Monthly Archives: November 2011

sorry to put a damper on your holiday cheer

I hate the holidays, for the most part.  For some people that sounds crazy and they might even call me the Grinch, but I see the holiday season for what it really is.  I see the gaping hole in reality that everyone just ignores for a land of lollipops and rainbows.  I’ve seen past the happy go lucky bullshit that the media feeds you.  I see the Macy’s day parade and see an indoctrination of a whole new generation to feel good and buy products they associate with happiness.  I see family traditions based around consumerism rather than charity or even religion.  I see all this and others don’t – or refuse to and it disgust me!

My wife still clings to religion.  She was raised Catholic and still finds comfort in it.  She has even admitted to me before that she believes because “it makes her feel good.”  She doesn’t deny my logic, she is a very emotionally driven person – I’m almost all logic.  My point is I think that the holiday season is the same way.  Consumerist behavior has been pounded into most people’s life so hard that they equate buying gifts and spending money to happiness.  Lets be honest though, the holidays aren’t about generosity – how can it be generosity when it is an expected act?  Isn’t the act of giving more special when it is a random act of kindness?

In fact, if I were not to buy any gifts I would be punished by societal norms.  People would call me greedy, a Grinch, cheap!  Why?  Because I didn’t agree to the status quo and give the big corporations more of my hard earned dollars.  People expect gifts I am expected to give them – if I sway from the expected it is considered taboo.  That is not generosity – it is protecting yourself.

The holiday season has been ruined for me in a lot of ways.  I think it is the expectations.  It is one giant ad campaign and I hate that part of it.  Sure I enjoy spending time with my family, but the fact that shopping days such as “black Friday” have become unofficial official shopping days – and people actually but into it really, really bothers me.

Look – I’m not saying I hate every aspect of the holiday, but I am saying that this time of the year has really been spoiled.  Santa Clause is a marketing tool and Americans must be the only people on earth that complain about a high unemployment rate, debt, and the president – then skip the presidential debates, don’t vote, and add to their credit card debt buying shit for Christmas.  That’s hippocracy if I’ve ever seen it.

fat kid billboards

So if you don’t live in Georgia you probably didn’t know that this existed, but it does.  I noticed the ad for the first time today right in Atlanta not too far from my house.  Some group of people thought it would be a great idea to put up giant billboards ridiculing fat children.  I suppose to shame them and their parents into being more healthy.  The billboards say things like “It’s hard being a little girl, when you’re not.”

I personally think the billboards are hilarious.  Hilarious in the kind of way that a comedian is.  That is one who has dove off the morality cliff, pushed over any sense of caring for others, but is so crude you can’t help but laugh.  It’s like a train wreck and you can’t help but look at the destruction.

The funniest/worst part about these billboards is that someone had to actually sit around and think these things up AND put in the foot work to put them up and pay for them.  Was there are large enough group of people that thought this was a good idea?  Also, I want to know who the hell agreed to let their child pose for these damn signs and do these videos!

On a side note, I just read that Georgia has the 2nd highest child obesity rate in the country.  We really do have a problem. Damn soul food and damn you Paula Dean.

Also, my wife, who is an art teacher for high school almost cried when she saw these videos.  She said she sees fat kids get picked on (her brother is also obese) and it really hurts her.  I guess I have to be careful not to let out a chuckle around her.  These adds are too rediculous to be taken seriously…

You can check out the website and laugh here.

i didn’t get here alone

When I was in high school I was kind of a typical guy on the surface.  I hid all of the problems I had at home.  I put on a confident face at school, but not fake confidence – it was real.  I was lucky to have it for no reason at all.  Maybe it was arrogance.  I played every sport the school offered, but I was best at wrestling.  I went on to become a state runner-up my senior year of high school in the largest school district in the state.   Looking back on it, I’m not sure at what point I decided I would try so hard at sports.  I think it was an outlet for everything else going on in my life.  I think it was all for me, something for me to be proud of and to focus on.

I also found pride in my school work and honestly I think people thought I was a dumb ass because they associated me with they typical jock stereotype.  I made all A’s.  The truth is, I didn’t even hang out or associate with many other athletes.  In fact my two of my three best friends were a Brazilian and a guy from Holland.  For some reason I never associated with most of the people I grew up with.  I think I had a natural aversion to rednecks and ignorance – even when I didn’t know it at the time.

Really, all this is inexplicable.  I have no reason to be this way.  I was raised by two parents that didn’t graduate high school.  My dad worked doing manual labor and we accepted welfare and food stamps.  Both of my parents had trouble with addictions.   The year before I left for college I bought my own groceries.  In fact, I had planned to just pay for college all on my own, but I didn’t have to do it alone.  Truth be told someone, for some reason saw something in me and helped.

