Thursday, July 4, 2013

We Hold These Truths... be self-evident, that all men are created equal...

The little document drawn up in that hall in Philadelphia back in '76 could have used a few footnotes.  It would be nice to know who the signers of the document considered "men."

Most likely, they thought the definition itself to be "self-evident."  Men????  Why, people like ourselves, of course!

Certainly not people of color, nor the "merciless Indian Savages" (ref., section 10 of the Declaration), could be considered "men" who had been created equal.  Created?  Sure!  But equal?   Equal to ourselves?  Not this side of Eternity!!!  Or the Atalantic.  

We are not so different from these men of 237 years ago.  We have some grand visions, some very flawed ones.  

But here's an oddity for us to consider.  They had mutually pledged to each other "our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor." 

They said in higher sounding words: 
This is how we will live as of today. 
This is worth living for. 
This is worth dying for. 
So be it!


They did not draw up this declaration after years of war, bloodshed and eventual capitulation by the British.  1776 was years before what we call "The Revolutionary War."  The Declaration was not part of the surrender documents signed by the British, after which the American colonists finally sighed, "At last we can think about being free--because we have won a military victory."

No.  They became free when they had declared themselves to BE free of George III of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. 


Yet, to die for is the number of times we have failed to embody and insist on the most basic concepts of the Declaration.

Or when we have willingly let go of them because we were honestly afraid of being that free.  Or couldn't be bothered to take the effort.   

It's wonderful at this national holiday celebrating the birth of our nation to remember that it was not a military victory that founded it.  Rather, it was the birth of an idea.  Honor members of our military, veterans for sure.  Always.  

But honor others even more highly:  people not afraid to speak and write and live the highest ideals and vision of which we human beings are capable.  Honor our best thinkers.  Especially the ones who are willing to pledge their lives in the cause of these ideas.

Living here requires more of us than being allegiantly inert, dutifully uniformed, steadfastly inactive, loyally blind, unconvinced of the common good.

Living here requires more than complacently thinking that we are kept "free" by a volunteer military that over 98% of Americans will never participate in. 

Freedom is not the same as safety and security with which it is too commonly conflated and confused.  Safety and security exist in the absence of threats and violence.  Freedom exists in the presence of activity.  Freedom exists not in its having but in its doing.  It must be exercised or it asphyxiates.      

In honor of the visionary forebears who thought their way to freedom before anyone ever fought their way, here's Roger's "Pledge of Performance":

I recognize, and I accept the privileges and the responsibilities of citizenship in these United States of America.  And I pledge my very best efforts in the faithful exercise of both my whole life long.   

May such truths become self-evident.  Soon.  Always. 


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Paper or Plastic? No problem!

This Japanese man supposedly has invented a plastic-to-oil distillery.  Hmmmm? 

Seems simple enough, agreed. Several basic questions that come to mind for me:

1) How much energy input is required to achieve the output?

2) Some plastics are more complex compounds than others. What happens with the residues that surely remain with some? 

3) Some plastics surely give off very noxious gases as they are being heated. I doubt that they simply sit in the retort and quietly transform themselves into gaseous petroleum. Are these gases condensed in the water, or do they escape and themselves become a source of atmospheric pollution?

Best way always to "solve" problems is to make as little of the problem as possible in the first place. Nearly all products we make, sell and purchase here are WAY overpackaged and WAY under-durable. I'd like to know more about the plastics distillery, but don't have time to do any research.

Some years back, I looked into the business of motor oil bottles... ugh!  What do we do with those?  Why the near total absence of recycling available for motor oil bottles?  The brand new, unused motor oil that ends up in landfills every year because people are too impatient to completely drain oil bottles before disposing? It's the equivalent of about 3.5 Exxon Valdez oil tankers.  Every year.  Every...  year.  Why? 

Over a decade ago, the US Department of Energy patented a process for cleaning the excess oil from plastic bottles, even the film residue that remains after thorough draining, using CO2 as the solvent. In the process, the CO2 is captured and recycled, not released. So far as I could tell, only one company in CA was engaging in the process several years ago, operating on state grant money that was probably budget axed after the original 2-year grant.
A friend and I once collected several large cases of plastic oil bottles, flattened them, and shipped them down to CA. Of course, the big question is whether more energy was spent in shipping than retrieved by the recycling process.  We felt good for a few minutes, but solved nothing.    

