Monday, January 16, 2017

Virtual Reality, Adrenaline, and a Day in Sin City

Here I am atop the Stratosphere in beautiful downtown Las Vegas. Just off my left shoulder, if you are unfamiliar with the city, is the Las Vegas White House. See how gold and shiny the building looks in the setting sun. If you happened to have orange hair and observed your reflection in the glass you would almost think you look normal...almost. Architecturally speaking, apart from the gold glass, it’s actually not that interesting of a building. Scan the city. There are so many other properties that someone took some financial risk or added a few extra bucks during the design phase of their construction. The Trump Tower is a simple golden monolith in the vast valley that is Sin City. I guess I should check to see if Trump actually owns this tower or if it’s just a purchased licence to use his name at the top before I speak too harshly. Nah, that would be a waste of my time today and it’s not the point of this post. If you happen to know the truth please speak up.

Let’s get back to the top of the Stratosphere. Do you know you can jump off from way up here? That’s actually why I ventured up to the top to begin this adventure. I wanted to assess exactly how brave I would have to be in order to jump. I’ve heard various things about the plunge. It’s a bungee jump...which would be a terrifying free fall. I’ve also heard it’s a Hollywood stunt using a cable to slow your descent. As it turns’s more like the stunt, and perhaps even less so. The mechanical set up appears to be more akin to a very fast moving elevator. You are attached by body harness to a cable and the cable plays out from a drum (similar to an elevator sheave that a cable wraps around). It still looks like it take major balls to step off the platform, but it’s a fairly controlled descent (not free fall, about 40 mph). So you could close your eyes the entire way down and pretend it’s just a bad dream. At the bottom you unhook from your thin cable elevator. It’s definitely a thrill ride to consider...and I will be returning to Vegas frequently. It’s all about having the nads to step off the platform and into thin air for the first time. When I conquer that fear I’ll be back to take the step. Stay tuned.

Moving on. So after deciding not to jump off the Stratosphere, literally, and not figuratively, after throwing up in my mouth having viewed the gold monolith that symbolizes our next four years, and seeing that I was still hours away from my midnight departure on the red-eye back to IAD, I decided to go see the Star Wars movie “Rogue One”. Why not? Go to Vegas and see a show...even if this particular show is available everywhere else. Also, the guys with me were unencumbered from the necessity to ask their wives if they could go. So we were all in. We headed down Las Vegas Boulevard to the Town Square where there exists a rather large AMC theater. Showtime was 7:15 pm.

We still had a few minutes to kill, so what better place to spend some geek time then inside the largest electronics store I have ever seen. Fry’s Electronic's sits right there in the Town Square. What an amazing place. It’s like a Best Buy, MicroCenter, and Radio Shack, all packed under one huge roof.  It would take days to explore everything, but we only had 30 minutes. How do you decide? Drones, 3D Printers, or Oculus Rift. Those were the three things I thought would be perfect to check out. I also knew I wasn’t going to take anything back on the plane so chances of me buying something large and expensive was remote. Turns out Fry’s doesn’t carry Oculus Rift. Instead they carry the HTC VIVE - Virtual Reality System. This is a must buy. After donning the headset the salesman handed me the two largest weapons I have ever held, of course I was already viewing them through the headset. And as I took a step back, and lifted up my head I was standing in the middle of the Star Trek Holodeck, except completely white like the Matrix, but with the Holodeck grid lines. I had arrived. I was standing in huge white room with large square grids surrounding me...there was no doubt I was there. I heard the salesman tell me to select the option on the menu in front of me by firing at it with one of my huge weapons. I did. Immediately the game was on. The holodeck disappeared and I was in a gigantic battle arena. Flying orbs began firing at me. I lifted my weapons and returned fire. I instinctively dodged, ducked, and dodged again as incoming fire rained down.  I was completely immersed and completely fooled into believing I was actually there.  I didn’t feel any waves of motion sickness. I think because I was on my own two feet. Had I been moving around in a vehicle or spacecraft, perhaps, or spinning, things might have been different. When the game ended, I was once again standing in the large white Holodeck, wondering why I already didn’t own one of these amazing systems.  I’m not gamer. Why do I need one? I need one because the virtual reality of doing battle and firing weapons against monsters or flying robots is but a small aspect of VR. I need one because I want to jump off of the Stratosphere without fear that the single carabiner that will attach to my harness has been properly tested. I want one because should I care to climb Mt. Everest this year, I don’t have to foot the bill or spend several years planning and training. I want one because Virtual Reality is teetering on the brink sensory reality. What is sensory reality if not our brain experiencing all the stimulus of the real world in real time. This opens up medical science, an in particular, mental health research.  The bandwidth to fool our eyes, ears, and brain, is already here. Why not use it to stimulate our brain into health rather than by taking drugs or medications.  I want to own the type of band width that can create those types of effects. I’ve already set up my home computer to be VR ready...with Oculus Rift in mind. That was the first step. The jump into full VR is now only $800 dollars away. It would be foolish not to go.

Yet again I digress. Now it’s time to talk about Rogue One. Here is where everything comes together in one big attempted rush at adrenaline. Advanced  weapons, computer generated imagery, fear of high places, and of course, rogue rebels fighting an imperial force bent on taking over the galaxy. Forget, for a moment, the adrenaline rush of explosions, speed, drama, and of course the fear of falling from ridiculously high places, while hanging on by one's fingertips.   It’s funny when you think about it since we love this movie and in general all the movies in the Star Wars franchise.  And we do so for one reason and one reason only (maybe a few more but I’m trying to make a point). Adrenaline aside, we love it because we love the underdog. It’s ironic to think that we, as Americans, believe we are the underdog. We are not. This has been said before, it’s not intellectually insightful. What is more insightful, however, is to really understand who is the underdog. And if they were to watch the movie, whilst out on their date night accompanied by their pet goat, would they naturally sympathize with the Empire and their  Imperial Death Star or the unrelenting, unabashed, rebellion that unfolds throughout Episode IX?  I’m thinking the terrorist see themselves as the rebels in this one.  In fact, with the clear alien invasions we witness in Independence Day, War of the Worlds, Aliens, etc, Star Wars remains the subtle spokesman for armed rebellion worldwide (Avatar being the spectacular spokesman for open rebellion). Success of the franchise appears to be due to a yet heretofore undefined physiological condition I’ll refer to as “Stickin it to the Man Syndrome”. It’s the slogan of choice for the oppressed.  The irony here is that somehow, someway, at some point, the Man in our country began to feel oppressed.  Picture legions of Stormtroopers commiserating together about how poorly they are being treated by the Empire and their deep desire to make change in leadership.   That’s not what’s happening.  Instead, rather, the Stormtroopers have come to believe that they are the rebels, they are the oppressed.  Power to the people.  Stick it to the Man is what they must be thinking. They stuck it to the man for sure. They have failed to recognize that they remain the Empire, they remain the Stormtroopers, they are, in fact, and will continue to remain, the Man.  Electing, Darth Vader, for instance, doesn’t change that fact, nor does it highlight this important reality.  I think ultimately that important message gets lost in the search for adrenaline.  The search for a movie that takes us on that virtual roller coaster of action and emotion.  That is what we are after, not the political commentary, regardless of who is right and who is wrong.

