"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words." ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Monday, November 28, 2016

Carriker Barrel

Cracker Barrel Ornament ~ It's what's for Christmas!

I have always liked that old - timey way of describing a homespun discussion as a "cracker barrel" debate. And I have always enjoyed breakfast with my family at the Cracker Barrel. In fact, we enjoy it so much that when we make it happen, and we're all sitting around feasting and debating, we call it the Carriker Barrel.

Here We Are, Carriker Barrelling
Younger & Older Brothers

Twin / Middle Brother with Daughters

Younger Sis Di & Big Kids (missing a few Littles)

Older Sis Peg & Fam

Way back in the pre - facebook days, one of my uncles wrote encouragingly as one of our e-mail debates drew to a conclusion: "One thing more I'd like to say. I firmly believe that the e-mail discussion / debate (call it what you will) we've been having should be the kind of talk that people all across America should be engaged in on a regular basis. Sure we don't agree on every point; but we're jarring one another's minds and belief systems. I am "sick to death" of people who won't take part in discussions about serious matters; I'm "up to here" with people who can't get into these kind of discussions without becoming insulting or making a personal attack on someone they disagree with. I'm "totally fed up" with the fact that Americans are afraid to challenge one another's beliefs anymore. What ever happened to the old cracker barrel discussion concept? Is that another thing we "threw away" over the past several decades? I personally want to thank every one of you guys who have weighed in on this discussion. If these kinds of discussions became more common we would have a better country."

Always one to facilitate our groupthink, Uncle Don once suggested that we all write essays using the word audacious or focusing somehow on audacity. My two sisters and I were quick to submit our entries (click to read: Peg ~ Di ~ Kit).

Another time, the suggested theme was "Remember When," and my brother Aaron wrote:
Wow! This became quite a deep subject after starting as a simple "nostalgic" email. I guess I'll add my .02 cents worth to the discussion.

I'm not trying to be a "yes man," but I think both Jerrod and Uncle Don make valid points in their arguments; however, I think Alicia hit the nail on the head. While I love technology (I mean, Harleys don't leak oil anymore!), I think it's a very sad statement on our society when we, as parents or grandparents, are afraid to let our children play outside, unattended. Or are afraid to let them ride their bikes to the city park for fear of some sick, sadistic individual preying on them. Or are afraid to let them come home from school to an empty house, without a parent being home. Did we (or our parents) have that same fear 30, 40 and 50 years ago? No! The biggest fear we had, as kids, was if we were going to get enough guys together to be able to play a decent game of sandlot baseball or football -- and in emergency situations, girls were allowed! In the event that we couldn't pull that off, we played "500" or "hotbox" or "smear the queer" or some other "politically incorrect" version of tag.

The point is -- if there is one! -- that we were "kids" and we played like kids. We couldn't wait to get our "chores" done so we could get outside and play. And if one of us would've said, lets watch TV -- all 4 channels of it -- instead, the rest of us would've looked at him like he was crazy! TV was for watching cartoons and baseball on Saturdays and football on Sundays. (Okay, there was "Dark Shadows," the best daytime TV ever!) But today's kids will stay up half the night watching TV or playing on the computer and then spend most if not all the next day in front of the same, watching more of the same or playing video games. And when they do get out, they go to the mall to buy more movies and video games.

I'm not a sociologist, so I don't know if "technology" is the cause or the effect of where our society has gone in the past 35 - 40 years, but I do know this. From a personal viewpoint of someone who grew up in the waning days of the "Leave It To Beaver" and "Andy Griffith Show" era, and saw the birth of the "technology age" and the very first video game, Pong, which Peg and Ron had -- Yes Jerrod & Dan, your Mom and Dad! -- I believe that children "back then" had a much more fulfilled childhood, with zero (or very little) technology at their disposal than today's children have with all their gadgets and gizmos. As someone has already pointed out, kids grow up way too fast and it really is a shame. So from a child's perspective, I wouldn't trade "the good old days" for all of today's technology.

