Friday, July 31, 2015

Reparations, White Guilt et alia

Usually I write these posts at home because I do not have the distraction of the Internet at home. I go to the local library to use the internet. As a result, sometimes I have to rely on memory for what I posted. This occasionally results in a misremembering, but just as often what I do remember about the post is the insight that I was after in the post especially when that insight found its way into words willy nilly.

From what I remember about the post about about blindness to race-based oppression being an important part of whiteness, it had all the feel of being the start of a case for group guilt and reparations. Protestants with their notion of individualistic guilt are astonishingly unable to grasp the possibility that their could be any other kind of guilt. Washing in the Blood is for individuals. It is for individual souls. If Guilt and Redemption exclusively concern individual souls, the whole idea of group guilt is not even wrong. It is nonsense like the babblings of an infant.

Ironically, The Holy Scripture they claim to read closely as a history of their God’s actions and self-disclosure in the doings of human beings contains numerous examples of Divine commands commands to eradicate whole populations. Sometimes exceptions are made for women and children, sometimes not. Sometimes their Deity exterminates whole cities like so much vermin (the case of Sodom and Gomorrah). And let’s not forget the greatest extermination in their history: the Great Flood. Or perhaps some of their religious leaders heed these stories. There have been numerous explanations of natural disasters as visitations of their God’s wrath upon the guilty and the innocent, not even sparing infants or the virtuous over which Abraham’s bargains with their God.

The concept of group guilt is not lacking in their theologies. The problem is in its application. When group guilt is applied, it is applied to violators (who curiously enough are always outsiders) of their Divinely sanctioned mores. Washing in The Blood washes Sin and Guilt away to leave the soul clean and pure, white as driven snow. For most denominations, the outward manifestation is at best recognition of feelings of guilt about behavior toward individuals, and even then only toward one’s neighbors. Neighbor has strong implication of shared locality: neighbor refers to those physically close in the same village, on the same street, or even only one’s fellow Christians in the same congregation.

No doubt, there have been denominations which have a notion of Guilt and Sin extending beyond mere feelings of guilt to the broader social and economic implications of their sins. These are far and away in the minority in the U.S. and probably in the broader history of Christianity.

Once you get away from Protestant fabrications of Guilt, Sin, Individuality and Redemption, it is quite clear that there is White Guilt and it is not derived from the paternalist nonsense about the Burden of the White Man. The recognition of guilt of any kind brings with it regret and a sense of uncleanness. In this case there is no mechanism in place to overcome the regret and get rid of the feeling of being soiled. Because there is no mechanism for redemption from this kind of guilt, recognition, if only of the most fleeting kind, brings with it powerlessness, frustration, despair. Imagine this situation as Living on the Day Before Redemption. The revelation of Jesus’ cleansing power shines brightest just before the moment of disclosure. Consequently, the deepest, darkest despair is when the sinner is most acutely aware of the need for Redemption. Living on the Day Before Redemption means Jesus never reveals Himself. There is no Hope. There is only despair. Most people do not have the psychological whitheral to cope with soul-crushing despair. It is much, much easier to make believe that such extreme states do not exist or are only symptoms of a diseased mind.

One of the seemingly infinite ironies of racial relations in this country is that Whiteness which presents itself as aloof and self-sufficient is in fact just as dependent on Slavery and Jim Crow for its place in the world as are African-Americans. The essential difference being in the majority, it one has the luxury of avoiding unpleasantnesses in its history. Whiteness and Blackness have become inseparably intertwined, more like Cain and Abel than Master and Slave.

I wrote “have become” because at the very beginning, when that first ship arrived in Jamestown it would have been possible to refuse that Cargo, or even send it back to Africa or wherever it came from. The history of Race Relations in this country is mostly a marriage without possibility of divorce between two people who desperately despise one another.

