Tuesday, November 24, 2015

#BrusselsLockdown for the win!

On Sunday, police in Brussels, Belgium conducted a massive search for terrorists who may have been planning a Paris-style attack there.  As of this writing, the search continues.

Residents were asked to stay away from windows and refrain from using social media to broadcast anything that might give away police positions.

So what did the good citizens of Brussels do?

They let the cat out of the bag.

They proceeded straight to the Internet, where they tweeted pictures.

Of cats.

Yes, the good citizens of Brussels, Belgium took to the Internet to post cat pictures.

Cats are the most posted, most tweeted animal on the Internet.  A popular website, I Can Has Cheezburger, boasts what is probably the most comprehensive respository of cat memes in cyberspace.  Grumpy Cat is an Internet icon.  And who doesn't enjoy just a sweet picture of a cuddly cat every once in a while?

In this case, cats were used as the new weapon of mass destruction.  Instead of cowering in fear and hiding in terror, the good citizens of Brussels dug down deep and found their sense of humor.  I'm not exactly sure how it started, but within an hour after authorities requested that people stay off social media as a security precaution, photos such as the following started flooding the net, tagged with #BrusselsLockdown:

Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi!  You're my only hope.

Hmm, let me study up on the subject . . .

As a thank you, Belgian police posted a picture of cat food with the admonition to "help yourselves!"

In the midst of a climate of fear, people responded with a sense of humor and refused to let fear overpower them.

#BrusselsLockdown for the win!

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Manic Monday: "Do not be afraid . . ."

(I have been blessed with proofing work, which is why I have not regularly written on the blog lately.  But I did want to get this in before I started today's assignment.)

"They're coming for us."
"ISIS is here already."
"They're going to sneak in with the Syrian refugees."

These, and other expressions of fear, are what I've read on social media in these days that have followed the attacks on Paris.  Yesterday, a crowd of people paying tribute to the victims at the Plaza de Republique ran screaming in panic after what sounded like gunshots.  They turned out to be firecrackers.  Police activity at a Paris hotel also turned out to be a false alarm.

People are afraid, and I'm not surprised.  In the days that followed 9/11, people were afraid.

I don't underestimate ISIS.  I think they do have more tricks up their sleeve.  It would not surprise me one bit if they had plans to attack the United States somehow, somewhere.  They may already be here.  I don't know.

But somehow, I just have this gut feeling that these responses of fear are just plain wrong.  We're missing something.  We're leaving something out.

In the book of 2 Kings, chapter 6, there's a story of the prophet Elisha and his unnamed servant.  At that time, the king of Aram was at war with Israel, and Israel seemed to know every move that Aram made.  The king was told, "Elisha the prophet tells the king the very words you speak in your bedroom."

The king's response (paraphrased) was, "Go get him!"

Which the army did.  They found Elisha and his servant in Dothan.  When Elisha's servant looked out the window, he saw the army and cried out, they've surrounded us!

Elisha told him, don't be afraid.  There are more with us than there are with them.  And he prayed that God would open the servant's eyes . . .and when He did, the servant saw chariots of fire around the army.

I don't know if God works the same way today as he did in the Old Testament.  I haven't seen chariots of fire lately.  And it may be that he won't protect the United States of America the same way that he protected Israel, or Elisha.

But I do believe that, for those who belong to God, there are more with us than there are with them. Maybe those that are with us will supernaturally protect those who belong to God.  Or, maybe they will just walk with God's people as they experience whatever hardships they experience.

I'm reminded of a song we sometimes sing in church by Don Moen, He Will Come and Save You:

Say to those who are fearful hearted:
Do not be afraid.
The Lord your God is strong
With His mighty arms
When you call on his name
He will come and save.

He will come and save you
He will come and save you
Say to the weary one
Your God will surely come
He will come and save you.