OK, to wrap this up.  My next trip to Vegas I will jump from the Stratosphere.  Rather than proving that I have large huevos, I will, perhaps demonstrate only that I am dumber than a box of rocks. However, I will assess my adrenaline level directly after the plunge. That’s what it’s all about, after all.  Will the adrenaline stay with me?  Can I invoke another surge of adrenaline simply by thinking about the plunge?  Will I have nightmares? Will I want to do it again?  All of this leads to the determination and efficacy of current Virtual Reality systems.  If the VR can lead your brain into releasing vast stores of adrenaline, in the same way jumping off a building, or out of an airplane (to do it right), we have arrived.  This is science.  This is important. This will affect the evolution of the human brain is ways we have yet to conceive. We are not there yet but it’s time to start taking notice. I will do so in the near future with the coming purchase of the HTC VR system.  I can’t wait.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

They Passed the Test

I just read this article by Sean Hughes about the recent solitary shown by these West Point Cadets. He calls it "Fierce Lives Matter". I felt it was worthy of a direct comment which I posted  to the article and now I want to share here on my blog.  Here is the article.

Sean has written an excellent piece, no doubt. He addresses a subject that most shy away from because it’s almost impossible to approach the topic without showing personal bias thus inviting criticism from one corner or another. It takes bravery to do so. Sean is to be applauded and I stand with all the accolades he has received. That said, I guess I’ll throw down from my corner a few comments to be profiled as seen fit…

First, why do we characterize “Black Lives Matter” as a political movement? If the cadets were standing there in solidarity of “Breast Cancer” for instance, would they be receiving the same scrutiny? It’s an awareness issue. Those who turn it political show their prejudice immediately. There is only one side to the issue, thus it is not political. Black lives matter.

Second, to suggest the picture demonstrates in the cadets a lack of judgement equivalent to that of the “idiots” wearing Hawaiian shirts at the football game is a poor characterization of the professionalism of these officers. They are ready to serve our Country. They are not pulling an ill advised prank as underclassmen at some sorority rush, that due to social media has come back to bite them in the ass. They are making a simple statement. They are not stacking tires over a flagpole, exploding low quarter bombs on the quad, or hazing underclassmen…all things that show poor judgement but become learning opportunities at a military school should cadets survive the fall out. This is not a learning opportunity.

Third, I disagree with Sean’s “Don’t tell me I can’t”. As military officers, violating the UCMJ is a criminal offense. Because, there are many things, under the UCMJ, that you simply can’t do…like miss work, disobey an order, fraternize, or speak freely. That, I hope, is not what our new officers are learning at military schools. That said, I don’t believe this to be a Grace Hopper moment either, where one can ask forgiveness rather than get permission because it’s easier. Although it is a bit closer. Sean wisely does not pretend to know what’s in the mind of these women…I would not pretend to venture a guess either. There are 17 minds at work….perhaps all of their reasons are different. What’s not different is this moment of solidarity. A moment in time where they all have put individualism aside and stood together as one. At war, this is the moment of unity that good order and discipline teaches us. This is the band of brothers, and sisters, that Sean and I, or any other warrior would go to war with…this is the foxhole moment. This is what should be taught at military schools. They passed the test.

Fourth, and this one is not directed at Sean, it’s directed at a comment coming from Merrell. Thank you for your service to our country. I’m glad I wasn’t in your unit…

Monday, May 9, 2016

Trump, Calculus, and the Evolution of the Squirrel

I feel bad for the women who asked for her aircraft to return to the gate because she felt sick.  She felt sick because the guy next to her was scribbling math equations that she didn’t understand. Since she didn’t understand what she was observing she immediately characterized it as a threat. She thought he must be a terrorist.  

The man, an economics professor, was simply writing down differential equations. The women has not been identified.  I suspect she will be and I fear that over the next few weeks she will be the exploited party in the punchline of every conversation and comedian’s  joke.  She will be the poster child for Mike Judge’s “Idiocracy”.  That is of course unless Donald Trump and his supporters haven’t already taken that honor.

Even this blog, to some extent, will exploit her unbelievable stupidity, and of course, bad luck. In her defense she is not the only one who would have reacted that  way given the same circumstances.  It’s not her fault.  It’s the fault of 200 Million years of evolution which tells us to be wary of things we do not understand.  We should, in fact, fear them.  We should consider them a threat.  Being leery of the snake in the grass or the color red keeps us safe.   When the hair stands up on the back of our neck it does so for a reason.  We should listen to our instincts and react accordingly.  Don’t get in the elevator is what they teach women to avoid the would be rapist. If you feel something terrible is about to happen trust your instincts.  Our instincts have evolved to the point that we have these visceral feelings, they help us survive. And no I’m not expecting my daughter to get into the elevator.  But I also don’t want her delaying my next flight.

It’s only in the last century that we’ve been flying in airplanes.  Think of how odd that is to our evolution.  Flying in an aircraft you are sealed in an aluminum tube of death traveling at 500 mph 32,000 feet in the air. That’s  not something that we’ve evolved to cope our wits are already seriously confused.  We are in a strange place.  So when something else strange happens it’s perfectly natural for our bodies to react viscerally.  We are swimming in a sea of strange.  The women on the airplane reacted viscerally.  Sadly for her the results have hit the front page although as of this morning her identity seems to have been protected.

I think Sergeant Friday, played by Dan Aykroyd, said it best in the silver screen remake of Dragnet, when he said, “...there are two things that separate us from the animals. One, we use cutlery. Two, we can control our sexual urges”  With those two exceptions, the rest is pure instinct.   How then do we keep from deporting all those we are unfamiliar with?  How then do we keep from building a wall to keep out so  many more?  How do we live on this cosmopolitan planet earth, with the first black US president, and now (God willing) our first female President.  As of two days ago we have witness the election of the Muslim mayor to the city of London England.  How can we live this way with 200 Million years of evolution telling us to kill the next tribe that lives on the other side of the  hill? We need to kill them, before they kill us.  Isn’t that what our bodies are really telling us?  

