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Saint Patrick’s Day Muse: When Red Messes Up the Green, White, and Orange March 17, 2015

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Today is Saint Patrick’s Day.  It’s the day when people wear green, drink awful green food-coloring beer, and eat green eggs and ham and other green things.  In America, it is, anyway.  And it used to be a day when if you didn’t wear green, the other schoolkids would pinch you.

I’m not wearing green today.  Not a stitch.  I will probably have no green beverages, unless it’s lemon-lime Kool-Aid.  My wife will no doubt see to that one.  I hope there are green beans, and not green eggs and ham, on the table.  Well, at least I hope the ham isn’t green.  I like food coloring in Kool-Aid and cake frosting.  That’s about it. I didn’t even bring Key Lime yogurt today, although that’s a nice thought.  OK, some food coloring is ok with me in my yogurt too, just don’t overdo it.  There are food manufacturers who use thousands of tiny bugs shells and eggs to make food red.  I don’t mind, but tell me I’m eating a bug, don’t hide it.  Generally, if I want a bug I’ll buy it, dry-roasted and covered in chocolate or garlic salt or something, and I’ll eat it.  Trust me.  I’ve had crickets, and even worms.  They were weird.  I did not eat the mealworms.  Ugh.  I wonder what they use to make stuff green, when there’s an abundance of plant material that could be used for both reds AND greens.  Like for instance, strawberries, those are actually red.  I bet there’s a natural way to make beer green, using plants and not animals or “mystery carcinogenic green dye substance # 1138” or “soylent green.”

I wonder if they did the traditional, annual “Pollute the Chicago River” in Chicago, this year, and “Pollute the White River,” in Indianapolis, and “Pollute the City Waterway” in whatever other city they used to do that in that I wasn’t aware of.    It’s OK, add a little bleach and the water looks crystal clear again.  You worry that bleach is poisonous?  That’s actually just a vicious rumor.  It’s only toxic from overexposure, concentration, or in incorrect combination with other compounds, and we would think that a normal American would read the label and follow instructions about things like that..  But we meant to say, add a little “Water Clarifier Compound 2999.”  It’s natural.  We chlorinate our water in almost every city, and some bleach is made of chlorine.  Unless your water filter gets that, you’re probably drinking it now.

I didn’t set out to write about food coloring although that’s a very interesting thing to read up on.  I recommend it after you decide I’m never going to get to the point, and you quit reading my blog.  But I do have a point.

Saint Patrick’s day is a celebration steeped in Irish history.  The legends aside, Saint Patrick is credited with bringing the Bible, and the Christian faith, to Ireland.  So is Sir William of Orange.  Little did they know, while doing the Lord’s work of evangelizing, that Saint Patrick would become a Catholic Icon and Sir William would become a Protestant one.  But they did, and then the factions of Christianity began a history of conflicts that were more about power and money than any religious pursuit.  If you in America were ever pinched as a child for not wearing your green, that’s a Catholic persecuting you for looking like a Protestant.  Or an idiot bullying you for not conforming.  How far we’ve come from Jesus.  Or even Paul and Peter and Apollos.

I don’t know whether William or Patrick would have gotten along.  In Ireland the factions became so …factious, that they fought each other, shot at each other, or blew each other up with explosives.  If I have learned my history and if my vexillology research has paid off, The flag represents history and is a prayer for the country, really.  Vexillology?  Don’t vex me; look it up for yourself.  Green, for Catholicism, which came first, on the left. White in the middle.  Orange for Protestantism which came later.  What’s the white for?  It’s a prayer for peace between the factions of Christianity, who have to coexist or die trying, on their little island paradise.

