Sunday, May 29, 2011

Yes-there will always be more questions!

1. Is it just me, or does anyone else think it's silly that in weight loss product commercials, the "before" photo is always wearing the same red bikini? If I lost that much weight by popping one of those pills or drinking one of those teas, I'd be wearing the red bikini in the after picture, but a one piece skirt before!

2. Speaking of commercials-does anyone really believe that if you don't call in the "next fifteen minutes," you won't get the great deal? Or why the "shipping and processing fee" is more than the product would be worth if one bought it retail?

3. Why is iced coffee so hard to make at home? Not that it can't be done, but it just doesn't come close to Thai Iced Coffee from a coffee shop.

4. When people consistently claim to wish political candidates would "focus on the issues," why do so many vote on anything but? It always seems that red-herrings, lies and high drama fuel elections.

5. Eric Rudolph, Fred Phelps, Ralph Ovadal, Ralph Reed, Scott Walker, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Darrell Issa, ...I know that there are women  involved in the anti-choice movement. But the ones who are most strident or who become violent are white men. The statistics that I read say that most Americans are pro choice, but anti abortion. I've been told that the two positions are mutually exclusive, but I disagree. It is possible to be against abortion, but to realize that the real choice belongs to individuals, not to the government. Is it possible (playing devil's advocate here) that this is the result of the women's movement, and white men not understanding their place in the new world? The old jokes had to do with keeping women in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant. Now a woman can use birth control, and go to work and by her own shoes. Many have decided to be single parents, and DO include the child's father in the child's life. But some people just can't adjust to a changing world and changing roles. So they become frustrated, and eventually snap into violence-if a woman can have an abortion, he can't keep her "barefoot and pregnant." Reproductive choice is the minimum of a woman's right to determine her own destiny. This is why educated women in third world countries, who have access to birth control, have fewer children. Historically, women were forced into marriages for the economic strength of their parents, and if they didn't produce male children, they could be discarded by their husband. Women had no rights, and whom to marry and having children were among the major things proving the second class status of women. Yes, I know this is an emotionally charged issue, and there has been little movement in changing some minds since Roe v Wade. But the fact is, it has been law for over thirty years. Our current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court says he will not violate legal precedent. It is time that we all move on. Yes, there are still people who think the country screwed up when it was decided that schools should be integrated, but for the most part, we have moved on. It's time to do that here. It is almost a full generation that have had the right for a safe, medical abortion. Let the next generation wonder why the bombers and shooters who plot to murder physicians and medical providers were not classified as the domestic terrorists that they are. If we do hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are, indeed, created equal. Lets stop the several states that have decided to make it harder for a woman to make her own choice regarding this basic right from taking it out of the hands of women and their doctors and placing it in the hands of a bunch of middle-aged white guys who needs to acknowledge that women are people too.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Some More Questions, and MAYBE An Answer

If you don't have to weigh it, how do you know it's under 70 pounds?

I was at WalMart waiting for a prescription a few weeks ago, and noticed a sign on the wall. The sign said, "We are required by law to ask for identification when dispensing any controlled substance. We apologize for any inconvenience." Now, shopping at WalMart is, in every instance, a soul-crushing experience. The store is always hot, looking for a decent bunch of bananas is an adventure not unlike an Amazon River safari, the ratio of cashiers to customers is 1 to 473, and the pharmacy has a sign up apologizing for "inconveniencing" customers to show ID when taking home prescriptions of a controlled substance? Why?

Why is it that when walking on a trail, walkers are the friendliest, runners come in a distant second, and the least likely to be friendly to others on the trail are people on bicycles? 

Why does a smoothie from McDonald's have 54 grams of sugar? I thought I was doing the "healthier" thing by grabbing a smoothie made with yogurt and fruit. Should I just get an Egg McMuffin and be done with it when I run late and need to grab a bite for breakfast?

One of the best selling books of all times is "What to Expect When You're Expecting," and the series of parental guides it spawned. People who have children try to learn something about parenting; why don't people who have dogs? Dogs are our best friends-truly. But they are also descended from animals that can do great harm, and some bite. We have a neighbor whose dogs are so aggressive that last Sunday as I walked my dog past his window, his dogs were trying so hard to get through the glass to get my dog that the next sound I heard was glass shattering. There was a beautiful dog on the trail last week; possibly a St. Bernard mix. The gentleman owned by the dog was taking a breather on a bench, and as we approached, his dog began to lunge and bark ferociously. He told me that the dog was not dog-friendly; I just walked by and said, "Shame" If we will have our best friends around other best friends, they should be socialized. It's not hard in most cases, some breeds take a little more work. But it matters. 

