Friday, September 10, 2010

Fire in the Hole!

The only thing in the news today was fire:  wildfires in Boulder, Colorado, explosive fires in San Bruno, CA and the proposed Koran-kindled fire of a wacko Floridian pastor. All three are tragic, but only one will be explored here. There are so many thoughts in my head over this issue that I preemptively ask forgiveness if this post is short on cohesion.

Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center, a 50 member nondenominational charismatic Christian church in Gainesville, Florida should never have made the news.  The man is obviously irrational and unintelligent.  (Read his church's rulebook for becoming an "Apostolic Fife Fold Minister." The concepts are nebulous, grammar and spelling are atrocious, and parts are absolutely unintelligible.)  What should have been nothing more than a blip on the local Gainesville radar screen has become the center of a book-burning furor that has stretched around the world.  Why? Because the left-wing media wanted to point to someone who they erroneously thought represented the overzealous Right, the TEA party movement,  or any other Obama decenter they wish to disavow. If it was not completely orchestrated by the media, then AP and Reuters would have never picked it up.  It doesn't makes sense that they did.  They took an inconsequential nut-job and made him into a behemoth.  Or, as the Russian ladies at my doctor's office say, "They make elephants from flies."

The media is responsible for this getting blown out of proportion and for making it known worldwide. They are therefore responsible for the outcries from the middle east. They are responsible for the flag burnings, the "Death to America" signs and chants.  Shame on them!  Their little plan didn't turn out so well. It rather bit them in the ass.  However, the sickest twist in the whole media blitz is that now that they have stoked the publicity fire so much that members of Congress and  the Cabinet, General Patreas and even Obama himself have publicly commented, they say that if the book burning takes place, they will not show it.  Suddenly they want to take the high road?  Please! It wasn't news in the first place!

Islam believes that the Koran is sacred.  I get that.  The ORIGINAL writings of Mohammad should absolutely be sacred to them.  However, they project the equivalent holiness to every copy.  Really?  That is just as wacko as Mr. Jones, but just from a different direction.  Bestowing holy, mystical, magical powers onto paper and ink is silly.  Where is the sanity?  Can we be realistic here?  That's the problem.  For radical Islam, realism is nonexistent.  (Do not allow this paragraph lead you to believe that I am a hater of Muslims.  I work for a predominantly Muslim company and I like, respect and enjoy my coworkers. I learn from them and very much respect their religious discipline.)

Now, about the book burning itself.  
First: Book burning is the singular most paradoxical action of liberty one can take in these United States. At once it is the symbol of the squelching of freedom and the ultimate expression of  that same freedom. The practice (Brief History of Book Burning} is an ancient one.  The priests at the Council of Nicea burned whatever documentation they had that did not "make the cut" into what we know now as the Bible, thereby stomping out free religious thought, debate and ultimately practice.  The Nazi's burned books of Jewish origin, those that were anti-Nazi and those they deemed degenerate. They wanted to keep such books away from the masses which they thought were better off only with spoon-fed propaganda.  Even Harry Potter books were ceremoniously burned by those narrow-minded fundamentalists who thought that they were somehow demonic. So it's nothing new.

Second: There is something viscerally upsetting to me about the idea of burning books.  It is unequivocally wrong. Books - good, bad, important, ridiculous - are to be cherished and kept as an historical record.  They are the legacy of the author and also of the time period.  What we write today becomes the anthropological, sociological, cultural and historical lessons of future generations.  Leave the books be!

Third: Logically speaking, books are paper and ink. There are many copies of most books out there, so burning a handful will not matter. Besides, they make good kindling (tongue in cheek, people!) and if I were stranded and cold I would burn a library to survive.  Wouldn't you?

Why does the media try to scare us with images of burning flags and crucifixes?  They seem so worried that the radicals will be upset or offended. Hello?  They are already upset!  We are dirty Kafirs, infidels to them and must be eradicated. Remember 9/11?  Remember the first attempt on the World Trade Center in 1993?  They didn't need a minor Koran burning to be able to recruit terrorists; recruits were available all along. 

Why is it OK for Muslims to burn the Bible, our flag and effigies of our leaders in protest but it is not OK for us to burn the Koran in protest?  This is a double standard!

Why is it OK to display a crucifix in urine or paint the Virgin Mary out of elephant dung and call it art but not to draw cartoons or caricatures of Mohammad?  This too, is a double standard. (For the record, I'm cool with all of it.)

And why does the left cry foul about protests of offensive art to defend it as free speech, but not stand up equally for the right to burn a Koran in protest?  

Free speech must be upheld absolutely.  Give me liberty or give me death!

Final thoughts:
It is tragic that the radicals of Islam get more press than the peaceful, kind Muslims.  Most pay little attention to the aberrant calls to violence in the Koran. We should be seeing more of that in the media to balance what we see of the radicals.

