25 January 2009

And it's a trifecta

This pretty much sums up how I feel about winter right about now.

The sooner, the better.

The aroma of sleep

I wasn't feeling all that well late this afternoon (Desmond has an ear infection and I think I was having some sympathy pangs) so I went upstairs for a nap. I dreamed that my father was remodeling our family room from way back in the late 70s, and I also dreamed that my wife and I were being tormented by Christmas carolers.

Both dreams had heavy themes of garlic. In the redecorating dream my father complained that the wall paper he was removing smelled so much of garlic he was concerned that its scent would always be in the room. And in the caroling dream we talked about running away from the carolers because they reeked of garlic.

Bizarre. But not as bizarre as waking up and smelling garlic, as my wife was cooking a chicken garlic pizza in the oven, and the aroma was all over the place.

Christians and Muslims and non-believers, oh my!

"We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and non-believers."

The above is from President Obama's inaugural address, and while listening to the whole thing, the last word of that sentence is the only part that surprised me. I cannot believe:

1. That in this day and age, a United States president would acknowledge the fact that some people do not believe in God.

2. That bus loads of people from the deep south have not converged on Washington since then and demanded Obama's head.

3. That James Dobson, Pat Robertson, and what remains of Jerry Falwell have not choked to death (well, I guess that would be hard on Falwell's part) on their outrage, mostly because I haven't heard of any.

It's about damn time that someone said it publicly, that there is absolutely nothing wrong with not having a religious influence in one's life. For the last twenty years there has been a cavalcade of of judgement towards those who do not share the same religious values as the rest of the population. Religion is a choice, and the nation was founded on the ideal (among many) that all people should have the freedom to religion. I think I was six when I first learned that the primary reason the pilgrims left England and came to America was to escape being forced to worship in the Church of England. Bravo to them for dedicating themselves so much that they sailed across an ocean to a unforeseen place. However, freedom of religion most definitely includes the option of freedom
from religion.

Not everyone is happy over Obama's inclusion of non-believers:

With that one line, the president "seems to be trying to redefine American culture, which is distinctively Christian," said’ Bishop E.W. Jackson of the Exodus Faith Ministries in Chesapeake, Va. "The overwhelming majority of Americans identify as Christians, and what disturbs me is that he seems to be trying to redefine who we are.’"

I have no idea who Bishop E.W. Jackson is. He might be one heck of a guy, but he also talks out of his ass. The only truth in his statement is the fact that a majority of people in this nation identify as Christians. By saying that Obama "is trying the redefine who we are" Jackson is parlaying the rhetoric of exclusion into a card of oppression.

So let me get this straight: most Americans, but not all, are Christians, and by acknowledging the fact that not everyone is religious Obama is trying to change society's view about religion? Jackson makes no sense. What he wants to do is scream "How dare he! How dare the president insinuate that God does not control everything we do and everything we are!"

(Hysteric interpretation all mine, of course)

Recent surveys suggest that 16% of people in this country do not believe in God (personally I waver, changing my mind more than a sewer worker changes their shoes, but that's a post for another time); that is almost one in five, yet of the 536 people who represent the nation in the elected government, not a single one would claim to belong in that 16%. A lack of willingness to embrace religion is probably the most potent forms of political suicide. Think about it: we have officials who are caught taking bribes and getting involved in sex scandals, yet you never hear of one disavow the presence of God. Not even a politician is that dumb, I guess.

The more I think about this, the more that I am amazed that this is not a bigger story. Perhaps one of the changes to come to political discourse is a less of an emphasis on God (go ask Elizabeth Dole how that ad she put out trying to label her opponent an atheist in the NC senate race went), or maybe everyone was so hung over from the historical significance of this inauguration that they didn't care.

Whatever the cause, I thought it was a bold move by the president, and it tells me that he is trying to be all-inclusive as he settles in. We'll see if this stays true.

Here's another quote about Obama's inclusion of "non-believers":

The Rev. Cecil Blye, pastor of More Grace Ministries Church in Louisville, Ky., said the president's reference to nonbelievers also set off major alarm bells for him. "It's important to understand the heritage of our country, and it's a Judeo-Christian tradition,"’ period. But his even bigger beef with the president, he said, is that a disproportionate number of "black kids are dying each day through abortion. President Obama is supportive of abortion, and that's a genocide on black folks. Nobody wants to talk about that as a civil rights issue."

Stepping away from religion, Blye's last comments on abortion forces me to wonder a little about him. Of course, it is perfectly fine for him to express his opinion on the matter, and I am not surprised that he is pro-life, but it seems odd that he mentions abortion as a civil rights issue. I don't know if I've ever heard it described as that.

