Madison To Portland

After a year of pinching pennies and planning, Beth and I set out for a 7,000 mile two month road trip. On June 21st we set out in a packed Honda Element from our home in Madison. Our first stop was Minneapolis to see friends and family. I jumped on my bike north of St. Michael, MN and rode to the Northeast District of Minneapolis to watch some friends win a softball game. I have heard the bike infrastructure in the city is fantastic, and was not disappointed. Well manicured trails wind through the city often ensconced in forest. It’s easy to forget you’re cruising through a city of 400,000. Many of the industrial buildings have large graf pieces and murals covering the rear of the structures bringing an added dash of color to an already beautiful trek. The quality of the art leads me to believe these are sanctioned pieces. All told I rode from the northern most point down to Eagan. The trails are dizzying at times. Each side of the road has its own trail and the areas around Ft. Snelling and the Minnehaha Falls are a weaving patch work criss-crossing one another. To someone unfamiliar it’s a bit difficult to navigate. Even the route navigation got confused. “Turn left, sharp left, then turn left.” Not terribly helpful GPS but thanks for trying. In any case what a great ride.

Home away from Home

Home away from Home

Next we hit Fargo, ND. The land flattened and the sky was rife with billowing cumulus clouds. We stayed with a friend who took us for drinks ranging from fine dining to holes in the wall. Fargo struck me as an average college town, but there seemed something more under the surface. It may not be on a list of destination you must see, but what great town. Under ranked in my mind.

We left the next day tearing across the whole of North Dakota in a day. The little four cylinder engine strained under its full load as we flew past fields and truck stops at 85 MPH. We crossed the Montana state line and arrived in Makoshika State Park. Never having heard of the place we were in for a pleasant surprise. It was like a verdant Badlands. With colorfully banded rock formations, bright birds, and fields of juniper and sage it was an aggregate of joy for the senses. We drove into the park climbing 15% grades on rutted gravel roads. Many of the roads could only accommodate one vehicle at a time. We found a camp site with good tree cover and a lovely sandstone formation. We positioned the tent the shade and read the names and words etched in the back of the stone.

Makoshika State Park. Photo Credit: Beth Crook

Makoshika State Park. Photo Credit: Beth Crook

As the sun set we hiked out on a grassy plateau to watch the sky streak with colors over a landscape similarly banded in brilliance. With no campers within eyesight we enjoyed a bottle of wine by the fire and turned in for the night, drifting off to sleep with the wind serenading us through the thick needles of the pine stand.

Sun falls across the rock the black K-T line clearly visible.

Sun falls across the rock the black K-T line clearly visible.

Waking the next morning in our little two person tent, sun streaking through the trees, we had the pleasant sage and juniper air greet our faces. There is no water in the park save at the ranger station, so after a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs with a spring mix wrapped in tortillas we made our way back down the winding dirt road in the truck. The ranger informed us we were allowed to hike anywhere. Yes, anywhere. We filled our water drove back up the trail hiking the shorter trails as we went. Natural land bridges, capstones, and a thousand variants of vibrant stone entranced us. Dinosaur fossils have been recovered in the park, and K-T mass extinction sediment layer is clear to the naked eye. If you hope to find the remnants of 46 million year old creatures, look below that black line belted through the rock formations. We stocked up on water and forayed into the wilderness. Horses sporting various brands met us at the trail head,

DSCF6465 DSCF6469flipping their heads when we came closer to the foals. Taking a wrong turn we struggled up eroding rock faces pulling our bodies up on sage and thorny brush as the loose ground crumbled under our weight. The landscape changes rapidly in a matter of yards. Some is a gray stone appearing soft but is actually sure ground. Next you step on copper colored stones that give way like marbles, and should you reach the top you find stands of pine, wind swept rock faces, and flowered sage prairie. The landscape is mesmerizing and disorienting. While the landscape is radically varied, it all somehow all looks the same. We kept close watch we didn’t lose visual contact with landmarks and orientation to the sun. After a few miles of trekking up and down the stone and sage we returned to camp exhausted, splintered, and satisfied. Once again we drifted off to sleep listening to the pines whisper to the chirping bats.

