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Monday, September 28, 2015

So Who Owns the Rain?

Gary Harrington, of Jackson County, Oregon was jailed and fined a couple of years ago for collecting rainwater. In court, Oregon officials declared unequivocally that rainwater is considered the "property of the state." Libertarians, conservatives and more than a few permaculturists (sustainable gardening/farming enthusiasts) are outraged. As it turns out they are more outraged by the government claiming to own the rain that falls on your property than they are by Mr. Harrington's treatment, but, after all, it's the principle of the thing.

Admittedly Mr. Harrington was collecting rather a lot of rainwater and it wasn't in barrels behind his house. Harrington had constructed 3 ponds on his 170 acre land which among them hold 13 million gallons of water. None of these ponds are situated on streams. The water comes from rain which actually falls on Harrington's
property and from snow melt - also from snow on his land.

The big deal that sent everyone through the roof was the statement in court by Oregon officials that the State of Oregon owns all the rain that falls on your property and that if you want to use any significant amount of it, you have to get a permit from the state.  Given that streams and rivers and town water supplies depend on runoff from the land, one can kind of understand why the state or county might want to not lose 170 acres of it. But of course, in trying to make everything fair, the government almost creates more problems than it solves.

The way the law reads, you can only collect rain off of hard surfaces like concrete driveways, rooftops and such, but once it hits the ground, it's no longer yours to do with as you please. According to director of
the Oregon Water Resources Department, Tom Paul, "Oregon law says all of the water in the state of Oregon is public water and if you want to use that water, either to divert it or to store it, you have to acquire a water right from the state of Oregon before doing that activity."

Always fearful of government overreach, people on both the right AND left wonder, "What's next?" Sunshine falls on your property. Are they going to charge you a fee for the sun that you use if you put up solar panels? How about the wind? Does Oregon own the wind? Will they charge you a fee for wind usage if you put up a wind charger? 
Here's one issue where we can hook up with the sustainable permaculture people, not a notably conservative lot and give them a little love and maybe get their votes next election. After all, it's liberals that are pushing this kind of thing, not conservatives. We think your home's your castle and rain, sun and wind belong to you. We don't like government overreach either.

If it had been a matter of Harrington arbitrarily blocking up a stream and depriving those downstream from free access to water, I can see the state's getting involved. In the Harrington case, Gary is a cranky old guy who blew off orders by the county to destroy his ponds and kept refilling them. This is more about government authority than it is about water. With his ponds full, Harrington's land is likely putting as much or more water downstream than it was when the pond acreage was covered in water-absorbing trees and grasses. Over time, the pond bottoms develop a kind of seal that holds water from being leaked out too quickly.  Water still percolates through to the water table, but even more goes downstream through overflow when the ponds are full.

Ironically, if Mr. Harrington had paved his land with concrete, destroying plants and trees and THEN collected the runoff, he wouldn't be in trouble. It's allowed for you to collect water from nonpermeable surfaces. So, since Mr H continued to allow much of the rainfall that hit his property to  to sink into the soil and down into the water table, he isn't allowed to collect any of what's left for his own use without paying for a permit and receiving permission to build his ponds, Actually Harrington did get a permit, but after the ponds were built, the state rescinded his permit.

Okay, so answer this question for me:  "If Oregon owns the rainfall, and if excessive amounts of Oregon State's rain falls and floods my property and destroys my home, can I sue the state for damages?"  After all, if my property, say my car for instance, crashes into your home, I have to pay the damages. I can do that because the state of Oregon forces me to buy car insurance in exchange for the privilege of driving Oregon's lovely roads.  Should Oregon then, be forced to buy flood insurance for the whole state, just in case THEIR rain wrecks my house?

This might be a fun case to present to the Supreme Court.  A more sensible ruling would be to allow the state to control streams and established waterways and prevent irresponsible damming up of shared water sources and leave rain which falls on your property to the property owner.  If you have a stream on your property, you wouldn't be allowed to dam it up, but in Oregon, with as much rain and annual flooding as they get, it seems likely they could use all the flood control ponds they could get. Harrington has even built three of them at his own expense.  