Given his comments, I assume that Reverend Blye is African-American, though I cannot verify this through anything on the church website. There also isn't much on the website pertaining to the philosophy of his church, as I tried to find as much information about him as I could.

My questions are these: does Blye feel as strongly about the scourge of AIDS in the African-American community? Has he spoken out against the disproportionate levels of gun violence? Does he have any ideas on how to stop people from dying? I'm just wondering if he is as staunchly concerned about other civil rights issues pertaining to death as he is about abortion.

I raise these as legitimate questions, not to point the finger of hypocrisy. As I said, I couldn't find any information regarding the preachings of Rev. Blye nor the philosophies of his church.

I'm sure his church brings comfort to a great many people in his community, but given his somewhat inflammatory comments over what was a stunningly honest moment by President Obama, I wonder if he is as concerned with the rest of the population, or if he is just taking this moment to make a political statement.

19 January 2009

Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out

I've been waiting for this night to come for a long, long time. It's finally here. A thousand miles or so east-southeast of here, a beaten man is sleeping in a room for the very last time. By this time tomorrow, he'll be lying in a bed of obscurity.

One can only hope.

So tonight becomes the last opportunity for me to put the words "president" and "George W. Bush" together. Stare at that for a while. It has quite a calming affect on me.

My great-great-great-great grandchildren will open up their history books one hundred years hence to the years 2000-2008, and instead of a long, detailed description of the nightmare that was this presidency there will only be a blank page, save for the words "what the hell were they thinking?" smack dab in the middle.

That's the true legacy of this president, that somehow, we gave him another shot. The first four years weren't bad enough, I guess.

I'm supposed to thank GWB for making sure that there hasn't been another 9/11 since, well, 9/11. Yet somehow I doubt that he was the one who has been on sentry duty lo these many years, because if he were, he had've managed to shoot himself in the foot fifty-seven times by now.

Far be it for me to tell anyone what to think, but we must remember that after 9/11, a great majority of the world sympathized with us. This stayed true even when bombs fell (rightly) on Afghanistan. That war went so well that Cheney and the boys had some bigger drums delivered to the Oval Office and spent the next year banging louder and louder, and We the People did nothing except collectively wet ourselves with fear, and let the one hundred members of the most exclusive club in the world (yes, even with Roland Burris) tell them that firing up the war machine in the direction of Iraq was A-OK.

War beget chaos, chaos beget insurgency, insurgency beget torture, torture beget blah blah blah.

(And at the Capitol Building, they ate "Freedom Toast" for breakfast, and had "Freedom Fries" with their burgers at lunch...)

We must always remember the way this president used 9/11 to further an agenda of misconceptions, fear and arrogance. From the moment he decided to invade Iraq, he has perpetually tap-danced on the memory of every innocent person who died that day. It is the most shameful part of his term. America is a very different place now then it was six years ago, especially across the oceans.

Failure on a level so extreme, so unprecedented, cannot solely be the responsibility of a single human being. It cannot rest on the shoulders of only a certain few.

It can, however, have a poster boy.

This was a president who sent over 4000 American soldiers to their deaths, a fate they freely and honorably accepted as a possibility when they volunteered to do a job that I never could--due to a profound lack of courage--in a war with the moral basis of a pebble. This was a president who never once asked the people of his country to sacrifice a single goddamned thing while these soldiers sacrificed everything they were, and everything they would ever be.

Gerald Ford was 93 when he died two years ago. No former president has lived longer. I hope George W. Bush shatters that mark; I hope he sticks around for a long, long time. I hope he has the memory of the celebrations going on around the world tonight and tomorrow,
rejoicing that his term is expiring, for forty years. I hope that as he grows older and older he lives in an expanding state of terror of what his creator has in store for him when his time comes.

I hope he is scorned everywhere outside the four walls of his home. I hope he feels the fingers of judgement pointing at him wherever he goes. I hope he comes to know exactly how pathetic of a leader he was. I hope the clouds of regret rain over him for forty years of day and night.

I do not hate the man. I hate the damage he has done all over this world; I hate the divisiveness of his spoken words; I hate that a man so unqualified, so unfit for the office somehow found himself in it for two full terms. I hate that my son had to live for a year with this man as the president.

I hate that this night did not come sooner.

So let us be done with him. Let him sneak away into history, where he foolishly believes one day he will be deified. The same sun that has risen for the last eight years will rise tomorrow, but surely, it will be brighter.

