Posts Tagged ‘America’

Just trying to understand

November 15, 2016

The Atlantic has a wonderful letter sent in by a long time Republican from Wisconsin. Honestly, it sums up a number of my disappointment with this election. The one it didn’t touch on was our soul.

When I was young there was a time when I considered being a priest. My family had never been church going, but for whatever reason I had a fairly favorably view of the clergy and saw it as a possible opportunity to do good and to work with people in a way that was meaningful. Also in a way that was deeply involved with a book, which probably dovetails nicely with my eventual English degrees.

For whatever reasons I moved away from that idea. I thin most of it was around my own temperament and knowing it just wouldn’t be a long term option. Now, as I approach middle age, I find myself returning to religion in a way. I am fairly comfortable with moral choices at this point. I’m probably a secular humanist, if I’m anything, but I still have a strong moral streak, a near hardline between right and wrong, but where that line blurs the smudger is usually a healthy dose of compassion.

No, why I’m venturing back a little bit is to just try to understand my nation – especially in wake of this most recent election. I remember a poll I saw a couple of years ago that said that roughly 80% of Americans self-identify as Christian. Which is fine. It would make sense. It’s not exactly a small umbrella, and our national make-up would support such a number.

What I find that doesn’t support is what we actually do. I admit my lack of intimate knowledge with the Bible. What I attempt to learn is always a bit of a crash course. I think I have some of the basics down, though. Treat your neighbors how you would be treated. Don’t judge or persecute others. Even your enemies you treat with respect and kindness. Be kind to the poor and those in need. Do not kill.

All of which sounds wonderful. Except we don’t actually live by that. We embrace the death penalty. We heavily persecute immigrants. We are unwilling to help those who are in desperate straits either because of war, famine, or whatever (they might be terrorists!). We bristle at our tax dollars proving medical care and food for the poor and homeless.

We also are not supposed to judge for fear that we too may be judged. But there is just something about our self-identifying as a Christian nation and our lack of living up to that self-identity that is particularly jarring to me.

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This Land is Your Land

February 22, 2016

The Koch Brothers are gearing up to fight electric cars.  I think the easy response is something about killing the environment, or about the power of the wealthy being oversized,or even perhaps pointing out the hypocrisy where the oil and gas industry enjoys some decent subsidies of their own.

All of which are great arguments when preaching to the choir.

I, however, want to question whether these are the actions of someone who is truly American and wishes the best for their nation. Being American is about more than chasing a dollar, looking out only for yourself, and enjoying the freedoms you can afford for yourself. It’s about looking at your neighbor and not screwing them over. It’s about putting the nation ahead of yourself in at least some respects.

One of those respects should be national security, and energy independence that would weaken the financial power of its enemies would seem to be  a pretty big positive for the United States. While fuel production in the US has spiked and has allowed the price of oil to be pushed to the floor, a long term shift to more efficient technologies that shut fossil fuel use out of the room would be even better. It would not only help limit funding for military/terrorist adversaries, but could lead to destabilization of foreign government that support them. These are good things.

Using fewer fossil fuels has, in the long run, a higher likelihood of causing less pollution. Putting aside the climate change argument that is an automatic wedge to some people, let’s just focus on the health effects of a cleaner environment. People would simply be healthier, leading to lower pollution related health problems. It would help preserve our environment and wild life for people to enjoy, from camping to hunting and fishing. A cleaner environment is a national good.

Is there a long term good towards fighting a move to cleaner energy use? Maybe, I can’t really think of one, at least not one I could honestly argue, but maybe there’s one out there. Will they outweigh the positives of moving towards cleaner energy use? I don’t think so. And I think that fighting it does put you in a column that is decidedly un-American because it is decidedly self-serving, damaging to the nation in a number of ways, and weakens us as a country. The Koch Brothers are un-American in their actions.

All of us have a place in history. Mine is clouds.

November 5, 2008

Richard Brautigan is one of the writers that I just get. When I finish a novel of his I’m not always entirely sure what it meant. Or if it meant anything. Sometimes I think they are just what they ar: a beautifully innocent look at the world from a man who, as Ferlingetti said, was much more in tune with the trout in America than with people.

My first experience with Brautigan came with a beat up copy of Watermellon Sugar that I picked up at a used bookstore. The bookstore was probably in Toledo, Ohio but it might have been North Platte, Nebraska. It was one of those purchases that you don’t know why you’re making but something about the fading of the cover or the creases in the binding just draw you to it and force you to take it home. That and it was probably absurdly cheap.

Since, I have collected a copy of nearly every work of fiction written by the man, mostly in the form of massive 3-in-1 collections that you can still find on a Border’s bookshelf, if the store is decently stocked. I have found him to be a writer who gives anything from violence to sex to sitting on a bence in the park an aura of golden wonder. All of the critiques of him saying he was “innocent” are spot on but I don’t view them as drawbacks. Why must good writing not be innocent and wonderous? I have to think the world would be a better place if we all saw the world a bit more like Brautigan seemed to.

Never having read much of his poetry, what I have read is very good and carries the similar bizarre track of his novels. In his pages you won’t find another “Howl” or “Wasteland.” When you pick up “Watermelon Sugar” expect to get “Watermelon Sugar.”

Anyway, I just read “Trout Fishing in America yesterday and wanted to talk about Richard Brautigan. He’s an interesting writer. He shot himself in the head in the 80s and he probably didn’t deserve to die in such a way. But it’s probably better than being eaten by tigers in watermelon sugar. Got some links at the bottom in case you’re curious about some more RIchard Brautigan. And if you’re not, you should click on them anyway because I might have just done a poor job of selling him. So check him out. And enjoy the fishing.

 

Brautigan Wiki

Brautigan.net

Brautigan Poetry