Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Inmates are Running the Asylum...and Won't Stop Watching John Wayne Movies

As most people who know me know, I am from Vermont. Vermont is the home of the truest maple syrup, dozens of ski resorts, people so left on the political spectrum that California looks like a communist state (they have a Socialist in Congress), Ben & Jerry's ice cream (Karmel Sutra lovers represent!), and the Green Mountain Boys – a militia formed by Ethan Allen (no, not the furniture store) during 1760s and were instrumental in several Revolutionary War battles.

A stain on the Green Mountain Boys was left by one of it's members during the Revolutionary War, a little known person who went by the name of Benedict Arnold. Arnold became upset that he was continuously being passed over for promotion and failed to receive recognition for some of his accomplishments, and eventually defected to the British side during the war – making his name synonymous with back stabbing, treason, and turncoats.

Arnold was also possibly one of the earliest shapers of American foreign policy – by doing what he is notorious for – being a turncoat.

You don't even have to look that hard to find evidence of this. Just during the last 25 years the United States has helped countries such as Iran, Iraq, and Libya in assorted and sordid ways (the reason we suspected Iraq had WMDs, was because WE SOLD THEM TO THEM in the 80's).

During the 80's my father was in the Navy. He was deployed to go sit off the coast of a fairly insignificant nation in the Mediterranean Sea because some crackpot allowed his ego to get in the way of reason and drew a “Line Of Death” in the water (if you think drawing a line in the sand is stupid, water is even more so). The leader of Libya (who has so many spellings of both his first and last name that I just refer to him as Ted now), was a known supporter of terrorism before terrorism was the big buzzword it is now, and was harboring the individual that was responsible for the bombing of Pan-Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

The whole event over the completely arbitrary line was actually fairly laughable, and the whole thing was over before it began. We didn't force Ted from power; we did however do what has become a specialty of the U.S., we bombed Libya back to the stone age...setting it back about 3 days. Then we decided to leave Ted alone. We knew where the nut was, and we were content to assume that Ted was just a mental patient and Libya was his padded room.

After a few years, a bizarre thing happened with Ted. Ted became a buddy to the U.S....WHAT?

Ted apparently responded well to therapy (sanctions), and orchestrated the handover of the bomber, paid some reparations for the bombing, and all was well again...NOT!

After the Egyptian uprising earlier this year, many Libyans also decided that they were exhausted of their autocratic ruler who had begun palming his meds and avoiding his therapy sessions. The U.S. (who has had a serious problem thinking that it is the cavalry in a John Wayne movie) decided to step in and put the smack down on Ted again.

Libya is just the latest in the growing list of examples of America doing what it sees as one of its greatest villains in its brief history did. Friend today, foe tomorrow. Britain, Germany, Japan: if I was you, I'd be very careful. Sure we have been buddy-buddy lately, but we have kicked your ass before – and we are always looking for a fight...and we think Ted is erratic.  

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Sanctity of Death

Yesterday, the Supreme Court handed down a decision in favor of The Westboro Baptist Church, siding with them that they were entitled to protest at the funerals of fallen soldiers. The Church contends that the United States is being punished by “God” for “the sin of homosexuality.”

Religion, Politics, freedom of speech, homophobia, and respect for the dead. How could I not have an opinion on this.

To start with, I am a staunch freedom of speech supporter (if you read even a smidgen of what I put up, you realize quickly that I have to be). If you ever want to see me fly into a blind rage, tell me that I can't say something.

When I was sitting on the Board of Directors for a theater group I was a part of, I received an e-mail one day from a director questioning whether or not a particular script should be censored for language. The e-mail was about two sentences long; my tirade response was about a page and a half. I made reference to Edward Albee once saying that he'd rather see the theater burn to the ground than have one word in his script changed, pointed out that theater exists to expose people to various points-of-view, and concluded it by saying words to the effect of “will I vote for censorship? FUCK NO!”

The show went on, uncensored.

Freedom of speech does exist to protect unpopular speech. Nobody is really afraid of saying “watching a sunset is beautiful,” could ever be a phrase that would fall under the attack of censorship. So yes, Westboro Baptist has the right to spew their venomous, misguided, philosophically twisted rhetoric at a military funeral as much as the Klan has the right to march through Harlem. It does not make it right though.

Even as brazen as I can be sometimes, there are some lines that I do not cross out of respect (and honestly, sometimes I am outnumbered). Sure I tend to rail against the wars that we are involved in, but I don't wish our troops any harm. Yes, I think religion is a fairytale, but I don't sneak into churches in the middle of the night and replace Bibles with copies of Goldilocks or Rapunzel. I see that as being in poor taste (however, the replacing the Bibles may be a little funny...especially with the Westboro Baptists since they obviously haven't read the damn thing).

If you're against the wars: take to the streets, march on Washington, write Congress. If you're against homosexuality: feel free to make a picket sign, organize a march, or create a blog to announce your narrow-minded idiocy. If you don't like what I have to say, read something else (it's called freedom of choice) but don't go to the supermarket and knock all of the apple juice off the shelf because you have a problem with what I do; it's called displacement, and it's unhealthy.

I have stood over the graves of over 400 people. I have watched over 400 families say goodbye to someone that has died. I have shoveled the earth on, and laid to rest the memories of over 400 lives. I did it all without telling the families that I thought their hopes for an afterlife for their loved ones was, while poetically nice, realistically foolish. I kept my mouth shut, and my ideas to myself because it was not the time, the place, or the situation for me to speak. Westboro should also know that a funeral is not the place to carry out their agenda. Even the English and the Germans had a Christmas Day cease fire during World War I because they felt it would be in poor taste to continue fighting during what they saw as something sacred.