Archive for March, 2012

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Rick Santorum, The Most Dangerous Man in America

March 30, 2012

As rational beings (I realize I am being overly gracious) we look for the reasons behind events; we look for the cause.  In theory, that is a good thing; in practice, we fail miserably.   Our history shows we have a tendency to apply magical thinking and fear to situations we don’t understand or worse yet, we blatantly chalk things up to God or some other manifestation for events we, as humans, should be fully invested.  Simply put, our rationalization is flawed.  This flaw may be the reason a buffoon like Rick Santorum is able to make a serious run for the Republican Party’s nomination for President of the United States.  It is why he just may be the most dangerous man in America today.

Let me explain, some among us place everything, good and bad, beyond the control of man.  For instance, a woman walking across the street may trip as she steps onto the curb, fall and break a toe, then think it’s the will of God!  My thinking is God simply wanted her to watch where she was going but her refusal to take such responsibility set the events in motion.  In her thinking, she is not responsible, it was God’s will.  Another example is kneeling in the end zone of a football field and thanking God for a score.  Now, I do not claim some special knowledge or to know God’s mind, but I am pretty sure God does not give one a single damn about touchdowns.

In fact, I find giving thanks to God for such trivial matters offensive.  I mean to invoke God for granting six measly points, all the while homeless people starve right outside a packed football stadium where over a ton of food will be thrown into the trash, has more to do with my understanding of evil than good.  If a football player wishes to be thankful in a useful way, he would be better off thanking the 300 pound linemen that kept the defense from crushing him.  The simple fact is Christianity, and more importantly to this discussion – the Christianity Rick Santorum promotes, warns against such public displays, as Mathew puts it, “… they have their reward.[i]”  In a football player’s case, he gives credit to God for Touchdowns, in Santorum’s case; God gets credit for his campaign[ii].  Both employ a sort magical thinking that removes from them responsibility.  If they do not take responsibility for the good, they cannot be held accountable for the bad.

I get the feeling that some people see praying to God in the same way a child see sitting on Santa’s lap and asking for a toy.  Good little girls and boys get what they ask for and bad ones do not.  So, if Santorum does not prevail in his bid for the presidency, does that mean God thinks he’s been a bad little boy?  The logic is there, but Santorum has his out.  In his diluted mind he simply will apply more magical thinking and rationalize it somehow.  Trust me, he will not accept he simply ran a lousy campaign nor had a message no one wanted to support.

As magical thinkers see it, they just need to believe and pray hard enough and they will get what they want.  All the while, never questioning just what is it they want in the first place.  This sort of thinking leads to seeing others as deserving the bad things that happen to them, but coming up with new magical justification when it is they that do not get what they want.

I really do not intend to get too preachy or discourage anyone’s belief system.  If someone needs to thank God for that tango-mango smoothie they just enjoyed, who am I to question it?  On the other hand, if that person wishes to apply their magical thinking to issues that directly affect others, I will voice my concern.  In Santorum’s case, the latter applies.

I realize prayer and well wishes do not hurt, the research is inconclusive if they help[iii], so prayer, in itself is not the issue.  Moreover, I think it wise to inwardly reflect before making major decisions.  The issue is people claiming God to be on their side, so they cannot possibly be wrong.  Going further, the issue is someone who intends on using his religion to lead the country, rather than our laws. It is someone who does not believe separation of church and state is absolute and that the 1960 speech on the matter by John F Kennedy makes him “throw up.[iv]”  Pray for guidance all you want, but don’t expect me to accept being led by a guy that is willing to place his own sanctimonious views on God and religion above the views of others and above the Constitution of the United States he wants to swear to defend.

Just in case I was not being clear – the man is a religious zealot that wishes to push his perverted view of how life should be on the rest of us.   He is a theological fascist that employs the same political tactics used by Hitler and Goebbels, the Big Lie[v], to achieve his ends.  The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) wrote of Hitler in World War II:

“His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.[vi]

While I do not believe Santorum is necessarily evil, like Hitler, I do believe he is misguided and dangerous and he employs the same evil tactics.  Specifically,

  • He flames emotional responses to political issues.
  • He never admits his mistakes.
  • He never admits others have something to contribute.
  • He presents his view as righteous, therefore the only one that matters.
  • Nothing is his fault.
  • Makes his opponents the scapegoat for everything that is wrong.