I’m not sure how he found me and he never asked for anything in return.  His daughter was in the band and he was a prominent member of the community.  I can only assume he saw me playing sports and somehow found out my background and decided he wanted to help.  He took me under his wing and mentored me.  He found money to cover my first year of college (scholarships from people in the community), he found money to pay for my school supply (including a computer), and offered me advise I couldn’t get elsewhere.

I know that someday I will do the same thing for someone else.  I know that I appreciate what he did for me more than I have ever expressed to him.  Maybe I should tell him, honestly, but I feel like there is some unspoken thing between us that it doesn’t have to be said.  At the time I didn’t even appreciate the help as much as I should have, but looking back – I can’t believe how fortunate I was and I know that it changed my life forever.  It changed my spirit and how I see being a good man and a good person.  I hope I can do the same thing for someone else, so selflessly, someday.  If you have the opportunity to help someone, like I was helped, you should too.  He may never know it, but his generosity really made the world a better place, even if it was only one person at a time.  I’ll continue that and make sure his investment was a good one.

Status Quo: My problem with Republicans AND Democrats

Last night, like one or two other Americans, I watched the GOP presidential campaign debates on CNN.  For the most part it was nothing surprising, but further brought to life some very real concerns I have with the Republican Party – especially the popular candidates.  However, in the spirit of being balanced I figured I would also complain about the democrats too.

My Problem with the Republican Party:

Torture:
When did it become okay for America to support torture?  (Yes, water boarding is torture)  Furthermore, why is a political party based on Conservative and largely Christian values supporting such a thing?  America is supposed to set an example through morality and compassion even in the face of literal terror.  It always makes me laugh when in one breath Romney or Perry will say that “America is not a normal country, but a GREAT country” and in the second breath say that torturing another human being is justifiable.  If the example they want to set as a great nation is by torturing our enemies, then maybe they should rethink their conservative “Christian” values.

Civil Liberties and the Patriot Act:
Some people will argue that the Patriot Act and the many provisions in it that give the government the right to potentially invade our personal privacy is a necessary evil for protection.  I think that it is no coincidence that this was ONLY passed in the wake of 9/11.   People were shocked and rattled by the first major attack on American soil that most of us can remember that we would have passed almost ANYTHING that  would have made us feel safer and comforted.  Had we been thinking clearly, we would have realized that the patriot act was simply another measure to chip away at our civil liberties.

The problem is an incremental one.  We give up a little and over time and soon we find that we have no privacy or liberty left at all.  We get used to the patriot act provisions and later the government passes something else with a patriotic name cutting our liberties some more and soon we find ourselves caged by measures that were meant to “keep us safe”.  What if one day we really do become dissatisfied with our government and we decide to speak out against them – maybe even organize.  What if in my emails I strongly criticize the government and try to organize my friends to do something about it?  What if I blog about it? Does that label me a terrorist or an enemy of the state?  Does the government have the right to read my emails and stop me?  Where is that line drawn?

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety” – Benjamin Franklin

Foreign Policy:
The United States should not police the world or be involved in nation building.  We are in no position to do so – we have no right and we can’t afford it!  We are trillions in debt because we occupy other nations ignoring the long term consequences of our actions.  There has been more than one occasion where the U.S. has been directly responsible for overthrowing a government (even democratically elected ones) to put in place the regime they prefer.  We have even helped Osama bin Laden, Fidel Castro, and Husan Hussain (to name a few) achieve their former levels of power.  When they turned on us (and it seems like they always do) we declared war on them and have yet another enemy.  Maybe they were/are evil, but we helped put them in power – it seemed like a good idea at the time…right?  What mistakes are we making today?  What enemies are we creating and putting in power today that we will have to fight again tomorrow?

I’m not saying that we should be isolationist.  Not by a long shot!  We should be involved in diplomacy and good will.  We should encourage trade and virtues.  We should make friends and have people working for us, not against us!  We should have a strong military for national defense, but it is NOT our job to police the world.  It is no coincidence that Ron Paul, who is against nation building and policing nations, receive more campaign contributions that all other presidential candidates (republican and democrat) combined.  The troops feel apparently agree!

“Love your Enemies, for they tell you your Faults.” – Benjamin Franklin

The Drug War:
Can we please end the worthless war on drugs?  It is not working, I guess people like to get high too much.  You can make anything you want illegal (see prohibition failure) and people will still get the stuff.  The real trick is embracing drugs and regulating them carefully.  Treat them like alcohol.  Especially drugs like Marijuana – there is no real reason it should be treated any differently than any other regulated legal drug.

