Saturday, December 15, 2012

Tiny bits of unconditional love (a guest post from Tony Cannon)

All you need is love...and two other things.

I've spent a lot of time in thought lately about why people have problems with each other and, while that is natural and even acceptable, how we can get over those problems to still be able to cohesively be a part of the same community without a lot of lingering angst.  I keep coming back to the same idea without a way to really defeat it: love.  Not based on how well someone does their job, whether they smile at us in the hall, whether we like them or not, agree with their personal beliefs, but love that is unconditional.  And it doesn't have to be a lot.  Just a tiny, tiny bit.  If we felt the tiniest bit of unconditional love towards every other person, how much better would things be?  It would be easier to forgive people when they wrong us (perceived or actual), it would be easier to disagree and still get things accomplished.  It would make life more enjoyable.  We wouldn't have to show it necessarily, just feel it internally and recognize it when it came time to rely on it.

Hypothetical: If there was a staff member who I strongly disliked/wronged me/thought did a terrible job/etc., and I saw them crying alone, what would I do?  Keep walking; give support, but with conditions; or just give support regardless?

It doesn't mean we don't have conflict between one another, but that the conflict is confined to a single situation and doesn't overlap to the point where it's only what we have with that other person.

Emotionally, people need 3 things from others (regardless of their age, talents, deficiencies, position, or any other definable feature):
- love
- respect
- purpose

It can be argued that respect is a filtered form of love and also that you cannot have purpose without respect.  As a school, do we have systems in place to cover those?  Purpose, yes; respect, sort of; love, no.  And even with regard to purpose, how much of that system is based on respect?  What do our personal, internal systems show with regards to those 3 things through our actions towards others?  

When I was a Special Education Instructional Assistant substitute educator in Salem, these 3 things are what I lived by (though I was only able to define them recently, I just went by "feel").  I would go from school to school, program to program, room to room, kid to kid.  Kindergarten, high school, college prep, all types of Special Ed rooms, and everything in between.  Unlike a teaching sub, I wouldn't have the luxury of being able to deflect student issues amongst 30 students, I had to focus mostly on one student, and it was usually the most difficult one.  And while the other workers would have weeks to build a rapport with a high-maintenance student, I'd have minutes at best before I saw flames reaching over the edge of the handbasket the student and I were in together.  When things would start going south, I'd try and recognize how I was failing that other person, how they were failing me, how we were failing each other, leaving out emotions like guilt, hurt, shame, embarrassment.  "How can I solve this within two minutes?"  Smiling was almost always part of the solution.  I'd always try and cover the difference as much on my own as I could and that would usually make the other person feel comfortable and willing to cover the rest of the way.  We have to be willing to recognize when we're failing other people, then be willing to do something positive about it, even if they're hurting us.  We also have to be willing and able to recognize when someone else is failing us, yet is unable or unwilling to cover it on their end.

Regardless of what problems, either as individuals or overall as a school, we think we may have, don't they all boil down to one or more of those 3 things lacking in a given situation, from one or both sides, and in varying degrees?  How can I solve an interpersonal issue quickly, respectfully, in a way that will last?  While doing this, I have to realize that there’s a good chance I’ll have to give more than the other person, and that this may never be reciprocated down the road.  I’m okay with that.  Tiny bits of unconditional love.

Tony Cannon is a father, husband, professional educator, amateur photographer, and recreational philosopher, among other things. He frequently blogs about hiking at

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Aspiring to the divine (craft beer, that is)

The world of craft beer has been set afire.

The Brouwerij Westvleteren (Westvleteren Brewery), makers of "one of best beers in the world", announced that it would be selling its beer, for the first and only time, outside of the monastery's walls. The monastery's one-time effort is designed to raise funds to fix up their roof. But for beer connoisseurs, it's an opportunity of a lifetime. And after NPR aired a segmented yesterday extolling the virtues of God's nectar (A Sign From Above? Needing New Roof, Monks Sell Rare Beer in U.S.), and the Huffington Post ran a piece in today's food section (Westvleteren XII, 'World's Best Beer," Makes One-Time U.S. Appearance),  people have been scrambling to find and try it - me included.