It is his hope that the more he shouts his extremist view, the more it is believed.  Sadly, he is not the first American politician to employ such tactics.  He simply couches his version of the Big Lie in a passive-aggressive nature making it harder to see we are getting played.   What makes Santorum truly different is his shrouding his views in religion.  Santorum seeks and receives all the right religious based photo-ops and support he can.  He speaks in religious “us against them” terms going so far as to accept blessings and endorsements from a pastors that suggest non-Christians have no place in America[vii].

Does Rick Santorum believe his own rhetoric?  I do not know, but I do see it as his crossing the line between him valuing his personal belief and pressing that belief on others.  I believe he is willing to use dangerous tactics, regardless of the cost to our individual freedom, to achieve his goals.  Moreover, I believe if this guy is elected President, he will attempt to remake the United States into the Christian-fundamentalist nation that his mind already believes it to be.  His magical thinking, irrational belief that he cannot be wrong, and willingness to subvert the freedoms protected by the US Constitution, all wrapped in his slick, high-glossed, religious based presentation show why Rick Santorum very well may be the most dangerous man in America today.


[i] Matthew 6:5. BibleGateway.com. Web. 29 Mar. 2012. <http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew 6:5>.

[ii] Badash, David. “Santorum Makes It Official: He’s Running For President On God’s Platform.” The New Civil Rights Movement. 6 June 2011. Web. 30 Mar. 2012.
<http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/santorum-makes-it-official-hes-running-for-president-on-gods-platform/politics/2011/06/06/21438>.

[iii] Brandeis University. “The Healing Power Of Prayer?.” ScienceDaily, 17 Jun. 2009. Web. 29 Mar. 2012.
<http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2009/06/090617154401.htm>

[iv] Walshe, Shushannah. “In the Battle for Michigan, Santorum Says Separation of Church and State Has Been “Turned on Its Head”.” Www.abcnews.com. ABC.com, 27 Feb. 2012. Web. 30 Mar. 2012. <http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/02/in-the-battle-for-michigan-santorum-says-separation-of-church-and-state-has-been-turned-on-its-head/>.

[v] “Big Lie.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 28 Mar. 2012. Web. 29 Mar. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Lie>.

[vi] “OSS Psychological Profile of Hitler, Part Three.” Holocaust Educational Resource. Web. 29 Mar. 2012. <http://www.nizkor.org/hweb/people/h/hitler-adolf/oss-papers/text/oss-profile-03-02.html>.

[vii] Michaelson, Jay. “”Get Out!” Says Christian-Supremacist Pastor. Does Rick Santorum Agree?” The Daily Beast. Newsweek/Daily Beast, 20 Mar. 2012. Web. 29 Mar. 2012. <http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/03/20/get-out-says-ethnic-cleansing-pastor-does-rick-santorum-agree.html>.

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National Poetry Month

March 29, 2012

Here is a little poem to celebrate April being National Poetry Month and help get you in the mood to write one for yourself.  It really does not matter if you are a poet or not, give it a try.  You may just surprise yourself.  Feel free to post any you write here in response, I would love to read them.

National Poetry Month

April’s here and the time has come
to dust off that mighty pen
scribe a few lines and pick a plum
that rhymes as the lines do end

Give us your thoughts on many things
whatever comes to mind
Then you will fly as birds with wings
and freedom you soon will find

We need your words to fill the cup
allowing our souls to drink
takes little time to fill it up
then causing our minds to think

Believe it or not, a poet’s there
sleeping deep within your soul
So take a chance and show your flair
and let your words take control

You can read more about National Poetry Month at Poets & Writers.org at this link: http://www.poets.org/page.php/prmID/41

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Short on Time

March 29, 2012

I am in the middle of a nice blog post right now but short on time.  I hate it when the requirements of life interfere with my writing.  Oh, well, it must be done.  I will post a blog sometime today, just not sure when.

