Sunday, October 13, 2013

And Hijinks Ensued OR: Abiail's Tail From the Trail

Not working from notes today, and nothing profound is on my mind, so just a few observations. It has been a few weeks since Abigail and I walked our trail. This summer was hot, so days that we could leave early enough for the four milers not to be dangerous for one or both of us were limited. But I've missed it much. For some years I didn't have a car, so I would ride the bus to work and my husband would pick me up. Sometimes I would have him bring Abigail with him to pick me up, and she and I would walk home. But in August I bought an old, beat up car from a friend's daughter, and now I drive back and forth, taking that walk home option out of our life equation. I've also taken a second job in the evenings, so coming home to take a walk is also not an option. I know Abigail enjoyed this walk, but I know she can't know how precious this chance to do our little four miles today is.

I've observed before that when walking, other walkers; especially with dogs, are the friendliest, then come joggers, and the least pleasant of all tend to be bike riders. Today it was different for some reason-the joggers were the least pleasant. The particular trail that we walk most often has many bikers and bike clubs that ride, so they are used to seeing lots of walkers with and without dogs, and they are very good at announcing themselves and greeting us. But why were the joggers less friendly today? Not only did most of them not respond to greetings, they didn't even give an acknowledging nod. Was it the cloud cover? We certainly know that there is a level of joy in life that is attached to sunshine. And this week studies were published which also showed that getting "outside, in nature" also adds to happiness and positive outlooks. Could they have just been in a hurry to get their exercise in because of rain in the forecast? Who knows. I will continue to smile and greet. If the folks I pass on the way do not, that's about them. Innit?

I was pretty proud of myself before this walk. I remembered to take water for Abigail to drink afterward, which I forgot last time. I remembered a towel for my face. It has been a very long time since it was just Abigail and me, but our friend who often goes with us is out of town. So I could have listened to my music, which I just yesterday put back on my devices after having my hard drive wiped this summer and losing all the CD's I had recorded. But I forgot my earbuds, and an iPhone doesn't play music well without them. So, no music. I also didn't realize that my app for measuring the walks wasn't working-or I hadn't known to turn it back on after downloading the new operating system for my phone. It may not seem like a big deal, but that little voice telling me how far I've walked and what a good job I'm doing is helpful and motivating. I got it figured out when we got to Benbrook Dam, which is the halfway point. So it worked going back, and I kept a good pace-16.5 minutes per mile. I used to think that it was the music that kept my pace quick, but that's pretty good for an old fat woman!

I did see some things on this walk that were a little different; I saw a guy walking a Papillion.  Most people who have Papillions think of them as sweet little lap dogs, but this little girl's dad said that she is pretty athletic. I also saw Carole King and Richard Belzer look alikes. I found myself looking at the Richard Belzer guy, who came along shortly after Carole King, and wondering how that could happen so close together. Doppelgangers. Gotta love em. Considering that there are look alikes wherever groups of people gather, I think it comes down to having only a certain number of face and eye/nose/lip shapes, which reminds me that we are all related as humans, so we probably are seeing our distant relatives in all those look alike faces.

I also noticed once again that it is not dog smells that Abigail wants to scent roll in, it's in the scent of prey animals such as squirrels. Did human hunters get this idea from dogs; the way they rub "essence of female deer" on themselves to attract deer when they are hunting, and to hide the human scent? Maybe not, but I choose to believe that people have learned something from our best friends.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Great "Why," According to Me

Yah, I picked a rather arrogant title, because the truth is that I haven't a clue why. And I'm daily given to the despairing thought that sometimes it doesn't help to worry about it, or try to change things. But autumn is a time for reflection, and I, as usual, have some questions:

Why on earth is the inside of my dishwasher dirty and stained? Especially the door, which doesn't hold anything dirty, and is daily splashed with water and soap.

Why are there times when I am full and hungry at the same time? Does anyone else experience this? I'm not talking one of those bored times when I just want to eat to have something to do, I'm talking about a physical feeling of hunger when I've eaten and feel full. It's just weird to me, and I'd like to know why?