Having said all that, I'm not saying I want to go back to living in a cave, but I do feel that technology has robbed us (and more-so our children) of a much simpler, slower paced lifestyle. We've become a society of immediate gratification (email vs. snail mail, pizzas in 30 min or less, etc.) and sometimes it's good to just slow down and enjoy the simpler things in life. That's one of the things I enjoyed so much back in the day when I was an avid backpacker. It really is gratifying to put a pack on your back, leave society and technology behind, and be able to live totally self-sufficient for a week or so at a time. (As I was typing that last sentence I realize that it can be seen as somewhat hypocritical, seeing that a lot of technology goes into modern, lightweight backpacking gear. . . oh well. . . ) So while technology has vastly improved our quality of life in some respects, I agree that it's also taken away from the more personal human experience.

Happy Holidays 2008! ~ Aaron

Now, in addition to all of the technologies of 2008, we have facebook, where my brothers Dave and Bruce are good to keep us on our toes. A few fortnights ago, I promised the continuation of one of our more recent Cracker / Carriker Barrels initiated by Dave. So, allow me to pick up where we left off, with insights from Cousin Nick:
Nick: Totally agree with the portrayal of smoking in movies. In real life, not that many people smoke. Of course, how real are the portrayals of any group of people in movies / TV? Hispanics are nearly 40% of the US population. Do you see anywhere near 40% of characters being Hispanic? Don't even get me started with the (nonexistence of) Asians. Homosexuals are far less than 10% yet (granted I only see certain shows from the U.S. here in Bangkok) yet almost every TV series has a homosexual couple. None of that lessens the effect of nearly every person in a movie smoking non stop and what that does to entice kids to start. Same with guns. People complain about all these guns, yet movies and TV support the wild west gun toting, shoot em up, gang banging myth/mystique. And we continue to go see these movies.

That said, if you don't have to breathe it, why does my health bother you so much? I smoke cigars and cigarettes, and had a GREAT night at Opa Carriker's house where we could smoke inside while comfortable. Thanks again, Dave. Never felt more welcomed and at home anywhere else. What happened to the "it's my body" battle cry? I know what you're going to say: but non-smokers are saddled with the medical costs of smokers. Ok. What about alcohol, wearing seat belts (minors, yes) motorcycle helmets (minors, yes), marijuana and other recreational drugs (in the privacy of your own house, not driving or dealing), sweets, fast food, junk food, unprotected sex, and a plethora of other "vices" and unsafe practices that don't hurt anyone but the do-er and their immediate family (grieving, caregiving)?

Why only cigarettes?

Kitti: Allow me to insert a quick answer here:
Not only cigarettes! I don't care for marijuana smoking
in movies either and all those stupid fake getting high scenes.
I take an equal opportunity approach:
both should be legal, both should be taxed,
and both should be omitted from movies.

Nick: And even more so, do you actually want to live in a society where others dictate your lifestyle to you? I don't.

Kitti: My answer is the same is yours -- no I don't!
I am not suggesting that prohibitions be imposed.
I'm not looking ahead 80 years to a world where no one
smokes because the laws are so harsh;
I'm looking for a world where people, of their own volition,
choose against smoking.

Nick: War? I'm with you 100%! Wish I could express my feelings as eloquently as you Kitti. I'm no war hero, never shot at or got shot at, but I was "locked and loaded" on many occasions and a soldier for almost 24 years. War is just so far beneath us as human beings.

Kitti: A poem you might like: "Life at War" ~ Denise Levertov
". . . nothing we do has the quickness, the sureness,
the deep intelligence living at peace would have."

Nick: Gender inequity? As a father of 4 daughters (who I believe are pretty "feminist"), I wonder what exactly are the improvements that need to be made to reach your target? I'm genuinely curious. It's not perfect but 1) men and women ARE different, so how can people be different yet equal? 2) women are/have run(ing) for president, have held most positions of leadership, can do anything they want in the military (but don't have to sign up for the selective service in order to get federal student loans, and drivers licenses), can decide to keep or abort a baby with no input or knowledge of the choice from the father, can apply for virtually any job (and get preference as a female).

What's left? I know it's not complete "equity," but seriously, I am GENUINELY interested in what you (plural) want / expect?

I thought we were pretty much there. I've got my bio-daughter on a free ride scholarship to Case Western Reserve University . . . majoring in physics with a world of opportunity before her. Another daughter is opening her own business. One is. . . starting college in the fall. And the youngest is a mathematical rock star . . . on the tennis, track, and basketball team (yeah -- basketball is segregated, you win), running the school's new TV station, probably at least student council VP next year, head of the yearbook...

What are their limitations?