In an effort to procure some the divine nectar, I phoned my friend and local homebrew shop owner, the Old Lickspigot himself - Joel Rea of Corvallis Brewing Supply - realizing the shop was not yet open but hoping to leave a message. Much to my surprise and based on the overwhelming number of calls he'd received from people requesting this beer, the owner had changed his message to indicate that he did indeed have a case but that he'd be holding a raffle for the bottles and people needed to send him an email expressing their interest in participating in the raffle. So I obliged, in as eloquent a fashion as I could muster in 30 minutes of morning procrastination.

Westvleteren XII's arrival at the local homebrew shop (G-T article).

Now, without further ado, I give you my email - in its entirety - to the local homebrew shop to get in on some of the world's least available beer!

STOP! I KNOW YOU'RE BUSY, JOEL, BUT YOU MUST - ABSOLUTELY MUST - READ THIS ENTIRE EMAIL! (or not, but I think you'll get a kick out of it)
Good gravy! Sounds like you've been inundated with calls about procuring some of this beer! That's awesome (or not, depending on your perspective). I guess the inundation is to be expected when a national radio program extols the virtues of this limited quantity nectar of the one true God!
But to the point of this email: I am interested in procuring one of these Westvleteren bottles.
And I'm interested for two reasons, the first of which is Divine in nature (helping the monks of Saint Xystus/Sixtus replace their roof), the second of which is purely to serve the interests and taste buds of others (yes, I'm that much of a giver). And by others, I really mean me...and a few others that will get to quaff the sweet nectar of this bottle one evening next week whilst tying flies at my home. Flies that will hopefully land the One, True, Might and Strong winter steelhead in the coming days before Christmas (the equivalent of the golden egg-laying goose for our avian, folklore-loving friends). It is my firm belief that in savoring this drink direct from the hand of God (through his holy monks), the flies we tie up next week will have supernatural, spiritual powers bestowed upon them, thereby compelling the wary and willy winter steelhead to feel spiritually compelled to deliver themselves unto us fly-tying brethren.  And they will feel compelled to deliver themselves unto us because we will have sufficiently demonstrated - via our consumption and appreciation of this Holy nectar - our direct link to God, indeed to the Divine Kingdom. And in so demonstrating, these most magnificent of winter wilderness, waterworld wayfarers will attain true enlightenment and access to Heaven through our (including your) consumption of them (after they leave the smoker, of course!).
So please do let me know if/how I can get my hands on one of these bottles! In doing so, you will be playing an incalculable role as divine facilitator and savior of the pisces. And you'll strengthen your case for sainthood so that one day your name may be talked about in concert with that of Saint Francis of Assisi.
Many thanks, Joel!
Prost!Jeremiah (Sixtus III?)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Recovering the masculine heart

It's funny how things in life seem to line up. This last week, in a Public Administration class at Oregon State University, we were discussing postmodernism and feminism. And our weekly class discussion focused on, at least in part, the relatively recent feminization of men. Coincidentally (or perhaps not), I'm finishing up reading a wonderful book about masculinity, "Wild At Heart" by John Eldredge. And I'm excited to start reading another book on men and masculinity, "The Will to Change: men, masculinity and love" by Gloria Jean Watkins (better know by her pen name bell hooks). What follows are the original questions asked of the class and my blog discussion post/reply:

"What role do men and women play, respectively, in creating a culture  of gender equality? How does each group act to perpetuate or sustain  the status quo? Do men have a larger role to play, as the status quo  is itself masculine? Do men need to undergo a revolution of thought about themselves and  their own gender identity in order to create general gender equality? Men have a very narrow gender identity, one which creates limitations  for society as well as for women (see men who do not believe they are  capable care givers, and therefore women must stay home with the  kids). The male socialization process is responsible for patriarchy,  violence and harassment, and limited opportunities for women, but is  also responsible for the current state of young men in this country. 
Check out these TED talks. Incredibly interesting. Lots of good  stuff in here about men and women (mostly men). First one is really  good and relevant. The end is especially powerful: "My liberation as a  man is tied to your liberation as a woman."
Tony Porter's "A Call To Men" TED talk. Philip Zimbardo's "The Demise of Guys?" TED talk.

