Category Archives: Commentary

Violence in Charlottesville

Since violence seems to be the hot topic on everyone’s mind, can’t we just all agree that violence is bad, but sometimes necessary in self defense? In the heat of passion all it takes is one person on any side to strike the first blow and the whole group he belongs to is blamed for all that follows. Consider the “shot heard round the world” in which one shot, perhaps even an accidental discharge from a British soldier’s musket triggered the Revolutionary war. Or the ramifications of Lincoln bing cagey and resupplying Ft. Sumter with a publicized cargo not including munitions, thereby forcing the South to take the first shot if they were to claim sovereignty. And then there is the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand that triggered WWi.

While it is easy to blame a whole group for the actions of a few, what is more important is to understand the agendas of the forces that are coming to blows. In this case, it is those who would create a society in which only white people have full rights, vs. those who feel all races should be treated with equal rights. Simple as that.

Now, there is one complication. There are many Southern folk who value to wonderful traditions of Southern hospitality, and the essence of true gentlemen such as Robert E. Lee. Lee was a man of honor – he was offered command of the Union forces and declined out of honor to accept command of the Confederate forces instead.

It is that kind of honor, and the true courage of going into battle against superior numbers and protecting one’s family and heritage that leads many in the south to stand against the removal of statues that they see has monuments to those noble attributes of their culture.

The problem is, that slavery was all tied up in it. Arguments can be made that it was really an issue of states’ rights, or that the South was unfairly economically oppressed by the North to its own advantage. And even that it was the North’s oppressive economic policy brought about by the higher population centers giving the North more political power in a democracy that forced the South to maintain slavery or to become an economic wasteland. But there is also solid evidence of the horrors or slavery and the dehumanizing of our fellow human beings and of those who fought to preserve slavery because they actually believed it was right and it was how God intended it to be.

So when the non-slavery non-racists heritage folks show up to protest the removal of a statue, and the white nationalists are there chanting against minorities, with a stated agenda of hate, then what are the heritage people to do?

If they leave, their monuments are gone. But if they stay, their Confederate flag waves along side the Swastika – two banners held over the same mingled group in a rally.

What message does this send? What taint does it put on the non-racist heritage folk?

Personally, I do believe those who were joining the protest rally who we not racist probably left, rather than stand under the Nazi banner. And those that remained may have wanted to preserve their heritage, but were also racists.

And so, we all have a choice to either let those voices of intolerance and hate have their say, unopposed, just as it was in Germany so many years ago. Or, perhaps this time, we stand against what we have seen before. We stop them in their tracks.

And by what right do we do this in a nation that proclaims freedom for all? Because those under that banner proclaim there should not be freedom for all, but only for their kind. And this is not just free speech, it is a call for revolution against the Constitution of the United States, and that give us the right to stand against them. They can say what they want. But when they incite actions against the Constitution, that moves along the slippery slope of Treason.

The protestors speak in terms of hate, race war, exclusion and supremacy. The counter-protestors speak in terms of love, social peace, inclusion, and equality.

But we are all human, and when impassioned, we can become violent. And that is unfortunate for it clutters the true battle between those who would do harm to others not like themselves and those who would help everyone who loves peace.

The Secret Bigot

We need to be concerned about all the closet bigots who would deny equal opportunity to anyone secretly based on color, creed, gender, sexual preference or religion. Equal protection under the law and the equal rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is the essence of the combined philosophy of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

And beyond that, the American Ideal is to equally treat everyone with respect and to find strength in our diversity, and the human ideal must go beyond tolerance to a celebration of our diversity, for it opens our minds to new ways of thinking and living and brings color to the fabric of life.

But there is one form of diversity which we should not tolerate and that is the forces of hate and violence who would deny equality, for, by definition, they are traitors to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Violence is wrong no matter who practices it UNLESS it is used to stop those who would violently assert their supremacy over any other group, rather than upholding the Constitution. If we do not defend the Constitution, then it is just a piece of paper.

If we would let a foreign nation walk in and take over the country, the Constitution means nothing. And if we let supremacists secretly work to subvert the Constitution, then that document means nothing, for we are saying that equality is no longer the code by which we live and we, ourselves, have trampled the Constitution by defaulting our responsibility of constant vigilance.

For there are those in our nation, citizens like ourselves, who are so filled with hate against those they deem as different, that they wish to create a new land in which only their own kind is entitled to protection under the law.

When a group seeks to subvert the very fabric of a free nation, and when its rally’s are a call to action to cause this to happen, it is an enemy of freedom and democracy and has forfeited its right to free speech, because it is enacting treason.

Now, it is correct that the anti-fascists were also violent at Charlottesville, though not to the same degree as they did not kill anyone. But, the point of this is that the fascists work in secret to be unfair intentionally to other races, religions, genders, and so on. Whereas, does anyone really believe that anti-fascists work secretly to deny equality to other races, religions, genders, etc? Anti-fascists only work to subvert one group – the fascists, who would subvert the rest of us.

