Dead Set

The Lesser of the Dead
From the Smithsonian Magazine, February 2012: An article by Owen Edwards on Mummies from King Tut to other, lesser mummies, notes that one poor dude’s mummification put him in the category of lesser mummies. The author of the article quotes Lana Troy who said: “He’s a good mummy for the time he comes from-a time of quick, budget-priced mummies.”
And for the Future-Dead
What a legacy to leave to the ancestral groups of mummies that follow. I can hear the ads for funeral services now: “Don’t let your loved one meet the Gods as a lesser mummy! We provide mummy upgrade services at affordable rates for everyone from pyramid builders to sacrificed virgins to kings.

Stupid Saturday

Luke warm off the press! My reactions to news items in the April 19, 2014 Gainesville (FL) Sun. Stupid News Saturday.

Item One:
A recent attack on a resident in a gated community by a Black Bear, leads to concerns by Florida residents about the latest scourge of attacks by these black beasts. According to an article from the Orlando Sentinel “Dallas Smith thinks he has the answer to Central Florida’s Black bear threat, and he’s ready to lock it and load it.” The article quotes Smith as saying “I think the fear of God needs to be put back into them.” The 47 year old Smith wants restrictions that prohibit bear hunting, even on private property, lifted by state authorities. However Smith asserts “I love bears. I just don’t like where they’re going”.
Concern about bears prompted Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to provide comment cards asking “How do you feel about bears in Florida?” One response was “People are more important than bears.”
My thoughts upon reading this brought me to the obvious conclusion. Nothing warm and fuzzy here in Florida. We like to keep bears where they belong: out of gated neighborhoods. The only good bear is a dead bear. Why can’t the good citizens of Florida simply use the Stand Your Ground law? Bears are clearly a threat! There are close to 19 million (19,000,000) people in Florida and bears, which are exploding in growth to nearly 3 thousand (3,000), are increasingly encroaching on the habitat of the humans. Why can’t “they” stay where they belong which is certainly not in a gated community. Unlike certain members of the population who do pose a serious threat, black bears are no longer a threatened species in Florida, but that still means it is illegal to injure or kill a black bear. So to all those important people in Florida remember that if you see a bear, it is illegal to kill it, but you can take it to church to put the fear of God back into it. If you feel threatened by something other than a bear, and you don’t like where “they’re going” lock it and load it Buddy!

Item 2:
From the Associated Press comes a review of The Kind Mama, a book written by “Clueless” actress Alicia Silverstone. The book contains “…sometimes controversial ideas about mothering”, and Silverstone gushes about her wonderful pregnancy, her wonderful son, and her wonderful vegan diet. Her mothering techniques are all well and good, though not particularly new, but I wonder what makes her an expert after three years of experience with one kid. Why anyone cares leaves me clueless. What she seems clueless about is her recommendation that there be a “lying-in period after birth, where a mother can bond with her baby.” Silverstone took ten days after birth to stay in bed with her son. How Wonderful!
She should tell her wonderful experience to her housekeeper, or to the person or people who had to take care of her and her household while she bonded. Maybe the women who took up the slack or made all the products she used while in bed could benefit from ten days in bed, but they probably are lucky to have a day or two in the hospital after giving birth before going back to work so they don’t lose their job, or the income from that minimum wage job.
Now that her son is the ripe old age of three, he loves beans, green vegetables and blueberries which Silverstone declares to be “a miracle” and a distraction from candy. She gushes on to say of children raised with her ideas: “So if they never know candy and they only know blueberries, isn’t that a great thing?” Sure, blueberries and vegetables are great but tell that to the immigrant or migrant worker who slaves long hours in the fields harvesting these healthy foods, and who after a long day, needs to run to the market to feed her own children, and without benefit of Silverstone’s book, runs harried through the store with kids in tow quieted by candy which is cheaper than the blueberries and vegetables that this worker can’t afford on her meager income. Maybe Silverstone could do a book signing on the side of the road for the working and homeless women who could really benefit from learning how to parent.

Item 3:
I conclude my stupid Saturday remarks about a question posed to Rabbi Marc Gellman in his weekly segment “The God Squad”. Despite being decidedly non-religious myself, I rarely miss a week of reading his responses to all manner of questions, my small testament to his interesting take on spiritual matters. His astute, relevant, and kindly answers to this week’s question are a decided contrast to my thoughts and make clear why I don’t have a column devoted to inquiries from the public. Rabbi Gellman’s considerate response provides a religious and historical background to this week’s question about apocalyptical ideas and concludes with a calming prayer from the “deepest place” in his heart.
The questioner is a woman who, after watching the awful news and weather reports from the US, asks “I’m scared to death. Is the end of the world coming? How will we know?” My answer to the first part may be simplistic, but if you’re scared to death, you’re dead, so you won’t know if the world ends. According to scientific predictions, the earth will come too close to the sun in about a trillion-zillion light years which means, according to my calculations, that the end of the world will come then if not before. The end could come in accordance with some biblical prophecy, or we may simply blow ourselves up. The final question is the one that stymies me, the one that makes it hard to hide the sarcastic REALLY? I shout at nothing as I read: “How will we know?” Open your eyes, and mind, and pay attention. According to your question, the news you’re watching is all about the bad things that are happening in the US, as if there are no problems in the rest of the world. Maybe only the US will come to an end, but either way you’ll know it’s coming or has come, because you’ll be DEAD!

The language of hate

Honoring MLK?

