This is what we reposted from January through September, 2016. It is what I considered to be some of his best posts over his 9 years of blogging. I hope that the new reader will come to realize what amazing work he did – And this is while he had a regular job.
Welcome. The idea was floated that a ‘talk amongst yourselves’ blog would be a good addition to for the Non-Facebook Crowd. Here it is.
By lex, on February 13th, 2004
I was listening to NPR yesterday, on the way home. There was a eulogy on for Eric Severeid, the retired CBS commentator. He spoke in his last editorial about the need to maintain the courage of one’s uncertainty, when faced with so much implacable and deadly conviction, or words to that effect. That struck a nerve with me – yes, that’s about right, I thought.
‘The best lack all conviction
while the worst
are full of passionate intensity”
– W.B. Yeats, from “The Second Coming “
There are so many things in motion now in our culture now; I guess there always have been. And on so many of them, I am not quite sure where I stand – I occupy the restless middle, while zealots on either side look for heretics to burn and hang metaphoric burning tires around the necks of their adversaries. So little room is left inside the public sphere for people of good intent to disagree, in civility and mutual respect.
There is a movement afoot in support of gay marriage, with the Massachusetts Supreme Court equating such marriage with a fundamental human right, that cannot in a free society, be denied to all of its citizens. This argument has the element of reason to me, an element of fairness. And who among us is harmed if some three percent of our polity decides to wed a consenting someone of the same sex? For those who take such umbrage at this idea, I wonder if they even know any mainstream gay people. Not the ones that try to rub their sexuality in the face of middle America, those people are acting out, and these types of actions are not limited to the gay and lesbian community, witness the equally offensive 56 hour marriage of pop icon and teen idol Britney Spears. I’m talking about those quiet folks who have houses, careers, lives and loves they share in common, who happen to be of the same gender. They are asking the state to recognize the reality that exists, the world as it is.
I cannot believe that people choose to be gay, in the face of all the social opprobrium that would attend to such a choice, but that they are somehow acting in the way that their God or nature made them. If they are as committed to each other as “normal” people, who are we to stand in the way of them formalizing this commitment?
Homosexual acts are as revolting to me personally, as I am sure heterosexual acts are to gays, but no one is asking me to marry inside my gender – besides, the Hobbit would kick my butt. Perhaps that’s a bad choice of words…
Anyway, I’m aware that for some religious folk there are scriptural reasons why homosexuality is considered taboo, but so is shellfish and pork in the Old Testament, and Christians have found a way around those earlier objections. I find nothing in any of Jesus’ words that speaks to the issue one way or the other, beyond a general theme of inclusiveness in God’s salvation, freely offered to all.
Paul wrote the some of the most beautiful words in the bible, in my view, when he wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians:
“13:1If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal. 13:2And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 13:3And if I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profiteth me nothing. 13:4Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 13:5doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own, is not provoked, taketh not account of evil; 13:6rejoiceth not in unrighteousness, but rejoiceth with the truth; 13:7beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 13:8Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall be done away; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall be done away. 13:9For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; 13:10but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away. 13:11When I was a child, I spake as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child: now that I am become a man, I have put away childish things. 13:12For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known. 13:13But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”
But a little later he wrote:
“As in all the churches of the saints, 14:34let the women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but let them be in subjection, as also saith the law. 14:35And if they would learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home: for it is shameful for a woman to speak in the church.”
Which is a little hard to reconcile, these days. We have moved on, since then. And my own church rests on a three-legged stool of scripture, reason and tradition, believing that one of God’s principal gifts to us is the ability to use our minds to wrestle with these issues, and try to divine the intent of the Divine.
But I do not think these people are agitating for the right to the sacrament of marriage in the church that opposed that intent. Such an agitation would be an obvious breach of the 1st Amendment’s wall of separation between church and state. Importantly, that would breach the framers’ actual intent of the 1st Amendment, i.e., against the state meddling with the church, and not as the weapon it has come to be used, for driving faith out of the public sphere:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
On the other hand (and you had to know this was coming), I cannot foresee the consequences of so enormous a shift in one of the fundamental underpinnings of our society, and that concerns me. I believe in the law of unintended consequences. I know that some people are rightly concerned that having opened the door to state sanction of unconventional marriage, there is a slippery slope argument that goes to bigamy and polyamory, if not worse.
And, having recognized homosexual marriages, we in the military will shortly be stuck with dealing with the social consequences in our ships, and tents and office places and on-base housing, and that won’t be fun or easy, and I can promise you that we have far, far better things to spend our time and efforts on.
And from a pragmatic perspective, the only reason (it seems to me) that the state is even interested in marriage, and to the rights and privileges that appertain to that condition, is that it encourages the ideal, two-parent environment for raising the next generation that contributes to the state’s continued existence. If gays can’t have children, then why should the state encourage or recognize their commitment to each other? What business is it of ours?