In my most recent blog I lamented the death of the republican party and placed the blame on the Tea Party republicans and their leader Ted Cruz.  While I’m not ready to  issue a retraction to my lamentations, perhaps I am ready to say that it is time for the republican party to die.  Evolution determines survival, and if the characteristics of the organism inhibit it from surviving, extinction shortly follows and it must exit the gene pool.  When I became an independent during the Bush W administration, I was exiting the gene pool thereby exhibiting my own right to political life  Since the republican party has split three ways all the variants will not survive.  With the Tea Baggers, the Trumpeters, and the RINO all vying for their political lives it’s fitting that they all will not make it.  If I were to guess which party the women on the aircraft was from, of course I’d be stereotyping, she is a Trumpeter.  Only Trumpeters show fear outright.  She demonstrated fear sufficiently public to have an airliner return to it’s gate!  That’s an amazing public exhibition and worthy of a Trump pep rally.  The Tea Baggers might feel the same  fear, I suspect they do since they cling tightly to their guns for phantom reasons.  But instead of quietly signaling the flight attendant to return to the gate, Tea Baggers would argue that had the women had a concealed carry permit she could have handled the issue from her seat.

The question, however, remains. What is to become of the GOP?  Is it dead?  Or will remnants of it evolve into something that can survive the current political climate where a Hillary Clinton can be considered conservative alongside a Bernie Sanders?  But I digress.  What I really want to examine is how to prevent the coming Idiocracy.  Since evolution is in God’s hands we don’t really have too much of a say, or do we?  Does God want the coming Idiocracy?  Or is it possible to beat God at his own evolutionary game?  The answer is simple.  Whereas we might not beat God at evolution, it is possible to pick a path where he favors our survival.  Recall the parable of the sinking ship.  The victim swimming for their life rejecting the three row boats and a helicopter that offered salvation in favor of God’s providence.  God will save me was always the reply.  Of course at the Pearly Gates, the victim began chastising God for not providing His saving hand.  God’s reply, “I sent three row boats and a helicopter”.
Those who believe the Constitution of the United States to be inviolate, fail in their understanding of both this parable and of course the intention of our forefathers to create the Constitution as a living document.  To create a country that could survive the human condition. From the very first days that the America’s became a beacon of freedom around the world, the world has heard the call and immigrated here to live the American dream.  Donald Trump has lived the American dream.  Further, he intends to live out the American promise that anyone can be President.  When Bush W was elected I thought we had already proven that promise but I digress. He will do so, in part, by denying others the right to live the American dream.

If we are to survive as a species we must recognize danger and embrace that which we find different. Perhaps the women on the flight should have asked the man seated next to her what he was doing?  But that will never happen on the flight.  I’ve already given her the out.  By the time that question could have been asked the women was already fraught with worry.  No, the time to embrace our differences is now, not when we are seated next to different. The 200 Million years of evolution cannot be overcome easily when your survival instincts kick in.  Just like the squirrel that has evolved to turn back for the safety of the tree when attacked by car tires, not understanding the threat, or lack of threat,  has resulted in the death of far too many squirrels.  The squirrel is thinking, “Those tires are out to kill me”. Just like the women believed the math equations were out to kill her.   Fortunately God has given us the capacity to think clearly about what is and what is not threat.  A squirrel cannot reason in this way when at a full sprint.  Neither can we.  

What is happening is we are giving into fear.  We are giving into terrorism.  We are letting groups like DAESH win.  We are being terrorized.  Instead of rationally understanding that DAESHoles can be defeated and that immigrants don’t want our jobs. The scared women on the plane is the perfect indicator of what happens when we let irrational fear win.  I suggest whenever we react foolishly to a threat that isn’t real we call it doing the squirrel.  When the car is approaching the squirrel's  heart is pounding like a freight train. The squirrel doesn’t understand the threat. The squirrel dies because fear drove instincts that don’t work on the highway, not because the threat was real.  If you cross the road twice, you have twice the chance of getting stuck by  car tires.  The squirrels that have less of a quick twitch to return to the tree sprint straight ahead.  They have twice the chance of survival on the open road. The squirrels that survive in an urban environment will evolve this characteristic eventually, or they will go extinct..

Trump intends to win the election by hoping we do not evolve.  He want’s to play to our fears.  He knows many will run for the safety of the tree. Today we all live on the open road, not in the woods. Unfortunately since we lived in those  woods, alongside of those same squirrels for 200 Million years,  we all have hard habits to break. Now that we live in traffic it’s time to evolve.   It’s time to recognize our differences and stop being afraid of them. We need to do that now, not when we are seated next to them.  If Trump does get elected on fear, that still doesn’t mean we should move to Canada . Squirrels with the characteristic to run straight need to remain in the gene pool. So do the rest of us. No matter what happens the United States is still a safe final destination to live, work, raise a family, grow old, and live out the American dream, we just have to be a little less fearful of things that are different like someone else's religion, the color of their skin, their gender identity,  or, as it turns out, their math...

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Public Shithead Number One Threw a Tea Party and Was Voted Off the Island

Now that Ted Cruz has left the Presidential race we can look back to the beginning and understand why, as a seemingly extinct species, the death of the RINOs was a highly over rated event.  It appears they are still alive...unfortunately with no real place to go now that John Kasich has also left the race. But they still have plenty of influence. Ted Cruz supporters don’t understand that they are the ones destroying the GOP...or maybe that was their intention. But neither does the half-wit Charles Krauthammer who believes the Trump win in Indiana to be a paradox, rather than what actually occurred. Krauthammer also believes that the conservatives who support Trump’s anti-establishment rhetoric are the same conservatives who should be supporting the anti-establishment rhetoric of the Tea Party. They are not.   In his article, "The GOP's Ideological Earthquake and the Aftermath" Krauthammer incorrectly posits this paradox and completely fails to see that the GOP is actually split three ways. The Teabaggers, the Trumpeters, and the so called RINOs.

