Sunday, April 21, 2013

Militants and Patriots

It is increasingly becoming difficult in this world to know who the "good guys" are.

Since the recent bombing at the Boston Marathon, we have various government and law enforcement people coming out with sensational views and twists on this perplexing situation.  While it is obviously sad to have experienced this dire act that killed and maimed so many at the finish of the race...I fear our government and others are hyping this situation to accelerate their own agendas which will truly mean more CONTROLS on the American public, throwing out the Constitution of the USA and turning the USA into a "military warzone".  After all, this is the easiest way for a government to LEGALLY have free reign in exercising power to control the masses. When you see militarism directed at a government's own citizenry, you are seeing the end of liberty in that land.

We have suspension of rights or due process that have happened at various points in US history, and in some cases for good reasons.  President Lincoln suspended Habeas corpus twice during the Civil War. It was suspended in Hawaii for the whole of World War 2 after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the "corralling" of thousands of Japanese Americans in California and elsewhere. I am not sure those actions were necessary, but again, it was fear of the unknown that instigated these limitations of freedom.

The November 13, 2001 "Presidential Military Order" gave then President George W Bush powers to detain non-citizens simply based on SUSPICION of terrorist links or being "enemy combatants".  This allowed indefinite suspension of "due process" of law in detaining or prosecuting "persons of interest" as then Attorney General Ashcroft liked to call them.  While it was understandable that the USA government and its citizens wanted to control and defend our borders from terrorists after 9/11...many of us believe that our government was over reaching in its grab for power and controls apart from a Constitutional approach to investigation and apprehension of criminal elements or terrorists.  The insidiously named "Patriot Act" by the Bush administration post 9/11 contains numerous clauses and points that are in direct conflict of Constitutional authority of the Presidential office and of Congress as a whole...and while some Democrats and the current President spoke out against it over the years...they now have taken no measures in over 5 years of majority power to cut back its provisions.  This to me double underscores the hypocrisy of political leaders and the allure of power.

During the current administration in the USA, we have seen the persecution/prosecution without "due process" of the young soldier, Private Bradley Manning, who participated in the "Wikileaks" affair which spilled the beans on so many politicos world wide with "classified" information that was taken and released to the general public. This has created a firestorm of intergovernmental wrath probably never experienced before in modern times.  There is no rage like a bully...revealed for the liars and cowards they are. We are now seeing our government, tied to many of their statist allies, persecuting the soldier and Wikileaks founder with no due process of law and using trumped up, military style rules of law to punish these individuals for simply disseminating truth. Most of what was released of these "leaks" are in my opinion things that should always be open for the citizens of our country to review or know about.  The absolute power of leaders to hide or "classify" information has been taken to an extreme that is intolerable by responsible citizens who should be more informed and aware of how they are being governed. History I think will deem Private Manning and Mr. Assange as freedom fighters and global patriots even if that may not have been their principle intention. Yes, it is very embarrassing to my country...but more than deserved.

(If you want to have a small taste of what the Wikileaks affair is all about or have never checked their website for yourself...just check out this interview with founder Julian Assange...and do NOT believe all the hype of world media against him.  While he may not be a saint, he is not a fool. )

Now we have people like our "good" Congressman Lindsay Graham  wanting to rewrite the constitution in order to give the government blanket powers for detaining or prosecuting ANYBODY, citizen or non. Why is it that every time some shooting or bombing happens inside the USA, government continually calls out for MORE controls and/or limitations on everyone's freedoms?  In light of today's conflictive world, I would suggest that we have a relatively SMALL amount of such incidences under our current laws and resources for enforcement. Now that we have captured two delusional youngsters in this action, our leaders continue to call for MORE powers or limitations of freedom for citizens.  Where does this come from?  What is the logic?  As we have seen time and time again throughout history, when a government assumes absolute power over it's citizens, it's citizens have arbitrarily given up their personal and collective freedoms.  When this happens, as our wise forefather Thomas Jefferson wrote, "Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one".

My current great fear and observation is that our USA government is using these terrible events to position themselves into more autocratic powers. These are the same tactics used by all previous empires to rule and dominate the masses...from Rome to England to Hitler to Chavez in Venezuela.  They demand that the poor and uneducated give their leaders the absolute power to "provide for them and protect them" from the evils of those mysterious outsiders and terrorists who would seek to take away their freedom and safety.  While it is very human to want to be protected from calamity and loss...if it means I have to live the rest of my days in a virtual prison bound by borders and ruled by absolute powers that be...I prefer to take my chances in the street as a free man.

I am not convinced that these two young Chechen brothers who apparently committed this travesty in Boston should be a catalyst for our government pursuing suspension of rights or Habeas corpus for ALL citizens of our great country. The government and media readily admits that these two young men were working alone and probably in some fantasy world of their own making that unfortunately was acted out in this hideous manner. Yes, we are happy that they have been "taken out". Yet...we have these asinine politicos now raging for MORE blind power, LESS restraints on militarization within our borders and they are basically saying to us that ONLY THEY can protect us from this happening again and again.  They need our guns controlled...but they need freedom to use theirs without question or limit.  This is a very scary proposition for the citizenry of the USA. 