When you make something that people want illegal it opens the door for a black market.  Which creates jobs and a monopoly for criminals.  Crime goes up and drug related violence increases.  Many drugs are legal in Holland and their society has not crumbled.  People have this idea that if we legalize drugs that all of a sudden EVERYONE would be on drugs.  Well, would you do drugs if they were legal (assuming you do not already partake)?  I surely wouldn’t do any narcotic even if it was offered for free.  Similarly I do not smoke cigarettes and I only drink in moderation.

The trick is proper education about the drugs, proper warnings, proper control, and values instilled in young people by families and society.  Lets stop this drug war once and for all!

My Problem with the Democrats:

Tendency to NOT practice what they preach:
It really bothers me when someone runs for president based on a particular platform and then does the exact opposite.  President Obama ran on the promise of ending the wars.  It took him four years to remove the troops from Afghanistan (coincidentally near election time).  I remember watching him campaign and he said “If the troops aren’t home by the time I bet in office, that will be my first act of President, bring the troops home!”  I loved it and so did America.  Of course he didn’t do what he promised.  The people elected Obama on the principal of CHANGE – we have seen very little of that.  Instead we have more spending, more war, and more of the same!

Spending too much money:
Democrats just spend too much money (not that republicans haven’t done the same thing!).  They want to implement social programs to help the poor, which is great, but they seem to ignore the fact that it takes MONEY to do this.  We are literally TRILLIONS in debt and it’s getting worse.  We can’t continue to tax our citizens to death, implement more social programs, increase the debt ceiling, continue to fund the war, support OBAMAcare, bail out big businesses, continue to print money – and expect everything to just work out.

The country is slowly becoming crippled because of our overspending and horrible monetary policy (from both the democrats and republicans).  If something doesn’t change, NOW, then we are in big trouble – and our children and grandchildren are in even bigger trouble.  We need to start running this country like we run our personal lives.  Stop making enemies, be humble, conservative finances, hard work, generosity and service.

What should we do?

1. Revamp Foreign Policy.  End the Wars promote diplomacy.  Stop policing nations and nation building.
2. Revamp the monetary policy. Get out of debt. Balance the budget. Stop printing money.
3. Overturn the patriot act, promote civil liberties.
4. End the Drug War. Legalize and treat drugs like alcohol.
5. Use the savings from the solutions above to pay of debt, promote research, homeland defense, for social programs that WORK.
6. Promote the ideas of social capitalism.

the first time I smoked marijuana

I have smoked marijuana three times in my entire life, but I will never forget the first time.  I was in college and like most of the things I have done in life that I regret, I was a little drunk.  I remember heading back to a friends house who lived close to the bars, like we always did, to avoid paying for a taxi.  His room-mate was a connoisseur of cannabis  (among other substances) and offered us a few free puffs from his giant mega-bong.  I watched everyone else take a few puffs and after a while I succumbed to peer pressure – like a real man.

I remember putting the giant bong up to my mouth and inhaling for as long as I could.  I could feel the smoke burning in my lungs and I kept it in as long as I could.  I exhaled and everyone encouraged me to go again, immediately.  I did.  What seemed like seconds later I remember feeling like my head was going to explode.  I coughed uncontrollably and every cough made me higher.  I kept saying “this is why it’s called high, my head feels like a balloon”.  I went to the bathroom and stared at myself in the mirror and laughed uncontrollably for what seemed like an hour.  I was officially under the influence of marijuana.

After a while I finally settled down, but I was still drunk.  I’ll admit that the high felt great.  I hit the couch and that’s when it hit me.  Not from being high, but from being intoxicated.  The room started to spin and I had to run outside.  I puked up all of the delicious pizza I ate a few hours before, the greatest loss of the night.

I suppose that is what college is all about.  Doing stuff that makes your body hate you.  That, I did in scores.  I also felt dumb for the next 24hrs.  Maybe it was an mental exaggeration within myself, but I really felt dumb.  Literally mentally slow.  My reactions were slow and I remember thinking to myself – “I feel like a simpleton.”  The truth is – I was too drunk and too high – and all at the same time.  Lesson learned, the hard way.

Is Religion Becoming Obsolete?

I guess I would sort of consider myself “not religious, but open to the option of something greater than ourselves, but leaning towards there probably isn’t a God as we traditionally think of one, but there is probably some overall spirituality/unexplained force that we don’t know about, deism makes more sense, the major religions are deeply flawed” kind of guy.  (You have to say all that in one breath)  However, the more I think about religion the more I come to the conclusion that it makes perfect since why people believe so strongly in religion before and why religion (may be) is becoming obsolete.