Oh, I know – lots of heterosexuals get married who either don’t want children, or are unable, or are beyond their childbearing years. As a practical matter, we don’t want the state meddling too closely in that aspect of our lives, or making those sorts of distinctions for us, in social or fiscal policy.
So the debate goes back and forth in my head, with my conservative brain saying, “Don’t rush in, think about the extended consequences, stick with what you know works” while the libertarian side says, “Who cares? Everyone must find beauty where they can, and the more love there is in the world, surely the better off we all shall be.”
I guess I wish that we could settle on some sort of compromise, “civil unions” perhaps, with all the necessary rights and privileges, and stop talking about it. But once again the opponents on either side would be left without a foe to demonize, so compromise must be ruled out. And in the meantime, I can’t figure it out, so I’ve committed to retaining the courage of my uncertainties.
A similar conundrum revolves around the issue of human cloning. It’s only for stem cell research we are told, there is potential to ameliorate the lives of so many people, while everyone (well, nearly everyone) agrees that cloning for human reproduction is morally repugnant.
But I’ve got real problems with creating human life only to destroy it, to in fact craft a law that states that such life must be destroyed, for someone else’s benefit. Oh sure, a clone cell cluster doesn’t look like you or me, but we don’t resemble what we looked like 20 years ago either, or in our mother’s wombs, just prior to delivery. Or in the month prior to that…
But on the other hand, I don’t have liver disease (just yet) and don’t have to tell the patient that does that no replacement organs are on offer, or that the ones available aren’t suitable because of the likelihood of rejection. Or the burn victim that he or she must always be traumatized, that nothing can be done, when in fact it could be.
This one’s a little easier for me, I’m deeply skeptical – but I’m trying to keep an open mind.
Some things I am relatively apathetic about:
Did President Bush make all his guard drills, 30 years ago? Don’t care. It was a long time ago.
Did Senator Kerry dip his quill in the wrong inkwell? Doesn’t matter all that much to me. It’s between him and his millionaire heiress wife, with her lawyers and pre-nuptials.
But some things matter to me deeply:
I’d love to hear a civil debate about the competing visions of domestic policy that each political party has. And then, if it’s not too much to ask, I’d like to know how much it’s actually going to cost, and where that money is going to come from.
I am concerned that scorched-earth domestic political campaigning drives a wedge between the people and the government of, by and for that people, just when we’re embarked in a long, costly, drawn out war against a patient, fascist enemy. It makes us question who we are, and who the person next to us is. It makes us wonder if he’s “one of them, or one of us.”
I am concerned that the politics of personal destruction offers aid and comfort to our enemies, and may actually embolden them.
I am concerned that the political philosophy of “win at any cost,” may cost us all a great deal more than we have reckoned on.
I think that if you have a bumper sticker on your car that says, “Anyone but (fill in the guy’s name you don’t like),” then you are a part of the problem in our civil discourse.
I think it’s time for us to realize that we’re all in this together, and that no matter who wins in November, we’ve still got a long, hard fight ahead of us.
By lex, on January 20th, 2004
The Kat is into equestrian sports. She’s nine years old…
Equestrian sports are in healthy competition with boating for “World’s Most Expensive Hobby.” If a boat is, in fact, a hole in the water you pour money into, as pointed out yesterday, horseback riding (hunter/jumper!) is a mouth you stuff greenbacks in, to get horse fewmets in return.
Actually, there are several mouths to feed: the horse, of course: the trainer; the stabler; the vet; and the farrier (don’t ask me what a farrier is, I don’t know). All of these wonderful folks will tell you that horseback riding for a young girl is cheaper than drug rehab, and I suppose that’s true.
But it’s yet to be proven to my satisfaction that this is an either/or proposition. If your nine year old does not ride horses, must it necessarily follow that she will have a cameo in the next “Traffic” episode?
But my satisfaction is beside the point, obviously. The Kat is version 3.0 of “she who must be obeyed,” and so we are all, all of us, equestrians now.
I have come to the conclusion, having ferried the Kat to and from no small number of riding sessions, that equestrianism is the principal domain of the female of the species. Sure, if you go to a horse show, you may see some full grown men riding quite creditably. But apparently, they get their expertise like Neo got his karate skills in “The Matrix.” They are placed upon some barbaric barber’s chair, strapped down wrist and ankle, and then a probe is placed into their skull, transferring at T2 speeds the entire skill set required to compete at an advanced level. This must be true, because every time I go down to the stable, it is myself and the farrier (doing God alone knows what) who represent the male of the race.
Of women, all shapes, sizes and ages, there is no apparent upper limit.
There is something going on here among the girls that boys (and men) cannot quite understand, and like many things in the world of women, it sometimes makes us feel a little stoopid.
I wonder what it costs, that barber’s chair?