Oregon is not alone in claiming the rain as government property. Colorado does Oregon one better, claiming a right, not to just the rain after it falls, but to all the moisture in the atmosphere. There you can get in trouble for collecting rain off your roof.  The Colorado Division of Water Resources makes it clear:  “Colorado water law declares that the state of Colorado claims the right to all moisture in the atmosphere that falls within its borders and that ‘said moisture is declared to be the property of the people of this state, dedicated to their use pursuant’ to the Colorado constitution. Interestingly, in Colorado some folk have "senior" rights to the people's water, which, I think, means they acquired them before the Colorado legislature turned into a politburo. If only you have junior rights, you're just out of luck.

It's an interesting issue to say the least.
I should think it would provide some real entertainment if it took a run through the Supreme Court.  But then what do I know. I'm just waiting for Jesus to come, tear it all down and start over with a New Earth, where God gives to all freely and we don't have junior and senior water rights to fight over.

(c) 2015 by Tom King

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Instinct to Help is Hardwired Into Us

This story of Derby the Dog proves, at least to my satisfaction, that God made us after all, despite what the survival-of-the-fittest evolutionary model claims to the contrary.  It illustrates the kindness of people toward animals and, for that matter, toward any fellow creature in trouble. There is no basis in Darwin's survival of the fittest evolutionary model for any evolved creature to do this kind of thing. We should, by all accounts, be programmed to claw our way to the top, using and abusing anything that gets in our way or impedes our ascent. That we stoop to help ugly dogs, disease ridden stray cats and risk our lives to cut a fishing net off an entangled whale speaks to a very non-evolutionary impulse in humans to be kind to those whom we cannot use to our advantage, to creatures that cannot but cost us labor, expense, time and personal risk to aid them in their predicaments. 

We (at least most of us) even rush to the aid of our fellow humans in need, even though in an evolutionary sense they are our direct competitors in the struggle for evolutionary supremacy. We even lend a hand, when it was their own decisions that put them in peril in the first place. The landscape of humanity is littered with food banks, homeless shelters, soup kitchens and grandmas raising half a dozen or so of their irresponsible offspring's babies and grandbabies despite being old, worn out and having raised one generation already.  We do it because we have an innate sense that it is right to do so.

Evolutionary processes did not put that there.

God made us to care for the world. We do it almost instinctively - especially if we happen to be good friends with our Creator. We know what is right and we have to work very hard to push that knowledge of what is right to do aside so that we can be able to act like thugs, punks and bullies. It's hard in the beginning to be a sinner. We know better.  It's hard-wired into us.

© 2015 by Tom King

Saturday, September 19, 2015

And The Ig Nobel Prize in Economics Goes To......

This year's Ig Nobel Prizes for Improbable Scientific Research were handed out Thursday night at Harvard. The top winners were an International effort that managed to partially unboil an egg and a couple of physicists that determined that all mammals empty their bladders in 21 seconds (Dr. Raston's drunk Uncle Larry was excluded as an outlier in the data collection process).
The guys that won the Literature prize, won for a study that proved that every human language has the word "huh" in it and that it always means the same thing. When I heard this, my first thought was, "Huh?"
The Management Prize went to some guys that proved that CEOs who experienced natural or unnatural disasters like hurricanes, volcanos, tornados, plane crashes or terrorist attacks that didn't harm them go on to become risk-takers. They were unable to get any data on those injured or directly affected by these kinds of traumatic events. Apparently they're still hiding in their closets.

My favorite were the winners of the Economics prize. Using the "If you can't lick 'em join 'em" principle, the Bangkok Metropolitan Police [THAILAND] won the prize for a test study in which the department offered to pay policemen extra cash if the policemen refused to take bribes. Oddly enough it worked...........they think. No one can be quite sure really.

Who knew? For the rest of the odd, but strangely entertaining list of this year's winners check out the list here.
© 2015 by Tom King

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Best Medicine for ADHD Ever....

Teachers these days really struggle with ADHD kids. They don't sit still, they're easily distracted they don't obey orders and they have far too much energy. Little wonder teachers want to drug them. Some say ADHD is an imaginary mental disorder. Some say, "These kids just need a belt applied to their hindquarters."

As an ADHD kid myself, I can tell you what these kids need and that ain't it. What they need is time. Modern educators and parents have convinced themselves that because kids can learn things at an incredibly young age that they ought to. I wonder why no one seems to have wondered whether all that early learning capacity wasn't designed for something else besides learning numbers, shapes, ABC's and quotations from Voltaire.

Kids have to learn an incredible lot of stuff in an incredibly short period of time. They start out totally self-centered eating machines, unable to walk, talk, do higher math or diagram sentences. So, of course they have to have the ability to learn quickly. Children pick up languages at an incredible rate for instance and they need all their available brain power to do so. 

