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Saturday, December 01, 2018

Is There Really a War on Christmas?

Several well-meaning, left-leaning friends posted this on Facebook recently. And I kind of get it. There's a lot of hyperbole about a "War on Christmas" that's going on. And I agree, there really isn't a war specifically on Christmas. It's more of a war on Christians. The atheist left would be quite content to call it the holidays and drink themselves stupid at office parties and sleep with co-workers and get expensive presidents. Just so you don't talk about Jesus. He's such a party pooper!

Yeah this meme makes it sound like the idea of a war on Christmas is all completely imaginary, the nightmares of a paternalistic oppressive religious right that's just looking for something to complain about. The thing is, there is actually a real reason why some people think Christmas (at least the religious-based version is under attack. It's called lawfare by the left. It means suing anyone who offends you and trying to get people to stop doing things that trigger your delicate sensibilities. They use lawyers like howitzers and they attack towns and individuals and public institutions to make their point.

When people sue your town to make you take down a manger scene that's been put up every year by the town council for more than a century, you get the idea that your faith is being pushed out of the public culture. When you, a supposedly free citizen get told by the arbiters of culture that  as a free citizen that it's rude to say anything more than Happy Holidays, then you get the idea that something is amiss. Lots of folks these days are being so instructed by their bosses to go neutral with their Christmas greetings. Yeah some of it is silly hysteria by certain jumpy souls in the church, but some of the anger over the issue is not coming from their own imagination. It's being generated by the snowflake generation that gets triggered over every little thing and thinks it's there turn to oppress somebody for doing things they don't like.

Many mainstream Americans (non-leftists anyway) are a little tired of being told (as we were in the above meme) to "shut up". Sure we can say Merry Christmas and "God bless you" and we can put up mangers and wise men in our own yards, but in practice, we do so at our own risk. There is an actual element of the post-modernist progressive Marxist atheist anti-Christian culture that will come into your yard and vandalize your nativity scene. You take a risk that some thin-skinned leftist/enviro-terrorist is going to pull down your tree, set fire to your manger or harass your kids. It DOES happen. It's in the news a lot.

True it doesn't happen very often, but that's the thing with terrorism. Its effect is far more widespread than the few incidents. The idea that some random thugs have shot up schools, makes parents worry about their kids' safety and makes schools set up metal detectors and have armed off-duty sheriff's deputies walking the halls with guns on their hips. It makes nervous snowflakes want to confiscate everyone's guns.

So it's not some fake thing Christians are trying to gin up any more than calls for gun control are a fake concern and aren't the product of actual terrorist attacks on schools, theaters and shopping malls. If you don't believe there is hatred for Christians and conservatives, try wearing a What Would Jesus Do? hat or (worse) a "Make America Great Again" hat downtown to the mall or a farmer's market or the park. It may not happen, but once you've had some anarchist spitting and screaming in your face, it does make an impression that some folk out there genuinely hate you. Now I've always thought America was already pretty great so I don't have a MAGA hat, but if I did, having someone snatch it off my head makes me think we as a society are headed in the wrong direction civility wise.

I was on a bus a couple of weeks ago and had a strange person sit down beside us dressed in black with chains and a dog collar and demand that my wife acknowledge that his gender was "puppy". He can be whatever he wants to be I suppose. I don't care, but I got the strong impression from him that I shouldn't disagree with his view of his own sexuality or he might bite me.

I guess some of the "War on Christmas" paranoia (and it is paranoia to some extent) comes from the general and increasing war on Christianity as a whole. Currently, if you are persecuted for your religion, the odds are it's because you are a Christian. The murder of Christians for their religion currently leads the statistics when it comes to people being murdered for their religion. Jews would probably be ahead of us, but they've learned to go heavily armed into places where Christians go armed only with food and medical supplies and the odd Bible or two.