I for one believe we MUST return to Constitutional controls on our runaway big government...from taxes to entitlements to warfare.  I would suggest that most people who now vote...especially the younger generations...have no clue what the Constitution of the US says.  They do not understand "limitation of powers" or the provisions so widely distributed between the three main branches of federal government, and the reasons for those limitations. Many of them could not tell you what those three branches are. Most could not name one Amendment or Article thereof...yet these are the people voting on the issues and leaders to enforce that very Constitution.

If we continue to drink this bathwater of fear and relinquish our controls due to disinterest in the facts or lack of understanding...we citizens will soon find ourselves part of a nation-state that is no longer "of the people, by the people and for the people"... and we will deserve our lot.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Essence of Love...


What is the true definition of love?  Is it something of substance and action, or is it romantic passion that magically appears in our lives through chance? How do you measure it?  By emotional content?  By sacrifice?  By blind obedience or acquiescence to those that you “love”.  Is it giving?  Taking?  Both or neither?

I believe I have observed and experienced love throughout my life in various relationships.  None have been like the other.  Each relationship unique and different.  I have loved and not been loved in return.  I also think I have been loved by some that I could not return in kind. Does that make love a mutual attraction, a dream …a choice?

Is there truly such a thing as “unconditional love”?  You know, the kind that Bibles and other religious writings escalate to the highest realm as examples of true devotion, sacrifice and blind faith in another person?  Or do we all in reality operate from very selfish motives when it comes to giving or submitting to love in any form?

Many questions…so few black and white answers.  We can speculate, hypothesize, rationalize and make all the statements we want…but how do we define the true essence of what we feel for another person or decide whether we are willing to commit to them?  And how do we know for sure the sincerity, motivation or feelings returned towards us?  Are we dependent on “love”, or is love dependent on our choices of whom we share and open up to?

I tend to think most of us love very selfishly.  We love those who love us.  Very few go after someone they value higher than themselves. We usually end up in relationships with people who are attracted to us and controllable by us…which can mean physically, emotionally, personality or according to shared values.  It’s easy to love someone who shares our values, but what is it about when so many relationships are not based on shared values, priorities or levels of competency? Why do good girls so often like bad boys…and vice versa?

It is also interesting to observe that love is no respecter of age, race or cultural differences.  Some of us are attracted to blondes versus brunettes.  Some are attracted to significantly older or younger counterparts.  Are these attractions based on learned curiosities, genetically driven or even some unconscious drive supporting Darwinism?  Some people believe strongly in purity of racial lines in mates while others of us totally support the open melting pot approach to culture and family building.  I for one believe that racism and sexism in relationships are learned behaviors.  Put a large group of toddlers together in a room and they will interact with each other equally or on base instinct of personalities…not learned behaviors of seeing external difference as a bad thing. They are not embarrassed or conscious of open nudity. They are innocent.

Of course, the standard of cultural relationships pertaining to love is…marriage…and usually marriage of one man to one woman.  All other forms of relating are deemed questionable, sinful, debasing, disrespectable, etc etc. Yet, THOSE are the unusual relationships our societies love to observe and gossip about. It’s almost like “why should they get away with that unrestricted behavior if I can’t or won’t?”.

And how is it that many humans can find so much love and passion for…their pets?  You know…the people of all ages who heap all their attention, love, devotion and inheritance on a dog or cat that is totally dependent on them for their subsistence and won’t run away from home as long as they are regularly fed and cared for? Is that love…or some hidden form of “bestiality”?  With some people, I think the line is very fine.  Yes, I understand that “Spot” the dog and “Spanky" the cat are cute, cuddly and usually consistent in showing their enthusiasm for attention or a handout…but how can a human mistake that for the “love” they need to fulfill their human experience?  Again…to me a mystery. Possibly “transference” of affection?

I recently viewed the 2008 movie “Elegy” starring Ben Kingsley as an aging intellectual professor who falls hopelessly in love with his student (Penelope Cruz) 30 years his younger.  It is based on a Philip Roth novel that I want to read now called “The Dying Animal” published in 2001.  I do think the movie is excellent in cinematography…but more importantly, the actors to me represent real people and relationships that I feel I have known or observed in real life.  Everyone around them treats this relationship as a farce and mostly with disdain…yet the thread between the two characters over many years of separation and non-acceptance of their love by all around them continues to remain true in both characters until the sad ending.  The movie to me underlines the fine lines between physical desire, emotional security in another person, pure relating and companionship, and the experience that “no one else will fill the space” of that other they have known.  You might call it the “soul mate” experience.