I've asked this before, but why do conservatives believe there is only one amendment to the constitution, and it is the second amendment? I'm asking again because of a case in Florida that was discussed this week amongst some friends regarding a new law prohibiting pediatricians from discussing child-proofing guns in the home with the parents of their patients. While some agreed that the new law was problematic because of the first amendment, which says the government can't tell anyone what they can or can't say, they also said the conversation didn't belong in a doctor's office. Really? Does that apply to advising parents how to child proof their household cleaners with toddlers around? "Who knew my baby could get into the cabinet and drink the Drano?" "How could I know my child knew how to get into my bedside drawer and get my loaded gun?" Some parents are so blissfully ignorant, even the ones who have read the book described above, that the idea of removing a gun from harms way for their toddlers may not ever occur to them. If a child gets hold of a loaded gun and does him or herself some harm, or harms a playmate, that doctor would be called upon to undo the damage-IF the child survives. That negligent parent would then be arrested for child endangerment. What's wrong with preventive care? Aren't we supposed to be FOR trying to use common sense and create healthier lives for ourselves and our children? No one is saying to take the gun out of the home-just child proof the home so children don't have access to loaded guns. I'm pretty sure no one in a red state like Florida would DARE suggest getting rid of the gun altogether.

My dog-loving friends and I have had many conversations about scent-rolling, and some of the noxious smells our dogs come away with. One day I was on the way home with my dog after she had done that, and I thought I was passing an apartment in which someone had died, and it turned out she had scent rolled in something that smelled beyond horrible. I had to wash her three times, with Dawn detergent, to get the smell off. The funny thing was the smug look on her face as she wore the scent, and the extreme sadness on her as I took it away. I used to think it was something about wearing the smells of a higher ranking dog. But this past Sunday, I got another idea. Walking on a trail that we very much enjoy, we came upon the body of a dead squirrel. Her eyes glazed over, literally, and she dropped to the body to roll in it, and I shouted her out of her stupor before she could wear that maggoty smell home in the car with me. But I thought of all the times during the same walk that she saw a live squirrel and she took off like the 'great, white hunter,' to the end of her leash, and then sniffed the ground where the squirrel had been. What I realized was that perhaps her vestigial hunting instinct took over, and she wanted to scent roll in the odor of her prey-as a disguise! If she smelled like a squirrel, perhaps she could sneak up on one without them running up a tree! Human hunters do it all the time-rubbing ointment on their bodies so that they don't scare off deer; did we learn that from dogs 12,000 years ago? I don't know if my new theory is right or not, but I'll still hit the Dawn the next time she comes home smelling like that. 

We Trudge On

I don't guess we can ever know what will happen on a given day to create an attitude of reflection. There were several things for me this week-weather, weddings of the century, conversations with friends, the suicide of a 19 year old second cousin. The thing is, when one is from a background like mine, from birth in a Southern Baptist home, it is hard to let go of the idea of God. Even though I never, ever felt very believing, and it took me years to say the word "atheist" out loud, I still struggle with how to define myself, my values, what I believe in. I always wonder, when my heart breaks for a friend who has suffered a loss, does it seem as valuable to them when I say, "My heart goes out to you," or "My thoughts are with you," as it would if I said, "I'm praying for you?"

There is no question that that my mother's use of God to explain the unexplainable, or shut down conversation about anything bigger, is part of the reason that I continue to struggle. I do believe that simplifying a complicated world is the reason for some to believe that everything on earth can be explained with a simple, "God did it." In conversations about evolution, it is often said by those who don't accept it that "The world couldn't have been created by accident because there is too much order and beauty in the world." There is indeed beauty. But there is also ugly and dangerous, and there is no order. Apart from the simplest level, there is only chaos and suffering. The only order still visible to me is that night follows day; moon cycles are twenty-eight days. Any deeper than that, and the order disappears. There are the seasons, but when was the last time that winter cold was followed by a spring warm up, then summer heat and a fall cool down? That order is gone, and the warmer the climate becomes, the more that order will be lost.

