Tag Archives: politics

I Will Speak No Evil. Well, Maybe.

The First Amendment of the Constitution reads:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Many people, myself included, think this is one of the most important amendments in our constitution (besides the ones that enfranchised blacks and women, which should not have been necessary to define them as people with rights)  The impact of this freedom cannot be overstated in my opinion.  When you have a country that allows the free expression of opinion, the ability to petition the government for change, freedom of the press to explore the truth when it is found, you have the foundation for a free society.  There will still be abuses, power controls, etc.  There always are. 

There are, and should be, some exceptions to this freedom of speech.  You do not have the right to incite violence.  You do not have the right to spread knowingly false statements.  Other than those, there are few limitations. 

Which brings me to the bug up my butt right now. 

It started with a white supremacist march a couple of months ago.  Now, I have absolutely zero use for white supremacists or klansmen.  I have no use for hate purveyors of any kind.  I would like to believe that we should have evolved beyond such things by this time.  It is obvious that we have not.  But, so long as they are engaging in a non-violent demonstration, they have the right to speak their words of hate.  And as offensive as I find their words, I will defend their right to speak them.  Many people don’t agree with me on this, and that is also their right. 

One of the things that followed this demonstration was people posting pictures of people who were part of this demonstration.  They identified many of these people and searched out where they worked and lived.  Then they demonstrated and protested to their employers, neighbors, schools.  Many of these people were fired, their homes put in danger, etc.  And many will say they got what they deserve.  I am not sure I agree with that.  I believe all that was accomplished in this was creating even more anger, hatred and increasing the numbers of the haters who had been hiding in the shadows.  By targeting a few, they gave the numbers a greater cause to raise a flag to.  Hate is not solved by creating more anger and hostility.

There was recently a woman who was riding her bike and flipped off what she believed to be Trump’s motorcade.  Whether it was or not is irrelevant .  When she was identified, she was subsequently fired from her job.  Even though she was on her own time and simply gave a visual comment to a figure she didn’t like.  Because the image of her (from the back) went viral online.  She was fired.

A dear friend of mine almost lost her job of many years for speaking her mind after the presidential election.  The social media and in person campaign waged against her and her partner was horrific, invasive and reprehensible.  I believe the only thing that saved her was the equally strong forces that stood behind her while she fought the attempted character assassination. 

Women are stepping out from all corners about sexual abuse in their workplaces.  Not that this is an issue that we don’t all know is a commonplace occurance.  And no matter how powerful some of these women are, they are still in a battle of their lives for their character.  They are made the victims all over again and accused of false accusations, Ulterior motives.  Calls for them to be dismissed from their roles. 

Freedom of speech is so very powerful.  And it is also so very vulnerable.  All freedoms are.  We want to step on the moral high ground and say “But, they are speaking hate.  It has to stop.”  But, they are saying things I don’t like, it has to stop.  They aren’t saying it the way I want to hear it.  It has to stop. 

When you seek to silence the klan, the supremacists, you weaken everyone’s right to speak.  Because they will take what you did to them and apply it to everything you do or say.  As they did with the woman on the bike.  As they are trying to do with the women coming forward.  As they try to do with anyone that has something to say that they don’t like.  As you try to do with anyone that has something to say that you don’t like. 

I do, however, believe an exception is a person in political power.  They are public servants and sworn to serve all the people.  And first responders and medical people.  We need to trust that these people will serve all the people equally.  To not sever the rights of any of the citizens because of their hate stance or affiliation or religious conviction.  The minute they leave that arena, they can do what they want, say what they want, so long as they are not bringing harm on others.

I do boycott companies whose practices go against what I believe in.  I do not tell others not to buy from them.  I do tell they why I don’t.  They have to make their own choices.  If after I tell them my reasons they don’t feel those reasons work for them, that is their choice.  I will join in protests if their practices take away or limit the rights of other, such as Hobby Lobby and Walmart.  But, herein lies the truth.  They still exist.  They still prosper. 

This is not to say that you should not counter protest.  Of course you should.  We should all make sure our voices are heard on matters that have meaning to us.  We worry about Big Brother.  But the truth is that WE are Big Brother.  There are many groups whose speech I despise.  Westboro, the klan, the supremacists, many of the hate preachers like Pat Roberston, Jerry Falwell Jr., Jim Bakker and his pasty food.  But, I will defend their right to speak their words.  I won’t silence them.   Because I don’t want to be silenced.  I don’t want the people I respect and love to be silenced.  And I want to know who the haters are as well.  I can’t fight what I can’t see.  I need to know where the shadows are.

The reality we need to understand is that if any one of us is silenced, even the most base of us, then we all are silenced.  We don’t win by silencing.  We win by speaking.  We win by talking and listening and understanding.  We don’t win with hatred.  We win with connection.  Walls only separate.  Even walls of silence. 

SephiPiderWitch
11/14/2017

 

Common Ground by Justin Trudeau – Book Review

I must say that I am even more in respect of Mr. Trudeau after reading his autobiography. The first half of the book is about his family, childhood and how all of that shaped him into the man that he is. He speaks of his mother and her struggle with bi-polar disease, how she has become a spokesperson for it and his immense respect and love for her. His father, former PM of Canada and strict in many ways, but also a very loving father. He took time every day to spend quality time with his children. And raised them to never believe themselves ,to be better than others, with some very interesting examples. He speaks of the loss of his brother and the crushing impact it had on the family. He speaks of his wife, Sofie, how they had known each other through his brother, the depth of the love and respect he holds for her and the family they have made.