I believe that Americans think differently from the rest of the world because of our freedoms.  We see everything through the eyes of liberty.  In fact we have no real point of reference for looking at the world any other way.  All you need do is talk to an immigrant from the communist block who still looks over their shoulder before they share an opinion.  They see the world differently and have a level of fear that Americans will hopefully never know.  Middle eastern Muslims see the world differently too.  They see it from a place where religious and state law are one in the same.  How can we possibly have empathy for each other when we cannot put ourselves in the other's shoes to gain the perspective needed?  If only there was a simple way for us to see how they see and vice versa. It is only then that the emotional charge of our differences will dissipate. Then, perhaps an intellectual discussion could begin so we could truly  

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Movie Review: Eat Pray Love

It has been awhile since I have been to the movies and much longer since I wanted to see a Julia Roberts movie, so my anticipation for Eat Pray Love was pretty high.  Although I knew little about it, for some reason, from just the title there was a certain relatability. After all, what woman doesn't love to eat?  We all pray in some form or another, whether to a God, intentionally projecting out to the universe or just uttering exasperating hopes to nothing. And of course, we all love.

The premise of the movie has Roberts' character Liz reach that point in her life where she finds herself unsettled by the routines she has fostered.  She is out of touch with her husband, her family and who and what she thought she would be as a mid to late thirty-something: An early onset mid-life crisis.  As what seems to be a successful writer she has the luxury of taking off for a year to find herself.  So she spends four months in Italy (Eat), four months at an Ashram in India (Pray) and four months in Bali (Love). In each phase, and even before her journey, there are beautiful men in her life who teach her something. What happens to her in each of those places as she focuses on the respective activities is what can happen to any of life's sojourners as we go about examining our lives and how we live them; where we put our energy, and what is truly important. In that regard the story is universal.

This is most definitely a chick flick. The scenery is gorgeous. As an out-of-sorts mid-lifer myself, I found the character and storyline completely relatable. I do wish it went further into her internal life during her journey.  You got glimpses through Julia's facial expressions, but it left me wanting. Julia was beautiful and played the on-the-verge-of-tears almost depressed, but fighting to not sink emotions perfectly.  And where.... WHERE have they been hiding Javier Bardem?  What a deliciously charismatic man.  I wouldn't mind meeting him on Bali myself!

However it is the monologue at the end that ties everything together in a neat little package and gives the viewer (or reader of the book) an idea as to how the process works. 
“…I’ve come to believe that there exists in the universe something I call “ThePhysics of The Quest” – a force of nature governed by laws as real as the laws gravity or momentum. And the ruleof Quest Physics maybe goes like this: “If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting (which can be anything from your house to your bitter old resentments) and set out on a truth-seeking journey (either externally orinternally), and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher, and if you are prepared – most of all – to face (and forgive) some very difficult realities about yourself….then truth will not be withheld from you.” Or so I’ve come to believe.”  

- Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love.

Overall it gets 3 / 5 stars from this occasional reviewer. 

Links: Eat Pray Love on IMDB
            Eat Pray Love on Rotten Tomatoes

Monday, September 6, 2010

Restoring Honor Rally 8.28.10: Part 2, Reflections

It has been a week since the rally in Washington DC, enough time to reflect on the experience, the speeches and the message. The overall theme, as promised, was lifting up the value of honor. Why?  Because as we look around in these United States today, honor seems to have been lost.  From our presidents, accused of everything from corruption to lechery, to citizens who drive cars with bumper stickers touting that their kid kicked your honor student's ass and everything in between, we have as a nation seem to have chosen guttural behaviors over courtesy, mutual respect and rewarding merit.  Standards have gone out the window.  Everyone gets a trophy.  Effort and achievement are no longer held up as qualities to which to cling and aspire.  Honor, like integrity is about doing the right thing, even when nobody is watching.  It comes from within and is not always the easiest path to follow. But it is with such qualities that our country was founded and with which it shall be saved.

The rally started with a slide/video presentation with an inspiring narrative by Glenn Beck. We then all stood to say the Pledge of Allegiance.  I chose to say it as it was originally written rather than with the addition of  "under God" that occurred during the McCarthy era. It actually flows better and makes sense in its original form: "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."  I don't think that anyone around me necessarily noticed my omission. Appropriately, after the Pledge, we sang the National Anthem.  Hearing thousands of voices young and old, on key and off, raised and reverberating in and around the trees was pretty spectacular.  I stopped singing a few times so I could listen and my heart was filled with overwhelming patriotic pride. It was the first of several times during the three hours of rally that my emotions ran high and tears came to my eyes.  After that, Glenn came out to make a few opening remarks, setting expectations and ultimately introducing the speakers.