Say to those who are broken hearted
Do not lose your faith
The Lord your God is strong
With His loving arms
When you call on His name
He will come and save.  
He will come and save you
He will come and save you
Lift up your eyes to Him
You will arise again
He will come and save you
He is our refuge in the day of trouble
He is our shelter in the time of storm
He is our tower in the day of sorrow
Our fortress in the time of war
"In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world."  John 16:33

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Today, we are all French

After 9/11, a number of nations said, "Today, we are all Americans."

Today, a day after 3/13, the sentiment is, "Today, we are all French."

I sat in front of the TV and the computer last night and watched in horror as the death toll from six attacks went from 18, to 100, to 140, and currently, the official death toll is at 128, with over 300 wounded.  Six of the 128 were the attackers.  Two of them blew themselves up with suicide belts as the police closed in.

Right now, I have no words.  Just a compliation of facts and feelings that are rather difficult to put on a computer screen.

Yesterday morning, President Obama sat in a chair and claimed that ISIS has "been contained".

Today, ISIS has claimed responsibility for this horrific attack in Paris.  That doesn't sound very "contained" to me.

I do not want to be hateful towards Muslims.  I believe that most Muslims wish to live in peace.  But the current terrorists out there who are causing the most damage are Muslim.  They conquer and kill in the name of their religion, and they show no mercy towards the people they conquer.  You convert, submit, or die.

There are people out there that just do not get it:  You do not negotiate with terrorists.  You do not give them an inch, because they will not only take a mile, they will take more than a mile.  What happened in Paris, what is happening in Syria and in other parts of the world, is the result of what happens when you think you can "lead from behind" and only croak your denunciation, instead of waging a "pitiless war", as French President Francois Hollande has sworn to do.

Last night, I read posts saying that, "This will happen here.  They are coming for us."

I do not want to be afraid.  I will not cower in my house and wait for Islamic terrorists to attack.  But I do feel fear.  It worries me when we either think that we can negotiate or dialogue with these terrorists, or when we mentally decide, there's nothing we can do, and just let an attack happen.

Last night, I remembered a verse in 2 Kings 6.  In this story, the king of Aram was at war with Israel, and the prophet Elisha was telling the king of Israel "the very words [he spoke] in his bedroom."  In response, the king of Aram sent troops to capture Elisha.

When Elisha's servant got up the next morning, he saw the troops and was terrified.  Elisha's answer was:  "Don't be afraid.  There are more with us than there are with him."

This is what I want to think.  This is what I want to believe.  That there are more with us than with him.  I want to believe that God is with people--that God is with me--and therefore, I don't need to be afraid.

In the meantime, I pray and I mourn with the people of Paris.

Je suis Paris.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Manic Monday: A Whovian take on war and revolution

I'm a Whovian.  For the ignorant and/or uninitiated, 'Whovians" are fans of the BBC science fiction program "Doctor Who".  The Doctor, as he is known, is a time lord who travels throughout time fighting enemies and helping people.  There have been twelve doctors in the 52-year history of the program.  The latest Doctor is played by Peter Capaldi.

The Doctor traditionally travels with at least one companion, and that companion is, more often than not, female.  His most recent companion is Clara Oswald, played by Jenna Coleman.

In the Doctor's latest adventure with Clara, his enemy is an alien race call the Zygons.  As part of the plot, one of the Zygons has commandeered Clara's face and is looking for something called the Osgood box.  In the climax, there are two Osgood boxes with two buttons:  Truth or Consequences.
Push the wrong button, and serious consequences would ensue for either the Zygons or the humans.

The fake Clara and another character, Kate, are facing each other, ready to push the button.  