The respect he shows for all people shows as a part of his core makeup as is evidenced by his words.  His belief in women’s rights, the rights of immigrants, the rights of the poor and displaced.   The theme that is repeated throughout the book is, We are stronger not in spite of, but because of our diversity.  We, as Americans, can learn much from his lessons.

I have probably somewhat unfairly given it only four stars because I was far less enraptured with the second half of the book as he spoke at much length about his rise through the political system. Though I realize its importance, I found it rather tedious at many points. I did appreciate the things he had to say about equality and a more equal distribution of wealth, which most economists state as a necessity for a healthy economy and society. And though the US holds the gauntlet on the extremes on this, it has become an issue in many, if not most countries. He also spoke much about the inclusion of all people in Canada and how they came close to becoming two Canadas and the steps taken that prevented that. He ends the book with an absolutely beautiful First Nation’s poem.

Its worth reading to learn more about this amazing man and its also full of pictures of him! 🙂

SephiPiderWitch
05/02/2017

 

Its Not a Right if the Doors are Barred

Locked Gates

I got a bit of a reality check this week.  I needed to make an appointment with an OB/Gyn for a procedure my regular physician couldn’t do.  I was annoyed with an unprofessional behavior by the receptionist at this doctor’s office and wanted to look into other doctors that might be an option.  So, I looked through the directory on my insurance company’s page.  What I discovered in this search was quite a bit beyond disturbing.  Shy of driving all the way into either Seattle or Kirkland (both over 60 miles from where I live), the office my doctor referred me to is one of only two OB/Gyn clinic/hospital that is not owned by the Catholic church.   Even Swedish has recently been bought into by the church, though they are stating that the church is allowing them to remain secular in their treatment (though I am sure that will change rapidly).  They are also attempting to buy into UW medicine.

Now granted, I am past my childbearing period of life, so I don’t personally have need of birth control or abortion services.  But, I am a woman and that makes this a vital issue to me.  I do not believe that my medical care should be governed by a religious doctrine I don’t believe in and has absolutely no merit in science or human rights for that matter.  And I also understand that there are far more issues than just birth control and abortion and many fertility treatments, though those two would be enough for me to want to take up the sword and do battle over.

We are in a time when many efforts are underway across the country to curtail and block women’s access to reproductive health options.  One of the more common attempts being waged right now is the demand that an abortion clinic have admitting rights to a hospital within a specified radius.  Even if such a demand had a merit based in medical science or evidence of a need, which there isn’t, such an admitting right would be denied by any religious owned hospital.  I am lucky that there is ONE, count them ONE hospital in a 50 mile radius that is not owned by the Catholic Church.  Most of these hospitals have been purchased by this church in the last handful of years.  Funny how that works out, doesn’t it?

The Catholic church has made a particular focus on buying up hospitals and clinics in areas that have a tolerant and diverse population that is not about to pass legislation limiting a woman’s access to reproductive services nor a gay’s right to marriage and the rights that go with that.  The solution?  Buy the clinics where you can impose the Bishop’s Directives on the staff and the treatment.  Its a fun little read.  Guaranteed to even set the hair on many Christians, nay, even the Catholics on end when they realize how little control they have over their bodies when in the hands of these people (estimated 99% of married Catholic women have used birth control).  You can read it here.
Ethical-Religious-Directives-Catholic-Health-Care-Services-fifth-edition-2009

lcopl_005a (300).tif Children's dining room at Sean Ross Abbey
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Children’s dining room at Sean Ross Abbey

And somehow, in allowing these buy ups to happen, we have once again fallen into the pit of forgetting history.  There was a time when medicine (such as it was then) was under the jurisdiction and iron thumb of the church.  The orphanages as well.  So long as you were born of “legitimate” parents.

British workhouses“And in general, the only provision for illegitimate babies was the parish poorhouses or, from 1722, the workhouses where they frequently died of neglect. Mortality rates were extremely high: over 74% of children born in London died before they were five. In workhouses the death rate increased to over 90%.”
http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/victorians/foundling_01.shtml

Oh, but that was ancient history, you say. (actually not all that ancient, but the really ancient history is far more violent).  But the church has changed and is now a source of goodness and charity and compassion you say?  Remember Mother Teresa, you say?  Alas, she has been shown to be as much of a sham as the rest of the church’s doings.  Seems she collected millions motherteresaand millions in charitable donations to allow the patients in her charge to die in suffering and squalor.  But, she lived as they did, you say.  No, she did not.  When she needed medical care, she got the best there
was.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/04/mother-teresa-myth_n_2805697.html

Then we have the church’s white slavery of young girls.  The Magdalene Laundries.  Again, not so ancient history.  Maybe this is what they have in mind when they are taking over the women’s clinics, hospitals and other medical establishments.  They are getting tired of doing their own dirty laundry.Catholic Magdalene

“The Good Shepherd Sisters, a Roman Catholic religious institute for women, is one of the orders being charged with the enslavement and abuse of thousands of women in what are called “Magdalene Laundries.”  Last one closing in 1996”
http://www.irishcentral.com/news/american-survivor-of-magdalene-laundries-in-the-united-states-speaks-out-190655121-237564601.html

Now, I don’t care what a person believes.  But, I do care when they bully their way into my access to proper medical care and impose their archaic and ignorant beliefs on what treatments I may or may not be allowed to receive.  I take huge issue with their buying up hospitals for what I believe to be the sole purpose of barring me and other women and men for that matter from accessing the care we have a right to.  Care our insurance gives us the coverage for.
you-can-worship-rock-for-all-i-care-just-dont-throw-it-at-me-atheism-religion-agnosticism-600x449
No, I am not of child bearing years and that part does not affect me personally.  But, it does affect my daughter, my friends and their children.  Not only does their doctrine prohibit abortion and contraception, it also prohibits IVF and any fertility treatment that doesn’t include sexual intercourse.  Which really baffles me coming from a church whose priests and nuns take a vow of celibacy.  Not that the priests actually hold to that, unless you disallow it as sex if it involves raping young children.