I appreciated Tony Porter's take on stepping out of the (masculine) "man box". Parts of it resonated with me (e.g., get in touch with your tenderness, put yourself in the shoes of others, show emotions, etc.). On the other hand, men and women are both biologically and physiologically different (testosterone and estrogen and their derivatives cause us animals to do wildly different things and respond in wildly different fashions; but that's a separate post in and of itself). Not one better than the other. Just different. And in these differences, diversity (something we embrace in our culture). Why not embrace these differences while instilling in our children and those around us that we are all still very much human, each and every one of us, all part of the same species? All part of the same struggles. And that in uniting our differences, we are stronger.

Recent Twitter discussion about the masculine heart

Conversely, the differences in dropout rates that Philip Zimbardo discusses cannot wholly be tied to simple differences in how we raise our children, living in a patriarchal society, or the perpetuation of the men/women stereotypes. Indeed, Philip argues these differences are hardwired in us - boys respond to stimulation (in this case, arousal) differently than girls. That's not good or bad or better or worse. Just different from each other.

I believe part of the problem lies not only in domination differences between the sexes but also in societal efforts to transform men and women into some amorphous statistical norm (neither man nor woman but somewhere in between). In essence, encouraging men to act less masculine (and women to act less feminine). I'm not alone in this thinking. There's a growing movement of men seeking to reclaim a masculinity they feel they've lost. Not a masculinity in the sense of domination over others. But a masculinity in the sense of finding what resonates with their hearts, and pursuing that. For some, it's a sense of adventure. For others, it's the desire to be heroic. For others still, it's the simple act of doing something out of the ordinary - daring. A perfect example: walk into any church, synagogue, office building, factory, etc. and look around. What do you notice about the men (and women, too, for that matter)? Mostly, (women and) men that are bored. Bored with their jobs, their families, their stimulations, their routines, the daily humdrum of life. Men (and women) that no longer dream or yearn for something else - or if they do, they do not act on it, do not explore beyond the comforts of routine daily life. Why? Because they've been taught to buckle down and do what you need to do to provide for your family (i.e., work the 8-6 dead-end job that doesn't make them happy but pays the bills). 

In this sense, I agree with Tony Porter in that we need to step out of the "man box". But not by ignoring our masculine qualities. Rather, in putting ourselves in others' shoes, trying to understand the differences between us, and acting out of that understanding. Not acting in the androgynous Saturday Night Live "Pat" sense, but acting from our true heart (whether that be masculine, feminine, or some mashup of the two as I think is most often the case) and out of love and compassion for others (and ourselves). For me, John Eldredge, in his transformative book "Wild At Heart: discovering the secret of a man's soul", captures the essence best when he says "Let people feel the weight of who you are..."

Saturday, November 17, 2012

River teeth, reaching out and the resilient heart

Much like a sculptor chips away at and reveals the true beauty of an object or a water-tumbled river tooth - a branch that's been churned in a river, stripping away all the outer layers until what's left is its true core, the heartwood, the strongest part of the tree - the peeling away of the layers built up around our heart hurts something fierce. But the tumbling of our heart, and the stripping away of the scars from all the injuries - while it hurts incredibly bad and exposes our vulnerabilities - also leaves us with a much stronger and resilient heart. Throughout this process, the process of letting them feel the true weight of who you really are, our friends will be reminded of what it means to be truly alive. In that reminder, true friends will reach out to you in support, compassion and steadfast love. And the healing will come.

