Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I Suck At Consistency

I am so mad at myself for not having updated this thing for the entire month of December. My resolution for 2010 is to update this blog regularly. For the two of you who actually read this thing, I give you full allowance to get on my back about it if I slack and if you so choose. Thanks to anyone who has read this thus far and I hope you stick with me next year!

P.S. For anyone who cared and doesn't know, Mango came back after 4 days of being missing.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Missing Mango

I like to update this blog regularly- at least weekly- and I usually do it on Sundays. Today, unfortunately, I don't think I will be able to. My cat, Mango, is missing. I am very worried and a bit too preoccupied to focus on anything else. As we atheists say, please keep Mango and me in your thoughts. Thank you.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Musings On "Meant To Be" And Me

I take issue with the bandying about of the phrase, “meant to be.” When most people hear it, they let it sink into their brain as if it must be an absolute truth. It clearly has ties to religious thinking, and yet, like the concept of “soul mates”, it seems to have gained a new place in peoples' minds. I know people who believe in god but don't believe in “meant to be.” I know people who believe in “meant to be” but not god. I know people who believe in both, and of course, people like myself who believe in neither.

I find it very peculiar that someone who easily dismisses the concept of god or a higher power might still use the phrase, “meant to be.” How did it become its own entity?

I have my theories, one if which is that, like religion, “meant to be” is a very comfortable psychological trap. One of the reasons it irritates me so is that if one were to let it, it would incapacitate one to make important decisions. This is my take on the idea and is not meant to read as having been psychologically verified.

I constantly listen to my friends talk about their romantic relationships. Maybe one of them recently broke up with her boyfriend and is doubting her decision. He tries to tell her that they are “meant to be,” and now she is more confused than ever. Another may have been trying to no avail to schedule a first date with a particular person and has given up, deciding it must not have been “meant to be.”

When we start to enter the realm of “meant to be”, what we are really talking about is our true feelings, whether we are being completely honest with ourselves and others, and whether we think our goals are attainable. When we decide something must not have been “meant to be,” what we are really saying is that we either do not care enough about the goal, or have tried and failed. If my friend is feeling like her relationship was not “meant to be,” she is recognizing her intuitive doubts about the relationship and at the same time shirking the responsibility of having made the decision. If her ex-boyfriend is trying to tell her they were “meant to be” together, he is regretting the outcome of his efforts and his past behavior.

I find this line of thinking sad. If I thought my life was supposed to be anything other than what it was, what would be the point in trying to understand my feelings and making an effort to fulfill my dreams? Wouldn't I just let my life pass me by, hoping that life would just happen? Aren't we all urged by those older and wiser than us to go after what we want? To never settle for less than the best? Aren't we all cautioned by the image of the man stuck in a mid-life crisis because he settled for a job he didn't want, a wife he didn't love, or a mortgage he didn't want to pay? I understand we all have responsibilities, and some of these are unavoidable, but so many attribute these responsibilities to “meant to be,” and never accept that they have the power to change their lives.

There is no cosmic obstacle in my way, secretly taunting me as a I tried in vain to attain my goal. Relying on “meant to be” is an easy way out. It denies control over one's life, and what I find most disappointing, it disallows one to feel pride and a sense of success. If I want something, I work until I get it. If I didn't get it, it's because I either didn't want it enough, didn't work hard enough, or wasn't willing to do what it took (I am in no way suggesting that “doing what it takes” is always the advisable path. Sometimes, certain goals are best left not pursued. I am also not advocating an “ends justify the means” mentality. There are certainly things that we should not do in order to attain certain goals. For example, my friend may decide her goal is to take her ex-boyfriend back and live happily with him. She knows she cannot count on him to change, therefore, she must change. In order to do this and make sure they are happy as a couple, she knows she must move to a different state, leave her family, leave her job, and force herself to live in a situation in which she is personally unhappy. Though she could attain her goal by doing this, the end does not justify the means. Therefore, she must understand that all “meant to be” means in this situation is her instincts telling her to not return to her ex-boyfriend.)

To my mind, this displays the ingenuity and determination of humanity. We made this world happen. We make our lives happen. We don't give up when something stands in our way. This is simultaneously wonderful enough to inspire us to personal and societal greatness, and frightening enough to make us cower in fear of failure. That said, I remind myself as often as I can to make my life what I want it to be, to pursue what I want, and to never accept less than happiness.

Now is one of those times it would be so easy for me to believe in “meant to be.” I may have just made an absolute mess of my life. Alright, that's a bit of an overstatement. I could easily continue on without any appreciable differences. However, that's really not what I want to do. I'd like to write exactly what has happened and what I mean, but I cannot get too detailed, for fear that certain eyes will read this. Normally I would be very honest, but I have been sworn to secrecy. If anyone likes giving out free advice, please e-mail me, but I will try to say as much as I can here.

I have developed feelings for someone. There are serious obstacles in the way of us forming a relationship, but I would like to work past these obstacles. It is possible to do so, but that does not mean others might not get hurt along the way. And no, to make things clear, neither one of us is cheating on anyone else, so that's not one of the roadblocks to which I am referring.

If I was not a rationalist, I could chalk whatever happens up to “meant to be.” If things start to feel too difficult, I could write it off, say it was not “meant to be,” and move on. However, I could also turn a blind eye to the serious issues in the way and forge on, even if the consequences become too great, thinking the consequences must not matter because it is “meant to be.” I know what I want and am willing to do what it takes, but I need an objective eye of clarity which I do not possess for this situation. There is no “meant to be,” there is only what I make of my life. This is an exciting thought, and yet I dread what may be to come. Isn't life grand? Fuck my life.

Feel free to comment or message me directly, if you so please.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Stupid Religious Bumper Stickers

I saw two stupid things yesterday while driving. One was a leaf collection truck with a loose tarp as its top. The leaves flew behind it as the truck bumbled ignorantly along, creating whirlwinds of fall foliage in its wake. That was pretty stupid. I also saw a dumb, religious bumper sticker. It read, “My boss is a Jewish carpenter.”

I hate bumper stickers. I don't know why people put them on their cars, because it always seems to me like one is just asking to have their car keyed. I especially hate controversial bumper stickers. Even if I agree with the message, I'd rather the driver just let me drive in peace without being bombarded with information about his or her teenager, political stance, or bowel movements.

That said, let's take a moment to revel in the particular stupidity of this bumper sticker. Let's pretend Jesus ran a carpentry business and you were an employee. He says to you, “Hey, Employee. I need you to cut me two 10 feet 2X4s, stat.” You say to him, “Alright, but first I'm going to exercise my free will by shooting you with a pneumatic nail gun.” What would a normal boss do? Call the cops, fire you, and flip you off. After you serve your jail time, would he hire you back? Hell no. But the “real Jesus” would totally take you back. Why? Because he's a pussy. He's a pussy boss. Do you want to work for a pussy boss? I know I don't. Well, I guess it might not be that bad if you can convince him to give you a lot of raises (ie. angel wings).

There are so many other red flags this bumper sticker raises for me. I can clearly imagine the smug look with which the driver applied it, fawning all over himself as he thinks, “I'm such a good Christian and I'm so damn clever!” What do you think about bumper stickers like these? What are some stupid religious bumper stickers you've seen?