Yes, not all girls are that lucky, but then you're moving into racial, or better yet economical bias or inequity -- which also sucks -- for lack of a better word.

I'm honestly interested in your answers Kitti, and I hope you're not offended by my asking. (I know you were an English major, but I 2- thumbed this on a small cell phone. Spelling, grammar, or punctuation mistakes are not an indication of stupidity on my part.)

Now, I'm going to go ride my motorcycle without a helmet, to my local liquor store to buy some more scotch, ride it back home (helmet-less), and go drink my scotch, while I smoke a cigar(s), in the sun with no sun screen, while snacking on fatty deep fried foods and sweets, and then have unprotected sex (with my wife of course, so that doesn't really count, but in a society where "bad" things are decided by the autocracy and can be made illegal, one could be forced to have only projected sex with one's own spouse because they could be cheating.

Have a great day / night!

Enjoyed reading everyone's posts - made me think. I like thinking. ~ Nick

Kitti: Nick, you needn't fear! Am I checking for grammatical errors? Nope! Am I offended? Nope! Did I answer all your question: I hope so!

A few closing thoughts on gender issues. You ask, "What's left? Aren't we pretty much there? What do women want / expect? What are the limitations?"

First, I worry about the role of women in a country soon to be led by a man who feels entitled to leer sexually, even at his own daughters. Despite all the men in America and in my family who love and respect the women in their lives, the acceptance of such lascivious public discourse defies belief and damages the position of all women. Until this kind of callous objectification is eliminated, we are not "there" yet.

Second, we are not "there" yet, as long as I can still attend a formal event and hear a speaker (male) begin his keynote address with a tired old sexist cliche --
“A good speech should be like a woman's skirt; long enough
to cover the subject and short enough to create interest.”

-- that relies solely on the assumption that women are for gawking at. I don't care if it is attributed to Winston Churchill, it is not funny; it's embarrassing. And I'm not talking decades ago at a bachelor party but recently at a holiday dinner on a university campus, where half of the guests were women.

This kind of so - called humor gives women in the audience three choices:
1. be one of the guys, guffaw guffaw

2. assume that you too are a sex object, valued for your legs, for your skirt, and for being stared at

3. know that you are in a some other sub - category of women who are no longer -- or have never been -- considered sexually desirable -- so no worries, right?
For any self - respecting woman in the audience these are three equally uncomfortable and insulting options.

Third, religion, has a long way to go before it is part of the solution rather than part of the problem. My son Ben has predicted the demise of religion (see below), but lets say that it stays around, then one of my required targets for gender equity would be to see the Catholic Church relinquish its opposition to female priests. I rank this as important whether or not I'm a Catholic because the Catholic Church has over a billion adherents worldwide and a great sphere of influence. Why not use that massive influence in the interest of including women rather than excluding?

Since I've already dragged in Ulysses S. Grant's opinion on war, here's Jimmy Carter's opinion on how the role of women in the church informs their role in society at large:

My brother Bruce once accused me of feminist revisionism -- guess what? Guilty as charged! Because I believe that one way to have a revolution is to fix the language! Because "Words matter. Words that we recite repeatedly matter even more. They shape us and change us in ways we can not fully understand." For more on this aspect of gender inequity, please see my previous blogpost of radical ideas for Bastille Day and everyday. I am sorely tempted to start repeating myself at this point, but I will forebear and bring this Carriker Cracker Barrel to a close with a quotation that I believe perfectly captures the spirit of Dave's original premise to imagine how we might improve the world for our future selves:

“I like the dreams of the future
better than the history of the past."
~~ Thomas Jefferson ~~

Next Fortnightly Post
Wednesday, December 14th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading

Monday, November 14, 2016

Election Aftermath

"We live in a perpetually burning building,
what we must save from it, all the time, is love."

~~ Tennessee Williams ~~

The Burning of the White House, 1814
painted in 2004 by American artist
Tom Freeman (1952 - 2015)


Also on my book blog

A month ago, I shared some words of deep wisdom from my brother Bruce Carriker concerning the upcoming election. Now the day has come and gone, and in the wake of the event, I remain stunned that so many citizens aided and abetted in the election of a sociopath. I take no blame for that. And I dare them to look me in the eye without shame.