Still, the main point is that we all have a right to hate others, but we do NOT have the right beat-up or kill them because we don’t like them. And yet, that is what fascism is. And so, anti-fascists, by definition, are against that, which again, makes every American who believes in the Constitution and Bill of Rights an anti-fascist.

If anti-fascists use clubs or bombs or cars to attack fascists holding a peaceful, though hate-filled rally, the anti-fascists must be held accountable. Yet regardless of the issue of violence – let’s just put that aside for a moment – consider what people with the beliefs of these white supremacists might be doing every day in their jobs to hurt all other races, religions, and people of other sexual preferences – in secret, holding back dreams, denying services, refusing loans, not promoting, not giving raises, not giving the best medical care.

Fascists see it as their duty to wage war against “sub-humans” which means anyone not like them. And that they can practice this in untraceable ways, unseen, and unchecked, quite frankly scares the hell out of me.

Faith vs. Science

Faith treats science with disregard and science treats faith with disrespect. By definition, faith is belief and therefore cannot be based on reason. By definition, science is reason and cannot be based on belief.

Our humanity comes from our faith: our beliefs as to how we should treat one another and how we should behave. Our progress comes from our science: our reasoning about how we can better our world and understand ourselves.

When parents let their child die because of their faith, scientists condemn the parents and proclaim them devoid of humanity, yet I’ve never read of a scientist trying to empathize with the parents in order to understand their motivations.

Imagine an intelligent, educated parent of faith who truly believes that medical care would condemn their child to eternal suffering. Consider the pain and anguish they suffer by believing there are only two choices: save their child now and doom them to unending torment after death, or to lose their child when they know they could save them to make the sacrifice of carrying that loss of a child that could be avoided, and worse, to know they are the instrument of their child’s death, but to be willing to suffer this for their child – to hold the emptiness and excruciating agony forever in their the hearts to save their child’s eternal soul.

For truly caring people of faith, their choices are seldom easy and never cavalier. I know this for though I have always held science over faith, I grew up in a household of faith. I have personal experience watching my father and mother grapple with decisions such as not allowing me to wear a costume to school on Halloween to be in the parade. I was disappointed, but I never felt they meant me ill will. In fact, I know it was quite the opposite, and while unhappy with the missed experience, I have never held them in any negative regard, but rather recognized how much they loved me to protect me, even if it caused me unhappiness and them emotional pain.

People of faith, for their part, hold science in disrespect because science often seeks to invalidate their beliefs such as with those parents and the sick child – science will go right for the throat and condemn them because there is no hereafter, so they are just hurting their child.

But what if there is a hereafter? Science certainly cannot disprove it. As scientists, many of us are “sure” there is not because it seems in contradiction with the way we understand the mechanism of existence. But we do not, as of yet, have any idea what self-awareness really is or how it comes into being, or what happens to it after our corporeal support mechanism fails. We see strokes, brain injuries and birth defects of the brain and determine that by some unknown mechanism, our identity is dependent upon the physical host in which it resides. But what proof do we have of this? Without proof, how can we disrespect those who have come to another conclusion? In this case, it comes down not to science against faith, but faith against faith – two different belief systems in conflict.

Those who hold faith above science are not devoid of reason. In fact, once faith is established, then reason is employed to determine how best to move forward with that given. I have not data to support this, but I would venture that the average IQ of people of faith is not much different than the average IQ of scientists. The primary difference between the two groups is which came first, the reason or the belief.

Without belief there is no code to say it is wrong to hurt others or to do for ourselves at the expense of others. And without science, there is no mechanism to apply that code.

To be human in the fullest sense of the word, we need both qualities. Faith is our motivation in exploring the universe – it is our belief there is still more to learn, still more understanding to be gained, still more wonders to discover. Without faith, there is no point to science. Without science, there is no purpose to faith.

If we are to ever come together, we must employ both faith AND science to find our way. And we can begin simply with respect for the faithful and regard for the scientists.

So where are all the people?

Hey, ya know, I’ve been posting on the internet since 1994. I had one of the first 1,000 private personal web site and at one time was on a list of the top 1,000 websites on the internet.

Some folks parlayed that into a fortune on eBay, Google, Amazon and so such.  But me – naw – too interested in the next dog with a fluffy tail.  So, I just ramped up a couple of minor business venture web sites as almost a side line that eventually ate the Bronx and my life with it, but that’s another story.

Point being that there was some popularity once, along with all the amazing new wonderful ideas (which are still coming, by the way) and so where are all the people?  There’s freaking nobody here but me.

So’s I guess I’m no longer relevant.or there’s just too many voices or who cares?  Anywaze, just bitchin’.

An Unpleasant Customer – Think Twice, Post Once

Email correspondence with a less than pleasant potential purchaser:

Customer:

Hello,

I recently came across your site as I am needing to purchase Move Magic Screenwriting 6. I see that you beat other authorized online pricing. I almost purchased one on this site: screenplay.com
when I decided to do some comparison shopping. I see that yours is more expensive, but if you are truly able to beat that price, I will purchase from you instead. I would love to purchase this weekend to start a class Sunday night if possible and would appreciate a quick response. Thanks!