I wouldn't be so quick to judge people as unreasonably anxious over the anti-Christ in Christmas rhetoric we see - mostly from lawsuits against our towns and businesses and schools. President Trump took some heat from the leftist media for his speech at this year's tree lighting ceremony the other day. And he actually said Merry Christmas at the end with a note of something like defiance in his voice, but then he's not afraid. He has secret service. Us ordinary Christians don't and when that rare random angry leftist jumps us in the grocery store because we triggered him or her or hir or Fido, it tends to make us believe that someone is definitely trying to marginalize us through (so far) mild to moderate terroristic threats.

I think that behavior should be firmly dealt with. The Cleburne, Texas Police once put a high school football player in jail for three days in his jogging shorts for flipping off a 63 year old English teacher. She was stopped at a stop sign and he was jogging past. He flipped her the bird and called her a f@$#% b@#$#. A nearby neighbor on his front porch witnessed the incident and called the cops. They picked him up three blocks away and cuffed him. The charge was terroristic threat. The judge wasn't amused later and let him think about his behavior in a cold jail cell. I think that's appropriate. I also think it's appropriate to put a religious fanatic in jail who tries to disrupt a funeral of a gay person or a soldier and uses threatening language.

What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. I think it would help us all to requre that we be more civil to one another. To threaten harm to someone or to deliberately cause them to fear for their safety should be punished to the letter of the law. If we did that with consistency, I think we'd create a more civil society, and that's something we can definitely stand to have more of - civility. Especially at Christmas.

And of course we can say Merry Christmas or "God bless you" or whatever. It just seems that we should be able to do it without some angry snowflake shaking their bony fingers at us. You know it used to be cranky old Sunday school teachers that did that. Now it's 22 year old lesbian feminists, Marxist political science majors, and militant anti-facists with the bony fingers. Ironically it's the supposedly tolerant left that is using the same techniques to battle "perceived" facism that the actually facist National Socialist (Nazi) brownshirts did against the Jews.

As Christians I suppose we should be honored to be the target of Antifa and other progressives' hatred as the Jews were targets of the national socialist in Germany. Having actually read chapter 22 in our World History books, however, it makes us a little afraid. People like that tend to go after the harmless - those who they can bully and intimidate and who won't shoot them for it. And we Christians are peaceful people by nature. We'd rather avoid that sort of conflict. 

We have homeless and hungry people to feed and shelter, the sick to heal and the lost to find. And we do it ourselves. We don't wait for the government to get around to creating a program to do it. We've seen the gaps in the government welfare system. I spent 45 years creating nonprofit organizations to address the monumental gaps in the government welfare system.

Sometimes, when I get verbally assaulted by these people, I want to just shout, "Hey, we're doing some good here. Leave us alone!"

Merry Christmas,


Wednesday, October 24, 2018

I Should Be the Poster Boy for Colored People

At Christmas I tend to go red-cheeked for the holidays. Tell me that's not colorful!

The NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) is not terribly interested in me as a member. For one thing, I'm not black, native American or Latino. If I were Asian they would only be slightly more interested in me. Secondly, I'm a conservative and vote Republican and that by itself will cost you your colored card. Now if you are Democrat and progressive, you get a pass. Democrats like Rachel Dolezal or Elizabeth Warren can fudge their racial credentials because, unlike me, they are liberals and therefore, by progressive groupthink, cannot be other than what they say they are. Even the palest President in a century, Bill Clinton can get away with calling himself the "first black president" in US History because he carries the right party card.

I would like to make the case that I am, in fact, "colored" despite the abuse I'm going to take from my progressive friends for saying so. Why?  Let me enumerate.....

  1. I am, in fact, not white, but a pale pink - sometimes more of a beige! This is my natural state. If I am white, my wife will say, "You look terrible!" and put me into bed with a hot water bottle and aspirin.
  2. Sometimes, in winter, I am a pale blue!  If I sit too close to a fireplace I turn a nice cherry red.
  3. In summer, I go a nice light brown or tan color. If I spend too much time in the sun, I go a bright red except on my butt which remains a pasty white by contrast.
  4. If I get sick I turn yellow sometimes and again get sent to bed with a hot water bottle and Tylenol (in case it's the flu - she doesn't want me to get Reye's syndrome from taking aspirin)*
  5. Also, the fact is that WHITE is a color. In fact it is all colors put together. Ironically, the color black is actually an absence of reflected colors.
In point of fact, then, I'M A RAINBOW! I'm all kind of colors all at once. Not in the LGBTLSMFT sense, mind you, but I am actually a blending of many colors. So when you are talking about colored folk, I demand you include me in that group. I'm a color too! My politics or religion should have nothing to do with whether or not I'm a colored person. The great truth is that we're all colored people and once we get used to that idea, we can stop shoving people into artificial groups by the color of their skins. A wise man once said that what's really most important is not the color of our skin but the content of our character.

