My Conversation with a Bumper Sticker

Reproductive Rights are Human Rights

Said the bumper sticker on a lime green, lime-shaped hybrid. Why waste a red light when you can give an ethics lesson to the lucky chap behind you? Bumper stickers are the ultimate one-sided argument.

So rather than slam down on the accelerator, I had a conversation.

Bumper sticker,

I don’t disagree with your assertion, but I do believe you’re being wily when you say Reproductive rights are human rights. To reproduce or not to reproduce, that is the right. The question, however, is what you mean by reproductive. Because I’ve a sneaking suspicion you mean we have the right to kill a certain subset of our reproductions.

Not that you’re in favor of killing. That’d be ludicrous. If I’m scraping cherry pie from my plate into the trash I’m not killing anything. We’re talking about cherries here, you’d say. Void and viscous lumps. Certainly we’re not talking about the heirs of rights: humans.

That’s what’s up for grabs, oh Bumper Sticker: just who is human? Who deserves these rights? Only some. Would it surprise you to learn slaveholders assuaged themselves with similar rhetoric?

I’m all for most forms of birth control, including that fail-safe: a word called no. But if you simply must have sex (I understand), it’s certainly and absolutely your right to erect a blockade for either eggs or sperm, your choice. That’s your choice.

Thanks for listening, Bumper Sticker.

 

 

North Korea Ka-BOOM!

As if there’s not enough excitement in the world with DJT, President You’re-Fired of the United States, enter stage left-his-sanity-behind, Kim Jong-un.

Jong-un’s imminent promotion to world bully lurks just around the corner. Do a Google search and watch in fascinated horror his relentless pursuit of capability to deliver mass extermination to countries far and wide. And the man is clearly not moderate. Have you seen his chins? We all know power corrupts, but what of the hand already corrupted to the point of gangrenous evil? What of that?  Nuclear capability is the coveted mistress of every addled third world leader with ambitions bigger than his britches. And though Jong-un has a rather robust britch, his desire to be prom king outstrips even that.

Today all hundred senators will meet in a top-secret briefing on North Korea. Cue the menacing psycho music because this is some scary… chit. Have you found yourself thankful you don’t live in Hawaii or California? Or worse, South Korea. Most of us have only a hazy clue as to how we got here. The Talking Heads lyrics sum up the confusion rather nicely, whether we’re talking global scale or the 7 lbs of our own hearts:

And you may ask yourself
What is that beautiful house?
And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go to?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right? Am I wrong?
And you may say yourself, “My God! What have I done?”

Incremental certainties. In my own life I’ve made many choices that have served to increase the temperature of the pot in which I find myself on a slow boil. The US has simmered for years in lobster soup, and now we face a nuclear North Korea, Our pot is about to boil over.

Remember when the Indians got their hands on those new fangled fire sticks? Didn’t bode well for Daniel Boone and friends. And who wouldn’t travel back in time and stop Egypt and the Soviet Union from providing nerve gas to Syria? (They promised to use it on the Israelis, see.) When madmen or even mad men get weaponry, we know the end of the story. And the more lethal the tool, well, let’s just say mother earth will swallow a monstrous birth control pill when a loon starts shooting off a sidearm full of plutonium.

All this to say, it’s a scary world. And a little insane too. How to navigate a world of looming mushroom clouds?

I’m not sure. I didn’t write this post because I have answers. I’ve always been more of an index-finger-wielding, problem-spotting sort of gal. Iceberg ahead.

My best suggestion and what I try to do: Pretend why-are-we-here is a math problem and we have to, on pain of death, solve it. Plumb where the highway goes. Whether the values and opinions we loosely hold are right or wrong. Listen with an open mind to people we hate. Don’t be like dumb, driven cattle, like open holes drinking in whatever koolaid happens to rain down. Be circumspect. And be willing to throw your opinion out there. It provokes conversation and therefore, learning. I’m no political expert, but I do my best to educate myself with what little discretionary time I have. If I vote that’s my bare bones duty.

Those of you who’d rather spend a buck on NPR than on Black Hawks, consider the money it costs to clean up the chaos after some trigger-happy country decides we’re militarily weak enough to take us on. Say, North Korea… How much does that cost the taxpayer? The ones who remain alive to work and contribute to Uncle Sam’s coffer?

Most of us are so busy grabbing our fistful of the American Dream we rarely, if ever, wake up to American Reality. North Korea’s Ka-BOOM! may just be our wake-up call. If not, there’s always a nuclear Iran around the corner as well.

What do you think of the North Korean threat? More saber-rattling or the real deal? What do you think about military spending?

