News, Views, Rantings & Ramblings by Carey Parrish
- Name: Carey Parrish
- Location: Georgia, United States
Tuesday, October 25, 2016
One of the most talented writers on the scene today, Gregory G. Allen has penned novels for adults as well as stories for children. He's also actively involved in the theater. His work includes the short film "Mother," based on a book he wrote, for which he received national acclaim. After entertaining children's audiences with the book Chicken Boy, whose title character has autism, he has recently released a new book for kids calls Irving, The Theater Nut, which has resulted in glowing reviews and praise. Greg and I have known each other for some time and when I saw what a commotion Irving is causing, I couldn't stop myself from asking him for a few minutes to discuss his new book. As always, Greg was as welcoming and charming as ever.
CP: Hi, Greg. Welcome back. It’s been a while since we talked in a forum like this.
GG: It has and I really appreciate you talking to me again since I haven’t had a book out in a few years.
CP: You are, of course, most welcome. You’ve recently released a new children’s book, Irving, The Theatre Nut. Tell me about Irving.
GG: Irving is this squirrel who knows he should be gathering nuts (as that is what’s expected of him), but really wants to be a performer. He watches children rehearse in a nearby theater and he has a dream to join in on the fun that he sees them experiencing.
CP: Where did the idea for this book come from?
GG: I started a new job a few years ago as a theater manager in a historic theater in New York State and my second week, a squirrel got in the theater. I completely forgot that I had gone home, written an outline for a new children’s book and only discovered it earlier this year.
CP: What’s been the reaction to the book?
GG: It’s truly amazing because I was excited to return to my roots of children’s theater with this book and not certain how that would play with other people. There are more theater geeks/nuts in the world than I thought! People are loving the themes as well as Morgan Swofford’s beautiful illustrations.
CP: What message were you hoping to share with this story?
GG: I wanted to share that it’s okay to be different - if you want to go to play practice after school…Go! Just be you. Yet there are other smaller themes parents and teachers can discuss of working together, diversity (as it was important for me the children in the book not all look alike), and following a dream.
CP: You’ve always been heavily involved in the theater yourself. How much did that motivate this story?
GG: It was a huge motivation. I spent years doing children’s theater as a child. It’s how I got my start. I also got my Equity card (theater union) as an adult touring in a children’s theater show where we would do musical versions of well known children’s stories. I toured as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. And the past ten years I’ve returned to the stage once in a while to feed that passion. So yes…I’m a HUGE theater nut so I’m so happy to use that part of my life in this book.
CP: You’ve also been the director at one of your local theaters for a while now. How much do you enjoy this type of position?
GG: I think I’m one of those people that love all aspects of theater and the arts. I was the artistic director of a theater in New Jersey for several years, but even after I stepped away, I would still return and direct for them. There is a joy in working with a cast and crew to create a shared vision for the stage.
CP: What sorts of challenges does it present for you?
GG: The director sees the overall picture (which can be anxiety-producing) and steers everyone along on the same journey. You plan out the moments of your rehearsals, work with each designer so that you all have the same goal, and sometimes it can become nerve-wracking if things aren’t moving along at the time you feel it should be. That’s why I love to return to the other side, take on a role, and just worry about my own performance. :-)
CP: Do you feel that you’ve found your true calling or is there more you to accomplish?
GG: Honestly, I don’t know what my true calling is. It’s definitely to continue working in the arts and telling as many stories as possible…whatever medium that may be. I’m a storyteller at heart and that can be books, film, or stage.
CP: You recently were heavily involved with an independent film called “Mother” that received national acclaim. What would you like to share about that experience?
GG: It was absolutely amazing. From adapting a book of mine to a short 11-minute film. Bringing together a cast and crew that were all incredible and made our two-day shoot SO easy. To post production and working with an editor who brilliantly helped shape the vision to taking the film to festivals all of last year. Every moment of it was special in a different way.
CP: Is Irving possibly headed for a theater or film adaptation?
GG: It’s still so new that I’m not sure, but a few people have said to me that it needs to be a children’s play.
CP: Are you planning or working on another book at the present?
GG: Right now - no. You know how it is. It takes so much time to work on a project that sometimes I need to pull back and just…be. Right now, it’s all about talking about Irving and getting him to as many people as possible. We’ve already heard from regional theaters that want to carry the book in their gift shop and I’d love to do some events at actual children’s theater companies to talk about the book with children who are living it.
