For my regular visitors, if you find that this blog hasn't been updating much lately, chances are pretty good I've been spending my writing energy on my companion blog. Feel free to pop over to Home is Where the Central Cardio-pulmonary Organ Is, and see what else has been going on.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I want my country back

(This one's been sitting in my drafts since October 19 - that's what I get for not finishing a post right away.  I forget to get back to it!)

There's a Huffington Post opinion piece that's being passed around a lot by my friends on the far left.  I'm going to have to stop calling them liberals, or even lefties.  I don't want to imply that all my friends on the political left are like this.  I think it would be more accurate to call them anti-Conservative, since they leap on anything that paints conservatism in a negative light while ignoring the positives (and if I sound like I'm picking in my anti-conservative friends, it's because my right leaning friends don't pass around this kind of stuff, so there's been nothing to pick on).  In fact, anything positive gets twisted around to become a negative.

Take this piece they're passing around, mocking the "I want my country back" mantra. You can save yourself some time if you want.  They're using the term to attack Republicans and TEA partiers (TEA is capitalized because it actually stands for Taxed Enough Already, but it took me a while to find that out, since it doesn't get much mention) by twisting the meaning of the phrase and saying these right-wing nutjobs (of course, everyone on the right is a nut job.  They're also all white, old, male, Christian... you get the picture) want to turn back time to some blissful Luddite utopia, with no technology, no equality, or no medical advances, and where coloured folks knew their place, and there was no religious diversity.  Lefties, of course, want to move forward, not back, with good sanitation, medical care, etc.  Because folks on the right don't want any of these things.  They want to take their country "back."

Which is typical bovine feces coming from the anti-conservative crowd.  First, they tell us what those on the right supposedly are, (ignorant, bigoted, whatever), then tell us why they are wrong, then tell us how oh-so-superior folks on the left are.

Of course, they're missing the point entirely.  It's not "I want my country back to..." something.  It's "I want my country back from..." something.

While there certainly are elements on the right that have some strange Utopian image of a blissful past, typically coloured by the lens of childhood memory rather than reality, it is a mistake to paint all folks on the right like that, just as it would be to paint everyone on the left the same way, even though many of them are just as guilty of putting forward an image of that past that has more to do with childhood memories or ideology than reality.

People who say they want their country back aren't saying they want to go back to the time of June Cleaver and Father Knows Best.  What they want is to reclaim their country from... oh, a whole bunch of things, such as:

- exorbitant taxes that penalize those who work for it (that would be the middle class, mostly), and punish the wealthy for being wealthy, only to see those tax dollars disappear into billion (or trillion, in the US) dollar debts, endless layers of bureaucracy and boondoggles, and to fund special interest groups or pay people who don't work (no one is begrudging a helping hand to those in need, but those who play the system)

- special interest groups that are convinced they know what's good for us better then we do, so they work to change laws and regulations to control everything from what kind of fuel we put in our cars (except, of course, those that would take our cars away from us entirely), where we should live and in what kind of dwelling, what we should watch or read, what we should be allowed to eat or drink, how much of either, and even what our body size and shape should be.

- revisionism of religious reality, both current and historical, by the powers that be and vocal minorities that try to tell us that our countries' founders weren't actually Christians (this applies to both Canada and the US), unless it's to claim those Christians were actually evil, or that our laws aren't actually based on Christianity, or that the majority of our current populations aren't actually still Christian (in both Canada and the US, the majority of the population is some Christian affiliation, with the majority of those being Catholic, with the next category being "no religious affiliation" followed by Muslim and Jewish, with some regional variations).  Yes, we have a diversity of ethnicity's, cultures and religion, but we shouldn't have to pander to any special interest group just because they're not white or not Christian.

- extreme political correctness, where instead of just trying to be polite and caring of other's differences, the majority is now expected to cowtow to vocal minorities to the point that people are afraid to say "merry Christmas" or compliment someone on their ethnic garb without fear of offense.

- a nation where, instead of a meritocracy, where the best people for a particular job are hired, companies are required to meet ethnic or gender based quotas (white males need not apply).

- a bizarre, twisted notion of cultural relativism, where all cultures are supposedly equally good, but the US, the West, and those of European background are actually evil or wrong for their very successes, while others are considered better for being less exploitative, or more "natural" even though women have no or few rights, gays are jailed, beaten and/or executed and where a 17 year old woman who dared go out in public (or was just rumored to have) with a man not her husband, father or brother, was beaten, stomped and stoned to death on the street by a mob, while the crowd took photos and videos on their cell phones and posted them on the internet. (No, I'm not going to link to that one.  I watched it, not realized what I was about to see, and it still haunts me).