 

 

Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don’t: Fake News

Remember Joseph, the one with the rainbow coat? Joseph had some old-fashioned ideas. Like: don’t sleep with other guys’ wives. Crazy old school, that Joseph. Remember Joseph’s big mistake? Being alone with the boss’s wife. She wanted him. He refused her advances. Hers. Potiphar’s wife was Sexy. Powerful. Arrogant. Not accustomed to being denied. When she made her advances, Joseph ran out of the room. She tore the clothing right off his back.

Whew. Near miss, right? Wrong. Just by being alone with Potiphar’s wife, Joseph put himself at the mercy of a her-story-vs.-his dynamic, and it didn’t play in his favor. A reasonable person might come up with the idea, the policy if you will, not to put himself in such a position. Enter Mike Pence.

Joseph and Mike Pence have this in common: both reap a flogging for their integrity. I’m trying not to throw up in my mouth as I type this, but it’s getting difficult. Do I actually live in a society that shells a man for putting up boundaries of purity in his marriage? To say you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t is the biggest understatement of our culture. I offer the following clip as proof:

Trump: I moved on her, actually. You know, she was down on Palm Beach. I moved on her, and I failed. I’ll admit it.

Unknown: Whoa.

Trump: I did try and *&%# her. She was married.

Unknown: That’s huge news.

Huge. News. So is a man who won’t. The preceding is an actual tape. It’s not someone’s version of what happened. It’s what actually happened. But even when you’re being given what actually happened, it’s often cut and pasted, censored, sifted. You get the parts someone else thinks are important. Another example: The Diary of Anne Frank. Most of us read it as part of our school curriculum. But the diary I was given was cleaned up by Anne’s father, who decided some parts lacked decorum. I remember my jaw dropping when I read the unabridged version, which is delightful in its own right, but is not the same “truth” one gets from the abridged version. Anne is more complex, no angel. She’s not the Laura Ingalls Wilder dropped into WWII to whom I was introduced.

The idea of fake news is on everyone’s lips these days. I’d like to tell you a story, a story about fake news. Now, should you believe me? I mean, some of you don’t even know me. Of this you can be certain: I have an agenda, and it will find its way into my story. Be certain also that every other source from which you ever, ever get your information– also has an agenda. No one is pure. No one is entirely exempt. Everyone puts their own spin on the tale, and the most talented spinners get their versions published. Even if, like me, you get your fake news from opposite ends of the continuum (Fox News and MSNBC), the “facts” you’re given may not even be facts at all.

To wit. In Bob’s Cooker days he was asked by a local news station if he’d like to cook the tailgate fare for a demonstration. It was spring, and the Cleveland Indians were getting set for another season, and you know what that means? Or did mean.

Before the “C,” it meant the uprising of indignant Native Americans. The news story of disgruntled Native Americans was as cyclical as the leaves budding or the crocuses coming up. There’s a crocus. I wonder when the news story will come out about the angry Indians?

Bob cooked the tailgate food. He had to be downtown early. Like wee morning hours. I’m not sure why, but that’s because I don’t understand how to create fake news. Bob cooked for the single Indian who was summoned downtown, as Bob was, for the angry-Indian-demonstration complete with tailgate food. If you watched that news clip, you’d come away certain Cleveland was about to go up in flames of angst akin to the Irish-Protestant conflagrations of the 1970’s– Indians against white-suburbanites, war whoops be coming down your subdivisions, people, if you don’t depose that inflammatory red face.

It took 15+ years to complete the coup against our baseball mascot. If real Indians feel better about the move, super. If real Indians demonstrated for their cause, great. But that day, the day the cameras were rolling, it was a stage. There were actors. It was fake. It was news. But we got a real change. Our Chief Wahoo for a “C.” Oh… so personal, that “C.” So unique. So innovative.

Mike Pence loves his wife. Very old-fashioned of him, I know. Dinner dates, alone with the opposite sex– that’s a line he’s drawn in the sand. Some voices don’t respect his line. They’re churning out lots and lots of news about his line. What I see is a contest. The winner sways the public to believe their version of the news, to sculpt the world through the medium of public opinion.

A Jungle Fable, Microcosms Entry

 

On a dismal November day an election was held to determine who would rule the jungle. This jungle was, in fact, a great laboratory in which a grand experiment was taking place. Only two animals ever got traction as rulers: the donkeys or the elephants. This went on and on in a sort of power tug-of-war.

The elephants were colossal, fat beings that could and would crush small creatures. Laws annoyed them, for they got in the way. The donkeys, preferring not to be called asses, were burdened creatures. They carried around other people’s treasure, redistributing it and enacting lots and lots of laws to legalize their ends. As often happens in contests, winning and holding power became more important than governing the jungle. So many promises the elephants and donkeys made… so many broken.

