Friday, June 29, 2007

More than Fireworks

Last night, a couple of my neighbors were setting off fireworks.  They are both married men in their early 30's but still occasionally trapped in their childhood. Most often this reversion occurs at Halloween, when they accessorize each other's homes with toilet paper, and on July 4th. I like my neighbors; for most of the year, they actually act their age. I can also count on them to provide a free and often spectacular fireworks display for the next few days, culminating on July 4th.

The stores are all having July 4th sales and there is red, white and blue everywhere. Flags are flying from mailboxes and we proclaim that we are celebrating democracy and patriotism. Perhaps we are, but I am not convinced. Yesterday the United States Supreme Court released an opinion that eviscerates the 1954 and 1955 Brown decisions. I doubt most people know or understand the issues that were at stake in the case. We are still involved in a war that was started based on intentional dissemination by our government of misinformation and lies. We invaded a sovereign nation, not because it had attacked us or because we were in danger of harm from that nation, but because we needed to vent our frustration and rage over 9/11 on someone, and we couldn't find Osama Bin Laden but we had Saddam Hussein's address. This nation has lost its position as a moral leader in the world and is instead the big bully, taking over the sandbox to meet our own purposes and damn to all who get in our way.

As a nation, we have grown immune to the suffering of others. The homeless are a blight to be hidden away, and so we support laws to make certain that they don't offend our sensibilities by sleeping in parks or begging for food. We suffer mightily from NIMBY syndrome, (not in my back yard) when there is a proposal to build a group home for the mentally disabled in our neighborhoods. We proclaim that children are our most valuable natural resource but when there is a need to raise taxes in order to ensure that the children in our communities have quality educational opportunities, we protest loudly. We ignore that millions of our neighbors don't have health insurance and oppose or are indifferent to any solutions that propose a system of national health care.

We tremble in outrage at the notion that there are undocumented immigrants among us and staunchly proclaim that we must make laws establishing that our policy is "English only spoken here." We rant about being asked to press one for English and yet we travel to other countries and fully expect that hotel staff, guides, restaurant staff and all others involved in providing service to tourists, speak English, and typically, they do. We bask in our ignorance as one of the few major countries where most of us are illiterates when it comes to speaking any language except English.

As we approach this celebration of independence, please pause and reflect on the meaning behind this holiday. It is not about sales, or flying flags or even about setting off fireworks. The words of the men who founded this country best sum up the meaning of this holiday. They were landed gentry for the most part, all white, and all male, but somehow, the words in the Declaration of Independence are ageless and universal. I am hopeful that one day, as a nation, we will live up to them.

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form,as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislativepowers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

family stuff and tag moles

It’s been nearly three weeks since my last post but in the words of Willie Nelson, “you were always on my mind.”  When I’ve had a moment or two, I’ve elected to check out what others of you are writing about instead of making my own posts.  However, it’s 93 degrees today and I’ve ventured out once already. A friend of mine had a birthday recently and I met her and her husband for lunch. I’m officially in for the rest of today, air conditioning cranked up, and a big glass of ice water in hand. Ensconced in front of my computer, I’m ready to write.


But what to write about… world affairs…the political shenanigans at the NC General Assembly…Paris Hilton…more about my online dating adventures? Such important topics (okay, maybe not Paris Hilton, but my online dating adventures are certainly of importance) but they pale in comparison to the interesting conversation that I had with my sister last night.


My sister and her husband live less than a mile from me. I selected the location for my house because she was already living in the neighborhood.  We talk almost daily, usually by telephone. Her husband, Bob, cannot fathom why we don’t just visit in person and he is particularly baffled by our habit of watching television programs together over the telephone.  My response is simple; I know what she looks like and I don’t have to be looking at her in order to have a good visit.  Besides, when I get home from a long day at work, I like to get comfortable—kick off my shoes, remove those pesky undergarments, and slip into my favorite caftan.  It’s at home attire but not visiting attire.


So last night, after getting comfortable, I called my sister or maybe she called me; we talk so often it’s hard to know who calls whom. We talked about the usual stuff—which one of our parents is crazier, which one of us had last spoken with our mother (my father doesn’t answer the telephone and as a rule he doesn’t engage in telephone conversations), and whether Aunt Nellie Ruth or Aunt Dorothy is nuttier.


(Let me digress for a moment and allow you to decide for yourself.  Our Aunt Nellie Ruth is 78 years old and a widow.  She lives alone and even in this 93 degree weather, she will not open the windows for fear that some man may break in and molest her. Fortunately, one of her daughters has persuaded her to allow an A/C unit to be installed in one apartment window but she often doesn’t turn it on because she says it bothers her arthritis. Visiting her is like stepping into Dante's Inferno. Our Aunt Dorothy is in her early seventies, divorced, and lives alone in New York.  She has considered moving back to NC to be nearer to Aunt Nellie, my mom, and their sister Mabel, but she worries that people will think that she’s chasing after Eugene, a former boyfriend from her youth.  She hasn’t seen him in over fifty years but she knows that he still pines for her. It’s hard to choose which one is nuttier than Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, but I think that Aunt Dorothy has the edge because she also believes in root working and is continually wary that someone is trying to cast a spell on her or give her the evil eye. At family gatherings she smells all the food and refuses to eat dishes that she doesn’t know who prepared.)


Okay, let’s get back to my conversation with my sister.


My sister says, apropos of nothing, “Do you remember that mole on my neck?”


I don’t remember any mole but she doesn’t really need a response so I just say, “Huh?”


“I read this article that says that you can get rid of those tag moles (AKA skin tags) by tying a string around them.”




“It cuts off the blood supply and eventually the tag mole just falls off.”


My sister has been under a great deal of work related stress lately and I attributed the mole discussion to that stress.


“Anyway, a couple of nights ago I decided to tie a string around the mole on my neck, but I couldn’t remember what type of string the article recommended that you use.  At first I was going to use dental floss but then I decided that I didn’t want a piece of dental floss hanging from my neck, so I used a piece of blue sewing thread.”


By now, I was really listening. She tied a piece of thread tightly around her neck! Thoughts of gangrene, flesh eating bacteria, and my sister’s head falling off ran through my mind but I tried not to become hysterical. “Oh my God! You tied string around your neck!”


“Not around my neck, around the mole.”


My vision changed somewhat; her whole head wasn’t going to fall off just a big chunk of her neck.


“Of course, once I got it tied off and looked in the mirror, I realized that I didn’t want to walk around with blue thread dangling from my neck but I had knotted the thread and I couldn’t figure out how to remove it. So I cut the dangling ends as short as I could and put a Band-Aid over it.”


Maybe with plastic surgery it wouldn’t be so bad or she could always wear scarves.


“Have you seen a doctor?” I inquired calmly.


“A doctor? No, you won’t believe what happened.”


A piece of your neck fell off and you have a gaping hole where flesh and muscle used to be? I kept my thoughts to myself, “So what happened?”


“Well after a couple of days, I took the Band-Aid off just to check and the mole fell away, just like that.”


“No hole in your neck?”


“Hole in my neck, what are you talking about? Of course there is no hole in my neck. It wasn’t that big of a mole.”




There was a lot more drama in my imagined version.