07 December 2007

thoughts on gitmo

Yes, I have been a great sluggard and slacker of a blogger. It's been crazy lately. The new job at Auto-Owners is starting to feel good. I enjoy what I do, and lori and I are starting to adjust to the new schedule with me working full-time. The last few weeks have been especially crazy. Lori's grandma passed away the Sunday before Thanksgiving, so we were out to South Dakota from Sunday until Wednesday. Then we came back, because lori's mom was supposed to visiting us from SD for Thanksgiving. It was kinda funny because she dropped us off on Wednesday to head from SD to Lansing, and then we picked her up in Flint on Thursday and went to two family Thanksgivings, went shopping on Friday, and hung out around the house with lori's mom the rest of the weekend. All of this was generally a good time, but it's been stressful for lori. Between the running around and all the emotional processing, she's been had a full plate.

In other news, we signed up for a membership at the YMCA. They have this sweet facility about 10 minutes from us that was built in 2003. We've really enjoyed being able to work out there, since we aren't going to be as active outside as we were in the nicer weather months.

I read an article from the BBC News about the guy at Guantanamo who tried to slit his throat with his own sharpened fingernail. Reports say that he has been confined there for 6 years without charges brought against him. I forget exactly who, but one of the military folks in charge at Gitmo told the BBC that these inmates make these attempts to hurt themselves in order to discredit the US military and goverment. Now that is about the stupidest and vilest thing I have hear in a long time. Stupid because I find it hard to imagine that folks commit suicide just to discredit anything or anyone. That, at best, is only a partial explanation of the pain, anguish, and misery that must go into such a decision, if it is any explanation at all. It is vile because it dehumanizes the person who has injured themselves. This man's comment took an action which undoubtedly was far more complex and human than just an attempt to discredit the US.

If we would like to continue to fight battles of anger, hate, and misunderstanding, against people who will bear the same things towards us, then I think that this man's comments are an excellent strategy. Unfortunately, I think we have seen the results throughout history of these kinds of conflicts: blood, famine, suffering, enslavement, rape, pillage, and misery.

I believe that there is a different path. It may sound like pussyfooting, or ignoring danger, but I think that the most effective path to end these conflicts is to appreciate others in their full humanity, even if they don't appreciate themselves. If we dehumanize these folks, then we encourage them by our view of them, to continue to act inhumanely. If we give them a gift of understanding that feeds and nourishes their deeper seeds of humanity, then we will encourage those seeds to grow instead of hate and anger. I believe that all terrorists and enemies should be extended this love and understanding. I believe that by doing this we have the greatest potential to disarm their anger and their hatred, and because of our love and understanding in doing so, turn them, and future generations of their kin, into friends and allies. It may seem easier to overpower and destroy them, but that will not destroy the anger and hatred. It will grow anger and hatred in us, as we act on those seeds in ourselves. It will also encourage the growth of anger and hatred in our enemies, likely turning those that we keep under our thumbs, or the friends and kindred of those we destroy into enemies. There is only one way to peace, and that is through practicing peace. You cannot make lemonade with oranges, and you cannot expect to squeeze a lemon and get orange juice. If we seek peace, then we must seek and act on the peace within ourselves in order to achieve it. We must also realize that if we seek and use the anger and hatred within ourselves, we will reap anger and hatred.

So yeah, when I hear things like that guy said it really upsets me. I grieve for the dehumanizing treatment of a human being, no matter what they have done or been accused of doing. I grieve that our country plants seeds of hatred, anger, and fear. I grieve that we continue to act on our own hatred, anger, and fear. I also read this and realize that I need to practice what I preach. This military man and his hand-waving comments make me angry. And yet, if I stop that anger and try to understand why he would say such a thing, I might see differently. I wonder if he is afraid. Has he met this man before? What has their interaction been like? Is he disgusted by him, annoyed by him, or afraid of him? I wonder what he afraid he will lose because of terrorists acts of hatred and anger. What is it about the US that he loves and is afraid could be discredited by this man's actions? Is he afraid that he will lose his job if we treat his prisoners as I have suggested? What does he feel pressured to accomplish in his position at Gitmo? What superiors does he have to answer to and how does that effect how he regards his prisoners? I guess I won't get answers to those questions without the opportunity to talk to this fellow. I am glad I have done the exercise of asking the questions, though. My anger has less power now; I can feel the change. Instead, I do feel a desire to understand this man, to hope that by doing so, I can allow him to transform his own negative seeds and treat his prisoners more humanely.

15 October 2007

Hmmm, it's been a busy and crazy month

So, it's been a little crazy in the last month. One September 20, Jeff, for whom I had done personal care for 4 years and 4 months, passed away. It wasn't entirely unexpected, but it was pretty sudden and shocking. I'm still kind of reeling from that. I've never had someone that close to me pass away, and I'm still realizing what it means to me.