There are genetic diseases which cause great suffering for innocent children, there are complications of aging that make getting older hurt for some people. I'm aware of people only in their 60s and 70s who are bedridden, and have feeding tubes because of diseases of aging.  Believers quote the bible and say that God "visits the sins of the fathers to the seventh generation." What kind of loving god would do such a thing to an innocent baby? Genetic mutations happen, but are almost always harmful to an organism. It is by sheer accident that an organism ever benefits from a mutation, but it happens sometimes, unpredictably, and when it does it may improve the survival chances of that organisms offspring. How can a loving god that planned and created everything explain that away?

So, how is all this connected? I guess the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, and all the hoopla over it in the US started me thinking. Some of my friends wanted to watch the wedding, to see the clothes and the whole fairy tale aspect of the event. I, who have been accused of taking some things too seriously, was angry about the whole thing. First of all, news organizations have been laying people off, they only print stories off the wires, and say they have no money to fund investigative reporters to root out government corruption, but they can send entire staffs to London for a full week to cover the wedding. As if that were not unconscionable enough, there were riots in the streets of Britain just a month or so ago because the economy has hit them so hard that they have enacted "austerity measures," which affect the lower classes of the British public. But the British people paid fifty-million pounds for this lavish wedding? My friends did convince me that it is okay to look at the positive side of the affair and find something happy in it-and there is that. No question, this young couple seems very much in love. But this happy affair is being talked about as the marriage that will save the monarchy. Who benefits from that? They have no political power, and they cost the British taxpayers an obscene amount of money every year. I've read the original versions of the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, and they aren't pretty. Neither is this wedding once you get past the facade.

It doesn't help that on the day of the wedding, I learned of the suicide of the youngest son of my cousin. She and I were born the same year, and during our teen years we had much in common. She'd had a tragic life-her father, my mother's brother, was killed in Viet Nam when we were 6. Her step father died when she was a young adolescent. She descended into drug abuse and promiscuity, and then was 'saved.' Our common religious beliefs at the time made us close, and I never shared with anyone my doubts. She met her first husband at a very famous fundamentalist college in the deep south. They were married a long time, but he was an abuser, and she finally left when he nearly let her die in a suspicious fire in their home. They had six children. The night before the  royal wedding, she found his body. When I called, she was under sedation, understandably. But another family member was able to talk to her, and she said "nothing but God will get me through this." I know all the answers of believers when the great "Why?" is asked. But it seems that instead of getting a mother through such an inestimable tragedy, "He" might have acted to prevent this event from happening to a woman who had devoted her entire life to Him. Maybe this is where I get off track; I think there should be an answer to the great "Why?"

I remember in the mid-1980s, when my professional and social life took me out of the sheltered circle of other white, southern baptist southern conservatives I'd grown up with. I worked with people from other countries, who practiced other religions like the "evil" Catholicism and Islam. And they loved their families, and worked hard to provide decent lives and education for them. I've not seen a single one of those people turn up on the news with bombs strapped to their chests. I became friends with these people, and when I had them to my home for dinner, we talked about religion and politics and movies-almost like "good Christian" people I grew up with. As a result of these relationships, and conversations about religion, I learned how similar our religions were, and I began to question the notion that there is only one right and true religion. And one night, I was at my youngest sister's home, and sharing all these new feelings I began to just sob because, "...if anything we were ever taught was true, "I'm going to hell now."

From there my evolution became complete to atheism, as I observed more and more of the behaviors described above, and studied to a degree with a minor in biology. Some in my family have never heard me say the "A-word;" some have, and one of them sent me an email this week saying, "I don't mean to be on a soapbox here, but don't give up on God, he hasn't given up on you." Now, I know that this person loves me, and that she is doing what she believes her "job" as a Christian is. But it is also someone who has never once asked me why my journey brought me here. I work hard to respect the views and beliefs of those I know who believe in anything, and it is exhausting and painful at times that I do not receive a modicum of respect in return for my beliefs. On some level, I know why she never asked me. She is a woman in her 60s who has never questioned what she was taught is the true and correct way to believe, she just accepted it. My mother is the same way. She not only never, even now, questions anything she was ever taught, she gets angry when questioned. Normally I would reply to that email  with an unemotional,  "Thank you." This time I didn't respond at all. I was emotionally drained and  honestly didn't know what to say.