a similar manner. You see attraction is not always just about sexual fixation or lust; it is often about a feeling of literally being pulled towards something, and that something bringing up connections to other feelings and other attractions that hold my mind in thrall. On this occasion I saw the young woman and I began to think of flowers. Not just general flowers in a pot or a field mind you, but the type of flowers that a fauvist painter would dream up after a night drinking wine out on the porch with his friends. Those flowers that seem unfortunately unreal, but also accessible in their colors and shapes. Because when you see those flowers in paintings you are not recognizing a blossom you have seen before, but a blossom that you have imagined, and shapes that occur to you in daydreams or fleeting fancies. The type of shapes that come into being when you crumple a piece of paper and admire it for its own strange beauty, or when you look into the sky and see a cloud change from one form to the next. It is not a permanent type of shape, or really even quantifiable or feasible. It is sort of like half remembering a shape you once saw in shadow, or from an odd angle, a short reflection of the Platonic metaphysics, but in this case the ideal shape was not an end unto itself.

By the time I had finished the poem in my head the woman had walked out again with her cup of coffee and was sipping it contentedly and smiling to herself about something. Just like that she was out of my life forever. Not that this fact bothered me. Most everything we experience in life is only for a moment, or only once. Life is not made for lasting set pieces or objects. It is a moving thing, and we quickly turn the page from one experiential sentence to the next.

She was talking again and this time I was able to pay better attention.

“I just enjoy walking places sometimes. I know it seems a little weird to drive somewhere in order to find a place to walk, but where we live it really is not set up for that. Down here in town I always feel like I am seeing new things, and I have the option to just go into a place and maybe order a lunch or buy a pretty hat or scarf. That is if I have money! I do today though, babe, so don’t worry. You want to stop anywhere? I was thinking of going over to the used clothing store on the corner. Want to come?

I told her to go ahead and that I was going to get myself a coffee (more likely a hot chocolate, but actually saying you wanted that instead of a coffee sounds just a little bit off-puttingly childish) at the café and I would stay there and wait for her to be done with her shopping. My friend agreed and gave me a hug. She went to buy something pretty for herself, and I went to add on a few more unneeded calories.

The door to the café was heavy, and it made a sort of vacuum suction noise when I finally got it open. It was almost as though I was opening up some giant Tupperware case that had some leftovers from ganja stoked night out with the bohemians. It was a good kind of musty scent, and I loved the feeling of potential mixed with poverty laced comfort. I went to the counter and ordered a hot chocolate. The barista asked me if I wanted whipped cream. I did. I went over to the orange couch by the door and sat there. It was quiet this time of day, and only a few middle aged hermit looking types were around, eating vegan lunches or at least drinking some clean free water from a clear plastic cup. I picked up a newspaper I found on the table and opened it to where the last reader had left off. It was something about college athletics that I could care less about, but they were words and I liked filling empty moments with words not matter what the context or content.

I finished the sports story and went on to the editorial section. Before I got started on those articles though the barista came over and handed me my hot chocolate. It was pleasantly warm feeling in my hand, but still far too hot form me to drink. I often liked to buy hot drinks and let them cool to lukewarm before I took a sip. Just another strange idiosyncrasy of mine. I put the paper down and looked out the window for my friend. I knew she would be another 5 minutes or so, but I liked seeing people walk by until a face I recognized came into my field of vision. I did this for a while, just people watching, and then before I realized it I was waking up from a short nap. I had fallen asleep in the chair. I shook myself awake. I had been asleep only for a moment or so. I wondered how many dreams had filled that time?

I saw my friend walking towards me from about a half a block away. I got out of the chair and left the café with my drink and I was walking towards her hoping to meet her half way when I heard the sound again of a train coming through. The tracks bisected the down town area diagonally, and when the train came through you were stuck on one side until it had passed on by. The gates fell and the train roared past me going much faster than I had expected it would. It had a lot of containers with foreign languages written along the side so I assumed it was a cross country freighter. That meant I would have to wait at least ten minutes for it to pass. Through the gap between the cars as they went by I saw flashes of my friend standing and waiting on her side. The train was loud, and it scarred my clean, still mind.

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