I resent the platitude going around that in the end we all share more similarities than differences. Guess what? No we don't! It's not just a difference of political opinion and we can now kiss and make up. This is utterly and absolutely abhorrent! This is about humanity vs inhumanity.

Every person who voted for Trump gave the message that it is acceptable to belittle women, to mimic disabilities . . . the list is so long, but I'll stop there. What more does one need? He showed us who he is -- believe him! I simply cannot fathom how anyone could condone his comportment. I'm dismayed to live in a country where nearly half the voters, both men and women, think that's okay. As my son Ben texted, as early as 10:30pm, when we began to see the writing on the wall: "What the actual f - - k?"

On the other hand, Ben also offered a ray of light: "The sky will sit a little lower, but it won't fall. America is robust to this sort of nonsense" (also, see comment from Ben below and click here for sobering and reassuring post - election thoughts from Bruce).

I still don't have an answer to the questions my friend Anna Loh asked: "How do we explain this to our children? How do we hold ourselves up as an example to the world? We just rewarded hatred, classless, bigoted behavior. . . . And please understand the message that the granddaughters of this country got last night. We'd rather have a hate filled, bigoted, angry man as president than a woman who has given her entire life to service."

Deplorable! That actually is the correct adjective, even though Hillary tried to apologize for saying it. Not me -- I will say it! Deplorable!

It has been a tough and tearful week.

In one of his recent articles, Tim Urban repeats a line that we have been encountering repeatedly to explain why people would vote for Trump:

"People vote for hope and change when they’re in pain."

What this comment seems to overlook or underrate is that for me and my friends -- and all those women who took their little daughters to the polls or voted in honor of their grandmothers -- a vote for Hillary wasn't a vote for the status quo -- it was a "vote for hope and change."

For now, I'm keeping the following passage in mind, because it seems to capture our collective broken heartedness:
"The world is violent and mercurial - it will have its way with you. We are saved only by love - love for each other and the love that we pour into the art we feel compelled to share: being a parent; being a writer; being a painter; being a friend. We live in a perpetually burning building, and what we must save from it, all the time, is love."
~ Tennessee Williams

An Ironic Post Script to this Post Mortem
Unbeknownst to us at the time, we foretold the future . . .

Looking through my damning emails, I came across a note from November 2012, asking a friend if she had attended an election vigil in neighborhood and telling her about the one at which I inadvertently found myself: "There were actual Romeny / Mourdock supporters in the room. Can you believe?! It nearly made me sick to my stomach. Why would anyone knowlingly invite mixed - party guests on election night? I felt so self - righteous but also obnoxious for putting my foot in my mouth before I realized -- and when I did realize, I felt as if I had been duped into attending. Even though Obama won, my soul is still shocked that the popular vote was so close, that we live in a country filled with so many deluded cold - hearted selfish greedy holier - than - thou asshats (and that I myself was at a party with some of them).

My eloquent facebook friend Michael Lipsey, also writing in 2012, expressed it so much better than my rant about being invited to a stupid party under false pretenses:

"I feel drained today; it’s been a perilous cliffhanger. Not that I think we’re about to embark on something great, but that we narrowly avoided something enormously worse that has metastasized out of greed, religious fanaticism & intolerance, and loony economic theory. The Republicans fought the New Deal, social security, unemployment insurance, Medicare, national health care, inheritance taxes for the rich, integration, equal rights for blacks, women, minorities, immigration reform, gay rights, regulation of banks and Wall Street, environmental protection, Clean Water, consumer protection — just about everything decent thing the government has ever done these bastards have opposed.

"Pundits are saying that this now virtually lily-white, aging party with a base of fundamentalists and bitter, uneducated, conspiracy - minded extremists clinging to the fringes of the middle class, is going to have to become more inclusive or be doomed to perpetual minority status in a rapidly diversifying and more highly educated America. Given their record and having driven every liberal and progressive out of their party, I’m not holding my breath. Let’s hope that Obama, with four more years and free of the burden of reelection, will be able to take his shot at greatness, as the more sensible members of the Congressional majority are licking their wounds and rethinking their mantra of NO to anything the least progressive."

Michael so accurately described their deplorable methods -- opposing all that's decent and saying "no" to anything progressive -- yet it worked out for them, and here we are four years later not even in the same boat, but in a much much worse boat.

As Gerry has warned me many a time :
things can always get worse!

Next Fortnightly Post
Monday November 28th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading