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COVID-19, School and Autism – Religion and Politics

One of the least effective, if easiest things to do, is to talk about a particular thing, when your experience with it was bad, ignoring the ways in which the same thing was or is beneficial, useful or even essential to others.

Yesterday, I was going through social media accounts and came across a “post” by a person who basically related their disdain for schools as a rule.

As a younger man, I might’ve done basically the same thing this individual did, and frankly, I entirely understand their perspective on the one hand. On the other hand though, I’ve come to see the utility of schooling, not as what others intended it to be, but as a necessary thing, nonetheless.

You should be aware that I’m not here attempting to support or defend a particular type of school—neither public, parochial, Catholic, private, nor any other type. Nor am I trying to say that it always works in any wise as I would desire it did. Even so, I have a bone to pick with anybody who assumes schooling is “worthless.” Even ignoring the obvious benefit of education.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m the father of a Moderately Autistic child. You should know that being so gives me even more reason to support schooling of one sort or other.

I’ll be the first to admit that, as a younger man, I seriously questioned the need to “school” people in things like even current high school level math and science. Granted, that covers an awful lot of territory, and at the basest levels, I think such studies are warranted. That is to say, pretty much everybody should be taught to multiply, divide, add and subtract. As well training in managing one’s finances should be more or less universal. And this says nothing of the need to be able to read, write, and comprehend the words of others.

Anything past that, in my view, should be something that only folks who intend to push forward in certain disciplines can take as “electives” or precursors to specific courses that move them along the path they choose.

Telling a person who has no interest in doing anything other than cleaning buildings, or working as a security guard, that they must learn even mildly advanced math or science, is likely not just a waste of the monies spent on such an endeavor, but a waste of their time and effort as well.

It’s true that some folks start out thinking they’re never going to go into things that ultimately end up being their primary line of business. Even so, the for the majority of such folks, that’s not the case.

In all this though, I digress. The point I’m intending to make is, even though there are many issues with the education systems in the United States and elsewhere, it still serves important purposes.

This is particularly true for those of us with “special needs children”—though in truth, it applies to a great many others as well.

To begin with, there are households in which there are single parents (and some are in that boat for reasons largely beyond their control—for others, it’s something over which they had control, but seemed to be the best choice out of all they saw). If these folks intend to live off the government, then maybe school is not such an important thing from their perspective. Otherwise, being able to have their children educated while they go out to earn a living is a serious boon.

Even for those who do choose to be under the “government’s care,” if they don’t take the time to teach their children the things they need to know to be successful, productive members of society, the rest of us suffer as a result.

For those who choose to go off to work every day—to make a living for themselves and their families—the benefit of schools is that their children don’t sit in “holding areas” awaiting pickup.

Even in the worst case, where the children learn little, at least they’re being engaged and dealing with social situations. In better scenarios, they’re actually learning valuable lessons along the way.

My current social status is not something I care to discuss here. The important consideration is that, I’m responsible for the wellbeing of my child, and together with someone, or on my own, there’s nobody at home to care for my Moderately Autistic son when I’m out making money to pay for our expenses and enjoyment.

Where I could go into detail, I shan’t. Know only that, until and unless I can find a way to support my family where I’m at home while I do it (or can bring my son safely where I work), he must be somewhere other than home alone.

Whether that’s school or daycare does matter. His time in school has helped to plunge him into social situations it’s not readily possible for me to provide. It’s also helped him to see that it’s not just daddy who wants him to learn things others take for granted (read here, “reading, writing, counting and other such simple activities”).

Even being in school, he has consistently lagged behind children his own age, and frankly, if he ever catches up, I think it likely he will be a young adult by the time that happens.

Putting it simply, for someone like my boy, some sort of schooling is more or less essential.

Making this harder is the fact that, even if I stay home, and am able to work from home (and you may count this as experience speaking), I have little time to devote to acting as teacher to my child.

Some people seem to be laboring under the delusion that working from home means traipsing about, doing as you please. The schedule is just as rigorous working in my home office as it ever was sitting in an office in a formal workplace; maybe even a little bit more so.

Yes, it’s true I can step away from my “desk” at home in order to spend a moment with my child. It’s also true I have to “make that time up.”

The point of all I’ve said up to now is simple. If you think school is worthless, or even unimportant, consider what it does for both parents and children that would be substantially more difficult if the schools ceased to exist, or even attempted to move to an online only format. If that’s not a sufficiently strong motivator to keep it around, be “selfish” and consider the ill prepared workmates with whom you’ll have to deal if ever it’s not around.

Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.

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Racism, My Experience – Religion and Politics

I wish it wasn’t something I felt the need to point out, but I’ll take the time to do it in any case, since I believe it is. The vague rememberings of childhood from a man over the age of fifty hardly qualify as “statistical data.” Indeed, they are more or less by definition, anecdotal in nature. Accordingly, you should take what I say for what it’s worth.

To begin with, you shouldn’t go building court cases off my words. Additionally, you shouldn’t assume my experiences sum up the whole of  (or even a large part of) those of even the World very near by me at the times about which I speak.

I was a child (under and around the age of eight), in what is in some folks’ minds, the “Deep South” of the United States.

It could be argued that my earliest years—after leaving Illinois at the ripe old age of roughly six months—were lived in the West (depending on exactly how you choose to couch Texas in the nation’s geography).

That being said, from about my fourth year of life, I lived in Southern Louisiana. In fact, the area in which I resided was at the time, a reasonable distance from New Orleans. These days, Slidell is all but a suburb of that city, but that wasn’t the case at the time (starting in around 1968).

I left that area around the beginning of my eighth year of life—in fact, I left the U.S. as a whole, when my family moved to Australia.

It’s absolutely fair to say I was very young at that time, but it’s equally fair to say, looking back, that I can remember just one case of what can be termed “overt racism.”