CP: What kinds of things have you been doing in your personal time lately?
GG: I still love to travel. this summer we took a family vacation on an Alaskan cruise for my mom’s 70th birthday. It was a great way to celebrate on the ship.
CP: Have you seen any movies that you can recommend? And if so, what makes the film stand out?
GG: The last movie I saw in a theater was Florence Foster Jenkins. I enjoyed it. I tend to watch most films at home now. (I’ve turned into that person.) Though I want to see The Girl on the Train as it was filmed up in the town where I live.
CP: What are you reading?
GG: Currently reading Seth Rudetsky’s The Rise and Fall of a Theater Geek. (He wrote a great review for Irving and I just HAD to read his YA book about a teen theater-lover.)
CP: The election is really a boiling point across the country right now. Do you, as do most Americans, feel that this is the election that will set the stage for the USA’s journey forward in the 21st Century?
GG: I think every election cycle seems like a turning point for our country where we usually go back and forth from party to party. I think this year we had so many other things brought up with an independent like Bernie Sanders being such a large voice, and a Washington outsider like Donald Trump making such headway with people. It shows our country isn’t pleased and I HOPE that change will come, but we must remember that change for the sake of change isn’t always good. I don’t think our democracy should be thrown out the window. I think smart change needs to occur and Americans need to come together to make change: not divide in some sort of civil war. That actually worries me more than anything else. That this election has brought out the worst in people and I just hope there will be mending. (As a country and even among our own friends on social media and in our lives.)
CP: What would you say is your proudest achievement?
GG: Wow. That’s a hard one. I was always taught by my parents that I could do anything. I’m so proud they instilled that in me or else I would never have tried to do half of what I’ve done. Sometimes I fail, but that’s okay. I just keep trying something else new. (I know, I know - I didn’t answer your question because it’s like Sophie’s Choice and I can’t pick one.)
CP: Greg, thanks so much for visiting with me again.
GG: Thank you for talking with me again!
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
"The Lottery" -- A Think Piece
Almost sixty-eight years ago, The New Yorker published a story by novelist Shirley Jackson called "The Lottery." It has become one of the most renowned short stories in American literature. Set against the backdrop of small town America, the narrative, written in third person, takes place on the 27th day of a summer month in a village of around three hundred people. The town is about to take part in an annual tradition that seems to have everyone present oddly pleasant but nervous.
There is a cast of young, middle aged, and old represented herein and the views of each generation differ regarding what they are about to do. The town's oldest man, Old Man Warner, goes on about how "people have changed" and "this isn't way it used to be done." He says: "There used to be a saying, 'lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.' " When someone tells him that other counties are either considering or have already done away with The Lottery, he decries it as worthless and how others shouldn't listen to "the young people." He firmly says: "There's always been a lottery." A large pile of rocks is nearby.
As the story progresses, the man in charge of the event, named Joe, accompanied by the town's postmaster, Mr. Graves, calls everyone to order. Joe is "sworn in" to do his official duty as the Lottery organizer. Then each male head of household comes up to the podium as his family's name is called and removes a folded slip of paper from a black box, each one having been instructed not to open the paper until everyone has received his. Small talk throughout the crowd is mostly mundane, with some making remarks such as "we're next" throughout. The first round is only for the men unless someone is unable, as is the case with a Mr. Dunbar who broke his leg and his wife is drawing for their family because their oldest son isn't sixteen yet.
Once each family has his paper, they are instructed to open them. All are blank. Except one. Bill Hutchinson is holding a slip of paper with a black circle drawn in the middle. People notice immediately.
"Bill Hutchinson's got it."
His wife, Tessie, who arrived late, begins protesting "it's not fair. Bill didn't have enough time to draw the piece of paper he wanted." Her husband quiets her.
"Be a good sport, Tessie," says Mrs. Delacroix.
"We all took the same chance," Mrs. Dunbar reminds her.
At this point Joe tells Mr. Graves to collect the family's pieces of paper. There is Bill and Tessie, with sons Bill Jr. and Davey, and daughter Nancy. It is revealed that there is an older daughter named Eva who is present with her husband, Don. Tessie cries out that they should have to "take their turn" as well but Joe reminds her that married daughters draw with their husband's families. The five eligible members of the Hutchinson family are then instructed to pick a piece of paper from the box and not open it until they all have drawn. A girl in the crowd whispers she hopes it's not Nancy. One by one, each family member's paper is unfolded. Tessie has drawn the one with the black dot. There is mostly silence.