Why do people so often feel it necessary to spell out simple, frequently used words to people on the phone? Do most people not ask when there is a word they don't know how to spell? Maybe it's just me, but sometimes I feel offended when people offer to spell words for me when I haven't asked; why would they assume I don't know? 

Why do Americans seem to be incapable of reflection?  From the visceral reaction to Vladimir Putin's op-ed, to how insurance works, to the fact that stereotypes and anecdotes are not unimpeachable truth, why can't we apply reason and balance to the questions of life and reach reasonable and balanced solutions?

Why do folks continually say that they are not "defined" by this or that very large aspect of who they are? "My job does not define me." "My sexuality does not define me." "My childhood; body weight; height...whatever does not define me." Well, maybe whatever that is does not define you all by itself, but it most certainly does incorporate into the definition of who you are. And if it is what you are talking about, and then ending a tirade by claiming that "it" does not define you, then it probably is more important in the defining of you than you would like to admit. Being short, fat, the oldest of five, Leo, the first grandchild on my dad's side, the child of very young parents who married as teens, etc, etc, etc, defines me. I'm not defensive about any of it because it is all a part of who I undeniably am, whether I like it or not. This is also true of you. Why can't we embrace that instead of fighting it? And by the way, I like who you are, and what defines you.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Meterological Autumn

It's hot here. And not cooling down anytime soon. But tomorrow is "meteorological autumn," and autumn has always been a time of reflection for me. The days are getting shorter-well, the days are still twenty four hours, but the dark is coming faster and staying longer. So maybe it's time to reflect on some things. I'd like to dedicate this post (first time I've done this) to my BFF and my youngest sister. Some of the topics of this one I was feeling extremely passionate about when I started making notes for this post, and they are the two people on earth who are able to logically, lovingly talk me down when I get that way. My husband tends to agree with me, so I may get more wound up when I talk to him about  feelings, but you two show me the error of my ways, and help me to moderate the feelings before I get angry. And I've been both angry and scared recently about several things. Mostly regarding religion, but also about the inevitable march to war we are being pushed into by our political leaders right now.

On the same day that I was held prisoner by a man, and the subject of his religious fervor, I was also brutally forced to experience the very lack of compassion that made me begin to question the religion I was brought up with. There is a minister's wife who has showed a dramatic, extreme lack of compassion for someone who was clearly sick, and suffering terribly, and it made me hurt for the sufferer. Why was I, the atheist, able to feel for her, when this woman, whose guiding book tells her that "if I have not love, my faith is nothing but noise." (Paraphrased from Corinthians,) and "God is Love?" At the end of the week in which I had, not one, but two incidences with this woman, my sister and I talked on the phone at length about these incidents and my feelings about them. In my opinion, not loving one's fellow man is a choice. Any of us can learn empathy, if we have the motivation, which Christians allegedly have by the presence of Jesus in their hearts, and the Holy Spirit's presence inside them from the moment of faith forward. My sister reminded me of the Eastern religious point of view that we all have both dark and light within us, and that is the right way of the world. I mentioned that Paul, in the Book of Romans, wrote that we all struggle against a sinful nature, and that we can't always win, but becoming loving like Jesus is the goal that all believers have. This, I told her, is used as an excuse by many believers to make choices that they know their god would disapprove of, and they claim it is all okay because they are forgiven. I stand by that opinion. I've heard it used too often to excuse behavior that is hateful and wrong. But did I know, in this particular case, she asked me, did I have any knowledge of this woman's journey with the type of suffering that we had experienced this week? Perhaps she had a relative with the same problem who drained her family of resources and she was bitter about that, and emotionally unable to feel compassion in these cases. Perhaps she just had no knowledge of mental illness and didn't know how to spot it. She is a medical professional, so that would be inexcusable, but it is possible, I guess. Either way, my allowing this to mess with my energy was not helpful or healthy because her behavior is about her, and I was taking it on. But these whole events reminded me that compassion and love for our fellow man is not a religious thing, it is a human thing. Some people have it and some don't, and it isn't a matter of anyone's religion.

