Fulcrum Ruminations

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Ahmed and the Clock

Let’s see if we can explain what’s happening here. We all know the story by now, I’m sure, with opinions divided right along predictable lines. Kid builds (or didn’t, there seems to be some question about this) a clock, brings it to school in a briefcase to show his teachers, most of them say good work, one decides it looks like a bomb, hilarity ensues. Lots of media attention, the President tweets about it, people lose their freakin’ minds. As it happens, the kid is muslim, which lends a delicious spice to the proceedings. Lots of lecturing about how we’re all terrible people because we assumed the muslim kid had a bomb just because he’s muslim. Don’t tar everyone with the same brush, yadda yadda yadda.

Maybe I can explain the backstory here. Bear with me.

So you’re walking down a busy street in the city. Lots of people walking your way, lots of people walking the other way. Everyone is wrapped up in whatever errand they’re on, not paying too much attention to anyone else. Every now and then a guy wearing a purple shirt walks past you. You barely notice. Then a guy wearing a purple shirt punches you in the face, yells “Everyone should wear purple shirts!” and disappears up the street.

Stunned, you wonder what the hell that was about, chalk it up to a lone nut, and resume walking. Nine more guys wearing purple shirts walk past you. You barely notice.

The tenth guy wearing a purple shirt punches you in the face, yells “Everyone should wear purple shirts!” and disappears into the crowd. Concerned with your throbbing jaw, it scarcely registers on you that both guys who’ve punched you were wearing purple shirts. But as you resume your walk, you do begin to notice how many purple shirts you see. Most of them walk right past you.

And then the eleventh guy wearing a purple shirt punches you in the face, yells “Everyone should wear purple shirts!” and runs off.

Now you’re paying attention. As you once more resume your walk, you look at every purple shirt you see, wondering if you’re going to get punched in the face. Twelve or fifteen purple-shirted guys walk past without a hint of trouble. You being to relax and think about strange statistical aberrations.

Then the sixteenth guy wearing a purple shirt punches you in the face, yells “Everyone should wear purple shirts!” and runs off.

Now you’re angry. It seems that anyone wearing a purple shirt might punch you in the face. So you’re vigilant. You watch for purple shirts. When you see one, you give that person a wide berth. You begin to notice that every now and then someone wearing a purple shirt punches a random passer-by in the face, yells that everyone should wear purple shirts and runs off. You start to try to warn people to watch out for guys wearing purple shirts. Most dismiss you as a nut yourself. A few berate you for making assumptions about purple shirts. One or two get very angry and tell you they normally wear purple shirts themselves but today is laundry day and their purple shirt is in the dryer.

You start to doubt your premise yourself. Maybe it is just one of those weird things that happens.

Then a guy wearing a purple shirt punches you in the face.

Now you’re mad. You look even more carefully for purple shirts. When a guy wearing one comes your way, you raise your fists, ready to fight. The guy in the purple shirt looks at you like you’re crazy and goes out of his way to avoid you. You watch him go, just in case, and from behind you a guy wearing a purple shirt punches you in the back of the head. He asks you why you hate purple shirts and runs off.

So as you continue up the street, you keep a careful eye out for guys in purple shirts and you ready yourself to react any time you see one.

People call you crazy. They tell you you’re a horrible person with an unhealthy fixation on purple shirts. They point out that people wearing other colors occasionally punch someone in the face. You try to tell them that that happens a lot less often than someone wearing a purple shirt punching someone in the face but they tell you you’re wrong and refuse to listen to you any more.

Now a kid wearing a purple shirt comes down the street, his hands clenched into fists. What are you supposed to do?

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Friday, September 11, 2015

Fourteen Years Have Not Dimmed the Memory

Jerry Moran. Angela Houtz. Lieutenant Commander Vince Tolbert. It's hard to believe it was fourteen years ago on a clear and crisp September morning when refugees from the twelfth century crashed airplanes into buildings and shook us out of our complacency. We remember.

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Saturday, January 03, 2015

Motivations and Cogitations

Hiya blogosphere. Been a long time, innit?

Almost two years since the last entry. This effort has pretty much gone off the rails. After the death of my wife and the Persephone affair, it's just not seemed important. Other projects were consuming my writing time. Short stories. Journaling. Working on my novels.

I have written eight short stories in the last two years and have half-completed versions of three more in the queue. One of the completed ones turned out to be not so short, clocking in at nearly 28,000 words . . . novella length. I've also filled up my ongoing journal, Ancient Noise, after six years of irregular effort. And the one major novel I've concentrated on is up over 10,000 words, which is barely a tenth of the way finished.

All this has drained the well of inspiration. There's been nothing left over for Fulcrum Ruminations despite the tumultuous events of the last two years. So many things have happened . . .

The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, finally launched with major problems and less than promised results. The thing remains a grotesque government overreach, basically telling us that the federal government has the authority to compell us to purchase commercial products whether we want them or not. I've been over the Constitution several times and I find no such power within it. But the reality impaired continue to insist that it's good for us. We'll see how they feel under the new Republican congress when that body decides to use the same rationale to do something the "progressives" don't approve of.

Racial tensions erupting in the aftermath of the Ferguson incident. This has probably been a long time in coming and represents a confluence of several trends: the ongoing militarization of police forces, the black community's refusal to address its own issues and blaming all their problems on others, and the explosive growth of the internet making what would in previous times have been local stories into national and even global ones. Back in the era of the civil rights marches and Martin Luther King Jr, racism had to be pretty blatant and egregious to penetrate the national news headlines. Now with the internet we can all get a god's-eye view of all the little stuff that goes on and see that there's a larger pattern of evil at work. And it's not just the racial tensions that are being revealed by this trend.

