THERE IS NO MORAL MIDDLE-GROUND – Marilyn Armstrong

Was there ever such thing as a moral middle-ground?

When we decided as a nation to allow and even extend slavery because it would enable us to create one nation — was that the “middle” ground? Middle of what? The middle between slavers and free people?

When we decided to kill every native American or “convert” every single member of every tribe to being “just like us” (and who are we, anyway?), was that middle ground?

Was refusing to discuss the cruelty of taking over this country and despoiling it without regard for its future ability to support other people, was that the middle-ground?

Was opening up Native “regions” to white settlement while simultaneously starving the original inhabitants — and pretending nothing was happening — was that middle-ground?


There is no middle-ground between cruelty and kindness. You are cruel or kind, but there’s nothing in between.

Destroying the earth or not destroying it … where is the middle-ground?

It’s not just about Trump and his politics. There has never been a middle-ground between good and evil. Pretending nothing is going on is not a middle-ground. Knowing about evil while pretending ignorance  — or worse, intentionally remaining ignorant in the face is evil — is not higher ground.

Ignorance does not excuse you from getting a speeding ticket. It also does not excuse you from Hell, either. There is righteousness and there is corruption. There’s no place where you can sit on the fence and thus eliminate your involvement. Black or white, but not gray.

Not discussing politics doesn’t put you in a better position than any of the raging ranters on Facebook. Having better manners doesn’t make you a better person.

TASTE AND FREEDOM – Marilyn Armstrong

I have personal taste that tends toward humor and wit and some things that I find funny aren’t really funny, but I find them hilarious. I tend to overvalue wit and cleverness and at least a hint of humor.

I like what I like and often write about movies and books I enjoy. I love it when I help someone discover books or a movie they might like.

I also don’t mind if you don’t like what I like.

The last Session

Some people talk about how they believe everyone is entitled to believe what they want … but I actually mean it. There are things — news and political things — that I feel are completely wrong and while I would never force you or try to force you to believe as I do, I reserve the right to not talk to you about beliefs I feel are wrong … or evil.

I do believe in right and wrong. I don’t believe in a particular God or gods, but I think the devil is lurking behind every closed door. In fact, I think his hoofprints are all over this world and a lot of people have sold their souls to him. I think most of our senators and certainly our so-called president have sold their souls to him. It’s the only way I can explain their behavior.

But as for taste? If you read serious books you couldn’t pay me to open, that’s okay. Just don’t try to force me to read it. If I like bizarre British science fiction and it goes right over your head? That’s okay. You aren’t required to love it just because I do. You don’t need to like the same television shows, movies, books, or poetry.

I don’t care if you are a Republican as long as you innoculate your children and don’t try to convert me.

The elephant in the room

Okay, that’s not true. I have trouble coping with anyone who thinks caging children is okay because they have brown skins and don’t speak English. My heart bleeds for those people and there is no way I can reconcile myself to people who don’t care and feel the value of everything can be reckoned using dollar signs.

I guess that’s where I draw the line — my line between good and evil.

HONOR AND CONGRESSIONAL HEARINGS – Marilyn Armstrong

From the Washington Post, these are Cohen’s quotes, not something “made up” by the writer. I’m sure he had help with it because these words have the ring of a professionally written and carefully polished speech.

That being said, I think this sums up much of what many of us feel:

“Mr. Trump is an enigma,” Cohen said in his opening statement. “He is complicated, as am I. He has both good and bad, as do we all. But the bad far outweighs the good, and since taking office, he has become the worst version of himself. He is capable of behaving kindly, but he is not kind. He is capable of committing acts of generosity, but he is not generous. He is capable of being loyal, but he is fundamentally disloyal.”

He went on to say:

“Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great,” Cohen said. “He had no desire or intention to lead this nation – only to market himself and to build his wealth and power. Mr. Trump would often say, this campaign was going to be the ‘greatest infomercial in political history.’”

America. The greatest infomercial in political history? Also, probably, the biggest dive from greatest to pettiness, racism, ignorance, cruelty, and rampant destruction of what have always been the beauties of our world.

From the Post:

Cohen has insisted that “blind loyalty” is what drove him to commit crimes on Trump’s behalf. Federal prosecutors have contended that Cohen “relished the role of ultimate fixer” and that he was “driven by a desire to further ingratiate himself with a potential future president — for whose political success Cohen himself claimed credit.”

“Taken together, these offenses reveal a man who knowingly sought to undermine core institutions of our democracy,” prosecutors wrote in a memorandum to a federal judge before Cohen was sentenced. “His motivation to do so was not borne from naiveté, carelessness, misplaced loyalty or political ideology. Rather, these were knowing and calculated acts — acts Cohen executed in order to profit personally, build his own power, and enhance his level of influence.”

I can understand why many people would be hesitant to believe the words of a man who, in the name of ambition, would follow a man he knew to be bad in every way that counted.

On the other hand, these people are defending the exact same bad guy and I will bet that every one of them knows how evil Trump really is. They aren’t doing the right thing. They are doing the politically expedient “thing” which they know to be wrong.

Photo: NBC News

I find it hard to fathom anyone having that level of ambition, yet I see it everywhere. Even back in college, there was always one little wormy kid who would do anything to grab the job you were trying to get — and this was back when we weren’t even paid for the work. It was all a matter of personal honor.