1. People need something bigger than themselves.
I honestly think that people just need something bigger than themselves. Something to make us not feel quite so helpless, I suppose. I personally like the idea that we aren’t so alone. Thoughts like this even make death a little easier to swallow. In the past we didn’t understand or have the information to understand the world/universe so everything “bigger than ourselves” we called God. The Sun was a God in numerous ancient religions, the Stars were too. Even the ocean and mountains found their ways into religion. The “great beyond” was all labeled God to provide our consciousnesses and desire to understand all that we saw with an answer. Oral history and folk tale became truth after a few generations. Some of it even lasted enough, was distorted enough, to be written down and many of our ancient myths and beliefs last today. Some of it we call Greek myths – other stories we call the Koran or Bible.

Today we do not need those myths to have something greater than ourselves. Instead we look up at the stars and galaxies and realize the vastness of the Universe and suddenly it doesn’t become necessary to believe in a religion. The Universe is so vast, so large, so incredible that it becomes obvious that there is plenty much much greater than ourselves.

2. Science is beginning to explain things we didn’t understand before.
As I alluded to earlier Science is beginning to understand things that the village elders used to make up stories about.  We understand where disease comes from, we understand what those bright things in the sky are, we know where storms come from, we can explain bad crop seasons, etc.  What used to be myth, legend, and karma is explained via logic and understanding of the world around us.

While our understanding certainly isn’t perfect or even close to complete – we are at a point where we realize that just because we can’t explain something (yet) doesn’t mean its because there is some supernatural force behind it.

3. The Church isn’t our only sense of community anymore.
One of the strongest ties people had to each other was via church.  Church was where you went to get the town’s gossip, it was where you went for fellowship, where you went to hand out with friends, it was “club church” the hottest place in the township.  Today that same since of community that we all require is being, to a large extent, filled by other organizations.  Educational and thought groups, sports teams, various clubs and organizations, government groups, etc.  all take a small piece of what we used to do at church.

Admittedly this is still a HUGE reason people still attend church services.  It is a strong tie that almost everyone can agree on – which is the most difficult thing about forming a group.  Even when I was attending church services not to long ago I enjoyed the folllowship of being around other like minded people.  We all shared the same values for the most part, we were all the same race, we all had similar socio-economic standings, etc.  I mean it’s not coincidence that most churches are full of people of the same race, income bracket, and beliefs.  I’m sure people can point out several token churches where this may not be the case – but in general people want to be around people like themselves.  Church provides that. How many people attend church for the activities more so than the religion?  I’ll bet few would admit it, but it is true for many.

As more options for connections and fellowship continue to develop (and for free) the more people will turn away from churches for fellowship.  Although, I do believe that this is the strongest advocate for Churches.

4. A power shift has occurred.
The Catholic church used to be a kingdom of its own.  Even today it has vast power.  Other religions have similar power and influence.  Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses listen with loyal fervor to their leadership groups.  Even still, as time goes on, and more individuals with secular beliefs gain influence in government and business religious ideas lose their grip.  Often what people believe becomes a popularity contest – whatever the most people are screaming, most people will believe.  It seems thought, that despite people’s upbringing, pure logic wins.

Summary:
It has always been strange to me that people can read the stories of the Greek epics, ridicule the book of Mormon and Joseph Smith, and ignore other religions all together yet believe in their little book’s superiority – even when some of the stories are just as fantastic! I wonder if in 1000 years if our future relatives will look back on us and laugh – wonder how we believed in such fantastic things.

No one can ever prove with 100% certainty that no God exists (there are good arguments for deism). I can’t prove with 100% certainty that Santa Clause doesn’t exist, but any rational person has to admit the flaws of the current popular belief systems. You can make excuses all you want, but everyone knows that something seems weird about what they believe. It takes courage and a certain amount of balls to turn away from something that you have been taught is true your whole life – but people are still doing it. Let’s see where we are in another 20 years – lets see where I am.

The ole’ “I’m Thankful For” cliche’

You know I’m not much into the whole corny “I’m Thankful For” Thanksgiving day routine, but here I sit thinking of a few things I am actually thankful for.  I rant and discuss a lot of things that bother me about society and people, but in reality things are pretty good for me in particular.  I mean at least I have the freedom to write about those things without fear that someone will break down my door and kill me for my opinions.  (At least I don’t think I’m at risk of that)

I’m not starving to death – I’m more concerned about not over-eating and becoming a disgusting fat-ass over the holidays.  I’m not worried about my finances or having a job for the most part.  There are people, even in America, that are going hungry.  I am in good health so far and in general I’m not stressed out over life.  I’m young and well adjusted.  Really, what the hell do I have to complain about?  I was born a white male in America – that’s like winning the lottery 10 times in a row.  (Honestly, I guess that’s why I feel some obligation to rant and complain.  It’s like being so lucky gives me a greater responsibility to talk about and do something about the ills of society – if not me then who?)