Shameless back dating & editing old posts

One of the benefits of vanishingly small followings is that there is no reason not to.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Random Thoughts about Growing Up Poor-White in the South

Arkansas is not the deep South, although it has been said more than once, "we did secede during the War." Some of the eastern part of the state belongs to the Mississippi Delta and even manages to show up on the fringes of blues history. I grew up in the Northwest corner mostly in Washington County adjacent to the south to Benton County. Benton County was where Walmart got its start. I grew up in Walmart country and remember Walmart stores from before Walmart became a hulking corporate blob. The northwest corner of the state has always had a very, very low African-American population. While we to one degree or another identified with the Confederacy, it was very much felt that slavery and institutional racism was not part of that identity. I am not intimately familiar with the history of my state. But as I understood it, the Northwest Arkansas was impoverished with economic development discouraged to the benefit of the eastern half of the state which was predominantly agricultural. That's where the money was. And where the money was is where political power was. And the economically advantaged there as always, felt it was their God-given duty pursue policies that would protect and enhance their wealth. This state of affairs changed when Northwest Arkansas was connected to I-40 to the south in Ft. Smith but that wasn't until the 70s or 80s. Like I said, I'm no expert and I am probably wrong in some particulars.

Another part of growing up in 60s and 70s in the South, and not just Arkansas, was the poor schools, the lack of healthcare, and any other kind of social support. Poor whites and poor blacks made for a natural partners in seeking social improvement. I don't know the numbers but together they could have made for a force to be reckoned with. The explanation as heard it is that poor whites were told by the powers that be that social issues were n***** issues. Of course, no one wanted to be n***** lover, so no coalition and no social support services. I don't know if this is true, but it fits the mentality of an awful lot of people. A man could be impoverished, illiterate, toothless, half-blind from cataracts but at least he was white. Racism hasn't just hurt African-Americans. It is poison and harms whoever it touches. Just so there's no confusion, I most definitely am not asserting that poor whites had it worse or know (better) than "African Americans" the effects of racism. Racism is primarily a tool of economic exploitation. It has been used in different ways on different populations.

Here is what life in the rural south is like:

I readily admit that it is an exaggeration, but not by much. More often now, a man can be impoverished, illiterate, toothless, half-blind from cataracts but at least he has Jesus and isn't a n******. Poverty, illiteracy, hookworm, domestic abuse, poor health care are also part of Southern Heritage. I hadn't realized the extent to which I hold the rural South in low regard. I am fond of my immediate family and the area where I grew up, but I have lived "up North" for most of the last 30 years. I can afford the luxury of nostalgia only until it makes for stupidity and blindness. The South has changed. There has been an influx of immigrants and migrants from other parts of the country but mostly to the cities but not only. I suspect that rural life hasn't changed nearly as much.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Perfect Tee for Nonbelievers

I Am Currently Unsupervised I Know, It Freaks Me Out Too, But The Possiblities Are Endless)

See it here.

Free Will Reconsidered

All right I admit it. The title is misleading. This is not a possible defense of Freedom Of Will or any other such silliness. Rather, I'd like to put forward a criticism of the belief in the autonomy of one's will/choices. I find the moral critique of freedom of choice put forth by Nietzsche and other thinkers. Namely, that freedom of will provides a rationale for punishment and guilt. It is also a cover for laziness.

I would like to consider freedom of choice again [hence the "reconsider" in the title]. If freedom of will is such a blatant rationale for punishment why is it believed at all? What is so attractive about to its adherents, religious and non-religious alike? Most people passively accept some notion of freedom of choice. It is a report of subjective experience. I appear to have a choice. I don't have the time or inclination to consider whether I really do or don't. In a largely Calvinist, post-Christian, how could it be otherwise? Freedom of Choice and Personal Freedom are foundation upon which consumer society rests.

One of the corollaries of belief in some notion of freedom of choice is that the feelings and thoughts that accompany a decision and its implementation are very, very important. In many people's naive reckoning these largely, if not completely determine an act's value, meaning, and even what the act really is. Willing and choosing take some kind of mental effort, so the thinking goes.