Capstone

Capstone

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Western Yellow-bellied Racer

Western Yellow-bellied Racer

The following morning we packed up the car and headed out missing the land almost before it was out of view. We tore across Montana all day enjoying the wide open skies and abandoned buildings and implements dotting the landscape whirring past. We arrived in Helena National Forest that evening and set up camp in the forest at a $5 camp site. It was stunningly peaceful. The mountains rose up around us as Moose creek bubbled not 20 feet from our tent.
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We packed quickly and thanked the creek for the soothing sleep sounds it gave us. It was time to drive through the mountains. Luckily the little four banger humming under the hood liked the high altitude and we purred through canyons, steep climbs, and switchbacks. I was amazed at the skill of the truckers maneuvering their heavy loads up and down massive elevations jake braking, shifting, and slinging tons of freight through the throngs of smaller faster moving vehicles. The mountains themselves were breathtaking blotting out of the sky and peril they present. Falling rocks, burnt sections of forest, and rushing rivers gave me perspective of what Lewis and Clark had to contend with as they crossed the same land in 1805. Men of true grit to say the least.

At last we broke out of range and land flattened giving both the car and our nerves some reprieve. We missed a turn at some point and were forced onto rural highways somewhere in southern Washington. The fact this was the first time we were lost since leaving Madison is remarkable to say the least. The detour gave us first hand knowledge of what a wild fire truly is. As we traced our way to tiny abandoned towns save a bar and filling station, we saw a haze on the horizon obscuring the mountains. Beth posited it was fog, but it seemed far to dry. In fact, if I were to write a book about the drive it would be called “50 Shades of Brown”. Nothing was green. Even the riverbeds were diminished to sand trails hinting that water had once been there. As we neared the haze we cleared a rise there and before us laid scorched earth as far as you can see. Water trucks and fire fighters prepped at staging areas, mobile LED signs redirected traffic from the affected areas, observation planes circled the sky, and acrid smoke wafted through miles and miles of sky. Fighting that fire seemed insurmountable, and yet brave men with small tanker trucks, water packs, picks and shovels drove across burnt expanses of dirt toward the thickening smoke. Truly brave. Truly heroic.

We planned to camp in the Maryhill State Park on the shores of the sprawling Columbia river, but the site was full of firefighters staging to go undoubtedly to the land we had just left. The Goldendale Observatory is located nearby and Beth and I were primed to see the rings of Saturn, green-blue-red nebulae, and arc of the Milky Way. We bought a day pass and enjoyed a picnic on the shores of the Columbia staring at the cliffs of Oregon on the opposite shore waiting for night to fall. Finally the sun sank low in the sky and we drove up from the river bed to the top of a nearby rise. The Observatory seemed quiet and uninviting. We parked and sauntered to the door. It. Was. Closed. We had been in the car for nine hours that day and crossed most of five states in the past couple days. We broke out in a sort of disgusted desperate laughter. As defeating as it was, the laughter brightened us and we stared out over the valley as we considered our options. We were a mere two hours from Portland. Being Maryhill was full our option was to sleep in the car at a travel plaza parking lot. The choice was clear. Portland or bust. We crossed into Oregon. The blackness of the mountains in the night made the bridge over the Columbia looked like a road to nowhere. We pushed through the night, moon glinting off the Columbia to our right, mountains looming black and ominous to our left, and Venus and Jupiter reflecting brilliantly in the sky above. Unshowered and shipped across 700 miles for 11 hours in a vibrating box we arrived met by hugs of friends and cool gin gimlets. Thousands of miles. A matter of days. Madison to Portland.