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Beach, Baseball, Edison, and Aaron

March 28, 2012

Hank Aaron saw his name bypass Babe Ruth's on this April 8, 1974 swing of the bat.

Springtime is here and the weather is warming.  My thoughts are returning to spending time on the beach and baseball, two of my fondest memories of childhood.  The beach is fun for almost everyone so it is easy to understand my thinking there, but baseball, how can baseball be such a fond memory?  Let me tell you.

Baseball just may be the perfect sport for a young man to learn; if there can be such a thing as the perfect sport.  It is full of life’s lessons.  If learned, the lessons will serve you well no matter what you undertake.  On the one hand it demands teamwork, on the other it allows you to perform as an individual.  At times you will share the joy of another’s achievements, other times the spotlight will be on you.  And yes, forgiving someone’s poor performance is required, just as you will ask your poor performance to be forgiven.  It is true that other sports allow the same things to a point, but it is in baseball they are best displayed.

What makes baseball different is standing at the plate.  When you do, it is one against nine.  Some might point out basketball has the free-throw line, and soccer has the penalty-kick.  They are certainly times for individual achievement, but it not the same thing.  In baseball every player takes turns at the plate at least three times in a game.  OK, American League fans, I know the pitcher does not normally bat but that is the exception and a debate for another day.

Growing up, I played little league but was never the greatest of players. Still, it was fun and that along with watching the Atlanta Braves play forms my memories.  Now, if you know anything about baseball and my age, you know that means I was a Braves fan during the “rotten” years.  Yet, watching them as a kid was pure joy for me.  It is hard to relate just how bad the Braves were back then.  Back then, Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium held about 55,000 people.  The most I ever saw when I went to a game was maybe 5,000.  Regardless, there was something magical about it.  Simply being in the park was something special.  Every kid could feel the magic and every adult was a kid again.  Win or lose, it did not matter to me – I was there. I could smell the grass, I could eat the hot dogs, I could feel the sun, and I taste the clay dust in the air.  Besides, the Braves had their secret weapon to keep me watching, Hammerin’ Hank!  Watching Hank Aaron play baseball was delight personified for me and taught me lessons that went way beyond the game.

Each time Hank came to bat I’d hold my breath.  On a side note, those of us that are Braves fans call him Hank in admiration.  I promise you when I met him, face to face, it was all “Mr. Aaron.”  I had the pleasure of meeting him one time in Atlanta when I was in my 30s.  I had met a good number of famous people by then and was largely unimpressed, but when I met him I was giddy like a teenaged school girl meeting a pop-start.  It was just one of those publicity things the he must have done 10,000 times but he was kind and suffered idiots, like me, with grace.  I hope every kid gets to meet one of their personal heroes, even meting them years later as an adult is a remarkable feeling.

I remember the excitement in 1974 when Hank broke Babe Ruth’s home run record. Times were very different back then.  The idea of a black man breaking Ruth’s record did not sit well with some.  They even sent death threats and all sorts of stupid stuff like that.  All I knew was Hank broke the record and I was proud.  I was a white boy from South Georgia, proud of a black baseball player in Atlanta that broke a record.  In my eyes, he stood for something.  He stood for devoting yourself to a task, doing it well and being the best at it. When you are a kid, you do not care what color your hero is, he simply is your hero. He was my hero then, truth is, he still is my hero today.  Another point that I did not even consider until years later, he did it all without the drama sports stars of today seem to fill their lives with.  Now days, a kid picks a hero only to see them disgraced by their own actions.  It is sad really.

But back to my breath holding and Hank at the plate, this is where baseball has a little something different than other sports.  There Hank was, at some major league park while I was Mallory Park Little League field on St. Simons Island.  We stood, inches from the plate, he at his and me at mine.  A pitcher 60.5’ away was about to throw a hard, little rocket right by our faces and it was up to us hit it with a bat.  This was our chance to shine.  You get to hit the game winning home run or a World Series grand-slam, at least in my mind that is how I dreamed it.  For Hank and the other professional baseball players, they really live it.