By way of empirical examples, consider these examples. It seems hardly a week goes by without some citizen (and they're always white, btw) saying some god awful stupid thing laced with derogatory racial epithets but explaining to anyone who will listen that they aren't racists. The only example I can find through DuckDuckGo is Paula Deen. I vaguely recall remarks of officials in Mississippi, Texas, and Florida making similar remarks. Even a cursory glance at the hullabaloo over the Confederate Flag will provide a wealth of examples.

Falling back on "intent" and "what I 'really' meant was ..." simply avoids recognition of the likely effect of words and actions. One of the motors of the controversies surrounding emotional issues like the Confederate flag is that it is driven by differing interpretations of words and deeds. It always seems to be the perpetrator of some stupidity that tries to deny racist (or sexist, or ableist, or genderist, or whatever discriminatory category) intent because without racist intent there is no racism. The really interesting element of this controversy is that the various side interpret actions so as to divine the perpetrator's intent. And that leads easily enough to "are my interpretations of my actions and intentions necessarily better, more accurate, insightful etc. than anybody else's just because they are mine?

If you are inclined to answer yes, this also means that ignoring the views, opinions and knowledge of others is probably a good idea and at the least, perfectly understandable. Maybe I'm overly optimistic about human nature, I don't think most people who do racist things are evil or racist, so much as they are lazy. They never thought much about themselves or about their inner life [= those thoughts and feelings that we rarely share with other people]. They simply don't want to take responsibility for themselves. A person who finds their inner life perplexing and not at all transparent (as most people seem to do) is by far the exception.

Reliance upon intentions as authoritative in explaining one's actions is simple laziness. It is too much trouble to examine examine motives and alternate understandings of one's (good) intentions. It is an avoidance mechanism to hide from troublesome thoughts and dizzying uncertainties.

Reliance on intention means that the past (personal, cultural or historical) is at best theoretical. There is no possibility of the recognition of the importance of one's past or the past. In a Christian context, especially, I am only responsible for those actions that I myself have committed, not those of my parents and family, "heritage," my church, my government, my culture (however you wish to define it) or anything else. Reliance on intent as the sole arbiter of the morality of one's actions is, as I said before, a tool for escaping responsibility for the fruits of the bad acts of others, our ancestors' especially.

Sometimes I think the history of race in this country is a secret all of white America shares. No one talks about it, but everybody knows, whether they want to or not, whether they admit it or not. This blind spot is very much a part of what it is to be white in America. Not wanting to know. Willful ignorance of our own past, the good and the bad of it. Like Martin Luther said, We should have courage before our sins and not cower in slavish terror.

The present is the culmination of the past and the raw material of the future.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Question

If I do not feel myself to be guilty of the sin of racism, then am I not an innocent?

Is my faith in my lack of bad intent shield against conflicting questions? Does individual freedom go so far as to amount to a right to individual stupidity? Individual laziness? Is there an inalienable right to coast along though life as if in a school of fish?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

A Report of Sorts on Mood and Recovery(?)

This time is different. In comparison to past episodes everything is different. The depression was deeper, longer lasting, and overall more intense. My depressive episodes were never so obstructive to everyday life. There were people around me I could count on for support: family, friends, and a settled way of life. This last time I had no family, no friends, and no settled way of life. There was no one. I was alone. The depression was much more painful than in the past. The feeling of deadness in desire and feeling was more pronounced. The double stressors of my mother’s death and Zoya’s callous behavior in initiating and pursuing divorce in the same week were more than I could handle. I shut down emotionally, spiritually, and almost completely physically. The overwhelming stress triggered a hypomanic episode that lasted about a month, ending with a hospitalization that was technically voluntary: either sign myself in, or I would be involuntarily committed. The long slow slide to the bottom began as I watched bits and pieces of my life fall away and disappear.

One thing that was not different this time around was my lack of response to all SSRI’s and most other medication for treating depression. Eventually the nurse-prescriber I was seeing tried lamotrigine (generic Lamictal). It seemed to make a difference. I did start feeling some better. The timing was right to account for the improvement in my overall sense of wellbeing.

