It doesn’t take a lot to distract me from a train of thought, (as anyone who has ever read this blog will be painfully aware) so it shouldn’t really come as a surprise to you that, since I first hit upon a topic for this weekend’s post, my magpie mind has been turned this way and that by the innumerable bright, shiny things that we all have access to via the wonder (curse?) of mass-media and the Weird Wide Web.
The problem with the internet in general, and social media in particular, is that it has become more and more a tool that people use to influence opinion, rather than just air their views, on anything from tinfoil-helmeted conspiracy theories and medical quackery, right up to human rights, lawmaking and constitutional reform.
And all the fucking cats, obviously.
Which may explain the increase in posts by many of my American friends on Facebook recently, concerning two obviously hot topics that seem to prompt equally emotional responses from both the pro- and anti- side of the equation.
Now I can’t vouch for the whole of the UK, but I think that over here, very broadly speaking, Barack Obama is seen as a fairly decent, sincere and rational man whose presidency is largely a force for good. (Before I incite a barrage of political invective from across the Atlantic, I will happily admit that my grasp of the larger American political system is that of an interested but slightly bewildered observer and I claim no deep insight into the socio-political workings of the Land of Opportunity)
But to read some of the things that otherwise seemingly reasonable folks say about him on the internet, you’d think he was Satan himself, come to take away your freedoms and eat one or two of your children if he thought he could get away with it.
Quite a lot of people seem currently fixated on the idea that he’s on a crusade to remove their inalienable, God-given, constitutional right to go around tooled-up to the eyeballs with whatever hand held artillery they can carry, even when doing something as mundane as going to the grocery store or visiting the local burger joint.
In Texas especially, feelings were running high when the ironically named Target group announced it would allow advocates of the Open Carry laws to bring pretty much whatever weapon they liked with them to do the weekly shop.
Target – “Well, some of those TV dinners can get downright ornery.”
However, in a gratifying case of bowing to public pressure, including that applied via social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, Target have done a U-turn on that decision, leading to a raft of protests by open carry enthusiasts who can’t bring themselves to walk down the mean aisles of the mall without their trusty assault rifle to protect them from……..well, the hordes of heavily armed shoppers presumably.
Again, I’m not claiming to speak for the majority of my nation when I say this, but if I walked into Tesco and there were people walking around with hunting rifles slung over their shoulders, I’d quietly turn round, go home and lock the doors, close the curtains and try not to make too much noise gibbering to myself.
I know from many a heated discussion I’ve had with American friends that they just don’t get it when I say that we don’t have guns over here, not in the insane way they do in the States, and I find the idea of everyone being armed to the teeth a terrifying thought.
They always sound puzzled and say things like “But the criminals still have guns, right?” as if that explained everything.
I’m not saying that all armed citizens are crazy gun nuts, far from it, but you only need one or two examples that are particularly Twitter-worthy to piss on the collective gunpowder, so to speak.
My own personal favourite nomination for inclusion into Adam Pain’s forthcoming Golden Face Palms would have to be the decidedly white Open Carry Texas group from Huston.
To “educate people of their rights”, they planned an openly armed march through a black neighborhood. Not only that, but with added sensitivity and tact, they scheduled the march for June 19th, the day given over to celebrate the abolition of slavery.
That specific rally did not go ahead as planned, but I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody doesn’t push their luck a little too far in trying to fully exercise their rights in the not too distant future.
Another hard-to-believe story that’s making the Fb newsfeed buzz this week is the one about the Christians, the craft shop and the government legislation.
No, it’s not the feed line to a joke, it’s the news that arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby have more or less unilaterally decided to flout the rules of the ObamaCare bill, by refusing to provide health insurance to female employees that covers IUDs or “morning after” contraceptive pills on the grounds that it contravenes their religious beliefs, despite the fact that an element of the insurance is paid for by the employees themselves.
This not only interferes with the woman’s right to choose, it also disqualifies a lot of women who need the same medication for non-contraceptive medical uses, and it isn’t cheap to buy privately either.
Strangely, they do provide men cover that allows for both a vasectomy operation and a Viagra prescription.
This may seem like a minor, under-the-fold news story, but the ramifications could be far reaching.
What if a Muslim employer insisted that all his staff had to wear a full-face veil?
Or that his employees all had to pray to Mecca five times a day?
How popular would that be in middle America I wonder?
And the case is already having an impact, with other companies questioning their responsibility to provide cover that may go against any deeply held beliefs
they suddenly find they have they may hold.
It just seems weird to me that a shop that started off selling picture frames and modeling kits can now influence government policy.
It’s like the Women’s Institute lobbying the British government to ban fertility treatment, it just doesn’t seem right somehow.
But it was Independence Day this week, so I have tried my best not to start too many arguments with our trans-Atlantic cousins, even getting a few amused comments when I reposted this slightly cheeky old favourite that I made a few years ago to do my bit for The Special Relationship.
And just so it doesn’t give the impression that all I see coming from America is frightening, or insane, or both, I’d like to introduce you to a friend of mine from over in the U.S. who I have been trying to convince to start blogging.
Her name is Lisa and she regularly posts these beautiful, emotive and reflective pieces on her Facebook feed and they invariably receive many compliments on how well she writes and that she should speak to a wider audience.