Young river teeth.
You may think you're connected, plugged in, friends with many. But there is no substitute for actual, real, face-to-face communication and connecting with others (no, not Facetime or G+ hangout or Skype or...). It can be a simple, friendly touch, a brief hug, a raised eyebrow or smile, a kind word or a deeply-connecting conversation. The spectrum is beautiful. And the act truly powerful. So reach out to others. Like the ripple from a pebble tossed into an expansive, glassy pond, you may never know how much of an impact your reaching out - that simple, caring act - will truly have.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Hunters, predators and the blind eye

Grizzly bear in Yellowstone National
Park.  Credit: Oregon State Univ.
Full disclosure, here: I'm an avid hunter (and fisher), I harvest a number of animals every year and, as a practicing fish ecologist, I'm a (nearly)full-blooded conservationist. Yes, by most accounts, that last one in the list is seemingly at odds with the first two. But it really doesn't have to be (and, I'd argue, shouldn't). In fact, it didn't use to be. < Side note: among some of the more famous conservationist hunters were  Teddy Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot. end SN > It's the respect for life and nature and the understanding of the connectedness of everything that weaves the three together.

Which is why I'm still puzzled that so many of my hunter friends do not understand that the removal of large, native predators such as wolves, cougars and bear (add Northern pikeminnow to the fish list) has a negative consequence on the ecosystem they inhabit. Repeatedly, peer-reviewed, scientific studies have shown this. Moreover, a recent, comprehensive study from Oregon State University's Dr. Bill Ripple confirmed this in Northern Hemisphere forested ecosystems - loss of predators is affecting ecosystem health.
by Oregon cartoonist T. McCracken

And yet, many of my hunter friends still bang the gong for State-supported predator removal programs like those in Idaho, Montana and Alaska. Why do the States support them, you ask? Because the hunters demand them. Why do hunters demand them? As far as I can tell, it's because they want larger animals and more of the game they seek. Sure, I like "the hunt" and bagging the big bull elk, buck deer or long-bearded tom turkey. But I'm not in it for trophies. I'm in it for hormone- and antibiotic- free meat to feed my family - and how more "natural" of meat can you get?! But I don't like seeing all the hunter-wounded animals out there, the unnaturally large elk herds artificially supported by alfalfa fields or costly winter feeding programs and the thick herds of deer with hair loss syndrome or chronic wasting disease problems. Numerous studies have found top-level mammalian predators target wounded, aged or infirm individuals, sometimes with little appreciable change in populations size (see a nice review study from 2001; the old adage of "It all depends" holds here, too). Sure, it often takes time to find that equilibrium (or at least a semi-fluctuating state with variations around a baseline). But left to its own devices, nature does find that 'sweet spot'.

Discussion from my Twitter feed...
So what's stopping us from letting these predators do their jobs? Are hunters turning a purposeful blind eye? Are they misinformed, getting their information from a biased news source? Is it the whole Biblical Genesis dominion theology thing? Have they just lost touch? Regardless of the why (but I AM curious), we do seem to have lost touch with the natural way of things. But for me, hunting and being outdoors helps bring me back to a better understanding of how the natural world works. After all, as one Twitter friends says, "responsible hunting is another way to put humans back in touch with nature and help restore a lost connection." Amen, LookinAtItANS brothers! Amen.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Weather and climate are not the same

Magnificent clouds and sun over the Willamette Valley

I'm constantly frustrated at the popular media's flawed insistence on interchangeably using the terms "weather" and "climate". They are NOT the same thing. Are they related? Yes. But they are not the same. The (intended?) result of this synonymizing is a relative dumbing down of the public's understanding of the two...and the subsequent dismissal of the realities of a changing climate. I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say something to the effect of "We set record low temperatures here for the month of (pick one)! You can't tell me the earth is heating up!"

Well...yes we can.

You see, it's really not the average global temperature that's the most interesting (but it's what many media outlets report and what many scoff at - "Psh! Who cares if the average temperature increases by 2-3 degrees?!"). Really, it's all about the extremes - the lows and the highs, not averages. So it's the variation around the average that really matters.