Maryann

Me:

Hi, Maryann

Unfortunately, the 4th of July Sale ended yesterday on July 7th. You can see that is the end date on the screenplay.com web sit. They are the manufacturers and our reseller price depends on when they lower it for a sale. So prices went up today to us as well, so we can’t beat the expired sale price.

Melanie
Storymind

Customer:

I emailed you yesterday [Saturday]when that price was still active.

Me:

The price wasn’t active yesterday [Saturday].  The sale ended on Friday.  The manufacturer just hadn’t taken the advertisement down yet, but the ad does state the end date of July 7.

Customer:

Oh interesting. I didn’t realize they could falsly advertise a different price than they would process at checkout. (I got all the way through the checkout process last night except to confirm it with that listed price)

Is ok though, I can let our group know to be aware of this in the future.

Turns out we are going to be able to get the program for $90 anyway, so it all worked out in the end!

Thanks anyway.

Me:

Hi, Maryann.  I’m very glad you were able to get a good price!  Actually, please don’t let your disappointment at being able to take advantage of the sale make you think the manufacturer was falsely advertising.  We, for one thing, do not put the products on sale at all – always the same price – though we will beat other prices that are currently valid by the manufacturer or any other licensed reseller.

And as for the manufacturer – I went to college with these guys and they are honest as the day is long.  All that happened was that they put up a notice of a sale that specified that the end date was July 7 right in the text in a prominent place.  And since the sale ended Friday night and they aren’t open on the weekend, they just didn’t get around to taking down the notice – probably just an oversight, but they never falsely advertised.

So, with your comment, “Oh interesting.  I didn’t realize they could falsly advertise a different price…” as you see they didn’t advertise a different price.  I’m sorry you didn’t see the end date when you went to order.

Still, accusing my good life-long friends of falsely advertising does offend me, and I’m very sorry you felt the need to sling accusations.  Though I am still glad you found good price.

Melanie

Storymind

— Now normally I just accept the abuse some customers feel they need to dump on me, as if I wasn’t a real person and as if their disappointment, justified or not, is a valid reason for shedding their own unhappiness onto someone else and making them miserable.  Just the price of doing business I figure.

But THIS day, I’m sitting here watching a beautiful PBS documentary on the Pacific ocean, enjoying a Sunday dinner  of pot roast, potatoes, and of shallots and carrots we grew in our own garden.  I served it up on the very plates my beloved grandmother used to serve the very same meal for Sunday dinner hundreds of times in my life – very special.

And I am doing a little customer service on the computer to help any wayward purchasers, even though I’m technically closed for the weekend.  And this one person stomps into the middle of that with accusations against my friends and just a generally bad attitude.

It is moment like these that make we want to retire from selling products at all and just do it all through Amazon or just focus on my story consultation services.

But I suppose my main reason for posting this is to remind us all (me included) that even a casual snarky comment, in person, in email, or in a post on social media and throw a little bitterness into a beautiful moment, or worse, be the straw that broke the camel’s back for someone just barely managing to cope with a bad day.

To paraphrase a famous quote: “Think twice, post once.”

No Greater Gift

When they say, “There is no greater gift than to lay one’s life down for another” most people think they are talking about dying, as in sacrificing oneself in war. But I often thought that when we dedicate ourselves to others – family, friends, or a commitment to service – then we are, in a very real sense, laying down our lives for others – one moment at a time.

And which is the greater sacrifice – to have an instant of bravery in which one is not thinking about ceasing to exist and jumps almost instinctively in front of the bullet, the decision to stay behind to run the escape elevator, knowing you will slowly suffocate, or to choose everyday to lose your own life, dreams, even personality, for the benefit of those you love?

I personally believe that later choice is the most noble of all, for it is made alone, within oneself, over and over again each time you awaken.

Sure, we are able to pursue some of our interests to some degree, but the sacrifice is real as we watch the dreams that once drove us pale and fade into impossibility.

Still, the rewards are many – the smiling faces of our children, the peaceful face of our mate when he or she sleeps, the relief (expressed or simply exhibited) by those to whom we have been of service.

I believe we must come to realize that while we may wish our lives had evolved differently or that the choppy seas of fate might have cast us higher on the shore, life is not perfect nor is happiness a right, only the pursuit of it.

And, in the end, if we had chosen any other more self-oriented path we would find the sum total of our lives and the contentment of our hearts would be far less by a magnitude than it is by having laid it down for others instead.

We Pulled Out of Paris- WE did…

We are the United States. What our country does reflects on us. As a government, we move as a people, whether we individuals support it or not. There is an identity to being an American. That identity has now changed. When you identify yourself as an American now, in the rest of the world, you are the people that pulled out of Paris. We pulled out of Paris. WE did. Because we let it happen. And we must either stop what is happening, or stop calling ourselves Americans, because Americans did this.