My favourites are the poetic, narrative pieces that detail the simple pleasures of observing nature, or just sitting on the porch listening to the night, but I was also enormously touched by the post she wrote the other day about how grateful she was that her husband, Joe was well again:
“My mind makes music of the dehumidifier’s white noise; one time it was strings, but lively, jaunty ones. When Joe was at Cornerstone, the air rushing through the tubes connected to his trach played long, slow cello notes. They never stopped. It was the saddest music I’d ever heard.
I could also hear the bangs booms pops of the fireworks that Fourth of July as I stood by the head of his bed and talked to him. I hoped he couldn’t hear them–Joe had always loved fireworks, loved setting them off, he could build a better display on his own than we ever saw at Island Park what with their tiny budget. Stuck in the hospital bed, he couldn’t even raise himself to look out the window, even if there were any rockets to be seen.
They let me stay in the room, sleeping in a recliner, eating the trays he couldn’t. The food was surprisingly good. In return, I helped the nurses bathe him, clean him, turn him every two hours, change the sheets. I didn’t know it then, but I was learning skills for when the insurance cut off and they sent him home.
I hear the creak as he turns over in bed. It’s better music than the dehumidifier.”
Lisa on man’s inhumanity to man.
“If you’ve read true crime, you’ve probably run across the statement that the killer “had to dehumanize” his victim, that some serial killers view their prey as little more than dolls to be acted upon, and this is always written in tones dripping with horror, that this is such a rare aberration. Some strange mental component that “decent” people like you and I (thankfully!) don’t have.
But we do.
Any time we indulge in racism, sexism, classism, religionism–any of the “isms”, that’s exactly what we’re doing. Any time we make another person “other”, not “one of us” that’s what we’re doing, and it enables us to wreak any violence we please upon them, whether it’s simply slander, or actual physical violence and death–we’re doing exactly what the criminals do.”
…on the cynicism of Christmas.
“The surly, churlish “It’s ‘Merry CHRISTmas’, god-dammit!” fad is sheer hilarity on several levels. First being that Jesus, Himself a devout Jew, would have celebrated Hanukkah–one of those holidays in “Happy Holidays” that certain of His followers find so objectionable.
It’s doubtful Jesus would have approved of Christmas, it being a wholly manufactured holiday the later Church used to make Christianity more palatable to its colonized peoples. Pagans had their well-loved “rebirth of the sun” festivals at the Solstice and would have been highly (perhaps violently) resentful and resistant if the Church had forbid them. So, the Church decided that rebirth of the sun could be compatible with the birth of The Son, and permitted the traditional merrymaking under that guise.
If certain of His followers read the New Testament, they’d discover that Jesus viewed non-Jews with marked distaste, habitually making disparaging remarks about Gentiles. Jesus had to be at least tangentially familiar with Roman pagan celebrations during the Solstice. There’s little reason to suppose He’d regard Christmas’s purporting to be a “godly” holiday with anything less than disgust.
Last but not least, the Seventh Commandment prohibits taking the Lord’s name in vain. There isn’t much that exemplifies that better than slapping your lord’s name and endorsement onto a heathen celebration.”
Lisa on the moon.
“And of course I had to go look at the moon.
I missed her full; our sky was solid impenetrable cloud, but tonight they’re breaking up. They march Eastward across her face. She has a little sliver sheared off, looking like she’s peeking at me from under something, or perhaps only her hair falling across her face a little, if her hair was deep blue as the lapis lazuli beads you chose.
And she shines on the snow in the yard, and it does its trick with the Disneyland sparkles to show you that it’s magical, if you didn’t already know. And she shines on the icicles over the door, making them gleam a blue as cold as LED light, but somehow living while LED can’t.
I turn off the kitchen light so I can look out again and she’s printed light on the floor in the pattern of the French door’s frames. The clouds have moved on and she’s bright, it’s bright outside, it might as well be a parking lot, so lit up with the moonlight reflecting from the snow, and from the starlight and the neighbors’ yard lights. It’s cold, it’s a quiet night, but it’s lit up and waiting.”
…and on wacky wildlife.
“Okay, this must be Wacky Wildlife Day.
I look out and see the raccoon waddling up the walk toward the cat food. This doesn’t please me.
I buy cat food for the cats. The bag has a picture of a cat on it; not a raccoon, not the neighbor’s dog, it’s for the cats. Still, as far as raccoons and the mayhem they can commit goes, this is a pretty well-behaved raccoon. If it shows up after hours and finishes off what the cats didn’t eat, that’s more-or-less okay with me. I’m not going to stand sentinel all night to make sure it can’t scrounge the leftovers.
But daylight? Come on.
I open the door and it bounds off, but then stands up in the middle of the yard, looking at me. We stand there for awhile. I don’t have anything handy to chuck at it, so finally I extend my arm and point at it. A lot of animals who have had a rifle pointed at them don’t like that–they’ll run.
I point at the raccoon and it slowly turns and looks behind it, then turns back, like “Who, me?” So I laugh and give up and go back in the house.
Well played, raccoon. Well played.”
[If you, like me, would like to see Lisa spread her wings and start a blog of her own so that more people can experience her wonderful writing, please leave a comment and I will gladly pass them on when I next prod her into doing just that.]
And that’s about it.
Just time to fit in my pick for sunset picture of the week.
Until next time…