Archive for November, 2008

Don’t Give Up; Try Again

Posted in ramble with tags , , , , on November 30, 2008 by vagabondsaint

I don’t know how many of you actually pay attention to the blogroll on the right side of your screen there, with my links on it.  If you don’t, I want to take a moment to point it out for one specific link on it: the National Hopeline Network.  It’s a suicide prevention hotline, managed by the Kristin Brooks Hope Center, itself founded in memory of a woman who committed suicide in 1998.

See, suicide is on my mind today.  The sister of a friend of mine attempted suicide the Friday before Thanksgiving, by swallowing a variety of pills.  I told my best friend about it earlier today, and we talked for a bit on suicide and whether or not those around a suicidal person have the obligation to try to save their lives.

It’s actually a pretty hard question to answer, at least for me.

I haven’t known anyone that’s actually committed suicide, save for the possibly unintentional suicide of one of my college roommates, long after we’d gone our separate ways.  Drunk at a party in Hawaii, he dove off of a cliff into the waters below, 3 miles away from the nearest beach and into a current that would have driven him against the rocks.  His body was never found.

That’s the closest I’ve come to knowing someone that’s committed suicide.  I have had to talk people down off of the ledge before, so to speak, going so far with one friend as to sneak all the sharp objects out of his house and stay up with him for several days while the effects of his old medications wore off and the new ones kicked in.  The rest have just involved talking, just being there and listening, waiting for them to come down or sober up, empathizing and sympathizing and even begging them not to do it.  At least I’ve got a good success rate there.  But I digress.

The question of whether or not I, or anyone, has an obligation to prevent someone from committing suicide is a hard one for me.  I believe in everyone having control over their own life, and that would necessarily include the right, I suppose, to end their own life.  I voted for the proposition in Washington state to allow the terminally ill to commit medically-assisted suicide earlier this month, so shouldn’t I support the same for people who are terminally tired of life?

Maybe I should.

Maybe I shouldn’t.

I don’t know.

I only know this:  I’m not obligated to do anything for anyone, anywhere, for any reason, ever.  But if it’s someone I know and care about, or if it’s a complete and total stranger, that comes to me and tells me they’re thinking about committing suicide, I’m gonna fight.  I’m gonna try hard as hell to get them to hang on, to give life a chance, to try to see the world past the pain and frustration and anguish.  Like Seein Definate said in “Try Again” (it’s the top link on that page), I’m gonna try my best to get them to “stick around for one more day.”  I might annoy them in doing so, I might become a huge pain in their ass, they might hate me forever after that one day, but as long as they’re alive to hate me, it’s worth it.  I will do whatever it takes to get them to not give up, to try again, even if it’s just for one more day.  And I will not walk away.

See, you only get to read these words because once, a long time ago, someone didn’t walk away from me.

VS – 11.29.08

Georgia On My Mind

Posted in economics, politics with tags , , , , , , , on November 23, 2008 by vagabondsaint

First off, let me say that I’m as surprised as anyone else that I ended up on the blog of a FauxNews pundit, even if it is that of the network’s token liberal, Alan Colmes.  But I was following links from The Huffington Post, one thing led to another, and well, I ended up there, so I guess you could say that Arianna Huffington lead me astray.  But what I found there was so outrageous, I had to blog about it.

So, according to the blog, a poor woman in Georgia faces eviction from her home, because she is a convicted sex offender.  And the horrendous crime that has left Wendy Whitaker labeled for life?  She had oral sex with her almost-16-year-old boyfriend. . .when she was 17.  Convicted of statutory rape?  Nope.  Sodomy!  And thanks to Georgia’s draconian sexual statutes,  she’s being evicted now, 11 years later.  She is fighting them, under the Constitutional provisos against cruel and unusual punishment, arguing that her sex-offender status and inability to live within 1000 feet of a child-care center, school, or church (particular Catholic churches, which hate competition) is grossly disproportionate to the severity of her crime.  And she’s right, but it’s Georgia, where intelligence doesn’t always win the day. . .though it did last year, when Genarlo Wilson used the same argument to overturn his 10-year sentence and sex offender status for, guess what, having consexual sex as a teenager with another teenager (though he may still be in jail as the prosecutor attempts to appeal the verdict).  She has a chance, at least, and I sincerely hope she wins.

Dear Georgia, and other Southern states where applicable, please stop being ign’ant.  I am a Southerner by birth, will be a Southerner until I die no matter where I am, and I love the South to death, but I swear to God, if ya’ll don’t quit being stupid and ign’ant and clinging to the past and voting solidly conservative no matter how crappy the candidate, I will come back down there and drag you all into the 21st century, kicking and screaming, if my tranquilizer darts don’t work.  The alternative to being dragged into the 21st century is being slapped there with my shoe, and I wear boots, so I think you’d prefer the dragging.  America has changed.  The world has changed.  You’re embarrassing the rest of us, the rest of America, with bullshit like this, so fucking stop it.