- a society that thinks we should apologize for being successful, relatively wealthy, and enjoying material comforts, and would have us forced to give those up and would take that wealth and turn it over to corrupt organizations, such as the UN, or dictator governments in some sort of bizarre attempt to make everyone equal, not realizing that taking from the rich and giving to the poor just leaves everyone poor (why would anyone strive to get ahead if the fruits of their efforts will just be taken away and given to others).

There are more examples than I can think of right now.   These are just a few of the things TEA Party folks (who aren't a cohesive group to begin with) are trying to take their country back from.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Readers: What did you do?

While visiting Free Range Kids today, I found out about this virtual funeral for the swing set.  It seems a young boy jumped off a swing and broke his arm.  His parents sued, and the county responded by getting rid of swing sets in playgrounds (though that's apparently changed back).

I well remember jumping off swing sets when I was a kid.  Heck, I'd still do it if my knees weren't shot. *L* My kids have jumped off many a swing, too, and had a blast doing it.

It got me to thinking of the many things I and others did when we were young that were potentially dangerous, but we did them anyway.  Sometimes we got hurt.  Most of the time, we didn't.  Once in an extremely rare while, someone got killed, but no one I've ever known.

In telling my kids stories of the things I did as a kid, I've often found myself wondering how we survived!  But survive we did, and had a blast at the same time.  When my own kids would do something that got my Mommy fears going, I would remind myself of the things I'd done that were far more dangerous and made myself back off.  I'm glad I did.

Being on the farm opened up all sorts of opportunities for potential disaster.  Here are just a few things I remember doing.

Our barn was a typical 2 level building with the upper level being the hay loft.  My dad had built a single level lean-to on one side that was slightly shorter than the eaves of the barn roof.  My youngest brother and I would climb onto the lower roof of the lean-to, then climb up the roof of the barn to its peak.  I always envied that my brother could just run straight up the side.  I had to climb up using the cable from the lightning rods.

There were 4 lightning rods on our barn roof.  One of the things we discovered, as we balanced our way back and forth on the peak of the roof, was that the tips came off.  These tips also fit onto our fingers.  We took turns putting them onto our fingers and pretending they were long fingernails or dangerous claws.  Then we put them back, clambered back down the roof of the lean to, and went on our merry way.

In the winter, when clearing the snow away from the entrances to the barn and lean-to, my dad built up a pile of snow a few feet away from the barn - far enough away that we could open the doors wide and the cows could mill about somewhat.  My brothers, some of the boys from neighbours farms and I would climb onto the roof of the lean-to and jump into the snow, trying to get as much distance out as possible to avoid the cleared space under us.  It wasn't soft snow, by any means, but a rather hard packed pile.  It was soft enough, I guess, as we never got hurt.

Another childhood favorite goes back to before we got a hay baler.  We had the old fashion haystacks, which my father would pay a neighbour with a house moving trailer to move from our fields to the hay yard beside the barn.  They were placed next to each other in two groups, with a narrow path in between, leading to a side entrance to the barn.  Though the stacks were placed next to each other, there was usually enough space that we could squeeze between them, as if they were tunnels.  I remember winter nights when my brothers, the neighbourhood boys and I would play hide and seek around the haystacks, climbing on top of them, jumping from stack to stack, jumping from stacks to the lean-to roof and back again, and generally having a blast. Other nights, on my own, I would climb to the top of one of the stacks and lie on my back, watching the northern lights or finding patterns in the stars while listening to the sounds of owls, coyotes and other creatures I never identified. 

Of course, there were always trees to climb.  As usual, it was my youngest brother and I that climbed them together.  I could never make it as high as he could, though!  We even had our favorite trees with branches splayed out in just the right way to lean back and get comfortable.  I spent many happy hours in trees.  Years later, when my kids would come home from climbing nearby spruce trees and I'd find their clothes ruined by resin and tears, I found myself trying to remember if I'd ever caused my mother the same dismay over destroyed clothing. I couldn't remember, but I must have at some point.

Another adventure involved a large tarp and bale twine.  My brothers and I tied lengths of twine to the grommet holes around the edges.  Two of us would then hold it up to the wind, while a third would be holding the lengths of twine, in hopes a strong enough gust would give us a parachute ride.  It never quite worked well, but we did get some air time once in a while.  The tarp was just too big and heavy to work well.  It was fun to try, though!