Think about it this way. Consider an average of 50 degrees F (close to the average annual temperature in Eugene, OR) derived from an average yearly low temperature of 40F and an average yearly high of 60F. If you're more of a mathematical learner, it'd look something like this:

(temp1+temp2) / number of temps = average temp

OR, from our example above,


But monkeying with the low and high can still produce the same result. For example,


A world in which this low-high scenario plays would be a very different one to live in than the one provided in the first example, no? And while I've exaggerated the low-high in the second example for demonstrative purposes, this low-high concept turns out to be incredibly important to the critters living in an area (i.e., the physiological thermal tolerance range of a species), especially for critters that are already living in environments at or near their ability to survive.

Now let's assume the average goes up a few degrees, as average annual global temperatures are predicted to do (see the most comprehensive report to date). Since it's really the low and high temperatures (the variation) that drive the average, doesn't it make sense for us to be more concerned about these two ends of the spectrum - the extremes? And as it turns out, those two ends are getting further and further apart with only a slight change (an increase) to the average. In other words, the variation around the average is increasing...and we're seeing more and more "extreme weather" events the world over. Welcome to the new norm.

But back to the topic at hand...

Weather takes place on relatively short timescales (e.g., days to months) whereas climate takes place on longer timescales (e.g., seasons and years to millenia). A newsy Q and A blurb from NASA's Global Climate Change program did a good job of explaining it in text. But for many, it's often more helpful to visualize an idea. This short animated video does a good job explaining the difference between the two.

Another analogy would be to think about weather as what clothes you might pack for a weeklong Spring vacation trip to Florida. I'd probably pack a couple of pairs of shorts and a couple of pairs of warmer clothes in case it turned off cooler (weather). But if I were planning to move to Florida, I'd likely get rid of most of my cold weather gear in favor of the shorts and shirt sleeves - so it's the proportion of cool and warm clothes (climate) that would matter to me more.

Perhaps if the popular media could get this little synonymizing nuisance cleared up, we might be able to better understand and accept these extreme weather events (anomalies that are becoming more commonplace) as part of our changing climate.

We all know smokers who live into their eighties, and health nuts that drop dead in their forties. Most people understand and accept anomalies in fields like health care and economics, and we need to do the same with climate issues. ~ Eric Fetzer

Friday, March 16, 2012

Apple, Mike Daisey's artistic liberties, and the moral ethic

In case you hadn't yet seen it, one of the big news stories today is about NPR's This American Life retracting a story they ran this last January about award-winning monologist Mike Daisey's piece on the manufacturing conditions at China's Foxconn plant. Mike Daisey's piece focused on Apple's iPhone but that same plant manufactures an incredible array of products for a number of the world's largest electronics manufacturers. The real dilemma this piece raised, in my mind, was that we (as consumers) need to be (more) concerned about how the products we purchase are being manufactured, specifically from the ethical and moral perspectives of working/manufacturing conditions at these plants.

I continually think about these sorts of things for nearly everything I purchase. But I was particularly moved by this episode of This American Life and wrote a blog piece about it (Origins and the Moral Ethic). An Apple investigator had doubts about some of Mike Daisey's facts in his monologue and a followup piece that ran on ABC's Nightline. Today, Mashable ran a great article about the brouhaha complete with This American Life's retraction letter. In Mashable's post, they asked the question, 
"Does this change the way you think about whether or not Apple products are ethically made?"
My response? 

Not at all.

While it saddens me that Mike Daisey took certain theatrical liberties in the making of his story then passed them off as truths to journalists, and This American Life aired the episode without fully vetting the truths, the fact of the matter remains that Apple and many other electronics manufacturers have obligations (beyond the Almighty Dollar) to ensuring ethical working conditions that are not harmful to people. That Foxconn has serious operational and ethical hurdles to overcome has been well-established (some of the better stories, here, here, and ABC's video piece here).

But in the end, people still need to care about where their products come from. Not just in terms of a fair workplace for people, but also about where the raw materials are sourced and the implications for the people (and other organisms) living in the area.

Sadly, I fear too many people will skim a snippet of this melee without digging deeper (or worse, take a skewed Fox [Faux?] News report of it), and dismiss any obligation they feel to better understanding (and taking responsibility for) where their electronics come from.