Since then, I've done a bit of job searching, as I'm mostly unemployed. I'm also still working at Chipotle, usually daytimes, which I much prefer to closing (I'm closing tomorrow night and not looking forward to it . . . grrr). I have an interview a week from today at Auto-Owners Insurance, where Lori currently works. I'm pretty excited about that. I also have an application in for a position as Academic Staff at MSU, with the Youth Farmstand Project. It would be incredible if I got either position.

It also happens that my brother knocked up his girlfriend. Gol'darn virile youngsters. He's a senior in high school. She's a freshman in college. So that's been another mess. Woo-hoo!

In good news, lori and I are going with a group of folks from MSU to Bioneers in Traverse City. Both of us are super excited about it. If you don't know what is, google Great Lakes Bioneers. Basically, it's environmentalist, progressive, community-oriented, inovatively-motivated group of people that get together to talk about how to make the world a better place. It should be a great time.

In bad news, today is the last day of vegetable pick-up from our CSA share. Very sad :(. No more weekly vegetables.

More later, I guess . . .

Peace in the Middle East

Condi says that President Bush will be making ending the Palestinian/Israeli conflict a top priority. Personally, I wish that he would make ending the conflicts that we are involved in a top priority. Something about speck of sawdust and log comes to mind.

My Wife's Advice on Depression

So, with all of the crap going on in my life lately, I've been feeling depressed on and off. I was telling lori this yesterday and that I don't much like feeling depressed. She chimes in, "Oh, don't worry, you'll get better at it." Thanks, lori, thanks.

12 September 2007

Political Correctness and a life update

For the record, I find political correctness to be really annoying and pretentious. The newest example of why it is pointless that I have stumbled across was on a handout for a high school Spanish class. It was about what to expect from a 'world language' learning process. Now what was wrong with the phrase 'foreign language?' When you learn a language that is not your own, does the word 'foreign' not apply? What does changing that word to 'world' do for us? It gives us a vague, meaningless phrase. As if someone could learn a non-worldly language?

Now, I understand that there are lots of people that have serious xenophobic issues and I have little doubt that all of us have our stereotyping racist/sexist/classist/etc. tendencies. But changing the terminology is not going to magically change our prejudices. In fact, I think it allows them to continue to exist, because we use this meaningless language, instead of recognizing that when we see something foreign we have a strong tendency to label it as bad. Why not instead continue calling foreign languages foreign, but make a serious campaign to realize that something can be foreign and very enjoyable. And even if it's foreign and we don't enjoy it, we don't have to label it as bad. We can just recognize that it is not for us. Perhaps, I'm asking too much, but too much or not, I just don't see how changing the terminology because we are afraid of certain people's prejudices associated with that word, is going to help the situation.

In personal notes, Sunday night, I felt really comfortable at Chipotle for the first time. It just seemed like I knew a lot better what I was doing and didn't have to think as hard to remember stuff. I'm sure I'll feel more and more loose as the stuff becomes habit. I think it's a bit of a social shock, too, that I'm getting used to. I'm right back in the middle of college culture working there. It's really fun in a lot of ways. Sometimes it can be frustrating, though, because, my schedule and life don't really fit a lot of 'college life' anymore. I closed last night, which also went well. I'm closing again tonite and Thursday night. I'm going to be tired by the end of this.

To cap it all off, lori and I are leaving at 5am on Friday morning to go hike around on South Manitou Island. Fortunately, lori will be able to go to bed early on Thursday night, and she'll drive most of the 4 hours up to Leland. I'll basically just crawl out of bed at 4:55 am, throw something resembling clothing on and then crawl into the back of the Vibe to sleep for at least a good part of the trip.

I'm actually really excited about SMI. We're going to be hiking about 2 miles from where we get dropped off by the ferry, then setting up camp and day hiking. That means, we don't have to try to pack super light and we can cover a lot of ground in a day, and hike later, since camp will be already set up and waiting for us. From all appearances, it looks like the island is amazingly beautiful. Look for pictures on my Picasa site (picasaweb.google.com/bioethicsman) sometime early next week.

06 September 2007

Things have been a little crazy

Rumor has it that my life has been crazy for the last week or two. I am here to confirm that yes, it truly has been. I’ve begun a second job at Chipotle Mexican Grill in East Lansing, so I’m now working 40-50 hours a week. Last week was especially crazy. I closed Monday and Tuesday at Chipotle, and Tuesday was a free burrito day. Monday night was crazy because we were busy, since it was the first day of classes, and the place was crazy since all kinds of prep had to be done for the free burrito day. Free burrito day itself is inherently crazy. I think it was about an average of a burrito every 8-9 seconds. Worst of all, I got to do dishes most of the time I was there (2:30-11:45), with an hour break in the evening and helping close up front and in the lobby after 10:45.

Then I went to Fenton Wednesday afternoon, after work, in order to give some attention to some family craziness. Five well spent hours, but spent hours nonetheless.