Personally, I like this one:

Friday, November 6, 2009

Gay Marriage: Why the responsibility is on me.

This is sick and it needs to stop. What am I talking about? The nasty, vile, infectious, bitter, hate-mongering that is spreading itself around our country in the form of anti-gay marriage legislation. I don't care if I sound like I am exaggerating, because this is honestly how I feel about it. As a group, atheists clearly skew left, but there are certainly conservative brothers and sisters among us. However, I have never encountered an atheist who does not support gay marriage. I would never go so far as to assume it is not possible or does not exist, but I think most would agree that it is highly rare.

So what's gotten me this worked up? Well, obviously the passing of Prop 1 in Maine this past Tuesday, for one. I was so thrilled as I drifted to sleep Tuesday night. As a New Jerseyan, I was disappointed by my state's election results, as well as many of the results being projected around the country. But! All would be worth it, because on Wednesday I'd wake up and Prop 1 would be a distant nightmare. I did not prepare myself for loss, because I honestly did not think it would happen. Not only had I interpreted an easy rejection of the Proposition based on early projections, I had also counted on the wonderful campaign against Prop 1 to have done the trick and on what I assumed was a majority of voters who valued compassion and equal rights for all. I was wrong. It was California and Prop 8 all over again. I guess I set myself up for disappointment when I surround myself with like-minded freethinkers and forget that the rest of the United States as a whole is not as progressive.

I spent Wednesday in dejected helplessness, planning what I'd do and how far I'd go if the same battle ever came to New Jersey. Then today I realized I needed to get my ass in gear. I saw this. I don't know what I will or can do yet, but I have to do something. We cannot let these people force their will upon us. They seem to be mounting a systemic campaign against those of us who disagree with them, and somehow they are getting the voter support behind them.

Why, as a group, do atheists resoundingly support gay marriage? Atheists are forced to look at life through clear lenses. We have no religious tints clouding our opinions, and so our views must be based on rational thought. This is not true for all of us, as nothing ever is, but surely most of us. If we oppose an idea or viewpoint, it must be for secular reasons only, and the secular argument against same-sex marriage is incredibly weak. I am not sure I've ever heard a true secularist make one. It seems to me that any such secular argument is a thinly veiled theistic tactic, and while rational on the surface, it provides very little proof or objective reasoning. When people start yammering on about the deterioration of society's structure, all I can hear is “Wah-wah, I wanna be special! I don't wanna share 'cuz I don't hafta and you can't make me!”

Well unlike the blocks in *kindergarten, there is enough marriage to go around. If you really want to support society, how about we encourage as many families as possible. If a family cannot naturally procreate, all the better, I say. The United States and the world is overburdened by humanity, and there are many children who need a good home. They do not have a single person giving them the attention they deserve at the moment, so how can two fathers or two mothers possibly hurt them? Do these people honestly believe that these children are better off in foster care than in a stable, same-sex parent home?

I do believe that more than fifty percent of United Statesians support gay marriage, but I have absolutely no proof to back me up. I have to believe this, because if I didn't, the fight might feel too overwhelming. The results rest in the hands of the moderates and undecideds. What can we do to sway them to the side of right, the side of progress, and to get really hippie on your ass, the side of peace and love? I think the first step, at least to make the process easier on ourselves, might be to realize that this may take longer than it should. If I could flip a switch and make same-sex marriage legal everywhere tomorrow, I would. All I can realistically do is start lighting fires in individual minds.

My goal right now is my sister. She is sixteen, which we all know is an interesting age. Many of us start to seriously question the ideals with which we were raised. We form our own worldviews, oftentimes very different from our parents'. My parents are right-wing, Republican, Carries Underwood and Prejean-loving, mission-trip-to-Mexico-going, fundamentalist, evangelical Christians. When I was sixteen, I became more socially liberal than I had been before, but continued to hold on to my religious indoctrination beliefs. It might have been impossible not to. It took getting out of the house and going off to college to become the fiercely liberal, lefty atheist I am now. However, I see the same wheels turning in my sister's brain as were churning in mine. How do I capitalize on this situation?

Even though my sister still stands behind the Christian notion that homosexuality is a “sin”, she seems to have a clearer understanding than my parents do on the separation of church and state. I am planting the critical thinking seeds in her mind, and she is a very intelligent teenager. The combination should produce great results, and even better ones if she waters them with good company and a rational environment. Happily, she also has gay friends who can help her along. My parents, on the other hand, are a lost cause. I have a closer relationship with my father's youngest, gay brother than he does, and I don't think he sees anything odd about that. My mother holds fast to her opposition to same-sex marriage, even with a gay nephew and brother-in-law. They are very much the “love the sinner, hate the sin,” sort of Christians. How compassionate of them.

My plan is not much of a plan, I know. I would love to do more, but I don't know what I can do other than what I am doing unless the fight comes to my neck-'o-the-woods. In some ways, we atheists are at the forefront of the issue. Atheists alone have the ability to form our opinions regardless of the whim of some sky daddy or daddies (or mommies). Now the responsibility is on us, not necessarily to disabuse our theistic friends, family, and neighbors of their silly notions, but to bring the debate into the realm of the rational. I know, I know, it's what atheists try to do everyday. But we have to keep trying, because once we get people to think critically, we can't lose.

*This is a completely off-topic story, but when I was in kindergarten, I was not too fond of sharing or playing with others. There is a story I'm reminded of often, in which I was playing with blocks alone and other kids were trying to play with me. Apparently I got so irritated, I couldn't take it anymore, and shouted, "Would you leave me the fuck alone?!" I was four. I've grown up a bit since then.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Rabbit, Rabbit: The Superstitious Project

I've decided to take up a new project, and therefore I must begin by saying: rabbit, rabbit. If you know why I just invoked our furry friends twice, then you may be aware of the many odd superstitions that humans have come up with over the years. Saying, “rabbit, rabbit,” or even better, “Rabbit, rabbit, white rabbit,” upon waking at the start of each month is supposed to bring good luck for the duration of the month.

Alas, there it is; this is the solution to all of our problems. Car broke down? Stubbed your toe? Had a cold? Bought a losing lottery ticket? Well, you couldn't have been all that careful. You must not have paid proper homage to the Leporidae. The Leporids love all of us, and formed us all in THEIR (followers of the Leporidae capitalize all letters of all holy pronouns) own image, which explains our love for carrot cake. All we have to do is accept this love, and offer ourselves up to the Leporidae by chanting the sacred chant every month. Oh, and believe that King Leporid sent to us HIS son, who was sort of a king but also a prince. HIS son, Baby H. Leporid, ate all of the slices of the other kinds of cake, so that we wouldn't have to. Then HE died of a massive heart attack, but three-ish days later HE rose from the dead. Well, actually, HE sort of rolled from the dead, because of all the weight HE put on from the cake. You had to be there. But then, King Leporid sent the Holy Crane, which scooped up Baby H. Leporid and brought HIM over to Rabbit Den, where HE lived on forever. Now, if we eat any other slice of cake, we must ask forgiveness and partake of the Holy Carrot Cake. Thus, the true meaning of Thanksgiving (United Statesians being the only true followers of the Leporidae). Of course, everyone else co-opted the holiday, and brought in traditions of eating other unLeporidly cakes.