Then at the end of last year my health insurance was cancelled. Part of the alimony settlement was that I was to remain under Zoya’s policy from work. Her employer ended their contract with Fallon. She did not inform of this. I found out in my nurse-practitioner’s office when she was checking the coverage of a some medication. It took me six months to straighten it all out and regain coverage. I've recently reread the alimony judgment. Zoya breached both the spirit and the letter of the agreement. One of the consequences of her breach of the court order is that I ended up in the hospital for 3 days because of complications in a chronic foot injury. I responded well to treatment, the injury is healing nicely. I'm decidedly on the mend.

I mention this because there was a period of two months when I was off all medication, not just the Lamictal but also prescriptions for hypertension, cholesterol, blood thinners (because of a heart attack in 2013), hormones for hypothyroidism. Everything. Two months was long enough for all of the medications to be flushed from my body. This was right before the latest upswing. Maybe that had something to do with it, maybe it didn’t. My doctor started me on a thyroid hormone in November or December of last year. Maybe that is responsible. The symptoms of hypothyroidism include a lack of energy and depression. Who knows. There are too many variables and possible combinations of medications and environmental changes.

The fact remains that coming out of this last depression is also different. I’m more expressive. I’m more creative. More ambitious. More productive. With more energy. I’ve decided to learn the guitar and to compose music. There’s nearly constant presence of an intense feeling of well being. I feel good all the time. Sometimes I sleep three or four hours, wake up wiped, still feeling good even though tired and sleepy. There’s a star inside me carrying me along. If my internal life were made physical, I would be floating six inches off the ground. The strangest thing though is that I hear music differently. Listening is more intense. I hear and understand more. Music that made no sense to me in the past is now easy. Used to I could hardly bear Frank Zappa’s guitar work. Forget about Motorhead. Now it’s a feeling of “how could I ever had trouble with this music. It’s so obvious. My taste in music always tended to the eclectic, but now? There’s even some jazz that I like to listen to, even if there’s not very much. Even over the last several months, my ability to grasp music has increased. I write lyrics and hear the music that ought to go with it. This never happened to this degree before. My brain is different.

I realize this all is suggestive of a hypomanic episode. My nurse-practitioner, my therapist, and I are monitoring the situation. I’m not sure how I feel about a glorious summer followed by the dead of winter. I don’t think I can maintain this level of energy indefinitely. I would prefer no to revisit the artic in the wintertime. I damn sure do not want to spend any time in a never never land between extremes in a fog of well-intentioned safety. I can and have lived with oscillations in moods. I just don’t want the extremes to extend on into destructive and self-destructive behavior.

I remember my one past hypomanic episode as a month of living on kefir and clementines, sleeping 3-4 hours, constant intense expression of feeling, mood, thought, drinking vodka as first in an attempt to sleep. I was constantly assertive, not bullying but asserting agency. Because of the 3-4 hours a night I would sometimes suddenly have to fall asleep right then and there. I would lie down and sleep the sleep of the dead oblivious to everything. Once my niece cut herself badly enough to be taken to the emergency room. Everyone was shouting and screaming and generally making a loud ruckus while I was taking one of these “naps.” I heard nothing. Normally I am a light sleeper. And then there was the loud shouting and cursing Zoya every night. Everything spiraled out of control until I was taken to a mental hospital to detox and gain some perspective.

I very much do not want that to happen again. Hence the question mark after recovery in the title. This episode(?) is not like my one hypomanic episode. Like I said, my brain is different. My emotional life has always been something of an adventure.

* * *

From my perspective without speculations about hypothetical effects of various pharmaceuticals, this time of spiritual sunshine did not begin until I was able to formulate the goal of learning to play acoustic guitar and compose music. I fully realize it is a bit late to start something like this. I am in my mid-fifties. I will approach it the same way that I approached learning Polish: make it say what I want it to say. Use the rules. Manipulate grammar and syntax to exploit nuances to give expression to what was laying on my liver (to use a Polish expression). I remember when I was first learning Polish, as soon as I could string a sentence together, I was writing (very short) short stories, essays even if only half a page. I say this because it’s not about age (I was an adult when I started learning Polish and after three years of living there I was fluent). It’s all about smart practice, focus and dedication. Setting attainable goals in the short term and beyond. Right now I’m saving my nickels and dimes for the guitar.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Atheist's Lament

Atheist’s Lament

Once we said God & Eternity
About our place in Providence
With Joy and Happiness
In the world to come.