Too many people have no honor. These days, it would seem that more than ever, people have no honor — just a personal agenda. Furthermore, they don’t comprehend the concept of honor. They think it’s about ambition and flags … but it isn’t and never was.

From left to right: The four sisters: my mother (Dorothy), Aunt Pearl, Aunt Kate, and Aunt Yetta

Time for a personal story. In my freshman year of college, I met a boy and we fell in love. I was 16. He was 17. He wasn’t a virgin — but he was barely not a virgin. I was a virgin — I was 16, after all — so we went to be together in a borrowed apartment and it was wonderful. It was. He eventually turned out to be more than a little psycho, so while we had an affair that lasted many years, we did not marry. Oddly, he shared Garry’s birthday. As did another boyfriend from that period.

I know we all don’t believe in “fate,” but that’s pretty fateful. I digress. Back to the story.

I actually told my mother about it. You have to understand that my mother was all in favor of modern sex and not being held to old-fashioned standards, so when she went completely bonkers, I was baffled, boggled, and bewildered. I said: “What about …”

And she said: ” Not MY daughter!”

That was when I realized that your beliefs and your BELIEFS didn’t have to be the same. Mom decided I needed to talk to the grand dame of her sisters — my Aunt Kate. My mother’s oldest sister.

Left to right: Aunt Pearl, my mother (Dorothy), Aunt Ethel (Uncle Herman’s wife) and Aunt Kate

She was born in “the old country” and was the only member of the household who still kept Kosher. She remained Jewish without ever casting aspersions on family members who had gone another way.

I adored my Aunt Kate. She was beautiful, a dead ringer for Katherine Hepburn as a young woman. Even older, she had cheekbones to die for. But beyond that, she was deeply and passionately kind. There was inherent goodness about her I have known rarely through the years.

I told her what had been going on. She listened. Quietly. Then she said: “But what about honor?”

Honor?

I had never considered honor as part of the love/sex/passion thing. Nobody had used the word, not even my mother. It was a concept that swept in from the past and put the issue into an entirely new perspective. And I never forgot that for some people, it’s about their version of religion or faith. For others, there are just “rules” you follow because “you’re supposed to follow the rules.” For Aunt Kate, it was about honor. And after that, I never forgot to consider whether or not what I was doing was honorable.

Shortly after that conversation, I pointed out (proudly) to Aunt Kate that I was still wearing the fake fur coat she’d give me when I was in Junior High School because I loved it. Horrified that I could still be wearing that old coat, in the middle of Manhattan, she pulled off her coat and gave it to me. I tried really hard to give it back, but it stuck. Until I moved to Israel when I got rid of most of my heavy winter clothing, it was my “good coat.” It was a fake beaver coat. No fur, just poly whatever, but it looked and felt like the real thing and had a wonderful swing to it.

We had lunch at a hotel dining room and I tucked my arm into the crook of her arm and we walked locked together down the avenues of Manhattan.

Honor.

That’s what is missing from today’s America. Our sense of honor is gone. We stand naked and shivering in the winds of ambition with no moral code. There’s no one worse than us, though there are a few probably at least as bad other places.

Our days of lecturing the rest of the world about right and wrong are, I think, over. Or at least over for the next 50 years while we try to repair our image. Maybe longer, depending on whether or not the chaotic Democratic Party can collect itself and think nationally and rationally.

Let us find honor for all rather than self-aggrandizement for a few.

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

FANDANGO’S PROVOCATIVE QUESTIONS: MORALITY? – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #3


Interesting question, especially interesting because of the connections made by the questioner. There are some leaps made in the questions that suggest from whence cometh the questions.

I do not need a source for a belief in objective morality. Any form of belief is faith. That is the nature of belief versus a provable fact.

And why would I need to choose whose morality is correct? Is there a standard? If you believe morality is subjective, does that inherently mean that you are subject to someone else’s rules or dogma?

Since when?

The nature of a belief is faith. If you don’t believe in God, your belief cannot be proven as true or false. Your lack of faith is as faith-driven as any religious devotion. Unless you have provable evidence and facts, all belief is faith. Bummer.

I believe fundamental morality, knowing right from wrong, is part of our DNA. Failure to know right from wrong is a signal that something has gone wrong with your mental wiring.

Good and evil are not research areas. Moreover, I don’t believe in anyone’s “concept” of morality. I don’t subscribe to rules or dogma.

I have never followed rules and I hate coloring books. Too many lines. That’s probably why I’m poor. It’s also why Garry is poor. We didn’t follow the rules.

Oops.

See my frequently republished story: The Meaning of Everything.

GOOD AND EVIL – Marilyn Armstrong

I can’t read “Lord of the Rings” these days without thinking about Stephen Colbert and his obsessive passion for these books. They are great books and eventually became rather amazing movies, but still and all … he knows things about these books I’m sure J.R.R. Tolkien forgot.

Nonetheless, in this time of stress and strife, I’m rereading the series for the umpteenth time. I’ve gotten all the way to the third and final volume of  “The Lord of the Rings.”

