Is Jimmy Coming Out?

You may -but probably do not- know that Jimmy Carter is one of a couple of well-publicized people I think I’d like to have coffee with.

In 1976 the guy who brought us home while leaving the South Vietnamese to their fate had recently resigned from office, and the guy who pardoned him lost the election to Jimmy Carter. Jimmy Carter was looking pretty good except that his commitment to his faith was widely known. Welcoming home those who chose not to serve their country was a little hurtful, but the thing I was never comfortable with was his overt religious commitment. On the other hand I don’t believe he ever played me or lied to me and I respected that.

Well, now I read that he’s leaving his church because he feels they have distorted and misrepresented the Bible to promote and preserve gender inequality. (This reminded me of Rain Trueax’ recent post and using the Lord’s name in vain.) I see his lips moving, I know he’s religious, I hear him call bullshit on organized Christianity. What is up with that? Does it matter?

This is why I wanted to sit down with the guy. He struck me as a guy I could relate to, but sometimes he made no sense. Now he’s repudiating what I took to be source of much of what made no sense.

I’m still not okay with giving those who fled their country to avoid wartime service a pass.

Posted in Civil Rights, Morality/Ethics, Religion/Spirituality | 2 Comments

Openly Secular?

I put a daily almanac up on Facebook for no other reason than that it amuses me, and I noticed that Thursday is Openly Secular Day. It didn’t make the cut for my almanac since I was already out over 430 characters for Thursday. This morning someone made reference to Openly Secular’s Facebook page where they  are talking up a program to “Tell One Person” on Thursday if I’m “openly secular.” Honestly, that makes no sense to me.

There is a lot of stuff that we probably don’t need or want to know about each other. People tell me things I don’t want to know all the time and I think I experience that with pretty good grace, but I don’t feel a need to reciprocate. I put this in the category of those posts where a graphic says “I love my dog. Repost if you love your dog.” No.

It says here that: ” Secularism is a principle that involves two basic propositions. The first is the strict separation of the state from religious institutions. The second is that people of different religions and beliefs are equal before the law.” It goes on to say that: “If you believe this, you are secular regardless of your religious or spiritual beliefs.”

I am not religious. I am a non-believer, in almost any sense of the term: “non-believer.” I know of absolutely no religious people , zero, who can leave that baggage at the door. If a Grand Poobah of your particular religion has expressed an opinion on a topic, my experience tells me that will influence your opinion on that topic. If I am aware that you are religious and you tell me that you are also “secular,” I will not believe you.

In fact, I don’t want to know whether or not you’re religious and/or secular. Unless you’re the person who told me about John Davidson “coming out” on Openly Secular as being secular, I don’t care.

This whole thing sounds a little creepy to me. Who “comes out” as being secular anyway? Why would people just volunteer that stuff?

Posted in Life, Religion/Spirituality | 1 Comment

Work Gives Me a Context

Ronni Bennett posted today on how folks manage retirement. Not speaking for her, but she is engaged in blogging and issues on aging. Others take jobs, and still others appear content to be still. There are no wrong answers, it seems. I need to work, but only as a volunteer.

My (former) boss mocks me at times because I would never have willingly worked the hours for pay that I now work as a volunteer with the Red Cross. What I recognize about myself is that I am socially awkward. The only way I know anyone outside of family is from work. (Okay, that’s not entirely true, but it’s probably about 97% true. I’ve lived in four apartments in the past nineteen years and never knew any of my neighbors by name.)

Work gives me a frame of reference, a context. My role is defined, and I know what I’m supposed to do and how I’m supposed to behave. I understand how to interact with co-workers in their various roles, and how to interact with customers. Happily, since I stopped cleaning out roof rain gutters in 1962 (acrophobic), I’ve done work that I enjoyed and/or was pretty good at. Since retiring, if I’m being honest, I’ve actually enjoyed working with animal rescue even more than with the Red Cross because my role in animal rescue was primarily working with the animals being rescued.