A Capitol Killing

By the Jail in Madison WI

By the Jail in Madison WI

Tony Robison’s killing by Officer Kenny was determined to be legal according Dane County DA. Police sent officers to Williamson St. in Madison WI on March 6, 2015 due to reports of a man (Robinson) darting in and out of traffic, and assaulting two people. Officer Kenny was the first on the scene, reported hearing a disturbance inside a home, entered and was attacked by Robinson. Tony pushed the officer hard enough to break the drywall. The officer then backed out the door firing his revolver seven times, hitting Robinson five times. Kenny performed CPR, but Robinson died at the hospital. Robinson was later determined via autopsy to have Xanax, psilocybin mushrooms, and THC in his system. Robinson was unarmed

Given the above details it’s hard to argue with Dane County District Attorney’s assessment this was a righteous shooting, or is it? Many Madisonians don’t seem to think so, holding multiple school walk outs, marches, and protests. So given that the boy was on drugs, dashing through traffic, trying to enter homes, and assaulting people including  an officer, why the civil backlash? Shouldn’t everyone thank Madison PD for keeping the streets safe from this menace?

The facts of case lack nuance and perspective. First off, Madison is one of the worst cities in the worst state of the Union for blacks regarding inequality. This fact makes Tony’s killing representative of all injustices suffered by the marginalized races of Dane County. It’s easily argued this never would happen if blacks were treated equally and given the same opportunities. This shooting also happened hot on the heels of events in Ferguson, MO, Staten Island, New York City, and Baltimore, MD where unarmed black men were killed by police. The pain of those unjust police killings serves to inform Madison residents more than the facts of this particular case. The pain of loosing a nineteen year old boy serves to inform Madison residents more than the facts of this case. To many people this case reflects the nation as a whole and the racism systemic in the DOC and Police.

If you come to Madison, the street where the most assaults occur is Langdon St., affectionately known as “Frat Row”. Here young white men can be seen most nights dashing about traffic on an array of drugs, fighting and cursing. The police are rarely called. Often they are present for these cavalcades of testosterone, and simply allow the boys to be boys making sure nothing gets too rough. I have personally seen this. For all the times the white men Tony’s age fought and cussed and acted inebriated in public, not one of them has been shot on Langdon. Not. One. Madison noticed this too.

Tony’s killing may have been “legal” but that doesn’t make it any less useful as a rallying cry to fight discrimination, systemic injustice, and inequality across the board. The fact is people are protesting the state of police relations with black people. They are protesting the state of inequality of black people in Wisconsin. They are protesting the absurdly high incarceration of black men. They are protesting money being spent on MRAPs and Bradley Vehicles instead of police training on how to deal with someone on Xanax, psilocybin mushrooms, and THC. The are protesting the Drug War and the pain and misery that comes with it. They are protesting for every person who has ever been marginalized, harassed, and hurt by the system. Tony Robinson just had to be legally killed for us to take notice.

The house where Tony as shot 9 times

The house where Tony as shot 9 times

Drive fast. Take Chances. Thanks for reading.

 

-Danger


Can Rights be Wrong?

Indiana and Arkansas are still in the news for their controversial bills adding the right to discriminate against LGBTQ people. It seems another polarizing issue and both the Left and the Right are completely unwilling to compromise. Should there be a compromise on discrimination? The clear answer is “no”, or is it?
Let’s put these vendors and purveyors of goods in a context outside LGBTQ rights.

A black photographer is hired by the KKK to cover a rally. The photographer doesn’t realize it’s the KKK and the KKK don’t know she is black. Now both parties surely don’t want to work with one another, but money has been exchanged and contracts are signed. The KKK cannot find another photographer to cover this important event and so they begrudgingly settle for this woman’s service, but she refuses returning the money. The KKK sues for breech of contract.

Next we have a doctor who specializes in cosmetic surgery. He consults with a woman who wants to augment her features. They come to a mutual agreement and exchange the proper funds and paper work. Just before he performs the surgery he notices bruises on the woman’s body and makes inquiry. She says it’s her boyfriend and she’s getting the surgery thinking it will please him, thus mitigating the abuse. The doctor decides he did not have all the information and it would be unethical to perform the surgery. He takes his fees for the consultation and returns the rest. The woman sues him for breech of contract.