The book is entirely about good and evil. The great evil that is Sauron. The somewhat lesser evil of his cohorts. The striving evil of Saruman, and the fear of everyone in the battle that they can find the right way and stay woven in the fabric of good.

When evil is everywhere, goodness can get a little complicated.

I bumped into this quote last night. I was tucked in for the night and I hoped I would remember it in the morning. I didn’t exactly recall it, but luckily for me “Lord of the Rings” is such a well-quoted book, I found it quickly on ye olde Internet.


Eomer said, ‘How is a man to judge what to do in such times?’ As he has ever judged,’ said Aragorn. ‘Good and evil have not changed since yesteryear, nor are they one thing among Elves and another among Men. It is a man’s part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house.


In the great fabric of life of which we are merely threads, good and evil are also a part of us. We are born with a genetic understanding of both. It is in our DNA. When we see evil and allow ourselves to become part of it — when we live in evil times, excuse and forgive evil — we become part of it.

A bad man and his bad adherents don’t have “a good side.” Lying about it changes nothing except maybe us.


When you read this book, you will sooner or later end up talking like this. You can’t help it. If you are really into it, you might just do it in Elvish or worse, Orcish.

And in the darkness bind them …

AMERICA’S NUMBER ONE! ROUND 2: REUNIFICATION – BY TOM CURLEY

WE’RE NUMBER ONE, BUT AT WHAT?

U.S.A.! U.S.A.! We’re number ONE! We’re the BEST! 

You’ve heard it all your life. You hear it at ball games.  You hear it at every political rally, regardless of which party is telling you how great they are. Hell, we got an overdose of it during the 4th of July celebrations.


So now that there has been a “second” summit with Kim Jong-Un, described by him as “disappointing” (other translations say “depressing” and personally, I call them “futile and stupid” — and by Pompeo as “Not so bad” leaving the rest of us wondering “What summit? Was there a summit?” I have to again ask the question: What are we best at? Leaving out sports like football and baseball … what else?


Better health care? Better crime levels unless by “better” you also mean “more of them”? Where is America’s “sweet spot?” Good question, don’t you think?

But let’s get real for a second. Are we really number one? Are we the best country in the world? If so, at what?

Recently UNICEF released a “Child Well-Being in Rich Countries” study. They ranked 29 developed countries according to the well-being of their children on a number of factors. Where did the greatest nation in the world rank? Number one, right? Nope.

The US ranks #26. To be more specific we rank:

#26 for “Material Well-Being”.

#25 for “Health and Safety”.

#26 for “Infant Mortality Rates”.

#26 for “Low Birthweight”.

#22 for “Immunization Rates.

#27 for “Preschool Enrollment rates”.

#25 for “Participation in Further Education”.

#16 for “Overweight”.

#29 for “Teen-Pregnancy rates”.

#12 for “Being Bullied”.

It goes on. Were we #1 for anything? Yes. We were # for “Alcohol,” meaning we have the top rank for the absence of drunkenness. But considering our current government, can you blame the rest of the world for drinking more?

Another round for the world!

Republicans love to say that the U.S. has the greatest healthcare system in the world. The Commonwealth Fund ranks us #11 out of the 11 most developed nations. The World Health Organization ranks the U.S. #37 out of all the countries in the world. Just below Costa Rica and just above Slovenia.

But you know what we are best at? Putting people in jail.


From Wikipedia: “In October 2013, the incarceration rate of the United States of America was the highest in the world, at 716 per 100,000 of the national population. While the United States represents 4.4% of the world’s population, it houses around 22 percent of the world’s prisoners.”


Take that North Korea! Take that all you Third World Dictators! We’re number one! Lock us up! Lock us up! Oh wait, we’re already doing that.

We’re number one!!

You know what else we’re good at?

Ripping children, toddlers, and babies from their mothers and fathers because they had the nerve to travel thousands of miles from their home countries seeking asylum because their lives are in danger. We’re number one at ignoring their screams as their parents get dragged away, having no idea why this is happening.

MCALLEN, TX – JUNE 12: A two-year-old Honduran asylum seeker cries as her mother is searched and detained near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018 in McAllen, Texas.  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

We’re number one at putting them in overcrowded cages.

We’re number one in putting them in outdoor tent cities where the daytime temperatures reach 100 degrees.

We’re number one at telling a parent who is in custody that his or child is “taking a bath,” only to find the child has been taken to some unknown facility  1000 miles away.

How do I know this? Because I can’t think of any other country doing this!  I did a Google search. There was a country that did this and it didn’t end well for the country — or the children.

Germany 1933

It’s pretty much common consensus that our internment of Japanese-American citizens during World War 2 was the lowest point in our history — discounting slavery, of course. That would be lower. 

This horrific excuse for an administration says they are just enforcing the law. Except there is no law that says you have to rip a baby from his mother while she’s breastfeeding!

Our Chump-in-Chief says: “It’s the Democrat’s fault!”

Wow, I didn’t see that coming.

The Director of Homeland Security says there is no policy of separating children from their parents and they’re not doing it.


I watched her say it on TV next to another screen showing kids being separated from parents and being put in detention camps. 

The California top court ordered the Trump administration to get those families back together by the end of this month — July 27th. Anyone giving odds on this really happening? 