Okay, so superstitions are not that bad. Or are they? I am making a not-so-subtle point, and clearly preaching to the converted, for lack of a better phrase. It seems odd to me that religious folk make a very clear delineation in their minds between what they perceive to be frivolous foolishness, and what they deem holy and sacred. As far as I am concerned, it is just as silly to say grace over a meal as it is to avoid opening an umbrella inside. After all, there is basis for all, if not most, of the superstitions people hold- just check this out.

In actuality, I accept rote behavior due to superstition to a point. When I was a teenager, for some incredibly strange reason that I can't hope to ever remember, I felt a sense of foreboding one night while looking at a digital clock at 10:35. An hour later, I happened to glance at the clock again. I got the same feeling from 11:35, though less intense. I know, you don't have to tell me how crazy that is. Anyway, I decided then and there, mostly for fun, that I would never look at a digital clock at those times, AM or PM, again. If I did, surely something bad would happen. I very much understood that I was making up a superstition, and that nothing would truly happen. However, simultaneously my mind began building up evidence for my superstition. I would attribute bad things that had happened to the occasions I would happen to catch one of those times on the clock. Whether as a result of my “evidence” or because I wanted to develop a silly habit, for years I avoided looking at a clock at those times. To this day, I experience displeasure when I see those two combinations of numbers. What I intended to cultivate as a quirk ended up actually staining my psyche.

I believe that most of the people reading this prize their ability to think critically and tbelieve that they could never let something as silly happen to them. As I said, I accept rote repetitions of superstition to a point, the point being that they are still considered merely a quirk by the participant, have not crossed over into belief, and do not interfere with others. However, my imaginative mind managed to turn quirk into belief. I will admit that I did not sincerely believe it, but I did let if affect my opinion of a random display of numbers. Is it possible that others do the same? Is it possible that some religious folk have turned their quirks into beliefs? I honestly don't think that is the case for most, but I am interested in discovering whether there is a little bit of truth to this idea. Jesus never says grace in the King James Bible, so where does this come from? Is this a superstition that Christians follow? What about non-theists? Are there things you do that are superstitious, and do you believe in their validity? Are there things that you do that are superstitiously based, but you know they hold no validity and do them for other reasons? I have rational friends who kiss their hands and lift them to the roof of the car when they pass through yellow lights. Is there any personal validity to something like that?

As an ex-Christian, I find myself wanting to pray when I am in stressful situations. At first I was ashamed by this behavior. I thought it meant that I secretly believed in a god. I have come to accept it, however. It is a superstitious ritual that has no meaning, and as long as I accept it as meaningless, there is no harm to it. In fact, if I accept it as a means of becoming more personally attuned, then it is helpful. Now when I “pray”, I turn “Dear God,” into “Dear Self.” When I talk about personal validity, I am referring to something like this.

I am not sure exactly how this is going to work yet, but I intend to embark upon a new project. I'd like to live according to certain superstitions for an extended period of time. I'm not sure yet what my point is, other than to demonstrate the silliness of it all. The most I could hope for would be to demonstrate this to theists, and how similar it is to what they believe. Perhaps I could include a saying of grace in the project, demonstrating how silly I feel it is. I hope to explore if there are any personally or socially valid reasons for following these superstitions without belief, like my need to “pray.” I'd also like to explore the dangers of following superstitions with belief, and how close these can be to religious rituals. Please comment with your ideas, especially superstitions you think it might be interesting for me to follow. My current guidelines are:

1. I would like to follow superstitions that affect my daily life, as opposed to ones I'd only encounter during certain occasions, like weddings or funerals. I'm not against including those also, but I'd like to focus on more interfering ones.

2. Though I would like them to affect my daily life, I will not follow ones that seriously impede my ability to function normally. If they interfere with my work in any way, they will not be accepted. However, I am a writer, so it is not too difficult to work around my work. My family and social lives, on the other hand, are totally fair game.

3. They must have some sort of established and documented historical tradition to them. Nothing like my 10:35 superstition will be included.

4. I will ultimately decide on which will be followed, which won't, when I can make a legitimate and necessary exception to a followed superstition, and the length of time. I will liken this to the cherry-picking many religious folk do.

5. If any superstitions directly conflict with The Teachings of the Leporidae, they will be rejected and sentenced to life as Devil's Food Cake. Yes, that's right. Superstition as a cake. It is real, and it is terrible.

Please spread the word, especially to anyone who knows of or follows superstitions. Thanks for reading, and I'll keep everyone updated. In the meantime, rabbit, rabbit.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

When Tweeters and Callers Unite!

This is slightly old, but for reasons I will not share I did not feel comfortable posting this here until now.

October 20th will go down in history. Or, maybe October 20th will be a trending topic on history's pages. Maybe October 20th will cease to exist, mysteriously combined with October 21st.

Digital multi-minimalists (aka Twitter users) all around the globe stumbled upon a phenomenon yesterday. They either found it to be monumentally self-affirming (as did I) or soul-shattering. What is the phenomenon, you ask? It was the temporarily trending topic, "No God." Blasphemy, they cried! Shame, shame, to hell! One might even be able to look at this as a good thing for theists. They're always looking for new ways to feel persecuted by the "masses."

Ironically, the trend began as part of a Christian phrase. It's almost enough to make one believe in a god. Wait, #no god.

This occurred on the very same day Obama challenged American citizens to make 100,000 calls to Congress for health care reform. Health care reformers jammed up the telephone lines yesterday (not literally, of course). They accepted the challenge and made over 300,000 phone calls. Do the Congress callers and twitter sinkers have anything in common? Is this a coincidence?

Well, yes. Does that make it any less special? It seems fair to say that the 20th was a unique day. People who are working to progress the United States and humanity as a whole proved that they are vocal, strong, and passionate. So to any of you Twitterers out there, keep tweeting! To you, um... people with phones, keep calling up your governing officials! Let others know what you think! Whatever you believe, at least you will get your opinion heard. If humanity is ever going to reach the goals we are aiming for, we have to start somewhere.

As for me? Well, I suck, don't I? I tweeted “no god” once, and made no calls. I was deliriously tired. I am ashamed, but proud of the others who did more than I did, and next time I'll do better. I am now inspired to be like my peers.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Catholic Wedding: An Atheist Reports

Recently I attended what many consider the height of all frivolous fancy: the Northeastern wedding. Northeastern Catholic wedding, to be exact. Shrouded in tacky elegance, this occasion is oft-profiled on shows like Platinum Weddings and Bridezilla. Most of this entry will be discussing my reaction to the “Catholic”-ness of it all, while some will just be discussing the “Northeastern”-ness of it all, and the rest just the event itself.

To start- this wedding took place at Convent Station's Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth church. Yeah, there. For anyone who doesn't know me, this is not just any old Catholic church to me. This is the site of many bad or just plain strange memories. This is the church attached to my old high school by a convent.

I attended the Academy of Saint Elizabeth, located on the campus of the College of Saint Elizabeth. It is a little known fact (and also a fact of little importance, but frequently reminded to us by the nuns) that the Academy is actually a few years older than the College, and was the first all-girls high school established in New Jersey. When we'd take our guy friends to school dances, they'd remark that the school in combination with the church and the convent looked like Hogwarts. Yeah, Hogwarts if they castrated all of the guys, put them in skirts, and left statues of saints everywhere. Not having been raised Catholic, I did not attend mass until going to this school. The church is actually beautiful, and seems a bit like a Gothic cathedral. I had my graduation ceremony there, as well as my ring ceremony. I also experienced some of the worst panic attacks of my life there.