But, I also live in a state that should I become terminally ill, I have the legal right to have a doctor issue me a lethal dose of medication if I want to end my suffering.  Their “doctrine” will not allow that doctor to grant me my legal rights that were voted in.  Plus, they have the right to decide if the plug is pulled.  Their doctrine does not allow for research with stem cells, fetal tissues.  Their doctrine does not allow for science.  Their doctrine does not allow for progress.  Their doctrine will take us back to leeches and bloodletting (and yes, I know there are some instances where those are used in modern medicine now).

All this coming from a church who claims a “moral high ground” and says their concern is to save lives.  A church who when they held the hospitals and orphanages in their control, threw out orphans into the street if their parents weren’t married.  Imprisoned young women in sweatshop slavery if they got pregnant.  Ran hospitals for the dying where they didn’t even offer them pain relieving medicine or any comforts.  Why?????  Because they believe suffering brings one closer to “God”.  Ya know?  I really don’t want to be close to something that wants me to suffer like that first and I really don’t understand why anyone would.

I am the mother of a  gay son.   A son who is one of the most amazing blessings I have had in my life.  A son who deserves to be treated with the same respect, the same dignity, the same relevance as anyone else.   There is no doubt in my mind that it is only a matter of time until they refuse him and his friends to be at their partner’s dying bedside because it is against their beliefs.  Sooner if one of the Rabid Republicans takes office this election.  Add to that their refusing to offer medical aid to the LGBT community.  If they will turn away children born out of wedlock, they will turn away gays.  They have already begun to petition for this “right”.

Women fought for the right to vote, the right to have control over our bodies, the right to make choices.  Gays have also fought for such rights.  People of color, of different religions, no religion have fought for the right to live free and independent lives.  To have reasonable choices available.It-Votes

When a hospital enters the private sector, accepts patients of different faiths, accepts their insurance payments, the government grants and monies allotted by the government, they are obligated to set aside their religious beliefs.  They must serve the people according to their patient’s beliefs.  Or they must withdraw from the hospitals that serve us.

We have the right to be treated within the law, within our wishes and understanding of our bodies.  We have the right to be treated with science, not superstition.  We have fought for those rights and earned them.  Alas, the rights aren’t worth the paper they are written on when there are those that can bar the doors.

Sephi PiderWitch
02/18/2016
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How can these religious/secular hospital mergers affect patients?

When secular (non-religious) community hospitals merge with religiously-sponsored hospitals and agree to adopt religious restrictions, patients can suddenly discover they have lost access to vital reproductive health care services and may encounter interference with the ability to make decisions about end-of-life care.
http://www.mergerwatch.org/about-hospital-mergers/

Under the directives, the reality for women who find themselves at a Catholic hospital means they have:

  • No access to abortion—even in cases of rape or incest (Directive 45)
  • No access to in-vitro fertilization (Directives 37, 38, 39)
  • No access to contraception (Directive 52)
  • No treatment for ectopic pregnancy (Directive 48)
  • None of the benefits of embryonic stem-cell research (Directive 51)
  • No respect for their advance medical directives (Directive 24)

The sole exception to the ban on contraception falls under Directive 36, which only allows the provision of emergency contraception (EC) in cases of sexual assault when it can be proven that pregnancy has not occurred. This creates an unnecessary restriction, as EC does not interfere with the implantation of a fertilized egg. Evidence also suggests that many Catholic hospitals rarely provide EC even under the circumstances approved by the directives. A 2006 study found that 35 percent of Catholic hospitals did not provide EC under any circumstances, while 47 percent refused to provide referrals to hospitals that did. Of those that provided referrals, only 47 percent of these led to a hospital that actually provided EC.
http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2013/12/04/how-the-bishops-directives-derail-medical-decisions-at-catholic-hospitals/

 

 

 

Danger Zone of Blind Devotion

web-trump-gun-get“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue [New York] and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters,” he said. “It’s, like, incredible.” Donald Trump – January, 2016

This is NOT an anti-Trump post, though there is no doubt how I feel about the man.  He is an obnoxious racist, sexist, arrogant megalomaniac who lacks any diplomatic savvy, respect or decorum.  And it is NOT an anti-gun spiel.  I’m not anti gun. I just believe in rational restrictions on them.

This is about something different.  Something that it took his latest tyrade comment to bring to light.  Allow his comment to sink in for just a bit.  Really sink in.  He could stand on 5th Avenue and shoot someone and not lose voters.  There is no disclaimer about self defense, no reason given.  Just that he could shoot any unnamed person on a city street and not lose voters.  Is it beginning to sink in yet?  Take Trump’s face out of the picture and replace it with any other politician, then put the words back in.   “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue [New York] and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters, It’s, like, incredible.”

The thing that frightens me is that I believe he is far too accurate in his statement for my comfort.  Not because of “him”, but because this country that has prided itself on independence, freedom, originality, would BLINDLY follow ANY leader, potential leader.  Tossing aside their beliefs, their morals, their common sense.  That so many could applaud and cheer a man after making such a statement.