UPDATE: 3/18/12

As I was listening to today's (3/18) This American Life episode (you can listen to the podcast, here) in which Ira addresses the inconsistencies (lies, half-truths and complexities?) of Mike Daisey's original story, I couldn't help but feel bad for Mike. Not because he lied to Ira and those vetting the story (that part was, in my view, inexcusable) and got caught, but because the very thing Mike sincerely hoped his original theatrical piece would do - make people care about their buying choices and the impacts those choices have on others - took such a large negative turn. Yes, it was Mike's own doing. And it didn't help that today's interview piece with Ira seemed to lambast him (arguably justified) and undermine most, if not all of, Mike's credibility.

But I was finally (finally!) heartened in the closing minutes of the TAL piece. Why? In Ira's discussions with Charles Duhigg - one of the original authors of the NY Times investigative piece about Apple's labor practices and author of the book "The Power of Habit" - Charles gets right at the point that Mike tries so hard (in vane?) to get at: people should care that their buying practices have far-reaching impacts. He asks:

"Do you feel comfortable knowing that that iPhones and iPads and, and other products could be manufactured in less harsh conditions, but that these harsh conditions (in factories and societies worldwide) exist and perpetuate because of an economy that you are supporting with your dollars?"
and, in response to his own question says:
"You are actually one of the reasons why it exists. If you made different choices, if you demanded different conditions, if you demanded that other people...enjoy the same work protections that you yourself enjoy, then those conditions would be different overseas."

I can only hope that listeners of TAL and those summarizing the episode in the wider media catch this last, critical piece in today's show.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Getting to know the area you live in

Showing school children critters from their local creek.
It's sad to say, but western cultures, by-and-large, have moved so far away from connections with the natural world and become so reliant on the manufactured one that there is actually a burgeoning cadre of people who believe our loss of connection to the natural world comes at the detriment of the health or our children, society and environment (and I tend to agree) and are now calling for a "return to nature" movement - calls for society to win back, reconnect with and again gain an intimate understanding of the nature world around us. One of the preeminent leaders of this movement (of late) is best-selling author Richard Louv of "Last Child in the Woods" fame. In his new book, "The Nature Principle", Richard lays out a roadmap for ways in which the rest of us - not just children with parents who already appreciate nature - can tap "into the restorative powers of the natural world" to "boost mental acuity and creativity, promote health and wellness, build smarter and more sustainable businesses, communities, and economies and ultimately strengthen human bonds". And it's not hard to buy his logic/arguments.
Richard Louv's new book.

In fact, I believe that gaining that deeper understanding of the places in which we live almost invariably (inevitably?) brings with it a sense of responsibility to seeing that place continue to exist (in its ever-changing forms) for others to see and experience and intimately know. Nature doesn't have to be scary. (Sidenote here: In fact, I could lay out a convincing argument that the "concrete jungle"- as reggae legend Bob Marley put it - can be one of the scariest places on earth..."where the living is harder", we're surrounded by "illusion - confusion" and continually searching for that "sweet life (for) it must be somewhere to be found, instead of concrete jungle". But I digress...)

Some of the best ways to get connected and gain a deeper understanding of a particular place (I blogged about this a while back, here) are to participate in outings hosted by your local trail maintenance groups, watershed councils, nature-serving non-profits (e.g., Riverkeepers, Trout Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, etc.) various State and Federal government agencies and other groups of the same ilk. Don't know how to get in touch with them? Your local public library almost always has a community bulletin board and the librarians can steer you in the right direction. Or contact your local NRCS office, State or local natural resource agency (e.g., Fish and Game, Dept. of Natural Resources, Dept. of Ecology, etc.; incredibly detailed list here), Federal agency (e.g., US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Parks Service, US Forest Service, etc.; near-dizzingly confusing list here) or your State University's Cooperative Extension office. All tend to be a wealth of information about how you can get connected to the natural world. Perhaps second-best would be to contact your local zoo or wildlife science center. They have excellent educational value but, in my opinion, really shouldn't be considered a substitute for actual outdoor time. A stepping stone? You bet!