Now? What do we say
When our life spreads out
From birth to now with a happiness
Unexpected, unlooked for?
What god do we thank
For these wisps of ?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Yesterday's Post

Yesterday’s Post Our feelings do not lie. They not tell the truth either. True and lie arise out of what we make of our feelings, especially in how we show them to other people. Judging from the written record, from pictoglyphs, cave paintings, field work with hunter-gatherer societies and the like human beings have long had experiences of what is misleadingly called the divine. Lack of belief in God or in some metaphysical hideaway for deities and demons for when they are not walking among men does not preclude these experiences. Gods, demons, heavens, hells and all sorts of wackiness are the means we used to describe, express, communicate, represent and so on these experiences and feelings. Religious believes as a last line of defense insist that atheists and other scientific types rely too heavily on analytical knowledge at the expense of other kinds of knowledge. Usually by other kinds of knowledge means uncritical acceptance of the first interpretation and expression that spring to mind. This lazy eagerness is why Christians don’t see Buddha and why Hindus don’t see Jesus when the “divine” is experienced. Here as elsewhere we see what we expect to see. And yet –

Reports of experiences of uncanniness, of unbounded joy, of bottomless despair are too common and widespread throughout the historical record and across cultures and religions for there not to be something to all this. Even a cursory reading of Nietzsche (an atheist’s atheist if ever there was one) strongly hints at out of the ordinary experiences and moments. And a close reading? Moments of unbounded joy, of harrowing despair, and of uncanny moments of timeliness. Usually passages suggesting such things are ignored or treated as evidence of insanity. The fact remains that a more gullible person in 19th Century Germany would have blathered tediously on about visions of God, Jesus, Heaven, Hell and all sorts of Christian symbols. That he did not and that he also did not make believe that he did not have quasi-religious moments make Nietzsche one of the great skeptics.

Use of traditional imagery brings up unpleasant associations of institutions with even more unpleasant histories. Even saying “religious experience” suggests segregation of-out-of-the-ordinary moments away from the rest of life’s moments. Saying “religious” already brings in an unwarranted bifurcation of the sacred and the profane before investigation and discussion even begin. Even the stodgiest version of Christianity has God judging us for our acts both in the sacred realm and in the profane. The distinction between the sacred and profane is a creation of human beings and human institutions: it does not apply to God. The language with which we are most comfortable fails us.

A distinction needs to be made between religion as a collection of experiences (this may be peculiarly Protestant, I’m undecided at this time) and institutions and communities that have grown up around traditions emanating from experiences of timelessness, overwhelming joy, soul death and the like. Religion as it usually thought of is one expression among others of the sociability intrinsic to homo sapiens. Every community needs some kernel of shared experiences and outlook around which to build itself. Even if it only amounts to “we are not like them” as with racists. Sometimes I wonder if every religious tradition looks back to a time when “the gods walked among us.” For Christianity the god no longer walk among us because the Age of Miracles is past. From my limited knowledge and the garbled versions available in American popular culture, I guess something similar about Islam. Buddhism strikes me as different. Nirvana is not a positive experience of something. It is emptiness and cessation. I’d guess that Nirvana is the experience of timelessness, a moment of escape from the changeableness of life (aka the cycle of death and rebirth). What we Westerners might call touching eternity.Or maybe not. I’d be curious to know how the various Buddhist traditions see their own history.

And as for the less well-known religions, I have absolutely no idea. At best I can only speak of Christianity, and even then I can only speak of Protestantism, and even of Protestantism I can only speak about one historically and geographically bound variety, and even in this already limited case, a case could be made that my short time (~18 months) as a formal Christian only makes to the shallowest knowledge possible, even with a history of attending various churches throughout my childhood and adolescence. In my defense I can say that I have thought longer, harder and more deeply about Christianity and religion than I ever did than when I explicitly regarded myself as Christian or religious.