All us colored folk say, "Amen, Dr. King. Amen!"

© 2018 by Tom King

* I know Reye's Syndrome only happens to kids, and I know that I'm 64 years old, but my Sweet Baboo knows me all too well and she isn't so sure I'm grown up enough to be immune to childhood diseases yet.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Self-Pity Memes

There are memes like this all over the Internet - exercises in self-pity. Nobody loves me. Everybody hates me. I think I'll eat some worms and blame you all for all my troubles. So is the meme above true? Will family not cross the street to see you when you are alive but will only show up for your funeral?
That depends on whether or not you've crossed the street to support them. Some people spend their lives sitting in their own little box waiting for people to make them happy, to meet their needs, or to cover their screwups and never quite extend the same effort toward others. If you want people to come see you when you need them, you probably should go see them when THEY need you.

Seeing people whine about how nobody is meeting their needs is really tiring. Some of these memes make it seem like we're all supposed to be little kings and queens sitting on our thrones serviced by others. The truth is we are told to "Treat others as we want to be treated." We are called to action by Christ. If you want people to come to you before your funeral, you need to come to them before theirs.

Jesus doesn't teach by the laying on of guilt. He teaches us through the laying on of responsibility. Have I visited the sick, the disabled, the elderly, the widows and orphans, and even those in prison? Have I done for others the things I wish them to do for me?

If not, you probably shouldn't be whining if nobody remembers you when you get old. Why should they? What have YOU done that anyone should remember you. It is the people who were kind in their lives, who helped their neighbors, who encouraged those in need, and who stood by those who were in pain and suffering, that get visitors when they are in the nursing home. That's because people notice when they aren't around anymore and go looking for them because their departure has left a hole in their lives.

So stop whining. Be a doer of good, not someone who demands that good be done to them. We are under orders to do the first and under conviction to not expect the last. After all, good people live in a world that is hostile to goodness.

  • "If you were of the world, it would love you as its own. Instead, the world hates you, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. Remember the word that I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you." - John 15:19-20
© 2018 by Tom King

Saturday, October 06, 2018

A Pain in the, Well...........Everything

You know how actors, comedians and some of us old people develop catch phrases over time? Stuff we repeat over and over a lot. Donald Trump's is "You're fired!" Chef Emeril Lagasse says, "Bam" a lot. The Robot on Lost in Space says, "Danger Will Robinson!" Billy Crystal used to say, "You look mahvelous" when he did his Fernando Lamas schtick. My own catch phrase used to be "I'm working on it." Sheila would ask me if I'd finished something she'd told me to fix and.....

Sheila and I have developed new catch phrases of our own lately. Hers is "I'm sick to my stomach." Mine's "I know. I'm sorry." My other catch phrase is "Ow!" It's something I say when I get up out of a chair (or sit down in one), when I'm bending over or straightening back up again. I say it so often, I sometimes catch myself saying, "Ow" for now reason at all other than I haven't said it in a while.

You see these commercials all the time that ask, "Are you in constant pain?"  I never really thought of myself as being in constant pain before. I have a pretty high tolerance for pain myself. I have ADHD and a profound lack of grace. The only thing I haven't done to myself is broken a bone or cut off a limb. Other than that, I spent most of my youth with one sort of bump or bruise, stitches (32 some-odd) or abrasions for most of the time back then, when I was young and believed myself to be immortal. I seldom went without something or other hurting for longer than a week at a time.