At age fifteen, I started experiencing random and intense onsets of panic and anxiety. Though they could and did occur during a number of different experiences, some of the worst took place at places of worship. I sometimes wonder now if it was perhaps my body telling me that I was not suited for churchgoing. However, back then I was a Christian and also under eighteen, so I did not enjoy enough freedom from my parents to be allowed to skip services. Instead, I was encouraged to go to Christian counseling.

I can remember one panic attack that took place during mass. I had to leave the service, and apparently the nuns, particularly my awful, octogenarian principal, thought I was possessed by demons. Yes, those nasty, naughty panic demons that make you throw up in the morning and miss church! They brought me into a back room, placed their hands over the back of my neck so that my head stayed bowed, and prayed over me, doing the sign of the cross mumbo-jumbo. I was cured! The nuns had the answer all along: prayer and spinal stretching! Um, yeah, not so much. Considering how much I hated Sister Patricia for past, mean-spirited nunnish encounters which I may discuss at some other point, my panic was not going to abate with her help. As I sat through my friend's wedding some eight years later, I had to push memories like that one out of my head. It has been years since my last fully fledged attack, so at least I was not too worried about relapsing. As per the rules, only girls who graduated from the Academy are allowed to be married there. Unfortunately, some of my friends have allowed this rule to make them feel a bit privileged. I can most definitely expect to attend at least two more weddings there.

Before the ceremony, one of my acquaintances friends and fellow St. Elizabeth graduate suggested we take our first trip back to high school. Maybe it wasn't the best idea to risk running into old high school teachers while wearing a dress out of which my breasts were threatening to pop. We journeyed through the crusty-smelling convent, above the eerie, cobwebbed catacombs (yes, my high school has catacombs) through which we used to sneak because there was a singular sign of life: a vending machine that sold cheaper sodas than the cafeteria. Through the halls, the nuns we passed told us we looked beautiful. I thanked them and told them they did too. I don't know, what else do you say to a nun? Inside the school itself, I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness. I had changed so much in the six-and-a-half years since I last set foot there, and yet it was exactly the same. Even the faint whiff of garlic had not changed. The school has a vampire problem, you see.

The ceremony was lovely, if not unnecessarily long (I told myself I wouldn't, but I did tweet once during the ceremony). I was more impressed with the priest than I thought I would be, as he admitted himself that he was possibly the least qualified person in the room to discuss marriage. He did spew out some fantasy about how religion had taken marriage from the pagans and infused it with “Godly” morality by treating women as an equal partner in the contract. Am I missing something? I wanted to scream about that one, but at least he praised the Jews for this and did not attempt to attribute this to the Catholics. Later on in the ceremony, my friend and her fiancé-turn-husband had chosen to light a unity candle. The priest prefaced the lighting with a commentary on the symbolism of choosing to blow out the individual candles or deciding to leave them lit. You know- will you become fully one or will you remain strong individuals to make a stronger whole blah blah, nonsense, bullshit. They blew out the candles, even though I was attempting to telepathically stop them from doing so. I decided that I want to have a unity candle at my wedding, and just to be total dicks, my groom and I will decide beforehand to blow out one of the individual candles and leave the other lit, just to fuck with people.

I think I may have been the only atheist in attendance, or at least I did not notice anyone else who did not bow their head during prayer (except for the seven-year-old junior groomsman, of course). However, I was definitely not the only one who saw the silliness of the rituals. There was a family of (I will assume based on educated guessing) Protestants, who I caught smirking at the robotic repetition of Catholic mantras. When it came to the Eucharist, many people did not line up to receive it. My often confused friend actually asked if I was going to take it. I had to try hard not to give her a smug, patronizing look and declaim loudly that I had no interest in a bland wafer that might even be a human heart in disguise.

The soirée took place at the Venetian, and after mishap upon mishap we made it there in mostly whole pieces. This is what I mean when I refer to a Northeastern wedding. I tell you now, I have never seen a smorgasbord that more fit the definition of smorgasbord in my life. The cocktail hour alone came complete with open bar, vodka luge (as well as a nonfunctional NY Giants ice sculpture), sushi bar, mini cheeseburger station, other hot meat and seafood stations, platter upon platter of cheeses, crackers, fruits, veggies, and then some. It was enough to make me think again about wanting a small wedding.

The rest of the wedding was uneventful, unless you count taking care of a drunk and sobbing friend as an event. I did not get to enjoy dessert because of this, and a small tear did well in my eye as I passed the trays of tiramisu and decadent brownie. This was a small, though tasty, price to pay to make sure a friend was safe, and the bride-sans-zilla understood. Overall, I'd say it was a good wedding at which to be a guest. Even for an atheist.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Morality Is For The Faithful... Not!

I had a conversation with my mother recently. She told me a story that she had heard through a friend about some distant or not so distant family member. Unfortunately I cannot remember all of the specifics of the story, so bear with me. I also have no means of verifying its accuracy, so I use it as a way to discuss a point, not necessarily as a historical account.

The story took place in a Nazi occupied country during the Holocaust. A Christian family was hiding a Jewish family in their basement. The Nazis came knocking, as they often did, as asked if the family was hiding anyone. At this point, the family was torn. If they told the truth, the people they were hiding would be killed, but if they said “No”, they would be lying, and as Christians believed that lying was a sin. They told the truth. According to the story, the Nazis were so shocked by their response that they laughed it off, did not believe the Christians, and assumed that there must have been some sort of trap. The Nazis left and the Jewish family was safe. After finishing this story, my mother said, “I can't understand how some people can hear a story like that and not see god.” To which I'm sure you can guess my response.

Now, I hear you. This story does not seem plausible, if only for the fact that I cannot imagine the Nazis leaving with everyone unharmed if they honestly believed there was a setup. However, not having studied enough about the subject, for all I know that was a common scenario, so let's disregard any glaring unlikelihoods. Let us focus instead on the actions of the Christians in the story and my mother's response to it.

In the conversation that followed, my mother stated that she did not think she could have made the same decision the Christians in the story made, but that she admired the Christians for their faith in god, and he came through for them. My take on the story is that the Christians were adhering to warped and harmful beliefs, should not be commended for telling the truth, and were just plain lucky that the outcome was what it was. I also stated that they probably were not the only Christians to have given up their hidden charges for the sake of following their god's laws, and that nine times out of ten the Nazis would not have reacted the way they did and those hiding would not have been spared. I even went so far as to say they would have been partially culpable in the death of this Jewish family, had it happened. It's one thing to tell the truth and risk your own life, but to risk someone else's?

As an atheist, I am often asked how I can possibly determine wrong from right. As any atheist can tell you, it is really not that difficult. I also consider myself a humanist, obviously of the secular variety. As clichéd as it sounds, I follow the Golden Rule- do unto others... you get the idea. There are a couple of gray points I have, and as I've said before I am an anti-absolutist, but those are topics for a different post. Maybe this sounds like a moral mess to some, and granted as an anti-absolutist I sometimes have to look at situations case by case to determine my view on them, but for the most part it is pretty self-explanatory. I do not advocate the violation of someone else's will, and this goes beyond what is legal and what is illegal, which is a different matter.