I think God knew what he was doing with kids, giving them the capacity to learn what they need to learn when they need to learn it. I don't believe he intended for us to train our children to be factory workers and yet that is precisely what the German Kindergarten graded school system is designed to do. Kindergartens were designed to teach young German students to show up on time, sit in one place all day, shut up, do repetitive work, and not question authority. There's a reason for that. Do you remember what Germany was trying to prepare for in the late 19th/early 20th century.

At any rate, I think it's a bad system, especially for American kids. In the United States, the ADHD gene, whatever that is, is present in a larger percentage in the United States than any other country in the world. That's because ADHD adults couldn't get along in places like Germany - they were too restless and came to America to get away from all that.* So with a huge number of our progeny having the restless, high energy genetic makeup. What do we do? 

Some children (actually all children, I believe) should not be forced to show up for school on time, to sit in chairs all day, to do repetitive work and not speak or question authority. Now I suppose it would be a useful system if you were training our kids to be worker drones in a war materials factory as the Germans were when they created the educational system the United States adopted whole hog at the beginning of the 20th century.
It was a mistake. Americans aren't wired that way. Look how fast we shoved manufacturing jobs like that over to China, Mexico and India. Americans don't like those jobs and I don't blame factory jobs when I was working my way through school. I've done them and hated every minute. They're mind numbing and soul-destroying jobs.

Some children, the ones that are considered ADHD because they can't sit still in class, should not go to school until they are at least 10 years old, maybe even 12. If you let them outside to run and play and exercise the full scope of their imaginations, to learn social skills, to learn language and to reach a point where they are ready to learn, they will catch up and blow past the kids that started school 3 to 5 years earlier. The dirty little secret with the way the school system is setu up is that for the first 5 or 6 years, teachers spend a good deal of their time reteaching things the kids learned last year and forgot over summer vacation. A kid who has been under parental care and who has learned from nature, from play and from taking responsibilities at home, is far more ready to learn than a child who has been pushed along on the edge of his or her abilities and forced to learn things he or she has no interest in and was not ready to learn.


About the time the hormones begin to kick in, a child is ready to learn career skills in earnest. I think we ought to test them abour then to determine what sort of things they are interested in and should begin immediately learing career skills right alongside reading, writing, arithmetic, history and the arts. Children would learn faster because, if they've had decent parents, they would have developed more mature social skills and an interest in learning. 

We should allow them to learn at their own pace in subjects like reading and mathematics and grammar. I believe you'd find that kids would roar through these subjects if allowed to work at their own speed. Subjects like history, science, literature and art should be long leisurely classes facilitated by historians, writers, scientists and artists. Businessmen should teach accounting and practical math skills. Retirees with actual experience doing things would make wonderful teachers and would do it if asked. 

Physical education should go back to activities and games that are played for a purpose to teach teamwork, strategy and fair play and to build physical strength, flexibility, grace and stamina. Basic vocational skills should be taught early. Schools should set up cottage industries where the kids could build things and do things and to buy and sell goods and services on the open market (teach 'em to use eBay, Etsy, Amazon and other online resources to market their goods). No child should finish high school without a marketable skill. No child should be allowed to drop out until he has completed at least one skill certification that can get him a job. Physical education and so-called vocational education should work together. Take the kids into the forest and show them how to clear brush, handle tools and to work safely.

Do that and kids like the one up the tree above will learn faster, more thoroughly and to a better purpose. Not every kid needs to be trained for college. They need to be trained to work, to live healthfully, to manage their money and to participate as adults in the world to come. It should begin in earnest in 5th grade (about the time you learn fractions). Do that - create these kinds of purposeful classrooms and ADHD kids will not be bored. Make math, science, English and other languages like video games with instant feedback for doing well and these kids will suck up information like sponges.

We need to give up the idea of rigid classrooms with everybody sitting in rows, all doing the same work at the same time mostly for the convenience of the teacher. We need to hire skilled teachers and pay them better. They can handle more kids at once than the ordinary garden-variety teacher's college graduates they're turning out these days. They would be more interesting than ordinary teachers. From age 10 on, I think kids should have different teachers for different subjects - each teacher having expertise in their fields. Kids should learn to speak and write by speaking and writing. Instead of writing lines, they should be editing stories and writing, composing and printing their own newspapers. Talented kids should learn to work as a team as writers, editors, marketers, graphic designers and produce their own books and magazines. They should learn by doing real things as soon as they possibly can.