You can think of myriad situations where people may have scruples differing with a client’s belief or reasons for soliciting services. A tattooist refusing to do a Swastika or a daycare center refusing service to the unvaccinated. The point being, are Christian’s practicing discrimination by sticking to their beliefs anymore than any of these aforementioned businesses?

The simple answer is “no”. Christians simply want the right to deny service to an act they view as an abomination and these people truly believe LGBTQ are living in hateful defiance of their loving god. However, marginalizing an already marginalized group never moves society forward. Should whites be able to refuse service to blacks? Absolutely not. So what is the difference? Is there one? Not really.

Christians have no just reason for treating LGBTQ differently and are terribly inconsistent with their claimed reasons. We know LGBTQ people are not sexual devious any more than straight cisgender people. They struggle to maintain healthy loving partnerships just as much as straight cisgenders. They are just as terrified about that wedding day. So LGBTQs aren’t psychologically bent, it’s not about perverse sex, and they are not demanding straight cisgenders act in any way counter to their natural state. The only reason left is religion.

Christians are ridiculously disingenuous about what they choose to defend as traditional marriage. They rightly claim god despises gay sex, but a closer Biblical reading shows men can have many wives (in fact this is recommended). Women may be bought and sold as wives. Men must marry their rape victims and vice versa. On and on, the Bible has obscene recommendations regarding traditional marriage and yet Christians are only hung up on discriminating against LGBTQ people. Where’s the legislation demanding rape marriage and polygamy?

Thankfully society’s backlash to these bills indicate sure defeat, but in the interest of compromise and freedom to practice religion and run a business in a free market society this is my recommendation: If you want to make badly reasoned discrimination a legally backed business plan you must show bigotry is part of your business model. Put it on the shop door, the website header, and your mission statement. “No service for LGBTQ”. Put it out there big and bold if you are that sure your god wants that. You want to treat people badly for a completely natural state of being, you own it. Let the free market teach you how it feels to be discriminated against.

Obviously there are parts of this country where those businesses would thrive and possibly expand as we’ve seen with Chick-fil-Aand Hobby Lobby, so contact your legislators and let this know this is discrimination for the dumbest of reasons and you won’t stand for it. Christians are wrong and hateful for thinking any part of this could be justice, but that’s the beauty of this country. You have the right to be wrong. If the law won’t hold them accountable, then it is up to us to boycott their services. Maybe we should start with the source of all this non-sense and stop going to Church. If you really care about human rights, stop supporting one of the worst violators in all of history, or don’t. That’s your right.

Drive fast. Take chances. Thanks for reading.

-Danger


Abortion Rights. Male Inequality.

Ten states have recently passed abortion bills adding measures and limitations to woman seeking the service. Wisconsin joined this week bringing the count to eleven. Reading these bills, particularly given this is Woman’s History Month, where is the male equality? Let’s not argue about the human status of a fetus, how close to forty weeks is too close, or the ethical value/harm. Instead, let’s look at gender equality.

Generally speaking a fetus/baby is dependent on a mother’s body for life. In our culture we legislate that dependence. We legislate and limit women’s ability to decide if their body should be used to sustain the life of another. To sustain the life of their child. Let’s re-frame this idea.

Jim is a father. Jim’s son is Al. Al is playing with his new bike Jim gave him for his birthday. Al crashes, hard. His head is bleeding, badly. Jim finds him and Al is pale. His lips are blue. Al is bleeding out. He’s rushed to the hospital. The doctors tell Jim Al needs a blood transfusion. Jim’s a match. Without it Al will die. For personal reasons Jim is against giving blood. The doctors petition him assuring him there are no other options. His son will die unless he rolls up his sleeve and makes a fist. Jim holds fast to his beliefs. Al dies. Jim remains intact and autonomous.

Another scenario:

Al has a kidney disease. It’s fatal. The doctors tell Jim he’s a match. They tell him there are no other options for Al. He must give his kidney or Al will die slowly and painfully. Jim finds it morally disagreeable to remove part of himself and put it in another. He holds fast to his beliefs. Al dies, painfully. Jim remains intact and autonomous.