What I love about America is we’re supposed to be free to practice whatever religion we want, as long as what we do in its’ practice is legal.  Or we can decide religion is irrelevant.  It’s fine.  We can speak our mind as long as we’re not bullying or threatening another person.  I would like there to be a lot less red dye in my food.  I would also like there to be no more red, for bloodshed, in the name of religion, or whatever you want to call the belief system that motivates you.  No more beheadings from the Islamic State.  No more beheadings at all, for any reason.  No more kidnapping and torture and rape, Boko Haram.  No more buying and selling of human beings, anyone.  Other people are not livestock, they’re people, just like you, equal to you.  No more persecution of Jewish people, Neo-Nazis (or anyone else).  I live in America and Israel is supposed to be our ally, for heaven’s sake.  And we’re supposed to get along with the rest of America’s citizens.  No more bashing people for being normal humans, Christ-followers.  You may have discovered something that helps you avoid, and find absolution for, what you now consider to be a “sin,” but normal people don’t have that until you teach them.

If you’re supposed to love, your hatred of people only shows that you have failed.  If you’re supposed to follow a peaceful religion and you’re murdering people because you have some misguided belief, it doesn’t make you a hero, it makes you a murderer.  If your beliefs are based on hatred of a person just because they exist, I’m sorry to inform you that you’re a failure as a human.  Please, let’s have no more bloodshed or criminal activity or oppression in the name of any religion. You can call it your religious practice, but I know it’s just cruelty and power-mongering at the least, and criminal at worst, and there’s nothing religious about it. I know tolerance is supposed to be the new “in” virtue, but I have zero tolerance for any of that.

If you want one, today’s the day:  have a green beer.  Or a plain one.  Or mix it up.  While you’re at it, buy one for the guy who symbolically represents the other color on the flag.  You may think you’re on the right side.  You may think the person on the other side is on the “wrong side.”  But please, respect the white stripe, don’t stain it or spoil it for the rest of us.  If you want a red one, just have a Jamaican beer instead.  And again, buy one for your neighbor.  Make friends.  If you can’t get along and you must stir trouble, please just go home and stay there until you learn how to cooperate with the rest of civilized society.

I would rather have a celebration than fight someone.  It’s Saint Patrick’s Day!  Yet another excuse to have a party.
You don’t have to be Irish, or Catholic, or Protestant, to learn or celebrate the meaning of the white stripe.  I think we should all strive to live out the hope of the symbolism of that flag.  See the white stripe in the middle?  The other two colors are supposed to represent you and whoever else you meet.  Live the white stripe:

Practice peace.

~ MoeJoe

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Conflict about Conflict September 29, 2014

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Amid “wars and rumors of wars” (Matthew 24:6) I hear conflicting opinions about conflict.  Some say, as they always have and always will, to give peace a chance.  Some say, and they always do, that the conflict is a necessary lesser evil.  And then there’s always at least one psychopath in the bunch who says things about how we should “nuke ‘them’ (a civilization, but not ‘us’) back to the stone age.”

I respect the wisdom of Ghandi and others who advocated for peace, even “peaceful resistance.”  However, if you respond to a bully with the most peaceful response all the time, you’ll always go around missing your lunch money.  Depending on the severity of the bullies tactics, you could also go around with scars from torture, or shot dead, or missing your head.

There are times “in the course of human events,” when “it becomes necessary” to do something about a bully.  In documents such as the Declaration of Independence the recommended strategy for civilized humans is to declare their intention.  America declared its’ independence from England in the late 1700s, precipitating the Revolutionary War.  Scotland fought a series of battles from the 1290s until the 1350s, for their independence from Britain.  Scotland and England then danced a bit and reunited in 1707.  The dance goes on.  The partners are now closer, now farther apart on the dance floor, and Scotland voted recently against independence from England.  Social progress has been made:  at least they didn’t declare war.

Organized, murderous bullies in Syria, Iraq and Nigeria are separating themselves from the rest of their countrymen, and in the end it may be worse than the genocide in Rwanda.  Bullies, especially murderous bullies, need to be confronted and stopped.   As with Rwanda, the only difference between victim and bully are those of social status or choice- it’s like a civil war, and these people might as well be brothers and sisters.  And the motivation is just to gain more power.  As we would condemn individual murder or torture by family in the name of religion, we would also condemn murder or torture on a large scale.  The crusades were originally organized to stop the spread by force of Islam.  The crusades, sadly, fell victim to individual and corporate corruption and in the end some of the crusaders were just as bad, or worse, than the followers of Muhammad. History repeats itself until we learn the lessons we need to learn.  For those who would say it’s not the same, we have Boko Haram declaring themselves as followers of ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who has proclaimed himself as the currently reigning caliph.  You remember Boko Haram, the ones who kidnapped all the schoolgirls back in April.  Over 200 haven’t yet escaped, and haven’t been returned to their families.