Now, please don’t tell me it was in jest.  Maybe it was.  But, there was truth in his words.  And it is the truth that should make us step back and take a good long look at what we have become as a people.  That we have gone from a people that honors and touts virtuous behavior, being a champion for good and equality in the world, being the innovative front runners, being educational and science pioneers.  We didn’t achieve these things in our past by blindly following the Reality Show flavor of the month.  We did so by NOT following a self proclaimed messiah.

Oh, we have had small factions surface with blind devotees.  Scientologists, Jonestown, etc.  And they should serve as a reminder to us of what comes of following such people.  First, the death of the spirit, then the death of freedom, then just death.

Orazco-MassesNow, as much as many would like to hang this around Trump’s neck, the reality is that he has simply brought to light a phenomenon that has been taking place in our society for quite some time.  And he is not alone in claiming the reprehensible of the presidential nominees.  We have one that has actually bragged that he tried to attack his own mother with a hammer, that he knifed a fellow student in school.  A few that would set Christianity as the national religion.  In this land of Jews and Christians and Muslims and Buddhists and Pagans and Atheists and everything else.  In this melting pot, they would make a single dish.

When you add to that the extremes at both ends of the spectrum, the militant combativeness of one side, the don’t say anything that might be uncomfortable to anyone’s ears on the other, it is not surprising that we are seeing the rise of extreme characters in the forums.  I have even heard that there are university campuses where free speech zones are in small isolated areas, professors are being forced to not teach areas of a subject because a student has a problem with the subject.  Colleges and universities should be a place for debating difficult subjects and not liking a historical event doesn’t negate that it happened.  And then we have the other end which takes up armed occupations of federal lands and believes the meaning of religious freedom is the ability to impose your religious beliefs on everyone else.

It kind of feels like most of the country has regressed to childhood tantrums between the bullies and the cry babies.  Common sense has just been tossed out the window.  The lines have been drawn deeply between us and not a one will allow for any blurring of those lines so that we might open a thoughtful discussion, even a loud and shouting one that can lead to some constructive movement.  We needn’t give up who we are, what we believe in, to live together.  It isn’t necessary for our neighbors to share in our beliefs.  In truth, if we but open our minds and hearts a little, we might see the color they bring to our world.  Their form of worship, or lack of, only poses a threat to yours if you create one.  And as you would fight should they try and deprive you of your right to live according to your mores and interests, so should you refrain from imposing yours upon them.

obedience-300x238Saviors are a false delusion.  In most instances, they become a very dangerous delusion that lead us into destruction.  History is riddled with volumes of examples of such people.  And, as I stated earlier, as much as I would like to hang the villain tag around Trump’s neck, the truth is that it could be anyone that has elicited such a following.  Even if they begin with good intents.  The kind of devotion they create births a messiah delusion that will soon infect them as much as it infects its followers.  And absolute power corrupts absolutely.  Every time.

And we don’t need a messiah.  We don’t need someone that we will follow blindly, no matter what they do or have done.  Our “leaders” should be our voices condensed.  They should speak the voice of the people, all the people.  We need to stop listening to their message of fear and hate and remember that we are a people diverse, yet united.  We need to remember that our motto is E Pluribus Unum, Out of the Many, One.  We are an independent and freedom loving people.  We are not followers.  No leader of ours should EVER be followed blindly.  No leader of ours should ever be above question.  Our citizens should never follow blindly.

There is a reason the eagle is our national symbol.  He follows no one blindly.

Eagle-December 30, 2015 Lo-46

 

 

 

 

 

 

SephiPiderWitch
02/01/2016

 

2016 – Connection

Happy New Year 2016 replace 2015 concept on the sea beach

I haven’t quite started this new year off well.  Weeks late on a first post and a couple weeks behind on my weekly photo shots.  Ah well, better late than never.

In closing the book on the old year, it feels good to move forward and hope for the best.  For many, for the world, 2015 had been a very rough year.  People being shot for drawing pictures some found offensive, people being shot for no good reason.  Rivers of hate speech flowing from every corner of the earth, from the pulpits, the media, the high level politicians.  Cries of persecution from the persecutors,   The only right that seems to be protected is the right to hate, to denigrate to second class citizen any who don’t share the beliefs of the bullies.

One would think that by this time we had figured out how to learn from history, but it appears to not be the case.  We  point fingers at one group, yet fail to see those same behaviors in ourselves.  Too blinded by the hate frenzy to see the very human face of the person we will throw under the bus.   Adding fuel to the already blazing inferno, we are in an electronic propaganda war where we are fed snippets that are either partial truths or outright lies.

And this, I believe, is the biggest part of the problem.  We no longer connect.  We no longer touch.   We are too busy looking at our computers, our TV screens, our tablets to see the humans before us, around us, that are us.  We do almost everything from an electronic device.  We get our news from Facebook and Twitter and even the news outlets have gone to a captioned image format.  And, as is the case and purpose of headlines, we are fed bites to incite, inflame, stir.

That has always been the case with the news and many other introductory arenas.  What is different now is that it seems that is all that is consumed before moving on.  There used to be discussions, in the coffee houses, at dinner, at breakfast, at parties and gatherings.   The story was read beyond the headline, the person was questioned beyond the introduction.  Conversation was a vital ingredient.  Understanding the issue was a vital ingredient.  The headline was simply to get your attention.  You were supposed to read further, to seek understanding, knowledge, insight.