Joe says: "Okay, folks. Let's finish quickly."
While Tessie protests that "it isn't right, it isn't fair," members of the community go for the rocks, encircle Tessie, and she is stoned to death.
The end. Period. The story ceases here.
When The New Yorker first published "The Lottery," it was received with a resoundingly negative response. So negative that hundreds of letters of protest began pouring in and the switchboards were lit up with incoming calls from concerned readers, many of whom cancelled their subscriptions. The magazine forwarded the letters addressed specifically to Shirley Jackson to her. She was taken aback by the way people reacted to her story. She told a journalist that even her mother scolded her for writing it, advising her to "write something that will cheer people up." When asked what her purpose was in writing "The Lottery," her reply was vague.
"Explaining just what I had hoped the story to say is very difficult. I suppose, I hoped, by setting a particularly brutal ancient rite in the present and in my own village to shock the story's readers with a graphic dramatization of the pointless violence and general inhumanity in their own lives."
Sounds good to me.
Ms. Jackson went on to write "The Haunting of Hill House," a thriller set in a haunted mansion that most critics consider one of the most important novels of the 20th Century. Even Stephen King credits it in this manner. Yet it is "The Lottery" that continues to bring the late author her most ardent attention. I first learned of the story in middle school when our social studies teacher showed us a short film made in 1969 based on the work. I remember being absolutely horrified by it. I couldn't get it out of my mind. My mother even called the school to complain about it. As I later learned so did many other upset parents who couldn't get their kids to sleep for days.
Over fifty years later, people are still talking about this story. It is a galvanizing piece of literature. Nowadays the critics are kinder and discussions are mostly people trying to figure out what it means. In spite of the author's own recollection of why she wrote it, there are other points of view which are just as valid. For me, it says that tradition, even when it's bad, is a difficult thing for humans to do away with. We feel bound to them for some reason, as if it is a betrayal of our ancestors to stop things they did for centuries. Even in the story, it is revealed that the lottery has changed over time. The box used isn't the original box but is constructed of pieces from the first one. It is old, splintered, weathered, not exactly black anymore as the color has faded. No one has yet decided to build a new one though. There is a recitation and a salute that was once included with the lottery but has now been discarded. Traditions are important to us, no doubt about it. Even when we don't do them exactly as our forebears did.
I also think there is something to do with how society destroys the individual in our world. We live in cities and towns where laws govern us and we follow structured routines, almost mechanically in a lot of cases. Society consumes a person, makes us become a functional member or discards us, sometimes violently. And permanently.
And lastly, there is an element of sacrifice that one makes for those around him. How we go kicking and screaming some of the time, as Tessie was doing when she insisted that her married daughter and son-in-law be forced to draw with the family. She knew that this would put them at risk of being killed but her survival instincts and desire to protect as much of her family as possible was at work, and she wasn't considering that in years past she was one of the people who was throwing the rocks. We give up a lot of who we are to live in our society and when it's our turn to give back, we aren't always very good at doing so. Are we?
The video of the short film I saw at age 13 is below. NBC produced a television movie based on the story with the same title in 1996 starring Dan Cortese and Keri Russell that won a Saturn Award. People are still talking about this story all these years later. It is powerful. It is disturbing. It is impossible to take your eyes away from.
Shirley Jackson died of heart failure in 1965 at the age of 48. I wonder if she had any idea that this one short story would still be such a topic of debate and obsession.
Sunday, May 8, 2016
Sister Wives - A Review
For the past five and a half years, the TLC network has aired a wildly successful show called "Sister Wives." The series debuted on September 10. 2010. The Browns and their journey have captivated millions of fans and have restarted the debate on plural marriage in the United States. People who watch the show are divided on whether or not the family is morally comprehensive or not. It is a complicated discussion, to say the least, but the show has made a big impact on 21st Century America.
I'm someone who grew up in a relatively small town in North Georgia. A child of the sixties, I remember when everything in my hometown was either in the downtown district or at Bryman's Plaza. There were no malls. This was way before K-Mart or Walmart came to be such retail giants. Grocery stores were locally run family owned places like Green Spot, Town & Country, Big Apple, and two chains known then as Winn-Dixie and Big Star. The black families lived in town and the white families lived in the county. I didn't have a black classmate until I was in high school. And everyone went to church somewhere. Religion was a major part of every family. And families were the cornerstones of the community. This was Southern USA in every sense of what was then the south in this country. Bigotry and prejudice was still very present. People were mostly Baptist. There was a generous Methodist community. Churches of God and Churches of Christ were present. We had a small Catholic populace and an even smaller Jewish congregation. The matter of plural wives was non existent here. And when it did come up, everybody agreed it was a sin. A horribly offensive way to live.