I then had some time Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon to finish preparing for a backpacking trip to Pictured Rocks. I picked lori up at work at 3pm on Thursday. We managed to get on the road by 3:30, but then managed to get in a really dumb fight, which made the ride up north a little bitter tasting. After driving in the dark down some glorified two-tracks, we arrived at the Twelve Mile Beach trailhead parking lot. We slept in the back of the car for a few hours, got up at 5:30am and jumped on our shuttle at 7am. Finally, after a bit of a runaround to get our backcountry passes we were on the trail.

Hiking was amazing. Pictured Rocks is beautiful, incredible really. If you want to see pictures, check out our album at www.picasaweb.google.com/bioethicsman. The trail is really easy to hike and the weather was incredible: warm, but not too warm, no rain, cool at night. Our trip was perfectly paced. We got to have nice long lunches at the beaches and arrived to our camps by late afternoon or early evening.

Of course, all of this was too good to last. On the second morning out, after breaking camp, on the way down to have breakfast at the beach, I fell in a stream and knocked my head on the stone bottom. I didn’t crack it open, but I was pretty woozy, wet, and my head hurt. So, I’m dizzy and soggy, and it turns out the the biting stable flies hunker down overnight in the sand, because it is warm from the sunlight, which means I’m trying to make breakfast while being bit by these nasty little flies. I was still dizzy an hour later when we finished breakfast and had our packs ready to go, and we decided it would be best to head out to the nearest parking lot, instead of heading further in and ending up stranded if my head wasn’t ok. So we took several hours to hike out 3 miles. By the end of it, I was pretty glad we had called it quits. Though my head only hurt for that day, it was really pounding pretty good by the time we got to the parking lot. Fortunately, we were able to have me hitch a ride to our car and lori and I started a round about drive home. We stopped at Taqhuamenon Falls, and then made it over the bridge by 9:30 Monday night, which was good since the 50th anniversary bridge walk was the next morning. Since every hotel within an hour drive of the bridge was said to be full, we parked at a county park lot west of the bridge 10 miles and slept in the car again. We drove the Tunnel of Trees scenic drive down to Harbor Springs, then through Charlevoix and back to I-75, then 127, which took us home.

It was nice to have Tuesday off for lori and I to unpack, clean up and relax at home together before returning to the grind. We got most of our unpacking work done and I was able to crash for most of the afternoon to recover from all the craziness of the week.

Well, that’s how things have been. I’m closing again at Chipotle tonite, meaning I’ll miss the last soccer game of the season ☹. I couldn’t find someone to switch the shift with me. Fortunately, I’m off Friday and Saturday night, so I’ll get to relax a lot this weekend. I’m looking forward to it . . .

23 August 2007

Oh, the cartoons

BBC News article that I found interesting:


First off, some general comments about the whole religious cartoons fiasco over the last year or so. I find the fact the people are rioting, threatening violence, killing each other, etc. to be an incredibly silly and immature reaction. Of course, I don't think it's just people acting foolishly. It seems to me that various media outlets sensationalise both the original offence and the reaction to it. Then again, nice little stories about normal, sensible people just don't sell as well on the evening news. Yet another good reason to not be that into the evening news.

Second, comments in particular to the cartoons: I'll start with the Mohammed one and then move onto the new Jesus cartoon. I can understand that Muslim's would take offense at the portrayal of Mohammed with a bomb for a turban. I can't understand why they would turn around and enact violence as a reprisal ("How dare they portray Mohammed as a violent extremist!!! Let's go find somebody to kill or something to burn!!! That'll teach them a lesson!"). In keeping with the comment about sensationalising media forces, I didn't hear too much at that time, especially not in the headlines, about the millions of Muslims, who saw the cartoon and disproved it by proving their own belief in leading a peace-seeking life, with non-violence towards those things that they protest.

Third, turnaround is fair game. If the Western world is going to take a jab at a streak of violent extremism that runs in Muslim culture, might we not expect to receive a similarly stinging response? I don't think anyone can deny that substance abuse is not a small problem in our 'Christian' culture. And I think that good, churchgoing people can take a bite of humble pie and admit that they and their children are often not often doing much better with the issue than the rest of the culture. Pastor's kids do have a reputation after all.

Personally, I find both cartoons to be excellent pieces of sociopolitical cultural art. They sting, they upset exactly because they are effective, because they point out the dirt under the carpet. I also think they are both funny. They contain an irony because they hold the figurehead of a religion responsible for the misdeeds and misinterpretations of the faithful, and arguably for a kind of behavior that neither would have condoned.

I hope that we can look at these cartoons, think about what is implied in them, take the sting, and then seek to make positive change. If we don't want Jesus represented as promoting substance abuse, then seek to live a life of responsibility, compassion, and freedom and seek to help others, through love, compassion,, and understanding, acheive the same. If you don't think that Mohammed would have appreciated being portrayed as a mad bomber, then seek to promote peaceful disagreement and non-violent resolution. After all, protest only goes so far as its fruit grows in our lives.