Someone got an idea, though.  The bale twine came out again (there was always lots of it around) and we tied together enough to reach from one end of the barn to the other.  The ends were tied to the first and last of the bottom cords, but not before a large pulley with a hook on it was placed on the twine for a makeshift zip line.  Loose hay was piled up in the middle of the hayloft, and we all took turns climbing onto the door frame, grabbing the hook and taking a ride down the line until we dropped into the pile of hay.

I was on my second turn when the rope broke.  I landed on my butt in the hay, and the hook on the pulley hit me on the head.  I remember sitting in the hay, gleefully rubbing the spot on my head and saying "that hurt!"  Then I looked at my hand and saw the blood.

Lots of blood.

Well, I started screaming and crying and flipping out.  My youngest brother spirited me away to the house and got me cleaned up while begging me not to tell our parents.  I seem to remember a lot of that.  Both the cleaning up of blood and injuries, and the keeping it from my parents!

Years later, I shaved my head and discovered I still have a scar from this incident.

There were a great many things like this that we did as kids.  As I got older and got to know more kids that lived in town, I got to really appreciate just how good we had it on the farm.  The townies didn't have haystacks to play hide and seek in, ponds to slog around in, bushes to explore and puffballs to stomp on.  Sure, they had fancy things we didn't, but I had no envy for any of it.  As time went on, I especially came to appreciate the time I had as a child to just wander around in the bush by myself (well, the dogs where with me), lost in my own thoughts and imagination.  I didn't realize it for many years, but those were times of significant emotional and intellectual growth and development that serves me well even now.  I think the greatest unexpected benefit has been that I am quite content to be alone in the quiet.  It seems to me that many people seem unable to handle being on their own.  They have to have TV or music, video games or be on the phone, or somehow fill the silence with noise and activity.  It seems they literally don't know how to be alone in their own thoughts.  When I had kids of my own, I tried to give them that freedom to be alone.  I don't know that I accomplished it very well, but I'm hoping I did at least a little.

So now I'm turning it over to you, dear reader.  What do you remember doing as a kid that, looking back today, would now be considered too dangerous, too messy, or just not allowed anymore for one reason or another?  How free range was your own childhood?  Was there something in your youth that you now really appreciate, that our modern culture no longer allows for children?

Let me know.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I was going to post a movie review here, but felt it was more appropriate for my other blog.  Feel free to head over and give it a read.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Still laughing - except I'm not supposed to find it funny

Ah, my anti-conservative facebook friends.  They've been providing me with so much blog fodder lately!  What would I do with out them?  Life would certainly be less entertaining!

Today's scandal that's been shared back and forth on my news feed is this blog post about a Tea Party Children's Book, with various personal comments expressing shock, horror and disgust.  The writer is mocking the book, but I don't think he (or other anti-conservatives) have noticed what a mockery they're making of themselves.

I've never seen this book, but in reading the above post, I thought it was a hilarious parody of everything the political right is complaining about the left.  It sounds like something out of The Onion.  I don't know that I'd fork over $20 for it, but I think I'd get a kick out of reading the whole thing.

Of course, the anti-conservatives don't see it as funny.  But then, they don't think anyone on the right has a sense of humour, it seems.  What makes it even funnier for me is that, while they're sharing this blog post with each other and expressing their horror at those nasty, nasty Tea Partiers, if something like this had been written by a Democrat about McCain and Palin or against the Republican party in general, they would have been sharing it with each other with comments on how funny, yet truthful, it is.  Lord knows, they've shared and said viler things than this book over the years, though few as poorly written as this blog post.

Of course, one of the things they're upset about is that this is a children's book.  Do they think the writer told this story to them with a grave and serious face, like the father in this ad?  Personally, I imagine a lot of funny faces and voices, and kids laughing hysterically.  The leftists seem to prefer giving their kids nightmares.  Mind you, they seem to be okay with blowing them up, too - that is, if they don't turn into little eco-spies, first.

If this satirical parody of a book is the worst the anti-conservatives can come up with, the right doesn't have much to worry about.  The leftists, on the other hand, don't seem to realize how much they're making fools of themselves, or how badly their antics are driving folks in the middle toward the right.

They've certainly done it with me.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

A matter of offense

This seems to be a crazy time of year, doesn't it?  The same things seem to get rehashed every year, too.