Growing up in the seventies, I was exposed to television and all the cultural revolutions that were going on in our nation at the time. I became much more liberally minded than most of my brethren. I began learning about the United States of America, what principles it was founded on, and what it means to be an American. I was able to look past what my parents and grandparents believed and see everything in a "bigger picture" sense. Yet I still didn't give the subject of plural marriage too much thought because nobody around here did that and I didn't know anyone who was involved in a family of the sort.
I was middle aged by the time "Sister Wives" began. I remember watching the first episodes with a great curiosity. I wanted to know what made these people tick. An offshoot of the Mormon Church, the practitioners of plural marriage were mostly located in areas of Nevada and Utah. I thought it was an interesting entry in the reality television genre to feature a family who lived a nationally illegal lifestyle. I also thought they were very brave to come out in such a public sense. And soon I became a fan not only of the show but of the Browns themselves. While everyone around me was morally outraged by the Browns and the show itself, I found myself cheering them on. I didn't see a sinful situation or a bad example for others. I saw a basically balanced family with amazing adult guidance. I saw people who only wanted to live their lives and raise their children without the threat of criminal indictment. I saw people who were willing to risk their freedom to bring their lifestyle choice into the public domain and maybe, just maybe, make a difference for other plural families by their example.
Kody Brown is the patriarch of the family. He leads an incredibly complicated life. He not only has the responsibility of leading the family as its head but also in being the main breadwinner. For nineteen children and four wives. A part of me wanted to ask him: "Man, are you insane? Why would you take on such a task as this?" But I watched him take care of each child, of each wife, and spend generous amounts of time with each family. He had their love and their respect. Somehow he was making it work. And in almost six years I have never heard one of the children on the show complain about needing more time from their dad. I am impressed by that itself.
Meri is wife #1. She and Kody married when they were young and have a daughter together. Meri is much more grounded than she thinks she is. She is very much the one who holds this family together. She has not only consented to live a plural family style of life but she has opened up her own insecurities and vulnerabilities to show just how difficult this life has been on her. Yet she gives her sister-wives support and she rarely lets anyone other than Kody know how she often struggles with their dynamic. She holds it together, for herself, and for everyone else. I don't think this situation would work without someone like Meri to keep things in place and flowing. She also is not afraid to let people see when she messes up, when she is human. I see Meri as the compass for this family.
Janelle is wife #2. She has six children with Kody. She had a difficult adjustment coming into the plural family. She leads in a different manner from Meri. They have developed a close friendship over the years but do disagree in principal on a lot of the dynamics of their situation. Yet they support each other and care for the children and want only for the family to continue to thrive. Kody may not realize how lucky he is to have two women with such different outlooks who can put aside their personal differences for the good of everyone else.
Christine is wife #3. She also has six children with Kody. Christine is much the stabilizing factor in the family. She fought her own demons about being in a plural wives circumstance and she overcame her fears by forming individual friendships with her sister wives and by working on her relationship with Kody with openness and acceptance. She offers support to others without compromising her own integrity.
Robyn is wife #4. She was a divorcee with three children of her own who came into the show after it's debut. She and Kody have had two children of their own since then. Robyn managed to come into this situation without any malice toward her sister wives. She accepted the lifestyle and readily embraced it before she married Kody. She's strong but she relies a lot on Meri to keep her grounded and aimed in the right direction. In fact, during season five, Kody wanted to adopt Robyn's children from her first marriage and Meri, who was the only one legally married to Kody, offered to give him a divorce so that he could marry Robyn in a legal sense and make the adoption possible for the sake of the children. It worked out for everyone involved but Robyn was lucky to have Meri there and willing to make that sacrifice for her, for her children, and for the family as a whole. Once again, Meri proved that she was the foundation for the wives. Whether they recognized it or not.