VS – 11.23.08

P.S.  Yes, I know I am continuing to ignore Barack Obama’s cabinet picks, the hurtling-towards-the-bottom-of-the-barrel economy, and The Witch Of Wasilia.  To be honest, though, while I am keeping an eye on those issues, until I have something unique and special to say about them, I’d rather talk about things that aren’t currently dominating news cycles.

The Best of Times, The Worst Of Times

Posted in politics, war with tags , , , , , , , on November 23, 2008 by vagabondsaint

I’ve been absent from the blog for a while.  A new job that I love has had me adjusting my body clocks in ways that nature probably never intended – but I love the job, so I had to vut back on some other obligations to make more time for my own projects, including this blog.  That’s all done now, though, and I’m back and still alive, and living in a transforming America.

The curious thing about the America-to-come is that it seems to be bringing out, simultaneously, the best and the worst of America.

For example, consider this essay, published in the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman (the newspaper of Wasilia, Alaska), written by Waverli Rainey, a 16-year-old high school student, which probably earned her all kinds of new friends in the Lower 48 but none in the Alaska governor’s office.  (Who is the governor of Alaska, anyway?  I forgot.)  In it, she talks about the racist reactions of the people around her after Barack Obama’s victory, and in talking about how the worst of America proudly displayed itself at her school, she shows the best of America in her words:

Angered, I began to think of the injustice of it all and the ignorance of the students I was surrounded by. I wondered where they learned to be so hateful, and I wondered why the teacher never stepped in – why no adult, no student, including myself, had the guts to cut in and say it was not OK. Because it’s never OK for intolerance. It is never OK to cut someone down and dehumanize them because they do not look like you, or think like you, or talk like you, or worship the way you do.

That’s a major what America is about, isn’t it?  Realizing the concept of freedom and equality for all?  This young lady stated this more eloquently than just about anyone I’ve ever seen, and displays in her attitude and pronouncements against ignorance and hatred what is truly the best side of the American people.

And yet.

Across the nation, there has been a sharp increase in gun sales since Obama’s election.  Across the nation, according to an article in the Christian Science Monitor, hate crimes have increased greatly and white supremacist groups are recruiting fervently; I think they’re seizing upon the fear and intolerance and angered stirred up by John McFail’s disgraceful campaign tactics of division, and the inherent prejudice against a non-white, non-elderly man soon to be sitting in the Oval Office.

It has been said that Obama’s election proves that Americans are truly moderate and want change and progress from the socio-political quagmire that has engulfed us for many years.  But the negative backlash shows that some Americans, in this new millenium, would greatly prefer to cling to the ignorance, violence, prejudice, and fear that cost that have dragged this country down the tubes for far, far too long.  The victory that emboldened those of us who truly love our country and yearned to see America become great again also gave strength to our opposites, who only truly love themselves and live in fear of losing their own greatness (whether or not such greatness actually exists).

Wouldn’t it be nice if we just ignored these people?  If the media didn’t cover Klan rallies or give airtime to their new fliers and recruitment efforts?  If, in covering hate crimes, the press would not mention the names of the perpetrators nor seek interviews with them, therefore denying them even 1 of their proverbially-alloted 15 minutes of fame?  If we all simply stopped talking to or even noting the existence of people who proudly cling to their intolerance and closed-mindedness?

Ignoring the ignorant. . .I have to admit, I like the concept.  Might not work so well in practice, though.

This election truly brought out the best and worst of America. . .but, as I’ve said before, the fight isn’t over.  It’s hardly even started.

VS – 11.23.08

P.S. Yes, I know I have completely ignored the worsening economy, Obama’s cabinet picks, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the latest silliness of The Woman From Wasilia.  One thing at a time, kids.

The End Of The Beginning

Posted in economics, politics, war with tags , , , , , , , , on November 9, 2008 by vagabondsaint

Over past few days, I have seen, both online and in my physical-world travels, various signs, buttons, images, and advertisements all proclaiming the same thing:  “YES WE DID!”

To the people who put those up, I want to say something:  don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back.  The real fight has only just started.

Barack Obama is our President-elect now.  This is beyond good; this is a change in America unlike anything ever seen before.  Don;t get me wrong; I’m over the moon about Obama’s victory.  I just don’t see it as the end of the many, many problems facing America today, and I’m not going to sit back and say “I voted for Obama, I did my part, it’s all up to him now.”  It, by which I mean making this country a better place, is and always has been up to us. . .or should I say “we,” as in, “We, the people.”

And, as always, there are people opposed to the changes that we, the people, spoke out and voted for, in record numbers, last Tuesday.

Let’s not forget that there is stll someone else in the White House, and he’s got two months to finish fucking up America and making it such a huge mess that it will be difficult for the next President to fix things, let alone to know where to start.