I did see a new variation go by.  Immediately after Halloween, one of my "gamer friends" on facebook (people I've gotten to know through the one online game I play there) put up one of those "if you agree with this, change your status, too!" things.  Most of them, I ignore.  Especially the ones that say "97% won't have the courage to put this on their facebook," or some similar phrasing attempting to shame people into cutting and pasting the blurb into their own facebook status.  Once in a while I will share a status on my own, but as soon as I see that "challenge" at the end, I reject it immediately, even if I do agree with the original statement.  It's like those emails people share with this wonderful, inspiring story, only to find a paragraph at the end telling people to forward it to X number of friends and their wish will come true or, worse, admonitions of how, if you really believe in God, Jesus, or a particular cause, you will share it with everyone in your address book, but it you don't, you're just an awful, heartless beast.

For me, that's the fastest way to get something trashed.

This particular status update was saying no to Christmas decorations and sales displays before Remembrance Day out of respect for our veterans, because Christmas is all about commercialism and materialism and it is therefore offensive to our vets.  It ended with saying something along the lines of  "I refuse to shop anywhere that has a Christmas display before Remembrance Day."

They're not going to get much shopping done in the next while.  I suppose they never go to craft supply stores at all, either, since those have year round Christmas displays.

Aside from the fact that Christmas displays started coming up at about the same time as the Halloween ones, whoever came up with this particular meme is displaying a few revealing things.  First, the idea that Christmas is all about commercialization and materialism.  Now, I happen to agree that there's too much commercialization surrounding Christmas, but that's secular Christmas.  As we celebrate religious Christmas, we simply ignore the crassness of it all and do our own thing.  That's a matter of choice.  Don't like the commercialism of Christmas?  Don't buy into it.  On the other hand, as weird as it is to see the displays coming out so early, I actually kind of like them.  It's cheering.  Plus, as a crafter, I'm always looking for inspiration and materials for all those hand-made gifts and decorations I make every year, and it can take weeks, if not months, to complete these.

But this call for activism wasn't about Christmas, exactly.  It was about Remembrance Day.  Whoever made this up is claiming that these displays are offensive to our veterans.  Which is ridiculous.  Has any vet ever said they found it offensive?  Even if they did, what vet would go so far as to tell retailers what they should sell and when?  They wouldn't, and they don't.  Someone, ticked at seeing Christmas displays so early in the year, is using Remembrance Day and veterans to push their anti-commercialism.

It's not the early Christmas displays that's offensive to veterans.  It's this person using the vets to push their own snark. 

I never saw this particular status meme show up again, thankfully.

evening update: after posting this, I remembered another repeated attempt to use veterans and Remembrance Day under the guise of not offending them.  There have been calls to have Nov. 11 turned into a statutory holiday because everyone going to work like normal is somehow offensive to veterans.  This seems to come up every year, even though veterans have repeatedly said they are not offended by this, and don't want to have Nov. 11 made into a statutory holiday.

Nov. 10 updateLink

Another controversy that seems to come up every now and then has reared its head.  In this case, someone I know was defending the white poppy and was rather upset with the Legion, as quoted in this article. She was actually offended by the quote from the Legion representative.

I admit from the start that the white poppy issue is a sore spot with me, and her comments and those of her readers exemplified to me just why that is.

Like so many of their ilk, the first thing they do is misrepresent what the red poppy represents.  There's a lot of talk about how the red poppy is a symbol of war, and that they and other Remembrance Day ceremonies "celebrate" and "romanticize" war, which is, to be blunt, pure bullshit.  The red poppy represents peace, and the price paid to achieve it.  Remembrance Day reminds us of the horrors of war, and shows gratitude to those who were willing to fight and die, giving us the peace and freedom we have since enjoyed.  "Lest We Forget" is a call to vigilance, in hopes of preventing the rise of another Hitler.  White poppy supporters reject this notion.  Their white poppy, we're told, represents peace, while the red celebrates violence and advocates war.  Their twisting of the meaning of the red poppy is offensive all on its own.

While I would never try to stop someone from wearing the white poppy, I do not hesitate to tell people that I find it offensive and why.  These "pacifists" tell me that they are against war (as if wearing the red poppy and Remembrance Day were somehow in favour of war) and that there is no justification for war, ever.  What they are telling me is that I should not exist.  Were it not for people willing to go to war, my parents would never have survived, never have met and I would never have been born.  The same it true for a great many others.  