January has drawn to a close and now that the obligatory homage to Martin Luther King, Jr. has subsided, I consider the words “Keep Hatin’” that I saw plastered in large letters across the back window of a pickup truck, a message that reverberated loud and clear from the supposedly liberal bastion of Gainesville, Florida. In his final speech on April 3rd, 1968, Dr. King focused on the struggle against inequality and regarded the threats made against him, concluding in part: “Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.” There is no mountaintop in sight here, yet the mountainous barrier that blocks freedom from inequality and oppression has not been scaled here or anywhere across this country.

Around America the month of pretending to care about Black history is just beginning, and now after the holiday that celebrates MLK is over, the MLK boulevards, streets and avenues across the country can be forgotten, once again hidden beneath the litter and debris of life. But as I thought about the Keep Hatin’ message, I remembered the words written by Tony Morrison in the slim volume The Noble Lecture In Literature, 1993. Morrison speaks of how “Oppressive language does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge. Whether it is obscuring state language or the faux language of mindless media; …it must be rejected, altered and exposed.” (16)

It is unfortunate that I am not surprised at the hate and the closed-mindedness of those who boldly declare their hatred to the world, and I am conscious about how my own bumper sticker: “Do you keep hearing crazy voices? Turn off Fox News.” might appear offensive to some, yet it is apparent that others don’t worry how their boldly plastered opinions appear to others. It is ironic that many of these displays are on vehicles that appear to be owned by the very people who would be assisted by the policies they object to. A rattletrap car filling up with gas that proclaims distaste for “Obamacare” seems to be owned by a person who could really benefit by the cheaper cost of medical insurance and who apparently doesn’t mind the insurance companies telling him what medical care he can get but who doesn’t want the government to tell him what to do. The driver who wants to Keep Hatin’ and the one who, with even larger letters on the back of his truck declares: “Obama Sucks” may in fact be underpaid workers struggling to make payments on those huge trucks and to buy gas. It is people like these who will fight against the unions and the raising of the minimum wage that would benefit them as well.

I am not surprised, but I am disturbed because these messages reflect how easy it is not to think for oneself, to allow another, be it a politician, a religious leader, an educator, the media, or a friend to think for you. Martin Luther King saw oppression and today advocates for the oppressed continue the climb to the mountaintop, but the fact remains that so many people would prefer to hide behind the façade of language that limits knowledge and that keeps the barriers in place for those facing oppression, whether racial, sexual orientation, poverty or any of the other ways people are oppressed.

February is here with Valentine’s Day as a day to declare love to one another. So how do we go from Hatin’ to Lovin’? No, I don’t love everyone and I even hate some people, not because they’re different or have different beliefs but because they tend not to think for themselves. For many in America it seems easier to maintain the status quo of an old system that is no longer valid in today’s world. Yet when people allow others to tell them what to think, then it is without their knowledge that they will be as oppressed as those they want to Keep Hatin’.


My Three Rules for Living:

  1. Pay Attention
  2. Be Kind
  3. Don’t be an Asshole

Unicorns-? Rainbows-0

Not long ago I walked out of a Target Store and as I stepped out from under the overhang I saw a vibrant rainbow arching over the expansive parking lot. Excitedly I looked around to exclaim at its beauty until I noticed that not one of the at least two dozen people in front of the store had seen it. Even though some shoppers were facing east towards this spectacular exhibit in the sky, every one of them was looking down at a cell phone-maybe at a video of a rainbow!

My first thought was to point the colorful hues out to them, but I got the sense that they wouldn’t care to be distracted from the important business of texting or playing games on their electronic devices. As I watched the people coming and going from the parking lot and the other stores next to Target, I was amazed that not even the kids walking with their parents paused to look up at the very predominant colors framing the parking lot.

I stopped on the way to my car to wonder in part at the unmistakable sight of the rainbow, but more to continue to watch and wonder how it was possible that not one other person noticed it. Finally as I put my bags in the car and got out my own cell phone to take a picture, a woman in a car near mine asked me if I saw the rainbow. I didn’t see who spoke but was so happy to have another person notice the rainbow that I could have hugged her just as an expression of a shared humanity in wondering.

Had a Unicorn with a horn appeared from pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, no doubt no one would have noticed that either, even if the Unicorn prodded unobserving people in the ass with its Unicorn horn. The response probably would have been to complain of being disturbed from the important task of “selfing” or texting LOL to a BFF. WTF Asshole, wake up and smell the Unicorn!

This got me thinking about an incident that occurred recently at the University of Florida when a male frat boy taunted a black female pedestrian with slurs of a racial and sexual nature. His behavior was inexcusable and that he felt entitled to treat this woman in this way is a sad statement of the entitled culture to which he appears to belong. What got me thinking, though, was my experience with the rainbow because, though unfortunately I’m not surprised at his ignorance and his appalling treatment of the woman, I was completely amazed by the fact that he noticed anything at all. Based on my observations of the people of the rainbow, I know that very few people will bother to lift their head enough to take their eyes off of whatever device has them in a trance. Surrounded as this boy most likely is by like-minded, or maybe more to the point, non-minded people, it is a wonder that he or any of his frat-boy brothers’ can function in society in which looking beyond a cell phone or thinking is possible. The rainbows and unicorns and women of color, or not of color that are part of a larger picture don’t have to exist in the small world picture created by technology. Just don’t “Friend” it or “Google” it and change the definition on Wikipedia. With every thought and idea compressed into a tiny screen the world of this boy and so many others will continue to shrink. Who knows, maybe this is the start of a new evolutionary process by which those of our species who are so absorbed in technological devices may themselves become as small and limited as the technology they need to survive. What will these cell-phone-size-brain people do when confronted with the inevitable “Fatal Error!”? Like lemmings they’ll probably follow one another into oblivion, but I’ll be oblivious because I’ll be looking at the rainbow and waiting for the Unicorn.

Corny? You bet. But paying attention has its rewards.