I miss long conversations with friends around a table.  I miss long conversations on the phone with a dear friend.  As dated as it makes me, I miss a written correspondence from a friend.  And I miss the e-mail lists where there were discussions on issues, happenings,

People say it is just a sign of the changes of the times.  However, not all changes are good.  And though technology is, for the most part, a good thing, even a good thing misused can become a bad thing.  We read our smart phones and get our news from twitter, have our emotions jarred by memes on Facebook and get our smiles from kitten videos.  If we can’t say it in less than 140 characters, we know no one will trouble themselves to read it.  I actually listened to a man at my writing group the other night say that he kept the chapters in his book to only a few pages because publishers say that is the extent of a reader’s attention span.  Really???  I sincerely hope that is not true.

There have been a number of recent articles on what we have lost with the loss of letter writing.

I found this in the Guardian (http://www.theguardian.com/culture/charlottehigginsblog/2012/oct/23/lost-art-letter-writing)

But still… O’Connell quotes this lovely passage from a piece by Catherine Field in the New York Times.

“A good handwritten letter is a creative act, and not just because it is a visual and tactile pleasure. It is a deliberate act of exposure, a form of vulnerability, because handwriting opens a window on the soul in a way that cyber communication can never do. You savor their arrival and later take care to place them in a box for safe keeping.These things, letters we can hold and read over and over again, conversations that inspire, delight, fuel us.”

Words are the keys to our hearts.  They are the cement that bonds people together as they speak and learn and share and understand.  They are a stew pot whose ingredients alone are a bland or harsh side dish, but when combined, form a sustaining meal that will nourish the soul.

You look at the political arena, the News Media, the Pulpit  and from their words believe that we are all galaxies apart.  Aliens living in a segregated landscape that is separated by a vast divide, impossible to cross.  And because we don’t look up from that picture, we buy into it.  We turn from people whose beliefs differ from ours, whose political stand differ from ours.  The reality is that in most cases, if we can step away from those issues that divide and simply extend our hand in friendship, sit down and have a cup of coffee, share stories, and find common ground, we may find in most cases, we aren’t so different.  We may find that we have missed that simple connection of laughing with a new friend.  And blur that edge that a few have set between us to divide us.  It is far more difficult (though not impossible) to hate someone you know than it is to hate a stranger.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions.  But, I can hope for a New Year’s solution.  That we add a bit of the old back into the new.  That along with our smart phones and Facebooks and electronic gizmos, that we have a long phone call, take a walk in the woods, catch up with old friends, meet some new ones, some of whom don’t share our beliefs.  Find a divide and cross it.  Our real country motto is, Out of many, one.  We destroy hate when we blur the lines.  We blur the lines when we reach out to each other and touch.  When we touch, the divide goes away and those that would teach hate lose their power.

Holding Hands

Sephi PiderWitch
01/18/2016

 

Mortality by Christopher Hitchens

Mortality by Christopher HitchensI knew this book was going to be a difficult read when I picked it up.  The surprising thing was that I picked it up at the small local library.  Makes me wonder if they knew who Hitch was before adding it to their shelves.  Maybe they did and that would seriously elevate them in my opinion.

The title, “Mortality”, pretty much tells you what the book is about.  And given that it is written by Hitchens will tell anyone who knows anything about him that he handled this as he handled everything else he wrote or spoke about.  With brutal honesty.

Through the short book, Hitchens takes us on the journey that was to be the rest of his life, the tests, the radiation, the sickness, the effects and tolls it takes on his body.  Christopher Hitchens was diagnose with Esophageal cancer in 2010.  To one of the most erudite speakers of modern times, I can’t imagine a worse place he could have been inflicted.

The book is hearbreaking in its honesty, as Hitchen’s not only recounts ancedotes from office visits, the treatements, the doctors, caregivers.  He also shares the vileness that people can reach even when a person is down by sharing some of the hate mail he received, the betrayals of people baiting his misfortune to fuel their agenda,  i.e. ending an interview with comments about just rewards from God,

Though I am not  surprised, I am grateful to Hitchens for writing such a painfully honest book about dying, about the fraility of the human body and the very human scream that “I wasn’t finished yet!”
We lost a wordsmith of the highest degree when we lost Hitchens and a debater that knew few, if any rivals.  And we lost a man who cared very deeply about his fellow human beings, his world and leaving it a better place than when he entered.

We haven’t heard the last from him though.  He left many writings that haven’t been published.  And his wife’s afterward tells you that she will begin to work on giving us all he wanted to share with the world.

Mortality is a brilliant book that will inflame you, touch you, bring a tear to your eye and a fire in your heart.  Whether you believe, or don’t believe, as Christoper did, and even more if you do not, it will give you a glimpse into the true humanity of the man many know simply as “Hitch.”

SephiPiderWitch
01/07/2016

 

Plain Red Wrappings

This year's holiday season red cups at Starbucks have stirred up critics who accuse the company of waging a war on Christmas.Sometimes ridiculous just hits levels that cause you to give yourself whiplash from how sharply you jerk your head to the side in disbelief.  The latest such case is the one about the new Starbucks Holiday cup.  And it is being condemned by the religious community at large all the way up to presidential candidates as the latest assault on the “War on Christmas”.  And what is so very shocking about this inflammatory cup, one may ask.  Its simply red with the Starbucks logo on it in green.  Well, what else is there that is causing such a controversy?  Nothing.  Yes, but what is the source of the reason for the controversy?  NOTHING.   Literally, NOTHING.

It seems if you choose to opt out of choosing sides, of trying to decide what images will or won’t inflame someone, or some group out there, and go with a plain, undecorated (aside from the company logo) red cup, you have declared War on Christmas and a War on Christianity.