Now go unplug from the electronic world and get "plugged in" to the natural world! You'll be amazed at how you, your children's lives, and the lives of those around you will benefit...

Monday, February 20, 2012

Navajo greeting on Flickr

Navajo greeting on Flickr by JeremiahOsGo
Navajo greeting on Flickr, a photo by JeremiahOsGo on Flickr.
Have you seen the greetings in various languages when you sign in to Flickr? I typically only give it a quick glance and was surprised the other day to see this NAVAJO! I must say, I was quite taken aback to see a native North American language! And now, every time I log in, I check to see the greeting of the day. How very forward thinking of the programmers. Well done. Bravo, Flickr! Bravo!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Wonderful Electricity!

A Valentine's Day poem dedicated to Cathleen - my best friend, beloved wife and partner of 15+ years. Happy Valentine's Day, my basherte!

Electric. Electricity.
Never a simplicity.
Never in short supply.
Sometimes a bite,
sometimes a warm nose.
Just goes to show...
Fifteen years and still,
we make more!...
Wonderful Electricity!

And thanks to Dirty Vegas for their wonderful album cover art that captured my thoughts on this post!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Gun rights, NRA and the diametrically opposed

Or used to be, anyway...
Writer, photographer and and avid bird hunter Pat Wray wrote a wonderful piece in this morning's Gazette Times newspaper that really resonated with me, in part because I used to be a long-time dues paying member of the NRA but have struggled in recent years with their fear-mongering and heavy handedness. I'm a strong supporter of our Constitution and the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms...but also believe the pendulum has swung too far, perpetuated in large part by the NRA's fear mongering and extremism. And I've long had difficulties resolving my support of the two seemingly opposite viewpoints.
Find more FoxTrot

So when Pat's column came out this morning, and I realized what he was writing about, I sat transfixed, absorbing every word of his story. And I felt like FINALLY!, finally someone else feels like I do, sitting in both sides of the fence, if you will, on a contentious issue. And I was relieved. Relieved that someone else was able to put to words, in the form of a succinct, poignant, thought-provoking "phone conversation" (whether it was real or otherwise is of no consequence), two seemingly diametrically opposed viewpoints. Well done Pat Wray. Well done. I, for one, think you'd be an excellent candidate for the NRA board. So without further ado, here's Pat's column, in it's entirety, as it appeared in today's (Feb. 2, 2012) Gazette Times Outdoors section:

