Alligators 'n Roadkill

Alligators 'n Roadkill
On The Road


Thursday, June 18, 2015

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

         The America where I grew up taught me a lot, and I am the proud product of a public school education.  One thing I recall is that we were taught that friends should never discuss politics or religion, especially if they wanted to stay friends.

          More than that, however, is that we were taught that government and religion must and should always be totally and completely separate.  When we recited the pledge of allegiance, or when we always bowed our heads for an invocation or prayer at every public gathering, we never thought of that being contrary to the law (but, I suppose it is, in the strictest sense).  We just took it for granted that this was part of the package.

          Of course, some of that has changed - by law - since those days.  But, one thing that remains inviolate in my mind is that no governmental entity should ever pass a law that interferes with or represents any particular religion.  Therefore, whatever my religious beliefs may be, I am free to pursue them, as long as I do no harm to others.  Likewise, no religion should ever make any effort to get any laws passed that tend to support that religion's beliefs over any other.

          Now, today we seem to have a very sharp division between certain people who want to impose their religious beliefs on everyone, and by using the law to do so, and others who simply want to be free to pursue happiness in their own way.  This attempt to get the law to support your belief over mine is simply wrong.  It is a blatant disregard for what our Constitution represents, and what we were taught as kids.

          Compounding our errors, we also seem to have grown a generation or two of people who are so narrow minded that they cannot realize, or refuse to see, that times have changed, and the world that created our Constitution no longer exists.  That is not to say that the document itself is no longer pertinent.  It is, very much so.

          But, consider that even the most sacred of religious texts have undergone change since they were first written.  I submit to you that the King James version of the Bible was very different from the original Greek versions.  And, of course, there has been a more recent update of the Bible, as well.  I believe that most so-called Christians are aware of this, and accepting of it.  In short, the changes that the Bible has undergone as times change, as thinking has evolved, were indeed necessary.

          So, too, is it necessary to update some portions of the Constitution, since certain people seem to want to take it too literally (just as some want to take too much of the Bible too literally).  In particular, I am thinking of the Second Amendment to the Constitution.

          Actually, and realistically, I will agree that anyone who wants to own a firearm has the right to do so.  I totally reject any suggestion that the firearm in question needs to be some kind of automatic weapon, or machine gun.  And, I do not believe anyone needs more than one firearm.  I do not believe there is any need for anyone to openly carry a firearm, unless we're talking about a trip to and from a shooting range for the purpose of practicing with that firearm.  There is no need for anyone to "hunt" any living creature for the purpose of simply killing it.  And, no one needs to go out and shoot any animal for food, unless we're talking about a farmer, who has no money to go to the local store for food, and then, he only needs to kill what he will eat himself.

          I'm not going to dissect the 2nd Amendment here, but I will say that we no longer have need of any militia, and if we do, the U. S. Armed Forces meet that need.  A bunch of idiots getting together to get drunk and shoot up whatever is in sight does not constitute a militia, and certainly does not represent a necessary activity.

          Just today, June 18, we learned about yet another pointless, hateful mass shooting, this time with hate crime written all over it.  I'm talking about the shooting at a landmark AME church in South Carolina, of nine innocent people, including the pastor, who also happened to be a State Senator.  And, my Facebook was full of memes against the violence, against the widespread ease with which whackos can still get their hands on guns.  Sadly, early on, most of the posts were from one person.

          Later, during the day, as the President weighed in, the comments got nastier, until I couldn't stand it anymore.  There are still people out there trying to use the false claim about criminals and guns, and clinging to the mis-interpretation of the Second Amendment where they overlook the reality of then (when the Constitution was written) versus now.  Here's a little hint for y'all:  We have no need for a citizens' militia, well regulated or not, since we have the Armed Forces.  OK?  So, no citizen has need to own a firearm.

          Now, a very vocal portion of our population also wants to block any efforts to legalize any sort of union between two consenting adults who just happen to be of the same sex.  They cite religious reasons for this.  And, I have to ask, why?  Why should the government be involved in anything to do with religion, when religion is prevented from being involved in government?  Under the laws of more places than just the U. S., marriage is not necessarily a "sacred" anything, and no state in the union allows for only a religious marriage.  As a matter of fact, every state requires a marriage license to be obtained, and every state has government representatives who perform marriages.  Furthermore, for those who insist on a religious meaning for marriage, it is important to point out to them that not even the most holy of Priests, or Rabbis, or Pastors, or Preachers, or ministers can perform a marriage ceremony, without being sanctioned by the state!  So, let's be clear.  Your opposition to gay marriage has no basis in any religion simply because it is not your church which legalizes marriage.  Beyond that, show me exactly where in the Bible does it specifically say that two men cannot marry, or two women.