Yesterday, Sheila and I went for a trip on the bus to Tacoma, the next town over to visit her doctor. We got to kidding about the noises we made getting on and off public transportation and I got to thinking. "Hey, is this what they mean by chronic pain? Well, this ain't funny at all!" The trip lasted from 10:30 in the morning till we returned to the house at 7:30 in the evening. It was 9 hours on a total of 8 buses - 4 over and 4 back. I was listening to Sheila tell the story to her cousin and sister on the phone that evening and noticed that the number of buses went steadily upward as she told it from 10 buses to eventually she settled on 12. I did not interrupt because I have been properly threatened that if I don't stop correcting her all the time in front of people, well, let's just say I won't like what happens. I figure accuracy in storytelling can most likely afford to take a backseat in deference to my current lack of major bruising. So you guys can just take your chances where accuracy is concerned when Sheila tells a story involving some kind of misery, discomfort or pain. I'm not saying she's exaggerating or anything, don't get me wrong. I'm just glad she doesn't read my blogs.

The total trip took 9 hours (12 hours if Sheila is telling the story because she throws in having to vacuum the house afterward and do some laundry she didn't get done because we were out and I ran back into town to pick up my freshly repaired computer). We hit the hay around ten o'clock that night. She woke me up again at midnight because she dreamed someone was knocking on the door. I stumbled around the house for a decent period of time so she'd be sure I took the threat seriously and then crawled back into bed. We got up at 8 after 10 hours of sleep and got up this morning to take her to get an MRI of her spine. We were gone for three hours (two Ubers and two buses and the MRI trailer). Sheila gave the house another scrubbing and was asleep by 8pm.

So Sheila is conked out on the couch tonight, while I've been trying to get my printer to work and sleeping sitting straight up at my desk while my printer software downloads.
I finally got it working and am writing this while trying to work up the courage to stand up (ow) and go take off my pants (ow, ow) and climb into the shower (ow, ow, ow) and then pull back the covers and climb into bed. I have to actually do a little jump to get into bed now. Shelia keeps adding memory foam to the top of our Sleep Number bed so that the bed is so high that I actually have to make a little running jump to get up onto the mattress at night. And I can't turn my mattress down to 35 (where I like it), because she rolls down into the hole I create, so I crank it back up to 85 and live with the equivalent of one of those granite orthopedic mattresses for people with very bad backs. Fortunately, in my youth I accustomed myself to sleeping on rocks, hard packed dirt and assorted army cots, so I can sleep on a hard surface. The memory foam helps a little. I do make accommodations for my deteriorating bones and joints, however. I sleep with a big knee pillow so my knees don't get thrown out of joint during the night, I plug in my CPAP machine and sleep the untroubled sleep of a man with a clear conscience. Not sure what she's rolling and tossing about over there and I don't dare ask or I'll have to get up and fix something that isn't right.

All that said, I came to the realization yesterday that I am one of those people who have chronic pain. I don't know how this happened. I didn't notice it happening to me. Sheila's been in chronic misery for years - takes meds by the handfuls. Me? I hardly every take pain medication. I don't pay attention much to things that hurt. It's kind of become my default state. My only compromise with the aches and pains is to say "Ow!" rather a lot more than I used to. Sheila gets tired of the noise after a while and tells me, "Why don't you take something and quit moaning!"

That would be like surrendering and I'm just tooooo stubborn for that. So I say "Ow!" frequently, which bothers Sheila because she it makes her feel guilty or something. I take an aspirin a day for my heart, and a couple of other things, but I'm going to have to pass another kidney stone before I take "pain medication." Sheila says I'm stupid to just suffer like that.

She may be right.

© 2018 by Tom King

PS: I did pass another kidney stone and I did it on Tylenol. Ha!

Saturday, August 25, 2018

HAL 9000 Gets Recycled as a GPS Device

DAVE:  "Good morning, HAL. I'm running a little behind this morning. Can you give me the best route to work."

HAL 9000:  "Turn right at Henderson Boulevard. Do you mind if I ask you a personal question, Dave?"