Didn’t we see this coming when the Tea Party stood up?  Sure, there were a few moments...I’d say about two full weeks...when a lot of us were on the Tea Party dream machine...then we woke up. Why didn't the rest? When Cruz shutdown the government, with no hint of a compromise in his bones, it was clear he did not stand for the RINOs.  Will Cruz  be praised for destroying the Republican Party?  I hardly think so.  He left, in his wake, the first vestiges of the fall of the greatest country the world has ever known.  Talk of revolution, not just a revolution of ideas such as those coming from Libertarians who love our Country, for instance,  but a revolution of arms.  These conversations were uncomfortably out in the open. Those are the Cruz supporters, not the Trump supporters (with the possible exception of Trump's racist following).  That is why I like to call Cruz Public Shithead Number One. He is the most dangerous man in the Country. The fall of Cruz demonstrates that this Country does not want to go quietly into that good night along side the Tea Party.  He is not the only danger. Trump is Public Shithead Number Two but for different reasons.   Trump, could still lead  to our destruction as a country, just not by our own hand.  The threat under Trump would originate externally through the adoption of destabilizing international policies, for instance. Trump, however, promises not to be that destabilizing influence even though it’s hard to see him giving up on his stated deportation policies and, of course, the building of a wall. Nevertheless, Trump appears to actually love our Country.  Cruz, on the other hand, appears to have nothing but disdain.  

The existential threat to the United States of America, under Cruz, is real. The existential threat to our Country under Trump is also real.  However, a united United States will stand...Trump is appealing to that aspect of his supporters. Cruz is not someone who unites.  He is someone who divides and is thus unfit to lead our  country.  It is for that reason that those in the leadership at the GOP might have decided a contested convention would only work with a Kasich outcome.  Since that could not be certain, and a Cruz outcome might be likely, the hope for a contested convention had to end.  Trump as uniter versus Cruz as destroyer is a far better outcome even though they know Trump cannot beat Clinton.  Cruz supporters do not understand why old school republicans such as former Speaker of the House Boehner have such venomous hatred for Cruz.  It is because he is a destroyer. Those in his support base must either be destroyers themselves or don’t understand the destruction within him.  Trump, on the other hand, is a builder.

Capitalism is based on building.  If you are not growing you're dying.  Capitalist must build.  Thus when it comes to capitalism there is no difference between Republican capitalists and Democratic capitalists, both build. Republicans want more of the benefits from the building to go into the hands of those making the investment. That’s what’s the most important to RINOs.  Democrats want more of the benefits from the building to go into the hands of those doing the work. That is the position of the Unions and most liberals.  They want less exploitation and more balance.  It’s that simple.  Everything we do as a country should be about facilitating capitalist growth in an effective, efficient, and sustainable manner in such a way that comes as benefit of all.  That means we must not exploit our people or are resources.   

The Tea Party, as wonderful as their long platform of endearing beliefs and platitudes may seem on the surface, are in a group who live in the past.  They want to hold on to the cards they were originally dealt. They are so wedded to their static dreams they don’t realize the world has changed around them.  The cards they are holding are from a different time.  The game has moved on.  Grow or die.  Rather than grow, they have chosen death and wish to bring down everyone as they fall.  It would be better for everyone, if the Tea Party would simply expedite their death stagnation and disappear.

The big problem we face now, since we know Clinton is a lock for winning the general election, will be whether or not she is indicted.  If you follow this  logic, we should see the old guard backing off on a Clinton  indictment for now.  They know Clinton is a better choice for our country  than Trump...but Sanders is clearly a worse outcome for capitalism.  Since the FBI announced yesterday that it doesn’t appear Clinton will be indicted  I have to wonder is it just a coincidence?   How convenient to be simply a coincidence when it maps so clearly to the RINO agenda.   Since it is conceivable, however, that Trump could beat Sanders, and the GOP knows either outcome is to be avoided, even when they know they are handing the election to a previous  enemy.  Clinton is an enemy to their politics, but she is not an enemy to our Country and our capitalist aspirations.  RINOs recognize this fact.  Many in the GOP will not vote for Trump or they will not vote.  But they also know they can no longer live for that day when she is indicted...rather they must suspend the joy of an indictment until after her Presidential term is over.  Otherwise we face the prospect of a Trump  presidency, or worse, the presidency of Sanders, and with it the possible death of capitalism.  Are we on a train bound for socialism?  Perhaps it is inevitable...and that will be a bitter pill to swallow.  If not this year, once the Millennials grow up, we will no longer be able to stop the handouts. But is getting on that train this early more dangerous than electing Trump?  To me that is the big question.  What’s absolutely clear, however, is that rather than think about that outcome...Tea Party conservatives will rally around Trump...and that’s as dumb as dirt, it’s not a paradox.  Since they are destroyers at heart, and he will let them keep their guns, this is their only logical move.  That’s the incorrect paradox that Krauthammer tries to create.  The feeble nature of his mind will be proven  when he eventually speaks favorably of Trump, if he doesn’t out and out endorse him...I would put money on it.

There is a significant risk that the major problems the world will face from overpopulation, disease, diminishing natural resources, and environmental change will not be solved in a world where too much socialism is unable to produce the technical advances necessary to combat these coming storms. Socialism slows progress. Only a capitalist society has a shot at creating the necessary technology, at a sufficient pace, to keep the world ahead of our own destruction.  Trump, rather than being the destroyer the Tea Party will eventually rally behind,  is a consummate builder.  He is  good for capitalism. Nevertheless I could be wrong about socialism.  Forms of socialism (which is not Communism if you need the lecture ) may have the necessary incentives to advance the human race sufficiently to survive death by it’s own hand.  To feel the Bern would be to believe this to be true.  I have yet to feel the Bern...but it is an outcome that must be anticipated because democratic socialism is coming like a freight train.  There will be very little RINOs, or Trumpeters, or Tea Baggers can do to stop it.  

I will not vote for Hillary or Trump...I will let everyone else sort out that mess.  But if Hillary is out...I will have to think deeply before I cast my vote for Trump, because I don’t want to admit we are headed towards socialism. And that  is the real paradox...the one Krauthammer doesn’t have the brain cells to comprehend. And the one the destroyers within the Tea Party haven’t a clue exists either...they prefer to cling to their guns.  Trump will help them keep their guns.  Guns are not going to help them keep their heads above the rising water.  Technology will.  When Hillary Clinton might be the best decision we can make for capitalism it’s time for the GOP to pull it back together.  What that means is voting the Tea Baggers off the island as quickly as we can.  Fortunately, that appears to have occurred in Indiana.  Public shithead number one has been voted off the island.  