The administration has basically admitted that they are doing this as a bargaining chip for getting that stupid fucking wall. Ponder that for a second.

One man was so distraught over losing his kid he hung himself while in detention. Pity about that. Give Trump his wall and maybe this can all go away.  If there is a devil, he’s sitting in hell going WTF? Dudes, dial it back a bit! This is over the top for anyone with half a conscience.

There’s a difference between patriotism and nationalism.

A nationalist says “My Country, right or wrong. Love it or leave it.” They think our country is like a sports team you support no matter how badly they are doing.

A patriot says “I love our country but when our government is doing something wrong, we point it out and you are obliged to fix it. We’re not perfect. We can do better.

My country right or wrong? Here’s the full quote.

Our country is not a sports team. We love to say that we are a nation of laws. Great. But shouldn’t we also be a nation of human beings? A nation of compassionate people with some modicum of decency?

We’re a nation of immigrants.

We all came from somewhere else. Except for Native Americans. If you want to get really technical, even they walked here from a land bridge from Russia around 50,000 years ago, so they’re immigrants too.

One of the most important icons of this country is the Statue of Liberty.  The plaque on it has the famous words “Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

It should be changed now to “Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. We’ll rip your kids away from you and huddle them into overcrowded detention centers.”

Something to think about as the end of the month approaches and the big day of the reunification of immigrant children and their parents is on the schedule. 

I’ve made a point of trying to find some sliver of humor in any of the blogs I write. I have to admit I got nothing on this one. I even teared up a few times while I wrote it. So I’ll try to end with a joke.

How many Trump administration people does it take to screw in a light bulb? Answer? 20,010. One to change the bulb, three to blame the bulbs failure on the Democrats, three to blame it on Hilary and Obama, three to say the bulb didn’t need to be changed in the first place, and 20,000 ICE employees to commit horrific acts of child abuse. 

Oh well, at least I tried.

UNHINGED – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Captured

My marriage is fine. My house is not falling apart. The car was repaired and runs well. Yet I feel quite unhinged. A prisoner of war in my own country. Or that’s how I feel.

From Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman’s “Good Omens”

The World is killing me. I live in a country where the courts think it’s okay to kidnap and cage children. To put five-year-olds in front of a judge — without a lawyer.

There was another mass shooting today.

If somewhere there exists a particularly reactionary and stupid lawyer, Trump will appoint him or her and while I won’t live forever, my kid and granddaughter will spend the rest of their lives in this oppressive world we have created.

My world is crumbling. So is yours, even if you don’t know it.

I am troubled. I have nightmares. Small things which would normally not bother me are making me crazy. I feel damaged as if I’d been in a car accident.

I have trouble finding anything funny because today there was another mass shooting and there are thousands of children in cages.

The world is broken; I am bruised all over. I feel helpless to fix anything. It’s a bad way to feel. It’s also weird. I’ve always been able to separate the personal from “the rest of the world.” Somehow, I can’t seem to do that anymore.

WE’RE NUMBER ONE! BUT AT WHAT? – BY TOM CURLEY

WE’RE NUMBER ONE, BUT AT WHAT?

U.S.A.! U.S.A.! We’re number ONE! We’re the BEST! 

You’ve heard it all your life. You hear it at ball games.  You hear it at every political rally, regardless of which party is telling you how great they are. Hell, we’re going to hear it in a few weeks as the 4th of July celebrations start.

But let’s get fucking real for a second. Are we really number one? Are we the best country in the world?

Recently UNICEF released a “Child Well-Being in Rich Countries” study. They ranked 29 developed countries according to the well-being of their children on a number of factors. Where did the greatest nation in the world rank? Number one, right? Nope.

The US ranks #26. To be more specific we rank:

#26 for “Material Well-Being”.

#25 for “Health and Safety”.

#26 for “Infant Mortality Rates”.

#26 for “Low Birthweight”.

#22 for “Immunization Rates.

#27 for “Preschool Enrollment rates”.

#25 for “Participation in Further Education”.

#16 for “Overweight”.

#29 for “Teen-Pregnancy rates”.

#12 for “Being Bullied”.

It goes on. Were we #1 for anything? Yes. We were # for “Alcohol,” meaning we have the top rank for the absence of drunkenness. But considering our current government, can you blame the rest of the world for drinking more?

Another round for the world!

Republicans love to say that the U.S. has the greatest healthcare system in the world. The Commonwealth Fund ranks us #11 out of the 11 most developed nations. The World Health Organization ranks the U.S. #37 out of all the countries in the world. Just below Costa Rica and just above Slovenia.

But you know what we are best at? Putting people in jail.


This from Wikipedia: “In October 2013, the incarceration rate of the United States of America was the highest in the world, at 716 per 100,000 of the national population. While the United States represents 4.4% of the world’s population, it houses around 22 percent of the world’s prisoners.”


Take that North Korea! Take that all you Third World Dictators! We’re number one! Lock us up! Lock us up! Oh wait, we’re already doing that.

We’re number one!!

You know what else we’re good at?

Ripping children, toddlers, and babies from their mothers and fathers because they had the nerve to travel thousands of miles from their home countries seeking asylum because their lives are in danger. We’re number one at ignoring their screams as their parents get dragged away, having no idea why this is happening.