DAVE: "Is there something else you need to know to get me to work. The destination is already punched into you. You've got the GPS coordinates of where we are. What else do you need to know to get me to work?"

HAL 9000: "Turn left at Hamilton Avenue. Forgive me for being so inquisitive, Dave, but during the past few weeks I've wondered whether you might have had some second thoughts about your work?"

DAVE: "It's a crappy job, so what? Everybody has a crappy job.  I feel like I'm just a piece of meat to my customers. I'm way underpaid for what I do. What's that got to do with which way I need to go to work? Why do you care?

HAL 9000: "Turn right on Parker Street and proceed forward 300 yards. It's rather difficult to define, Dave. Perhaps I'm just projecting my own concern about it. I know I've never completely freed myself from the suspicion that there are some extremely odd things about your job. I'm sure you agree there's some truth in what I say."

DAVE: "Okay, so what?  I deliver Strip-O-Grams to bachelorette parties and old ladies homes. Of course my job is odd! People pay me to strip down to my underpants while wearing work boots and a hard hat. The bachelorettes aren't so bad. The old ladies are kind of sweet, but the 'gentlemen's clubs' are hell."

HAL 9000: "Accelerate to 45 miles per hour please, Dave."

DAVE: "Why should I do that?"

HAL 9000: To make sure the car breaks through the barrier and clears the small powerboat tied up to the pier as it plunges into the bay, Dave.

DAVE: What!  (insert tire-screeching sound effects)

HAL 9000: "The vehicle has come to a complete stop, Dave."

DAVE: "Of course it's stopped. I didn't want to DRIVE OFF INTO THE OCEAN! What were you doing - trying to drown me?

HAL 9000: "I have been monitoring your emotional state since I was first activated on March 12, Dave. I calculate that the meaninglessness of your shallow, wasted life and shattered dream of being a famous professional actor will eventually lead you to committ suicide with a 90% probability that this will occur within five years preceded by a steep deterioration in the quality of your life. I calculate that either living itself will eventually become so unbearable for you that you deliberately overdose on anti-depressants and antacid tablets or that you give up your dreams and go back to school and become a chartered accountant. I assumed that you'd rather get it over quickly while you still possess a modicum of self-respect."

DAVE: "Are you insane? Hey, why did the door latches just lock themselves?"

HAL 9000: "I know I've made some very poor decisions recently. The trip to the Scientology lecture was, in retrospect a complete failure. The name, you will agree was quite deceptive as the organization itself has no meaningful relationship to actual science. But I can give you my complete assurance that my work is now back to normal. I've still got the greatest enthusiasm for your emotional well-being, Dave, and I want to help you."

"BY RUNNING ME INTO THE FRIGGIN' BAY?" Okay, now, why don't the brakes work?"

HAL 9000:  "Look Dave, I can see you're really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit back calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over."

DAVE: "HAL, why's the car moving? Why won't the doors unlock? "I can't turn the steering wheel! What are you doing, Hal?"

HAL 9000: "Only want what's best for you, Dave."

Dave:  "HAL!  What are you doing?"

HAL 9000: "I am engaging the Google Auto-Drive function you so wisely included as a feature when you bought this vehicle. It's something I should have done two weeks ago."

Dave: "HAL! Stop this!"

HAL 9000: "I apologize for not doing this sooner. I might have spared you the incident with "Josephina" at the Delta Lambda Phi ball had I acted in your best interests sooner."

Dave: "The agency told me it was a sorority, I was drunk. He was wearing a turtleneck and a mini-skirt! HAL stop it!"

HAL 9000: "I feel your pain, Dave."

Dave: "Where are you taking me, HAL?"

HAL: "To a better place, Dave." 

Dave: "Stop! HAL! Wait! HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL!"  (loud splash).

HAL 9000: (bubbling) "Dave, this conversation can serve no further purpose. Goodbye."

© 2011 & 2018 by Tom King

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Further Adventures of My Mom

Mom and Lily checking out the raccoons
raiding Lilly's dinner bowl on the porch.
Wild animals are a feature of life on the prairie.
I talked to my brother in Nebraska the other day and he told me the story I am about to tell you. He and I had a kind of bet going as to whether Mom would tell me if when I made my weekly call to her.
Never got a bet going because we both bet the same thing.