Sunday, April 3, 2016

"The Forest" Another Opportunity to Reach Into the Darkness and Begin a Dialogue Against the Scourge of Mental Illness

Even though there was a minor eruption of protest over the making and marketing of the film, “The Forest”, a horror story set in the Aokigahara, the suicide forest of Japan, I personally did not find the film to be a cheap marketing ploy to exploit the tragic existence of such a place.   Those who study suicide, and suicide prevention, are aware that such places exist.  The Golden Gate Bridge being a real world example right here in the United States. There are other places…many other places. There is a Wikipedia page on this topic.  List of Suicide Sites.  

Those seeking an end, for whatever reason, need only have access to Wikipedia.

The Aokigahara, a forest at the base of Mt Fuji, is sadly one of the most popular places for suicide and the location for this film. It is, by all accounts, a beautiful dense forest, but tragically, a real place where many souls tormented with mental illness have chosen to end their own life.  In my opinion the movie, does not cheapen the torment, or the reality of mental illness.  Rather the movie serves up for the viewer a psychological thriller that portrays mental illness as demons of the mind.  In fact one line from the movie, perhaps more haunting than any of the visions of the dead and tortured souls that will appear on screen (it is a horror story after all) goes, “The visions are not real, they are in your mind”.   And thus begins a women’s break with reality as she frantically searches for her twin sister who entered the forest, seemingly in a quest to end her own life.

Earlier this year I responded to an article on FaceBook calling for the boycott of this film due to the insensitivity of the subject matter.  Here is that article.

Since the release of the movie, there have been other articles written to express a similar concern. Here is another one:

My own daughter, in fact, wrote a FB post supporting the boycott, which I also read.  At that time I   felt a similar level of indignation over the possible insensitivity to such a topic being cheaply exploited for profit.  However, I did mention in my own FB  post that I would  have to view the film before actually deciding on how right these protesters are...or, as I’ve become accustomed to realizing in today’s society, that any subject (which means all subjects) will quickly become politically incorrect and off limits if they offend anyone in the slightest of ways.

Well, after watching the movie, I have to disagree with the protest.  Not strongly, as in these folks (including my daughter and her friends) are completely wrong on the subject, but rather, to suggest to them that there are many ways for a conversation about mental illness to occur.  In fact, the very fact that we are having a conversation about the movie means we were having a discussion about suicide and it’s prevention.  A discussion we simply would not be having if we were talking about the upcoming release of Johnny Depp’s new “Alice in Wonderland” flick.

No, I believe, “The Forest” has a place in the dialogue.  To some extent, the mystery of the forest is revealed in the end, damping it’s allure.  And  as we see in the end with a twist that even M. Night Shyamalan could envy, there really is nothing supernatural happening in the forest. Shades of the movie “The Village” which was terrifying on first view--don’t let them in--and intellectually engaging on all subsequent viewings.  Does “The Forest” rise to the level of Shyamalan’s art? Perhaps not.  But it is also not as cheap, in an exploitative way, as those who are lodging the protest are saying.  This movie deals with the subject of mental illness, its causes, and the response of humans trying to cope with it including  those considering suicide and those trying to prevent it.  It’s just told in a different way...a way that just might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

Recently I posted a haunting song by the amazing def metal voice of David Draiman the lead singer of the band DISTURBED.  The song was a cover of the classic “The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel, but done in an entirely new way, that is far from the sound of the original.  Yet is is equally as haunting, and in some ways, perhaps, more haunting.  It’s very existence is now and entry point into the musical world of DISTURBED.  Draiman is a voice for depression and suicide in his own way, having had first hand experience with suicide as a teenager.  Yet his approach to suicide awareness is not for the squeamish and will not appeal to most.  But it is not most people he is trying to reach, rather, it is those who have an alternative viewpoint to life, those who are different, those who may already be living in darkness. Those in the dark, are not necessarily going to look for answers in the light.  Sometimes it’s so dark where they are living that the only chance we have is to meet them in their darkness, take their hand, and try to lead them to a better place.  It may never be light in that place, but it may prove to be a safer place than where they live or may be headed.  Fear of the dialogue, fear of the darkness of these places,  keeps many of us from going into darkness to help.

So, with that long introduction to the movie, I will now give you my quick recap of how I interpret “The Forest” as a way to start the dialogue, not snuff it out in protest over things that we do not understand.  There are spoilers in my narrative to follow.  So perhaps it’s time to go see the movie, and then return.  At that point you are entitled to say I’m full of shit, but certainly not before.

The movie begins in the light.  We have the first sister, fully successful and married, living an apparent comfortable life  in the United States.  We discover she has an identical  twin sister.  Not to diminish the acting in this movie, the role of both sisters is masterfully portrayed by Natalie Dormer, the English Actor with a rising fan base from such things, as the “Game of Thrones”.  Now, when the creepy comes is when we see pictures of these twin sisters as children.  The only thing creepier than a creepy old photograph of a child, intentionally made to make the child look creepy, is a creepy picture of identical twin creepy children.  All is not right...clearly Sara, the heroine, has lived the more idyllic life.  She has a supportive, but somewhat dickish husband, when it comes to the topic of her twin sister Jess.  It seems Sara is the sister that came out right, has a life, whereas Jess, is the black sheep, always troubled and getting into some kind of trouble from which Sara must rescue her. Because they are identical twins, they share the gift of a mental connection.  Not strong extra sensory perception, but simply the mild connection that allows them to sense when either one of them is in trouble or pain...Jess of course, is the one always in trouble.

When Sara has that feeling  of peril, with regard to Jess, she begins to look for her  only to discover that Jess has ventured to Japan and has entered the Aokigahara Forest.  And  of course Sara also discovers that the Aokigahara is the fabled suicide forest at the base of Mt Fuji. Believing, and feeling, that Jess is still alive, Sara goes to Japan to save her we come to understand, a third attempt at suicide.  For those committed to the cause of the prevention of suicide it is well known that the number #1  indicator of a successful suicide is the presence of a previous attempt.  These bits of truth indicate to me that the writers of “The Forest” researched their subject or at least had advisers on the subject participating. Sara’s dickish husband, however, would prefer that she not get involved once again.  Which of course, we don’t know at the time, is what drives Sara on.

When Sara arrives in Japan, she begins to learn about the lure and lore of the forest.  She takes the train and attempts to enter the forest on her own even though she is not equipped to do so and recognizes this fact based on a series of encounters with the creepy and in particular the visit to the basement of a store on the fringe of the forest where bodies of unknown individuals have been retrieved from the forest.  She is told, numerous times, to stay on the trail. Realizing that Jess is not among the recently departed, and sensing that she is still alive, she decides to seek out a guide who can take her “off the trail” and deeper into the darker, more unknown areas of the forest.