The language we want to use to talk about the meaning of life, fulfillment, and consideration of one’s existence as a whole uses the wrong metaphors. The words and symbols say more than we mean and not enough of what we do mean. Freshness and immediacy are lacking in the customary expressions. The slate has been wiped clean. The horizon has been wiped clean. We have been wiped clean. The future has been wiped clean.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The "wonder" of existence

In the end I think it comes down to this. The naive faith that every cause has an effect and every cause has an effect is a abstracted bloodless version of the very human propensity to ascribe agency to changes in surroundings. With a loss of faith in some other world undergirding or maybe surrounding or maybe something else there is no "something" to "cause" change or to manifest itself to us. The old cliche "shit happens" comes pretty close. It's not that event "A" doesn't cause event "B", but that "cause and effect" is one way of organizing experience and perception. The similarity between "cause and effect" and the attribution of agency as the cause of events is uncanny. Our reliance on agency is a consequence of homo sapiens being a highly social animal. Our evolutionary history means that our primary concerns are with social standing which in turn means agency. Our attempts to understand the world around us (= physics) is a misapplication of the social phenomena of agency. With the loss of belief in the fairy tale of God being behind it all (the so-called Will of God) events are uncaused in any sense of causation that we can grasp. The world and things in it appear. It's as close to magic as anything a human being is ever going to encounter.

In pseudo-mystical language, each moment is the universe giving us presents, not all of which we know how to open.

The so-called "sense of awe" and the endless twaddle resulting from "Why is there something rather than nothing?" is the brain confronted with a puzzle that it is unable to resolve. Philosophy and all forms of inquiry begin with puzzlement and perplexity. The traditional translation of the ancient Greek word for wonder used by Aristotle in "Philosophy begins in wonder" must be a mistake. Wonder and awe at existence is the brain overloading or maybe short-circuiting. It is a brain fart. Many people find this experience to be a pleasant brain fart, the fact remains that it is the brain encountering something which its evolutionary history and development in no way prepared it for. There is nothing behind the experience. There is no cause to it. It does not indicate anything. Any language and claims to esoteric knowledge is an attempt to use symbol and metaphor to express the absence of all things human. Claims to contrary are ravings of madmen or wishful make-believe of mystics.

This is too good not to pass on

“And he was really sweet, and I enjoyed talking with him a lot. He’s really intelligent. He’s just a liar.”

About Al Seckel by his second (current?) wife.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Rachel Dolezal

All of the coverage of Rachel Dolezal and her passing herself off as an African-American have concentrated exclusively on her motivations, questions of possible mental illness, essentially on her. Larger questions like how could she pass for an African-American? Historically, light-skinned African-Americans sought to pass as whites. It was a great scandal to find out that someone was really not white, but one of them. [As a side-note I bet that the Red Scare of the 20s and the paranoia surrounding Communism have their roots in this race paranoia.]

It was perfectly understandable why one of them would like to be like one of us. The advantages are numerous and easily imaginable. The media's focus on Rachel Dolezal's psychology is lazy journalism, once again, catering to their audience's phantom right to not be offended. But some passing as African-American? The world's not supposed to work this way. These sorts of questions are independent of questions of Rachel Dolezal's psychology and motivations. Passing the wrong way upsets seemingly clear-cut notions of us and them us and them. Rachel Dolezal's passing shows that the seemingly clear-cut racial divide is hardly as deep and impassable as many people think. Her passing raises the unsettling thought that race is about how people treat one another. Acknowledging race as social and as an ethical phenomenon brings up unpleasant thoughts of guilt and worries about how to take responsibility for the abomination of racism.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Southern Heritage

I grew up in the South. It was a strange part of the South: Northwest Arkansas. NW Arkansas is one those odd places in the South with no appreciable Africa-American presence. Before I left for college at 18, I had only seen maybe four African-Americans, and one of those was on a family trip to visit relatives in Texas. My father and pretty much every one I knew called them something else. You could say stupid things about minorities because there were no minorities to speak of. Or rather, gays, lesbians, transgender, etc knew to stay out of sight, in the closet. Because of this lack of minorities no one had to take responsibility for what they were saying. There was no one to call them out on their use of hateful language.