The show has taken a lot of twists and turns since it began. We saw the Brown family have to uproot itself from their home in Utah and move to Las Vegas to avoid possible indictment by the state of Utah over their situation. We've seen the wives overcome personal differences to stay united for the good of the family. We've seen Kody juggle four wives and four households to live the life he believes he was meant to live. The children have been well documented in their observations of the family they are a part of and whether it is a dynamic they would want for themselves. Nothing, in my opinion, has been left to chance. And I have indeed become a full fledged fan of this family and their show. I say to others leave them alone and let them have their happiness. Who are we to say they're wrong? It's not up to us, as their societal peers, to approve of or to judge them. It is our responsibility to go about our own lives while allowing them the same gracious right.
Tonight the Brown family will begin the sixth season of their hit show and they will once again allow millions of people into their world. Most fans have come to the opinion that I have about them. A lot of people still decry their lives and their situations. I say to them show me that you've done better in your life than they have in theirs. I say to them prove to me that they aren't entitled to live their life as they choose; just as everyone else in America gets to do.
So bring on season six of "Sister Wives." I'm in their corner. And so are millions of other people. They have shown us that we can't allow anyone to tell us how to live our lives. Our personal freedoms are worth so much more than society's approval.
Friday, September 11, 2015
My parents are both gone now. I'm too old to be an orphan. But I feel like one. Yet I can't claim that title because I am too old for it. So instead I tell myself that I'm nobody's child anymore. And that's how I feel. I don't have parents to go to when I need to talk. Or when I need someone to listen. Or when I just want to be with someone who loves me. That part of my life is over. I'm here alone and that feels so alien I can barely entertain the notion of it.
Yet this is my new normal. I'm going on with my routine, trying to maintain the schedule I always set for myself, but I don't feel "right" anymore. I'm flailing, if you will. It's like I don't have an anchor anymore. I'm afloat in life by myself and I don't like it. For the first time in my experience, I'm on my own in every sense of the term.
I still have family members and I still have friends. Deep down I know I'm not alone but in my heart I no longer have the support system I always relied upon and I don't know how to continue without it. Life isn't the same for me. I wake up each morning, I get ready for work, I go to my job and I do the things I'm supposed to do. In the afternoons, I come home and have dinner and get myself ready for the next day. Just like so many others do. But I feel adrift because there isn't anyone to call or to check on or to just chat to like there used to be. I don't want to wear out my welcome with my friends, and there are some things you just don't want your family members to know you're feeling. So I'm very much alone in that respect.
I'm nobody's child anymore.
Being without my mother is a pain that I cannot explain. Only someone who's been through this event can know what I'm talking about. My mother was my best friend. She was the one person I could always turn to, who I could always count on, who I never imagined being in this life without. It is a physical pain to realize that I am without her. I've never had a broken heart this excruciatingly inescapable. I have a feeling the rest of my life will be marred with this knowledge. I loved my mother more than anybody else and being here without her is agonizing. But what choice do I have? None.
And I'm left with the knowledge that things will never be the same for me again. And I don't like it. And I would give anything to change it. But I can't. I'll never have that sort of comfort available to me again. I'll always want Mama's warmth and her support. I'll always want to tell her the good and the bad things going on in my life. Yet I'll never have that security again. I'll never have the same relationship I had with Mama with anybody else in my life. That hurts like nothing else. I've never hurt like this before. And I don't know if, or when, this pain will ever go away.
So I'm back where I began. I'm nobody's child. I'm alone in a great many ways. Being the eldest child in your family comes with a burden that is hard to explain. You're the one who everyone looks to for the answers, the strength to go on, and the security that things will be the same in the family as they've always been. And you want to give them that assurance but you don't know how you can because you aren't sure yourself that you have it in you to offer anything to anybody.
I'm afraid. I have no one to turn to for the assurances I need so I can't offer any security at all to anyone I love because I don't have it to give. I have myself and that's all I can extend. Worse, I can't feel alright about myself because I no longer have the support system I always leaned on to get me through the uncertain times in life we all experience. I will have to face whatever comes along by myself. I won't be able to seek the same advice I always had to turn to anymore. Everything that happens, every decision there is to be made going forward, will be mine to own. And that's what scares me.
I'll have to learn to trust myself. I'll have to learn to accept my own judgements. I'll have to become my own somebody to turn to. But I don't want to do any of that. I want to have things like I always had them.
But I'm nobody's child anymore. And I never will be again.
And that sucks. And I don't know if I can accept this reality.
But what choice do I have?
These are the cards I've been dealt. I'll have to play them with whatever skill is mine to use. There is nothing more frightening than realizing this. Nothing.