The forest guide who arrives to take Sara off the trail is Michi.  A volunteer who goes into the forest to bring out the bodies of the dead.  This seems like a creepy occupation because of our belief that all who enter the forest will commit suicide.  What we discover about Michi that he is more concerned with bringing out the living than those bodies of the successful.  He tells Sara that she should not enter the forest because she is sad, and that should she go, the visions she will see will be only in her mind.  As they journey in Michi, fears the worst, yet Sara’s insistence that Jess is still alive gives him hope as well.  When they come across a tent in the forest Michi tells Sara to stay while he approaches the occupant of the tent.  When he returns he tells Sara that if someone enters the forest and brings a tent, they have not fully decided to end their  life.  He returns from his visit with the occupant and we discover that Michi has provided suicide counselling to the individual and that he believes this particular visitor might be alright.

As they continue deeper in the darkness of the forest they discover another tent.  Sara immediately recognizes it as belonging to her sister, Jess.  It is clear, based on her feeling, and what Michi has stated about those who bring a tent to the forest,  that she has not decided fully to take her own life and that there is hope.  As night begins to fall Michi advises that they leave and resume the search in the morning.  Sara, feeling so close now, refuses to leave despite the warnings.  The man who has accompanied them, a major red herring in the story to add a bit more of the creepy, decides to stay with Sara.  Michi, who knows better, leaves and tells them he will return the following day.

Visions occur throughout the night as the sadness Michi indicated exists within Sara’s heart begins to emerge.  We discover that Sara and Jess were orphaned at an early age when their parents were killed in a car accident.  We are led to believe that Jess suffered the trauma of this loss far greater than Sara, and it is what, perhaps, has led to her life on the fringe, a life many people who suffer from clinical depression, are all too familiar with.  A tumultuous, far from idyllic,  life.  The life Jess, but not Sara, has led.  But, clearly there is sadness in Sara’s heart because she is visited by these demons.

Throughout the night, as Sara tries to make sense of the ghostly visitors and their frightening message she becomes paranoid.  She doesn’t know who to trust and turns on the man who stayed with her in the forest, believing he is not the altruistic savior out there to help her find her sister.  In fact, she becomes convinced, that he is the architect of Jess’s disappearance.  As she flees from her perceived tormentor she encounters the evidence of many of the suicides the forest has claimed.  When suicide victims enter the forest and want their bodies to be discovered, they sometimes weave  a trail of string or colored tape through the trees.  She finds an unused ball of string and beings to weave her own trail through the forest.  This evidence is masterfully visualized through cinematography, panning back from the forest, we see many of these trails of colored ribbon strung helter skelter through the dark forest.  As she continues to panic, she beings to run and eventually falls through the forest floor and into a cave where more scary visions of the past are revealed.

Michi, who has now arrived at the campsite the following day, only to find it empty, organizes a forest wide search for Sara.  As the search continues Sara becomes more and more frantic. She has a vision of maggots, feeding in a cut in the palm of her hand, crawling up the veins in her wrist. Wanting to kill these maggots she begins to stab at them with her knife.  The pain of this stabbing is felt by Jess, who turns out, is still alive somewhere in the forest just as Sara has known all along. They sense each other's presence for the first time and they begin running and calling for each other. As they search for one another, Jess is led out of the forest and into the light of the search party but Sara is led further into the darkness of the forest.

This is when the truth of the past is revealed to Sara.  As it turns out, the true nature of their parents death was not in the car accident as she had believed.  Rather, their parents death was a murder/suicide at the hands of their father, who had shot their mother and then killed himself.  When she realizes that this is a truth she has suppressed all along the sadness in her heart becomes overwhelming and the demons in her head are able to take full possession of her.  The end is inevitable.  Sara is fooled by the demons in her head to take her own life in the forest while Jess reaches the safety of the search party.  Jess feels the demons in Sara’s head fall silent and knows her sister is gone.

Were any of the demons in the forest real?  Thankfully, there was no supernatural fight with some demon or devil like entity at the climax as happens in many of the junk films in this genre. The presence of such a cheap finale would have signaled to me that the critics of this movie are correct, that this is a cheap exploitation and insensitive to  the real forest and the tragic place it has become. But rather, to choose to portray the demons in Sara’s head, as a disease of the mind, give this movie credibility speaking out against the scourge of mental illness.

Is this a movie that should get the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) seal of approval?  Perhaps not.  But as I said, those in the dark already  will seek out movies and messages contained in these genres.  The simple message that the demons are not real and can trick you into doing tragic things is blindingly simple.  If this movie begins the dialogue that leads to a single hand reaching into to a dark place in order to lead a single person who is suffering to safety, then I’m in favor of this message. From this perspective there is no reason to boycott this movie...

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Starbucks and the Christmas Bully on Veteran's Day

My favorite holiday is Christmas. I love everything about Christmas. I love the season, I love the commercialization, and I love it’s true meaning.  We need look no further than, “a Charlie Brown Christmas” to discover this truth.  When all is lost, and Charlie Brown is at his wits end being  ridiculed by the masses for having destroyed Christmas, the principal indictment being levied by Lucy Van Pelt, Charlie Brown exclaims, “Does anyone know the true meaning of Christmas?”. And then the most humble of the group, Linus, steps forth to recite from the Gospel of Luke.  He says, among other things, “...the angel said unto them, fear not; for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy...unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.’

Each year we start the Christmas season earlier and earlier. We grimace when we see the Christmas decorations show up early in stores and begin prying open our credit cards. We complain about it’s commercialization which is the major theme of the Charlie Brown Christmas. But somewhere, in our hearts, despite the onslaught of commercialization we know there is something magical about this holiday and that Christmas is ultimately about love.  Regardless of what we believe, and regardless of how we celebrate, we know we will be with family and friends experiencing life to the fullest. Yes there will be disasters and drama and depression, but so too there will be redemption.  We learn this from the Who’s down in Whoville and we experience it first hand on Christmas morning. But today, I don’t want to talk about the Grinch, who is the chief Christmas bastard we love to hate,  I want to talk more about about Lucy Van Pelt...I want to talk about bullying. A few years ago I wrote another blog about bullying at Christmas was entitled, “Rudolph’s Dad was a Total Shit”.  Perhaps you read it?  If not you can read it here.  