And at that moment, the Doctor delivers one of the best speeches I have ever heard on war and revolution:

I found a transcript of the Doctor's speech that someone posted at Reddit.com, and I'm using it as part of this blog post:

The Doctor: Ah. And when this war is over, when -- when you have the homeland free from humans, what do you think it's going to be like? Do you know? Have you thought about it? Have you given it any consideration? Because you're very close to getting what you want. What's it going to be like? Paint me a picture. Are you going to live in houses? Do you want people to go to work? What'll be holidays? Oh! Will there be music? Do you think people will be allowed to play violins? Who will make the violins? Well? Oh, You don't actually know, do you? Because, just like every other tantruming child in history, Bonnie, you don't actually know what you want. So, let me ask you a question about this brave new world of yours. When you've killed all the bad guys, and it's all perfect and just and fair, when you have finally got it exactly the way you want it, what are you going to do with the people like you? The troublemakers. How are you going to protect your glorious revolution from the next one?
Bonnie (fake Clara): We'll win.
Doctor: Oh, will you? Well maybe -- maybe you will win. But nobody wins for long. The wheel just keepts turning. So, come on. Break the cycle.
 * * * * * * * * *
The Doctor: Because it's not a game, Kate. This is a scale model of war. Every war ever fought right there in front of you. Because it's always the same. When you fire that first shot, no matter how right you feel, you have no idea who's going to die. You don't know who's children are going to scream and burn. How many hearts will be broken! How many lives shattered! How much blood will spill until everybody does what they're always going to have to do from the very beginning -- sit down and talk! Listen to me, listen. I just -- I just want you to think. Do you know what thinking is? It's just a fancy word for changing your mind.
Bonnie: I will not change my mind.
The Doctor: Then you will die stupid. Alternatively, you could step away from that box. You could walk right out of that door, and you could stand your revolution down.
 * * * * *
The Doctor: I don't understand? Are you kidding? Me? Of course I understand. I mean, do you call this a war, this funny little thing? This is not a war. I fought in a bigger war than you will ever know. I did worse things than you could ever imagine, and when I close my eyes... I hear more screams than anyone could ever be able to count! And do you know what you do with all that pain? Shall I tell you where you put it? You hold it tight... Til it burns your hand. And you say this -- no one else will ever have to live like this. No one else will ever have to feel this pain. Not on my watch.

Here's what got my attention:  What happens when "it's all perfect and just and fair, when you have finally got it exactly the way you want it"?
What happens with those who support Bernie Sanders, an avowed Socalist, when they have it "perfect and just and fair", the way they define "perfect and just and fair?"
Or what happens with those who support Hillary Clinton, and who support what she thinks is "perfect and just and fair"?
What about the conservatives in the Republican Party, and their definition of "perfect and just and fair"?
Each group can get their world "perfect and just and fair", but what do they do with the troublemakers?  What do they do with those that don't agree?  What do they do with the people that don't think that everything is "perfect and just and fair?" 
Right now, according to the coundown on my blog, there are 364 days until Election Day in the United States.  Although I say "each side", as if there were only two sides to this election, there are really multiple sides right now.  I'll address this to all sides:  
You have your definition of what is perfect and just and fair . . . but what are you going to do with those that don't agree with your definition of perfect and just and fair?  Because right now, on all sides, there are people who don't agree, don't even like, other's definitions of perfect and just and fair. 
Face it, there will be no definition of perfect and just and fair that is going to make everyone happy. Not with conservatives, who are unhappy with the current state of affairs in the Republican Party. Not with moderate Republicans, who think conservatives are too rigid.  Not with Republicans vs. Democrats, who both see the world through their own particular lens and believe that if one or the other party is elected, the United States of America is headed for certain doom.  Not with differing wings of the Democratic Party, with Bernie Sanders as a socialist and Hillary Clinton defending her record as a Senator and Secretary of State.

We may think that war and revolution are going to solve everything.  Each party, or group, may think that when they're in charge, the world is going to be perfect.  Socialists believe that if everything can be divided equally, then the world will be just and fair and perfect.  Conservatives believe that if everyone is given the opportunity with as little government interference as possible to better themselves, the world will be fair and just and perfect.
I happen to fall into the latter category.  Socialism has not worked in the countries where it has been tried.  I believe we all are intelligent enough to take advantage of opportunities and that we have the responsibility to help others along the way, without being coerced by a law that will force us to do so. True charity comes from the heart.
But on both sides, there are the "troublemakers".  There are those who don't think that conservatism is fair, just, and perfect; just as there are those who don't think that socialism is fair, just and perfect. And that's because no system is fair, just, or perfect.  Not even systems I believe in, such as conservatism, or democracy, or the US Constitution.  
The Doctor spoke more about war than I have covered in this blog post.  My question to consider is: Do we really think that the world is going to be perfect, just, and fair when we get everything exactly the way we want it?
Answer:  No, it will not; because we will always have the dissenters and the troublemakers.
How, then, do we learn to work together?
That's a question that only we can answer when we, as the Doctor has said, learn how to think.
Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Manic Monday: I actually agree with Boortz!