MCALLEN, TX – JUNE 12: A two-year-old Honduran asylum seeker cries as her mother is searched and detained near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018 in McAllen, Texas.  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

We’re number one at putting them in overcrowded cages.

We’re number one in putting them in outdoor tent cities where the daytime temperatures reach 100 degrees.

We’re number one at telling a parent who is in custody that his or child is “taking a bath,” only to find the child has been taken to some unknown facility  1000 miles away.

How do I know this? Because I can’t think of any other country doing this!  I did a Google search. There was a country that did this and it didn’t end well for the country — or the children.

Germany 1933

It’s pretty much common consensus that our internment of Japanese-American citizens during World War 2 was the lowest point in our history — discounting slavery, of course. That would be lower. 

This horrific excuse for an administration says they are just enforcing the law. Except there is no law that says you have to rip a baby from his mother while she’s breastfeeding!

Our Chump-in-Chief says: “It’s the Democrat’s fault!”

Wow, I didn’t see that coming.

The Director of Homeland Security says there is no policy of separating children from their parents and they’re not doing it.


I watched her say it on TV next to another screen showing kids being separated from parents and being put in detention camps.


The administration has basically admitted that they are doing this as a bargaining chip for getting that stupid fucking wall. Ponder that for a second.

One man was so distraught over losing his kid he hung himself while in detention. Pity about that. Give Trump his wall and maybe this can all go away.  If there is a devil, he’s sitting in hell going WTF? Dudes, dial it back a bit! This is over the top for anyone with half a conscience.

There’s a difference between patriotism and nationalism.

A nationalist says “My Country, right or wrong. Love it or leave it.” They think our country is like a sports team you support no matter how badly they are doing.

A patriot says “I love our country but when our government is doing something wrong, we point it out and you are obliged to fix it. We’re not perfect. We can do better.

My country right or wrong? Here’s the full quote.

Our country is not a sports team. We love to say that we are a nation of laws. Great. But shouldn’t we also be a nation of human beings? A nation of compassionate people with some modicum of decency?

We’re a nation of immigrants.

We all came from somewhere else. Except for Native Americans. If you want to get really technical, even they walked here from a land bridge from Russia around 50,000 years ago, so they’re immigrants too.

One of the most important icons of this country is the Statue of Liberty.  The plaque on it has the famous words “Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

It should be changed now to “Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. We’ll rip your kids away from you and huddle them into overcrowded detention centers.”

Something to think about this 4th of July.

I’ve made a point of trying to find some sliver of humor in any of the blogs I write. I have to admit I got nothing on this one. I even teared up a few times while I wrote it. So I’ll try to end with a joke.

How many Trump administration people does it take to screw in a light bulb? Answer? 20,010. One to change the bulb, three to blame the bulbs failure on the Democrats, three to blame it on Hilary and Obama, three to say the bulb didn’t need to be changed in the first place, and 20,000 ICE employees to commit horrific acts of child abuse. 

Oh well, at least I tried.

A TINY, MONSTROUS FANGED HEAD – Marilyn Armstrong

Being Jewish is a religion, but for many of us, it isn’t only a religion. In fact, for a lot for us, Judaism isn’t religious at all, but rather a commitment to a lifestyle. It entails a wide range of ethical and moral beliefs.

One of the things it includes — if you are of my generation — is a lingering belief that all non-Jews are secretly your enemy, no matter what they say to your face. This remains true even when you are married to a Christian and got married in a Christian church. And your kids don’t even consider themselves Jewish. Somewhere inside, some little piece of you is screaming “Remember the Inquisition and the Holocaust.”

It’s an angry and frightened little voice, always alarmed and ready to grab the Torah (like I own a real Torah, right?) and run for the caves.

My kids don’t have this voice in their heads or this fear because I did not bathe them in the blood of our tortured ancestors or the piles of corpses from the Holocaust. I didn’t push this on them because I thought it was time to let it go and move on.

My mother was an atheist. She did not believe in God or gods. Her bonds to Judaism were entirely ethnic and tribal. So are mine … but ethnicity and a fondness for our cuisine isn’t something one can always pass along.

Regardless, Judaism is a religion. When you are ethnically Jewish but practice no aspect of the religion, what do you pass to your children other than recipes and a totally irrational fear of non-Jews.

Your ethical and moral commitments can stand on their own. They don’t need a religious attachment. They ought to be a part of the mental armament of any sane person. Religious or not, you ought to know the difference between right and wrong.

I didn’t pass this on to my kid or grandchild because I thought it was time to end the terror and move on to a different world.

These days, though, I wonder if maybe I was precipitous. Just because I thought the danger ended, it reared up its monstrous little fanged head again. And suddenly, safety is not so safe.

Maybe it’s about more than recipes for matzoh balls. Hatred appears to live a lot longer than I imagined possible.

TODAY IS TOLKIEN READING DAY – MARCH 25th

March 25, 2018 – TOLKIEN READING DAY

Celebrated around the world on March 25, Tolkien Reading Day is a favorite among fans of the renowned author. When we were younger and drank more, it was also Fall of Sauron Day.

This day commemorates the dropping of the One Ring into the fires of Mount Doom and the non-extinction of the human race. Sadly, I think Sauron is back.