I didn’t expand to other Christmas bullies because the cartoon “Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer” is so rich. But already this season, we have encountered an amazing form of bullying that has painted closed the hearts of many and speaks loudly to something that has gone terribly wrong in what should be a season of great love.  Something, we have truly missed from our upbringing, even if we haven’t learned the meaning of Christmas  we have taken from the crowd...the mob that is social media and the ridicule it can engender.  After Charlie Brown returns to the school stage with the Christmas Tree he has selected he is subjected to a mob...the tirade of ridicule that is launched directly at him defies the sensibilities of even the least politically insensitive among us.  If you don’t believe me go back and watch.  Fast forward to min 19:30 when Charlie Brown and Linus return with the Christmas Tree and are roasted alive.  

After Charlie Brown’s total defeat, Lucy exclaims, “You’ve been dumb before Charlie Brown, but this time you really did it”. It is then that Linus takes center stage and saves the day.  The passage is repeated twice in the cartoon thus I will repeat it twice.  “...the angel said unto them, fear not; for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy...unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.’

It’s 2015, exactly 50 years, since Charlie Brown entered the Christmas conversation. Now we have another example of bullying.  Another of the ignorant, claiming to be a Christian, using the platform of social media to tell us what’s wrong with Christmas and how the secular world is chipping away at it’s foundation. To tell Starbucks, in the words of Lucy, "You've been dumb before [Starbucks] but this time your really did it". As clever as Joshua Feuerstein thinks he may be he has done nothing more than stoke the flames of discontent in a society already full of discontent.  He has given us the green light to bully. He has given us the source material to say, if things are not the way they have always been, you should be ridiculed for lacking our collective Christian values. And worse, for eroding what it means to be a Christian just as sure as if the Devil himself had a hand in removing “Merry Christmas” from the Starbucks holiday cup. Here is his video.

Feurerstein is a bully.  He's inciting all of us to also be bullies. This is not how we should act, this is now how we should teach our kids to act.  Have you seen the latest headlines exclaiming that the most intolerant kids in our schools are the ones with Christian values? Evidence suggest there is some truth to these headlines...ask a teacher.  This is a trend that must be reversed.  Christian children should be absolutely the most tolerate, the most accepting, and the most forgiving of any child if they have Jesus in their hearts. Feurestein's video teaches the opposite.

So Starbucks has removed the mention of Christmas from their holiday coffee cup, even though the holiday cup remains red..  Since there is no mention of Christmas, they have removed Christ from Christmas.  Was Christ ever really on the coffee cup?  Since Donald Trump has also added his voice to this fray, perhaps we should double check last years cup and see if we can find Jesus?

I am not the first to be critical of Feurestein’s diatribe, apparently he was even called a bigot on National TV. I would not take it that far...but I will say he exhibits the characteristics of a bully and a hypocrite.  Those who side with Feuerstein  should first put Christ back in their own hearts before looking for Christ on the side of their coffee cups.

Look, I’m not a fan of Starbucks.  Regardless of how many awards for ethics the CEO of Starbucks Howard Schultz (irony noted) may receive for the global goodness  of his company, selling coffee for $5 cup has never sat well with me. In many ways Starbucks has been the bully of the coffee-shop industry.  If the crowd wants to boycott Starbucks that’s the capitalist marketplace way of doing business.  I will not stand in their way. I might even curtail use of my Starbucks gift card for a few days in protest over their prices.  But I will not do so because it doesn’t say Merry Christmas on the red holiday cup...that’s not only ridiculous it’s borderline blasphemous.  Doesn’t worshiping a coffee cup smack of idolatry?  It’s bad enough that we worship the contents of the cup, the drug that “America Runs On”, to drag Dunkin Doughnuts into the Christmas fray.  What about those hole-less bastards?  Have they removed Christ from their orange and white cups of Joe as well?  Not likely.  Jesus cannot be on the side of the coffee cup, he must be in our hearts and in our minds.  We shouldn’t need a reminder in the form of a cup or in the form of coffee.  Alas, we are only human and reminders do serve a purpose.  Thus isn't the color red all we need?

I guess I can thank Feurestein for one thing, here it is only mid November and I’ve already completed my Christmas blog.  Thus I’ve already started to think about Christmas and the love Jesus has for me.  Think about the color red.  Yes Christian’s it clearly represents the blood of Christ. Starbucks has chosen to color their cup this Holiday season in the blood of Christ. That is our gift.  That is our reminder.

Last thing...since today is Veteran’s Day... there is another  red we should be reminded of when drink from a Starbucks cup.  That is the red of valor visible on our US Flag. “Greater love hath no man than this, then a man lay down his life, for a friend.” John 15:13  Thank a Vet today.  Better yet, go drink of cup of Joe with a Vet out of a red Starbucks coffee cup. I will not be offended.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Amazing Hypocrisy of a House Divided

I’ve written before about the hypocrisy of the fundamentalist.  I called it, “Radical Fundamentalism and the Evolution of the Rattlesnake”.  And earlier still, "Whale Wars Must Go".  However recently, I’ve been compelled to think more about the fundamentalist and why, despite many of their excuses, they remain,  the largest group of hypocrites in our society.  For this essay I will not examine the fundamentalist as terrorist as I did so before.  Rather, I will examine our homegrown fundamentalists on the left and on the right and ask why they do not realize they are hypocrites.  It is this blind spot that causes the divided house problem...or the inability to live together in civil society...which is something, thankfully, that is not a majority view. Andre Gide's quote above captures that blind spot succinctly enough. Nevertheless since I’ve heard this house divided problem come up again and again along with rumors of a coming civil war it must be addressed.  To the coming civil war I say hog wash. But not without placing the blame on the fundamentalist hypocrite with the blind spot. Thankfully our country is eons away from such a fate because most of us are not of this ilk.

The fundamentalist doesn’t acknowledge their hypocrisy for two reasons.  First, in their world view, they are correct.  Regardless of how they may fall, or fail, even if they recognize their hypocrisy,  their world view is still correct.  This is the hypocrisy when we see certain fundamentalist groups rally against gay marriage, animal research labs, and abortion clinics.  In their minds the affront to their principals is so grave, whereas what they know they are doing is wrong, bombing clinics, starting fires, or spreading a message of hate, they believe their transgressions will ultimately be judged as a lessor sin or they are protecting something sacred and will ultimately be proven right, and thus forgiven for their trespasses. They are in fact, lying with sincerity. So, they believe, they are not being hypocrites if they choose to commit the lesser of the two wrongs and do so with a clear conscious (this is not the case of the sociopath).  In the immortal words of George Costanza, "Remember Jerry, it's not a lie... if YOU believe it".  In the book, the Logic of Political Violence, a leftist manifesto by a confirmed eco-terrorist, the author seems to compel his followers to believe that change ultimately justifies the means used to achieve such change.  So they know they are hypocrites, they just don’t care about the double standard (this is dangerous because the author is a sociopath trying to influence others who actually have a conscious).