We should teach by simulating interest; by doing and acting. Sports should be about fitness, cooperation, sportsmanship and grace under pressure, not about building some coaches win/loss record. We need to stop firing coaches just because their kids don't win games. We should fire coaches who are abusive, who risk the health and safety of our kids for their own reputations and who care more about winning than building character.

ADHD kids are particularly well suited to high-energy careers. Why aren't we training them early to be cops, soldiers, firemen, athletes, forest rangers, pilots, entertainers and such. Why do we waste our time trying to make accountants and pharmacists out of kids that haven't a prayer of making a go of such careers.  ADHD kids make great entrepreneurs too, they just have to hire good accountants and CFOs to handle the paperwork. 

The point is that, if you stop trying to shove kids that are basically round, oval, oblong, rectangular, triangular and free form pegs into the square hole that is our education system, ADHD will virtually disappear in our schools. And those kids problem kids?  They'll simply be your high-energy, highly successful kids and the stars of your schools.

Just sayin'

Tom King
© 2015

* It's no accident that more research is being done on ADHD in Germany than anywhere else in the world. Germany's rigid Prussian culture offers little scope for the ADHD imagination and kids with ADHD are seen in Deutschland as a particular problem that must somehow be eliminated.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Booby Traps in Your I-Pod

Micah's graduation picture - in full kilt!
Within the modern day mp3 archives that we music lovers collect on our I-Pods (or in my case on my cell phone's mp3 music player) there lie little booby traps.  Thanks to we can now buy songs individually for 50 cents to a dollar instead of having to buy a whole album just to get two or three "good ones".  In this way, over time, we amass vast collections of incredibly eclectic music. This always amazes me a little, given that it didn't cost any more to put that big a music collection together 40 years later than it did to collect 45 rpm single records back when I was a high school kid. Not only that, but you don't even have the cost of a trip to the record store to factor in.

You can even collect free music from indie musicians you happen to like but the big record moguls don't particularly care for. As a result, I have banjo versions of Bear Necessities and All of Me, alongside several Doris Day hits, the theme to Dark Star (an obscure 1960s era sci-fi film and all my favorite hits by the Monkees and the Beatles; not to mention a miraculous duet with Placido Domingo and John Denver. I even scooped up an all-acoustic version of the Beatles playing Norwegian Wood. How cool is that?

Today's increasingly off-the-books music distribution system must make record company moguls frantic as they lose more and more control over whether or not an artist's music actually finds its way out to the public. You see, these days, the public listens to what it wants rather than waiting for record companies to tell us what we want to hear. No record company, for instance, would sell me a banjo version of Those Were the Days, the theme song to the TV show "All in the Family". Songs that are "golden oldies" need no longer wait for some "Greatest Hits" collection ot come out in order to get our hands on our favorite music. We can go online, buy and download the songs we like instantly. And I can even throw in a recording of a kid I used to teach in Sabbath School singing Amazing Grace/My Chains Are Gone at church or another one of my son and daughter with some friends singing a song called Miracle that my late son wrote with his brother. That one always makes me cry, but in a good way.

That's what I mean about booby traps. We often salt our music collections with songs that mean something to us - everything from "our song", a relic of our courting days, to one of our kids' favorite songs. One of those got me this morning. In 2006 we lost our middle son, Micah, a big bear of a young man who, at 28, stood 6'4" and was close to 300 pounds. When he was in high school, he wasn't exactly tiny - a big ebullient larger-than-life personality and a fun guy. He was incredibly shy, but covered it by being class clown and something of a show-off.

My mp3 player a few minutes ago rolled out M.C. Hammer's "Can't Touch This", one of Micah's favorite songs. You haven't seen anything till you've seen a kid Micah's size doing Hammer's moves to this song. And the boy had some amazing moves for someone his bulk. He played on his school's basketball team and had some muscles on him that used to fool opponents. These wiry little guys would rush him when he was defending the key, figuring they could topple him pretty easily. More than one wound up sitting on his butt on the boards, having struck what felt like a brick wall. They used to cry to the referees for a foul call. I remember one ref standing over one such prostrate whiner, "Hey dude, you're the one who decide to run into him." He pointed at Micah, "You need a little physics refresher there, son."

Micah also did a creditable "Electric Slide". These tiny little girls would drag him out on the floor at parties and get him to lead the "Electric Slide". It used to make him happy. He was pretty good at it too.