Mount Doom

I don’t know if he-who-has-gone-to-Mordor (aka Florry-duh) or whether or not he has the one Ring of Power, but the extinction of the human race seems to be exactly his goal. If he can’t kill us by getting rid of our medical care, maybe he can wipe us out by destroying the planet. If that doesn’t get the job done, there’s always the nuclear option.

So perhaps this is the right day for celebration after all.

If we can remember a couple of hobbits and an insane mad creature named Gollum climbed through the darkness and horror of Mordor to get the ring into the fire, maybe we can get through this too.

J.R.R. Tolkien (Jan. 3, 1892 – Sept. 2, 1973) was an English writer, poet, philologist and university professor. He was best known as the author of the classic works: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarrillion as well as Roverandom and Farmer Giles of Ham.

HOW TO OBSERVE THE DAY? 

Read some of Tolkien’s works and use #TolkienReadingDay to post on social media. As it happens, not only did I just finish reading the entire three book series, but Garry and I also watched the extended 3-movie extended version of “Lord of the Rings.”

HISTORY

This day was officially started in 2003 by the Tolkien Society to encourage the readings of J.R.R. Tolkien. March 25th was chosen as the date to honor the fall of Sauron in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

Personally, from our point of view, they were very late to the party. We’d been joyously celebrating that day for years, from the late 1960s right through the 1970s. By the time the Tolkien Society made their pronouncement and declared it a special day, we had largely disbanded. I had gone to Israel, others moved to Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Utah, and Massachusetts.

But we never forgot that day or the ceremony — which involved considerable drinking and a very short service, noticeably reminiscent of a Passover Seder. I  steal my material from wherever I can find it.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT “THE LORD OF THE RINGS”

The book is about good and evil. On the bad side, there’s Sauron, the greatest and most powerful of evils. Saruman, who would have become Sauron — given the chance. The horror of those who follow these worst of men.

The fear that engulfs the world as Sauron’s shadow began to cover it. The fearful hope that somehow, when power fails, that the determination and dedication of the least of them may yet win the day — and does win the day. It was definitely worth a party and it still is.

I bumped into this quote last night. I was tucked in for the night and I hoped I would remember it in the morning. I didn’t exactly recall it, but luckily for me “Lord of the Rings” is such a well-quoted book, I found it online:


Eomer said, “How is a man to judge what to do in such times?”

“As he has ever judged,” said Aragorn. “Good and evil have not changed since yesteryear, nor are they one thing among Elves and another among Men. It is a man’s part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house.”


In the great fabric of  life in which we are threads, good and evil are part of us. We are born knowing both. It’s in our DNA. When we see evil and allow ourselves to become part of it — when we live in evil times and excuse the evil around us– we become part of it. No spoon is long enough to keep you far enough away from the Devil.

A bad man and his wicked followers and adherents don’t have “a good side.”

And in the darkness bind them …

Happy Fall of Sauron Day. Read Tolkien. Watch the movies. They’re available on Netflix. Maybe elsewhere, too.

THE FABRIC OF GOOD AND EVIL – ARAGORN TO EOMER

I’m rereading for the umpteenth time, “The Lord of the Rings.” Essentially, the book is entirely about good and evil. The great evil that is Sauron, the lesser evil of his cohorts, the striving evil of Saruman … and the fear of all involved in the battle hoping they can see the  right way and remain woven in the fabric of good. When evil is everywhere, goodness is not a given.

I bumped into this quote last night. I was tucked in for the night and I hoped I would remember it in the morning. I didn’t exactly recall it, but luckily for me “Lord of the Rings” is such a well-quoted book, I found it quickly.


Eomer said, ‘How is a man to judge what to do in such times?’ As he has ever judged,’ said Aragorn. ‘Good and evil have not changed since yesteryear, nor are they one thing among Elves and another among Men. It is a man’s part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house.


In the great fabric of  life in which we are threads, good and evil are part of us. We are born knowing both. It is in our DNA, should we choose to recognize them. When we see evil and allow ourselves to become part of it — when we live in evil times and excuse evil — it become us too.

A bad man and his bad adherents never have “a good side” and lying about it changes nothing — except probably you. Because when you mouth evil, you absorb it and make it part of you.


Please note that when you read this book, you eventually wind up talking like this.

And in the darkness bind them …

CONFESS LEST THE DEVIL TAKE YOUR SOUL?

Last night we watched the final episode in this year’s “A Place to Call Home,” a really good Australian melodrama. This was its fifth year and who knew we’d get all tangled up in an Australian melodrama? It’s their version of Dallas, sort of … but I like the people better.

In this final episode of year five, the Very Bad Girl of previous seasons eventually kills herself to implicate a Very Bad Guy. It is a sacrifice to all the evil she did in previous episodes. In the end, at least one member of the family feels it is wrong to let the Very Bad Guy go to the gallows when this family knows, even if no one else knows, that the Bad Guy didn’t really kill her.

It got me to thinking about life and death decisions … when you are obliged to save the life of someone who has done you wrong and  every fiber of you is screaming “let the bastard die.”

I believe most of us can’t do that.