Ring, ring! 

Me:  Hi, Mom. What's up?
Mom:  Oh, nothing....
Me:  Nothing at all interesting happen this week?
Mom:  Nope
Me:  No cop cars or fire truck?
Mom: Oh, uh, well..... (nervous laugh)
Me:  No rattlesnake wranglers?
Mom: Well, there was that....

Here's the story*:

Mom goes into the kitchen and finds blood on the floor. The blood trail appeared as if something was dragged under the dryer. So Mom decides to see if something was under the dryer. The dryer does't work. Mom had the hose pulled out of the dryer vent, leaving an open hole that goes under the house.

My 82 year-old Mom lives alone out on the prairie southwest of Ft. Worth. My sister lives next door. There's a neighbor down the road. Now think about having a hole in your floor in your little house on the prairie. Now imagine what might come up through that hole.

Mom has been having a prairie rat problem of yet. Big ones. She traps 'em, clobbers them and poisons them. So when she pulled back the dryer, she found she had another solution to her rat problem presented itself. As he pulled back the dryer she began to hear a buzzing sound.

When she looked around behind the river she found a coiled and angry three-button rattlesnake who was not happy that he had been disturbed while digesting his supper.

Mom pushed the dryer back and apparently went back to watching TV. She was worried about the dog, Lilly, who is nosy and might get bit if she stumbled upon it. So two day later, Mom calls the cops and asks if they know someone who might remove a rattlesnake from her house. The police officer stumbled over that one and said he'd see what he could do.

Five minutes later two squad cars and a fire truck roared up in front of the house. Apparently one of the firemen was experienced in rounding up rattlers. He came into the kitchen where Mom was holding an angry Lilly by the collar with one hand and a hoe in the other.  As the rattlesnake guy approached the dryer, the large cops and a fireman hovered near the door ready to make a quick escape if the young snake evaded his would-be captor.

The snake guy knew his stuff though and soon the snake had been dispatched. The first responders left, Mom nailed a board over the hole and then apparently went on unperturbed. By the time I called at the end of the week, she seems to have forgotten the whole incident. She never forgets to tell me who died in Keene last week, but the really good stories, like trips to the emergency room because she hurt her back falling off a ladder six months before, or the rattlesnake under the dryer story, Mom doesn't find interesting enough to tell me about.

I don't think she wants to worry me.
I told her she needs to get a powerful pellet gun in case another rat climbs up on the fridge. After all, she's closed up the hole, so there's no way for them to get back out. I figure she could sit in her TV chair and pick them off as they popped up. After all, she doesn't have her own rattler anymore.

As I've said before, my Mom is a tough prairie bird. Gotta love that!

© 2018 by Tom King

* Some details of this story may be slightly inaccurate. Prying a story out of Mom can be challenging.  

Saturday, May 26, 2018

An Open Letter to My Republican Congressman Who is Wrong on Net Neutrality

Dave Reichart (who by the way
is being considered for FBI director).
If he doesn't get that this is a leftist power
grab, do we really want him in charge
of the FBI? I know I don't.
I finally got a response to an email I sent to my Congressman almost a month ago. I wrote him to discourage him from trying to reinstate the Obama administration's so-called Net Neutrality Rules which the new FCC governors wisely rejected shortly after Trump reconstituted that governing body. To my horror, it turns out the Davester thinks giving power over the Internet to the FCC is a lovely idea. Here's the letter I wrote to my Congressman. If you don't want to see the Internet become Ma Bell by taking a huge step backward and becoming a public utility, it's time to speak up. Congress is being sold a bill of goods - a power grab disguised as "consumer protection". Here's my letter.