Micah had a lot of sadness in his short life. I think about those young women and the way they pulled him into the center of the action and encouraged him. They gave him confidence and, in a way, the courage, at the end of his life, to recommit himself to Christ. I am so grateful to Micah's friends for their love and acceptance of my son. A lot of big kids don't get that. He did. It's like you all knew somehow, how much he needed your support and love.

Micah (right) leading the girls' basketball team fight song from the stands!

That's why I was standing in my kitchen this morning listening to Hammer going, "Can't Touch This!" and crying like a big, hairy, white-headed 61 year-old baby.
Some people avoid songs that do that to them, even though we inevitably salt our music collections with songs just like that. I don't avoid the emotion when that happens. I let the song run all the way through. Sometimes I turn it up and go ahead and weep without restraint. Sometimes you need that.

It kind of flushes you out emotionally. We miss our lost loved ones. It's good that we do. I don't want to forget a single thing about my son. To me it's evidence that we weren't designed to lose people we love. We were designed to live forever; to always be able to turn around and find those beloved people right there, ready to make another day special and joyous.

I'm ready to see this mess of a world come to an end and to start up a new one. Maybe God will let me plant trees for the new Earth. I always wanted to design a forest. Maybe the kids and I can do it together. Mom can supervise. I'll bring the tunes...

Tom King
(c) 2015

Monday, August 10, 2015

Soccer Would Be So Proud

My wife and I ran a day care center for several years. She taught the four and five year-olds how to do if/then reasoning (the Socratic method). She explained to them who Socrates was and how to figure out if/then problems. The kids really enjoyed doing the little mind problems the lesson called for.

One 5 year old boy, puzzled over a question, struggling to find an answer. Sheila put her hand on his shoulder and said, gently, "Just think it out."  Marcus, a serious looking black boy, wrinkled up his brow and appeared to be thinking mightily.  Then he spoke up.

"I've got it," he said. He explained what he'd decided to do to solve his problem. I don't remember exactly what the problem was, but it was a head-scratcher for Marcus - I remember that. Sheila listened to his explanation and then told him he had done a good job of figuring the problem out.

A light seemed to break out over his face as he looked up at her.  "Soccer would be so proud!" he grinned.

If we can teach 4 and 5 year olds to reason from cause to effect, then how is it that the public school system can't seem to teach that skill to teenagers?

© 2015 by Tom King

Monday, July 27, 2015

Love the Sinner


C.S. Lewis once observed that when his Christian teachers used to tell him that he must hate sin while loving the sinner, "I used to think this a silly straw-splitting distinction:  how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man?" This attitude is very common among atheists and unbelievers, as Lewis was when he believed this bit of uncritical thinking. Unrepentant sinners seem to have real difficulty with the Christian claim that we can "Love the sinner and hate the sin." It's one of their greatest points of frustration and the basis of their claim that Christians are all hypocrites because of our obvious hatred of sin.

Critics of Christianity's condemnation of sin, like to point out that such a thing as hating sin without hating the sinner is impossible. One can't hate someone's sins goes the argument, without hating the person who is committing those sins. Therefore, the critics extrapolate from this, that we must accept and embrace sins like homosexual behavior, crude language, drug usage, alcoholism and pornography or we cannot possibly the love sinners who do those things as we claim to do. And if we refuse to, say, sell a gay wedding cake, marry a gay couple, or even attempt to dissuade someone from smoking pot or getting an abortion, then we are, Q.E.D., haters and hypocrites. And if we dare ask someone if he or she would like to come to church, we must be condemning them outright!

The argument unbelievers put forth may feel convincing, but with a very little effort, we can, each and every one of us, find a personal experience of having hated the sin and loved the sinner that disproves their thesis. We need look no further than our own hearts. We've, every one of us, been hating sin and loving a sinner all our lives. The sinner we love most, is, it turns out, ourself! We all commit sins that, in retrospect, we regret having committed. We might not exactly call them sins, but we recognize our less than kindly acts as wrong, whether we give them the name "sins" or not.

We all regret some loss of temper on our part; some bit of cowardice or greed or some lie we have told when the truth might have served us better. When we discover that we have, in fact, committed some unlovely act of which we are ashamed, we are sorry to find that we are the sort of person who could do that. Inevitably, because we love ourselves as much as we do, we forgive ourselves our sin and continue to wish the best for ourselves. In fact, if one does not love one's self, any competent psychologist will tell you that that person is in danger of developing a mental illness, if not a severe psychosis. We are designed to love ourselves. If we do not, our minds inevitably break down, because how can you live as intimately as you do with yourself, if you hate that person.

