The Highland Clearances… coming to a suburb near you?

After promising a weekly blog, I posted on two successive Fridays, then skipped two Fridays and did a Monday. I started this one resolved to miss only one week, assuming I posted it by Friday, August 26th. Then I realized that I needed to do a lot of background research to write this piece, and that was not a realistic date. I did another review in the meantime, and now, here’s the piece I intended to run. Hopefully I’ll be back on a weekly track through the Fall.

I missed a few postings because I went to Scotland. It was an eight-day trip. We left on a Thursday, on a 10 PM flight. Which meant getting to Dulles International by 7 PM. Which meant leaving home about 5:30. We rolled in the door of our house a little after 7:30 PM the following Thursday.

But this isn’t a travelogue. I’m writing about one particular part of our trip, and how it got me thinking. What better part of a trip is there?

On the morning of the Glencoe Massacre, villagers, forewarned of the attack, crossed this treacherous mountain pass in search of a safe haven.

We went to the Highlands by bus from Edinburgh, ostensibly to see Loch Ness. Our guide for the charter was Rose, a Scottish National Storyteller (a seanchaidh, in Scottish Gaelic. The Internet disagrees, but she pronounced her calling “Sen.uh.shee”). It’s a prestigious title. I believe Rose said there are less than 100 of them. She has interned for 20 years, has just finished her 20 years of practice, and will now mentor for 20 years.

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Freedom? That is a Worship Word… You Will Not Speak It!

Terrible episode, right? If you’re of a generation of fan that doesn’t recognize any Star Trek quote other than, “Khaaaaaaaannnnnn!!!”, I’ll explain.

Gene Roddenberry, aka the Great Bird of the Galaxy, creator of Star Trek, developed a script early on in the production of Trekso early that it was a contender for the show’s famed second pilot episode—called “The Omega Glory.” The premise was that there was a planet of two primitive, but apparently immortal, tribes of people called the Yangs and the Kohms. They had a hereditary feud. The Kohms presented as basically civilized, the Yangs were mute and apparently savage.

They were mute, that is, until Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock, imprisoned with two Yangs, mentioned that they needed to somehow attain their freedom.

“Freedom?” said the big, male, mute, shocking the two Starfleet officers. “Freedom?” And, as above, he told the outworlders that they were not to use the sacred word.

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“We Don’t Serve Their Kind?” or “The Advanced Trait of Mercy?”

Few fans of science fiction do not remember the moment in Star Wars when Luke Skywalker enters the cantina at Mos Eisley, accompanied by C3PO and R2D2 and is told “We don’t serve their kind.” Luke is confused, and the barman explains that ‘droids are not wanted in his establishment. So the ‘droids glumly go to wait outside while Luke and Obi Wan meet Han Solo.

Nothing else happens related to this incident. The hateful behavior of the barman is not addressed. We’re left to assume, I suppose, that someone is always at the bottom rung of the social ladder, and such people are always discriminated against. In the Star Wars universe, those disenfranchised people are ‘droids. The moment stands that hate is a fact of life.

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If You Force Me to Choose Sides, You May Not Like the Side I Choose

A few years ago, it was rumored that an unpopular President had called the Constitution of the United States, “just a goddamned piece of paper!” And those who even considered the possibility that he had actually said the words were outraged. The very idea that our Chief Executive would express disrespect for the document which defines our government! Now a retired Supreme Court Justice is calling for the repeal of the Second Amendment, one of ten amendments that make up the Bill of Rights. I am, again, outraged. Only my outrage will be permanent. This is not a rumor. Justice Stevens called for it on the Op Ed page of the New York Times.

While, it’s true that I actively despise Hillary Clinton, I do not consider myself a conservative, nor, in spirit, a Republican. Yet if the anti-gun lobby decides to follow his lead, they will have accomplished something that Hillary never could during Election 2016. They will have forced me to choose sides. And in this silly battle of false dichotomies, I shall choose to stand with the Bill of Rights, and with the party that can successfully oppose its dissection.

Justice Stevens’s words are not a call for common sense or school safety. They are a call to take a knife to a set of principles which have protected our freedom for more than two centuries. Democratic party be warned: if you go down this path, you’re not only losing the middle ground, you’re actively pissing all over those of us who are standing on it.

I Just Finished – The Free Thoughts Podcast – Washington’s Five Tricks

So this is a bit political, though not “I hate the giant orange / I hate the scary hag” political. I listen to this podcast regularly. It’s produced by and the Cato Institute, and I always find it informative and thought-provoking. I don’t always agree with everything I hear, which is a good thing, but, when I listen, I feel I’m listening to highly intelligent, highly educated people talking about things that actually matter. And by “things that actually matter” I mean pretty much nothing that most people are bringing into current political discourse. Russian collusion? Yeah, I believe it may have happened. I also believe it, or things like it, have been happening for a long time. If they upset you, stop voting for candidates who are involved with them.

Most people won’t do that. So they’ve chosen to live with this idiocy, and I’m not really interested in hearing them wallow in it. Continue reading

It’s Just Football! (Isn’t it?)