I’ve tried a couple of meetups but they’ve gone off script pretty quickly with coffee before or after, or barbecues, or something else where I’m trying to ad lib with strangers. Even in internet communities, sooner or later, someone will want to meet up. People have suggested various strategies to “fix” this, but I’m going to be 68 in a few weeks. I’m better off finding work that needs to be done; there’s plenty of that.

Posted in Life, Relationships | 1 Comment

Happy Birthday, Ronni!

If you’re reading this and haven’t read Time Goes By, you need to fix that. Ronni Bennett is one of the main reasons I started blogging. She’s not only much better informed, but she also knows people.
Happy Birthday, Ronni!

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A Little About Hattie Alexander

Hattie Elizabeth Alexander would have been 114 today. Through her undergrad work she was only average in academics but she found her passion working as a bacteriologist for the USPHS and Maryland Public Health Service. She went on to medical school at Johns Hopkins earning her MD in 1930.

Helplessly watching infants and children die of influenzal meningitis due to Haemophilus influenzae (Hib) in one the best hospitals in the U.S. (Babies Hospital of the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center) pissed her off enough that she buckled down and developed an effective rabbit serum and paired that with the use of sulfa drugs and antibiotics to reduce mortality from influenzal meningitis down to around 20%. Then she kept improving diagnostics and treatment to reduce mortality even further.

She observed that, over time, bacteria are able to develop resistance to antibiotics through genetic mutation which segued into early DNA research. By 1950 she was tinkering with the genetic code of Hib.

She published roughly 150 papers in her career and wrote chapters on microbiology and pediatrics in textbooks. She became president of the American Pediatric Society in 1964.

Dr. Alexander died of liver cancer in 1968.

When your babies get a Hib shot now and live to a ripe old age some of them owe a little bit of that to Hattie Alexander.

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Reflections on the Life of Victor Mills

Anyone reading this might know that I compile a daily almanac (because I’m nuts), and I occasionally “discover” someone I’ve never heard of whom I’d consider an unsung hero.

Today I found Victor Mills, born March 28th, 1897, in Milford, NE. Victor enlisted in the Navy in time for World War I, worked as a welder, met and married his wife, and graduated from the University of Washington as a chemical engineer.

Shortly after getting picked up by Proctor & Gamble in 1926, he came up with the continuous production process to make a bar of Ivory Soap in a couple of hours instead of a week. Then he came up with a production method to make cakes from Duncan Hines cake mixes without lumps. He’s credited with making synthetic rubber tires more durable by adding a little soap into the mix, and with keeping the oil from separating out of Jif. He figured out how to make Pringles, but no one is perfect. His master piece was the invention of Pampers disposable diapers.

The guy died at home in his bed in Tucson at the ripe old age of 100.

We get so caught up in what the mainstream media is pushing out – because they’re good at it – that we start believing that the comings and goings of the latest hottest cebritantes are important and we’ve never heard of a guy who has transformed the lives of just about all 7 billion of us in one way or another.

Fair winds and following seas, Victor. Thank you. I prefer Skippy, and Pringles are crap; but thank you for the rest of it.

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Thoughts on Inflating One’s History

I’ve been thinking about Brian Williams’ problem.

First, to put the issue in perspective, Walter Cronkite and the journalists of his era to whom Brian Williams is being compared didn’t deal with this odd conflation of real news and whatever the hell the Kardasians are. We don’t even know what the news is anymore.

Brian Williams did go into the combat zone and put himself in danger to report from there. He did not get shot at. That kind of sucks.

I spent September, 1967, to August, 1970, in the operating rooms in the Naval Hospital in Yokosuka, Japan, at times working more than once around the clock on the Marines coming off the med-evacs from VietNam. We put most of them into good enough shape to survive the ride back to the States, but not all and it was a fucking mess pretty much either way. The memories, good and bad, from there have never left me; but I never got shot at, and that’s always bothered me.