As nice as that is, it does a player little good to be in it only for the glory of standing at the plate.  Hank proved you can break all sorts of hitting records and still be on a losing team. It takes teamwork to win games.  Without question Hank Aaron was hired for his batting.  Still, he brought more to the game than that.  As an outfielder, Hank won three consecutive Golden Glove awards.  The Golden Glove is awarded yearly to the players that exhibit the best defensive play, the time when the player is part of the defensive team effort.  This is what Hank proved to me: good batting earns runs, good fielding earns wins.

So it takes both, team work and individual achievement to win baseball games.  Simply put, this is the lesson; life takes teamwork and individual achievement to be successful.  None of

Thomas Edison

us lives in a vacuum.  Our individual achievements mean nothing without the teamwork that makes them count.  What could Gates be without Allen?  What would Jobs be without Wozniak and Wayne?  What would Edison be without Tesla?  What would the Babe be without “Murderer’s Row?” Yea, what would Hank be without the Braves?

There are times in life when you are part of a team, other times you stand at the plate alone.  Sometimes you will get the hit (succeed), sometimes you won’t.  The point is to try, to simplyput yourself out there and try.  The only guarantee is you won’t hit the ball if you don’t stand at the plate.  Even a great man like Hank Aaron struck out over 1,300 times.  All great people know this experience; Edison had hundreds of successful ideas.  How many unsuccessful ones did he have that we know nothing about?  Edison’s failures came in private or were known by but a few, they were personal and still he went on.  Aarons’ strikeouts were on a much larger platform and very public, he too went on.  The true disappointment is not striking out, or failure if you will; it is not having the guts to stand at the plate.  Edison knew this, Aaron still does.

 

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A Gullible World

March 27, 2012

We are gullible, humans, I mean.  We believe things we hear though presented with absolutely no evidence to back it up.   Oh, some of us have grown cynical from the experience of years and do question, but in the end, even the most cynical amongst us has a seemingly pathological need to believe what we are told.  Especially if that something supports a position we favor.

It is understandable; the way we learn lends itself to it.  As infants we absorb all we are exposed to without question.  As toddlers, magical thinking rules our thoughts.  In grade school, teachers take on the almost divine quality of being wellsprings of truth and wisdom.  By that time we gain our footing and form our own precocious thoughts, seriously questioning what we are told seems to be an alien concept.  Our societal norms also lend to the process, did your mother ever tell you to “respect your elders” or something like that, when all you did was ask a question?

We break free from this sort of restriction in our teenage years but only to a point.  Having a stopping point is a good thing too, as society would not function if we did not have some level of civility and trust.  In a sense, we collect people we trust and accept with little or no question what they tell us.  The further they are from that central trust, the more we hold suspect what they say.  This sort of acceptance works for the benefit of the circle (society) but against the interests of the individual.

As we grow, we develop a system of tiered trust.  Trust is broken into a series of circles; each with its own level in a sort of hierarchical index with the most trusted, and smallest, circle closest to us and expand from there.  For example, you may trust your family the most, then your friends, then your work colleagues, then your acquaintances, and so on.    The problem with this approach is once in a circle you have that trust level; even at times it may not deserve it.  For example, you trust your dad.  He has been a rock you have counted on your whole life.  It seems you can ask him anything.  If he happens to be a plumber, it is safe to assume he knows much about it.  What if you have an electrical question, he may or may not be so good a source.  You need to challenge what he tells you in that case.  Not to doubt him, but to ensure you have the right information.  Often the level of trust we give a person allows them to influence us beyond their expertise.

When we take our nature into account, it is easy to see how we, as a society, go off the rails from time to time.  For not only do we unilaterally trust members of our various circles, in many cases we grant members the ability to include others we do not even know into that circle.  Back to the dad example, if our father trusts someone, we are likely to trust them too.  This is where our gullibility comes into play.  You father may know to trust someone only on one or two issues, if that is not made clear to you, you may end up trusting them in ways your father never would.

This sort of associated trust really comes into play in our larger circles. While everyone is different, we do tend to fall into similar groupings.  Politically, most people are either conservative or liberal.  We grant to people within our group trust they have not earned.  This leads us to accept as true views that support our preconceived notions.  It limits our input to only things that support our conclusions and can lead to very bad results.