Nobody's child. That's me.
Where do I go from here? I guess I'll just have to wait and see.
Sunday, September 6, 2015
Religious Liberty and The Law of The Land
In following the saga of Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who was jailed last week for being in contempt of court after ignoring a Federal judge's order to resume issuing marriage licenses in Rowan County, to both hetero- and homo- sexual couples, I found myself becoming more and more intrigued by the public's reaction to this situation. As expected, there are two camps occupying the issue: those who support Kim Davis and those who do not. I'm hearing all this discussion about religious liberty and the matter of how far it can be taken. Some people are saying that Ms. Davis was singled out because of her faith and her devotion to it. Others believe she was discriminating against same sex couples and using her office as a platform to flex her religious liberty. This has become a hot button issue that is playing itself out in the glare of the media spotlight.
One thing most people are ignoring is the simple fact that Kim Davis is in jail for breaking the law. She is not incarcerated for being a Christian or for exhibiting her dedication to her religious beliefs. She hasn't been chosen as an example of anything other than what can happen when a person chooses to break the law. So many people are using her situation to exploit their own agendas, whether for or against same sex marriage, and bending and twisting the facts to suit their needs. It is yet another case of sensationalized journalism making more out of this than is actually there. Kim Davis willfully ignored the order of a Federal judge, even after the Supreme Court declined to stay his order, and in doing so she put herself in a position to be jailed. Contempt of Court is a crime. Plain and simple. And Ms. Davis is suffering the consequences of her actions.
I will typically applaud anyone who stands up for what he or she believes in. I think exercising our privilege of being a free nation is one of the most fundamental rights we have as American citizens. Our Founding Fathers designed a country where those who call themselves Americans can be at liberty to believe in whatever we choose, so long as it doesn't violate the law. And this is where my support for Kim Davis ends.
I think it is admirable of her to state her opposition to same sex marriage due to the teachings of her faith but she has no right whatsoever to use it as a means to prevent other Americans from receiving their civil rights. And just weeks ago the Supreme Court ruled that the right to marry is something all Americans have and can enjoy at their own discretion. No one can say: 'Well, I don't agree with that because my religion is against it, so I won't obey that law.' You don't get to pick and choose which laws you're going to follow. Our legal system doesn't work that way. Not even for the religious. I wonder if Kim Davis refused marriage licenses to Jewish people because they don't accept Jesus as the messiah. I'll bet she didn't.
Yet she did use her position to support her opposition to same sex marriage by deciding that her office wasn't going to issue any marriage licenses at all. This is where she overstepped her bounds. As an elected official, elected by the tax paying citizens of Rowan County, Kentucky, she has certain obligations to fulfill no matter what religion she practices... and issuing marriage licenses to the people who live in Rowan County is one of those obligations. It's in her job description. Not only has she broken the law by placing herself in contempt of court but she has also given the Kentucky state legislature all the ammunition it needs to impeach and remove her from office. She did all this to herself.
What it boils down to is this: Ms. Davis has confused her Freedom of Religion with her duty as an American to obey the law. In doing so, she stubbornly refused to be redirected by a Federal judge and it cost her her freedom. The judge even offered her a way out of getting locked up by telling her that she could go free if she wouldn't prevent her deputy clerks from obeying the law and still she wouldn't accept that the law is the law no matter who you are or what religious beliefs you hold. She seems to think that because she is against same sex marriage she has the right to impose her values and ideals on everyone else in Rowan County due to her position. The only example she's setting is showing the rest of the world what happens to people in the United States who choose to break the law.
Kim Davis is not a martyr. She isn't a champion of Christian morals. She's not Joan of Arc. What she is is a person who's in jail because she ignored the order of a Federal judge to follow the letter of the law. She didn't take into consideration that everyone has the same Freedom of Religion that she does or that hers doesn't supersede anyone else's. She tried to get away with breaking the law and look what happened to her because of it.
Hers is an example of an exercise in futility. It is a classic case of why a person shouldn't try to do a job that their conscience can't accept because it conflicts with their religious ideals. Kim Davis had the chance to avoid jail by preserving her beliefs while also allowing her deputies to provide a service she felt she could not. And she chose to use her office to deprive others of their civil rights. In plain terms, she committed a crime. Now she has to pay for it.