Let's try to figure how out lying fits into this. Lying could be considered within the gray area, so I guess I would have to take it case by case. While I try to avoid dishonesty in my life because it generally does not lead to good things, I cannot say I believe every lie is inherently wrong or ought to be avoided. The old story of a wife asking her husband if he thinks another woman is prettier than she is a pretty easy example to work with. Say the man thinks the other woman is prettier (he better not!). On one hand, one could argue that it is a violation of the woman's trust if he were to lie. On the other hand, one could argue that it would hurt the woman's feelings and it is better to lie over such a trivial matter. Personally, I see the damage that can be done by lying, but if I were in the situation, I would prefer being lied to. If I was only dating the guy then I might prefer honesty, because I'd probably end up breaking up with that guy eventually anyway. However, if married, I'm obviously not going to get divorced over something like that, so my alternative is to continue in the marriage knowing my husband does not think I'm the prettiest girl around. I'll be honest (pun intended), I have jealousy and insecurity issues, and if I thought my future husband found another woman more attractive than me, that would definitely be a sore spot. Maybe these are issues I need to work on, but for right now, that's the way it is.

As far as I'm concerned, lying over certain matters is not necessarily wrong. It has to do with intent and weighing the severity of the potential and probable outcomes. Now let's take the case at hand: lying to save someone else's life. Clearly, I think it's appropriate and, in fact, more ethical to lie in this situation. Luckily the situation worked out for the families involved so that perhaps telling the truth was the only way lives would be spared, but there was no way to know that. The Christians told the truth assuming that the family they were hiding would be killed, but that in god's eyes it was still the course they should follow.

As an ex-Christian, I know firsthand that some Christian churches do teach that all prevarications are equal in god's eyes. Of course I do not speak for every church, but I am confident that some do teach this. This means that lying to your friend that you like her new purse is just as bad as lying on a tax return, or lying about being married in order to cheat, or lying to save someone's life. But of course, isn't being partially responsible for someone else's death also a “sin”?

The Protestant churches I went to (obviously the Catholic church disagrees here) also taught that all “sins” are created equal. Murder is equal to lying is equal to a six year old stealing gum from a convenience store. I asked my mother what she would have done in this situation. She said she didn't know and she probably would have lied, but she generally implied that she thought the fact that she would probably lie was a character flaw or a lack of faith on her part.

My question to her, and to other Christians in general, was: so if both outcomes involve “sinning”, and all “sins” are created equal, how do you decide what to do in a situation like this? (Let's disregard the idea that all “sins” are created equal, which I think is a fairly reprehensible idea anyway.) She did not know how to decide which was more wrong in “god”'s eyes, and I do not think she honestly believes one path would have been more wrong or more right than the other. For her, it all came down to faith in god, and that god chose to reward these Christians for their blind, unmoving, unthinking, harmful, negligent faith.

After all of this, I have to ask: how can anyone say it's difficult for an atheist to determine between right and wrong when not all Christians can seem to even determine that it's more wrong to risk someone else's life than to lie? Or at least that some Christians may think one option is better while others disagree? I can't speak for every atheist, but I'm pretty sure most if not all would agree that lying is the better option here based on the potential and probable outcomes. And they call us moral relativists. I may have to take certain things case by case, but at least I can make a damn decision when I do. What do you think?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Dating And The Musing Atheist

Let me begin by saying that I am an atheist. For as long as I have considered myself one, I have never shied away from the term in public. My beliefs (or lack thereof, if you want to refer to them that way) are very important to me, and why I believe what I do is of even greater importance. I do a lot of reading and exploring in order to more fully understand what I believe within the context of what there is to believe. I also search for scientific facts and evidence, not only to reinforce what comes naturally to me as a lack of belief in a god, but also to support my beliefs when they come under fire by those who disagree (meaning my entire family, unfortunately. It's not all bad, though, I definitely hold my own, and that's even as I am debating family members who work in the medical profession. Don't get me started on Christian doctors, because then I'd have to start ranting about my father, which I do not want to do right now).

I cannot say that I would see much of a point in developing a romantic relationship with a theist (and let me add that I find it amusing that there is a world of difference between “a theist” and “atheist.” What a difference a space makes). Most of my best friends are theists, and so I have no problem being friends with and sustaining meaningful relationships with believers of various faiths, but I do draw a line when it comes to dating, which I don't see anything wrong with, as Christians and other theists generally follow the same dating code. Some people can enjoy fairly superficial relationships (or perhaps lead unexamined lives), even into marriage, and so can easily brush off differences of belief. I am not one of those people. To be sufficiently romantically attracted to someone, I would need to feel open to and, in fact, invited to, discuss thoughts of a deep and philosophical nature. Since I am an anti-absolutist, I will never hold that it is 100% impossible that I could somehow develop a fulfilling romantic relationship with a theist, but I would say that I find the scenario incredibly unlikely and that I purposely avoid dating theists. Some would argue that that then would become a self-fulfilling prophecy, so it may as well be considered an impossibility. I would not entirely disagree with that, but then of course I'd being leaving out the possibility of chance. I can just imagine the conversation on the wedding night after sex:

New Husband: Whoo! Man, I knew I liked sex, but god did say it's better within the confines of marriage, and he was right!

Me: Huh? You believe in god?

NH: ...Yeah... you don't?

Me: Well have you ever seen me read the Bible? Or go to church? Or ever mention believing in god?

NH: No, but have you ever seen me do that?

Me: No, but I don't see most Christians doing that anyway.

NH: I kind of just always assumed you were like me... you know. Christmas and Easter Christian.

Me: And the fact that we fucked in that church's nativity scene last Christmas didn't clue you in?

NH: I thought you had a Virgin Mary fantasy!

Me: Oh, come on, I told you I was a naughty elf and that I wanted to sit on your lap and take a trip to your North Pole!

NH: Oh yeah... that was a good Christmas. Anyway, I had sex with you and I believe in god. I know I shouldn't have sex before marriage, but I did because it feels like heaven. Wait, you do believe in heaven, right?

Me: Um, no. I believe that when we die, we will cease to live. As in, no living beyond death and no afterlife, unless you want to refer to afterlife as literally after life, meaning dead. We become worm food, or better yet, ashes.

NH: Lovely. Well when I die, at least get me a tombstone that says “Loving Husband” on it. And make sure it says something about heaven.

Me: Well if I die first, do whatever is least expensive.

NH: You want me to penny pinch your funeral?

Me: Or what makes you feel happy.

NH: Happy? How am I supposed to feel happy knowing that, if you are right, your soul no longer exists and if I am right, you're burning in hell?!

Me: ...Well, if I'm already burning then cremation is not that big of a deal, right?

NH: Not funny.

Me: We really should have had this conversation yesterday.

And now I ramble. And by the way, I've never actually done the nativity scene thing, but I think I now have a new idea to brighten my secular celebration of this upcoming holiday season.

Wow, I started this entry with the intention of making an entirely different point, but I guess that will have to wait for another post. Please leave me comments about your ideas of dating and how (or if) religion or the lack of religion should come into play.

Monday, October 5, 2009

There was a lollipop dildo involved...