What’s Bush been up to while we were all busy watching the election and lost in celebrations afterwards?  Well, he’s reduced the number of outpatient services that will be covered under Medicare, meaning more poor people will be unable to get medical attention, plus hospitals that depend on Medicare will suffer budget shortfalls.  The Bureau of Land Management has announced that it will soon began selling leases to drill for oil. . .in Utah, where the expected amount of oil to be found is barely enough to justify the expense of drilling, but the damage to surrounding parks and natural wonders will be incalculable.  His office has spoken out against the European hope of creating a new international financial regulator, choosing instead to seek better enforcement of current regulations (how have those been working out so far, by the way?).  They’ve launced new attacks on wolves in Yellowstone National Park, according to the Defenders Of Wildlife.  All that, in addition to numerous other offense against civil liberties, the environment, and abortion rights.

So, while you’ve been celebrating, they’ve been quite busy, without having to worry about media scrutiny.

That’s enough to worry about, to me.  But there is, of course, more.

John McCain lost the election, decisively and with no way to claim he was cheated or that the election was stolen.  He’s not a threat anymore.  But his campaign. . .see, in the name of winning at any costs, the McCain campaign, in its final weeks, turned to three things that usually work for the GOP:  stirring up fear, anger, and prejudice against their opponents, promoting an “us against them” mentality and using the tactics of division to propel themselves to victory.

Obviously, that didn’t work this time.

But, once awakened, that three-headed beast of fear, anger, and prejudice doesn’t go back to sleep just because someone lost.  Already, a cross has been burned on the yard of an Obama supporter (in New Jersey, of all places).  The KKK’s national director, Thomas Robb, states that he sees Obama’s election as a great recruitment tool for the struggling Klan, as a reminder that whites “have lost power in this country.”  Given the negative emotions that Mr. McCain’s absolutely disgraceful campaign stirred up (if you watched his concession speech, look at the audience and at the anger they feel. . .that emotion has to go somewhere, after all, and the Thomas Robbs of the world will be waiting to turn that anger towards their own purposes), Mr. Robb may be correct in that his recruitment will increase, but I think it will be just as due to McCain’s negative campaigning as it will Obama’s actual victory.  (Interestingly enough, Robb points out in that interview that Obama is half-black, something that everyone else seems to forget.  Are Thomas Robb and I the only people that want to give credit and recognition to Obama’s entire heritage?  That’s scary.)

So, in addition to all the problems we had before, Bush is using this time to make new ones, and America may have new enemies inside its own borders now, thanks to strongly negative campaigning by the GOP.

YES WE DID get Barack Obama elected.  But NO WE DIDN’T instantly fix America.  That’s going to take a lot of time, thinking, sacrifice, and work on the part of all Americans, not just our new President-Elect and his cabinet.

I can not help but recall the words of Winston Churchill after the defeat of the Germans in North Africa in 1942, a major turning point of World War II:

Now, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

For all those that seek change, our war is just beginning, too.

VS – 11.9.08

A Private Reflection On A Public Victory

Posted in brilliance on November 4, 2008 by vagabondsaint

Like America’s new President-Elect, my daughter, the light of my life, is bi-racial.

After tonight, when I tell her that she can be anything she wants to be, I’ll know that it’s true.

VS – 11.04.08

Crunch Time

Posted in politics with tags , , , , on November 3, 2008 by vagabondsaint

I have been reminded that I’ve been remiss in posting anything for the past couple of weeks (by my wonderfully charming best friend) about the impending election.  Truth be told, I was just sick of it.

There’s been a lot of negativity and mudslinging in this campaign, lots of pundits and moutpieces all over the news channels, and it just got to be too much for me.  Not to mention that caring got kinda difficult after I mailed in my absentee ballot.

But now, on the eve of an election that will make (Obama) or break (McCain) America’s future, I’m getting excited about it again.  About 26 hours from now, America will (hopefully) have a new President, either the first biracial President or the oldest President with the least competent Vice-President ever, and America will definitely change.

I’m getting antsy about it, to be honest.

While I’m here, I’d like to speak to my California readers, if I have any:  vote “yes” on Proposition 2.  This proposition will enact stricter, tougher bans on animal cruelty at farms, by phasing out the horrible living conditions these animals are forced to undergo (phasing them out in order to ease the economic burden of, you know, treating animals humanely for a change).  The benefit for humans is that animals with room to grow produce better meat and don’t get sick as often, meaning less growth hormones and antibiotics making their way into outr bloodstream.  America has the habit of following California’s lead (thanks for the anti-smoking laws, jerkholes), so please please please do the right thing here and lead America in phasing out cruel and inhumane treatment of animals.

If you’re not in CA, call somebody there – anybody, just pick a name out of the white pages – and ask them to vote yes on Proposition 2.

Oh, and remember, a vote for Barack Obama is a vote against an addled, inconsistent, possibly senile President with a bad temper. . .and a power-hungry VP with fewer morals than the wolves she supports shooting from airplanes.

See you Wednesday, in a new America. . .or from Canada.

VS – 11.3.08