Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I am not crazy. Could I have been?


So, when I was nine my 12 year old sister died. My mother had a small nervous breakdown and I got angry. I was angry all the time. My mother did her best but she did not have the emotional fortitude to properly parent me. My father left when I was three months old and I had been raised by her alone for my entire life.

Now, my mother was a loved woman and had many friends who chipped in to help her with life and particularly with me. But I was smart enough to give them what they wanted. I presented sadness and distance but did not show my rage. These well meaning women (they were almost all women) were fooled by my clever use of social sense.

I went back to school a month after my sister died. Life went on. I saw a therapist on a weekly basis and he was great. But I was smarter than him and knew what he wanted. I gave him the answers that he wanted. At nine I was more than smart enough to know that giving people what they want is easier and they then leave you alone.

The kids were different. They, for the most part, did not know of my recent loss. I had more trouble acting normal than I did showing the kind of grief that the adults wanted. Normal was rough because I was so very angry.

 Then I started to fight. Now I was average size and strength but had a level of rage that I cannot even understand today. That is when I kicked Daniel. This was not the first fight I had been in since coming back. It was the first one where I got busted by the teachers. It was also the worst.

Our shared class was on the third floor. At the top of the stairs there was a large open area. For milling about, I assume. He made a comment. I don't even know what it was. It was some kid insult but not a very vicious one. Not really mean, I don't think. A little harsh but kinda playful.

I grabbed him. I shook him. I hit him. I hit him more. I slammed him against the railing looking over the stairwell. He got loose and began to run away and I kicked him. Right over the railing.

I remember regaining composure as I saw him fall out of sight. I was filled with sorrow, fear, and rage for his getting too hurt. I was actually partly mad at him for succumbing to gravity. I had such anger toward the world that I was directing my sadness and fear back at the object of my rage as more rage. The teachers grabbed me. Others ran to Dan. He was okay. Few broken ribs and a lot of bruises.

My mother came and got me. I was out for two days. Then they said I could go back to school. They made me sit with Dan in the hospital but they let me back in. No charges against me. Barely a mark on my "permanent record". I did have to go to therapy and anger therapy twice a week. At anger therapy you hit things with padded baseball bats until you are exhausted. Works well.

Apparently, what the principal did was call Dan's parents and just talked to them. Told them what was happening. Dan had insurance and that paid for his injuries. His family did the unthinkable and forgave.

I was not punished. That wouldn't have curbed my behavior. It would have probably made it worse. I was forgiven and the school worked with me and my mother and my therapist and I was rehabilitated. I was brought back from rage and pain and despair.

You may ask "What does this have to do with anything?"

This little bit of my childhood is something I think about whenever there is an act of violence and terror committed by a young man who thought he had no other options. When some poor sad pathetic being has lost such touch with reality that they decide it is a good idea to go out in a blaze of terror I wonder if that could have been me. I wonder how these rage filled people might have been rehabilitated before they took the step that could not be undone.

Yes, I blame granddad's arsenal, I blame the ability and capacity to fire 120 rounds a minute, I blame the American desire to own the most lethal killing machines a human can carry. But the guns are only part of it.
I blame the lack of treatment and the lack of rehabilitative care. Our need to punish as opposed to rehabilitate can make the vulnerable minds among us jaded, ostracized, and angry about it. People who have a hard time with reality and our shared position on reality don't need to be pushed out of it. These are the people who need to be brought in and exposed to the collective nature of people and the group.

There is a time for each and his own and there is a time for the group to care for their weakest. Were I a praying man, I would pray for the wisdom to know the difference.

-Josh


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Here thare be ghosts.

 I've never been superstitious. I was just not raised to see unreasonable explanations as reasonable. I recall when I realized that people were not all like that, I was nine or ten. A couple friends had come up to my uncle's farm for a week. This was the first time I had gone without my mother and sister. Big deal for me.

The farm was a huge, spooky old farm house. There were rooms I had never been in and I had gone there every Christmas and Summer since I was born. At Christmas it was just too cold to go to unused rooms (heated with wood and coal, no central heat) and in the summer I spent my time acting the fool on the 186 acres of land. Shooting guns, blowing things up, running, riding the pony, and the like.

So, here we are, Randy, Allan and myself, all sneaking around a huge, old, dark building all alone. My uncle worked nights and was gonna be gone until midnight or so. There are no streetlights on this dirt road and he had no TV so we were making bad choices.

The spooky atmosphere combined with the city boy mentality from my friends made us all creeped out. We spent out time trying to get each other worked up or really scared. Fun time for a young kid. Finally we heard the walking in the attic. Slow and deliberate. Quiet and sneaky. I had never been in the attic. There were pull down stairs in the ceiling which I was a little scared of and the attic was very spooky. We heard foot steps again. Sounded like somebody with a limp. Thump-drag thump-drag.

We got all worked up. we made our way to the attic stairs. Got the rope. Discussed it more. We knew there was no one here. What could it be? A ghost? A creature of some kind? I am not sure I had heard of the Jersey Devil or El Chupacabra at the time but that is the idea. We got each other very worked up.


Allan turned to me and almost had tears in his eyes and whispered in his most serious voice "I think it is the ghost of your grandmother and she's mad at us." Now, this is the sort of thing we had been doing to each other all night. But somehow this was different. He was really serious. I look over to Randy and see the same REAL serious expression of petrified fear. I realized that I was the one pushing for the attic. They were just too scared of looking like pussies to really object.

They really thought it was a ghost. Like really really. So I say, "What are you, stupid? There is no such thing as ghosts. It is probably a squirrel or rats. Old house like this it could be something waving in the wind. There are like a thousand things it could be before you end up with ghosts."

And, there are. Now, I cannot be absolutely sure there are no such things as ghosts. What I do know is there is no reliable proof that there are ghosts. Not in the last few thousand years that we have played with the concept. Not in the last hundred years where we have honed our understanding of reality to a fairly sharp edge. We can detect energies unimaginable a few hundred years ago. We can see into molecules and across the galaxy.  We understand how matter and energy work together and know where any flaws or complications are (dark matter, dark energy?).

We have scoured reality and found no ghosts. We found no magic, demons, angels, gods, or other supernatural beings. Perhaps these things all exist. But there is no reason to think that they do. So when I hear a noise in my uncle's attic I don't think ghost. I don't think specter or wraith. I think animal. On a farm out in the middle of nowhere animal is a good guess.

What did we find in my uncle's attic? Raccoon. As a city boy I did not even think of raccoons. Not a possessed one either. Just a nice normal one dragging something. I don't know what because he ran his ass off when we pulled down the ladder/stairs.