Originally, I was just going to laugh this whole thing off.  However after giving it some thought, I realized that this has presented probably the most glaring example of how ridiculous this whole accusation has become.  And reading some of the comments people left on the news item clearly shows that I was not the only one that found it placed very firmly beyond the extreme line.

The truth is that it seems almost like the opposite of the Draw Mohammed thing.  Draw any depiction of him in any form and you can be put to death.  Well, if you fail to offer the appropriate supplications to the glitter god of Christianity, you will be picketed, persecuted, publicly shamed.  (Though they all still seem to be using the internet, google and all those other very convenient tools created by the apostates and heretics)

Granted, we have not yet progressed to the point of putting people to death for their beliefs, though the talk of such things gets louder and from a greater number of pulpits.  I suppose time will tell on this.

Now, I can’t profess to know what the execs at Starbucks were thinking when they came out with the plain red cup.  If I was to follow my logic, it would be that they chose this as a way of avoiding the firestorm that any symbol/s they might choose to grace their cups with.    And I have to imagine that they were probably found sitting around that same conference table after the shitstorm began scratching their heads and saying, “How they hell did they get to War on Christmas from a plain red cup?”

Note to Christians.  Failure to bow before your “god” is NOT a war on your holiday or your religion.  It is simply a person choosing not to subscribe to your belief.  Acknowledgement that there are many that do not share your belief and honoring them with a blank slate to create their own is NOT a war on “your” tradition.  They gave you a blank cup.  You can draw anything on it that you want.  Or nothing.  Your religious beliefs are not being restricted and persecuted because you cannot force the entire country to bend to them.

This whole thing would be funnier than hell if it wasn’t so common and being pushed at such high levels.  We even have presidential candidates that have said if they are elected, Everyone will say “Merry Christmas”.  I wish people would really sit down and let that sink in for a bit.  EVERYONE will say “Merry Christmas”.  How different is this than the countries that control and prosecute non-Muslims?  Maybe we aren’t throwing them in jail or executing them.  Or at least not yet.  It is only a difference by degree, and that degree is becoming closer and closer all the time.  That is a truly scary notion.

This season doesn’t just belong to one religion, one belief.  It belongs to almost all beliefs.  The blank slate of the red cup at Starbucks gives everyone the canvas to celebrate what it means to them.  I don’t know if that is what their intent is.  Or if it was a stepping back.  Or if it was just plain cheaper.  But, I do not believe it was a war on the season.  Its just a red and green cup for the season that will hold a hot beverage to warm you on a cold day.  Granted, its an overpriced hot beverage.  But, its simply a hot cup.   That’s red with a green logo.  There are far greater things in this world that need our energies.  A red cup does not.

And to end, just a little sampling of some of the celebrations for the closing of the year.

[easyrotator]erc_46_1447689635[/easyrotator]

 

 

Rape – Thy True Name Be Seduction

Yes, we really do seem to be trying to find our way back to the “Good Ole Days”.  Or maybe things just really haven’t changed as much as many of us thought that they had.

Subject of this piece has to do with the Cosby story.  American icon of feel good family life.  We all grew up with him, we all laughed with him.  We all thought he was the embodiment of good common sense and the kind of man you could always feel safe around.  And so when the first story surfaced accusing him, the initial reaction was, oh no!  Not Bill Cosby!  And I must admit that I need to hang my head a bit in shame on it as well.  I questioned the legitimacy of it.  I wondered if it was just someone trying to make some money or get her 15 minutes of fame.  I watched her on some news station and didn’t think she looked or sounded believable.  For her, to her, I am sorry.  For all of the victims, I am sorry.

And no, I am not going to state that Cosby is absolutely guilty.  For one, it is not my place to do so.  That should be up to the courts, the victims.  I am sure there is this chance that he could be innocent.  Though I think that the chance is about equal to Christopher Hitchens being a closeted Christian.  However, I don’t have all the evidence.  But, I have enough to convince my mind.  And the latest released transcripts of the previous accusations.

At any rate, I leave to the courts to take that one on.  My grievance is at the media handling of this whole thing.  And yes, I understand in the beginning, they can claim misgivings and uncertainty at the claims.  I can even grant that they must use the words accused of, reported, etc.  What I cannot accept is the fact that not one of them that I have seen has had the guts to actually spit out that “R” word.

 

Viewing the World Through a Peephole

2496peephole-640x480Facebook, Twitter, even the major news sites, now word bites, scrolling headlines and momentary brushes with the world making people feel informed and in the know.  The newspaper has fallen to the wayside.  Investigative reporting focused more on the latest Kardashian trend and what Jaylo had for breakfast than world or national news that has real impact on our lives, our futures.

The more I contemplate this, the more bothered I am about it.  Though the reality is that history is always written by the victor/conqueror, at least with a written account from someone, you can call to task the words that were said yesterday and hold them up as a mirror to the words today.  Also dying to the point of near extinction is the expose journalism that spawned such shows as 60 Minutes and its ilk.  The age of brevity seems to be sweeping the age of understanding into the dusty recesses of the room.

Now, I am not against technology.  Nor am I against the quick dispersal of information that we have available with the information highway.  It has its place and serves up to us the ability to have our pulse on the world’s happenings if we are interested.  However, the problem is that too many have become headline readers only.  They browse their Twitter feed, their Facebook feed, the headlines of whatever Reader they are using and call themselves “informed”.  But, I have learned, from speaking with many that claim that they are “informed” and they do follow through and read these full articles. That in most cases, they do not.  Nor do many check the sources of the stories they take as truth.  “I saw it on Facebook, so it must be true.”  And yes, we have all had moments where we react too swiftly to memes and such and get swept up in the flurry of messages and click that share button.