That one exception on the trip to Texas, was pleasant, friendly and seemed quite likable. I think I was 6 or 7 at the time. Given my limited exposure, he made quite an impression on me with his exoticism and kind demeanor. It takes a while for children to put contradictory experiences together and recognize the cognitive dissonance. I remember thinking that something was up the racist language people around me were using.

My attitudes about race and minorities have evolved over the years. I've never been hateful toward minorities, but I will also admit to not having any friends of color, either. I should point out that at this time in my life, I do not have any close friend of color or otherwise. There is one person of Italian descent that I chat with frequently on the phone, but she lives in another state and we haven't seen each other in 6 or 7 years. The divorce that I've mentioned elsewhere was devastating to my emotional and social life. Besides, I like being a recluse. But I wandered off topic.

When I hear and see the Stars and Bars today, I still feel a nostalgic pull and identification with that flag. Yes, I do see the Stars & Bars as a powerful symbol of Southern heritage. At the same time, though, slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, share-cropping and unfettered contempt for African Americans are also part of that heritage. Denying the unpleasant part of our heritage is dishonest and shows ignorance of our own history and heritage. Worse, still for men who like to think of themselves as Men with full-grown testicles, it indicates something possible amiss in the nether regions.

It wasn't until I developed a strong interest in the Blues, primarily pre-WWII acoustic blues and songs from the songster tradition, that I found myself having to think long and hard about what my father would have dismissed as n***** music. My primary source of information was liner notes and the occasional Wikipedia article, but most of all the music itself. I'm way overdue for reading about the history of the Delta region, the development of African-American music, and biographies of important figures. I was surprised at the importance of the themes of prison and law-enforcement. I wish someone with the proper resources and industry connections would put together a multi-disc compilation around the themes of law, prisons, and the police in African-American music throughout the 20th Century.

Listening to to pre-WWII African-American music made me start thinking about race (again). Ever since I was a child I've always like old Country Music. For me old Country is Country music from before the mid-Seventies when I first listened to Fleetwood Mac and discovered a much, much larger musical world. Of course, old Country includes Hank Williams, Sr., Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, Ernest Tubb, Kitty Wells, Roy Clark, Conway Twitty (even if he did write "Okie from Muskogee") and the like. At this time in my life I have access to a public library with good music collections and just as importantly the time to listen to Jimmie Rodgers, Uncle Dave Macon, etc. and to assimilate what I'm hearing.

It is widely recognized that the so-called racial barrier was quite porous, especially in music. A big chunk of country music comes from the Blues (especially). Musicians prior to the development of recording industry relied on live performances for income. All music (except for classical and even then there are exceptions) was dance music. The Blues was originally music to dance to, not just to sit around and listen to. Musicians played what their audiences wanted to hear. They would always be on the lookout for some clever hook, new songs, new ways of playing old and new favorites. If it increased their income, musicians didn't care about the color or origin of the source

So, yeah. African-Americans and how we as (white male) Southern treated them are very much a part of Southern Heritage.





Monster?

I remember reading an article on Salon.com about how Ebola is an inhuman disease. I've looked for since, but I can't find it now. Ebola spreads through touch. Touch is fundamentally important to human beings. Infants need to be touched or they suffer all sorts of complications. Even adults need touch. Think about all the expressions using touch: “a woman’s touch,” “he wouldn’t touch me (in a divorce proceeding, for example),” touch as a form and expression of intimacy, affection, consolation, comfort, and the list goes on and on. I couldn’t get over the mention of a one month old infant with Ebola.

I’m not so much interested in the hackneyed Problem of Evil as an argument against God. I stewed on the article. It’s a matter of pushing things to logical conclusions. The existence of infants infected with a disease spread through touch reflects back on Christians and the character of the God they worship.