Last scenario:

Jim has become despondent. Al frustrates and depresses him. He sees no future for himself or his son. He puts Al in the back of his car. He drives out to the country to a favorite look out point. He wipes the streaming tears from his eyes. He adjusts the mirror to see Al playing with two action figures in the back seat. He wipes his eyes again and focuses on the edge of the look out. Jim breathes out, undoes his seat belt, and mashes his foot on the accelerator. The car spits dirt and lurches forward. The distance closes. Fifty feet to the ledge. Forty feet. Thirty feet. Twenty feet. Ten feet. The RPM’s peg as the tires lose traction in the air. The car falls over the edge like a stunned prize fighter. Jim’s eyes squeeze tight. Al’s eyes go wide still clinching a hero and villain in each hand. The car lands inverted, top flattened. Jim’s dead. His head, utterly crushed. Al is alive when the paramedics arrive, but he has severe damage to his chest. His heart, damaged beyond repair. The doctors find Jim’s heart is a viable replacement. Al can live. Al isn’t doomed to the fate his father intended after all. The doctors find Jim isn’t an organ donor. Jim wants to be buried intact. Al dies. His father murdered him. Twice. Jim is buried, heart intact. Personal autonomy intact.

Why is it acceptable to legislate a mother’s responsibility to a fetus? Our laws don’t do the same to either gender once the child is viable. It’s time to look at reproductive autonomy as human rights issue rather than a women’s right issue. If you think abortion should be limited, birth compulsory, and vote for legislation to intact laws assuring this, then you must fight for legislation requiring parent lose physical autonomy in the same way when their viable child is in mortal danger.

Who wouldn’t save their child is the obvious response. No one wants an abortion in the same way no one wants their child to need a blood transfusion. Abortion is a worse case scenario response. The difference: Law. Examine if you would vote for legislation requiring all parents to lose personal autonomy. Examine how that relates to women’s reproductive autonomy. If you still seek to limit/remove abortion, write your law makers to introduce a Parental Personal Autonomy Reduction Bill. If you feel people should have autonomy to guide their bodies, parents or not, alive or dead, then you must accept abortion. A corpse has more rights over his body’s organs than a woman does her uterus. On her body. Shame on us.

Drive fast. Take chances. Thanks for reading.

-Danger


Wisconsin Budget Can’t Vouch for This

Governor Walker’s budget has everyone up in arms. Some in applauding in support and others in teeth gnashing disdain. The jury, or legislator, is still out so people generally need to take a breath and contact their legislators about the specific issues. One of the issues struck home and I am deeply concerned Wisconsin citizens are unaware of how incredibly pernicious it is. Removing the Voucher Cap.

Giving students and parents the freedom to find the best education seems great. Generally I agree and support parent’s right to choose the best education for their kids. The problem comes when vouchers comprised of state money go to Christian schools. This loophole circumventing separation of church and state would be bad enough but having attended a church school from 4th to 10th grade education gave me uncomfortable insight.

I attended an Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) school in the northern part of the state. By in large I have fond memories of my time there, but it left me woefully unprepared for the real world. Both socially and educationally. ACE is a Biblically based education system where “Students are taught to see life from God’s point of view.”  On its face this seems good or at least benign, but this is a fundamentalist Biblical view.

Science: When I transferred to a public school my junior year I was pathetically educated in actual science. ACE denies evolution, solar fusion, and litany of other well established scientific facts. Instead it teaches Young Earth Creationism (YEC). While I could stomach Intelligent Design, YEC is idiotically contradictory to everything we know about the natural world. It also sorely misrepresents the 2nd law of thermodynamics to prop up the YEC world view.

History: ACE spends an enormous amount of time on Biblical history. Most scholars admit the Bible, while an incredible document, is far from a reliable source regarding the history of the region. Students are taught the Biblical accounts of the people groups of the region are fact. Meaning students learned the Great Flood, Plagues of Egypt, and wandering of the Hebrews among many other myths were absolute fact. The crusades are also painted in glowing colors and all other world religions and people groups are demeaned if even mentioned. It also heartily foists the idea America is a Christian nation, when in reality the fore fathers intentionally created a secular government having just defeated a largely theocratic one.