Ticked off and exasperated beyond belief, the animals panted for something heretofore… insane. An animal unlike the donkey or elephant, wily, vicious, depraved but powerful: a businessman. He swept into the jungle on storms of discontent provided by the donkey-elephant wars and made a great, great victory, a huge victory. He said he was an elephant but no one believed him or gave a rip. Only a donkey or an elephant could wear the crown. Some rules must be followed. Others broken. A businessman knows this.

Into the jungle he came roaring. And tweeting. Donkeys and elephants alike underestimated him, and this gave him an edge. The businessman wouldn’t read their scripts, wouldn’t play by the jungle rules. He invented new rules and resonated with scores of jungle animals.

A businessman presides over the jungle now.

The moral of the story: Rules are for chumps, not Trumps.

The end.

*Every Friday Microcosms offers a unique writing challenge. They supply genre, setting, and character, and you supply the flash fiction, up to 300 words. The judge is usually the previous week’s winner. They offer voting options– you can vote for your favorite piece, and every week, the judge chooses a favorite line out of every entry. That’s author love, I tell you.

This week I couldn’t resist. I’m really too busy, but the prompt got me thinking…

Prompt: laboratory/fable/inventor

I’ll Vote for Jesus When He Runs for President

Whether you trust in Hillary or trust in Trump, most voters feel we’ve got a bitter pill to swallow on November 8th. I’ve come to the conclusion that no matter what your leanings, you are trusting in one of those two outcomes. But what about third parties? This year more than ever, the idea of a third party seems a palatable medicine.

11-year-old Gabe: “What are you reading?”

Me: “Election stuff.”

Gabe: “I could tell. By the look on your face.”

My face: disgusted

Political discussions “produce the most delightful clashes, the deepest schisms in friends and family, the most hell-like states possible on earth.” Indeed. Four years ago I donned the voice of Screwtape, the sophisticated demon-creation of C.S. Lewis, and wrote that sentiment in a post condemning third-party votes. Back then the mavericks cast their consciences against the dreaded Mitt Romney on the basis of his mormon faith. Mitt Romney, a veritable Mother Teresa in today’s political climate.  Miracle and/or apocalypse aside, either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will be elected. Polls say Hillary. 

What does it look like, a vote of faith? Every vote is a vote of faith in something. The difference is the something. Of course ultimately our trust is in God to take care of our nation. In God we trust. I’m not excising God out of the equation when I say we have but two options. When you have a headache, do you trust God to fix it or do you take a Tylenol? I submit: we have a political migraine, and although I’m ready for God to sweep into the American narrative in a divine coup de grâce and make America sane again/ kind again/ great again/ mine again– God’s plan may be for me to trudge to the polls and check a box.

Some boxes require more faith than others.

Exhibit: Vermin Supreme.verminHe promises free ponies and harsher tooth brushing laws. And he’ll fund research into time travel, ostensibly to go back in time and “kill baby Hitler with my bare hands.” Who can argue with that platform? If you find it insane Donald Trump is the Republican nominee, consider this: Mr. Supreme finished fourth in the New Hampshire primaries.

Hard as I’ve tried to wrap my conscience around a perfect, third-party candidate like Darrell Castle, I can’t move my (let’s face it, inconsequential little) vote into the realm of the theoretical. I can’t get comfortable putting my faith into that box. Here’s why: We’re all passengers on the bus about to be taken over by one of these two drivers. My moral obligation is to give my vote to the one with the least likelihood of crashing the bus. I could throw up my hands and ask Jesus to take the wheel. How many people who will do that with their vote would do that with their car? On I-71.

Because for me, that’s what it comes down to. My actions at the macro and the micro level must match up. I do take Tylenol when I have a headache, and I don’t think it demonstrates moral depravity or lack of faith. I will vote my conscience, within the unfortunate bounds of our electoral system, choosing the lesser evil, having faith that God is ultimately in control of my life and my country. Every day I drive I-71 downtown, twice. It’s harrowing. Sometimes I’ve prayed that God would keep us safe as we make our way through rush hour. But never have I taken my hands off the wheel and asked Jesus to drive.invisibleman2

Again this election cycle, after many an internal and external debate and prayer, I find myself begging my third-party and stay-at-home friends to cast a vote for your favorite bus driver. Or your least-hated bus driver. And if third-party is where your heart is, then by all means, get involved in the process sooner, when they have a chance of making the primetime debates, of getting their plans and values out to the masses. Make third parties a force with which to be reckoned– next election cycle.

Show me your faith without works and I’ll show you my faith by my works. – James 2:18. 

Voting for the lesser evil is not a lesser action than a vote for a pure candidate who will not win.

After I check that box, I’m pretty sure life will go on.