Religious liberty and the law of the land don't always complement each other. When they conflict for someone on a personal level, common sense should prevail. If your religion doesn't permit you to do something then stay away from whatever it may be that offends you. It's not that difficult to reconcile the two when you get right down to it.
But to get back to my original intent in writing this piece, I reiterate that Kim Davis is not in jail for being a Christian.
She's in jail because she broke the law.
Sunday, August 23, 2015
Sometimes life just rearranges itself on you.
You wake up one morning and everything is different. The people who were the closest to you in life are all gone. You aren't alone. There are still family members and friends to support you and keep you from feeling that you're just by yourself. But it's not the same. And it never will be again.
Life is a tricky thing. You get too comfortable in it sometimes. Your home, the people you love, the mundane aspects of your daily routine, the highs and the lows, all get so familiar that you fall into the trap of thinking it will always be this way. Then, when the morning comes that you wake up and everything has changed, you're left with this uncomfortable realization that you are actually in control of very little. That scares you.
What's even more scary is knowing that you have to go on, trying to make a new path for yourself, trying to find a new purpose for yourself as well. I've been here before. Twelve years ago when my grandmother died, I didn't know what to do with myself then either. Yet I had my parents to turn to for advice. My mother was someone I could talk to about almost anything. I was younger then and the life ahead of me seemed somehow more exciting than it does now. I remembered dreams I'd had as a child and it occurred to me that I could make them come true. So I set out to do just that.
I wanted to be a writer. A professional writer. With the aid of the internet I got involved with writers groups online and it all seemed to take off from there. I started a web magazine that was very popular for a few years. I got to interview some very famous people and become friends with many of them in the process. Friends who knew a thing or two about making dreams come true and who were more than happy to share their knowledge with me. Five years and four books later I felt good about myself and where I had gone in life.
Then my mother was diagnosed with cancer. She needed me. I was there for her like she'd always been for me. It meant giving up some of the things that I had achieved over the past few years. As her illness progressed, I began having some health issues of my own. A heart attack that required stent placement and then later a herniated disk in my back caused me to get depressed. I had stopped writing almost entirely by then. The world was going on around me and I was stuck in this place where my world revolved around my mother, my health, and my job. A little at a time, I lost every last piece of the life I made for myself in the years after my grandmother died. I was back to where I started... with almost no life.
Life rearranged itself around me again thereafter. Both my parents were gone and I had back surgery. I was home with nothing to do but watch TV and I avoided thinking about the future by focusing on trivial things. I realized I'm not young anymore. I'm middle aged and I have health problems that require daily medications to manage. I have a job that isn't really a challenge anymore because I've been doing it for so long that I've learned what to expect and how to handle the upheavals that come with it. So what do I do now?
I'm too old for this, I tell myself. I don't have it in me to find a new purpose in my life, I think. It's too much work to get back to where I was as a writer before Mama got sick, I hear myself thinking. It'll be easier to just go to work, watch TV, eat, and wait on my turn to go back to the universe, echoes in my mind.
But that isn't what I want to do. I want to have my life back. I still have friends who can help me find my way into the future. I'm financially secure. I have a chance now to travel to most of the places I've always wanted to go in the world. I can plan for my retirement without having to worry about being one of those little old people who has to work at Walmart because Social Security isn't enough for them to live on. I'm doing okay with my health right now. My back problems are pretty much resolved and I'm stable on my meds. My family members are all supportive of me. I'm not alone. I have myself and I have all the tools at my disposal that I need to make my life happen again. I just have to do it.
Life just rearranged itself on me. Again. It's time to pick up and move on. Again. I have to do something with myself. Again. I'd hate to think that where I am now is all I'm going to get out of life. And it doesn't have to be all I get. It's my choice, my decision. There are too many years left to waste. Let's see if I have it in me to redefine me. Again. I think I do.
Sunday, June 28, 2015
What The USA IS... And What It IS NOT
The United States of America is a Constitutional Republic, modeled after the Roman Empire in many respects, and is not a Democracy in the true sense of the word. Democratic principles are applied, such as voting and the representation of states and regions and districts in Congress, but if we were a true Democracy there wouldn’t be any need for things like the Electoral College or the Equal Protection clause in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. By fashioning this nation as a Constitutional Republic, our Founding Fathers organized a country which was meant to protect and serve all of its citizens, not the majority of them, and certainly not select groups who would put their own beliefs and wants above their peers. Avoidance of majority rule and ensuring against the tyrannical influence of sects of the populace is why we are a Republic and not a Democracy.