Additionally, the evening news is more like Good Morning America than a newscast.  There seems to be a much greater emphasis placed on making it a feel good place to watch, like sitting in a room of friends, than anything resembling in depth clean reporting.  You have Fox with an accuracy rating of 18% and dropping, MSNBC which though its accuracy is slightly higher, has been listed as being mostly opinion.  I’ll argue that Fox is as guilty or more so in that realm as well.  And even though CNN has almost double the accuracy points and reliability, that still is not a record to tout.

I wonder how much the folding of so many newspapers had to do with this.  For now, you no longer have the archived stacks of papers to prove what was said last week, last month, last year.  Yes, you have You Tube and Internet archives.  But, it doesn’t have the same feel as that folded paper read over morning coffee.

The media, the power and money behind the media are fully aware of all of this, play on it and manipulate it to their greatest advantage.  They know and make use of the fact that what was known today, incited anger yesterday, was the driving force last week, will either be forgotten or marginalized by the next election, the next battle.

I remember many years ago reading 1984 by George Orwell.  He predicted all of this in the pages of the novel.  Actually, “predicted” may not be the correct word, as it implies the gazing in a crystal ball or receiving visions or knowledge from a mystic oracle.  His predictions were based on what he saw, where he saw technology going and how it would be used and manipulated based on human and societal natures.  His Newspeak is becoming more prevalent in the media.  News is being transmitted in feeds much like the ticker tapes of the stock exchange.  Facts or details changed and rearranged on a minute by minute basis.  The general population believing every word that is transmitted and dismissing lingering questions regarding what they “thought they heard” in a previous report.  The enemies of the State today were yesterday’s friends of the State.  And the country was involved in a never-ending war.  I think I may need to pull this book off my shelf and read it again.  Its been many years and I would like to see how much more I am missing.

The bottom line is we are dumbing down and becoming a surface only society.  We view the world through a peephole.  Its a place of safety where we can see what is out there before we open our door to potential annoyance or danger.  But, it only gives us a tiny and distorted view of the world.  We don’t see the truth through its lens.  We see a partial image that blurs and twists at the edge.  And we cannot live behind that lens forever.  If we do, we condemn ourselves to a fractional life and a world we are delivering to the Big Brothers who are already far too powerful.  There’s nothing wrong with looking through the peephole before we step out.  To get a glimpse that we may brace ourselves for before proceeding.  But, we mustn’t stop there.  We must step over the threshhold and immerse ourselves into the reality of all that is.  We need the full story, not just the first 144 characters.

SephiPiderWitch
06/03/2015

 

The Common Thread

SpiderwebWatching the news feed nowadays, it seems like the stream of legislated hate, sermonized intolerance, surveillance and just downright abuse from those in power never ends.  And it becomes overwhelmingly accepted due to a highly organized onslaught of carefully wrought ad campaigns to make the infringements seem “reasonable”.  Or by identifying one group or another as a fringe group to be feared or less deserving.  Individually, its scary.  Put together, its downright terrifying.

Each group, each faction that is under attack (almost entirely from the radical right and money barons) has a legitimate claim to the bias and bigotry thrown at them.  I sympathize with pretty much all of them.  It seems that if you are not a white christian of devout/hypocritical  (if ignorant knowledge of the bible) beliefs who votes a straight Republican ticket, then you are placed into any of a number of buckets for derision.  And the problem is, not only are they united in their war tactics, not only do they have the finances to keep feeding into their hate campaigns and propaganda wars, but they also have brilliantly divided the rest of us.

Yes, there is an assault on gay rights, but it is more than that.  Yes, there is a war on women, but it is more than that.  Yes, there is an attack on the elderly, the poor, the infirm, the weakest among us, the military (once they have served their use to those in power), but it is more than that.  Yes, there is a war on science, on critical thinking, on free thought, on education, but it is more than that.  And yes, there is a war on any religious or non-religious belief that counters theirs, but it is more than that.

The problem is that in each of these things, we have allowed lines to be drawn so that we are only fighting a piece of the battle.  We see them as unique and stand alone issues that are unrelated to the others.  We align ourselves in one or two camps and give no energy to the rest.  And that divides us and weakens us.  And though all of those battles are real, they are only one scene out of the whole picture.

The whole thing hit me when a friend made a comment on a post the other day.  I had made similar comments before, but it took it coming from someone else for the light bulb to fully go off.  Every one of these things is a Human Rights Violation.  Every. Single. One.

And it seems to me that when you put it in this light, you begin to see just how monumentally massive this situation is.  Its almost too much to process when you finally look at it.  Its so much easier to just deal with the individual bubbles.  But, all that will do is maybe, if we are lucking, permit a temporary freedom for one of the bubbles.  And build a further wall of separation as the side that has scored the win shields themselves from the rest believing to do otherwise may endanger the liberty they just acquired.  But, that is a false hope at the very least, as the LGBT community is learning, as the minorities have learned, as women have learned, as so many have learned.

Taking a woman’s right to make decisions about her body and her health away from the sanctity of her and her doctor is a Human Rights Violation.  Enforcing junk science in place of real science to further a political agenda is a Human Rights Violation.  You have the right to make whatever decision you wish based on your personal belief on your body, your health, your choices.  You do NOT have the right to impose those beliefs on others.  You do NOT have the right to rewrite laws to target an industry unfairly and in direct conflict of years of evidence that proves it is unwarranted as have been imposed on countless women’s clinics in this country.  That’s a Human Rights Violation.