          Another big issue has to do with women and their (female) health, and, of course, for those extremists out there, that means abortion.  Speaking as a catholic, who has been condemned by other catholics, I must say that while my church teaches that abortion is a sin, my church does not speak for the entire world.  For the record, let's remember that there are many more people in this world who are NOT catholic, than there are who are catholic.  And, since that is true, and being an American, I believe that it is not my place to dictate to anyone else what is right, wrong, good, bad, or otherwise.  If I am free to believe what I choose, than I have to allow you the same freedom.

          The republican party has taken the words of FDR, the words that used to bring comfort to so many, to heart, and twisted them so that now their major platform is built on all kinds of vague and not particularly important fears.  It worked so well for W that he got elected twice, and took us into two disastrous wars.  Now, they are successfully using an unfounded fear of gay marriage, and another of the thought that some women might choose abortion, and another having to do with a non-existent effort to take away the guns from the 2nd Amendment freaks, to drive their campaigns, and to distract voters from what is really important.

          All of this fear mongering is designed to take our minds off the important issues that we really need for Congress to address.  Instead of focusing on repairing our infrastructure, controlling defense spending, or ending our involvement in wasteful wars, we are busy arguing about these other issues that should not even be connected with politics.  Abortion is not a political issue!  It is religious in nature!  Gay marriage is NOT a political issue, and it is not a particularly religious issue!  It is strictly a legal issue, and if the laws get changed to allow it, there will be NO effect on anybody's religion, and NO effect on anyone else's marriage!  Gun ownership is legal and political only because we need to reword that portion of the Second Amendment that is out of date, to make it fit the times we live in today.

          We need a Congress that will work on regulating and controlling Wall Street's crooks, to end corporate welfare and tax breaks, and to fairly tax the very richest.  We need to see our middle class restored to what it was sixty and more years ago.  And, a big part of what would do this is to pass real jobs bills that would people to work rebuilding and repairing our infrastructure.  We need to force big corporations to retool to making machines that can serve a peaceful purpose, instead of all the weapons and war machines we now make.  We need to control Big Pharma and the Healthcare Insurance industry.  Regulate communications giants, like Time-Warner and ATT, and all the other cell phone and internet providers, please!  We need, in short, a Teddy Roosevelt, who can come out and open a great big can of whoop-ass on these monopolies and crooked monsters.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

We are indeed a nation in crisis, and nobody seems to care.

We just took a road trip from El Paso, to San Antonio and then, to Austin, Texas.  That means we traveled on two major Interstate highways, I-10 & I-35, plus a number of other roads.  I know that there have been many reports over the last few years about our nation's crumbling infrastructure, but apparently nobody gets out on the highways, far enough from any cities, to see for themselves.  There are many miles of bad road along both of the freeways we just traveled, and no sign of any efforts to maintain or repair any of the damage to the roadways.

I used to travel Texas a lot as part of my work, back in the 90's, into the early 2000's, and I was accustomed to seeing long stretches of road devoted to "road work ahead," where the roads were being repaired, repaved, and maintained.  One famous sign had to do with guardrail damage warnings, and then, the sight of a TxDOT work crew repairing guardrails was a part of every road trip that I made.

We saw a large number of warning signs this trip, but not one single crew was out actually repairing any of frequent damaged areas we saw.  The many damaged areas are clearly marked with traffic cones and orange barrels, but no work crews were seen.

I lost count of the pot holes very early in our first day on the road.  And, I found myself constantly changing lanes, seeking a relatively smooth path.  I have to wonder just how long the trucking industry, which is so vital to this nation, can continue to accept this situation.  I have never seen so many alligators (the strips of rubber and tire that line the freeway, from truck tires that have literally shredded off the big rigs) as I saw these last few days.

I also wonder where all the money has gone.  You know, the significant portion of the price we pay for fuel at the pump, that supposedly goes to the federal highway system, and the fees and taxes and surcharges put on the big rigs for operation in every state?  Maybe we have thrown away entirely too much money for pointless wars, and wasteful foreign aid, and for horrendously expensive airplanes that don't even work?  Maybe just a bit too much in corporate welfare?  Tax breaks for the rich, anybody?

Don't the rich people realize that without transportation there can be no more income for them?  Don't they need good roads, too?  So, why isn't anybody stepping up to fix our roads!?