Archive for May, 2015

There are those in this world that can’t seem to survive unless they can lock us all into neat little categories. Democrat. Republican. White. Black. Liberal. Conservative. Gay. Straight. Christian. Heathen. No one is allowed to blur the lines, to live their own lives in whatever manner they so chose, even in the privacy of their own home. To do so immediately brings the crushing hand of outrage and condemnation. You must conform to the specified ideal at all times or you are doomed to suffer the consequences. And if you have the gall to speak out in defense of yourself or others, you are guilty of persecution.

When did telling someone to mind their own business become persecution?

Here in the US we’re still eighteen months away from the next presidential election. Eighteen months too much of political games-playing, accusations, promises, lies, inflammatory rhetoric, and the 24/7 news cycle feeding us every bit of minutia they can dig up to keep us angry about one side or the other. Not to mention the billions – yes, BILLIONS – of dollars that will be spent for all that “campaigning.” All I can think about is how all those billions can be so much better used.

I find it troubling that our politicians see nothing wrong with spending that kind of money to keep themselves ensconced in their golden palace, but have no hesitation in cutting far less amounts from social programs that can help the most needy among us. If you’re poor and hungry, you’re a lazy moocher and just need to work for a living like the rest of us. There is no compassion and no desire to understand that the problem of poverty – with its unemployment, under-employment, hunger, medical indigence – is far more complicated than anyone of us wants to believe. The category has been defined, and no one wants to look beyond the borders because then they’d have to think. Or, worse yet, find out they’re wrong.

Categories are easy. Our little ape brains still want to sort the world into Us versus Them, our tribe versus their tribe. If you’re not one of Us, then you’re one of Them and therefore the Enemy. It simplifies our lives and allows us to justify the prejudice and bigotry we heap on anyone outside our own little boundaries. If you’re gay, you’re a sex-crazed pervert. If you’re Muslim, you’re a terrorist. If you’re black, you’re a criminal. There you are, wrapped up into a neat little package which we can now toss away as we move on to worry about more important things, like what to have for dinner.

Sorry, folks, but all that categorizing just makes it harder for us to figure out the problems, not easier. It’s that mentality that has caused most of the issues in the world, not fixed them. Us versus Them never ends well, for anyone. So here’s a radical idea: how about we be Us AND Them? Or, better yet, just Us? We’re all in this together. We’re all humans. We all share this one planet (for now). We all want basically the same things: health, happiness, good friends, a safe home, clean water, nutritious food, and the freedom to be ourselves in whatever form that takes. Let’s focus on what we all have in common, instead of the nuances between us.

I want this because I’m tired of seeing a world filled with anger. I’m tired of being condemned to Hell and accused of sacrificing babies because I’m Pagan. (Side bar: Pagans don’t believe in Hell and sacrificing anything besides a bundle of sage isn’t even a thing.) I’m tired of being a slut and a Femi-Nazi because I believe a woman has the right to decide what to do with her own body and deserves equal pay. I’m tired of comforting friends who have been bullied, abused and relegated to second-class citizenship because of their sexual identities or orientation. I’m tired of the extreme right branding me a libtard because I don’t think one percent of the people should have ninety percent of the wealth. I’m tired of the extreme left declaring me a gun nut because I support our 2nd Amendment rights. And don’t even get me started on fat shaming.

So much anger and hate, and for what? Why is it that not only do we have to win at all costs, but everyone else has to lose badly? We cannot be satisfied until that religion, that color, that country is totally wiped from the world. Only then can we truly be happy. Are we so small that the only way we can feel big is with the complete destruction of somebody different?

And what really boggles me is that so much of what people fight over often has no direct affect on each other. So what if someone is gay or black or Muslim? Why does that matter? Their existence doesn’t make me any less straight or white or Pagan, so why do I have to get my panties all in a wad about them? I’m far more concerned with our failing infrastructure and global climate change than who my neighbors are sleeping with or what god they are praying to. By continually focusing and fighting about these little differences that don’t mean jack in the big picture, we are distracted from that very picture. It’s time to stop being mesmerized by all the smoke and mirrors, to stop allowing ourselves be divided. A house divided falls. And since I’d like to think none of us want that, I suggest you start helping me shore this house up.

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“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

Benjamin Franklin

We all have responsibilities in any type of society. Things we all must do, rules we all must obey, to keep the whole running smoothly. Or as smoothly as humans will allow. There’s constant jostling – an elbow here, a poked eye there, metaphorically speaking – as the whole works through its ever-changing boundaries. Some extremists to one side or the other are constantly striving to put their particular stamp on the rest of us, wanting us forced into their narrow ideal. Yet others don’t want any rules or responsibilities at all, just the freedom to do whatever they want whenever they want with no worry about consequences. The former extreme only works with small groups of the similarly minded, while the latter only works when there’s no one else around to get in the way. Since the real world isn’t either of those, we have to figure out ways to get along.

One of the duties of citizens here in the US is to serve in our court system as jurors. Our legal system is centered on the right of the accused to be judged by a jury of their peers. To facilitate that, everyone of age (with a few exceptions) must appear at some point to fulfill that duty to our community. I had to answer that call earlier this week. And, as the judge who spoke to those of us assembled that morning said, it is never at a convenient time. When I received my summons, I was pretty annoyed. The problems with my vision, the fact I have no ready transportation, the total distaste I have for leaving the house, all came together to put me in a totally foul mood about my service. Normally I’m pretty accepting of it. Our system has its flaws – it’s that human thing, again – but it still works better than anything else I know of, and being called to serve is a small price to pay for keeping our society working. But Tuesday morning when my husband is dropping me off at the courthouse at 6:25 in the morning for my 7:45 appearance (he had to be at work by 7:00), I’m anything but happy.

Since then I’ve become much more reasonable. Because something else the judge said kept niggling at me: “If you think you’re inconvenienced, just think about the parties involved.”

Just think about the parties involved.

The legal standard is innocent until PROVEN guilty. We are all given the benefit of the doubt, unless and until evidence is shown that PROVES otherwise. As a cynical and jaded bunch, we too often think that just being accused is enough. Our forensic sciences are so good, our cyber investigations so thorough, our procedures so defined, that by the time someone is actually standing accused in court, it must be true – they must be guilty. But humans are involved in every step, and humans are flawed, and therefore by association, so is everything they do. And that’s why we have a group of neutral citizens sit in judgment, weighing each side’s argument and determining where the truth really is. The few days or weeks a juror must sit on a trial is nothing compared to the months and even years both defense and prosecution have spent living the case.

Were I one of the parties involved, I’d want people who were earnest about doing the best job they could, people who understood the greater need of our society and were willing to sacrifice some of their precious time to hear what I had to say. I’d want them to pay attention, think calmly, deliberate carefully and offer a reasoned decision based on the evidence presented, regardless of how long it took. I’d want to know that, even if the decision was against me, that my peers came to that decision because of logic and law, not because of emotions and impatience.

The case I was assigned to was resolved before we jurors ever got into court. Which usually means a plea deal by that point in time, but it was done and so was my civic responsibility for this year. I was able to go home, and the parties involved were able to move on, and our system continued to function as best it can with the humans it has.

So, yeah, it’s never at a convenient time. But it’s a necessary duty, and certainly a damn sight better than death and taxes.

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