I had a neighbor who was likely from the local area (I never actually had the foresight to ask him one way or another). His child was either my age, or a tiny bit younger, but in my “neighborhood” those around us were typically more than a little spatially distant. The result was, you could apply the term, “beggars can’t be choosers,” to those with whom I could play. I had siblings, and that was a good thing, for I was a serious introvert; I think it probable, though I don’t know with certainty, that I’m mildly Autistic.

My next eldest brother was far more of an extrovert than was I. The result was, he befriended our neighbor’s son. Because there were so few choices, I spent a reasonable amount of time playing with the two of them.

The neighbor, whose last name I recall to this day (but won’t divulge, even though he’s probably long since passed), was a quiet, hard working man. He grew corn, carrots, and other vegetables. He had at least one horse. He had chickens (which more than once, I watched him slaughter for food), and mallard ducks. He had managed to capture a raccoon, and kept it as a pet. This man worked, as I get it, as a carpenter. I much doubt he had more than a high school education, if that.

One day, he actually sat down and talked with me. The conversation went something like this as I recall:

Him: “I heard you were moving.”

Me: “We’re going to Australia.”

Him: “There’s n-words over there ain’t there?”

At this point, I was lost, and where he wasn’t embarrassed, I think he realized he’d asked me something that was beyond my understanding in any sense.

That was our most in-depth conversation. Anything else about which we spoke, generally had to do with him, his son or how his “property” was to be used (that mostly meant his horse and his garden).

That was also the sum total of my experience with racism as a boy (at least where open activities were concerned). Past that, nobody talked about race, or about other races, and I never saw folks of other races until I moved to New Orleans proper for about a year, after which time we left the country.

New Orleans was full of people of various other cultural groups, and though there was a fair amount of crime in the area where we lived, I generally felt little concern interacting with others, regardless their familial origin. In fact, one of my better friends at that time, was hispanic.

Australia proved to be a whole different kettle of fish. My first home there, was in the not-too-big, but not-too-small town of Rockhampton, in Queensland (more or less the upper half of the east coast), where most of the folks I knew, were Australians of European family. After that, my family moved to Darwin, in the Northern Territory (central north coast), which I like to call the “real melting pot.” I knew people and had friends, from more places than in any other location I’ve lived before or since.

These days, I’m back in the South of the U.S. (though not the Deep South, being in Arkansas).

What’s interesting to note is, since that first encounter with out-in-the-open racism (which funnily, wasn’t even directed at anybody in the Americas), I’ve had just one more experience of anything remotely similar.

I worked with a young man, more than twenty five years ago, who had had a brother drown. Those present when it happened were all black. He blamed those folks for the death of his brother. He harbored (typically silently) racist attitudes towards black folks.

Never once did I see that “spill over into” action. In fact, though his words were often privately harsh, his actions were almost invariably kind and gentle. There were times he “took anger out on” others, for the most part though, they were not black folks (he used to largely take advantage of folks who were drunk).

I’m well aware my experiences are not some sort of “standard sampling.” On the other hand, I also know that almost all memories I’m not sharing here, are not even tinged with racism.

Funnily, I’ve been called racist because folks I dealt with assumed that because they were black, I responded to them differently than I would’ve done had they been white (not ever the case, by the way). Past that though, I’ve seen little to no racism from anyone I’ve know—white or black.

You want to know what my experience of racism looks like? I present it here for you to see.

Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.

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Storm Troopers – Religion and Politics

Have you ever been involved in the planning or execution of some large scale event? Even something like a concert or a sporting event? It very much depends on leadership, but even with good management, unexpected things will occur.

Some of the unanticipated happenings will be fortuitous, some will not.

The point here, is that any endeavor of any size, will have a large number of expected things happen, and even with the best of scheming, typically a good number of things that were not intended.

Many are familiar with the current protests underway throughout the United States at the present.

A lot of what’s happening does indeed appear to be “peaceful.” Even though that’s true, there’s a comparatively small number of folks who seem to be intent on acts of violence and destruction.

The sad reality is, those folks appear to be using guerrilla and urban warfare tactics in order to “cover” themselves.

Simply put, bad people are using good ones as “human shields.”

The fact that much of what’s going on is doing so after nightfall does nothing to make these tactics easier to deal with; and to make matters worse, those with evil intent seem to have no issue with intentionally causing often potentially lasting harm to law enforcement personnel and peaceful protesters.

All so far mentioned seems bad enough. What’s even worse though (and there are those that will argue to the contrary—that’ll just have to be a point of disagreement between us), is that in certain cities and urban centers, local and municipal cops are largely being ordered to stand down.

The result? Federal enforcement officials have been and are being brought in to deal with what’s happening. The feds have little to no interest in peaceful protest or the folks performing it. In fact, some of them may even agree with the protesters, at least in part. What they are interested in, is people who would act in destructive and harmful ways; and most particularly toward people and property they’re supposed to be protecting.

Considering what I’ve said to this point, you might (or might not, depending on your bent) be surprised to hear the folks coming in to protect national resources referred to as “Storm Troopers.”

This comparison is more than a little interesting. Why? To begin with, the “original” Storm Troopers (Sturm Abteilung or SA—credit to https://www.historyonthenet.com/nazi-germany-stormtroopers-sturm-abteilung-sa for their research, and its existence on the Internet) were not controlled by the government. Rather, they were an apparatus of the Nazi party of Germany, and when they came into existence, the Nazis were not in a position of power. In fact, one of the best known affiliates of the Nazi part, one Adolph Hitler, was jailed, and the SA disbanded for a time, as a direct result of the Bierhall Putsch.

Here’s the interesting thing. Between the government officials—who I should say are showing massive restraint at the present moment—and the violent protesters (read here, “looters and rioters”), the ones who happen to be more like Storm Troopers, are the violent protesters.

From all that can be seen, the government “police,” are (as has been previously stated), being very careful to not step on the rights of much of anybody. Their primary interest, is to protect the people and facilities that are their charges.