This season of reflection, and my "advancing years" has also lead me to regret the things we criticized in older people when we were kids. For example, we used to notice that many older women couldn't seem to put lipstick on anymore. It would often appear to be all over the place! Now, I, admittedly, have never had those lovely, desirable, pouty lips. So trying to shape a "pretty mouth" has always been a goal. But now, when I use a pencil to line my mouth, and then put on some color or gloss, it looks great for about five minutes, and then the pencil is faded and spotted in the lines around my lips. And the thinning lips as gravity inevitably pulls everything downward, never look as if I have any idea where my lips are...I can't see as well, so apparently what I, and all the old ladies of my childhood, were doing is trying to use the memory of where our lips used to be to put on lipstick. And they just aren't there. Now I know how wrong I was all those years. And I wish I could teach the young people in my life, when they make sarcastic remarks about old women and lipstick, that they too will have thin lips, and lines, and their lipstick just won't work the same way it once did. Sigh.

Mars is cold. There is some gathering evidence that there was water there, and perhaps even rudimentary forms of life, though we don't know that for sure yet. And my feelings about climate change and trashing our earth are clearly back and forth. But I do read the studies that say the last three-hundred plus years have been getting progressively hotter, and the people who deny climate change tend to look at very short term events, such as an unseasonal cold snap. I also know that in geological terms, less than four-hundred years is less than a blink. I've heard scientists talk about the "super volcanoes," and their historical regularity of eruption, and they're all late, so we'd better be ready. But what if all the volcanism and meteor battering that lead to historical extinctions and other climate shifts on earth were all just part of early earth, and all the energy that was spat forth from the Big Bang, and it is all slowing now? What if we are on an inevitable march toward becoming Mars? Just a couple of active volcanoes, but not enough of anything to make the changes that would lead to another ice age, or to the actual conversion of dead animals to oil again? See, I've been thinking for a time that the "super volcano" would take care of all the plastic in our landfills, and all over the planet. But now I'm not so certain. Just after the theories of the Yellowstone volcano being overdue to erupt, another story came out that postulated that geysers may be releasing the pressure that would cause the volcano to erupt. So maybe we are just a dying planet that will one day be dead, cold and just orbiting around our star, waiting for that star to die and take us completely with it?

I mentioned earlier our current march to war with Syria. Let there be no mistake, the sight of dead children is horrifying to me. It makes me question that our better angels will ever win the battle with our lack of compassion and understanding for anyone who is different than we are. But there is no excuse to cause that much suffering. Ever. But many bad things were done to the colonists by the empire at the beginning of this country, and we had to rise up and drive them out. Ourselves, no one else. We now have the capacity to wage war in which no one gets hurt? Yah, right! How many children will be collateral damage in our "targeted strikes," as they have been with our "surgical drone strikes" against "enemy targets?" How cynical can our government leaders be as they make impassioned speeches regarding the moral obligation of the United States to "punish" Syria for this abomination of power? Really? We have the moral authority to do this? The obligation to teach the Syrian president a lesson? No. We don't. We lack the moral integrity to teach anyone a lesson. We've been fighting a war in Afghanistan for almost eleven years, even though the enemy we were supposedly fighting there was defeated a year or two after we went in. So, who've we been shooting at? It must be non-combatants, which makes our moral stance ridiculous. So what do we do? Do we arm the opposition? How many times has the U.S. done that and lived to regret it? Saddam Hussein? Osama bin Laden? They were both fighting our previous 'enemies' and we armed them, only to have them rise up to fight us. There is no positive historical reason to do this. Not one. None!!! And we say that "regime change" is not the goal? So we're going to spend days and days warning President Assad that we're going to drop some bombs to punish him, and we're going to then drop a couple of bombs and he's going to learn his lesson and never commit war crimes again? Please!!! If we do that, he's going to kill more of his own people. In fact, let's watch, he may do it again just to let us know he's not afraid of our bombs. And who made us "parent" to all the naughty children in the world? Now we've warned the currently acting out child that he's going to be punished for long enough that he's had time to stuff tissue in his pants, so the belt is not going to hurt him at all, but he will become more obstinate.