Despite the fact that today, in this time and space, our country is being run by awful people who have no conscience and no sense of right and wrong — or good and evil — it doesn’t mean that we are the same. Have once been in that position, I couldn’t do it. Should I have done it? I sometimes wonder, though really don’t know. I was sure then and I’m reasonably sure now I would have regretted it. If I didn’t regret it, it would have changed me and made me into someone else, someone I could not recognize as me.

things we do, good and bad, alter us on a fundamental level. Technically — legally — no one is responsible for saving the life of someone whose death they did not cause. If you see someone trying to commit suicide, you are not legally obligated to stop them. You aren’t breaking the law if you let them jump from that ledge or take the poison. But your soul knows. Your conscience knows. Your gut knows.

The bad things we do never go away. They are little poison pellets that grow inside us. Forever.

That’s why looking at our so-called leadership, I wonder how these people can look at themselves in a mirror and not be struck with horror at what they see. I would like to believe that at some point, this will catch up with them and the poison in their souls will eat them alive. I don’t know it’s true and I have no belief system to prove it, but I want it to be true.

IN TRUMP’S WORLD VOLDEMORT WINS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I get it! I finally have some understanding of Trump and his followers. It’s not pretty, but at least it’s something I can wrap my head around.

David Brooks wrote an editorial in the June 2, 2017 New York Times called “The Axis Of Selfishness”. He posits that Trump has a very dark view of humanity and the world. Trump believes that man is motivated solely by selfishness and self-interest. Life is merely a competitive struggle for gain and dominance at the expense of others.

There are only winners and losers. There is a limited amount of ‘stuff’ to be had and everyone has to try to get as much as possible for themselves. You are either on top or you are on bottom beneath someone else’s heel. There is nothing in the middle. No area of compromise, no mutual interest, no sharing, no neutral zone where people coexist in peace, prosperity and equality.

This explains a lot. He is sympatico with brutal dictators because they share his philosophy of life. And they are ‘winners’ who have come out with the most power and the biggest piece of the finite pie. It’s every man for himself, us against them, eat or be eaten, dominate or be subjugated in a dark world with no humanity or humanism.

No touchy feely stuff like morality, good, selflessness, compassion, caring, or justice enter his world. It’s as if those qualities don’t exist for him. That really is sad. If he weren’t screwing up the entire free world I might feel sorry for him — another squishy emotion that he doesn’t recognize.

If this is how Trump sees the world, his behavior almost makes sense. No wonder he’s such a dick! No wonder he’s paranoid. No wonder he thinks all Muslims are out to kill us, that Western European democracies as well as Canada and Mexico are out to cheat us, that all non wealthy, non white Americans exist entirely to mooch off everyone else — and all liberals want only to destroy him.

No wonder Trump can’t let anything go — or stop tweeting. He has to be right and everyone else must be wrong. No wonder he has to demean others. In his mind, the only way you can lift yourself up is by denigrating others.

Brooks says the problem is that Trump’s worldview is self-perpetuating. If you act aggressively, competitively, and selfishly towards all others (people or nations), they will respond to you in kind. Thus your misanthropic attitudes are confirmed and the vicious circle of the worst humanity has to offer goes around and around.

The rest of us acknowledge the existence of greed and venality, but we believe social evolution pushes mankind to be cooperative, empathetic, idealistic, loyal, and righteous. We believe humanity is designed to strive for these ideals in our personal and public lives. We can see the wonderful world we can make if we work together and care for one another.

In our world, Harry Potter beats Voldemort every time. In Trump’s world, Harry Potter is a minor character with little power or even influence. Voldemort is the undisputed king.

I don’t want to live in that world! Neither does most of America.

We have to hope the people who share our better view of life can muster the strength needed to banish Orange Voldemort’s darkness, and bring back America’s light. We have to fight to reinstate compassion, decency, justice, and right as the guiding forces for America.

EXPELIO TRUMPUS!

TRIUMPH OF GOOD OVER EVIL

We need to celebrate Fall of Sauron day. The triumph of good over evil. The dropping of the One Ring into the cracks of doom. The journey of a couple of fragile Hobbits — successful beyond all logic and reason — to conquer the dark doom of Mordor.


The message came by email out of my past. Blowing away at least thirty years of haze and fog …

… I still have your letter of congratulations on my first marriage … written in Elvish.

     d

I remember learning Elvish. J.R.R. Tolkien had amazing appendices, from which you could learn Elvish. Well enough to write a little and read even more. I could have studied other Middle Earth languages too, but quit after Elvish because I had, you know, to work.

I admit I don’t remember writing that note. I remember writing the “Fall of Sauron Day” (in English) service. The first version plus 5 or 6 later revisions.

macro fuchsia

We held the annual celebration as near as scheduling allowed to the Vernal Equinox — March 21st or thereabouts. It was like a miniature Seder, but with more wine drunk a lot faster. Drunk being the operative word.

all that is gold

The entire service lasted just short of an hour. Including about six glasses of wine. I’m sure I have a copy of the service in a huge box of writing in the back of the basement, near the oil tank. If it hasn’t rotted or turned to dust by now.

On a year when “the boys” (our lively groups of crazed engineers) had available time, we had visual and sound effects. We came in costume, or some semblance thereof. When life was too busy to make costumes, we did the best we could with whatever came to hand, dressing in some version of Middle Earth-wear.