I’m no activist, I’m not even that smart. I’m just fortunate enough to have been given the opportunity and for whatever reason the skill and desire to not waste at least a portion of the opportunity I have been given.  Even writing that statement is a big realization.  “I have the opportunity.”  Yep, I better not waste it.  I one fortunate bastard and if I waste this lottery winning ticket I’ve been given then I am one sorry bastard.

Anyways, if you are enjoying life this holiday season – don’t forget to sit down, enjoy the autumn leaves, enjoy the smiling faces of your family members (even the ones you almost hate), be happy you have the food to eat and brain to have thoughts, and remember not to take another day on this planet for granted.  Enjoy it and live life as fully as you can.

get your Jehovah Witness asses off my front porch

Okay, well maybe that’s not exactly what I said, but after five minutes of being courteous to a complete stranger who has knocked on my front door on a Saturday that is what I was thinking.

I’m not sure how it is for the rest of the country, but if you live in the Southern states bible belt region, you know how annoying religious groups knocking on your door can be.  (usually Mormon or Jehovah Witness)  On one level I kind of respect the fact that these folks believe in their philosophy so much that they go out and spread the word.  I mean – if we all believe in God and Hell – I mean REALLY believe then we should be knocking on every front door in America begging people to save themselves.

Seriously, if we knew a natural disaster resulting in a painful death was coming we would surely frantically scramble to our neighbor’s homes warning them, right?  Since we aren’t, even the religious, it makes me wonder how much the REALLY believe in this whole religion thing.  On some level I think people use religion as security when they need it and forget about it the rest of the time.  Maybe that’s how it should be used…

Anyways, back to my point.  Here I am sitting on the couch after doing yard work since 8am and suddenly I get a knock on the door. Random knocks on my door always trouble me because if I’m not expecting anyone it probably means a.) Someone needs help b.) I’m being arrested, or c.) Someone wants to sell me something.  None of those things am I interested in!  This time it was “c” someone trying to sell me something (religion).

It was a black man and his daughter, both adults and well dressed – both fairly articulate and friendly.  I’m not a complete asshole so I didn’t just say “get the F off my lawn”.  I was nice enough and had a friendly conversation, that in retrospect lasted about 5 minutes too long.  They wanted to talk to me about God, of course.  They also wanted to tell me about their religion (which is one of the craziest of all the Christian sects if you ask me – well, hell, their all crazy) After the pleasantries were over I somehow miraculously convinced them to leave without being a complete dick.  They of course asked me when I would be available for a full conversation and I made up an excuse about having a sporadic schedule (which is true, btw).  I’m sure they will pop up at my door again soon – which brings me to my next point.

After they left my doorstep I decided to go on a run.  I started to think about what I would/will do if they come back.  I know that I honestly will not be able to be a complete asshole to them.  On the other hand I could invite them in and have a little fun.  I wonder if they know what they are walking into.  I seem like such a nice unassuming fellow.  They don’t know that I have an entire home library full of Christian apologetics, secular beliefs, and argument counter-argument religious debates. (by library I mean about 20-25 books)  So should I invite them in and spend what is sure to be a couple hours of making them question their faith?  I mean it would probably be fun for the first hour until I realize that I’m getting no where and still have to sit through this another hour.  For some people not believing is not an option, period.  Maybe if I just debate them for a few minutes on the front porch?

Eh, I don’t know and honestly I hope they DO NOT come back.  I do not want to have to make the decision and I do not want to be responsible for making someone question their faith.  If this grown man, who has apparently studied his religion thoroughly, can’t see the flaw in logic then I highly doubt that I will be the one to show him the light.  I’m not against people being religious anyways.  Not in the scene that I really care what they believe.   The Dali Lama is awesome.  Jesus was a rebel.  I’m not totally convinced that there can’t be some sort of afterlife or deity out there, I mean, what do I know?  I do have a problem when ultra-religion halts progress in progressive thinking or when it causes people to act irrationally violent.  Growing up baptist I’ve witnessed entire congregation that reject legitimate thought and progress for a belief system that everyone that doesn’t believe what they do is going to hell.  There are more progressive congregations out there, but trust me, the uber-religious are still out there and thriving.

Well, this rant is getting pretty long and if they come back I’ll keep you updated.  I promise I won’t be a complete ass, but I might give them some healthy debate.  Why not?