I’m far less concerned with one favorite spin over another, who is to blame and what the world community at large could have and should have done before the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) than I am with what should be done now, to stop the murder and torture.

The first question is, who should get their feet muddy and bodies bloody, who should intervene, and possibly die, trying to assist in the conflict against the modern-day bullies?  And the next is, when is the intervention enough so the modern crusaders can go home?  In school, you can usually find a teacher or administrator who’ll step in and make it stop.  In the world, it’s not that clear-cut as to who should be responsible to do that.  No matter what the political spin is on the conflict in Iraq, these bullies are, or claim to be, Islamic, which makes this something they are doing in the name of their religion.  But on the terrain they share it also means Muslim is fighting Muslim, like a Baptist church splitting over doctrines, but with guns and machetes.  This means Muslim clerics, peaceful Islamic leaders, should be stepping in and making the case for these bullies to stop what they are doing.   If it’s just about Islam and not about power, the clerics should be able to condemn the actions of ISIL/ISIS, that is, if the bullies consider these verses valid: “Let there be no compulsion in religion.  Truth stands out clear from error (2:256)” and “O, my son!  Establish regular prayer, enjoin what is just, and forbid what is wrong…(31:17)”  These, and the following warning should be sufficient:  “The Hypocrites will be in the lowest depths of the Fire: no helper wilt thou find for them (4:145).”  If it is about power and not in the name of religion, then it’s all the worse, all the more hypocritical, for them claiming it is about religion.

Let us have a strong leader, and let the world have equally strong leaders, strong enough not to kowtow to the new overlords in submission and welcome, nor passively allowing what should not be, to be.  Let our country and our world have leaders who stand up for what is right.  Let us not have another Rwanda, where people who should be brothers and sisters, citizens in the same country, murdering one another.  Let us not have another religious Crusade to stop the rampage.  Let not another peaceful human die at the hands of a ruthless, hypocritical bully.  Murder is wrong; compulsion is wrong.  I hope it is enough to condemn them for murder and power-mongering, and to peacefully request they cease and desist.  But if not, then let them earn their proper reward as hypocrites, “by any means necessary,” and that swiftly.

Pets, Pests, and Protesters June 9, 2014

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It’s not like you can avoid them.  They are aggressive, pushy, and they are on a mission.  They want to get their way and they want you to decide it’s OK for them to do it even if it’s at your expense.  I am not talking about people in traffic today, but if I were, I would report I saw the same kind of people on my 7 mile commute that always seems to take at least 15 minutes longer than it should, at a minimum.  If I drive the same route on a Saturday or Sunday it takes 12 minutes.

No, I mean animals, and protesters.  I can see them in front of pet stores.  “Puppy mills are torture, won’t somebody think of the puppies?”  Adopting a pet sounds like a great idea until you get it home and have to deal with the past traumas and ferocious defenses of an abused animal with adrenalin on overload.  By contrast, we have a pet store that people accuse of getting at least some of their pets from mills.  I keep wondering where they get those magnificent fish.  And the guinea pigs and birds are just too cute.  Hold either of them and see them discharge on your clothes!  Yay!  This place sells totally cute puppies, and also sells adorable cats, which I infinitely prefer.  Sadly, although I love them and would delight to have a few, my last batch of tropicals and my last batch of goldfish died and so I emptied the tank and cleaned it, and haven’t gone back for more.  A cat and a few fish would be more fun to watch than our guinea pigs.  We got one from said pet store, and one from a “breeder” at the state fairgrounds.  So which is worse?  A “breeder” or a “mill?”  Or are they really the same thing?  If the animal rights protester has no evidence or hasn’t seen for themselves, why do they bother protesting something they know nothing about?   Because they’re sheep and they follow the leader.

Animal rights protesters will get right in your face.  They think thousands of years of food, fur blankets and fur coats and leather is more barbaric than practical.  Those commercials on TV should have been debunked by now, as I am sure the shabby looking pictures are mostly rescued pets (think floods and natural disasters), or sick pets or animals that are either currently receiving help or are beyond help.  I want to be sympathetic, but I also know wild animal populations are out of control.  And if it’s leather, or already cut into steaks, the animal is beyond saving.  Canadian geese are so well protected they attack us and we aren’t supposed to do anything about it.  They’ve become permanent residents rather than doing their annual migrations north to south and back again.  The green areas, sidewalks and parking lots are host to their dubiously donated evidence, and woe to you if you’re on your sidewalk and they decided to put a nest nearby.  My tiny back yard is full of those rabbits eating our trees and shrubs and my vegetable gardens.  I got smart this year and put chicken wire around the whole thing, only to find we have, or had, tiny rodents in our garage.  And the rabbits are circling around that chicken wire trying to find a way in.

The rabbits are pushy and aggressive too, although a bit passively aggressive- they run if I open my back door, but they’re hiding behind my kids’ swingset slide, and under my neighbor’s back porches.  They push their way through to, and aggressively consume, any plant they can to get their grubby, selfish little paws on, regardless of the cost to the homeowner. Sorry, animals do not have the right to be in my garden eating my food, or in my house, unless it’s by my invitation.  I haven’t done it, but my neighbor and I have discussed thinning the herd of larger rodents from our backyard chairs.  

The entire Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd skit about whether it is “Wabbit Theathon” or “Duck Season” just flashed through my head.

Bugs Bunny: Would you like to shoot me now or wait ’til you get home? 
Daffy Duck: Shoot him now! Shoot him now! 
Bugs Bunny: You keep outta this! He doesn’t have to shoot you now! 
Daffy Duck: He does SO have to shoot me now! 
Daffy Duck[to Elmer] : I demand that you shoot me now! 
[Daffy sticks his tongue out at Bugs. Elmer shoots.] 

The animal rights people would be furious. They’d be more furious to know I got one of the smaller rodent [deleted]s in my garage last night, and it isn’t a catch and release kind of trap.  There are so many rabbits, we could eat for a while AND have lovely fur coats made for our wives.  And there would still be rabbits cavorting in our back yards.  I want to be sympathetic but I could use a free meal, and they’re all, frankly, thieving and destructive pests.  I suspect the neighbors, and my wife and kids, are feeding them!  (Insert Yosemite Sam style “OOOOOOOH!  Consarn rabbits!”)  I’m resetting the mousetraps tonight just in case the companion comes looking for its’ mate or its’ evening meal.  Holes in my nicely drywalled and insulated garage walls will be repaired after I’m sure they’re all vacated or dealt with.  (Insert another Yosemite Sam “OOOOOOOH!”  Because  THERE’S A COTTON PICKIN’ HOLE IN MY FINISHED GARAGE’S DRYWALL!!) 

I see protesters in front of businesses that people don’t like.  Workers on strike.  Unfair employment practices.  Low pay and no unions allowed.  I want to be sympathetic because I know it’s so hard to find a good job, which is why I work at two and my wife works another.  No comment on how good our jobs are, but I suspect the fact that with college degrees, we still have to work more than one to earn a more-than-poverty annual income says something.

Then there are some who line up and pay travel expenses to protest funerals and other events.  You know them.  In the middle of someone’s grieving process, they want to hijack a private memorial event to make some kind of public political statement.  The protests, about a quarter of a million dollars a year wasted on negative campaigns that make no impact, or raise a counter-protest that only makes things worse.  That’s a quarter of a million dollars a year, that could have been spent on positive social ministries.  This kind of hate speech is protected under the First Amendment, unless it’s the wrong kind of hate speech as deemed wrong by the enforcement community, which seems swayed by the loudest squeaks and the most money.  But do you really want your morality defined by whomever has the most wealth and power, or knows the right legal loopholes to get away with their assault on your rights, or do you want to choose what to believe and think for yourself?