They’re not trying to quell or quash the peaceful protests, only to keep harm from occurring to people and property under their jurisdiction.

In general, it appears they’re not even excited about the idea of stepping out of the buildings that they’re tasked with sheltering, well understanding that doing so will likely exacerbate tensions.

When they do wander out of their domain, they do so tentatively, looking to target very specific individuals in order to potentially strike at the root of the problem instead of trying to cut things above it off and hope in vain they don’t grow right back up.

The violent individuals, by contrast, seem largely unconcerned:

  1. That they’re using innocents as human cannon fodder, as a shield, as it were, to protect them from harm and
  2. That people on both “sides of the fence” are coming to harm. Not just the people they’re against, but the people they claim to be for.

There’re a number of folks out there arguing that the federal authorities working in parts of the U.S., are acting in ways that various “secret police” type organizations were and are know to act, and that can potentially be seen as a problem.

That’s really only true if the folks in question are doing that, and at present, I would argue they are not. They’re picking up very specific individuals. They are taking them to properly appointed facilities. The folks are being “processed,” and as a rule, released.

This is not the type of activity one expects from the KGB—who by the way, are a far more apt choice than the SA (who mostly just flat out killed opposing individuals) for comparison to various U.S. law enforcement entities.

A final thought. Not only are U.S. Federal law enforcement people not like either the SA or the KGB at present, but overall, they’ve been generally pretty reasonable in their dealings with people.

Have they made mistakes? You can bet they have. There will be things coming out of what’s happened for probably months, and possibly years to come.

The same can be said of both the peaceful protestors, and the rioters and looters.

Of all the aforementioned though, the ones that have made the greatest number of mistakes and done the more unconscionable wrongs are unquestionably the looters and rioters. From the very beginning, their actions have been illegal, improper and dare I say it, immoral.

Wrapping up. Yes, law enforcement at various levels has been guilty of bad judgement and very probably, a small amount of illegal action. Yes, protestors have done likewise. The same can certainly be said of rioters and looters. All should be called to account. Out of all of them though, the rioters and looters are far and away, the worst of the lot.

Two of the three have chosen to more or less follow the law (with some failure in doing so); the third though, has had as its intent the basic strategy of breaking the existing statutes, rules and regulations more or less by default.

Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.

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COVID-19, The Spike! – Religion and Politics

If you’ve watch data point generation, particularly on a large scale, you’ll be aware that it takes time for data to accumulate. Sometimes the “reality of data,” can be days or weeks behind. That’s understandable, since one expects that things will be discovered over the course of time, that may even radically change the data.

Truth is, this is commonly the case when attempting to get to the truth of just about everything. If you jump on something immediately after the occurrence, the chances are good you’ll get bad information and it’s more than a little likely you’ll react inappropriately to what appears to have gone down.

By way of example, there was a recent case where a young lady was gunned down as a result of a shootout between law enforcement and her boyfriend.

To hear many tell it, the police came in, guns blazing, and killed her in cold blood. What actually happened doesn’t seem to look that way at all. To begin with, her boyfriend fired first—which means the officers were essentially acting in self defense. Further, it turns out, the young lady’s name was also on the warrant. That means she was going to be taken in for questioning at a bare minimum. As such, she could easily have reacted as her boyfriend did—that appears not to be the case, but in the heat of the moment, it may well have been.

The point of all of this, is that the available information changes over the course of time. Typically that means more is revealed as the clock continues to tick. This is as true (maybe truer) for the data being collected on COVID-19, as it is on the case about which I just spoke.

That said, it appears that the Centers for Disease Control here in the U.S. end up taking roughly two weeks to get their ducks in a row with regard to death counts (found here: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/COVID19/index.htm).

So at the present moment (Monday the 27th of July, 2020), the data that’s probably reasonably accurate, is that presented for the week ending on the 18th of July, 2020. Keeping in mind the collected information may change, it should still be obvious that there’s currently a mild downward trend on COVID-19 death rates. The prior week to the one discussed, shows 3814 (three thousand eight hundred and fourteen) deaths nationally; the week talked about shows 2737 (two thousand seven hundred and thirty seven). 

To be fair, there’s been a small amount of “roller coaster action” over the past five or six weeks. That said, folks should be crystal clear that the numbers over that period are not even close to the “peak week” for deaths; which, as I indicated in another piece, was the week of the 18th of April, 2020, more than two months ago.

It’s important to keep in mind that even according to the CDC, we’ve been on a strong downward trend since that time. That’s totally ignoring which states have supposedly “reopened for business” and which haven’t. It also doesn’t consider where deaths have been occurring in terms of region, state, city, or neighborhood.

In the piece I spoke about a paragraph or so ago, I also made it clear that I found the CDC’s numbers questionable as a result of anecdotal information I’ve heard “reported.” Precisely because those stories are not statistical in nature, I can’t say they’re symptoms of widespread malfeasance. My suspicion is they are, but my reckoning is no better than anyone else’s, as such, you should take what I say next with the appropriate amount of consideration of possible incorrectness.

Having dispensed with that, the things I heard were along two lines.

First, that there are potentially people being counted (at least in some regions or states) “on suspicion alone.” That is, someone in the household was supposedly infected, therefor everyone in the household was.

Second, that certain of the tests being used for antibodies, test just for Coronavirus and not specifically for COVID-19. That means that folks will be counted who weren’t actually “COVID-19 positive” even for antibodies.

There’s a third thing I just heard mention of, it is that doctors appear to be expected to “include” COVID-19 in the list of conditions with which a given patient was suffering even though there was no sign of it or they were never tested for it.

How often are these and other things happening? I’m certainly not indicating I have any idea. It’s possible that things are being done to reduce the counts as well.

It’s understood that data can only be as accurate as those reporting it and those recording it. For this reason, I question the absolute integrity of the numbers.