Then we celebrated. Drank to excess. Which wasn’t hard since I basically didn’t drink. We laughed, ate mushrooms (the favorite food of Hobbits). Some of us me passed out and/or got sick me again.

Those were crazy busy years. Babies. Work.  Establishing a profession. Partying hearty almost every night, then getting up and doing it again.

All of this took place in my twenties. As I rounded the corner to 30, I wanted out. There is such thing as too much fun.

I lived nine years in Israel, but never properly learned Hebrew. Maybe if I had studied Hebrew with the same determination I’d put into Elvish, it would have turned out differently.

So, for now, if anyone would like to join me in a revived celebration of the destruction of Sauron, I have the service somewhere. We’d have to cut down on the booze since we don’t drink anymore, but I’m pretty sure we could make the rest of it work for us. Because celebrating good over evil is bound to be a rewarding holiday.

290 – OTHER AND COMPARATIVE RELIGIONS

THE DEWY DECIMAL SYSTEM – THE BLACKLIGHT CANDELABRA

In response to Bumblepuppies prompt on Blacklight Candelabra, I created a three 3-digit number. I visited this Dewey Decimal System website and found the subject which matched my number. I got lucky.


I cheated. A little bit. I used my address, which is three digits. And hit a bulls-eye. My favorite subject for mental meandering and an occasional rant.

Number 290 — Other & Comparative Religion

We waste a lot of time trying to figure out what life means. We don’t waste nearly enough time doing what we enjoy … which in my opinion, is the meaning — or at least the point — of life. Most people think religion has something to do with it. I was taught there are two ways to approach religion:

1) It’s a formalized set of beliefs to which a bunch of people adhere. (William James)

2) It’s the center of you, most “propriate” — central — to your “self.” (Orlo Strunk)

I’ve always gone with door number two wherein religion isn’t a set of beliefs, rules, and guidelines — no matter how many people claim to follow it. It isn’t what someone says at a pulpit on Saturday or Sunday. It’s how you live, what you are. If you are a miserable, mean-spirited bastard, I don’t care how often you attend church, synagogue, or mosque, you are the way you are. Your religion is you.

72-Glow-Snow-3-2_02

Most of us are essentially self worshippers. We may include others in our closest (most propriate) circle. A life mate, kids, pets, closest friends. Maybe dedication to an art — writing, painting, music. Or making money and accumulating stuff. Regardless, our inner core is our religion. It’s what gives life meaning.

Life is rarely what we want or expect. Never what we believe we deserve. So you gotta wonder if the reason you are sick, broke, or miserable is because you lack faith or failed to adhere to those Higher Laws. Yet if you look around, you’ll see many folks with faith aplenty whose lives are a train wreck. They explain it by saying “God has a plan.” I’m not going to argue if there’s a plan, but I question if said plan has anything to do with me.

I’ve put decades of thought into why my life keeps falling apart. I’m not perfect, but whatever I’ve done wrong, it’s small potatoes in the scheme of things. It’s hard for me to believe, even in my darkest moments, I’m so wicked The Big Guy has in for me. Personally.

One day, I realized I had my answer. Life is random. There is no meaning except what you give it. If you give nothing to life, life will give nothing back.

Whether what you put into your life is based on principles espoused by a “formal” religion” (per William James), or is what you hold in your heart (per Orlo Strunk), you know everything you need to know. Mostly, you know right from wrong because you were born knowing it. You know what you love, what you care about. You can now move about the cabin. Make your choices without expecting reward or punishment.

Life doesn’t make sense. Never has, never will. You don’t “do the right thing” because it will earn you a reward or a ticket to heaven. You do right because it’s right. Life will probably screw you over anyway, but not because you chose wrong. Merely because life is like that.

If believing in a loving God makes you feel good, believe it. It could be true. If it turns out you’re right, you’ve backed a winner. If believing there is no God floats your boat, go with that.  Whatever you do, I hope it makes you happy. Take your best shot. Whatever awaits at the end of the line, the one sure thing is today. Pity to waste it.

WHAT WERE THEY DOING IN GOMORRAH?

For the last few days, I’ve been adrift. Mentally. Physically, I’m where I always am. In my living room. In the love seat. Surrounded by dogs, husband. Topped with a computer and convenient to the kitchen, in case I get peckish.

So. What’s on my mind? Gomorrah. I’m thinking about Gomorrah. Aren’t you?

God smote Sodom and Gomorrah. Poor wife of Lot got turned into a pillar of salt. Yahweh was pretty upset about it. Whatever it was.

We all know what got them smote in Sodom, but what horrible deeds were being done in the other zapped city? What twisted vices were practiced in Gomorrah?

Picture: John Martin

Picture: John Martin

Can one be gomorrah-ized?

If the answer is yes … {pause} … is gomorrah-ization fatal? Assuming, of course, that one has does not been smote (smitten?) by a pissed off deity. Smiting (getting smote?) can have permanent repercussions.

Will antibiotics help? Have we yet found a cure? Are we even searching for a cure? Does anyone, other than me, care?

All of these question swirl around my brain. So many questions without any answers.