With this knowledge allegedly taught to all Americans while we’re in grade school, I am once again at a loss when it comes to how many of my fellow Americans don’t seem to understand how our country is organized and why it was set up this way to begin with. All this hubbub over Same-Sex Marriage is, quite simply, ridiculous when you consider the nation we call home and the cornerstones of what it means to be an American. Extending the legal rights of marriage to LGBT couples is no different than Civil Rights is to Americans who are not Caucasian. In case anyone is unaware, in many states a person couldn’t marry someone of a different race until the 1970’s. It was the same argument then as it is now. Two consenting adults who love each other and wish to be married have a fundamental right to do so, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation. The 14th Amendment guarantees it with the Equal Protection clause. “Life, liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” is an American right that we all are supposed to enjoy. And not just opposite sex couples who might be white and religious. Anyone who thinks otherwise is Un-American in the very fabric of the word. The Equal Protection clause is also why the majority cannot vote away anyone’s right to be married, or anything else. See, once again, in a Republic, a majority rule is not allowed to dictate the rights of others.
And why did our Founding Fathers create a nation based on the principles of a Constitutional Republic? Because they were sick and tired of being lorded over by a Monarchy that presumed to tell them how to live and what to believe and which taxed them mercilessly without representation, maintaining control through the instillation of fear. They wanted to live in a country where the government was by the people and for the people and where all Americans could be treated equally with the same rights applied to everyone. Yet here we are in the 21st Century still requiring the law to maintain our country in the manner in which it was set up to begin with because we have so many people who want the USA to be something that it is not.
Let’s talk about state’s rights for a moment. When the movement to abolish slavery began gaining steam in Washington, many of the southern states seceded from the Union in order to not only keep African Americans in slavery, but also because they felt their rights under their state constitutions gave them this freedom. The American Civil War that followed was not only fought to ensure the freedom of the slaves, but to also preserve the Union and to establish the sovereignty of the nation over the state. In other words, Federal law always supersedes state law. Do you know why? Because it is the duty of the Federal government to maintain this country as a Constitutional Republic, governed by the Constitution and its amendments, where no state can strip away a citizen’s rights because a majority decides that they can’t have equality. That, again, is Un-American in the very fabric of the word. This is why segregation was ultimately outlawed and why schools and universities were required to open their doors to anyone who wished to attend them. The same principles apply no matter what the situation may be. Americans are supposed to be equal to one another when it comes to the rights we enjoy as individual citizens of the United States of America.
Lastly, a Constitutional Republic also excludes the influence of religious doctrine in its government. Why? Because now, as then, there are so many differing religions and belief systems and values based upon the doctrines of these religions that it would be all too easy for one to have a majority over another. You wouldn’t expect Jewish Americans to be forced to live by Christian or Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist, or any other religion’s edicts, would you? Certainly not. Religion is a personal matter where one chooses his own path to ensure his own spirituality. It has no place in a government that represents free citizens in a nation where equality is supposed to be guaranteed to everyone. Most of the Founding Fathers were non-theists anyway. They wouldn’t have dreamed of setting up a government based on or including religious principles. Instead, they established Freedom of Religion so that everyone could worship as he or she chooses, or not worship at all. In this manner, individual equality is again guaranteed.
Now, to anyone reading this, here is where I want you to pay attention and pay attention good. I am appalled to see so many of my fellow Americans insisting that they are losing their liberties and having their rights infringed upon. By extending those same rights and liberties to LGBT Americans, they are sharing them and you are losing nothing. You still have the right marry, to worship in any manner you choose, to believe what you want to believe, to vote for whomever you wish to vote for, to speak your peace without recrimination from the government. In other words, you still have the right to live a life of freedom. And so does everyone else.
And to all those elected officials and clergy representatives and ordinary citizens who are encouraging their families and neighbors to ignore the law and do what they wish, there are still laws on the books regarding treason, obstruction of justice, civil disobedience, and inciting others to unlawful behavior. I have a feeling that by confusing the adherence to these laws with Freedom of Speech, there are going to be some very unhappy Americans who are going to find themselves behind bars, charged with and probably convicted of Un-American acts. Your Freedom of Speech does not include rebelling against the government. That was, is, and will always be a criminal act.
If you don’t like the principles by which the United States of America was founded, move to Canada. (Inside joke I wonder how many people will get.)
If you do like them, enjoy your freedom as an American citizen.