Social Development: ACE is incredibly harmful in preparing young people to move and live in this world. Dating, dancing, secular music, etc were directly against the rules. Students at my school had to sign a contract stating they would not engage in any of these on threat of expulsion. A child can be expelled for listening to Taylor swift. Needless to say it leaves kids unable to relate to their contemporaries. There’s even a “six-inch-rule” stating members of the opposite gender can not come closer than six inches to each other. Not to say no one breaks the rules, but when hugging feels dirty, you can bet there will be some residual damage.

All other religions and cultures are demonized, literally. ACE pushed misogyny, homophobia, and racism both in curriculum and interaction. All students are prepared to be missionaries or pastors with little attention to other occupations. Misogyny is backed up with both comics in the work packets and scripture scattered throughout. Same goes with homophobia, including this passage in one of the work books:

“Some people mistakenly believe that an individual is born a homosexual and his attraction to those of the same sex is normal. Because extensive tests have shown that there is no biological difference between homosexuals and others, these tests seem to prove that homosexuality is a learned behaviour. The Bible teaches that homosexuality is sin. In Old Testament times, God commanded that homosexuals be put to death. Since God never commanded death for normal or acceptable actions, it is as unreasonable to say that homosexuality is normal as it is to say that murder or stealing is normal.” Science 1107, p. 10.

As to racism, ACE loosely states Apartheid wasn’t entirely bad for the blacks of South Africa.They also portray three segregated church schools comprised of white, black, and Asians in the comics throughout the work books. As of 1998 they cleaned up their act a little, but a hint of racism in a curriculum should send up red flags no matter you religion.

Time spent on actual education: Every morning students must say the pledge of allegiance to the American flag, the Christian flag, and the Bible. Then a scripture reading. Then a Pastor lead devotion during which all students must take notes. Finally students can get to the “education” portion of the day. We spent large amount of time memorizing scripture. I have a plaque stating I memorized the entire Book of John. At my school the students also did the janitorial work at the end of the day.

Not everything was bad. Students learn to be well groomed adhering to a strict dress code. They are trained to be sociable leaders comfortable with public speaking and singing. Due to the smaller class sizes not much gets missed and students are pushed into plays, sports, and choirs they may have otherwise opted out.

I support the rights of people to believe what they like and teach their children in kind, but not a single red cent of state or federal tax money should go to these schools. Not to mention these schools are part of a tax exempt church. Please contact your legislators and demand vouchers do not cross into the coffers of fundamentalists. This is a very slippery slope and bad science, homophobia, misogyny, racism, and intolerance should never ever be state funded.

Drive fast. Take chances. Thanks for reading.

-Danger

This is a cursory glance on the issue. If you want to fact check or read up on anything here please go to: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/leavingfundamentalism/accelerated-christian-education/ and http://www.aceministries.com/


2014 is not 1984

Stop comparing our time to “1984”. Every time someone says drones, Google, Facebook, NSA, Amazon, so on stop saying “Big Brother is watching us.” Every time you hear about AT&T and Verizon letting our numbers out stop claiming totalitarian state. Our world is not even a shadow of the horrors conjured from the Orwellian imagination.

Telescreen VS Television

In 1984 the telescreen is in every citizen’s room with optionless consent. It blasts only what the dictatorial government wants, typically cover-up propaganda droning on about the grace, wisdom, and victories of the party. It watches every citizen not allowing a corner to dress in private. Every morning the telescreen forces the prole out of bed to exercise. It constantly reminds people Big Brother is watching lest they even consider stepping out of line. Conversely, TV’s are in our homes by ready and eager purchase. We strive to have large sound systems and huge screens. Our smart TV’s have cameras but we are more than welcome to permanently cover them. Even if we don’t, we have more to fear from citizen hackers than the government. We choose our variety of propaganda. MSNBC or FOX. PBS or MTV. We choose what we want to influence our world view. Personally selected propaganda is entertainment. The TV is a form of lounging and never made us exercise or get out of bed. Most of the entertainment we choose are people living extravagantly, outside the law, and utterly without limit. Not the other way around. The TV and telescreen are completely opposite in purpose and function.

