Thursday, June 14, 2007

A lot like Disneyland

The New York Times reports on a broughaha brewing in Murfreesboro, Tennesee. Seems there’s a wealth of opposition from the mostly conservative Christian community to a proposed million-visitor-a-year theme park called Bible Land USA.

“Ronen Paldi, the chief executive officer of the proposed park who is also a tour operator who organizes pilgrimages to the Holy Land, said he wanted Americans who were afraid to travel to the Middle be able to visualize scenes from the Bible. Comparing the park to Disneyland, he said it would be a tremendous benefit to the area.”

That’s right, a lot like Disneyland.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Watching America devolve

There’s no question that our civil liberties have been eroded over the last six years. That’s a given.

But what I think is killing America more is the ever-widening gap between rich and poor in the country. Every economic study I’ve seen shows undeniably that this has happened. I see evidence all around me in small Illinois towns, jobs gone and people living a hardscrabble existence. Whole families living in motel rooms. Old cars spewing blue smoke from the tailpipes.

To speak out against this social change subjects one to being called a socialist, or even communist, as if somehow you’re automatically against people making a profit and living well. But can any thinking person believe it’s a good thing that since 1979 the income of the top one percent bracket has risen 7 percent, while that of the bottom 20% has fallen by the same amount? Is it good for our country that more people are falling behind?

Look at how crime rates have already soared across the nation. Are images of tent cities on the edges of our suburbs with ill-clothed children warming their hands over fires in rusted oil drums that hard to envison? Our landscape will increasingly look more like that of third world countries.

Beyond the devastation of the poor, what of the impact of the super-rich themselves? Besides the toll their profligate use of airplanes and mega-mansions and Humvees takes on the environment, what does their extravagance teach us about what really matters in life? And how do they drive up the cost of living for the rest of us? Barbara Erenreich has an interesting article in The Nation that offers some insight. I don’t have a lot of hope this can change because I don’t know how the powerless can get the powerful to turn it around. Maybe just by those of us in the middle saying it’s unacceptable to us.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The power of art

My friend Mark Meadows is an artist and a writer. He’s written a couple of technology books, and in 2003 he traveled to Iraq to observe the country around the time of our invasion.

In Basra he came across a gallery in a building whose upper floors had been bombed out. Inside the gallery he found this painting. When I saw it my heart nearly skipped a beat. Its eloquence is profound. It shows the power of art.

Why are we killing children in Iraq?


The antics of dogs

No, this isn’t a post about how the people running our country are blowing it. It’s just a little story about how I escaped into a simpler, childlike state of mind evening before last.

It was dusk and after a complex work day I went down to sit on the dock and watch the evening settle. The dogs followed me, as they always do. Sam and Rory are at odds over swimming. Sam has always been afraid of water, whereas the newcomer Rory is a natural swimmer. He plunges into the lake without a thought and it infuriates Sam, who always barks and threatens as Rory tries to emerge from the water. It used to be annoying, but now I know it’s just a game for them.

This night, they found a turtle along the shore and began to harass it as dogs will do. I rescued the turtle and threw it way out into the lake. They both sprung into action and dived in after it, oblivious to the fact that it was six feet below the surface already. Their comical and futile splashing around and searching made me laugh out loud.

A little later, the second scene played out when a beaver from the nearby lodge began to swim towards the dock, in what I thought was a very nonchalant way. By this time the dogs had given up on finding the turtle and had come on to the dock to shake off their coats and get me all wet. When Rory saw the beaver, he valiantly plunged back off the side and swam after it. The beaver, who had been stealthy and slow before, did some kind of a flip with its tail and was out of there at the speed of light. Again, I laughed until my sides hurt—something I don’t do enough these days.

Spending an hour like this put me in a better mood than watching any sit-com. But then I realize you’d have had to have been there for it to sound funny.