I was a REMF. The guys down at Charlie Med in VietNam were doing the heavy lifting, and I was just cleaning their patients up to send them home. Even when I did “go to VietNam” it was on an aircraft carrier. We had a couple of accidents on the flight deck, but accidents happen everywhere. I was there without being there. I was never in it. Do you think I’ve never thought about embellishing my service?

The thing is that I know these guys, and they will know if you lie to them. Accept the privilege of having accomplished what you did accomplish. I know that, if I had ever actually been ordered to Field Med School for duty with the Marines, I’d have been kicked out of the Navy then and there for my flat feet. I wasn’t supposed to be there… but it still bothers me.

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“The Beginning of Love…”

The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image.
Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.

–   Thomas Merton (1915-1968)

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Thoughts on violence in our culture

I am mindful that we are, at our core, omnivorous territorial predatory mammals. We believe – we hope actually – that we are civilized enough to live in communities, but I wonder whether or not we really are.

I was going to write a post about cops killing people and now we have cops being ambushed, and now I wonder if it isn’t all the same thing. I wonder if most, if not all, of this mess doesn’t come back to partisanship; a “we-they” view of the world.

I recently  went to a FEMA training with a dozen members in various divisions of LAPD, and I had a chance to talk with those at my table about why I thought the organization I work with partners so much more easily with Fire than with Law although Law is usually responsible for evacuations. It came back to their respective views of humanity; law enforcement is always scanning those present for the bad guy.

Law enforcement in our culture is a paramilitary culture that often appears to behave more as an occupying force to keep the population in line than as friends and neighbors doing a job. Few officers even live within the communities in which they serve anymore. I think that lack of inclusion, in combination with possession of deadly force on one’s belt and the need to make snap assessments and decisions, leads to mistakes in judgement.

I’m not a sociologist – and don’t much care for sociology – but I can totally see a cop pulling up on a scene, jumping out of his car as he assesses the scene and reaches for his… baton? taser? pepper spray? service weapon? What criteria does he use in making the choice? (Why is it always a guy?)

On the other side of the conflict are those who also feel they are not a part of the community as a whole for a variety of reasons, or who are perceived as not being a part of the community. Again, it’s the “apartness” that gets people killed or leads them to strike out against the avatars of community standards.

The big argument I keep hearing for man’s supremacy is our cognitive abilities; but at every turn in the road we always seem to revert to that primal state. We judge our universities by their football teams.

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“sic transit gloria mundi”

I am mindful that everything is transitory. As Heraclitus said: “No man steps in the same stream twice for the stream is not the same, and neither is the man.”

Since I moved back to California I’ve been working together with some really fantastic people to recreate a delivery system for disaster services for the San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys. Granted, the work was getting done before, and it’s not like we tested our model against the coming major earthquake, but it was our model and there was some pride in our handiwork. That’s going to be transformed now by decisions above our paygrade, and that hurts; but it puts me in mind of the reality that everything changes.

In North Carolina I had the opportunity to participate in forging a 27-county Western Carolinas Region from the 16 counties of Western North Carolina and the 11 counties of Upstate South Carolina. That involved a certain amount of angst among those who had to exchange their time-honored ways of doing things in the face of new realities – although we were always sensitive to the impacts of the changes on folks. As I write this, that Region has been dissolved and the counties reapportioned into a Western North Carolina Region and a South Carolina Region.

Before going to North Carolina, the Pomona Chapter was subsumed into the San Gabriel Pomona Valley Chapter which was subsumed into the Los Angeles Region while I was gone.

The HMO I worked for after college was subsumed into United Healthcare.

Every ship I served in while in the Navy has been decommissioned.

Is there a point to it all then? I believe that there is. I believe that the choices we make, and whether or not we act on them and how are probably our only real legacy. Who knows how long that will last? How far and for how long will the ripples spread?

I did what I did with what I hope were good intentions. I have felt satisfaction in doing things well enough to accomplish their purpose, but I don’t think it’s been about me. I try not to make it about me.

Still, seeing that “wrecking ball” coming again… it hurts.

Happy Birthday, Max!

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