Even so, the numbers as they currently stand, show a strong downward movement at least in terms of deaths, where COVID-19 is concerned.

Considering tests that would answer who is actually infected are not universally available, as well as the apparent truth that there are those who present little or no symptoms even though the’ve apparently contracted COVID-19, you begin to question just how accurate infection rate data might be as well.

I recognize that the statistics collected talk about the “known cases of infection,” and that’s fine. I also know that many weather reporters talk about the “heat index” rather than the actual temperature and people treat the two as synonymous one with the other.

Obviously, if the number of infections is actually higher than reported. The ratio of deaths to infections must also slide downward to match (assuming more deaths are not reported for the periods in question).

Considering that the sheer number of deaths has been pretty consistently falling for a couple of months, the additional possibility that the number of infections may be higher than what’s reported may be startling to some.

Add to this the apparent lack of correlation between the supposed (and probable) spike in COVID-19 cases—whatever the cause—and the number of deaths week-over-week, and it becomes even more apparent that regardless the reason for the spike, the overall picture seems to be looking better on a daily basis (at least from a perspective of mortality).

I’m not here to try to sell you on anything. All I’m doing is lifting the curtain a bit to allow you see inside the data. You must make your own decisions and come to your own conclusions. Take this article for what it’s worth, but remember, the numbers are the numbers are the numbers.

Thanks for reading and may your time be good.

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Character Assassination – Religion and Politics

7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. – KJV Bible, Gospel of John, Chapter 8

I think for me, one of the more difficult things to face, is the idea that I will be “found out.” That people will look at me and say to themselves—and maybe out loud and in the hearing of others—“He’s a fraud! He says he supports this or that, but if you look at what he does, you’ll see here and here and here, that he obviously didn’t do that!” The sad reality is, most particularly if you look to my past, but really at pretty much any time in my life (including the future, in all likelihood), they would be correct in their assertion(s).

I fail. It’s that simple. Oh, I can make the excuse that everybody does that, but even so, I have to accept the reality that I am at times, a failure.

I’ve already mentioned that this “translates to” others, so I really don’t need to say it again, but I shall, nobody is perfectly successful—I make the exception for Jesus, called Christ, Who as far as I get it, never failed, and never will. For the rest of us though, we aren’t perfect; certainly not in our pasts, and often not in the present moment either, to say nothing of the future.

The result of this reality is that, we’re all subject to character assassination. Before you go there, the fact that we’re not running for, or ensconced in public office is not what makes that significant. We should have no expectation that a candidate or public official, will be any more perfect than are we.

Further, if we look to the past of other individuals (and maybe ourselves as well), we’re likely to see that they (we) were reprobate in their (our) lives.

Perhaps at this point, you’re beginning to lose faith in humanity on the basis of what I’ve said. If you’re a Christian, I should point out that mankind ought not to have been an object of your faith in the first place. For others, short of your becoming believers, forgive me, but you’re on your own.

Even assuming you’re in a place of loss with regard to such faith, the clock ticks on and you need to deal with the World as it is. In my mind—flawed though this Earth may be—the question you should probably be asking yourself is, “What now?”

The answer is, to me at least, an easy one. That’s not to say it is easy as in, “easy to implement,” rather, it’s an easy answer to give.

You need a “set of core beliefs!”

That sounds simple enough, but it’s really a very complex thing. One learns, as one becomes more mature, that what we thought to be solid ways of looking at the world, were perhaps more sinking sand than we had initially believed.

I’ve said before that I was a “raging liberal” as a younger man. That’s because at that point in my life, that seemed reasonable and correct. I attribute my former lunacy—you may not consider it such, I assuredly do—to the perspective summed up in the statement I’ve heard put a variety of ways (not sure its origins); that would be, “Young people must be heartless to be conservative, old folks must be brainless to be liberals.”

The point is, because of our lack of knowledge, experience and resultant wisdom as young people, liberalism (being careful to note, the definition changes from place to place—I intend to use the meaning currently considered more or less “normal” in the United States at the present moment) seems to be the “better answer.”

As we grow in age and discernment, we come to understand that the liberal approach is not all it’s cracked up to be. We begin to see that many of those “selling” liberalism where politics are concerned (read here, “professional liberal politicians”), are folks who don’t have the best interests of their constituents at heart.

At this point, many turn to hard-line Conservatism. As they grow older, a large number of such people, tend to gravitate towards compassionate Conservatism—that is to say, they come to understand that folks need to see them as willing to realize others (and maybe they themselves) will come into times of need by absolutely no fault of their own.

The compassionate Conservative says to him or her self and others, “We need to help those in need, but not expect politicians to manage or do that for us. It must be something we willingly take on as a burden, being careful to not act as enablers in the process. Even so, we must help others in need in the best possible ways.”

To be fair, there are those who either start in such a place, or adopt it much earlier than many of us.

The point of all of this though, is that my perspective has changed along more or less these very lines as I’ve grown and matured. Put simply, it’s complicated.

Thing is, once you’ve adopted a set of central tenets, it becomes easier not to look at the whole of a person and draw conclusions, but to look at his or her individual ideas and statements and decide whether or not they’re beneficial.

In case you hadn’t yet decided, “That’s already complicated enough.” Allow me to throw in a wrinkle.

As you may’ve concluded, I’m of a mind character assassination is bad. Even so, the statements and actions of myself and others must be taken “in context with” my “present person.”

That is to say, looking at things I utter and do without looking at the whole of who I presently am—other things I impart and support with action—is equally bad. This too, can be said to be assassination of my character. And if that applies to me, it applies to others as well.

Final thought? To know how to respond to me, you must know who I am (not who I was). From there, you can take what I say “in context with” the person you believe me to be. In doing that, you can decide whether what I support has merit. Pretty much any other approach of which I’m aware is—intentionally or not—disingenuous.

Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.