Since the rally was also a fundraiser for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation (, the first couple of speakers spoke of the organization which ensures that the children left behind when a Special Forces soldier dies in battle, get a college education. One of the leaders of the fund spoke as did a mother of one of the recipients. 

Sarah Palin spoke next as a mother of a soldier. (Watch the video of her speech here: Sarah Palin "Restoring Honor" 08/28/10) Bringing forth living examples of people who live honorably and lifting them up as true heroes was a most touching part of the rally.  Stories of soldiers who get the job done even when they are severely injured, or go above and beyond to make sure their fellow soldiers are rescued and safe always work to pull at my heartstrings. When each of the three soldiers whose stories we heard were introduced, there was thunderous applause to greet them which was palpable.  As Ms. Palin's speech was winding down, and she was talking about the qualities that these men were made of, that our founders were made of, she reminded all of us present, "You have the same steel spine and the moral courage of Washington and Lincoln and Martin Luther King. It is in you. It will sustain you as it sustained them." 

Next, Glenn came out and talked about the original Purple Heart which was commissioned by George Washington to reward soldiers for merit above and beyond the call of duty.  Back then, it had nothing to do with being wounded and everything to do with achievement.  Then, three awards were bestowed: one each for Faith, Hope and Charity. Recipients were chosen by Glenn as best fit representations of each value.  Each recipient's story was told by someone who knew them well and how they lived their lives, and each are shining examples of how we can live and make a difference in the world. 

After the Faith, Hope and Charity awards came Alveda King, niece of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I do not like this woman. I found it misplaced that she insists on being introduced as Dr. Alveda King when her doctorate is an honorary one.  To me this is disgraceful, and diminishes the value of title as well as the effort, struggle, and hard work of those who actually EARN a PhD.  During her time on stage she spoke some and then introduced singers who then performed inspirational or patriotically themed songs.  When the last song was finished, Ms. King gave her speech, which was way too evangelical for my tastes.  Hers was also the only one to get political, the only one to play the race card. I did not need to hear her pro-life views. I disagree with her on that. The choice to keep or end a pregancy is between a woman and a man, her doctor, her God if she has one, and her conscience.  It is something that should never be politicized.  I also vehemently disagree about her desire to have prayer in public [sic] schools. In order to truly maintain freedom of religion, we must be absolute in the interpretation of separation of church and state.  But the most unconscionable phrase of the entire day was "I have a dream that WHITE privilege will become HUMAN privilege..."  This was out of line and far from the spirit of the day and also because as it was said usurping the use of her uncle's "I have a dream..." message.  This was the lowest point of the rally, at least for this observer.  You can hear it here: Alveda King at Restoring Honor

Finally, it was time for Glenn's speech. (Watch it here: Glenn Beck Keynote Speech, Restoring Honor Rally 08/28/10) It was filled with imagery and inspiration.  He spoke about the monuments and memorials around him and how we were surrounded by giants.  He spoke of the reflecting pool and how it was a reminder for us to reflect the values of courage, sacrifice, duty and honor of those men, the very giants who were there immortalized in stone. He pointed out that they were ordinary men who did the hard thing and that we are made of the same stuff... that one person CAN change the world.  But the thing that got to me more than any other happened closer to the end during Glenn Beck's speech when he talked about his sureness that in the crowd there was an 8 year-old boy or girl who would become the next George Washington and when he recited a speech which means as much now as it did when it  was delivered on November 19, 1863 by then President Abraham Lincoln on a battlefield in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania:  
"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
As the crowd dispersed, Jo Dee Messina took the stage for 20 minutes or so of patriotic songs, including America the Beautiful, one of my favorite national hymns. Many of us sang along as we made our way back towards the train station and our buses. There is something special that happens when people join together in meaningful song.  When it happens, music becomes like connective tissue bringing all those within its reach together with a single common thread of song.  It fills the heart, lightens the soul and with it comes hope.

I left the rally very honored that I was able to experience it.  What I heard from the stage cemented in me the notion that politically I truly am a Libertarian, and most definitely NOT a Republican.  What I saw and overheard in the crowd somehow strengthened my sense of atheism.  That second one was odd for me, considering the God-centered message I knew about going in.  Perhaps part of me was hoping that I would have some sort of religious experience to restore my once-held belief.  Though I walked out without regaining belief in a divine creator, the event did restore faith within me; not in an unprovable unseen force, but in people and what may be possible when the right kind of leader appears. I am happy with that. 

Note: To see my pictures from the day go HERE

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Restoring Honor Rally 8.28.10: Part 1, The Journey

From the moment I first learned about the Restoring Honor Rally organized by Glenn Beck for August 28th, I wanted to attend.  Over time, the want turned into a visceral need to be there.  Was it just that I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself?  Something that mattered?  Honestly,  I have no idea. I knew it was going to be about honoring heroes.  I knew it was going to be about challenging all of us to be more honorable in our own lives.  Also, it was going to be heavily about God.  As an atheist, one would think that I should avoid it then.  But no, I was compelled regardless. My gut was nagging me to go and for once, I didn't fight, but just went with it. It was after all, an adventure!