On a lighter note, I have been preaching for years against our fear of germs. And there was a recent study that showed people who own dogs get sick less-even if they are outside dogs. Apparently exposure to germs helps our bodies to fight them better. So, this Labor Day weekend, I heartily recommend that we all go out and hug a working person. Or shake hands with a working person. We have lost our appreciation in this country for people who actually work for a living, while we lionize the people for whom these people make fortunes that they don't share with their workers. This is backward in my opinion, but that is not what I'm discussing here. I'm just suggesting that we hug and shake hands more, not less. It's good for our psyches, and good for our bodies. Not to mention what all those appreciative hugs and handshakes will do for the recipients.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Life Is Caffeinated (Part Two of Two)

1. Now for the political part of this week's blog. I've noticed that we have an incredible, overwhelming obsession with sex. I'm going to call it "obsexing." All movement from the right seems to have some connection with trying to prevent people, especially women, from having it. New York City mayoral candidate, Anthony Weiner,  can't stop "sexting," no matter what it costs him, and his poor wife and son. The mayor of San Diego can't stop himself from making inappropriate remarks, and touching women inappropriately. It is just wonder our legislatures can't get anything done. They can't get sex off their minds. Is it like this everywhere?

2. I do stand against all the government spying on Americans. Not as much as I stand against our drone program, but I don't like the idea of the government spying on us. But can you imagine how much sarcasm, loathing, bitching...whatever word you like, would be poured out against the president if we had another 911 on this president's watch. Not only because of the hand wringing over the fact that the black man won, but the stupid saw that democrats are always soft on national defense and/or crime?

3. Reince Priebus is a coward. Yes, I know that's not a question, but hear me out. There were 976 republican presidential debates in 2012, and then 3 or 4 debates between the president and Mitt Romney. They were horrible for the republicans. It was very sad, and demolished any chance the republicans had of winning back the White House. The republicans did absolutely nothing but show how little they had to offer the American people, how stupid their ideas (or lack of them) were. This is the reason that the head of the Republican National Committee is working so hard to find an excuse in 2013 not to have his candidates debate on NBC or CNN. It has absolutely nothing to do with the possibility of TV movies being made about Hilary Clinton. No one is silly enough to think that a movie made now is going to be remembered in 3 years, when it would matter. And these debates, and the networks that produce them have quite a bit of power over the elections. Proof of that is the fact that the networks prevent certain people from being included in their debates, and those candidates seem to have little impact on the actual votes. Reince...if you're worried about your candidates being overshadowed by anything, worry about it being overshadowing by their own stupid remarks. Find candidates who are electable, and lets have a real race. Give us some ideas that don't include exclusion or the denying of rights to large swaths of the electorate, such as women, gays and people of color. If your party continues down the road it is on, debates and TV movies are the least of your worries, Sir.

4. There has been a great deal of violence, now and historically against non-violent protesters. I remember my grandmother hatefully blaming Martin Luther King for the violence that rose up around the protests he orchestrated for equal rights. And it occurs to me now that the problem is guilt toward non-violence, as much as fear of the rightness of their movement, though there is some of that as well. But peaceful protests make the angry and hateful feel guilty and do stupid things. Because after all, using violence against peaceful protests makes the side in power look even worse.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

For Every Seven Days That Pass, A Week is Gone

I've been gone for a couple of weeks, mourning that I now feel older than I did three weeks ago, and my list of questions just keeps getting longer. As we've aged, many of my friends and I talk about how quickly time passes and how little sense it makes. The thing is, time passes one day at a time. So how we fill any specific day is the only thing that determines whether time passing is a good or bad thing. I hope that the things which make us happy are short term memories and not only things from our distant past. And remember to question everything-most of what we see is not what it seems. So, here goes....