In 2003, this type of thinking allowed Americans to rigidly draw a circle around ourselves and march off to an unnecessary war.  To be a “good American” you had to be patriotic, and to be patriotic you had to support the government without question.   The result of such thinking speaks for itself.   Another example happened in 2008 with the election of President Obama.  Conservatives painted him as a communist in the vein of Stalin working to deliver the United States to Satan, while liberals saw his as the reincarnation of Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy combined, marching us towards utopia.  Neither side looked at Barrack Obama the man.  Neither side understands today Barrack Obama the President.  Conservative circles prevent seeing him as the centrist he is and go off on tangents, like chasing his birth certificate.  Liberals are no better as they see him as the harbinger of radical change which also prevents seeing him as a centrist.

For instance, on the issue of gun control, always a hot-button topic for both conservative and liberals, President Obama has liberalized federal laws for carrying concealed weapons in National Parks.  Still, conservatives whip up fear that “he is coming for your guns!”  Liberals, on the other hand, do not see President Obama is not with them on the issue of gun control, he has taken a centrist position.  Yet, neither side can see the truth, as they only take input from within their particular circle.

The point is this, if you belong to a circle or group or anything that does not allow you to question as a condition to belong, you need to ask yourself if you should belong.  For Republicans, it is not enough to be Republican, you have to prove it.  They even have a term for those members not Republican enough, RINO – Republican In Name Only.

So there it is, we are gullible.  We are predisposed to it.  Yet, that does not mean we must accept it.  Both scientist and engineers are taught to be critical thinkers, to question everything.   This is a throwback to the liberal education President Wilson spoke of one-hundred years ago when he addressed the Phi Beta Kappa Chapter at Cambridge[i] with his Spirit of Learning speech.   Liberal education is not in the political sense of the word liberal but rather in the free exchange of ideas and a way of thinking that pulls in opposing opinion to arrive at a larger truth.  It is the means by which truly meaningful opinions are formed.   It is how we take input without the need for rigid circles that stand between us and truth, between us and understanding.


[i] ‘The Spirit of Learning’, in Woodrow Wilson, College and State: Educational, Literary and Political Papers (1875–1913), ed. Ray Stannard Baker and William E. Dodd (New York and London, 1925), vol. 2.

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You Can Quote Me on That

March 26, 2012

Elbert Hubbard quoted by Bugs Bunny

Throughout my life I have collected quotes.  If something gives me pause when I read it, I take note.   Over the years, the list has grown considerably long.  It’s not so much a formal list as it lives in my head, to be recalled when I need to make a point about a particular issue.   If judged by how often I use them, it is pretty obvious I have my favorites.

I’ve even posted to this blog about the use and misuse of quotes, you can read it here.  The point is people say some incredibly witty and pithy things, well worth repeating.  I guess that’s why books of quotes have always been popular.  Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

  • Regarding time, I like to quote Albert Einstein.  Late in his life he was asked by a reporter about his Special Theory of Relativity, this is the E=mc2 one, a subject Einstein was weary of talking about as the paper was published some 50 years earlier, he explained it this way:  “Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT’S relativity.”  As funny at the quote is, in the end it does explain Relativity.  As I get older, it grows more and more relative.
  • It is no secret I am not the biggest fan for free-verse poetry.  I have often quoted Robert Frost on the subject.  In a speech he stated “Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down.”  At first, it might seem that he is kicking free-verse to the curb.  In reality, what he is saying is the rules add to the game.  Imagine how boring tennis would be without the net to add a level of difficulty.  It is the same for poetry, the rules and structure add to the outcome.  In both tennis and poetry, you remove the net and it is up to the players alone to be exciting.
  • When it comes to national responsibility, I’ve quoted Stephen Crane.  In case you do not remember, Stephen wrote the Red Badge of Courage.  It is and epic poem of his I quote though –War is Kind.  Of course, his point is war is anything but kind.  Here is the quote I use:

A man said to the universe:
“Sir I exist!”
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.”