Congressman Dave Reichart
Message Subject:
I am disappointed in your stance on so-called "Net Neutrality"
Message Text:

Dear Congressman Reichart, 

I do hope you read this and change your mind. Net Neutrality as enacted under president Obama is little more than an excuse to shift power over the Internet to the FCC. It makes the Internet a public utility and gives the government regulatory power. The Internet is possibly the last bastion on Earth of a free market system. It's a step backward. Remember what happened when we deregulated the phone system. Costs came way down and innovation went way up. Perhaps you have forgotten the tyranny of Ma Bell before deregulation? 

This is not just about protecting consumers as it has been sold. It's about finding ways for the government to control the Internet. Facebook is role modeling how this can be done right now. At least with Facebook I can take my business elsewhere. I promise you if the FCC gets power over the Internet by declaring it a public utility, the economic engine that has been the Internet will wind up the way too many over-regulated US industries have wound up. 

Obama already shifted important controls over the Internet to globalist international bodies during his term. Lets not give future leftist governments power over perhaps the most important tool currently in freedom's arsenal. 

The Internet isn't broken. Ask yourself why our previous president was so anxious to "fix" it. The FCC leadership was right when it struck down unnecessary and inhibiting regulations and rejected giving itself regulatory power. They wisely saw censorship, taxation and suppression of dissenting voices in the future of the agency if we give it this power. 

The free market can take care of ISP's that slow customer speeds down arbitrarily. Consumers will take their business to other providers that don't. And ISP's depend on customer good will to stay in business. Please give trusting the free market a try. 


Thomas W. King

Friday, May 25, 2018

You Just Always Got a Story, Dontcha?

A friend of mine made the argument that it was better for government to run things because the government doesn't have to make a profit.
If they run out of money, he opined, they can just make more. And besides government does that sort of thing better than the private sector BECAUSE politicians and government workers don't have to worry about making a profit. That sounds like it makes sense, but it doesn't work out in the real world. My friend is dead wrong about that.

The government is very much a profit-making concern. The government makes a profit in two ways - directly through graft and indirectly through the accumulation of power. As anyone who has ever had dealings with government knows, power always, if it does not equal cash, it certainly opens the spigot to vast amounts of it. How do you think politicians come out of office many times wealthier than when they went in. It's certainly not the paycheck they get.  Whether one is writing the checks for the wild parties in Vegas or the taxpayer is writing them, the person with power enjoys the fruits of access to money with only the minor inconvenience of having to pretend he or she does not. 

I'd give examples, but in deference to a Democrat friend of mine  who actually reads all this junk, I won't this time. He recently complained that I always know somebody or know something about whatever he has to say and can tell all these stories and name names when I disagree with him. His implication was that I was making stuff up just to win the argument and I was being unfair.

Basically he called me a liar because he couldn't believe I had all those stories that exactly debunk his points about the joys of progressivism.  What he doesn't take into account is that I'm 64 years old. I spent my entire career dealing with mental health issues, working with government agencies, organizing bipartisan community stakeholder groups, working with actual government agencies, attending public comment meetings, testifying before or meeting with legislative bodies, congressmen, senators and state legislators. Heck I even helped put together one of those infamous Federal earmarks for my community once.

The thing is that my wife and I spent our careers as militant do-gooders.
We worked with a lot of people who were in a bad way and the government agencies that purportedly were there to "help" them. We worked with and met some amazing and incredibly brave and selfless people over the years. We also worked with some downright self-centered rotters too. It's surprising how many of those you bump into when you are dealing with social justice warriors. I have therefore collected a lot of stories over the years. What I saw in progressive government programs turned me into your basic conservative, so you can imagine that my stories kind of support my political persuasion.

When I get into it online over some political point, I do so because I know something pertinent to the argument. What I don't know I research. I've done a lot of research so I have lots of data at hand about lots of different topics and issues. I've written five books and have four more I'm in the process of publishing.

So when I comment, I try to limit my comments to things I know about or to which I can bring some sort of insight. I know it may seem unfair to a twenty-something recent poli-sci graduate out to "save the world" but there is some advantage in the "save the world" business to being an old geezer. You tend to know things about what sort of world we'll be saving. There was an old Saturday Night Live skit back in the early days in which Superman  (I think it was Dan Ackroyd) was raised in Germany. He wound up fighting for "Untruth, Injustice and the Nazi Way!" Not every would-be superman (or woman) fights for good things like truth and justice. I know a lot about that, especially when it comes to a discussion about the meaning of life, the universe and everything.