All right, I said I was just going to do short reviews until I was ready to release pieces of a bigger project. Said bigger project is at 8,000 words, and I’m still mulling it over. But this only-reviews thing just ran headlong into the thing that everyone seems to be talking about: football players standing, not standing, kneeling, hiding in the locker room, etc, during the playing of the National Anthem.

So I feel moved to say, “It’s just football!

Isn’t it?

No, it isn’t, and I know that. It’s not just a game, it’s a multi-billion dollar industry which is part of America’s civil religion. That’s not me being sarcastic, either. There is a recognized civil religion in this country, and pro football games are one of its sacred rituals. So, for a lot of us, those who would fail to behave as per accepted norms during one of the religious observances which are key to that ritual–i.e. those who are unwilling to stand for the National Anthem–are heretics.

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I Just Finished – The Handmaid’s Tale

This book came out my sophomore year in college, a time when I was both voraciously devouring science fiction, and still considered myself a bleeding-heart liberal. I mean, I had just voted for the extremely uninspiring Walter Mondale! Still, something about the book discouraged me from reading it. Maybe it was the fact that, though it was in the SF section of the (excellent!) UMCP Bookstore, it seemed to want to be ‘literary,’ and I have always distrusted pretentiousness. Science fiction was so often condemned for not being ‘literary’ that I didn’t want any truck with the other camp.

Or maybe it was that the clearly feminist theme was not something I wanted to dive into, given that I was in classes with a lot of budding third-wave feminists, and they were beginning to make me uncomfortable. I had certainly had my first encounter with the works of Andrea Dworkin by that time, and my response to them was, “Ew! Hate much?” (Okay, no, in 1985 no one talked that way. Still…)

But my wife likes the TV show on Hulu, and so the book landed in our shared audible queue. So I gave it a listen and I’m glad I did. It’s an honest book, and a thoughtful one. If deals in misogyny and religious fundamentalism, but doesn’t beat the reader in the face with either. It shows how members of an oppressed class can become their own worst enemies, enabling the oppressors. It has nice touches of humanity and well-developed characters, and it ultimately shows that, if one class is denied freedom, freedom is lacking for everyone. An important message.

Will I watch the TV show now? Hmmm… Anybody both read the book and watched the show?

I Just Finished – Superman (2016) #27

Two months ago, in honor of July 4th, Peter J. Tomasi, one of my favorite comics writers, together with Patrick Gleason, offered up a two-part Superman story called “Declaration.” Lois, Clark and their son, Jon, take a tour of the United States to visit historic sites. On this trip, they meet the Dowd family, who, for 154 years, have celebrated the birthday of Thomas Dowd, their ancestor, at Gettysburg. Thomas died in a military hospital and his body was never recovered. The story brought tears to my eyes, and not only because Tomasi and Gleason told it so well.

You see, I have a Thomas who fought in the Civil War. His name was Thomas Rathbone, and he too died in a military hospital. He was my great, great grandfather. His body, too, was never returned home. Over a century later, some of his descendants journeyed to Ashland, VA, to place a marker on a mass grave where we think he was buried.

The fictional Thomas Dowd fought for the Union army. The very real Thomas Rathbone fought for the Confederacy.

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I’ve been off in my corner

The boys are in my corner, at any rate.

Really. I’ve been hiding in a corner for all of 2017. You’ve barely heard from me at all, unless we had specific business to transact, or a family event to attend together.

Well, I’m coming out of my corner. Some. A little ways, maybe.

I want to tell you why I’ve been in hiding, but I don’t want to say too much.

I don’t really consider this vague-booking. Vague-booking is making a statement on Facebook (or, I guess, other social media) that grabs people’s attention, but doesn’t tell them what the hell you’re actually talking about. “I’m really upset with you. You know who you are. I think you suck.” That’s vague-booking.

Well, first, this is my blog, so I think that disqualifies my somewhat cryptic content. Second, I’m not hiding information from anyone because I want to taunt them, or because I’m trying to be mysterious. It’s just that I’ve gone through a hell of a lot in the past few months. A lot of it was painful. I’m not ready to talk about it in public. I may never be ready to talk about it in public.

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A Different Kind of “Bully!” – Hillary, Teddy and the Quest for Leadership

23158392405_d3e3b60cb8_o teddy_laughingSo the story goes like this:

  • Donald Trump is the Anti-Christ. If he is elected, America is over.
  • Hillary Clinton is the only other option. If you do not vote for Hillary, America is over.

I do not agree with either of these points, but, for a few hundred words, let’s live in a world where they are gospel truth, divinely revealed, handed down from the mount, and, of course, thoroughly fact-checked and proved bullshit-free.

While it astounds me that American citizens would complacently accept such a reality (addressed in my post here), it is the narrative for about half of us, it seems.

So I have to ask, if Hillary Clinton really is the competent candidate I’m told she is; if the Democratic Party really is the friend to The People that it claims to be; if Trump’s nomination really is proof that the GOP has lost cohesion and isn’t going to be with us in any form we recognize…

Then why isn’t our one candidate trying to adapt and make herself more palatable to the entire electorate? Why run an adaptation of Bernie Sanders’s socialist-inspired platform, munged with W. Bush’s imperialist agenda, at such a time? Why make extremism our only option?

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