Now what great story doesn't start with that line? This entry is a bit out of keeping with most of the other ones, but that's okay because this blog is ultimately about whatever I want it to be about.

I really have a lot of trouble understanding the celebrity culture. You know what I mean, that gawking, let me critique whatever you do, say, or wear, love you one day-hate you the next sort of mentality. I can't say I'm immune to it, unfortunately. Just last night I was standing on the street in the city and saw someone exit a limo across the street. Not too out of the ordinary for New York, but then people started taking pictures with this guy. Neither myself nor my friends could figure out who he was, and I was a bit tempted to run across the street to discover his identity and report back to my friends. This was partly due to a slightly annoying desire I have to feel like the only one “daring” enough to do certain things, but also (and it pains me to admit this) due to that sickening voice in the back of my head- who is that?! Do I care about him?! Do I need his autograph too?!

I didn't run across the street. Though I will admit to the slight fascination I felt, I also swear up and down that for the most part, I couldn't care less about celebrities. There are exceptions: I like to think I'd keep my cool, but chances are I'd melt into a bubbling pile of fangirl goo in front of Barack Obama and almost any other politician, Jon Stewart, Rachel Maddow, Richard Dawkins, Ralph Fiennes, Gene Ween of Ween, Stephen Fry, and Johnny Depp, to randomly name a good few off a short list. All of these, except Johnny Depp (and perhaps Ralph Fiennes and maybe maybe Jon Stewart) are not the sort of celebrity who often graces magazine pages or Best or Worst Dressed lists. But I guess I wouldn't know, because I can honestly say I've never visited Perez Hilton's website, watched TMZ, or flipped through any of the many celeb gossip mags out there (except when they were the only thing on a breakroom table). It's not that I don't have opinions, or even that I don't like fashion. I do actually like fashion and have many opinions. I just refuse to care about a stranger's life to the point of letting it interfere with my own. As for the celebrities I do pay attention to, I do so because of how they can enrich my own life (except Johnny Depp. I pay attention to him because my eyes won't look away. He's so pretty....).

The reason I bring this up today is because I was so blessed yesterday to be able to ride along the Sex and the City tour bus for three and a half hours. The best part of it? The yummy cupcake we got as part of the tour. I was doing a friend-ly duty by going, and even though I am a fan of the show, I must say I cannot, for the life of me, understand why anyone would care to see where they filmed Carrie and Mr. Big, or where Trey and Charlotte got her engagement ring. Maybe it's due to the fact that I was born in and grew up near New York City, but I'm jaded. I don't care where Carrie and Miranda talked about blah-blah-blah, because, as my good friend Era pointed out, that's where she and her gay army got drunk at two in the morning and tried to chase hookers and trannies. Okay, so that's not my story, that's her story and I used it because of its more interesting nature. The point is, however, that I have lived parts of my own life on the streets of NYC, so why would I care about a fictional character's life on these streets?

Alright, I can understand being a fan of a series and also not being a NY native. Now, this may make me a total geek, but sign me up for any Harry Potter tour in a second. That's pretty much the only non-educational tour I'd enjoy, and at least that is about a book series. That being said, I don't mind the fact that the tour exists or that people go on it, especially those who don't live in the city. To each their own. But since I paid to be on the tour, let me at least enjoy it to the extent that is possible. I can suffer through what was essentially a three hour bus ride plus a few stops for friends. What I can't take is people who use the tour as an excuse to let their inner Samantha out. “Oh my god, we just missed Sarah Jessica by ten minutes!” Excuse me, old lady with the short curly hair and moled face, but you are no Samantha. Samantha is no Samantha. Now stop yelling to the entire bus about your son who just won his Little League game and the fact that we just passed a Dunkin' Donuts and let the rest of us hear the goddamn tour guide lady before I run back to that sex shop we stopped at where Charlotte bought the rabbit and shove a life-sized lollipop dildo down your throat! Then will you feel like a real Samantha?!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Comments On An Ugly Behavior: Racism

Get comfy for this one, kids, it’s going to be long.

I read a great blog today which got me thinking. Please read said blog before reading mine, as I use terms and refer to definitions explained by Robin F., a guest writer for Macon’s blog. It can be found here.

Did you read it? Come on, read it, it’s good… Okay, now that you’re back, here goes. Being among the race of people this blog was addressed to (that is to say, white), I was very interested to take what I had read, examine my life, and see if I had ever made any of these mistakes.

I do not remember ever asking any of my PoC friends to explain racism to me. I knew what racism was. Or at least I thought I did. I can remember the first time it struck me that racism really and truly existed.

Perhaps this realization came to me at a later age than it should have. I had grown up in a very diverse neighborhood and attended very diverse schools up until age ten, when I moved to a mostly white suburb of northern New Jersey. I was starting either the seventh or the eighth grade. There were very few black families living in the town, and thus very few black students who attended the town’s public schools. Over the summer, a black family had moved into town, into a neighborhood that was included along the same school bus route as mine. This family was richer than most in the town, as the father was a mildly famous NBA player (my father got a kick out of playing one-on-one basketball with him during the boring parts of my brother’s Little League game against the athlete’s daughter’s team).

The basketball player also had a son who was a grade behind me in school and rode the same bus as me. One day on the bus, I overheard other students making snide comments about this kid. Racist comments. I couldn’t believe it. The basketball player’s son was likeable, friendly, and had become popular in his new school. I had thought he was also friends with the very kids making these statements. I couldn’t understand why they would put him down, and further, why they would use racist remarks to do it. It was hard to realize that no matter how smart, good-looking, kind, or popular this young man was, there was always going to be an unmovable obstacle in his way.

Of course I cannot remember now what was said, but I do remember asking my mother about it later that day. Up until that point, I had thought the kids making the comments were reasonably likeable and had not had much of a problem with them. Until that moment, racism in my mind had been this ugly, amorphous cloud that had hung over the United States throughout the 18th and 19th centuries and up until the 1960s, but had dissipated since and had not really existed at any point in my lifetime.

Well, you can imagine what happened next. After noticing it for the first time, I started to notice it everywhere. I’m sure you can attribute it to my white privilege that I did not notice it before. I’m sure that kid and his entire family had noticed it and had been dealing with it all of their lives. So what was there for me to do? And since I had previously thought the kids making racist remarks were good people, was I unknowingly guilty of any racist behavior or thoughts myself? Had I ever had a thought or repeated an idea that promoted racist patterns of thinking? Was thinking that Asians were generally very smart racist behavior? Was an innocuous preconception, for example that black people are often better dancers, in fact racist?

I can remember two examples of pervasive racist behavior that had been taught in social studies class. One example was thinking about what you would do if you were walking down a sidewalk by yourself and there was a black man walking down the same sidewalk in your direction. Would you cross the street to avoid passing him because you were nervous he would hurt you? I thought about this. I didn’t think I would, but when was the last time I had been walking alone on a sidewalk? The other example was: If you had to choose between getting on an elevator with a black man or a white man, which elevator would you choose? If you chose the white man, that was supposed to mean you were secretly a racist, or at least that was how my eleven-year-old mind understood the hypothetical scenario. I always thought that I would choose the elevator with the black man, because I had come to associate rapists and serial killers with white men. I was pretty sure my social studies teacher would assume we had all chosen the white man even before she explained what choosing the white man meant, so was I guilty of covering my “true” feelings? And if not, was I then guilty of lateral or reverse racism? (More on reverse racism later in this entry.)