An animal is not the same as a human being.  And therefore I see the protesters in front of abortion mills too.  Bless their hearts. They do save a few human babies from being mercilessly slaughtered.  We look out better for the animals than we do our own species.  It’s a societal problem.  The women’s rights movement says it’s the woman’s body, I say, yes it is.  They say what if it was rape?  No problem.  You pays your money and you makes your choice.  It’s entirely legal for you to do whatever you want, and when it’s not you can always find a back-alley butcher like Douglas Karpen or Kermit Gosnell to do it late term.  I can’t tell you the far reaching consequences.  I have my own moral choice and I stand behind it, and you have your right within the law to do whatever you want as long as it’s legal.  I say it’s your right, not that it’s right.

An ounce of prevention may be obtained at your local gas station bathroom, for about $0.75 or $1.00.  If you don’t want a baby, but you want the action, prevention is easy.  They’re teaching that in schools now, a whole lot more freely than I was taught in high school.  All I learned in High School was how it worked, and the diseases and infestations you could get from sharing your time, and… um… talents, too liberally or with the wrong partner.  Our health teacher said he recommended orange juice.  Instead of extramarital um… activities.  It’s refreshing, the vitamins are good for you, it’s cheaper than raising a baby and safer than going to a doctor for a “procedure.”  And even with prevention there are no 100% guarantees.  

Adultery means anything “Extramarital,” which means anything outside of marriage, which by the way was #7 on God’s top 10 list of things not to do.  Don’t murder, that is to say one human killing another human, was #6.  Fortunately for us humans, though we all make mistakes, sometimes even big ones, there is grace to be had for all repentant sinners.  This, finally, brings me to the actual inspiration for today’s blog.

Ever been broadsided by God’s love?

I wish I was more like Jesus, in the way I met people.  I wish other people were too.  If I carried a megaphone to be heard by an audience and started yelling on the street, that there were huge potholes ahead and to slow down, or if the bridge was out and there were no signs from the police up yet, or there’s a speed trap ahead, would your reaction differ than if I were an animal rights protester, a “human rights” protester of any kind, an itinerant street preacher, or broadsided you with a blog?

If I did it like Jesus, you’d hardly know where I was coming from.  You wouldn’t suspect a thing, until I got to the punch line, or until you were already in my clutches and then SNAP!  The HUG FROM GOD would be upon you!  The gentle instruction to repent, the loving forgiveness of past sin.  The promise of future judgement to the unrepentant.

Oh, those tricky keyword “tags.”  If you set up yourself to follow or check blogs by keyword tags, you get what you get.  I can broadside you with the Gospel because my last article was about stupid traffic, how beautiful people are, about my car or my life falling apart, or how random my day or my brain was or is.  If only I knew exactly what to say to let people know how beautiful they are, and how much God loves them, and that there are potholes and pitfalls and speed traps and natural consequences ahead of them in life, and in the afterlife, depending on their choices. 

If I did, I don’t think I would go with the megaphone and the protest route.  There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as your assembly remains peaceful and orderly and lawful.  In America, you have the right to do whatever is legal, and I have no problem with that.  I used to speak out about such things, but frankly I don’t care enough any more.  Plus it’s not my job as I’m not a paid speaker.  I’m a person of peace, and I don’t like it when bullies try to tell me what to do, or shove themselves and their rights ahead of myself and my rights, as if I were somehow less important than they.  Although I make a value judgement and a personal choice, and a vote, I have no legitimate protest against you until you take my rights, or the rights of another human being away, in the name of expressing your rights.  While you are driving by or parked in your car, I may not like the “music” that is blasting from your subwoofers at top volume, but I’m not going to say anything about it.  I’ll leave it to law enforcement to determine if it is outside an acceptable decibel range.  I’d rather you not blast your free speech, including your expletives, all over my kids and me, but you probably have a right to do that.  As long as the sound doesn’t break my windows, and you came to pass and not to stay, I guess that’s fine.  But if your subwoofers or some garage band decide to burst into loud song at 11PM on a school night, don’t expect me to join the party.  I’m calling the cops to ask them to gently let you know you’re interfering with my right to sleep.