I pointed this out to the white poppy supporters, then asked if they really thought sitting around and talking would have stopped Hitler and his Nazis from trying to wipe out Jews, Poles and Roma, or the Japanese Imperialists from torturing and killing their prisoners, sometimes in the name of "science."  How many millions more would have been killed?  Not wanting war is laudible, but the reality is that the world produces madmen, and sometimes those madmen want nothing more than to destroy their percieved enemies.  How is talking to them going to stop them? 

About the closest thing to an answer I got was someone sharing a link to an article about non-violence.  The article did make some good points - in fact, it gave a real world example that was exactly the sort of victim to victor scenario I'd written about before.  Ironically, the advice it gave for ways to deflect potential violence is right in line with what is taught by any good martial arts teacher.  It drew some rather strange correlations to Nazi Germany and the Khmer Rouge that made no sense to me.  It actually seemed to imply that, if ordinary people had just stood up and said something at the early stages, these regimes would never have reached the heights of power they did.  It was a bizarre sort of "blame the victim" twist that was not only illogical but showed a complete ignorance of history. 

Part of what irritates me about supporters of the white poppy is their claim to pacifism and non-violence (and the moral superiority that comes with it).  I actually don't have a problem with pacifists.  Aside from my usual live and let live philosophy, I have a great deal of respect for some pacifists.  Let me give you a few examples.

The Quakers are a pacifist group.  They hold to their beliefs with remarkable strength, even through imprisonment, torture and death.  In the US, the Quakers played a significant role in running the Underground Railway, helping blacks escape slavery, at great personal risk.  Whether or not one agrees with their views, there is much to respect about them and their great courage.

During WWII, conscientious objectors who refused to take up arms, instead took part in the Ancel Keys starvation study.  As their physical health deteriorated, they were given the option of stopping, but they refused, knowing that the knowledge gathered would be used to help thousands.  Decades later, the surviving participants still say they would do it again.

Another example is from a story told by a Vietnam vet.  While many draft dodgers fled to Canada, some chose instead to serve in non-violent ways.  Some who refused to fight worked as medics.  The vet recounted how, on the battlefield, these pacifists who wouldn't even touch a gun would risk their lives, crawling onto the battlefield under live fire to get to a wounded soldier, then drag him back to where he could be treated.  In recounting what he saw, the vet spoke of how much he admired these men.

Being a pacifist isn't for cowards!

Which is why I don't like hearing these white poppy supporters call themselves pacifists.  These are the kind of people who, living their soft, privileged lives, will go out with signs and shout slogans, pen caustic and insulting articles attacking those who don't agree, then go back to their safe warm houses and jobs and lives, after insulting the very people who gave them the ability to have those lives in the first place.

Because, unlike the facebook status meme I mentioned earlier, vets have said outright that they find the white poppy insulting.  Supporters of the white poppy, however, are not only okay with that, but are offended by their offense!

In a PC culture where people are told not to say "Merry Christmas" and schools are having "Winter Festivals" instead of "Christmas concerts" because of the risk of offending other religions (who, by the way, have stated they aren't offended and think it's ridiculous to make these changes), here we have a "pacifist" group that has been told outright that they are being offensive, yet refusing to change.  They could choose another flower.  They could choose another date.  There are many ways they could show their beliefs without offending veterans.  They refuse to.

There's a reason for this, of course.  If it weren't for Veterans and Remembrance Days, they would have nothing.  Their activism is a direct attack on Remembrance Day, and on veterans.  Their offense is intentional.

They are also rather ignorant, not only of the true meaning of the red poppy and what Remembrance and Veterans Day is all about, but of their own symbol.

Red poppies were chosen because of how they would suddenly appear over battlefields.  Where no poppies grew before, suddenly there were fields of them.  Over the years, these fields of poppies have gone away, and they have gone back to their previous scarcity.

The white poppy, however, is the Asian Opium Poppy.  There are fields of them, all right, but they are grown for the heroin trade.  A rather poor choice to symbolize "peace."  Better, perhaps, to represent the violence of the drug wars and the pain of addiction.

Then there's the use of white.  Historically the colour white symbolized purity in death.  This goes back to ancient Greece, but white flowers are still traditionally used for funerals.  Hence the white lily associated with Easter and the death of Christ.  There are still cultures today that find our use of white for brides rather strange and morbid because of the colour's association with death and funeral garb.

Hmmm... perhaps their use of white is more appropriate than they think.