President Obama is not and will never be the be-all, end-all messiah that some build him up as. He doesn't need to be. He will screw up plenty. He will have much of the country shaking their heads in disagreement at times. He's a politician--what else would we expect?

But he is such an upgrade over what we have been forced to tolerate for the last eight years. It's as if we've all been driving Yugos and when we wake up tomorrow there will be Mustangs in all of our driveways.

(Wow. That was an analogy on par with, well, something bad. I need to go to bed.)

16 January 2009

The heating of our discontent, or, my kingdom for a home warranty

Note to self: when having a home inspection before buying a home, take the front of the furnace off and look inside.

When I went to sleep last night it was -13 outside, and 68 inside. When I woke up this morning, it was considerably colder. Nothing like frozen cockles first thing in the morning.

A technician was able to come out early this afternoon (but not before the temp on the thermostat dipped below 50-I evacuated the boy to Grandma's well before) and I wish I had taken a picture of his face when he took off the front of the furnace.

Let's just say it was a tad dirty. I was tempted to write "WASH ME" with my finger on the motor. He estimated that it hadn't been cleaned in over five years. Guess the people we bought the house from didn't care much about it.

Shame on me, though, for not checking it out before we sealed the deal. As it was, a sensor controlling the heating mechanism was shot, and would've anyway no matter how clean or filthy the furnace was. Still, it makes me wonder what else is lurking in the bowels of our new home. We got caught up in asthetics: every room has been redone in the last few years, and aside from a paint job or two, there is really nothing we need to do.

Well, except replace all major appliances in the next year, probably. I'm exaggerating; everything in the kitchen is new as well.

Ah, homeownership! It's been obnoxiously cold here this week, and it hasn't stopped snowing since Christmas. A few days ago I heard Kristen call me from downstairs smack dab at 7 AM: "We've got a water problem!" Being razed from slumber to news that water is causing a "problem" certainly gets the blood flowing. Turns out the ice damning up on the roof encased the top of the window in ice, and the heat from inside melted some. It had nowhere else to go except through the slats of the blinds. It actually wasn't much, and since the temp dropped twenty degrees that day, it hasn't come back.

It will, though, unless I get up on a ladder and get rid of the ice. Me on a ladder = high comedy. Pray for me, and help my wife with the insurance premiums.

I'm starting to wonder if I've moced into a money pit. The house is 57 years old, and five years of home ownership in the 90s taught me that things go wrong in houses all of the time. They are supposed to be mildly annoying.

This week mildly annoying would be an upgrade.

Ah, to whine about things that really aren't much of a big deal. At least I wasn't on an airplane that landed in the freakin' water yesterday. Wow. Color me impressed. Seriously. That pilot is more of a stud than Seattle Slew.

Maybe he can come over and replace my furnace.

11 January 2009

You thought you might be a ghost

As it turns out, moving in late December might not be the best idea ever conceived. Especially when the coldest weather of the year arrives about three hours before the movers do. Especially when you think that you can have a first birthday party for your son five days after moving into the new house. Especially when you relaize that yes, indeed, you have too much stuff.

Moving sucks. Yes, I know people are losing their jobs, homes and other stuff, and in the grand scheme buying a home is pretty special, but moving still sucks. It's been three weeks, and I finally feel like things are somewhat "normal."

Don't ask me what normal is. I don't know.

Desmond turned one year old on the Sunday before Christmas, and while there were boxes and piles all over our home-for-one-more-day, it was a special day. He was born at 8 PM, and I wasn't able to sit and hold him until almost noon the next day. Now, it is almost impossible to get him to sit still for more than a few seconds, but on his birthday I somehow coaxed him to sit on my lap until he fell asleep, and he took a peaceful one-hour nap. For that entire time I stared at him and tried to recall all the moments of his first year.

I am amazed that I have a one-year old son. I am amazed at the things that he does (which yet to include walking, and there's no rush), the things that he says (which yet to include "da-da", and there's no rush, though I would note that he has been saying "ma-ma" for the last sixty days or so. There is nothing quite like a mom, is there?), and everything else in his existence. I still can't quite believe that he is ours, and that he will always be ours.

Kristen has done a wonderful job posting pictures of Desmond so that our family that live outisde of Chicago can see how he has changed, and now that he is a year, I'm feeling generous, so take a gander at the boy if you so desire. No pressure.

I'm hoping to get into the habit of posting more and keeping up with those whose writing I enjoy so much. My Google reader yesterday hit 95, so I have some catching up to do.