While Neal Boortz has retired from talk radio, he has not retired from talking.  Boortz had a talk radio program based in Atlanta, GA, until 2013, when he retired.  Since then, he's been traveling the United States in the "Boortz Bus" when he's not enjoying retirement in Florida.

He does a short daily commentary on WSB Radio, and I actually agreed with a recent one.

Boortz and I don't agree on certain things.  But this commentary, I agreed with.  He said that soon, no one will want to be a police officer because, when it comes to a white police officer vs. a young black, the young black is ALWAYS in the right, no matter what the circumstances.

I don't know of any way to write this post that is not going to sound racist or incendiary.  So I'm going to write it the best I can and let the chips fall where they may.

I'm 52.  Within my lifetime, you can find accounts of blacks being savagely and unfairly mistreated by white police officers.  Go to YouTube, search for "selma news coverage", and you'll find news footage of peaceful demonstrators being attacked by law enforcement.  Look for "civil rights movement" and you'll find account after account of similar encounters, either of law enforcement turning dogs or water hoses on peaceful demonstrators, or of whites abusing of blacks while law enforcement did nothing to stop them.  Denying this part of history is on the same level as denying the Jewish Holocaust.

And while legally sanctioned discrimination is largely a thing of the past, I'm also sure there are cases where white law enforcement HAS been guilty of mistreatment of blacks.  The shooting of Walter Scott at the beginning of this year is just one example.  And "mistreatment of blacks" is a gross understatement in this case--the man was shot in the back as he ran.  The officer was indicted by a grand jury in June of this year, and justifiably so, in my opinion.

My minister has an adopted son who is black.  He's spoken of times when his son was unfairly treated by law enforcement.  (He addressed this subject in this Newsworthy with Norsworthy podcast.)

I don't want to ignore the very real problems that are faced as the result of a history of systemic discrimination.  And I fear that I, as a white woman, just do not "get it".

But does the tragic history of discrimination faced by African-Americans justify certain events in Ferguson, MO?  In Baltimore?  In other places?  Are riots in the streets EVER justified?  I don't mean peaceful protests.  I don't mean gatherings at places like Centennial Park in Atlanta where angry people blow off steam without destruction of property.  I mean, looting, burning, attacks on innocent citizens at the mere hint of police mistreatment without trying to find out the facts first.

We are fast becoming a country where if any officer dares to show any force against anyone, especially if that officer is white and the other person is black, that officer is automatically going to be accused of some sort of police brutality.  And while police brutality against African-Americans was and is a historical reality, I fear that there are some who use that history as an excuse for tolerating and justifying violence.

Is there no way for us whites to acknowledge the very real history of police brutality and mistreatment towards the black community, and current cases of police mistreatment and brutality towards blacks (or anyone else, for that matter)?

Is there no way for certain members of the black community to realize that not every encounter between a white officer and a black person is the fault of the white officer?  That, sometimes, maybe the black person really is guilty of a crime?

Is there no way for us to understand?  To work together?  To drop these masks of suspicion that we just automatically seem to have towards one another?

If we can't find a way to acknowledge the systemic abuses that African-Americans have suffered, and also acknowledge that whites are not always the guilty party, we are soon going to be a society that will be ripped apart at the seams, and I fear that our calls to 911 will go unheeded.

Because no one, black or white, will want to even attempt to enforce the law in such circumstances.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.