1. There is a commercial for my favorite retailer to bitch about in which the hawker has tables of delicious summer fruits, all sliced for a group of "man on the street" taste tests. At the end he reveals to these unsuspecting taste testers that all the produce comes from WalMart. There is one customer who registers great surprise on his face. BEFORE THE HAWKER FINISHES SAYING HIS PIECE! One of the rules I was taught as a young drama student doing plays was, "Never answer the phone before it rings."

2. A friend needed to borrow some syrup recently. When she came to get it, I had an unopened bottle of dark corn syrup that I was going to offer her. As we stood talking, I noticed that the bottle has a disclaimer on it that says, "No high fructose corn syrup." I still can't wrap my head around that one. Corn syrup contains no high fructose corn syrup? Somebody help me-this makes my head hurt.

3. Many people are asking why we no longer talk to each other, but use texting and social media for all of our conversations. Has anyone else observed the reason for that? I've made a couple of actual calls on my mobile phone this week, once in the car and once in a public place, and it is almost impossible to hear on it. My hearing is not bad, so it's not being old and "deef" as some in the south call it. You just can't hear on these things. So text me if you really want to talk. Or send me a tweet or FB message. Because your call is very important to me. :-) I want to savor every word.

4. There is a television program on about lawyers. While that's nothing new, this particular one, called "Suits" is particularly bad. In that it takes every single negative stereotype about lawyers and multiplies them exponentially. Ugly stereotypes about lawyers are not new. Many years ago I read a book of Celtic folk tales, and one of those even made fun of the low morals and questionable honesty of barristers, so this is not new. But "Suits" takes it to such an extreme that I keep asking, why hasn't some lawyer sued?

5. This is not really a question, but a form of journaling a great fear of mine. All my shrinks have said that if one does not journal, it's hard to get feelings under control, and fear is one of the feelings I want to control more than any other...well, except regret. Anyway, historians, pundits, philosophers and analysts tell us that there are cycles in the story of human civilizations. There will be a moderate cycle, that leads to a libertine cycle, and then back to a very conservative cycle. We are probably in the moderate cycle right now, but moving toward the libertine, and I'm afraid. You see, I remember the 80s. I remember the Reagan years. In fact, I voted for Ronald Reagan for president. Please, stifle your gasps, my liberal friends. I was misguided, but found the light, during those self-same days. During the Reagan administration I began to see that "trickle down economics" don't, and the explosion of homelessness made me very sad in that terrible decade. Then let's think about the belligerence of the administration, and its secrecy. But these are not the source of my fear. My fear is going back to that horrible conservatism as a backlash to the current popularity of...TWERKING!!!! For any who don't know, twerking is a dance move, not terribly new, but becoming ubiquitous, with excessively sexual movements, holding most of the body motionless, bent at the knee, legs apart, quickly, repeatedly moving the hips back and forward. (I didn't do that description justice, I'm sure.)  Now there are YouTube videos showing many people twerking their dogs...this has got to stop. Kids, you don't want to take us back to the 80s, do you? My dad already complains that the dancing on "Dancing With the Stars" is too overtly sexual. If he ever sees twerking I hope Mom has a home defibrillator handy. Please, young people, can we stop this before it's too late?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Yaaaaawwwwwnnnn, and a BIG Happy Birthday to Me

It's very hard to get older. This coming Thursday I'll be closer to sixty than I am to fifty, and the number sounds a little horrifying. But when joking about such things at work the other day, I commented to some work buds that you either get older or you die. So here we go. It's funny that as I get older, I find more things to ponder and fewer answers. Is this what finally gives us wisdom; that we realize just how few answers there really are in life?