How is it that people in the 21st century, now, still leap to ghosts and goblins as opposed to old boiler pipes. Oh, yes, that is what got me thinking about this whole thing. I have a new house with old radiators for heat. They make weird noises. Hissing and banging and clanging.  I was joking that it might be ghosts or monsters. Then I remembered that there are people who would seriously jump to that conclusion. Then I was sad.

-Josh







Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Why I distrust your neat house

Am I the only person who feels like the neat people of the world are weird? They are weird and seem sneaky. Like they are hiding their personality.

I like to know what is going on. I like to use my brain. When I meet someone I look at how they are dressed, how they talk, what they order, how they comb their hair, and the like.

I, like everyone else, am trying to figure out who I am dealing with. They say you can't judge a book by it's cover but we can only judge a person by the data they give us to work with. Wear a pro-Obama pin? I think you are a democrat. Romney pin? Republican. Is it right? No. But it is right enough.


Black? Democrat.
Country? Republican.
White working class male? Republican-ish.
White college educated male? Democrat.
Women? Democrat.
Wearing a cross? Republican.
In the North East and wearing a crucifix? Democrat.
City? Democrat.

All of these are clues. The more clues the better a picture I can get. Less clues are less reliable.

My Uncle lives on a farm in central New York but is so left he is not even a Democrat. He is further left than the greens. A buddy of mine is a black atheist who supports Obama but is a registered Republican. He is voting against the religious right. These example are just in reference to politics.

Do you like rap music?
What about classic Rock?
Classical?
Punk?
Are you a reader?
Do you watch "Celebrity Apprentice?" I'm sure that is a real show.
Ever been on welfare?
Went to Catholic School?

All important data points to find out more about you. To know you. Your appearance says a lot.

What I am saying is that we all judge in an effort to know who we are talking to. Not to be jack asses (though we often are). Mostly to get an idea what is going on. To know about who you are.

Neatness. Coming from a messy person neatness is simply a deliberate attempt to conceal these data points. We messy people have to expend a lot of effort to make things neat. My question is why spend this amount of effort unless you have a greater motive? It seems like you neat people are hiding something. Putting it into a closet (where we keep our skeletons and homosexuality) out of shame or other diabolical motive.

Maybe I'm paranoid. Almost definitely paranoid, but my general point is still good.

In practical reality, what it does for me is offer less data points. It prevents me from understanding you. Since I am the kind of person who gains comfort from understanding things is makes me uncomfortable. I become ill at ease. I begin to wonder why you have so much time to clean?

What do you not do that I do?
What is missing?
How are you flawed?
And there is where I become negatively judgmental.

Then there is my house. I have to become embarrassed about my house. My home. What will you think? Will you think I am disgusting? A disorganized wreck? You obviously think cleanliness is an inherent good. Do you judge me as not good? Do you think I am a bad person?

Now, I cannot invite you over for fear of being judged as a bad person.

Here is how it is like the religious. You people (both groups) have decided upon an inherent good. That which makes one good and that which makes one bad. You, clearly, have decided that cleanliness is good. Neatness is good. The sin is the mess. I become defensive and a part of me will begrudge you. A part of me will resent you. Even if you have done nothing at all. You, by your own actions, have displayed a hierarchy of goodness. I can tell where I stand on your ladder. Low.
 I assume this is how fat people think about me when they eat out with me. I am fit. Overweight people probably think I am judging them and that I think they are bad people. I have had this conversation with many of my overweight friends. My very presence makes them begrudge me.

I guess this is a matter of apology to all my neat friends for not inviting them over or for behaving weird in their homes. Am I right? No. Well, maybe no. Maybe so.

Fat people who eat potato chips and fast food all day I judge. I try not to. I usually only judge when they ask me how to lose weight (like there is a trick). And usually after the third or fourth time they ask me.  I need to realize that they have chosen the sensation of taste and the satisfaction of the sense of fullness over fitness. I can't really argue, food is good.

In turn I hope that my neat freak friends only judge me when I ask for organizational advice. They should realize that I have chosen the freedom of eclectic and abstract thought over organization.

-Josh










Monday, October 29, 2012

Eat only What you kill


I am not an "eat what you kill" kind of person. I never was. I am, in fact a little disgusted by those people. I am more of a "when we succeed I succeed" type. I think we should be. I think it is good for a pack animal such as the homosapien. This is why I support a redistribution of some money to the pack from the highest earners and oppose an Objectivist "me me me" mentality.


What does "eat what you kill" mean? Well, there is a personal injury law firm in my area (a big one) that has that as part of their training. After an attorney is hired they get a small salary for six months and then they only get a portion of the fees they bring into the firm. Don't get any cases in month 7 and you get no paycheck. You eat (money) what you kill (cases). Sounds fine. Nice shallow sensible logic.

Here is the thing though... The firm has a huge turnover rate. People don't stay for very long. After a while they realize that, aside from the advertising, they get nothing from their firm and they are way better off going it alone. They take there clients and start their own firm. This leaves the firm with new inexperienced lawyers for ever.

This does not help the clients or the lawyers there. The only people this policy benefits are the Partners. Any new lawyer with the killer instinct and no learning curve will do well but they would do well no matter what and will use the firm long enough to get their footing and abandon ship. Why give part of their money away? Those who take a little longer to warm up or to get a client base will move to a different area of law.

Seems to me there are better ways to exploit the skills of more people. Reward assistance. I would use a hockey or basketball metaphor about assists if I were a sporty guy. But I am not. So I shall not. But you get the idea. There is no way to have an army full of leaders. You need followers or helpers or assists. Why not reward support staff. Why not reward collaboration? Why not consider the team? When the team benefits we should all get some. The incentive is for the individual to better the firm. Result? I think a stronger firm.

The argument against? The free rider. If an attorney gets a small paycheck without doing anything and gets bonuses based upon performance (which is what I suggest) why not just take the small paycheck and live lazy and a little poor? There is status. There is more money and therefor more economic freedom and power.

If you have not figured it out by now, I am using a metaphor to talk about the social safety net. I am talking about welfare and unemployment and Social Security and free education. I am talking about those who need help because we do not think what they have to offer is valuable. Many of us are not intellectually predisposed or have not had the appropriate early training in how to think good. It is a skill and one that needs to be learned fairly young. Those people used to be able to work with their hands and do grunt labor. They could support their family. We no longer value their work. We have outsourcing and machines. Screw dumb, strong people. I disagree, but even if we accept this idea (useless people should just starve) they have children. This is no "what about the children" plea. These kids should be able to get the kind of education that enables them to contribute to the new economy. For them and for equality and flowers and shit? Yes, but not only.


