Saturday, February 25, 2012

Our Crumbling Country

I find what is happening in the world, and particularly in this country perplexing. The spectre of the Republican presidential campaign has been the object of both derision and serious concern. It's been hard for me to get my mind around it all. It just seems so hard to fathom. How is it that this country seems to be coming apart at the seams?

Earlier this evening as Jo and I returned home from a little dinner out, I flipped on the TV and surfed through several channels finding nothing of interest until I hit upon AMC. "Grapes of Wrath" was already underway, but only by a few minutes. I put down the remote and settled in. It occurred to me that I had never actually sat and watched it through. Just to get this out of the way, I think it's still a pretty damn good film. It's a bit dated in its presentation, but most of the performances hold up pretty well. As much of the script is comprised of Steinbeck's words, it is decent as well.

More importantly, what takes place in the film, the story of the Joad family displaced from their Oklahoma farm to the California orange groves during the Dust Bowl days of the Great Depression still resonates today. Poverty, or the threat of it, tends to bring out both the best and worst in us. Hard times put a strain on any society, especially one that has enjoyed far better times. The gulf between the haves and the have nots becomes more stark, wider and deeper.

What I'm trying to convey here becomes more difficult. There is also a gulf between the Right and the Left, between progressives and conservatives, and of course, between Republicans and Democrats. These "gulfs" are not necessarily the same, not necessarily parallel. There is some cross over, if you will. Certainly not all on the Right are "haves" and not all on the Left are "have nots." There are poor Republicans and rich Democrats.

But, there is a difference in mindset. The way in which those on the Right look at the world and their fellow human beings is often far different than how those on the Left view them. It may be what actually defines us as Lefties or Righties, as Progressives or Conservatives.

The Republican presidential campaign has been defined by mean spiritedness, first against each other within the party and second against the sitting President and his administration. All of the candidates and their surrogates are placing most of their emphasis on conspiracies and fear mongering. They cannot mention Obama's name without charging him with ineptitude and/or broad charges of his being the evil spawn of satan who is consciously and purposely out to destroy this country. Accompanying these charges is not one iota of proof.

Not since the period leading up to and the years after the Civil War or perhaps going as far back as John Adams and the "Alien and Sedition Act" has there been such hatred spewed against political candidates in the U.S.

That at least some of it is race based is, in my opinion, unquestioned. But it goes farther and deeper than that. It goes back to the widening gulf between the various entities or groups mentioned above that is at the heart of our differences. These differences were perhaps most notably brought to a head during the Civil Rights movement in the 50s and 60s and broadened with the youth movement and its challenge of authority in the 60s and 70s. This difference of mind is starkly portrayed in "Grapes of Wrath." Some may consider that an oversimplification, but Tom Joad's speech near the end of the film pretty much sets out the battle lines.

"I'll be all around in the dark - I'll be everywhere.
Wherever you can look - wherever there's a fight, so hungry people can eat, I'll be there.
Wherever there's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there.
I'll be there in the way guys yell when they're mad.
I'll be there in the way kids laugh when they're hungry and they know supper's ready, and when people are eatin' the stuff they raise and livin' in the houses they built - I'll be there, too."

Of the remaining Republican presidential candidates still vying for their party's nomination, I find Rick Santorum the most disturbing and, perhaps, the most dangerous to our peace and our freedom. Someone, I don't recall who, recently stated that Santorum has a great mind. Unfortunately, so this person says, it is a 13th century mind. Santorum believes that all public education should be abolished in favor of home schooling and/or religious schools (medrasahs?) He believes that Obama's call for more kids to attend college is an insideous plot to brainwash them into people in Obama's image. Santorum says these kinds of  things at such an alarming rate it is difficult to keep up with them.

I do not for one minute believe that Barack Obama or the Democrats are without serious flaws. They are, afterall, politicians. Nor do I believe they will cure all our ills. But, they do carry on the spirit of Tom Joad moreso than any other viable political group. By and large you do not hear charges of conspiracies or personal character assassinations coming from them. If anything they are far too reluctant to do so. They often allow Republicans to walk all over them. They seem to be learning, but are still all too often slow in the uptake.

Republicans have lost all sight of ethics, dignity and fair play. They have been waging a political and legislative war against women, gays and minorities. They have been passing laws and voting regulations which effectively disenfranchise literally millions of likely Democratic voters, making claims of voter fraud the great majority of which have never been substantiated. Republicans are morally and ethically bankrupt. If they should prevail in November, as Samuel L. Jackson's character said repeatedly in the film "Jurassic Park" "Hold onto your butts."


Monday, February 20, 2012

A Sobering Incident

I had an unsettling experience earlier today. I was out taking comparable photos for an appraisal I'm currently working on. I saw three people tussling with each other in a driveway next to their car. There was a woman perhaps in her 40s, a much older man, probably 80+ and another woman of about his age. I realized that the man and younger woman were apparently wrestling with the older woman, and then I heard her start to scream.