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Victimhood – Religion and Politics

Life is difficult. How difficult? That depends on the person, and the time.

The one thing I think every one of us can say is, from our own perspective, a “perfectly easy life” is unattainable. That doesn’t make all lives bad. It also doesn’t mean every individual has had sufficiently hard times to make it possible for them to understand the tribulations suffered by any other given human.

I think though, that there are very few (if any) folks who haven’t undergone a level of difficulty as a result of being a “victim” of some thing or other.

I also understand, that people cannot possibly comprehend what it means to be a victim of a given thing from the same vantage point as another, even if they’ve been a victim of the same thing. In fact, I have to acknowledge that technically no two people can even “fall prey to” the same thing.

The cause of their ill may be the same, be it cancer, the loss of a wife or husband, being shot, or something much less severe than any of the aforementioned; not forgetting there are many circumstances “on par with” or potentially even worse than the things given as examples.

It’s understood by anyone who’s thought about this in any depth, that dealing with a variety of situations can be more difficult than those looking in can understand or recognize.

That being said, you should also be aware that there are those who have likely undergone things the like of which you’ll never entirely grasp. You may never come to comprehend the difficulty seen by various unfortunates out there.

I don’t say this to shame or belittle anyone. In fact, I readily assent to the idea that I am in the same boat. Chances are pretty good I’m a bit of a wimp considering the relative ease in which I’ve done my time on this planet. After all, I was brought up in two of the “richest” countries on the Earth, the United States of America and Australia. My parents were relatively well educated, they stayed together (even when they may not have always desired to), and raised their children as a couple.

These simple facts put me well ahead of many individuals out there—even ones having been raised in relative peace and security, in the same sorts of places as the ones in which I was reared.

And yet, there are a number of people, not just in the U.S. (though there are certainly plenty there) who have battled from sometimes literally horrific situations, to places that surely must look to us and them like the realization of fantastic imaginings.

Some of them suffered through the direst, darkest of days. Some dealt with conditions that made it impossible for them to make any but the slightest movements—Stephen Hawking comes to mind here. Some endured pain on a daily and ongoing basis in measures mere mortals like myself can in no wise comprehend. Yet in the end, they accomplished things one can barely believe were possible.

The point here, is that a great many very successful denizens of this ball of dirt, could easily be termed “victims”—and in some very important senses, you would not be remiss in referring to them as such.

If you had asked them, or do ask the ones who are still around, “Are you, or have you ever been, a victim?” I’m quite certain many of them would indicate the affirmative—would, quite simply, answer, “Yes.”

Here’s the thing though. While it may be true that many very well known, wildly popular, amazingly able folks could, can, or will, allow the idea of their victimhood, I would bet that, the greater their accomplishments, the less they dwelt on that fact.

You see, it’s not a question of whether they found themselves on the wrong side of some bad situations. What is a matter for consideration? That they chose to “soldier on” and to accomplish things of import to themselves and often many others, difficulty aside.

Did they still suffer? Absolutely! Was it by all means always easy for them to continue on? I’m quite sure it wasn’t. The important thing though is, they realized that if they wanted to accomplish those things for which they strove, persistence and an almost single mind towards those ends was necessary.

That doesn’t mean they never bemoaned their fate. I’m not suggesting there weren’t times when they felt so badly for one reason or another that they were unsure they could proceed.

Some time ago, I started to write a piece. As is periodically the case, I’m not sure I ever finished it (you might say this little essay is its fruition). That work was entitled something along the lines of “Life Goes On.” The intended main point of the essay, was to indicate that, no matter how you feel, regardless what’s occurring in the current moment, life doesn’t just magically stop. You’re not awarded an “extra life” in video game parlance, either.

You’ve a choice to make, and often it’s anything but a cake-walk to make it. Are you going to allow current circumstances to dictate your future, or will you continue through hardships to at least try to reach those goals or ends you believe are attainable and worthwhile in your distant (or even nearby) future?

Like it or not, playing the victim is not typically consistent with such work.

Keep in mind, I’m not trying to say, “Nobody is, nor should anyone ever behave as a victim.” Rather, I’m trying to make it clear the reveling in victimhood is neither useful, nor will it likely help you to achieve desired ends.

I cannot know your life. I cannot feel your struggles, your hardships, your difficulties, your pain. Even so, I can tell you that, those things aside, you can be a victor, and hopefully to a greater degree than you are or ever were a victim. Being brave, acting when you feel you’ve no will to proceed isn’t easy. It is possible though; just ask the many who’ve proven it.

Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.

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The Problem With Activism – Religion and Politics

activism ăk′tə-vĭz″əm►

n.The use of direct, often confrontational action, such as a demonstration or strike, in opposition to or support of a cause.
n.a policy of taking direct and militant action to achieve a political or social goal.
n.The practice of using action to achieve a result, such as political demonstration or a strike in support of or in opposition to an issue.
Wordnik definition of Activism from a DuckDuckGo search

As I have done before, I went to my favorite search engine (https://www.duckduckgo.com) and looked up a word. The definition for that word is listed above. As you can seen, the word in question is “activism.”

I have to tell you, I spent a good deal of time in consideration regarding the thing about which I wanted to write. My reason for spending so much time, is that I really like to get to the root of any given subject. It seems to me that “scratching the surface” is typically not wisdom.

Simply put, if you stop at a point that really doesn’t get to the heart of a discussion, you’re essentially like a physician who looks only at symptoms without seeking to comprehend the underlying cause.

I’ve seen examples of this. I had a friend who was diagnosed with tachycardia (“racing heart”) and treated accordingly, without the folks doing the work seeking to understand why. Had they simply done their due diligence, they would have found the cancer on his aorta, that spread from or to the lungs, and ultimately killed him, the much faster. In the process, they would have likely prolonged his life and helped him to remain healthy for longer, as well.