This quote is like a slap in the face when you first read it.  It is harsh and uncaring, but it is true.  We are no more obligated to do a thing or care about something than the universe is.  It is a choice we make.  We choose to take action or to not take action.  It is an individual sense of morality that dictates the choice, regardless if the choice is good or bad.

  • Of course, I have often pointed out we are a nation of individuals but it is our commonality that joins us.  As Voltaire put it “it is through our mutual needs that we are useful to the human race.”  In other words, it is through our mutual needs we put an obligation on ourselves Mr. Crain’s universe did not.

OK, so there are just a few of the quotes I often use.  I like to use quotes but I have a fear most do not understand the frame of reference and that leads to misunderstanding.   It sort of defeats the whole purpose of quoting in the first place.  That point opens the door for a completely different subject, do I Are they the same?

Give some thought to the quotes you use, even if you only use them mentally to yourself.  Quotes are like little metaphors we use to help explain the world.   On that note, I could not help but end this with a quote of my own to warn about understand a quote before its use, it is from a poem of mine called Testing Water:

So think about your actions
long before you make that jump
be sure you test the waters
and avoid that painful thump.

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Poetry Sunday

March 25, 2012

I think I am going to start a series here in my blog and call it “Poetry Sunday.”  On Sunday’s, rather than a typical blog post, I am going to post a poem or two.  Some will be old, some new but comments are welcome on either.  I will comment just a bit about the poems, either what I was thinking or to point out something of interest about its style.  It would be wonderful if other poets would join in and comment with examples of their works or at least links to it.

To get started, here are two of my most popular poems:

Life’s About the Adjectives

Life’s about the adjectives,
it’s how we know the world.
Nouns, you see, are only names,
with adjectives – life is knurled.

Think about the apple,
just fruit upon the tree,
red ripe skin with tasty pulp,
better lets us see.

Providing us the texture,
of color if you will,
ADJ allows us space,
to give our lines the fill.

Life’s about the adjectives,
spice for the written line,
Verbs, you see, are motion,
and index things like time.

Think about the race car,
going around the lane,
zipping fast with lightning speed,
better feeds the brain.

Providing us the feeling,
of nature if you will,
ADJ gives the taste,
to writings we distill.

Verbs contain the action,
and nouns have the heart,
adjectives add the flavor,
for cooks of written art.

Life’s about the adjectives,
how else could it be,
that words paint the pigments,
in poems for us to see?

This poem won the 2008 Willard R Espy award for light verse, a nice honor for me to say the least.  The poem uses an aBcB rhyme in each stanza with no formal meter.

A GRAIN OF SAND

A grain of sand, nothing more
blowing and rolling about the shore.
All alone, one takes no note
its moving about the wild sea oat.

Soon to fall and move no more
the Wind takes another from the shore.
Blown again under the night’s full moon
it finds the oats and forms a dune.

To rise or fall, the tender dunes wait
as Wind moves sand to receive its fate.
They welcome me back each day anew
as I walk within the sunrise hue.

It is the same but different now
the dunes I see as I make this vow:
“Dear Lord, I thank you for this day
the same is new in a gentle way.”

“Each dune is sculpted with your hand
by blowing around each grain of sand.
The dune has beauty as a whole
but is nothing without the single sand’s soul.”

“I pray we learn from the grain of sand
to become a part of your larger plan.
We each have beauty within our core
it’s by coming together, we become much more.”

This poem uses 2 rhymed couplets in each stanza making it an AABB scheme.

Notice how the form of rhyme changes the feel of the poem.  In the first example, the aBcB gives the poem a whimsical feel as it is read.  While the more formal AABB couplets of the second example gives the end of each couple a natural hard stop.  In a sense, it forces the reader to pause and reflect.  Each shows how rhyme scheme selection plays a huge role in the overall feel of a poem.

Reading poetry should never leave you with sort of a “wow, that was one technically perfect poem,”  no, it is more about the emotions and feeling you are left with as the reader.  These tools and devices come into play for the poet to implant emotion and feeling into a poem.  At the end of it all, if you enjoyed the poem, the technical merits of it mean nothing.

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