I think I have known a few true “soul mate” couples within my family and circle of friends…but I question the verity of that in most long term couples.  Most relationships seem to meld into a codependent, best friend type of “settling” where neither partner wants to give up what they have for the new and different they might want.  Many relationships grow into a mutual caring albeit without passion, while others turn into hard and cold appearances for tradition sake only…empty and subservient to society standards. You see this often in a restaurant or facility frequented by elderly couples.  Many can sit through a whole meal in public without saying a word or looking directly at the other.  In larger groups, many of those same people will talk to everyone about their partner as if that partner isn't in the room…often very critically or spiteful. It’s hard to see the “love” in that.

So, some would say love is a feeling while others sum it up as “commitment” that you just do no matter what you feel. I think life’s pursuit of love is very basic…everyone wants someone who “loves the socks off of them” and who they love back at the same level.  Mutuality at all levels of life experience is the highest calling in relationship.  Knowing how the other is feeling or thinking without exchanging words is one sign of such connection.  Understanding without explanation.  Automatically knowing when to give and when to take.  Knowing when to leave the other alone or when to hold or cuddle them without invitation.  It is this feeling of connection, belonging and longing that in my opinion, and occasional experience, gives us those “wow” moments when all the lights go on and everything is right with the world.

Unfortunately, I think a majority of people very rarely experience that “wow” moment…especially in their later years.  If someone loses their long time love…often they do not seek to replace it.  Whether right or wrong…they think that there was only one person for them, and when that person passed on or rejected them…there was just no more room for risking or wanting love again.  These affairs of the heart are a very private matter…and you cannot force someone to seek or feel what they refuse to seek or feel.

To that end, I think love is a choice…a result of cause and effect.  Many of us could have a lot more of it if we just simply opened up and expressed our interest or pursued the honesty of our feelings.  Yet, most people are brought up to be fearful, insecure within themselves, guilt complexed or simply distrustful of others.  These are defense mechanisms to keep us from getting hurt or emotionally scarred…again.

Some people will live the rest of their lives surviving on memories of great loves gained and lost. Others will grab whatever convenient warm body they can convince to join them so they don’t face themselves or their loneliness.  A few will find a way to enjoy their solitude while staying open to the love of a person they have always defined or imagined for themselves.  Many never find it…but I would suggest it is better to die trying than to die living in the past or lying to yourself.

The essence of love for me can perhaps be best summed up by Ayn Rand…

“To love is to value. Only a rationally selfish man, a man of self-esteem, is capable of love—because he is the only man capable of holding firm, consistent, uncompromising, unbetrayed values. The man who does not value himself, cannot value anything or anyone.

To say ‘I love you’ one must know first how to say the ‘I.’”

Monday, April 1, 2013

I Once Had a Teddy Bear...

I once had a Teddy Bear. He was called "religion".  He was given to me by my parents in my very first weeks of life. Of course, they thought they were giving me something of great value, that would comfort me on cold dark nights when I slept alone.  Teddy was supposed to always be there for me...and for almost 18 years he was.

I used to think Teddy had magical powers.  When I was alone I used to talk to him...and I swear I could hear him talk back to me also. I would sing to him and would never leave home without him.

Some of my friends had their own Teddies...but none of them were as good or special as MY Teddy.  Of course, many of them did not spend as much time or idolize their Teddy as much as I did mine.  I thought that made me a better person because I was so attentive and attached.  Me and my Teddy could do anything as long as we were together.  I was totally terrified of the occasional thought of what would happen if Teddy was taken from me...or what if he changed in his meaning to me?

As I grew up, I started getting irritated that Teddy no longer talked to me.  I started realizing that maybe he never really had...that it was all my imagination. My Teddy was becoming more cold and distant to me than what I had perceived my friends feelings for theirs.  Amazingly, some of my friends and family started talking more to and about their Teddies as they became adults. They even started telling me what MY Teddy wanted and expected out of me. I became confused.

I started studying the history of Teddy Bears. I found out that they were basically manufactured to make little children behave and have a sense of companionship in life...real or not. I can't remember exactly which day, but one day I simply realized as an adult that Teddy really wasn't what I thought he was.  He was just a cold, inanimate object that people made up a lot of stories and legends about. Teddy seemed a good tradition for raising children...but nobody really had a handle on when or how children were supposed to "give up" these stories and fantasies about Teddy. Yet, one day, I just did.  I realized that Teddy wasn't real...the other people and earth around me were.  I didn't have to carry Teddy around with me anymore to enjoy nature or feel companionship.  I suddenly found myself free to work and play without wondering what Teddy thought or if he felt left out.

Many of my friends and family now think I am really strange living life without my Teddy.  They were so used to my going everywhere with him...living for him they would say. Most of them still have their Teddies...and they all meet once or more times a week to talk about their Teddies and show their lukewarm devotions, or in some cases more fanatical devotion than when they were children.  I sometimes feel left out of such activities...a strange detachment from a majority of my old friends and family because I no longer have a Teddy to share.  But the last laugh is on them, because I feel much stronger and have more time for other more important activities than talking to my make believe Teddy.  I now know that it is up to ME to take care of myself.  I don't waste time on tales of Teddyland where we all will be united with our Teddies in the "next life".  This is good for me...to know that life is about me...and the real people around me...right now.

Goodbye Teddy.