I’m quite sure you can imagine that this sort of memory, makes me sensitive to the idea that understanding those things which undergird, is more than a little important.

After much consideration, I decided in this case, to talk about a thing I almost took for a symptom of a deeper condition. In the end, I decided that where there technically may be ideas and ideals that are below activism, it’s worthy of consideration all on its own nonetheless.

Here’s the thing. As a rule, I find activism to be a bad thing. That being said, I would never try to tell anyone they can’t or shouldn’t practice it.

Activism within reason, is not only allowed by the founding document(s) of the United States, in some measure it is, I think, an expected activity.

It’s my hope that I’ve gained a bit of experience, and as a result, as I’ve gotten on in years, some amount of wisdom. On thing my experience has taught me—among a large number of others—is that activism may change the current actions of those “against whom” it’s used, but that doesn’t mean it will change their subconscious view of the World.

Put simply, the fact that people are “forced to” amend their actions and potential patterns of speech by folks taking action of one sort or another against them, doesn’t mean what’s going on in their heads has changed.

I’ve been known to illustrate through short stories. An example of this is the following.

Little Johnny and his mother are driving home from the grocery store. Mommy looks in her rear view mirror, and sees Johnny standing on the seat. “Johnathan!,” yells his mother, “sit down and put on your seatbelt.”

The child complies with his mother’s request.

Mom looks back again to see this is the case. “Thank you, Johnny.” She says.

“I may be sitting down on the outside,” Johnny retorts,  “but I’m standing on the seat on the inside.”

As we get more experienced (read here, “older and hopefully wiser”), it’s hoped we develop good logical and reasonable bases for our actions, attitudes, beliefs and considerations.

The result is that it’s much harder to convince someone having lived a fair amount of life, to change the way he or she thinks though “activist activities.”

We come to realize that a good deal of life is “playing various roles.” As such, we understand that we must act in certain ways and speak in particular fashions, when we deal with others. It should be well understood that what we do and say are not necessarily indicative of what’s going on in our minds.

One result of this fact is, when people stop expecting us to put on a particular face, we’re inclined to do just that. This, “so long as you care, I’ll care,” perspective may seem bad, but in reality, many have come to understand that the perspectives and expectations of others, are of far less import than those others would tend to believe—in fact, we’ve come to grasp that sometimes, the things others expect of us are downright harmful.

It’s on the aforementioned realizations that we tend to act when we’re allowed so to do.

“Putting on airs,” is not only unnecessary, as we see it, but in fact, it takes more time and energy, than just being who we are.

In my view, what activism seeks to do, is modify the behavior of others who have often long since looked at what those practicing it are seeking to change, and decided was—as previously stated—unnecessary at best and harmful at worst.

You may’ve noticed that most people with an interest in activism, and who follow that interest, are young. There’s a reason for this. It is that more seasoned folks have learned there’s a lot to the old adage, “Slow and steady wins the race.”

Put another way. As we mature, we learn that the more important thing is not immediate or radical change, but slow, sometimes almost imperceptible, movement in desired directions.

I made a decision some years back. I was going to treat each and every one of my workmates with respect—even if they didn’t like me. Another thing I opted to do, was to entirely remove profanity from my speech at work.

As simple as these two things are, the difference it made to the folks around me has always been pronounced. There tends to be reciprocation by virtually everyone. If you wish to call my choices “activism,” you can argue that “activism changed the tenor” of the workplaces in which I found myself. I have no such illusion. I hold that it’s almost always more sensible to take things slowly and easily, and generally, not to expect radically different things of others. As such, I don’t tend to consider activist behavior reasonable as a rule.

Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.

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Pandemic! – Religion And Politics

pan•dem•ic păn-dĕm′ĭk►

adj.Widespread; general.
adj.Epidemic over a wide geographic area and affecting a large proportion of the population.
n.A pandemic disease.
Taken from duck-duck-go search results.

The definition above is a simple result of doing a search on my favorite engine (duck-duck-go). I think most folks having any idea would agree that the definition given is relatively accurate.

That’s important, because I’m about to use it in order to do some quick clarifying, regarding the use of the word as a call to action.

If you were to visit the Center For Disease Control’s page on COVID-19 infection rates, you would see that it is indeed relatively reasonable to refer to effect of the virus in question in terms of infection as pandemic in nature.

The problem is, if one considers the CDC data for influenza in the 2019-2020 ‘flu season, it too would be considered pandemic in nature. How do the numbers compare? Per the CDC, to this point, we have had nearly 4,000,000 (roughly three million, eight hundred thousand) COVID-19 cases in the U.S. in total. That sounds pretty bad until you realize that just in the 2019-2020 ‘flu season, there were a reported 13,000,000 (thirteen million) cases of influenza.

So at least where the United States is concerned, which is the greater “pandemic?” Far and away common influenza wins that prize.

I would imagine—though I haven’t researched to confirm this that the common cold typically reaches “pandemic levels” on a yearly basis as well.

In fact, I would be somewhat surprised to find there were not a series of such conditions that did likewise.

Please understand, I’m not trying to cause panic. What I am doing, in fact, is trying to get people to understand that the use of the word “pandemic” is intended to evoke a particular reaction among the U.S. populace at large. That word like its predecessor, epidemic, is designed to strike fear in the heart of the average Joe or Jane.

The question though is, “Should it?” My answer is a pretty simple and—I think, at least—fairly logical, “No.” What should make the concept of an epidemic or a pandemic scary, ought to be the effects of contracting the condition that results from that outbreak.

In other words, the amount of time people are ill, the severity of the illness and the level of potential for mortality (death rate) are just as significant as the fact that something can be considered pandemic in nature, if not more so.

This—if anything—is what makes COVID-19 “scary” to so many folks. They look at the number of occurrences, they look at the number of deaths, and they become alarmed.

There are some problems with looking at the data as it’s commonly presented.