Gun control. Multiple incidents of madmen running amok and killing innocents. Ambushing cops. Chaos. All framed against the backdrop of the Second Amendment, which has been recognized by the Supreme Court as an individual right to self-defense. These forces are heading for collision and I fear the outcome. If there's one issue that could really split the American experiment apart, it's this one. At its base it's personal liberty and responsibility versus the nanny-state impulse to control people for their own good. We're seeing a shift from "innocent until proven guilty" to "we know you're up to no good, so we're going to watch you all the time." This at the same time that we're raising a generation of kids who are online all the time, post their every random thought and what they had for dinner to social media, and are losing the sense of privacy. Everything is transparent to the kids now and that's what they expect. Anyone not living in the goldfish bowl is now a suspicious character.

If the Second Amendment goes, the rest will follow in short order. The Civil War pretty much killed the Tenth Amendment, the Fourth and Fifth are under daily assault as part of the "war on terror" we've been immersed in since 9/11, and the forces of censorship have never been very far beneath the surface in this country. There's lots of people mouthing hollow words of support for freedom of expression, but it's usually quietly understood to mean only expressions that they agree with.

The so-called "Common Core" standards for education are causing what may be irrepairable harm to public education. While the idea of core standards for what kids should know at each level of their education is a good one, the implementation of "Common Core" has been so ill-conceived that it comes close to rendering the concept of education itself irrelevant. Layered on top of all the other issues afflicting public education it may be the straw that breaks the camel's back. We're already at the point that employers want college degrees for jobs that formerly required only a high school diploma. And colleges are having to send students to remedial math and reading courses just to get them competent enough to continue with higher education. I've said before and I'll say again, the best thing that could happen to education in this country is the abolition of the federal Department of Education and the elimination of the Teacher's Unions. The only way this is going to get fixed is to go back to local control of primary schools, the heavy involvement of parents, and the ruthless elimination of social feelgood gobbledegook.

I could go on and on with brief snippets of current issues. Maybe doing this post will motivate me to resume semi-regular entries. The fulcrum continues to tilt, gentle reader, but as I get older I see it tilting in harmful, even dangerous directions. America has serious, ongoing structural problems that simply are not being addressed. No one wants to feel a little pain now to save future pain that will almost certainly be much greater. We want instant gratification and by God that's what we're going to have, even if it wrecks the world.

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Persephone Lied

Winter is come again
Suddenly, savagely
Springtime's daughter
Abandoning her promise
Sunshine and warmth now lost
She stands, petulant and distant
Light fading
Leaves once tender and green
Turn now dry and brittle, and fall
Frost creeps back
The ground only begun its thaw
Grows cold and bleak
Shadows stretch across the sky
Cold sleep beckons
The only comfort offered
Will dawn ever come again?
Dreams are now the sole refuge
Still and quiet

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Year of Hell

One year ago today, almost to the minute, I got the word that my dear wife had suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. I was in New York at the time.

It's not been a great year since then. Grief, mourning, unexpected bursts of tears. A seemingly unending stream of details to address, things that needed to be done. To be blunt, my life has sucked.

But thru it all were family and friends, checking on me, expressing sympathy and support, helping where they could. Thanks to everyone who was there in my time of need. I could have lost my mind, but I didn't.

It will never be the same without my wife. But the Year of Hell is over as of today and we all have to move forward. Here's hoping 2013 brings balance back to all our lives.

Thanks for standing by me.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Eleven Short Years

Strange that today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11 event, should be an almost perfect duplicate of that horrific day. Faultless blue skies, perfect temperature, glorious late summer weather. Just as it was on That Day.

We who have direct memories of That Day know how it went. Savage barbarians driving airplanes into buildings and over three thousand innocents murdered. Among them my friend Jerry Moran and co-workers Angela Houtz and LCDR Vince Tolbert. Jerry's wife Joyce passed away just last year, so they are reunited in whatever awaits us after.

I lost my own wife this year. So as I remember 9/11 and the horrors it held, I also remember my wife and the joy she brought me. In memory, evergreen.

We remember.

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Sunday, September 02, 2012

Faith II

It's been a little over seven and a half months since my wife passed away. There have been millions of things to deal with . . . insurance, financials, bills, legal matters, on and on and on. At the same time, I've been trying to get my aging parents squared away with some kind of elder care. Going thru the medicaide process, having a home aid going in twice a week, making sure doctor appointments are taken care of, all that kind of thing. Between the two situations I've felt like I'm never "down." Have to be doing stuff all the time. Having both serious, sad things thrown in my face every ten minutes.

In a way that's good. Keeps me busy, stops me from dwelling too much on the loss I've endured. It still hits me all the time. Walking out of work, going grocery shopping, and biggest of all, going to bed at night. Alone.

And then as if in answer to a plea thrown repeatedly to the forces that make things happen, I've found someone. We complement one another, we're comfortable together, we can talk and we can listen. At first I was a little concerned that this might be a rebound attraction. Suffered such a loss that I was grabbing at anything that seemed like it might offer surcease. But now it seems that's not the case. The more we're together, the more real it seems to me. Looking into beautiful brown eyes I find not some momentary band-aide slapped hastily over a wound, but a deep healing draught of elixir vitae. She makes me feel . . . good.

That's no small thing. Being with her is like emerging from the darkness to find that the sun is indeed still shining, that winter's hold is not forever and spring does come. Persephone does win free of the underworld to bring life back to the land.

Symmetry rules the universe, gentle reader. Nothing is taken away without something being given back. There is no pain without relief. The night ends with the sunrise.

I think I've seen the dawn.

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