This is one of those moments: Do I turn away and drive on down the road or do I stop and "get involved." Of course there are a lot of reasons to do the former, but I didn't heed my inner coward and did in fact stop.

I opened my door and asked if I could be of help. The younger woman desparately nodded yes, and I got out and approached them. The younger woman, the older couple's daughter I was to learn, and her father were trying with little success to get the older woman to go into the house. She was repeately screaming "No! No! No!" The old fellow was about out of steam, and he nearly fell. I took the old woman's arm and motioned for her hubby let go.

The frightened woman screamed "I know what you're going to do with me when you get me in there." She nearly spat at her husband and turned to me saying that "He wants to get rid of me."

She saw my car with the door left open and tried to make for it. Her daughter and I restrained her and tried to get her to walk to the house, but she was having none of it. Then suddenly she just kind of deflated and moaned "My arms. Oh, my arms." They were no doubt really hurting from being held and her resistance. I felt so bad for her. She was truly frightened, but at last resigned to her what she apparenly believed was to be her fate.

The daughter and I slowly walked her into the home; her father had gone ahead and opened the door. We escorted her inside and steered her to the couch where she finally crumpled and began to cry. I cried myself. She was so utterly defeated.

Of course, she was/is suffering from Alzheimers, or so her daughter told me. She seemed to have quieted down, so I excused myself leaving with the daughter's thanks. I never got their names nor offered them mine.

This encounter shook me up. I'm 65 myself.  Alzheimers is the scourge of the elderly, and in some cases, the not so elderly. It's scary. That woman's frightened eyes and tear stained face are still with me.


Friday, February 17, 2012

The Cure for Aspirin Between the Knees

The recent legislation coming out of the Virginia Legislature mandating women who are seeking an abortion to undergo an invasive and medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasound imaging procedure has made it clear that additional "balancing" legislation is necessary to help ensure that women may go through their lives without the necessity of holding an aspirin between their knees.

It is hereby proposed that young men, just prior to entering puberty, must undergo a procedure which will entail the surgical implantation of steel loops anchored to pelvic and leg bone, strategically placed around their genitalia which will then enable the installation of a locking mechanism attached to an encasement that will contain said genitalia to preclude the possibility of their partaking in casual and non-procreative sexual activity. It is recommended that this procedure be made a part of a family ritual or celebration similar to a bris or more appropriately, a bar mitzvah to make it less onerous and frightening to the prepubescent lads.

These encasements will be electronically monitored; all public restrooms and private bathrooms will have installed, by properly trained and licensed contractors, electronic unlocking devices which will allow encased individuals to answer the call to void their bladders and/or bowels, and, if so inclined, to take a periodic shower or bath. As noted these devices will be monitored and each unlocking will be timed a predetermined number of minutes to accommodate these activities prior to the triggering of highly audible warning signals, and/or perhaps intermittent electrical reminder jolts emanating from the implanted loops.

In the event an individual intends to partake in procreative sexual activity, said intention must be made known to a monitoring agency, the Preventive Erotica Quelling Registry or PEQR, designated solely for this purpose. The encased's name and the identity of the intended fellow procreator must be on file and preapproved by said agency at least 30 days in advance of any procreative activity. The date and time for this activity must be preset to allow an agency monitor to activate the unlocking of the encasement. An adequate amount of time will be allotted for these assignations; say, 5 to 7 minutes, to allow for the satisfactory consummation of the activity, at the end of which the above noted audio signals and electric jolts will ensue.

Penalties, including fines and/or possible incarceration for circumventing or attempting circumvention of the encasement device, will be set by a panel to be named later. In severe or repetetive cases, unlocking privileges may be suspended at the discretion of a presiding judge or other adjudicator.

It is understood the encasement may take on more casual popular or trade names, a few suggestions noted include Pickle Jar, Junk Drawer, Jack in the Box, Package Deal, and one which is perhaps a bit in bad taste, Pig in a Blanket. Others will no doubt arise. It is suggested that anyone suffering from erectile dysfunction should not partake of drugs, prescription or otherwise, designed to alleviate this condition while encased.

It should be noted that, should this legislation elevate to a national level, members of any state legislatures and/or Congress will be exempted from encasement during and after their tenure in office. All males reaching puberty prior to its enactment will also be exempted from the provisions of this legislation. No grandfathering will apply.

Other particulars regarding the organization and structure of PEQR, and the exact specifications of the medical procedures and the encasements, applying for exemptions, etc., will follow when somebody figures all that out. It should also be noted that said agency will ultimately be privatized under the aegis of one or more "one percenters" (also exempted).

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