What do Christians put forward against the Problem Of Evil? All of the attempts and strategies for avoiding this conundrum boil down to comforting nonsense. God is Love. God loves us all in aggregate and as individuals. God has a plan for suffering humanity. God moves in mysterious ways. And one not often heard anymore: all of existence serves the Glory of God.

Any Plan for humanity that includes helpless infants dying of a horrific disease unable even to be touched to be comforted is horrific. Such things mean that none of us can expect any better from the God of Love. Hardly a day goes by without outbursts by His self-appointed spokesmen about how America will be punished for Same Sex Marriage, Pre-Marital Sex, Divorce, Desegregation, Allowing Interracial Marriage yada yada yada by The God of The Old Testament. Or that some natural disaster occurred because of the sinfulness of the inhabitants of the city. Katrina was quite the inspiration for these self-appointed spokesmen for the divine. Was everyone in New Orleans sinful? Even the regular churchgoers baptized in the Spirit? Do they really mean that the God of Love punished the innocent with the sinful? Is this all just some half-baked Calvinism about how we are all condemned to eternal punishment and it is only by Divine Grace that some fraction of humanity is “saved”? Then we come back to the infant with Ebola. It boggles the mind to consider that an infant could have “sinned” and is therefore worthy of suffering and punishment.

A one month old infant with Ebola means that none of us, no not one, can expect any better from the God of Love. Thanks are given for His Many Blessings, but really, doesn’t that mean “Thank You God for Not Killing Us Today.” That is not love. Arbitrary visitations of sufferings upon the good and the evil alike as proof of His Infinite Love is monstrous. It is behavior appropriate to a Monster at war with humankind. Attributing His Actions to His Love is propaganda in His war against humanity. Weaseling out of this conundrum with “it passes the understanding of Man” is acquiescence to evil. It is standing by while another is bullied. It is ignoring truth because it’s to much trouble. But really, any one who professes to worship and follow such a monster is an enemy of humanity more concerned with obedience whether to God, government officials [“ Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates (Romans 3:1)], morality, bankrupt politics, to their leaders concealing their pedophilia, and so on. Do not forget Paul liked to refer to himself as servant, slave, ect of his Lord & Master. This makes a fetish out of obedience and cowardly worship of power. If God exists He is the enemy of humanity and His worshipers despise and hate humanity. Everything good in human beings is used to justify worship to this Monster. To speak Lovecraftian, Yahweh and His Son are Old Ones.

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It's bothered me for years why the Romans believed that Christians hated humanity. Now I understand.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A Conservative Argument for Gun Control

Our descendents will look back at us in bewilderment and confusion for our inability to regulate firearms much in the same way we look at witch hunts or Aztec human sacrifice. It should astonish us that after twenty first graders are shot by a lone gunman, we have done nothing. A white supremacist with a criminal record shoots nine parishioners in church. In some states it is legal to openly carry firearms.

Conservatives are particularly vocal about so-called Second Amendment rights and the rights of the unborn, even going so far as to call themselves pro-life. They see no tension, no contradiction in their silence. Conservatives are constantly seeking to erect copies of The Ten Commandments in public spaces because the Ten Commandments are (supposedly) they are the crucial and major foundation of Western Civilization, Morality, and Political Theory. And what is one of the commandments? "Thou shalt not kill." If the example of these vociferous Christians is to be believed. "Thou shalt not kill" does not apply to aiding and abetting killers. Unless a person pulls the trigger, apparently he is innocent, even if he sells the killer firearms, bullets, Kevlar vests, and a map to his victims' home.

Responsibility for assisting in committing murder is evaded by appeals to the personal responsibility of the client (= killer). Never mind the fact that the actions of the seller, advocates for ever greater gun "rights" make the killing at all possible. If murder can be prevented is it not the responsibility of every who "believes" in the Ten Commandments to do what they can to prevent the killing that their actions, politics, and beliefs make possible?

The failure to act on their professed beliefs and values makes it abundantly clear that Conservative's effort to erect monuments to The Ten Commandments is just so much self-promotion. It's more about filling church pews and not about preventing murder.

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