Outdoors: A phone call from the NRA. by Pat Wray. (as it appeared in the Corvallis Gazette Times Outdoor section, February 2, 2012.)
“Hello, Mr. Wray. This is John from the National Rifle Association. How are you doing tonight?”
“Fine, thanks.”
“Mr. Wray, as a Life Member of the NRA I know you are concerned with our right to bear arms. Are you aware of Obama’s under-the-radar effort to destroy our 2nd Amendment rights?”
“You mean President Obama?” 
“Yes, sir.”
“Say it.”
“President Obama.”
“Good. Now for the remainder of this conversation every time you mention his name the word President will precede it. Is that clear?”
“Yes, sir.” 
“Good. Now, what were you complaining about?”
“Well, er, President Obama is conducting an under-the-radar attack on our right to bear arms.”
“What makes it under the radar?”
“His administration is not talking about it.”
“Then how do you know what he plans to do?”
“Well, Mr. Wray, you have to look no further than his appointees. Consider that Attorney General Eric Holder is on record as supporting the re-establishment of the Clinton ban on assault weapons.”
“Holder brought that up within of month of his appointment three years ago and quickly was shut down by the President. Haven’t heard a peep, since. What else you got?”
“Um, he appointed two of the most rabidly anti-gun Supreme Court justices in American history, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Given the advanced ages of several of the other judges, a second term may well give President Obama the chance to appoint three more justices.” 
“So, our liberal president appointed two liberal justices. What a surprise! You expected what, another Clarence Thomas? I guess we’ll have to hope that all of his appointees grow an independent streak and decide their cases according to our Constitution. Just like we always do. It’s hard for me to interpret Supreme Court nominees as an assault on my gun rights.”
“Mr. Wray, are you aware that this administration reversed long-standing American opposition and now supports an International Arms Trade Treaty that will ban or restrict our gun ownership in this country? O … er … President Obama knows he can’t get restrictive gun rules through the U.S. Congress so he’s going to come at us through the U.N.”
“You know, I’ve been seeing those emails and so I started doing some checking. It turns out that the U.N. treaty is aimed at restricting dealers who provide arms to insurgencies, rebellions and civil wars. There is specific wording in place, put there by the United States, to protect national sovereignty regarding firearms purchase and ownership.”
“Mr. Wray, our people have done extensive research into the administration’s goals and we know what President Obama is going to do.”
“Sure, you know because of what he said, except that all he’s ever said is that he supports the 2nd Amendment and has no plans to take anyone’s guns. You know because of what he has done, except that he’s made no move in any way to restrict gun ownership. In fact, he’s signed a law permitting guns in National Parks, signed another law allowing guns in checked baggage on Amtrak trains …”
“Those were just a diversion, Mr. Wray, a smokescreen to hide his true objectives.”
“So, even when President Obama does exactly what you guys want, signs laws that you had a hand in writing, you still don’t give him credit. Did all of you intern at Pravda, or what? Here’s what I think, John. I am worried about gun control. I’ve been in Great Britain and Australia and Canada and talked with the people there who’ve had their guns taken away. I know it can be done. I also know there are people here who want to do the same thing. That’s why I’m a life member of the NRA. But the way NRA people simplify and demonize and lie about things — the way you create crises where there are none is abhorrent to me. The NRA singlehandedly created the mass hysteria following President Obama’s election that resulted in ammunition and reloading supplies disappearing off the shelves for more than a year. You did that. And all you can say now is ‘This time he’s REALLY going after our guns! Trust us!’
“Sorry, John. Somehow the words NRA and trust don’t fit together very well for me.”
So what do you think about all of this? Do you have different, similar, or conflicting views on gun control and the right to bear arms?

And to end on a curiosity note, here are some cartoons, images, and pictures relating to these issues that I found particularly interesting. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Origins and the Moral Ethic

A few weeks back, I was listening to an incredibly fascinating episode of This American Life. It dealt with issues of technology and Apple, labor practices and social (in)justice. Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory contains a remarkable monologue from actor, author, commentator, playwright, and general layabout Mike Daisey. I know what you're thinking - "Great! Just what I need...a boring monologue." It is, however, anything but boring. If you're even halfway interested - heck, in ANY way interested - in where your gadgets come from and under what conditions they are manufactured (and we all should be), I beseech you to listen to this hour-long episode. It will grab your attention and start you thinking about things that may make you uncomfortable. And that's OK. You can't help but think! Maybe you will even go out and get tickets to one of Mike's performances (I sure wish there were some in my area). You can even grab it as a podcast and listen to it on your uber-techy iPod or smart phone on your bike/bus/train ride or walk to work! It's well worth the listen. 

After you listen to it, let me know what you thought about it? Will you change your consumer buying practices? And if so, how? Will I change my practices? I sure like that new Android smartphone and have been lusting after the new iPad for some time...but I'm not sure I can pull the trigger. Would buying it used make any difference, from an ethical standpoint, that is? Does it matter that all these electronics, when they've worn out their newness and the latest gadget comes along, get recycled...but not in the way you think? Shouldn't we, as consumers, be more concerned about all of this? And change our purchasing habits? After all, would you want the waterway in front of your house to look like this one in Nigeria? I sure wouldn't. 
I have to go now...and ruminate on how I can change my buying practices whilst still keeping up with the Joneses and the latest and greatest gadgets (I'll probably have to come to the realization that it may not be possible). I'd love to hear your thoughts, too...