Not much we can do to attack the willful hypocrite other than to appeal to that side of them that has the ability to empathize provided they too are not sociopaths.  Beyond that, if we cannot evoke empathy, it is a lost cause and no matter how much we scream and yell about the double standard it will have no effect. This is why, in many churches, no matter how many times the church leader will admonish a congregation, that they without sin, may cast the first stone, anticipating no further stones, they are aggrieved to witness, stones, too numerous to count, still come sailing in from the pews.

As an aside, there has never been another public venue devised than the venue Facebook has become for public stone throwing. With the introduction of the “Dislike” button on FaceBook public stone throwing may have just taken a turn for the worse. Zuckerberg will have created an even more polarizing option. It seems to me, the better approach would have been to just change the “Like” button to an “Acknowledge” button. After all, that’s really what we want to do anyway...tell our friend we acknowledge we have seen what they have posted. If we agree, disagree, or just want to show sympathy, “I acknowledge you” is the right message to send. Feedback, positive or negative can always be provided in the commentary. We all just want to be’s the number of “Likes” that matter. We don’t really believe, everyone who clicked on “Like” actually “Liked” what we have posted, the fact that someone has passed away in the family, for instance, in most cases, is not a “Likable” event.

But I digress, let’s get back to the fundamentalist hypocrite and why, of all the hypocrites, they are the most dangerous.  Since everyone of us may have hypocritical tendencies why are those who are more radical in their stance, worse than those of us who believe in a cause, but don’t necessarily speak out as vehemently?

Why is it the fundamentalist hypocrisy that causes the divided house problem and not our own?  Independent of any political or religious leanings I give you the narcissist.  Simply put, a narcissist is someone in love with their own reflection.  It is too simple to say a narcissist is a selfish person as many a seemingly unselfish person can still be in love with their own reflection (someone willing to martyr themselves is a good example of this behavior - it is my opinion that Kim Davis meets this definition).  Nonetheless, narcissists exist.  Thankfully they are only about 10% of our population.  They are selfish, and evolutionarily and ironically speaking, are those most likely to preserve our species because they are bent on their own survival and would either kill, or be killed, rather than give up their way of life.  As they preserve themselves, so too, they will preserve the species.  This is the principal of the selfish gene, manifest in human behavior.  And if we ascribe to Richard Hawkins's world view, we all would be narcissistic.  It’s wonderful to know that we are not...and speaks volumes to that numbskull’s major mistake.  Other evolutionary forces are at play that permit cooperation and compromise as survival tactics.  We can argue the sources of altruism, but, we can’t argue the fact that altruism exists.  Biblically speaking, “Greater love hath no man than this, then a man lay down his life for a friend” and in Trekkie speak, “The needs of the many are greater than the needs of the few, or the one”.  Altruism lives on the left and the right.  Altruism exists in nature and thus could be considered a natural law.  That said, let’s not make a mistake and infer, communism or socialism for example would be in the best interest of the many.  Society has proven, at least heretofore, that capitalism is a superior economic system.  And capitalism combined with the some type of political system that approaches a democracy is a superior way to live freely. Although capitalism is the best economic system ever devised it is still not perfect. Capitalism still exploits everyone and everything and the winner can, and will, take all if left unchecked. Same with a democracy. In a pure capitalist society monopolies will be the norm. It has always been recognized that monopolies require some level of control because what emerges at the top is far more nefarious, and many times more so, than any evil, such as laziness, that will emerge at the bottom in a welfare state, for example.  Is, for instance, the weed dealer or prostitute on the corner, who happens to currently be incarcerated, more evil than the Bernie Madoff’s of the world?  (Notwithstanding the most likely scenario that the actual Madoff is a sociopath)

Absolute power corrupts, absolutely. Those at the bottom of the ladder have no power whatsoever. Most on the conservative side of the aisle believe that liberals are simply trying to liberate them from whatever they have scratched together, in their own lives, from hard work and have not benefited, in their own lives, from the same hard work. Of course they have…of course they have homes, and savings, and retirement accounts… But they try to do so with more of a balance toward those who have been less fortunate.  For everyone but the narcissist, there is a strong desire not to exploit the weak, those who have no voice, the natural environment, or other things, that if left in the open would be exploited for the narcissist to survive. To exploit anything or anyone at anytime is anathema to my sensibilities. Ironically, that means, I myself, am subject to erring on the side of being exploited. And, of course, that has happened many times. To be clear, I would rather be exploited than to be the exploiter. This isn’t a balancing act. It can’t be. If I live a life striving to be balanced on that front it means I must exploit a little, to keep or hedge back on that being exploited from myself, and that doesn’t work. There is no hedge, there can’t be…it’s all in. You can’t exploit, ever. But inevitably, it happens.  Shopping at Walmart, for instance, cannot be easily avoided,  thus we exploit indirectly.

The United States has always been a house divided.  Safe to say that most of our founding fathers, were not the hypocrites of which I speak and were able to live in a divided house.  That continues to be our great strength. From the very beginning we have been divided…but we unite as a Country for the common good. Our division and our diversity is our greatest strength. The liberties and the freedoms we protect are the envy of the world. To not recognize that this diversity is our strength and to believe that this diversity is something that could lead us into another civil war is a far more frightening to me than the erosion of the family, for instance. An extreme bifurcation of philosophies based on an unbending hypocritical narcissistic fundamentalist world view is the danger. It is not the speaking of one language that unites us. It is not attending one church that unites us. It is the desire to be united that unites us…period.  That desire compels us not to be offended by others customs and beliefs and at the same time to do our best not to offend others. To offend visitors in our home is something I would try not to do. They are guests. Contrary to what is believed to be the sin at Sodom and Gomorrah, the true sin was one of in-hospitality. We sin the same way, as a country, if we close our doors to the very same people that built this country…those looking for the freedoms and liberties of a united states. 

When those people come, as we and our parents did, and their parents did, they will come to unite with us. If that desire to unite disappears we cease to be The United States of America. We become something else…a nation of fundamentalists (both narcissistic and hypocritical) which with the headlines we have been receiving recently, is how most of the world sees us anyhow.  As a country,  we would do better to change that world image.