Children

In 1984 the party takes an enormous amount of interest in children restricting who can have them, when, and how many. Once of age they’re inducted into the Junior Spies. From then on parents live in fear of their spawn. Children rule the house as their parent’s kowtow to their whims and tantrums hoping not to “disappear”. More often than not the children are able to report something causing their parent’s demise. In our world we can breed totally recklessly and without means or forethought if we choose. Parent’s dictate the level of involvement and control they exert (as much as is possible with children) and while the government surely takes some interest in churning out functional citizens so as the GDP doesn’t sink too low, many kids are left to whims of their various cultures. The idea of parent’s living in fear of their children is frankly ridiculous.

Technology

1984, written before computers, uses inventive and complex mechanisms to watch and control its populace. Microphones and cameras hidden everywhere. Public transport is the only means of conveyance and the party’s helicopters whir through the sky keeping the proles in line. I concede drones are watching us and there are many cameras on ATM’s and buildings, but we the citizens carry cameras and own UAVs on a massive level. We speed about in our very own cars, captains of our personal routes and destinations. We are far more responsible for the watching of our fellows than the government. We buy GoPROs and IPhones rabidly. By the cart load. Upload our images with utter impatience and tweet our every thought with reckless abandon. The amount of content collected by our personally purchased devices, uploaded on billed data plans, and hosted on pages we create far outweighs what Orwell ever conceived.

Language

Unspeak/Newspeak is one of the most brilliant and original of 1984’s psychological controls. Orwell surmised if you controlled one’s ability to express one’s self you limit the ability of the structures and ideas that person can formulate. The party systematically did away with language forcing people to cater to the latest version of Newspeak without exception. In our world the government pays teachers to ensure we all speak and share a common language. They teach it far more fully than most of us ever use it. We are the ones who created “ain’t”, “I seen”, and “YOLO”. We take the full and rich tapestry of etymology and language structure and shorten to “BRB”, “ROFL”, and “WTF”. Not arguing the against the merits of short hand, but clearly we create and use unspeak much to the chagrin of the government paid English teacher.

Sexuality

One of the most glaring motifs of 1984 is sexual repression and monitoring. Winston, the main character, is almost immediately painted as sexually frustrated. The first mention of copulation between Winston and his former wife is awkward, forced, and highly unpleasant. It is portrayed as “disgusting” and “a political act”. Julia, Winston’s later love interest, is wearing an anti-sex sash when she is introduced. While this sash proves to be farce everyone is dressed in drab formless garb utterly unstimulated by each other due to self denial propagated through fear of the thought police. Conversely our culture oozes sexuality. From beer to flowers to rice, sex sells. We strive for perfect bodies in rooms full of windows or mirrors. We strut about shirtless in spandex. We design clubs around the mating rituals of grinding and twerking. Our celebrities sing about ass and abs. We have HiDef porn on our phones. The government rarely attempts to publicly meddle in our parade of curves, sweat, and gyrations. We are sexually liberated to a fever pitch every Saturday night if we so choose.

Its only fair to grant many of our freedoms are growing tenuous and under threat. We are watched, data collected, and subjugated through debt.  However it is ridiculous to compare it to a totalitarian state, especially the nightmare of Orwell’s imagination. We take the pictures. We upload the video. We supply Google, Facebook, and Twitter with our families names. Our place of work. Our place of birth. Favorite movies, books, and music. Our phone numbers, addresses, hopes and dreams. We pay Verizon and AT&T to collect data on us for the use of their services. We know they are doing it. We know every picture we post and Tweet sent is in the cloud. We click “I agree to terms and conditions” without a second though. We want all our stuff out there. They are more than happy to accommodate for a fee. So the next time you think Big Brother is watching you, it’s only because you said “Look at me! Look at me!” Please stop comparing our world to Oceania. It’s foolish. Rather, remain vigilant so we never know that terrible existence.