My question is about Einstein. Or more correctly, the next Einstein. Only this one never had any schooling and he works at Costco, night manager. He never got the training and the intellectual investment that makes a born genius into an actual genius. Will we produce a crapload of smart useless people like me? Yes. But every once in a while we will get that one in a million mind. The kind that can conceive of a new way to look at light, or energy, or matter, or antibiotics, or prosthetics, or discover a way to protect us from aliens or what have you. We would have lost this. A whole generation of starving children with no education gives us a dark age. What we need now is a lot of minds thinking about a lot of things. I often wonder how many geniuses our country lost by enslaving a huge portion of their population for so long, by not education our women and by shitting on people whose only sin was to be born poor.

 This is Mitt Romney's America. Poor, uneducated people have no chance for their children to move up in social standing. They are a permanent cast of the poor. The wealthy get to solidify their place as the new American aristocracy and the cycle is complete. We rebelled against the kind of Nation that Mitt Romney wants America to become.

I support a society where we can (selfishly) use the assets we have. We can educate the poor and keep them from starvation to make this country better which makes it better for all. Better for the rich and better for the poor. We need to remember that evolution is about the survival of a group first and an individual second. At least it is in pack animals. And we are the ultimate pack animal. Unlike these Ayn Rand supporters I know I am part of a pack and that pack is America and I want the city on a hill to last into the next century and beyond. I love my country and I don't think the modern Republican Party does. And the both saddens and frightens me.

-Josh









Friday, October 12, 2012

Biden did his job. Well.


 VP Showdown?
 
Like many Americans I watched the Vice Presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan. I was curious as to what the Obama team would roll out to counter-balance the weak performance by Obama in the preceding Presidential debate. Romney won the style portion of the competition and apparently that was weighted at ten times substance. Romney lied. Not according to me but ALL the fact checkers left, right and independent.

So how does this administration deal? They rally the base. That was Biden's whole performance. Rally the base. After Obama's performance there was a state of dissatisfaction among the loyal. What we have learned from past elections and largely from the conservative/religious right is that on election day you need your base. If the base stays home it does not matter if you get a single "independent" vote.

This does not seem to be the first time in this election cycle that Team Obama has used this tactic. Women's issues speak to the base. Homosexuality speaks to the base. Immigration reform speaks to the Latino base who should be Republicans on many issues. The middle, for Obama, is the white men. What does he tout? Bailing out the auto industry, health care for the working class, and strength in defense.

So what did Biden have to do last night? Biden had to kick ass! Not do well. Beat the other team up a little. Vice Presidential candidates have always been the hatchet men. We need to like the President. He can't be too much of an ass hole. The VP? He can be the bulldog.

Did Biden rally the base? Yes. Did Biden beat Ryan up a little? You goddamn right!

I think this debate went exactly as Team Obama wanted. They don't need a bump now. They need to activate the voters they already have. I think Biden gave the entire left a nice ego boost. Polls are irrelevant at this point. Both sides need to get out their base. Minds are basically made up. It is about rallying the base and keeping the other guy's base home. Biden did half the job. Lets see how the rest goes.

-Joshua

BTW
Anyone who is truly interested in politics should pick up and read the following. They, in conjunction, provide a good perspective to analyze the polls, news reports anddebates and how they all matter and work together.


The Myth of the Independent Voter         By Bruce E. Keith, David B. Magleby, Candice J. Nelson, Elizabeth Orr, Mark C. Westlye

Before the vote: forecasting American national elections   by James E. Campbell, James C. Garand

Attack Politics: Negativity in Presidential Campaigns Second Edition   by Emmett H. Buell Jr., Lee Sigelman

 


 


Thursday, August 16, 2012

1812 and F@#k Canada!!



As a child I was told stories of the War of 1812. It was fought right here in my home of Western New York and that is pretty cool. Since it is 2012, two hundred years later, I thought it deserved a review.

On the first of June, 1812, President James Madison sent a message to congress. It was a list of grievances against Great Britain. After four days of deliberation the United States Congress voted to to declare war for the first time in the history of the union.

This was the start of the war against Canada. Who were the Canadians? Most of them were the indigenous natives, exiles from the Revolutionary era United States or post war immigrants. The United Empire Loyalists (Revolutionary exiles) were generally hostile to the United States. It had only been about 29 years since the end of the Revolutionary war and grudges can last a generation or two.

These British Loyalists were all for the war while the immigrants were generally neutral and didn't really participate in the conflict. The American strategy was based upon the idea that the oppressed peoples of Canada would would rise up and greet the American army as liberators from the oppressive UK. This is a common thought that we Americans seem to have. See "Bay of Pigs", "Afghanistan", and "Iraq". As in most cases, it was an incorrect notion and the Americans would receive no assistance or supplies from the locals. The American military forces retreated after a single successful battle.

 Many in the states were pro war and had great desire to annex the remainder of North America and drive the British out for good. One of these was former President Jefferson, who said "The aquisition of Canada this year, as far as the neighborhood of Quebec, will be a mere matter of marching, and will give us the experience for the attack on Halifax, the next and final expulsion of England from the American Continent." But recall that Jefferson was a bit of an asshole.

Recall that this is the period where Napoleon was conquering basically the entire continent of Europe and England was really busy fending off that guy. The Napoleonic Wars lasted from 1803 to 1815. England was in no position to defend the new world when they were busy defending the old one. If there was a time to conquer Canada, this was it.

Sadly, even though both sides had been bitching and threatening for a while the U.S. was in basically the same position as the Brits. The U.S. was unprepared for all out war. President Madison assumed that the state militias would easily seize Canada and there would be victory negotiations and that would be that. The U.S. regular army consisted of less than 12,000 men in 1812. The Congress authorized an expansion to 35,000 but getting men to volunteer was rough. No GI bill or draft. The pay was poor and there was little honor in it. To Madison's dismay the militias did not want to fight outside of their home states, were not disciplined, and were generally not good soldiers.

July 12, 1812, An invading army of 1,000 American militia men invaded the town of Sandwich (now part of Windsor Ontario) from Detroit. These poorly trained and disciplined troops held the town for a month or so before being driven out and retreating back to Detroit where they surrendered Brigadier General Isaac Brock and the Shawnee leader Tecumseh. The surrender cost them the village of Detroit (yeap, village) but most of Michigan.

By mid fall the U.S. was ready to launch a second Canadian Invasion. This time it is on the Niagara peninsula. Basically Buffalo and Niagara Falls invaded the southern Toronto area.


The U.S., under a new Secretary of War, tried and failed to take Montreal with 10,000 men. After that failed the U.S. retreated again (Oct 1813).

The war became a Naval battle across the Great lakes. The Battle of Lake Erie was decisive by cutting off British and Native forces from supply lines. Lake Ontario changed hands several times and should have provided one side or the other with some modicum of superiority but neither side was able to use it to real advantage. 

On December 30, 1813 British and Native military captured the village of Black Rock and Burned the Fledgling City, Buffalo to the ground. I am from Buffalo and am still a little bitter about this. The U.S. Military was as well and this precipitated the invasion of and burning of Toronto.

To recap, they burned Buffalo so we burned Toronto. Neener neener neener. So they burn D.C. Remember that the reason the U.S. was able to hold it's own against the British was that the Brits were in heavy conflict with Napoleon at the time. Very busy there.

After Napoleon's defeat and exile, in 1814, the British were able to spare troops, ships and supplies for the North American war. The British formed a Naval blockade off the eastern coast of the U.S. in an attempt to draw resources from the U.S. campaign against Canada.


The Capital building had not begun construction yet but the buildings being used by the House and Senate were burned. There was total destruction of the interior, including the Library of Congress but the exterior walls were not really susceptible to flame and a rainstorm protected them from further damage. Thomas Jefferson later sold his personal library of over 6,000 books to restock the Library of Congress.


As British troops approached the White House government officials fled but First Lady Dolly Madison stayed behind to organize the slaves and staff to keep the valuables from the British. She took the valuables and fled just before the Brits got there and good idea too as the White House was burned to the ground. It burned through the next day, due to additional fuel being added to make sure it was cinder when the Brits were done.

One of the motives for the sheer wanton destruction of D.C. was retaliation for what the U.S. troops did to Toronto. So they burned Buffalo. We burned Toronto. They Burned D.C. So, they won on that one. No way we could burn London. Goddamn Limey Brits.

Since the Brits came out on top of this one they began making crazy demands in treaty negotiations, neutral land ceded from our Midwest for the Native Americans being the most offensive. Madison made the demands public and the U.S. populace was finally really unified against the Brits. The war would go on.

Robert Banks Jenkinson, 2nd Earl of Liverpool and Prime Minister of the UK, had been aware of the financial and political strain of constant war. The taxes to support a war against invading Napoleon was one thing but the populace would get pissed to continue to support a war in North America. Lord Liverpool reopened trade with the U.S.

Christmas Eve, 1814 the diplomats signed the Treaty of Ghent which was ratified by the Brits on December 27 and arrived in D.C. on February 17th when the U.S. ratified it. The war of 1812 was over. 

The terms called for all the territory returned to prewar ownership and the U.S. got fishing rights in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. None of the prewar grievances were addressed in the treaty. The war gained basically nothing for either side.

It is estimated that around 15,000 people died from combat and disease due to the war. This number excludes the Canadian militia and Natives who fought. The war cost the United States around $105 million (in 1814 dollars).


In the following decades both the U.S. and the Canadians (proto-Canadians?) saw the war as a victory. How that works is not sharing textbooks. Both countries saw the victory as establishing a strong foundation for their nationhood. The British saw it as a footnote to the Napoleonic wars and no more.

Many Historians say that the war was a stalemate but that it began 200 years of peaceful coexistence between the U.S. and Canada. So, in a way they did both win.

There is an argument that the winner was the UK. They were the defenders and held their boarder. The US failed to achieve their goal of seizing Canada. Therefor the U.S. lost. Failed invasion.

A third opinion is that The U.S., Canada and UK all won the war and the Natives lost. The British won by not losing any territory. The U.S. won by taking on the most powerful country in the world and re-winning independence. This created a real case for the U.S as the regional power of the new world. The war also ended the British funded raids by the different Native tribes and coercing the Brits away from their plan to have a Midwest Native sanctuary which allowed the U.S. free access to the Pacific. The U.S. additionally got the UK as a trading partner and that brought in big bucks to the start of the growing mercantile economy.

There is little doubt about the result for the Natives. They were losing badly to the U.S. in the west and Midwest and they were being kept supplied largely by the British who really did not like the U.S. The British removal of protection gave the U.S. freedom to basically take the land to the Pacific and kill or relocate everyone in our way.


As a Buffalonian, I am a fan of the War of 1812 as it was the only combat fought in my area. It is the only military history Western New York has. I urge you to go out and look to see what kind of history your area has. It is a great Journey.

-Josh

Friday, August 10, 2012

Sin

Recently, in our largest mud slinging content to date, a flowchart was placed by us on our our REASON Podcast Facebook page regarding homosexuality and sin. The topic of the flowchart was 'So, you think homosexuality is a sin, and therefore gays should not be allowed to get married?'

The ensuing argument took us through the gamut of the Judeo-Christian belief system, with quotes and references stretching from Leviticus to Paul's letters to the Romans and Corinthians. Words like 'abomination' and 'fornicators.'

Without delving into the concept of 'sin' itself, which, of course, is the presupposition in this entire mess, let's take a quick look at the three referenced sources to see what, if anything, the good book declares regarding homosexuality and the nature of sin.

As the wise man once said, you should always start at 'GO,' yet you do not get to collect $200.00. So, let's go: Leviticus:

The most commonly cited passage is 

Leviticus 18:22, which states: Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. [King James Version]

 

Leviticus 20:13 adds some fun to the fire by declaring: "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them."


Now, setting aside for  a second the sheer physical impossibility of a man lying with another man 'as if' with a woman, it is significant to point out that neither one of these passages refer to homosexuality, to intercourse, or anything other than 'cat's sleeping with dogs, chaos chaos chaos.'

The relevant word is 'abomination.' The word abomination's roots lay in the Latin 'abominare,' loosely translated as 'an ill omen.' This, in turn, comes from the Hebrew 'Sheqets,' or 'Shiwquts.' 

In all cases, what we are referring to is an omen, or a portent. 

 And my point? Well, Leviticus is full of laws regarding the behavior of the population of the Isrealites. The community shall not eat shellfish or pork, the community shall not work on the Sabbath. In all cases, the abomination of committing such acts indicates that to do so will bring a curse upon the population. 

To state this another way, the word abomination does not reference 'sin' or any sort of internal crime, but rather is an extrinsic wrong. The damage done by such an act would be towards the community, not towards the individual. (Except, of course, that whole thing where they hit you with rocks until you are dead.)

Leviticus is considered one of the books of the Pentateuch, the teachings of Moses, passed on by God in order to allow the chosen people to propagate and survive as a culture amidst the 'gentiles' who were constantly at war with, and trying to absorb, the Isrealites. (See Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and on and on and on.)

So why state that for a man to lay with another man would be a curse not upon that man, but on society? Numbers. For every man who lays with another man, the chances of offspring able to support the cause is diminished.  It is the same reason why a female rape victim is required to marry her rapist: They needed the numbers.

These are war rules, not peacetime rules, and foot solders are needed.  Pure blood foot solders, of course, as if your wife be not a virgin on her wedding night, she must be stoned to death because the enemies of the Isrealites might be making a play to breed them out, and we can't have that.

And all of this leads to the point, the laws of Leviticus are external in nature, and meant to allow a society to expand as rapidly as possible, regardless of the cost to the individual within that society.

An 'Abomination' is not a sin...it is a curse. Thankfully our society has, (for the most part,) moved past the point where we believe that individuals have the magical ability to curse a person or collection of persons. Every time Leviticus is brought up as justification for the 'evils' of homosexuality, just remember that, ultimately, those who make this argument have about as much of a leg to stand on as those who propagated the Salem Witch Trials.

Because that is all this is: Thou shall not suffer a queer to live.


Still think homosexuality is a 'sin?' Well, let's fast forward a few thousand years, past the point where Judas was burying the supposed dinosaur bones, and take a look at the three references to homosexuality in the New Testament.

First off, there is not one mention of anything relating to homosexuality in the Gospels. All three references come from Paul of Tarsus, in his letters to the Romans, the Corinthians, and last, but not least, to his buddy, Timothy.

Romans 1:26-27 "For this reason [idolatry] God gave them up to passions of dishonor; for even their females exchanged the natural use for that which is contrary to nature, and likewise also the males, having left the natural use of the female, were inflamed by their lust for one another, males with males, committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the recompense which was fitting for their error."

 

This is the most often cited new Testament reference to substantiate that homosexuality is a sin, which is problematic for several reasons: Number one, in no translation does it state that male upon male lust is a sin. It only refers to it as 'shameful.' Furthermore, it establishes that the shame inherent in such lust is the actual punishment for such behavior. To put this another way: If you're gonna be gay, you're gonna be ashamed about it..ha! take that.  

But that is not the greatest problem. Go ahead and read the text above one more time. It clearly states that God's problem was not with homosexuality, but with idolatry. In fact, God punishes the idolators by foisting upon them passions of dishonor. Yes, God made them gay as punishment for worshiping false idols. 

If you are gay, it is because God made you that way...and the punishment for being gay is...ta da...being gay.

Tell me again about sin?

Corinthians 1 6:9-10 "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind"


Again, we are absent any reference to either 'sin' or 'homosexuality.' This letter, in greater context (please, go read...really,) is Paul declaring to the Corinthians that they can't just sit around partying and fucking all day, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. It is a letter advocating celibacy and prayer. Paul states that 'The Kingdom' will be at hand within all of their lifetimes. He states they should stop all sex, remain celibate forgo children, and prepare for the afterlife that is to surely come...oh, about 9:30 or so.

When Paul refers to fornicators, he is referring to those who have sex of any sort. The effeminate is a reference to those who are, in his estimation, practicing idolatry by worshiping material possessions. (You know, shiny clothes!) And last, but not least...abusers of themselves. Ladies and gentlemen, Paul says God is a' commin', so you should probably stop jerking off.

To practice these behaviors, according to Paul, would make one 'unrighteous.' According to him, this was bad because God was surely on his way, and when he got here, he was gonna judge your ass.

He was going to judge your ass. So, tell me again how my jerking off is anyone's call but God? Tell me again how the right to judge is anyone's but God? Tell me again where it has an exception for those 'dirty fucking faggots?'
 

Timothy 1 1:9-10 "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, 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"


Finally! At least the concept of 'sin' appears. Of course, it is in reference to murders, the profane, for liars, for perjured persons, and the wonderful and lovely catch-all "Any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine."

Tell me again where it says in the bible that homosexuality is a sin?

No, seriously...TELL ME IN THE BIBLE WHERE IT SAYS HOMOSEXUALITY IS A SIN!

So, go ahead and interpret the above passages in any way that you see fit in order to justify your position that homosexuality is wrong. Go ahead and argue that Paul was right when he said that the Kingdom of Heaven will appear within his lifetime, that Moses wasn't trying to build an army, that curses exist, that God didn't punish idolators by inflaming their lust...

Go ahead and give me something, anything, to show that your problem with homosexuality is anything other than...you think it is gross.

Because, if that is all you got...then that's your own fucking problem. Meanwhile, I'll be over here dressed in a sequin jumper, singing show tunes in front of a golden calf.

Until then,
Paul Wittmeyer

Friday, July 27, 2012

Occupy Washington circa 1932

Occupy Washington circa 1932
 
In the spring and summer of 1932 43,000 did an Occupy Washington D.C. type live-in in our nation's Capital. The group consisted of 17,000 Veterans and the rest were primarily family members. Many of these Veterans had been out of work since the start of the Great Depression but some since the first World War. These protesters were called the Bonus Army.
 These Veterans were there to protest the "World War Adjusted Compensation Act of 1924." The act had awarded military personnel "credits" for their service. These were in addition to their military pay but were not redeemable until 1945 (there were insurance and additional revenue the government expected to get back at that time). But the rolling '20s had fallen into the Great Depression and these papers were useless for people trying to feed their families.

President Herbert Hoover (hope is just around the corner) was stuck in the situation of dealing with 43,000 people living in tents in Washington D.C. He directed his Attorney General, William D. Mitchell, to order the veterans removed from all government property. The police were sent in with the tools they have, the gun and the club. These veterans had all seen combat and were not going to be moved and after the clash there were between 2 and 15 veterans dead.

Since force had been so effective already, President Hoover ordered the army to clear the campsite. Army Chief of Staff General Douglas MacArthur (yep, that MacArthur) personally commanded the attack. He led the infantry, cavalry and six tanks.

Before we go any further, let me tell you a little about the "Bonus Army" and their ramshackle garbage town they called "Hooverville." They only allowed veterans who could prove they were honorably discharged from the armed service, held daily parades in D.C., and built sanitation systems, to keep their town of garbage dump scavenged materials clean. So, yes this was a blight on the Capital, but it was controlled and clean for basically a bunch of tents and home made shacks.

On July 29th, 1932 at 4:45 p.m., the United States Army, commanded by General MacArthur, supported by tank commander Major George S. Patton (yep, that Patton), and MacArthur's junior aid Major Dwight D. Eisenhower (soon to be general and then President Eisenhower), attacked United States Veterans. The army charged with gunfire and bayonets after an initial volley of vomit inducing adamsite gas.

The veteran protesters and their families fled across the Anacostina River. After clearing them President Hoover ordered the assault stopped. General MacArthur, who thought the protest was a Communist attempt to overthrow the US government (remember this is prior to the Cold War), ignored the President and ordered a new attack. In this second wave of military assault on American Veterans there were a couple deaths, a lot of injuries and 135 arrests and one miscarriage.

These were the good old days. After a financial collapse caused by the abuses of an under regulated financial system a group of Americans staged a live-in. The government of the United States used a military force to disperse them.

 I look around at the Occupy Movement and I see the Bonus Army movement. I see Americans with no other course of action than to put their bodies in a place and not move. I see the violent retaliation of the political establishment on non-violent protest. I am reminded of Dr. King and the attack dogs, Kent State, UC Davis last year and this recent business in Anaheim California. I look around and think about how the Government's monopoly on and use of violence crushes non-violence and leaves citizens with only violence as their last recourse.

I guess this post is a reminder that the good old days never existed and that everything old is new again. Even governments attacking their own citizens.

-Josh

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

One year later


Our first blog post was dated July 15th, 2011. The Offensive Atheists Blog was our first step in this grand idea that we had...the idea of exposing the world as much as we could, and in as many ways as we could, of critical thinking. And all of this was going to come from two guys who had no idea what they were doing.

On July 20th, 2011, Josh and I sat down in front of microphones, and hit record for the first time on what would become REASON Podcast. That was one year ago. The first episode that any of you have heard was recorded August 14th, 2011. We spent a month practicing, preparing, trying not to sound as terrible as we felt we did that first July recording. 

In the year since, we have recorded over 50 episodes, and we have written over a 100 blog posts. We have gone back and listened to the early shows aghast at how bad we sounded, and had similar reactions when reading through our first writings.

We've also watched ourselves grow. Post after post, Show after show, episode after episode, we can see the slow honing of us working towards creating a product that we can be proud of. And, we know that there are still miles to go.

We have also watched more and more of you sign on, log in, and come to the table. We've watched you come, and we've seen you stay. Our number of listeners and readers has gone up consistently since the day we started, and we are happy to report that as of this week, we have officially passed what we consider to be a huge benchmark. As of this week, this show has been downloaded over fifty thousand times, and we have over 10,000 readers of The Offensive Atheists

We are proud of the work we've done, and we love doing what we do. It is that love that has pushed us through the trials of this first year. The hours spent every week preparing and writing, the spontaneous soundboard explosions, dropped microphones, missed ques, failed arguments, and the occasional being put in our place by our critical readership who doesn't allow us to get away with factual inaccuracies, and certainly shouldn't.

And yes, in addition to the time spent, there is also the financial investment that Josh and I have made in our show. Between web-hosting, blog talk radio, the occasional new soundboard, microphones, cables, printers, plugs, adapters, and any one of a thousand different things that we have needed over the past year to keep this ship afloat, it has cost us over five thousand dollars to continue to bring you the show live every Sunday, and fitting in a blog post every now and then. 

It is because of these expenses that the time has come for us to ask for your help. We have started a donation campaign at indiegogo.com. Going to our campaign and donating even a buck or two would put us in your debt, and as you'll see, for a little bit more, there are perks that come with every donation. They range from coffee mugs, to t-shirts, to us devoting entire episodes about who you are, and how wonderful you are. 

You can find the campaign at indiegogo.com/reasonpodcast  Go, and at least check it out, and take a look at the video that took us months and months to make. Do what you can to keep us afloat, and we'll be incredibly grateful.

And with the money that you donate, we will be able to take the show in the directions that we've been dreaming of: moving the show to a live format, and having a studio audience, being able to do more than one episode a week, and being able to do more than one show, finding other podcasts and shows of a skeptical and rational nature, and making a 24 hour channel of intelligent programming. These are just some of our ideas, some of our thoughts on how we can do our part in the fight for intelligence, reason, and critical thinking. We will, of course, keep you informed as to our progress, as always, through The Offensive Atheists.

Our dreams are big, we know...but we've already come so incredibly far...we just need your help to go a bit further.

Paul & Josh
REASON Productions

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

If God can do bad can the Devil do good?

If God can do terrible things for a greater Good then does the Devil do wonderful things for a greater Evil?

 Many Atheists dispute the existence of the biblical God by asking why God commits or allows terrible things to happen. Children born with excruciatingly painful incurable diseases, Starvation, Genocide. These all seem kinda bad. If God is All Knowing and All Powerful and All Good then how does this occur. This is "The Problem of Evil," one of the arguments against the existence of the Biblical God.

I have never used this argument because it seemed silly to me. If God is this all powerful all knowing creature then He would know that there is a best scenario and these seemingly terrible acts lead to a greater Good. This seemed easy enough to brush away and I never gave this argument much thought.

Today I was musing, as I often do, about about the concept of divinity and why people believe this shit. I started thinking about how people thank God for all the good but don't blame him for the bad and it got me thinking... What if it is not God doing these good things? What if it is the Devil?

God allows starvation and death and disease and all that shit for a greater good why would the Devil not commit wonderful acts of kindness for a greater horror?
 Perhaps the Devil helped with the technology needed to transport people to Emergency Rooms in order to facilitate Global Warming. 

Maybe the devil helped Bob Sportsfigure (Michael Vick?) to win the big game in order to make him a big star so he would have the resources to start a dog-fighting ring.

What if the Devil created antibiotics in order to create antibiotic resistance which will bring about a super flu   like in "The Stand"?

Splitting the atom to bring about Armageddon, giving golden tablets to Joseph Smith to make less Christians, giving Israel back to the Jews so the world has to go to war in the Middle East, or maybe appearing to a Saul on the road to Demascus in order to turn Christianity into a new incarnation of the Roman Pagan faith?

It is worth a thought. If God allows and commits atrocity to bring about a greater good how do the religious know that their blessing is not just the Devil doing good to bring about a greater Evil?

-Josh





Sunday, July 8, 2012

An angry response


On our Facebook page, we posted was is admittedly a disturbing picture comparing God to an abusive spouse. We also put it up here. See, right there --->

 A person chose to respond to this picture with the following: (The caps really are hers!) IM OFFENDED BY THIS PICTURE BECAUSE NO WHERE IN THE BIBLE DOES IT SAY THAT GOD SAYS ANY OF THESE NON RELIEABLE QUOTES 
(sic)

Now, for some reason, either Facebook itself, or one of my compatriots, marked this as spam, and moved on. "ein minuten bitte" said I, for I felt that her words required a response. Now, since the post is several days old now, and Timeline, as you all know, can really suck sometimes, it stood to reason that most of our loyal followers may never go back it time(line) to read my lenghty and researched rebuttal. NO NO NO, this cannot stand, I say! So, I decided to post it here so that we all can share in the fun. And, if you want to follow along and see if [person] ever replies, then just take a look at our REASON Podcast Facebook page.  

What follows is my response:


[Person], In spite of your inability to find that pesky caps lock key, I have decided to address your statement. I shall begin by saying that the quote marks are slightly misleading, but to represent that the above statements do not represent the will of God is a position that could only be held by someone who has not taken a look at this so called holy book that you refer to. I shall now address each statement, which YOU imply is not the intention of your God:

1) 'You're nothing without me' (John 15:5) - I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

2) 'If you even think about leaving me...' (1 Corinthians 5:13) - God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”

3) 'You don't deserve me.' (Matthew 10:38-39) - Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

4) ' You'll never find anyone as good as me.' (Exodus 20:3) - You shall have no other gods before me.

5) 'You brought this upon yourself.' (Jeremiah 2:17) - Have you not brought this on yourselves by forsaking the Lord your God when he led you in the way?

6) 'I know best.' (Luke 13:3) - For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

7) 'You're a terrible person, and you need to do better.' (Luke 13:3) - I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.

8) ' You're not worthy of my love.' (Romans 3:23) - for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

9) 'I'm only doing this because I love you.' (Hebrews 12:6) - because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.

10) 'Do not listen to anyone who doesn't understand what we have' (Psalm 14:1) - The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.


So, [person], I hope that straightens out any misunderstandings resulting from the (admittedly improper) quotes. If that does not clear it up, however...let me summarize: Your God is a wicked, horrible monster, and you should be ashamed of yourself for standing behind the words I just quoted above.

-Paul Wittmeyer

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The story so far

The following is what was written for the 'about us' section for wnyatheist.org. We decided to share it as a blog post, as well.

The Atheist Community of Buffalo, and Western New York was started in July of 2011, after a particularly fortuitous trip to New York City for the Fourth of July. The trip itself was quite an experience, to say the least, but what was most impactful were the eight hours spent sitting on a train slowly working its way West to our region of the Empire State.

The product of those eight hours were thoughts and conversations about science, history, philosophy, sociology, caring, mattering, making a difference in the world, fighting uphill against the gigantic crosses that scattered the landscape of the farms of believers between Albany and Buffalo. Looking at those crosses,  and wondering, exactly, why it was that we had talked about finding fellow Atheists in the Buffalo area, but haven't lifted a finger to do so. Wondering why it was that we had talked about doing a Podcast for years, but just never quite got around to it. Wondering why having the Center For Inquiry in our backyard never got our asses up, and out on a Friday night to hear lectures given by people that we admire, and have been reading, and reading about, for years. We wondered if we would sit in our air-conditioned offices for years, wondering why we never decided to act.

And so, returning home without any answers...we decided to dive head first into the Atheist Community of our hometown. We decided to find out who was doing what, throw ourselves in the thick of it.  And, after doing our research, here is what we found:

Whoever said organizing Atheists is like herding cats was not wrong.

A quick Google search brought us to our first collection of Atheists, "The Atheist Experience of Western New York." This group met for coffee twice a month, and discussed what most Atheist groups discuss - World Domination...of course. There may have been some tangents into religious iconography being somewhat pornographic, at times, and I believe someone professed to being convinced that the Pope keeps a gumball machine in his hat.

There was also a group called "Drinking Skeptically," which had fallen into disrepair.

Then there is "The Buffalo Freethought Society" - Another Coffee Meetup that we've not been able to attend because of the conflict of doing a live radio show on Sundays at 8pm, right around when they meet.

"Atheist Potluck" at the Center for Inquiry - A hit and miss chance to share some good food with some good company, but not the most reliable of trains.

"Buffalo State Freethinkers" - a student run group at Buffalo State College.

"UB Freethinkers" - a student run group at the University at Buffalo.

"The Center For Inquiry" - an organization whose mission statement is: to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.

" WNY Atheists, Freethinkers and Secularists." - a Facebook group which is the closest thing that these groups have to a home base.

What all of these organizations have in common are the advancement and support of Atheists, Humanists, Skeptics, and those who believe in science and logic and evidence and facts. Also in common were several members, who went from group to group. What was missing was some sort of a cohesive whole. And, that is where we come in: Trying to build a community out of all of these houses of lack of worship.

And so, The Atheist Community of Buffalo and Western New York was formed. Formed, with the intention of having all of the relevant information for anyone interested, all in one, easy to find place.

In the past year of our existence, we have managed to do just that. We've been able to introduce groups together, exchange members, and direct new faces on where to go to meet up with the like minded folk.
But our work doesn't end there. As we get these groups together, it surprises us as much as anyone just how many of us there really are. And with these large numbers, we can move forward with forcing society to no longer ignore us, forcing politics to acknowledge we exist, and being the force for change in the Buffalo area, in the Western New York area, and beyond. If we have the numbers, then we have the power. The Power to stood up and be recognized, the power to invoke change, the power to have our voice in what happens in our schools, our communities, and in our Country and the World as a whole.

Members of every single one of the above mentioned groups attended the Reason Rally, March 24th, 2012, on the Mall in Washington, D.C.  Members of every single one of these groups saw the power in numbers, and the difference that we can make.

There is a long road to travel, and it will be years, for example, before we could use this website as a portfolio when applying for any random web development job without any fear of biasing a potential employer. The road is long, but we've come so far. The road is long, but with each step we relish in the small victories of watching our attendance grow, as it has at coffee, at Drinking Skeptically, and on the Internet.

We started The Atheist Community of Buffalo and Western New York because we wanted to have a community of our own. What we didn't realize was that we had one all along. And, if we have made it easier for people to feel more welcome, less excluded...if we have done even a small part to open people's eyes to the fact that you are not alone, that there are others who think like you, who will welcome you, and who will probably even buy you a cup of coffee or a beer, then, we will sleep better at night for it.

Thank you to everyone who has helped along the way. And we thank those who continue to help us as we continue to grow.

-The Atheist Community of Buffalo and Western New York

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Longest Day...