Jesus, who understood this principle better than any man in history, based his entire distillation of the Law of God upon the fact that every man is born with the innate ability to love himself. When He says, "Love your neighbor as yourself," He tells us not only what we should do, but where to go to find a role model for doing just that. In essence, we already know how to love the sinner and hate the sin from the get-go, for we already know how to love ourselves, as replete with sin as we are.

And, we are born already knowing how to hate the sin without failing in our love for the sinner. "However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed," Lewis explains, "I went on loving myself. There had never been the slightest difficulty about it. In fact, the very reason why I hated the things was that I love the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things."

In the end, Christianity doesn't have to reduce it's hatred for cruelty, greed, murder, lying, adultery or blasphemy by one iota. The truth is, if we love goodness, we ought to hate those sinful acts with a passion, not just for the pain they cause others, but for damage they have done to those we love who are committing those sins. It is at this point that Christians fall to their knees and pray that somehow, in some way, those sinners may be cured of their sin and made whole and human again.

We cannot help it if that makes you unrepentant sinners out there uncomfortable. We're a lot like your mother. We may love you, but if you do bad things, we're probably going to nag you about it and pray for your soul. It may make you feel like we look down on you, but we don't. We just pity you is all. That may make you angry, but if you look at it correctly, if you really do want to do what you want to do, then you can't really get mad at people who don't like it. We don't have to like it. You are free to choose to do what you want to do. So are we. You cannot force us to approve of, what we believe is your misbehavior, anymore than we can force you to behave.

The wonderful and often uncomfortable thing about freedom of choice is that it works both ways. You don't get to disobey on your own hook and then be able to force others to approve of your disobedience. It's hypocrisy at its most blatant to think you can. The old saw, "What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander," springs to mind.

Where the strife in this world comes from is when one person or group of persons decides they must control how another group thinks or behaves, especially when that group's behavior does not impinge upon that person or group's right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And that goes back to the original source of the trouble in the Garden. The whole trouble with sin is that, at it's roots, it stems from a desire to set one's self up in place of God; not the God of love and self-sacrifice, who gives everything of Himself for His creation, but a God of power who is Lord and master over all he surveys.  Such a god is a petty tyrant in the end and all who aspire to this sort of godship inevitably wind up petty tyrants, who seek to enforce their will over others. It should not be surprising when sinners of this sort seek to control how we think and feel and demand that everyone approve of their behavior even when they are sinning in a most public and disgusting manner. Sadly, some of them even call themselves Christians.

Tom King
(c) 2015 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

How About We Burn the Confederate "National" Flag Instead?

My youthful rebellion!

We did a water ski show at Lone Star Camp every Friday when we had campers during the 5 summers I worked there and the three years I was a camper before that. In that ski show, I skiied on canoe paddles, two by fours, anchored a pyramid, towed a canoe behind a motorboat, was jerked off docks, towers and from the shore. One of the more memorable "incidents", however, was the time I paddled stroke oar for a tandem canoe from which we flew a certain flag that has been much in the news lately.

I admit it. I owned a Confederate Battle Flag in my youth. One summer, I took it with me to camp - not sure why. I was hardly a racist. Quite the opposite, actually, to the chagrin of some of my relatives who were, in fact, die-hard racists. I had the flag because I was, at the time, quite in touch with my inner rebel. Our camp director that summer was a returned missionary, who was originally a Yankee from Fitchburg, Massachusetts. He was proud of the fact, and a died in the wool Yankee, he wasn't at all shy about expressing his low opinion of Southern culture.

Now, most of us were from Texas, which we consider a culture far superior to either Northern or Southern culture. We shouldn't have been offended about his comments about Southern culture. After all, we were from Texas, not Georgia or Mississipi or, worse, Arkansas! But, there was something about his uppitiness that tempted us to sin. So for the flag pass during the ski show one Friday, we built a tandem canoe with a platform suspended between the canoes. To add insult to injury, we stood Elder Sandstrom's youngest daughter up on the platform with my Confederate flag on a pole. We paddled past the reviewing stand and unfurled it big as life before our Yankee boss.