Drive fast. Take chances. Thanks for reading.

-Danger


Whoa to Atheists

Atheists, agnostics, skeptics, freethinkers, brothers, and sisters. I’m leveling a charge in this new year. Too often we are accused for anger and pride. Too often those charges are level and fair. In the following I hope to clear the air and distill some truth.

First let’s define where we stand.
Atheism: the lack of belief in god(s), nothing more or less. By definition no central text, rule set, or dogma. Despite this, non-belief is always polarizing in religious culture and perceived as the antithesis of the religions it avoids. We unfortunately are defined by what each religion views as its polar opposite.

Bertrand Russell wisely said if someone cares to be a skeptic they should suspend judgment in lieu of evidence. Atheism at its core is just that, but we have found our public voice and we are trying it out. Like a new vegetarian or environmentalist we are over zealous. We speak loudly without all the facts and limited understanding. It’s only natural, but I worry if we don’t learn tact and understanding the movement will end before it even started.

This New Atheism is a natural and a useful reaction to years of repression, ostracization, and execution. To this day atheists lose jobs, community, and in many parts of the world, lives, when we come out of the closet. The worldview of the militant atheist, often justifiably, attributes the worst of the world to religion. Presidents can say atheists are unpatriotic in speeches. States leave atheophobic clauses in their constitutions. Alienation in our courts, our pledges, our money. We watch women’s rights languish, gay rights trampled, education embroiled in idiotic quagmire, human rights stuck in bronze age thinking. All this points to a slimy trail oozing behind religion.

Given the litany of crimes, why wouldn’t society rush to our embrace?

Whether its visions of hell fire or the fear of losing Christmas, culture seems to think atheism is the end of hope. It is after all, “damning”. People think atheism is a choice. The lifestyle of the contrarian. Atheists supposedly want to destroy community. They are assholes getting bent out of shape after you say bless you. Atheism is hated not because people love god but because it’s perceived to destroy society’s glue. Atheists tell believers their churches are hollow, their Christmas tree and Easter hams are pagan, their cross is a torture device, and their beliefs toxic. We speak to them as though they have poured through the Bible and found every sinister nook and cranny. We take away the Pastor at a wedding. We take away the Sunday potluck. We take away heaven. We take away mystery. We argue against theology, books, and ideas. They are arguing for their marriage, their children, they family, their way of life. In essence they hate us for repressing who they are. We have every right to be pissed off for inequality and misunderstanding. If that’s true, then why are we surprised when they react the same way?

You atheists who never believed and find yourself saying, “I don’t understand how they think…” stop after that sentence. If you haven’t believed you can’t understand. Asking questions will get you much closer to goals than berating and belittling. Those of us who lost are faith are often hurt and angry about the loss of family, community, and being lied to. While we may be justified in our pain, we are not justified in lashing out and to be fair believers thought they were doing a good thing. They had our best in mind.

The solution isn’t to show them they are wrong, foolish, and delusional. No one learns from someone they hate. No. We must show a better way. Rather than destroy their society, we need to present them a better one. One of inclusiveness, community, reason, and altruism. We need to develop systems to replace the ones we condemn. Religion supplies charity, community, and hope for so many. They will never listen until we fill the vacuum. Let us show them the rituals families bond over are available without faith. Speak to them in terms they understand. Show hope is better based in reason. Kindness for kindness sake. Forgiveness for forgiveness sake. We need to be grassroots in our communities. Atheistic hubris is toxic. We need to stop claiming to know more than is possible to know and be unflinching in what we can know. We need to show them love in community. Friends, we need to ask questions before supplying the answers.

Join a Sunday Assembly. Work with secular charities. Bring families together for beautiful secular weddings. Bring families together for infant secular dedications. Read their holy text through their eyes rather than one of contempt. Choose battles based on universal merit. Give them purpose and hope by living hopeful and purposeful lives. Be patient.

Be humble.

Drive fast. Take chances. Thanks for reading.

-Danger


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