As I’ve gotten older and learned more, I have given this topic much thought. I’ve realized that even small, stereotypical generalizations, like the ones I listed before, are racist patterns of thinking. Though the surface level of the thought or statement may be intended positively, they subtly mask negative thoughts, regardless of whether those who repeat them share the negative opinion. I’ve started to let the guilt (or the fear of secretly being guilty) fall away. I think there are many white people, myself and those I consider friends included, who are not secretly hosting racist opinions. Maybe that’s naïve of me, but that’s what I believe. As Robin wrote in the blog I referred you to, guilt helps no one if that guilt is unwarranted. I shouldn’t feel guilty that I was born white. I should accept that my skin color grants me privileges that others may not be granted. What I should feel guilty about is if I let myself forget this privilege, forget that I am lucky, and start to form perceptions of other people without this privilege in mind.

I also want to write a bit about the idea of reverse racism. As I have now learned (courtesy of Robin F. via Macon), there are two definitions of racism. I am embarrassed, but willing, to admit that I did not know this before. Again, I will direct you to Robin’s post to get a full description of the two definitions. From this point on, I will assume you have read and understand the definitions. Up until this point, I would have spouted off the first definition. Again, chalk that up to my ignorance. However, as I have now read, this is not the accepted definition by many sociologists. This idea strikes me, as I now have a reason for the nagging voice in the back of my head whenever I hear someone bring up reverse racism. In her entry, Robin writes that, “racism is prejudice plus power.” If operating under the assumption that this definition is correct, which I will be, reverse racism cannot exist.

I’ve never been able to put into words why groups like the NAACP and UNCF do not bother me in the slightest, and yet I find the idea of a white counterpart abhorrent (though it does not deal with issues of race, I plan to write one day on my differing opinions of the Bohemian Club and the Belizean Grove). That’s because there can be no counterpart. These groups are reactionary groups. They exist due to the oppression and exclusion PoC experience by a group that holds institutional power. White people who feel offended by such groups should take a moment to think about why there does not need to be a white counterpart. What privileges have you (if you are white) been afforded because of your skin color? Do you really need a group to give you more? Likewise, I can’t imagine being offended if I was called honky or cracker (I never have been). Would you be offended? If so, why? These words have never been associated with years of oppression and suppression of a group of people, as other words have been, so what weight do they carry?

So now I’m going to take this into politics, as I am always wont to do, it seems. Recently, through watching the news, I have heard and seen much racist behavior. Who is this racist behavior directed toward? Why, President Obama, of course. “What?!” I hear you cry. “But you said racism cannot be directed at those who hold institutional power! Isn’t POTUS the most institutionally powerful position there is?” Well, I would have to say that it is. But! I would also say that the election of one black President does not erase centuries of oppression, and that racism cannot be turned on its ugly head over the course of a few months.

President Obama said himself that he was black before the election. He is not new to dealing with issues of race or hate speech that is filled with prejudiced rhetoric. Even as President he is not immune. Though small, there is a very vocal group of people claiming that the President is not a natural-born citizen of the United States and therefore ineligible to serve as her President (including Congressmen! Watch this video). I ask you, would anyone have dared to question any of the previous 43 President’s birthplaces? Especially after documentation was made public? I find it hard to believe that these accusations stem only from the fact that his father was not a citizen. It seems to me that his father being Kenyan and black might be a clearer explanation for these people refusing to accept the facts.

Another example, which sickens me, is that it seems to have become common practice for people to bring firearms to events at which Obama is speaking. Okay, maybe common practice is a bit of an overstatement, but it’s happened more than once recently. Yes, it is absolutely our (as Americans, if you are an American) Constitutional right to own firearms, and to carry and conceal these firearms where that is also allowed. This does not help me sleep at night, but so it goes. What is the point in taking guns to these events? Really?

The only conclusion I can glean from this behavior is that these (white) people are attempting to assert their presumed power and superiority over another group of people by carrying Even-If-You-Are-The-President-You’d-Better-Not-Mess-With-Me-And-My-White-Privilege guns. Hm, I wonder what models those come in. These people are flexing their muscles, as they are threatened by PoC assuming positions of authority. They are essentially saying that they have no intention of allowing PoC to ever overcome years of racism, and that anyone who is going to try would do well to realize that people like them are out there and ready to stop them. I have absolutely no evidence to support this opinion and understand that not everyone agrees with me on this, but I have yet to see examples of this behavior directed at any other President, Democrat or Republican. Maybe I'm showing the level of my paranoia with this opinion, but there it is, and these people scare me. I dread the day one of these gun-toters extends the boundary of our Constitutional right with one of these firearms.

As Robin F. writes, what is there (for white people) to do about all of this? For the millionth time I will refer you to her post that includes her suggestions, as well as Macon’s other entries. I am attempting one of the mentioned tactics, which is to think about your own patterns of thought and behavior and spread these ideas among other white people.

This concludes my entry and I thank Robin F. and Macon for making me think and re-evaluate my own ideas. I apologize for the disjointed nature of this post, but hope you enjoyed reading anyway! Leave me your comments, if you please!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

My mistake... Or was it?

I passed by Barack Obama yesterday. At least I thought I did. I don’t go into the city that often, and I just happened to go the day many world figures would all be convening at the U.N. I was walking along 42nd St., and I heard sirens in the distance. In the back of my head, bells rang and wishes abounded, but I did not allow myself to believe that what I was hoping was happening was actually happening. As it turns out, it wasn’t happening. I’ve since looked at videos of a Presidential motorcade and it’s about a gazillion times bigger than what I saw. But as the police cars, lights flashing, whizzed past, and the security agents leaned out of the car windows with menacing stares, I thought my wildest dream had been realized. The car in which I was sure sat President Obama stopped in front of me, and what did I do? I waved. Feebly. And grinned stupidly. It’s possible drool fell down my chin.

Alright, so I was completely mistaken. I’m about 99.9% sure that my excitement got the best of me, and that was in no way Barack Obama that passed in the motorcade. I’m sure it was a dignitary of some sort, because it was definitely out of the ordinary. I’m thinking… Gambia or possibly Djibouti (I have nothing against these countries. Mostly I just wanted to write Djibouti. Christ, I’m an eight-year-old). But as the old adage goes, it’s the thought that counts. Right? I thought maybe Obama might need a show of support from the people, after all of this vitriolic lie-mongering that has been going around. Not by anyone I know, of course, but still apparently by those of us Americans who represent the “real” people… uh-huh.

Honestly, if this had been last year and Bush’s motorcade had rolled by, I think I would have done the same thing. Maybe I would have given him the middle finger with my other hand behind my back, but that’s it. I’m all for protest, that’s what makes this country great. But I’m not for disrespect, especially where it is not due, and disrespect makes for protest that is fueled out of lies, not truths, and hate, not love. Stupid protesting.