We gave the poor Yankee all sorts of trouble that summer. He took some of the guys to a game between the Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox. Boston won the game. We heard about it on the radio while he and a few of the guys were in Arlington at the game. Now the good preacher had been all uppity about the superiority of Boston the whole week before the game. We knew were going to have to hear all about how the mighty Boston had beaten Texas in baseball. The group that had gone to the game had a couple or three of hours' drive time to get home. So before they could get back about ten of us went down by the cafeteria where there was this giant hollow metal "STAR" - symbol of the camp sitting in the grass by the flagpole.  We hoisted the star and carried it all the way to the camp's front gate (about a quarter mile or so).  We left it sitting squarely in front of the entrance, blocking the road entirely. 

If you want to burn the true flag of oppression
then this is the one to go after - the one chosen
by the upper-crust racists and slave owners
who wrote the Confederate Constitution
When they got home, the guys who went to the game had to move the star in order to get back into camp. It was quite a job because there weren't ten of them. Several times that summer, we ran the Confederate flag up the flagpole that summer just so the boss would see it when he came out of his cabin door in the morning.

I have to say this for Elder Sandstrom, he had the good sense to take it all in stride and to accept it for what it was - nothing more than a little regional pride. He did NOT attach to our little rebellion more meaning than there was to it. Truth is, there wasn't any meaning to it other than that. The picture above is of our nature instructor, Bow Walker, and me singing Elvis' Civil War trilogy at a campfire one night. It is a song that combines two distinctly regional anthems (Battle Hymn of the Republic and Dixie) with The Cruel War, a folk song about the tragedy of the whole thing. You'll notice the Confederate battle flag I had thrown over my shoulder during the song.

We were going to throw a US flag over Bow's shoulder but we decide it would be disrespectful. That's all the more sanctity that the battle flag has to most Southerners. It's decoration. That's pretty much it. We paint it on cars, put it on t-shirts, fly it at all sorts of public occasions, not because we hate black people, but because it's a symbol of Southern resistance to outsiders who want to change us.

I'm not defending racism here. I don't fly the battle flag anymore because some of my black friends think it's a racist symbol. I'm truly sorry if your feeling were hurt. At the same time, I kind of resent when others attach meaning to my symbols that I do not attach to them. They are, after all, my symbols. Right now, there is a massive movement to remove the Confederate battle flag from every monument in the South. Yielding to media pressure, NASCAR has even asked fans not to fly it anymore at races. As we speak, they're bowing to the forces of political correctness and scraping the Confederate battle flag off the top of the General Lee - soon to be renamed the Rosa Parks or some damned fool thing like that, no doubt.

The real irony here is that the only relatives I have who fought during the Civil War, fought and died for the Union. My southern relatives stayed out for religious reasons. Adventists were pretty much all abolitionists at the time. The rest of my Southern kin just weren't interested in fighting for the Confederacy. The only reason I had a Confederate flag all those years ago was because I sympathized with rebels - not necessarily Confederate rebels, but anyone who stood against some form of tyrannical authority. The folk who demand the battle flag be torn down, miss that bit. For that matter, part of the appeal to join my church was because it refused to kow-tow to human authority on matters of faith. I guess I've always been choosy about who I obey.

I fully expect there to be demands soon to haul down the Texas flag since it was also flown as a battle flag by Texas troops during the Civil War. The fact that Sam Houston, the governor of Texas resigned rather than sign the secession decree and that many Texans did not support slavery won't matter to people for whom everything is about brute symbolism. Also, some have said the Texas flag is a symbol of oppression of the Mexican people (we did rebel against Mexico after all). You would have to ignore all the Hispanic guys inside the Alamo and marching with the Texican troops at San Jacinto, in order to make your case, but somebody inevitably will. Texas' flag is actually more about resistance to the forces of progressive socialism these days, a fact that will soon draw it the ire of the rainbow flag waving might-as-well-admit-they're-Marxists crowd that's busily fomenting riots and blaming it on conservatives, Christians and anyone else who resists their ascension to power.

If you really want to divest the Confederate battle flag of its symbolism, you should just ignore it and let Southerners define what it symbolizes - at least if racial unity is your true goal. If you're just counting coup, you just might find that you won't be able to get away with it without some kickback. This clip from the film "Gettysburg" suggests what sort of people fought under the battle flag and what a tragedy the whole stupid thing was and a little bit about why some folk still like waving the battle flag to honor their soldier-ancestors and have no regard for the national flag of the Confederacy at all.

Just my opinion.

© 2015 by Tom King