The first is, according to many sources I’ve seen reporting, COVID-19 is often asymptomatic. That is, people contracting the virus have no idea they’re infected. I can’t answer what percentage of folks “present” in that way; and I much doubt anyone else can either. Why? Because when a person has no (or next to no) symptoms of illness, they’re entirely unlikely to seek any kind of medical aid.

The result is, the only way they will know they’re sick, is if they’re identified through some sort of testing unrelated to contracting COVID-19.

The next issue is that for at least some of the COVID-19 antibody tests, they don’t pick up antibodies for just COVID-19, but any type of Coronavirus. Since it appears that other mutations of the Coronavirus are what cause ubiquitous illnesses (I have heard, for example that at least one strain of the common cold is a mutation of the Coronavirus), that means people could potentially be identified as “COVID-19 victims,” when they never had that particular strain.

The result of all of this, is that antibody testing for COVID-19 is dodgy at best.

Whether or not those numbers are accurate (and I should tell you, I’ve heard anecdotal accounts that bring the current testing into question even if the tests strictly identify only COVID-19), is really somewhat beside the point.

Let me give you an example as to why.

Anyone who’s been watching the news, is aware that the number of folks who’ve been identified as being infected with COVID-19 seems to be rising.

I maintain that a part of that rise can be attributed to an increase in testing, but even so, let’s assume that the infection rate is actually on the increase.

That having been said, where I haven’t done the research on sickness and recovery, I have done a small amount of research on mortality.

The long and short of things is this. Per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), while the supposed infections have been increasing the number of deaths have been steadily decreasing. How long have they been on the down side? You may be surprised to hear that (again, per the CDC), they’ve been falling since the week of April 18th ,2020.

To be clear, that week, there were 16,943 (sixteen thousand nine hundred and forty three) deaths that were attributed to COVID-19. Week-over-week though, the number have deaths has fallen, regardless of the infection rate.

The last “good week” (the subsequent week will almost certainly be adjusted upwards, as has been the trend), was July 11th, 2020. The number of people dying of the disease? 2097 (two thousand and ninety seven). This is an eighth of the peak week back in April.

In all of this, I have intentionally neglected the statistical data surrounding who will most likely be significantly affected by the virus. Factoring that data into the mix makes this disease even less serious for the majority of U.S. residents.

“PANDEMIC!” It sounds so scary, but in reality, the danger presented by a pandemic cannot be measured by looking strictly at the numbers of affected individuals. Rather, you must consider the results. Are people being badly affected? How, and to what extent?

Where I’m not saying COVID-19 has had (or will have) no effect. I am saying that, at present, the outcomes from infection—if the current contraction and mortality numbers are to be believed are looking better every day.

Is it possible we could see a resurgence in terms of effect? Certainly! Do I count that likely, based on present numbers? Not so much.

Thanks for reading and may your time be good.

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Immunity – Religion and Politics

I want to be very clear about something as I begin this post. It should be well understood, that I have no intent to belittle or bad-mouth. I’m not doing what I do when I write pieces like this, even to necessarily bring out the shortcomings of the logic of others. Rather, my interest is in getting people to think—to consider what they’re supporting, what they’re saying and doing. This is the spirit in which I try to couch all my work. I may fail at that sometimes, if I do (and most particularly if I’ve done so to you, or as far as you’re concerned), allow me now to apologize for having done so. I am sorry.

In this present moment, one of the most talked-about topics for consideration, has been the virus labeled COVID-19. It has other labels, I use this one because people recognize it, yet it remains more or less innocuous in the minds and hearts of most hearing it. If it gives you pause in some fashion to hear that moniker, you have my full permission to “substitute” one that you find more correct, proper or appealing so long as it’s understood we’re talking about the same thing.

Funnily, rather than talking about what COVID-19 is doing, I’d like to address one or more things it’s not doing. The one that most “sticks out” to me at present as something not being discussed, is aiding in bostering immunity to other illnesses.

You may be asking yourself what on Earth I’m talking about. Let me see if I can explain.

As a parent (and frankly, harkening back to my childhood), I see and remember a number of instances when my child (or I) did something that I would never do as an adult. Did you ever lick some surface as a child that no right-minded adult would touch with a ten foot pole (much less apply his or her tongue to)? Did you touch a place where another just sneezed or spat, then touch your face?

The funny thing is, to the second of these questions, the answer is, “Most likely yes (without realizing it).” That being said though, as an adult—or even a child over the age of fourteen (maybe younger)—doing as I have just indicated children do intentionally would be unreasonable but for the direst of situations (where you could save a life or prevent injury by so doing, for example).

But can you imagine most children not doing this sort of thing? I have four (it’s a long story, but actually more) children for whom I have either had sole, or shared responsibility. Sometimes my authority has been extremely temporary; at others it’s been far longer term.

Each of my children was different. At some point, all but one (who is still quite young and Moderately Autistic), came to the conclusion that he or she wanted to be more “hygienic” in his or her practices.

I’m sure you’re thinking something along the lines of, “Well, that’s good to hear.”

What I want understood though is, many in the medical community contend that doing such “gross” things—in reasonable “measure”—actually help to bolster the immune system of the child in question.

I well understand that there are children and others who have immunological disorders or shortcomings (not to say they do so on purpose, just that it’s a fact of life for them), such that they don’t gain protection as a result of “entanglement.” Parents and caregivers of such individuals rightly (at least in the current understanding), shelter and protect their little ones and other charges from what others would term a “normal childhood or life.”

Can I understand and respect the actions of such people? Most certainly!

That being said, it’s my belief that I have not only not done my children a disservice by allowing them to live relatively “normal” young lives, but that I have given them invaluable exposure to things that could have a far more dire effect in later life—particularly if they hadn’t experienced them as people under ten.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t go about plunging my children into raw sewage. I don’t even recommend they take nearly every course of action they assume or believe appropriate; and as they grow older, I more and more try to educate them to the idea that it’s not wisdom to lick that handrail, or pick up food (even from a relatively clean surface) and eat it. Obviously, these are meant to be examples, not a comprehensive list.