There, I said it. Stupid protesting. When I protested Bush, I did it because he was the leader of an administration that lied and manipulated in order to gain support for an unjust and unwarranted war. I completely disagree with those who are not for health-care reform, but if they feel the need to protest, then they should go right ahead. Public dissent is a great thing, and without it we would never have gotten anywhere. They should gather the facts and speak clearly and passionately about why they are against health-care reform. However, anyone calling Obama a Communist, a Socialist, a Muslim (not that there is anything wrong with the aforementioned three terms, in my opinion), a terrorist, etc. or claims that he was not born in the United States or that his agenda is to destroy America, is not protesting out of real passion. These people are protesting out of fear, and they’re using lies to do it. Unfortunately, there are many out there who are either gullible enough or conniving enough to adopt these lies as truth and further it themselves.

As I’ve said before, I was one of the biggest protesters of Bush policy I knew, but I never yelled “Fascist!” or “Not my President!” Because guess what? He was my President. Though I did not like it, I had to accept it unless I was prepared to move to Canada. Alas, I love Canada and would be thrilled to live there one day, but it was not in the cards. So I was stuck being an American. And what are Americans best at? Independence, ingenuity, passion, and loving and trying to do what’s best for their country. That includes protest. Smart protest. Fact based protest. Not lies or “unfacts.”

Considering I said I didn’t want this blog to be about politics, and yet two out of my first five entries are about said topic, I am not doing a very good job of what I set out to do. Oh well.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Gum Drops and Faeries and $300 Loans...

Hello to no one. I cannot wait until I have readers so I’ll know that I’m not writing for naught. Anyway, I always wanted this blog to tell people more about my life, so I’ll pretend for the sake of my sanity that I have readers and talk about myself.

I don’t know if other people think about this much, but has anyone out there cut someone out of their life? It’s something I struggle with, even with people who deserve it. Oddly enough, I have a low capacity to trust. However, I seem to extend the small bit of trust I have to people who have taken advantage of it before. I’m generally too guarded to let these people hurt me in real ways, but on certain occasions I slip up. “Fool me once… shame on… shame on you… Fool me twice, you can’t get fooled again.” Ah, GWB, if only I had listened to your words of wisdom.

The only person who I have ever definitively cut out of my life is someone who did something very bad and unforgivable. Other than that, I have had several one-time, two-time, even three-time friends who don’t deserve anymore chances. So why do I have the hardest time officially swinging the axe they spent so much time sharpening?

Sometimes there are very selfish and tangible things in my way, like TI-83 calculators, paperback Harry Potter books that I stupidly lent out, and large sums of money owed to me. But that’s okay, isn’t it? When I trust someone, I am very giving of what I have. If someone needs money, I spot them. If someone wants a good book, I lend it. Etcetera. However, there comes a time when I would be stupid to let someone take advantage of my generosity anymore (I know, I know, this blog is making me out to be very arrogant). I am very allowing when people can’t repay loans quickly, but break my trust, and I become a lot less caring that you are depressed and having trouble finding a job because of it. That being said, if I pay $500 to buy you a 2nd generation iPod touch with a 2-year warranty for Christmas, the least you can do in return is not make me pay monthly for the Netflix subscription you insisted I needed to have because you don’t have a credit card to put the subscription on and don’t make any money to cover it. Not that that actually happened… heh.

Is it wrong that I secretly fantasize about all of these people crawling back, needing sympathy and hugs, and I give it to them, only to a week later take advantage of their trust and make them feel bad for what they’ve done? (And let me add that I swear I am a very nice and friendly person).

Okay, this is all for now, but this topic may be recurring. And since this is about me, it will recur and recur and recur, apparently.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Good Idea? Can it be true?

I am at the point in the writing stage during which the elation over having had a new idea has worn off. However, I am experiencing a new, unfamiliar feeling. For the first time, I've let an idea sink into my consciousness for a period of several weeks, and it has not ended up repulsing me. In the past I've gotten easily discouraged by and disgusted with my ideas. It's gotten to the point at which I cannot say I've ever written more than a short story or one act play.

This idea... this one is different. I wish I had followers of this blog, because if I did I'd ask them to keep me to my task. To not let me forget how I feel about this idea now. To hold me accountable. I can't let this one pass me by. I hate applying the term thriller to anything I do, but for now I may have to call this a psychological, fantastic, thriller. I can only hope it lives up to my expectations. And I can only hope my expectations remain high. Eurgh. Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb. I am made of ticking time bombs that shatter my dreams.

I also have another project I am in the very beginning stages of, but I think this will involve more than just me forcing myself to write. I might have to ransack my room for this one... more to come on that later.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Outrageous and Incredible

Okay. I don't want this blog to be about politics. I have my opinions and have no problem sharing them, but I do not want this to be a theme. However, I must comment on the speech that aired earlier this evening.

To begin, I am an Obama supporter. I am not a sheep. I have opinions that differ with his, and for the most part, I am much more liberal than he is (or than he must appear to be, but that's a different matter). To be completely honest... I am for a single-payer system. I understand, however, that a single-payer system is not really a possibility at this time. What I cannot understand is how certain members of this country can sit idly as they watch friends and relatives struggle, suffer, and sometimes die because they are not covered or do not have adequate coverage. I cannot understand how anyone can think the United States is better off for leaving the uninsured behind, which will happen if the system is not reformed. I cannot understand how many cannot grasp the fact that we are massively in debt due to the current mode of operation. Finally, I cannot understand how some can be so callous and spread information that is blatantly false, solely for what seem to be political reasons.

I sometimes feel immediately surrounded by people who do not seem to care about or understand these principles. Since when did empathy become a grace to be received only by those who enjoy economic prosperity? When did Christian generosity stop extending to the poor? I myself am an atheist. I don't need to subscribe to a set of religious values to know what is right and what is wrong. I believe in altruistic humanity, as do many of the world's largest religions. So how do these values fit into to those values?

My own family completely disagrees with me on these issues, but how would they feel if they lost their coverage? Or if one of us were to fall ill and did not meet insurance standards for coverage? I think they might have a different opinion.

There is a lot more I could and would like to say on the subject, but I think I will stop here.

There are a few more things I would like to bring up. Small, nitpicky items if you will. One: If you are being directly addressed by the President and this speech is being televised... maybe consider not texting or twittering. Two: I was the strongest opponent of Bush policies in most rooms, but had I ever been in his presence, I would not have dared to yell, "Lies!". Disagree with him though I did, he was still the President. Three: Since when did it become appropriate to shield children from Presidential addresses, especially those given directly to children? I am referring to the start-of-school speech Obama gave on Tuesday. Did certain parents honestly think he was going to bring politics into it? If they did, it would not have been hard for them to find text versions of the speech available before it was given, which any sane person would agree was without political agenda. Isn't it wiser to allow children to listen and make up their own minds, and then discuss the speech with them after it is given? And if a parent is absolutely against their child hearing the speech, they certainly should be allowed to demand that their child not be present. Parents are free to make that decision and that's as it should be. But to argue that the President should not address the nation's children, those who are our future presidents, engineers, scientists, artists, etc., is ludicrous. To maintain that schools should not air a Presidential address to students is preposterous. I have a feeling that most of the same parents would have been outraged if a school had refused to air a speech Bush had given to students.

Okay. Rant over. For now.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Intro Blog

I swore I'd never blog. Now I cannot remember why. At this point, I'm not entirely sure what this blog will come to be about. I have ideas, but I plan on shaping it more as I go along. Hopefully, others will come along for the ride. If not, that's okay.