The Kat won several ribbons of various colors during a competition last Summer, and I was very proud of her, if not entirely sure what she had done to earn them. The entire process is a mystery: lovely young ladies with faces set in granite ride horses about a “ring,” instructions are given over the “loudspeaker,” and obeisance is made to a series of hard eyed “judges,” who pull thoughtfully on their chins and scribble on a “clipboard,” each time your daughter comes around. Insofar as I am aware, they only judge my daughter…
Shortly thereafter, a series of ribbons are awarded. Repeat. For several hours.
It turns out that during these competitions, there are other mouths that must be fed: apart from the usual retinue (Sean Combs would be proud) there is the groomer (he grooms the horse, I believe – I do not think the farrier can do his job), the driver, and of course the various merchants who sell paraphernalia for riding (boots, garters, hunting jackets, hair nets) that are utterly unsuitable for any other purpose whatsoever.
And all of this mystifies me utterly. I mean, wouldn’t a motorcycle be more efficient, in the long run?
But please don’t take this as a rant, or even a bleat. Riding makes her happy, so it makes me happy.
It’s just hard to realize that, at age 9, your youngest has already somehow been initiated into that wonderful, rich, magical world of womanhood of which we men can only see the rough outlines. We see the outer margins only, fully aware that the totality escapes us.
And I never saw it coming. She’s only nine.
I remember seeing the black and white news footage of people being executed by firing squad in 1959 Cuba. This was after Fidel Castro had seized control with his “democratic” revolution.
The Wall Street Journal has a good article on counting Castro’s victims. Imagine being one of those 166 condemned to die, but not before they drained 7 pints of blood from you to go to Vietnam and get hard currency.
I remember reading a Forbes article some years ago amassing Castro’s wealth at $900 million. For every dollar a tourist would spend some went to the Castro brothers.
All the while the people voted by the 100s of thousands with boats and inner tubes.
I can understand the infatuation many have had in the West over Cuba’s presumed “equality” but it reminds me of a famous line from George Orwell’s Animal Farm.
With all totalitarian regimes, everyone’s equal, but some are more equal than others.
While one can’t defend the Batista regime he replaced, one can’t help but wonder where Cuba would be today if Fidel had enacted true democratic reforms 57 years ago.
Today – Bodie
I am surprised that many people have never heard of Bodie. During its heyday, it was known as one of the roughest places in the West.
“There’s a story about a little girl whose family was moving from San Francisco to Bodie; Depending on who tells it, she wrote in her diary either: “Good, by God, I’m going to Bodie”-or-“Goodbye God, I’m going to Bodie”. “
There was a time when there was at least 1 killing a day. Townspeople would ask, “Have a man for breakfast?”, meaning did anyone get killed?
It has been a state park for many years. The state of California keeps it in what they call “arrested decay” meaning that they won’t rebuild falling walls – but they will put lumbar up to keep a weak wall from falling.
It is up at about 8,400 feet on the eastern side of the Sierras, close to the Nevada border. There are plenty of pictures of Bodie; people come from all over the world to photograph the site. I’ll include some of mine, but also wanted you to get a true feeling for being there, with my 34 second video of just Bodie, and the wind….
Leaving Bodie. To get there you leave US 395 on 10 miles of paved road and 3 miles of dirt road…You can see the eastern side of the Sierras.
Fall in the High Sierras…
That concludes my road trip – 2,700 miles in 9 days…
Part 1 is here
Part 2 is here
Part 3 is here
Part 4 is here
Part 5 is here
Part 6 is here
Part 7 is here
Part 8 is here
Part 9 is here
Today – traveling through Death Valley
Manzanar Internment Camp site
Leaving Beatty NV for Death Valley…
US 395 is a beautiful road that follows the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Lex wrote about it; I am sure he traveled it frequently to and from Fallon. Manzanar is right by 395 just north of Lone Pine.
It does not reflect one of our country’s better ideals. My late father, who grew up in Los Angeles had a Japanese-American friend whose family was given a very short time to vacate their house and report. Many lost their homes to unscrupulous buyers.
My mother has a good friend who had to live here as a little girl.
Some of these Japanese-Americans, or Nisei, still answered their country’s call and joined the now legendary 442nd Infantry Regiment. It is one of the most decorated Army units in history, and of the 14,000 men who served, 9,486 Purple Hearts were awarded.
Today, all that remains is a guard tower and the main entrance where the guards resided. The outlines of the old wooden structures are shown.
Back in the 1940s, it looked a bit different
A few years ago, I met a veteran of the 442nd – had to shake his hand.
Tomorrow: the final installment. I wanted to show the Lexicans the genuine ghost town of Bodie, which today is a state park kept in “arrested decay”.
Part 1 is here
Part 2 is here
Part 3 is here
Part 4 is here
Part 5 is here
Part 6 is here
Part 7 is here
Part 8 is here