Can anyone tell me how it is that books are now used as decor and not as objects that confer wisdom, joy, fantasy? In magazines and DIY (do it yourself) programs, books are not on shelves to be picked through by families eager to learn something new or escape a hard reality, but to accent one's shelves and knick knacks.

Speaking of DIY, my husband is a fan of the programs in which families get new kitchens or yards or rooms in a weekend, provided by extremely attractive young contractors (yes, all of the contractors are hotties.) But when he watches the ones about guys who restore autos, or "pick" junk yards, why patience wears thin. Very, very thin, over the unnatural remarks made as the stars break the fourth wall and address the camera. They come across as stilted, and just annoy the hell out of me. "But," you say, "they are real people, not actors." Okay-then why do they sound so scripted? If they are real people talking about their passion, let them talk about it in ways that don't come across so poorly. It reminds me of an episode of the 1960s TV series "Gomer Pyle" in which Gomer is gong to sing in a talent show, and Sarge tried to teach him how to use his hands as he sang. Gomer tried and tried to do as Sarge said, but it was just phony. So Gomer sang as he sang, and it worked. Hoodathunk?

I keep seeing commercials about a dating site for Christians. They promise to help members "Find God's Match for You." Does God need that these days? Is that the best "He" can do to get couples together? Really?

We saw another commercial yesterday that started a conversation between us, for one of those "Feed the Children" charities to feed children in LDC's (Less Developed Countries.) My husband commented that we really need to focus efforts on feeding children and getting medical care to children in this country. I had to respond, "Yes, but in America there is no poverty except among the shiftless, lazy folks who want to live off the government teat." I was joking. Or was I?

In the two weeks since George Zimmerman was acquitted of the murder of Trayvon Martin there has been much talk, almost daily, regarding racism in America. There are many on "the right" who say that racism is over, and black people need to stop talking about it, that all this talk about racism is stirring up negative feelings, and creating problems where there are none. They accuse blacks of instigating a "culture of victimhood," and blaming whites for everything that is wrong in their lives. Please don't misunderstand me, I have seen some blacks "play the race card" in ways that are clearly wrong and manipulative, and those folks do diminish real stories of true racism. But, it's odd to me...there are black conservatives, and I haven't heard one of them, not one, speaking out in agreement with their white compatriots who say racism is over. Not one. Is it because they too have been followed in department stores? Is it because they too have been stopped for "DWB" (driving while black) by both white and black police officers?  I remember my maternal grandmother blaming Martin Luther King for the violence that sprung up around his marches, even though the violence was committed by the whites against the marchers, who were both black and white. The remarks coming from whites in this current tirade sound like the same old stuff, same song, gazzilionth verse. While I essentially agree with Bill Maher that the racism that exists today must die out, there is no way to change the minds of people who hold on to these ignorant, arcane beliefs about racial superiority, we must look at all the subtle ways that racism is expressed by people who do not see themselves as racists. I have a friend who, when she has a problem with the behavior of a white person, it is a problem with that person. But when she had a bad boss who happened to be black, she assigned blame on that boss being "one of "those kind" of black women." This friend insists that there is no racism because she grew up with a black family that were good friends to her family. I have a serious problem with my friend, and my country's dishonesty and denial about the divisions between the races here. How can we fix a problem we deny the existence of?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Notion of Clarity is Unclear

I haven't hidden from my support for workers, here or anywhere else, or my distaste for Walmart. So I was kind of happy when I heard some news recently saying that Walmart had decided not to build a store in a city where there might be a minimum wage hike. This made me very happy, and caused me to ask, could this be a return for "Mom and Pop?" So many small businesses have disappeared due to the super low prices Walmart can charge, at the expense of the taxpayers, the workers, and those small businesses. Wouldn't it be nice?