Today is the 21st of June. Yesterday was the summer solstice and it went by without much fanfare. Years ago it was referred to as Midsummer and there were celebrations and parties. A celebration of the longest day and a the promise of continued happiness for the year. It was a time for merriment and outdoor fun. Then the Christians came.

The Christians hate astronomy. They always have. Maybe it is because they did not want anyone looking up there and seeing there was no God. Maybe they saw it as too close to astrology and that was a competing meme so they crushed it. Maybe it was all the non-religious study and the great minds being allowed to think about something other than God. As time went on they became afraid of a heliocentric solar system and the proof that the bible was wrong. In any effect, they hated astronomy.

Eventually Christianity, to conquer some Pagan territory, had to accept a midsummer-ish festival. Like they did with Christmas but the other side of the year. Problem for the prissy Christians is that Midsummer was a time of dance and debauchery and that was hard to beat out of the Christo-pagans. Saint John's Day (or the Feast of St. John-as in John the Baptist), the Christian/Catholic attempts to co-opt Midsummer failed and never picked up a lot of steam. If you do wish to celebrate it I have heard that it is still a good sized party in Voodoo and celebrated in New Orleans. So, good luck with that.

Aside from Voodoo, who celebrates the summer solstice in the modern era?  The Neopagans sometimes celebrate Lita, Some Atheists and Scientific Pantheists, like myself, experience it as a celestial marker and offer it respect. Many cultures and countries have held on to the holiday more loosely, Canada celebrates their independence on July 1st and the US follows on July 4th (week and a half and 2 weeks following solstice). French Canadians in Quebec actually celebrate the Feast of Saint John and it is a Holiday. Across Europe (old Christendom and old Pagan-dom) people still have little celebrations usually more reminiscent of pre-Christian Pagan festivals than the Church's attempted replacement; huge bonfires and all night parties. Naked dancing and revelry and the like.

So, the solstice is the longest day for earth, right? Well, no.

Firstly, there is a Northern Solstice and a Southern Solstice. The one we North Americans and Europeans celebrate is the Northern one. The Southern hemisphere has theirs at Christmas time.

Secondly, it is not the day at all. It is a time. This year it was June 20th at 07:09 Universal Time (UT). UT is basically just Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)but more accurate. For our purposes it is the same. For anyone who does not know GMT is the time on the Prime Meridian or zero degrees longitude. No surprise that the English, when they conquered the world, named a city in England as point zero for all geography.

The summer solstice is when the axial tilt of the Earth (or any planet for that matter) for a given hemisphere is more inclined toward the Sun (or other stat) than at any other moment throughout the year.  Earth's maximum tilt at the solstice (north or south) is twenty three degrees twenty six minutes (23° 26'). During the solstice the sun reaches it's highest point in the as seen from the north or south poles.

As we know this occurs between June 20 and June 22 each year while the summer solstice occurs between December 20 and 23. The winter solstice is just the other date as I am sure you know but probably do not think about. Imagine that it is the shortest day and the beginning of winter in Australia.


I wrote this because I was thinking about the summer solstice and thought you might be too. Happy Belated Solstice folks!!


-Josh

Monday, June 18, 2012

Why can't these parents teach their children how to think


Father’s Day.  Like Mother’s Day, it is just another in a long string of Hallmark holidays meant to get all the children of the world to buy a card and a gift for one of the two most important people in anyone’s life, their parents. It always makes me think of my own father, who passed away 4 years ago, and all the things that he taught me. Now, a lot of people say that, that they thank their parents for all they taught them however, I would say for some people, maybe most people, that’s a bunch of bullshit.
                Most people simply don’t think, were never taught how to think, and when it comes to their children they certainly aren’t teaching them to think, either. When we are living in a world where one of our greatest sources of entertainment is watching some kids on the New Jersey shoreline take shots until their clothes come off,  I start to worry about the state of the world. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that only dumb people don’t show their children how to think. Smart people do it too, all the time. Take, for instance, baby-proofing.
                Everything about raising a child now is focused on safety, safety, safety. I recently baby proofed my home since I now have a toddler who is into absolutely everything. There is a safety device for, literally, every item in my home…literally. Front door? Handle Lock. Stove? Oven door lock, knob locks, burner guards. Refrigerator?  Door lock. Toilet?  Lid lock.  Every door in my home?  Finger guards and knob locks. Cabinets?  Cabinet locks. It’s ridiculous. I found myself asking as I was walking through the official ‘be afraid’ section of the store, “What happened to us simply teaching our children not to touch the stove?” It all made me think that this all simply proves that 1) parents are now too lazy/busy to actually discipline and teach their children and/or 2) we are way too overly obsessed with safety.
                Now, I’m not Jeff Foxworthy, and I’m not suggesting you simply watch your kid pull the TV on their head or put the penny in the light socket “He’ll learn”, no, I’m simply saying that we should be focusing on teaching our children to think not simply take away their ability to hurt themselves. That day in the safety section I only bought cabinet locks, to keep him out of the chemicals under the sink. I will eventually get a knob lock for the front door once he can reach it so that he doesn’t sneak out of the house in the middle of the night (I’m assuming my son will be smart enough to decipher the door lock). Other than that, I can handle teaching him not to do everything else that someone wants to sell a product to me to protect against. Eventually, he will be able to decide for himself what is safe and what isn’t due to proper guidance from his parents. I’m dedicated to my kid not being the toy swallower and paste eater. Although paste is incredibly delicious (or at least it was when I was 6 or 7. Rubber cement is also one of the best smells on Earth) so, I kinda don’t blame paste eaters.
                Show your kids how to make choices. Let them get into some trouble to learn lessons. They will bump their head a couple times, they will take tumbles, they will pull things over. That’s how kids learn. If we simply put bumpers all around their world how will they ever become adults who can avoid danger? If we never allow our children to make decisions and choose to avoid something, with our guidance of course, then how will they ever learn to think for themselves?
                The purpose of parenting is to produce a functioning and successful member of the human race. To produce one who has the potential to make a difference in the world. In my opinion, coddling and protecting to a fault doesn’t help produce this effect. Coddling and over-protection produces someone co-dependent who is ready to be a sheep. My goal is to help shape an independent and rational man someday when my little boy grows up. For now, I will kiss his boo-boos to make them better but I will not stop him from playing and exploring for himself just because he got a bump or a bruise. Bumps and bruises are part of growing up. Our scars all taught us something and in that process we also learned how to make decisions, how to understand our environment, and how to avoid that boo-boo in the future. We learned how to think. We should all have that as a goal; children who can think and consequently a more rational set of adults in about 10-20 years.

-Colleen Amos