This defies reason, intelligence and civilization, of course. Since motor oil bottles are sold in every community on earth that has motor vehicles, there should be a closed loop system everywhere for the recovery and re-use of these containers. Oil filters, too.  Sure... 
If you want to hear anger and annoyance on the other end of the phone, merely call a local recycling resources hotline and ask the poor person who answers the phone where to recycle oil bottles locally. The usual response is something bordering on "Stop asking me that @#$%^&* question, you *&^% idiot, before I blow my @#$%^&* brains out--or yours if I could just get at you first! I HATE THIS JOB!" 

Should be a local, universal system to do this.  Just as there should be for things like dry cell batteries, compact fluorescent bulbs, shoes and baby diapers for the people who can't or won't wash cloth ones.

Why not?  Simply this. All problems are solvable if we decide we want to. No problems are solvable if we decide that we can't because we have already decided that we won't. Problems aren't problems at all.

People are problems.  Problems go away when our thinking changes.  

Jesus wept...  And I don't think it was over gay marriage.  


Monday, July 1, 2013

Defense of Marriage: A Prescription

I've read comments recently that fear a backlash.  That is, some people fear that the newly empowered supporters of same sex marriage may now unload on portions of the Christian community in the same way they have felt unloaded on in years past.  Maybe.  Mostly, I doubt it.  The tug of war in the legal arena is far from over since same sex marriage is still not permitted in approximtely 3/4 of the states.     

But a little history here, dating back to the civil rights struggles of the 1960's and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  For there to be a backlash, there first has to be a lash. Or, to use a term perhaps coined by President Lyndon Johnson, there has to be a "frontlash." I, too, pray that the backlash to the Court's decisions is not a sequel to the frontlash.

Marriage. Civil union. Life partnership. I hope we all ask ourselves exactly what that means. How do we support and encourage durable, healthy human relationships in any form, marriage specifically?

Since I now have the recognized authority to perform marriages that pass legal muster, I find it a sobering responsibility, given the flawed nature of humanity. I worked long and hard to be recognized and vested with the authority conferred by the ordination by my church. It wasn't a cereal boxtop version or an online instant thing. Worked my butt off for a decade in classes, CPE and internship while working full time. Much to the neglect of home maintenance and retirement savings. All to do legitimate ministry in a position that does not pay.

But I can now marry people legally, and also pronounce the blessing of God on couples who wish to have that. I have married one couple, and I felt good about it. I also just "solemnized before God and witnesses" the marriage of a couple who had already legally been married by a judge some time prior. I don't know for sure how to feel about this couple since they both have personality traits that could be very troubling if they don't manage them; plus, they both have a disastrous previous marriage in their past. My prayer is that the sacred ceremony in which they sought God's blessing serves as a sobering incentive to succeed despite their own human faults.

A local columnist who is herself divorced has written several times about the importance of doing things that support and strengthen marriage. I want to call her to account because she has failed to describe what that would be. Should we enact a marriage "death penalty" by making it illegal for anyone who has ever divorced for any reason to remarry... ever?

Absent the columnist's definition, I offer my own. It's the same prescription I give for eliminating poverty, homelessness, drug abuse, child abuse, sexual abuse, low graduation rates, DWI deaths, drug cartels, sectarian wars, terrorism and world wars: character formation. Better formed, better built, more fully committed human beings. Ultimately, we have no other and no higher calling but to make more of us who better qualify for the humbling, lofty title divinely bestowed on us: God's own handiwork.

Meanwhile, how many married people can recite their marriage vows 90 seconds, 90 minutes or 90 days after the wedding? Or say what that vow actually means? Instead of blowing megabucks hiring wedding planners, people would do much better to spend a few hours actually being marriage planners themselves.

How do we make life together happen for any of us?  How do we make it better than Civil War? 

More on that subject later this week.