In my house the TV is seldom off. And I've noticed a couple of small, nitpicky things about people I see on some of the programs that are on. There are some "reality" programs about pawn shops, and I've noticed that these programs really cater to some pretty awful stereotypes about both the customers and the staffs. For example, one of them takes place in Chicago, and one of the brothers who run it gets tips on the horses from a guy who is probably "mob  connected." On another there is a Jewish family, father son and daughter, who make sibling conflict look like warfare, and their customers, who are mostly black, look like a bunch of crack heads and reinforce every possible scary stereotype about black males. I just can't help thinking that these programs are not healthy for viewers. Not that I would cancel them; I don't want a "nanny state..." just sayin. Also unhealthy, the way somebody out there makes absolutely every female character walk-hips moving so widely from side to side that I keep thinking it would throw my back completely out. Why is that?

Is anyone else as tired as I am of the phrase, "A bridge too far?" It is so completely overused that it no longer holds any meaning.

We've had a nice period in my part of Texas with some slightly cooler than normal temperatures, and some glorious, sublime rain. When it rains here, there are spots with no grass where the dirt runs inexorably to the low spots on the sidewalk and creates major mud puddles. This also happens where the grass is "edged." This also happens in private homes where grass is "edged." It leads to soil erosion. This is not a good thing. Not a question, just an observation.

I love my friends. I have some awesome girlfriends who have been part of my life for longer than any of us care to admit. Sometimes we go places that bring us home late. At least three times I have arrived home late, only to find that my husband has gone to bed and locked the invisible lock. Is it passive aggression, not wanting me going out with the girls that causes him to do that? Is it just an oversight? How do I approach him with these questions?

Drones are in the news regularly today. Most Americans love drones because they can kill "bad guys" or "terrorists" without putting our young men and women in harms way. We, including me, don't want our children going to war and be killed. I would only ask if our babies are the only ones that matter. Drones are not exactly laser surgery, and there is almost always some of that loathsome to me term, "collateral damage," which includes children. Can anyone who values babies and children continue to see this as okay?

In listening to all the talk about the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the murder of Trayvon Martin, it occurred to me why the witnesses for the defense were more convincing than the witnesses for the prosecution: clarity. While I'm operating on an assumption here, the division between the factions over Zimmerman's guilt or innocence has led to a conversation that is predictably ideological-the right being more convinced that Zimmerman feared for his life, the left believing that his reaction was based on racism/racial profiling, and that his life was never in danger. I don't want to get into Zimmerman's guilt or innocence, or into the racial questions it is bringing to the front, which is likely a very good thing. The 911 tape is where the prosecution broke down, and this is where right/left, science/anti-science intellectual argument divides. On the 911 tape, there was someone screaming for help. Some people say it was Trayvon Martin, some say it was Zimmerman. Where one falls on that question determines how one feels about the verdict. When Trayvon Martin's family was asked to testify as to whether those screams came from their son, they said they believed it was Martin. When pushed, they wavered, and said they couldn't be absolutely sure. But the defense paraded witness after witness who said that they were absolutely positive that the screams were coming from Zimmerman. They could not be moved from their positions, however pushed. This made me think of all the political and science conversations I've had with religious or political conservatives, and the problem is the same. If I watch programming on, say, The Science Channel, the hosts, who are usually scientists, often ask a question to which the answer is, "We don't know." Or "we don't know yet." On the other side, the answer is always clear; "God did it." This clarity prevents questioning anything, or seeing the need for questioning things. Not needing to question, believing that the problem is solved, can be very comforting. But it can also lead to narrow mindedness, and taking positions that have been proved wrong by those who continue to question. In the case of this particular murder trial, clarity may have prevented justice for an unarmed teenager. And the clarity of these witnesses may have been influenced by what they already believed, which is that a black teenager in a hoodie is probably up to no good. I hope the jury wasn't wrong, but it really doesn't matter now-Zimmerman was found innocent by a jury of his peers, and in our legal system, that means he is innocent. It's too late for questions now, but again, I am glad that this verdict is leading to a conversation about race in America. It has become too easy to rest in complacency and assume that the U.S. has got rid of the "race problem." I have absolute clarity that this is not true.