We have freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to practice our religion and not one chosen by our government for us. Among other freedoms.  This is what I love about America.  But more and more, Mainstream Christianity seems to be becoming demonized from all fronts- their own moral judgments are seen as intolerant, even if they just teach it in a gentle and loving way.  And there’s guilt by association even if there isn’t association, with the more radicalized sects.  For instance, if I said I was a Baptist, or attended a Baptist church, wouldn’t you, in the back of your mind, wonder if I was like those Baptists?  Or if I said I believe the normal average law abiding citizen has the right to defend their home and family, would you presume I was one firearm away from a barricaded Utah, Texas, Montana, or Colorado commune?  I’m free to say it, you’re free to think it.  It’s your right.  But it isn’t necessarily right.

And if I set up a “cultural display of religious art” whether I call it religious or not, from any other religion than Christianity, would there be a public outcry to tear it down?  If I set up a nativity in the school, there is.  But if I set up a macrame representation of Shiva, in the school, nobody says a word.  Why is any other religion promoted and provided greater largess and freedom than mine?  I love art and artistic expression.  I also love people and believe they have the legal right to do what they will, within the confines of the law and public decency.  But I think that freedom should be across the cultural board, not limited for some and freely expressed by others.  I think Christianity is hated with as much hatred as is legally allowed, and occasionally that hatred steps into illegal grounds.  

At church, the pastor and deacons and leadership should have the right to decide what goes on, and I can choose whether to attend and presumably abide by their behavioral expectations.  In the Boy Scouts, another private organization, apparently they don’t, which frightens me a little bit about the future. That’s an interesting legal opinion that seems to enforce the world’s standards on a private organization and restrict their rights.  But for now while it’s still legal, in my own home and on my own private property I want the right to decide what goes on.  The behavior of immigrant rodents shall be restricted by any legal means.  Which means, for the rabbits, I may have to wait for “wabbit theathon” and get a license, to do whatever is legal and responsible with them, within the confines of my property’s borders.  Fortunately, mousetraps can be purchased almost anywhere and they don’t have to be the catch and release kind.

::As Simpson’s Helen Lovejoy::  “Please, won’t somebody think of the field mice?!  Such inhumane cruelty!”

SNAP!!

Note to people, including those “religious protesters:”  I’m not a pest and I hope you don’t choose to be one either.  My opinion is that God is loving and merciful and gracious, for now.  You have an open invitation to learn about that, and how to behave in response.  And if you don’t accept the invitation, I don’t care as long as you’re in the field not bothering me or interfering with my life.  I’ve said my piece, and offered you what I know, and now I leave you to God’s care and choice to bless or not.  If you ask me for an opinion I’ll offer it.  I think that’s tolerant of me, and I hope you’re equally tolerant of letting me do what I legally do without telling me what I can’t or shouldn’t do.  Do what you want, but I don’t think it’s news and I don’t necessarily care to see it or hear about it.  And again, it may be your “right,” but that doesn’t make it right.  Mostly I think I can express my opinion by saying many “sins” are the result of us deciding to go our own way and ignoring or refusing the design the Designer had in mind, even if it’s an obvious design.  That includes my own sins.  The potential consequences, and the occasional mercy of God, become equally obvious with a careful examination.  That’s not hate speech, it’s just my opinion, which is worth as much as anyone else’s.

Note to readers:  until it’s not lawful I’m going to continue to express myself and espouse (mainly) the love of God.  Sorry if you don’t like that kind of preaching, it may be just a phase I’m going through.  We’ll get back to fun and merriment soon.  Wait.  Nevermind, this blog was never about fun and merriment.  Fun and merriment in my thoughts is only an entirely random event and not guaranteed to occur.  But it’s possible.

Note to field mice and other vermin of all stripes everywhere:  God is loving and merciful and gracious, but I am not.  Don’t be a pest.  I don’t care as long as you’re in the field, but avoid my house at your life’s peril.  

::As Elmer Fudd::  Note to wabbits:  Stay away fwom my pwants.  Owe I might bwast ya!  

Who am I kidding?  If they’ve read this blog, they know I don’t have a gun!  You say rabbits can’t read?