You cannot open a public establishment where access is made via public streets paid for by taxpayers, receive tax credits and enjoy the benefits of a public business owner and refuse to serve someone based on their color, their religion, their gender preference.  Hospitals that are owned by religious establishments do not have the right to impose their church’s rules on the treatment and disclosure of information to patients.  The moment they take insurance payments from the general community, accept patients from the secular community and enjoy the tax benefits granted from the government, they have given up that right.  If they choose to serve the general population, it is their duty to set aside their personal and religious beliefs as far as it regards the people they serve.  The same goes for a pharmacist, a nurse, a psychologist.  Anything less is a Human Rights Violation.

Prayer has no place being part of the public school curriculum.   Nor does religious mythology such as creationism.   Religious indoctrination groups have no place on a public school campus.  This is not discrimination against Christians.  It is protection for people of all faith, and of no faith.  It is also protection for Christians of varying denominations.  The Ten Commandments are discriminatory of non-Christians and have no place on a court house or public building.  They are pushing an ideology that is unconstitutional and a Human Rights Violation.

You cannot serve in a public office where you seek to impose your religious beliefs on your constituency.  That is called a Theocracy.  Something the founding fathers were adamantly opposed to.  Our constitution was not founded on religious principles and Moses was not one of the founding fathers.  Any person who takes an oath of public office is bound to serve ALL the people and to insure that all people are treated fairly.  For they are Servants of the people, not the rulers of them.  We gave those up when we fought the American Revolution.  They may hold those beliefs and apply them to their own life and their own personal choices.  They may not force them onto someone that may not share their belief structure or make them a part of the governing laws.

Additionally, the police are servants of the people.  Not a domestic military force.  And as such, they should not be an intimidating presence in our communities, often times inciting the violence they should be preventing.  They need to be a part of the community, not an overseeing force.  Violence needs to be far more of a last resort than it has been.  Anything less is a Human Rights Violation.

Imposing unnecessary laws and obstacles to disenfranchise votes and make it harder or costly for citizens to cast their vote is a Human Rights Violation.  We have the right, as citizens, to participate in our electoral process.  In truth, we have a duty.  And we should not be dissuading citizens from voting.  We should not be looking for excuses to disallow their vote, impose unnecessary and discriminatory regulations to minimize the counts.  We need to make it easier, to educate the citizenry of their civil duty, understanding their rights and the constitution.  As it is written, not as some attempt to redefine it.  We need to strive not to have lower voter turnout, but to do whatever is needed to have as high of a voter turnout as is possible.  Only then will we have a true government of the people, by the people and for the people.  Anything less is a Human Rights Violation.

Selling off or leasing off the sacred and tribal lands of our Indigenous People is without a doubt a Human Rights Violation.  Denial of the scientific held belief of Climate Change is your right.  But, continuing practices that are known to be substantial contributors to it, thereby affecting the majority of the population who do not share in your belief is a Human Rights Violation.  As is Fracking, which is poisoning ground water, most probably causing earthquakes and creating a toxic environment for all life is a Human Rights Violation.  So is the attempt to place ownership on the clean waters of the world and the spraying of chemicals with sufficient probable causation of things like the decline in bee populations and new cancers.

I am not, nor will I ever be a “Politically Correct” person.  I believe in freedom of speech.  I believe in it wholly including the belief that I must also defend speech that I find offensive.  I believe that people have the right to hate, though I don’t understand why anyone would make such a choice.  I believe they have the right to practice any religion they wish.  To live their lives by their own principles and morals, regardless of whether I or anyone else shares them.  The line gets drawn, however, when they encroach on the rights of others, when they try and pass laws limiting the freedoms of those who don’t share their beliefs.  When it goes beyond freedom of speech, freedom of religion outside of their personal life, then it has crossed the line from “your” freedom into someone else’s.  It is not a discrimination against your religion when you are prohibited from discrimination.  If you don’t wish to be in their presence, you can simply cloister yourself in your home.  But, outside the doors of your home, your church, they have just as much right to be, to function, to thrive as you do.

I am sorry, but if you don’t want to administer birth control, don’t become a pharmacist.  If you want your child to pray in class, put them in a religious school (which needs to also give up its tax exempt status as well as that status is a form of government sponsorship).  If you don’t want to kill a stranger, don’t enlist in the military or the police.  Its just common sense.  When you enter these areas, you must accept that these things go hand in hand with the job.  That you are accepting them as part of the job description.  You have the “right” to choose another path.  If you cannot live up to the requirements of your job without imposing your personal beliefs onto others, you should choose another path.  Because your freedom cannot be bought at the expense of another’s.

Yes, each of these and more are, on their own, their own separate issue, but they are each of them also part of a greater whole.  For every one of them is a Human Rights Violation.  They must each be joined by this common thread in order for them to achieve the united front that is needed to make real change.  None of the individual groups hold enough power, enough votes to make more than a temporary change, in constant danger the moment they glance the wrong way.  Too many factions dismiss “women’s rights”, “gay rights”, “minority rights”, “religious rights (other than Christian)”, etc.  But, if all of these people keep pounding on the table and stating over and over its a Violation of their Human Rights, it makes it slowly harder for them to chip away.  It removes the wall between the gays and the women and the minorities and the atheists and the nones and all the rest.  Its a Violation of Human Rights.  Period.  And the Violations need to stop.  Now.  Erase the lines and grab the common thread.  Because we all want the same thing.  Basic. Human. Rights.