The fact is though, many who literally study immunity and other such subjects, believe children’s exposure to this sort of thing is far from “all bad.” As noted, there are certainly exceptions to this, among the “immune-challenged,” for example.

Bringing this full circle, when children fail to do such things, many believe you may count on potential issues down the road. You may see some of them sooner; you’ll likely see others later. Nonetheless, in all likelihood, come they will.

The current mindset that says we should live a life in which we fail to allow otherwise healthy children to be exposed (again, within reason) to such things—if the logic that says it’s beneficial is correct—cannot help but be harmful in such measures.

Like it or not, you can be assured having children not go into public places, not go to school, and run about wearing masks, virtually removes that exposure to the degree it’s effective.

To make things more interesting, at present for the whole of the present “pandemic,” the death rate in the United States (according to the Centers for Disease Control) from the 1st of February to the 11th of July has been less than .05% of the population at large.

It would be one thing if this number was an “even distribution,” it isn’t. It turns out that there are people who are vastly more likely to perish as a result of the virus than the large majority of the population. To say nothing of the fact that the death rate (on a pure numeric basis) has been dropping rapidly since peaking around the 2nd of May.

I can understand a perspective that says, “If you’re at risk, take precautions.” I can understand people supporting folks who are at risk. I cannot count reasonable, affecting many who not only are at very low risk at worst, but are at risk for other conditions potentially as a result of the current course of action—particularly with no real understanding what we’re bringing about.

Thanks for reading and may your time be good.

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Why Write Laws? – Religion and Politics

“9 Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers,

10 For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;” – KJV Bible 1 Timothy 1

There are some obvious things related to the quote I’ve used above.

The first of these, is that this concept has been around for a very long time (I would imagine, far longer than this expression of the idea).

Another would be that Christianity at least supports the concept that people working toward being righteous, are not the ones for whom “the law” was created.

I would, in fact, go so far as to say this is the case for law in general (not just the law as it relates to Christianity, or the law referred to in the idea, “the law and the prophets”). Simply put, if people were not inclined to do things they ought not, what would be the purpose of law?

You may take this as the point of this piece; to indicate that laws would be essentially of no effect, if everybody did as they should do.

There’s an important reason I bring this up.

I saw recently yet again a politician decrying the need to “tighten the laws on” the purchase and possession of guns.

You might think that’s a good thing, let me try to help you to understand why it’s not.

The person in question was talking about how it was “too easy for people to get their hands on guns.” Sounds like a reasonable proposition, right? And in some sense it is, just not in the way they were trying to couch things.

Here’s the problem. The majority of gun crime appears to not be a result of “legally owned” guns, and often, where it is by weapons that were purchased through “proper channels,” it’s more likely than not that the “property” in question was not used by its legal owner to commit the aforementioned crime.

That’s not to say no lawful owners of firearms commit crimes with their legally owned weapon, just that apparently, the number is at best, quite small.

This plays strongly in my mind, into the idea that “law is for the lawless.”

When people are willing to abide by the various strictures that are put in place by numerous entities—regardless the “level” of such lawmakers—it’s pretty much a given that they’ll at least attempt to follow the laws in place after acquiring them as well. Of course, that’s not ever going to be universally true, but that doesn’t mean the vast majority of folks who legally obtain weapons won’t work to live within the various regulations known to them.

More importantly, the thing that actually informs the actions of those legally obtaining and holding various types of gun, is typically not the law to begin with.

The assumption that people are “moved about by” or “under the control of” various ordinances put in place by various individuals who look at themselves as lawmakers and peacekeepers, is absurd on its face. It’s only for those who have no—or bad—personal standards that “law” of various types matters to begin with.

By way of example, I believe that all life is precious; I further believe people should naturally protect life, on the simple realilzation that, once somebody loses his or her life, they’ll never get it back. Because of that belief, I cannot imagine taking the life of another human being without exceptionally good cause.

These days, it’s not at all hard to find people who don’t appear to share this belief. You can find them beating pregnant women in plain view of their fellows (some of whom are egging them on while they’re doing it, or even helping). It’s there for people who push down eighty-year-olds for no apparent reason. You view it when children are shot for being, “in the wrong place at the wrong time.” It’s clear it’s also there when someone shoots another human being to prove their loyalty to a lawless group (like most gangs).

Not only am I not saying, “this is a matter of race,” I’m not saying it’s anything like the only thing one sees.

I saw a touching video just the other day, where a dad bought a baseball bat for his son and shared a video of his son receiving the gift. There was another, where a small group of young men (who happened to be “black”) helped a man to get his elderly wife into the family’s vehicle (the couple they helped were “white”).

I can’t agree with the idea that human life is invariably good (in fact, I know well that it’s not), but I can say there is good out there—and it “crosses all boundaries.” This is equally true for evil.

What you should realize though, is that you don’t “fix bad” by “regulating good.” In fact, you don’t “fix bad” by making rules against it either.

How do you make good, decent people? It starts early, and preferably at home, but it extends to all of us. When you present a role model, and help young folks to understand how important it is to be good, honorable, helpful, useful folks, you’re helping to make the difference.

Even so, there will always be bad. That’s not something you should ever expect to leave the World entirely.

Although that’s the case, it’s my fervent hope that the more people we can bring to see the benefit of their helpfulness, of their general goodness to society at large, the less “bad behavior” we can expect to see.

We’re living in times I hoped never to see. Times when people of all types of groups (“whites,” “blacks,” men, women, young and old and so many more) are acting in ways that would once have been deemed insane. We must work to change this. We must seek to present ourselves as good, honest honorable people to those around us—even if they refuse to capitulate. Do you think there’s some “better way?” By all means, let me hear it!

Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.