The logistics to make it happen on my own seemed insurmountable. I put out an open request for a road trip partner on Facebook hoping that someone may be up for an adventure. Ultimately I had a conversation with one acquaintance who expressed some possible interest, but ultimately there were no takers. As time passed and the date of the event loomed ever closer, I became resigned to not going.  It just didn't seem possible. 

Then, two weeks before the rally, Glenn posted a Restoring Honor update on Facebook with a link to a map of places that still had room on their buses.  Much to my surprise there was a bus only half an hour away from my home. Immediately, I sent an email to the listed contact  As I waited for a reply I was most concerned that the trip would not work for e scheduling wise. I needed to find a way to depart on Friday and return on Sunday. But who would plan that kind of a whirlwind excursion?  In a few short minutes I had learned that the details of the trip were exactly as I needed them to be, but she had already filled three buses and I could only be put on a waiting list for a fourth bus if I provided my contact information. However, she wouldn't book the bus until she had 55 confirmed attendees.  Days seemed to drag as I awaited word and then finally I received an email that I was on my way to Washington DC!  You would have thought I had won the lottery rather than a seat on a bus.

My excitement at being able to really be on the Mall at Washington DC grew exponentially. I started telling everyone who would listen all about the rally and that I was going to be there.  My conservative friends were excited for me and my liberal friends were at least cordial. A lot of people just didn't know it was happening and heard about it for the first time from me. Unsurprisingly, the event was not being covered by mainstream liberal media outlets. I was happy to be the informant.

It was a bit odd, but not uncomfortable getting on an excursion bus with complete strangers.  But, I struck up conversations here and there.  Most of my bus-mates were senior citizens but there were a few younger people and even a few children in the group. Everyone seemed to pretty much keep to the folks they knew, however conversations about politics did arise and it was nice to hear agreement rather than debate for a change.  The ride itself was long and uncomfortable and for the most part, there were only sporadic complaints. I was fortunate because one person who was supposed to be on our bus made a mistake and wound up on a different one, so I had two seats for the 19 hour ride which included three other pick-up stops in various suburbs prior to really being on our way. 

I spent my time reading, which is challenging while riding on a bus. What with all the vibrations, extraneous conversations and overhead music or movie, concentration took effort. I had brought A Patriot's History of the United States with me. It is a 900 page book of which I got through the first 60 pages or so in small increments. Concentration became easier once I remembered that I had brought earplugs for when I was ready to sleep. They worked great!  And when it was time to sleep, all I needed to do was put down the book and don my nightshade.  

Other than the cramped quarters, the only other thing that bothered me about the trip was that each time we stopped, several people blatantly ignored the time constraints that were communicated before we disembarked. It seemed selfish and inconsiderate that adults would behave this way. Call me crazy, but it also seemed a little hypocritical since we were heading to a rally lauding the virtue of honor.  Perhaps my expectations are too high. 

At around 6AM EDT, we arrived at RFK stadium in Washington DC. We were among some of the first buses there. Four other ladies joined me as we walked to the Metrorail subway stop just a block away. Since they labeled me the leader, I had to tuck in the fact that the subway thing was the scariest part for me.  The rushing and closing doors has been anxiety producing since my first subway experience in NYC when I was a little girl. My concern was unwarranted because, though the crowd was thick and packing in like sardines, everyone was calm, polite and helpful to each other.  My ladies Rose Mary, Charmaine, Pat, Arlene and I were lucky enough to get on the very first train of the morning.  We were all on the same car of the train and it was easy to regroup when we got off at the Smithsonian stop a few minutes later. 

When we came up out of the darkness of the underground rail station, it was brightly overcast. The morning sun had not yet burned off the haze of the earth's slumber.  It took only a few seconds to scan the sky and find the world's largest phallic symbol, fondly known as the Washington Monument and begin walking towards it.  As we moved down Independence Avenue between large neo-Roman buildings marked, Department of Agriculture, we could feel the ever growing buzz of energy from the throngs. After just a few blocks, we were beyond the government buildings and approaching the famous obelisk in earnest.   Walking under the banner of welcome just east of the monument's mound marked my sense of arrival... of having made it. We moved on, walking around and over the mound and then we could see it.  Hundreds... thousands of people of all ages, shapes, sizes, colors, and socioeconomic backgrounds with backpacks, collapsible lawn chairs, and flags converging from North, East, South and West onto the grounds around the reflecting pool between the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial.  The crowd became increasingly dense as we made our way closer to Lincoln.  People were happy, calm and talkative.  Though strangers, we were also friends. This was community as it should be. This was unity; real, loving and tangible. 

... to be continued.