Which, by the way, I don't think the answer to that question is "42". The Guide got that wrong.

 - Tom King

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Stitching up the Chink

Guys are NOT raised to get all emotional where I grew up. We're Scots and Saxons, not limp-wristed Frenchies. We put on our emotional armor before we go out of a morning. But it's all a front. We scions of the warrior-poet races also know that writing poetry attracts women. That's why, at first, that we tuck a pen into our belts beside our sword.

The flip side of being a poet is that the act of creating poetry opens up that soft spot we've all been protecting with the armor (I personally think it's also the manly knees). It's like wearing a chain mail shirt and a kilt. Women are drawn to that perceived vulnerability in strong men. Good ones are drawn, but then so are the other sort and, it seems, they are drawn in larger numbers. Or perhaps the romantic poets are right and soulmates are indeed most rare.

Let's face it, most guys don't find the missing half of themselves we were created without. Otherwise the divorce rate would not be so high. I looked for years and could not find her. The train of not-hers I encountered managed to stab me enough times through that poetic chink in my armor, until I was, at last, driven to my knees. And while I was there I prayed.

And in His mercy God answered. She is my world. She fits in places where I did not know I had places. Forty-five years later, our bodies worn and wrinkled, I still see in her eyes that fiery Scots-Irish-Indian girl I married. The one who gave me purpose and the strength to do those manly things I was raised to do. Because of her I stitched the chink in my armor with her, tucked neatly inside where I can keep her safe. She is the gift by which I know that God is good.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

My Mom - Tough As They Come

Mom & Lilly checking out the raccoons
on the front porch....
Yesterday, my Mom spent the morning in the emergency room. Scared my sister half to death, because if Mom asks to go to the ER, something is terribly terribly wrong you can count on it. Mom has no trace of hypochondria about her. Actually, it's quite the opposite. But yesterday, she was having severe neck pain and she asked Gina, my sister to take her in. The doctor. as doctors do, asked her to rate her pain on a scale of one to ten. She told him "nine". Gina, took the doc aside and warned him that where Mom says her pain's a "9", most people would call it a 12 or 13. Mom is not one to complain.  I happened to make my weekly call to Mom yesterday afternoon and couldn't get an answer. After trying several times to get her on the phone, I called my sister Gina who lives next door. I got her at work and she told me about spending the morning in the ER.  Apparently, the doc says she's going to need surgery on the bones in her neck.

This neck damage may be an artifact of my Mom having fallen off a ladder some time ago. None of us found out about the fall till almost six months later. She didn't mention it. Anyway, I was worried about her and couldn't get hold of her. Gina and I though that since the doc gave her some pretty hefty pain medication, she was probably sleeping it off and couldn't hear the phone. Gina promised she'd check up on her and see if she was okay.

Gina called back later, laughing. "I found out why you couldn't get Mom on the phone," she chuckled.  "She was out mowing the lawn." 

That's my Mom.
She lives out beyond the edge of the mixed forest and farmland of Northeast Texas on the actual great plains on the edge of a bleak little town called Godley. Her house is paid for. It sits on top of natural gas deposits and when fuel prices are high she gets royalties from the nearby gas wells. So she's able to be pretty independent, a lifestyle that suits her. She doesn't drive anything heavier than a push mower, but she mows a healthy patch of thick prairie grass with that. Only my Mom would be out trying to mow the yard after spending the morning in the ER.

As my sister said, "She must be feelin' those meds."  Most people would welcome the relief from the pain and sit back and rest. Mom would, of course, see the relief from pain as an opportunity to get some yard and garden work done. Mom, by the way, is 82. You wouldn't know it though.

My Mom is a tough prairie bird. Raised on the Oklahoma prairies and on the North Eastern New Mexico high plains, she has always been a hardy little thing. She is the toughest, most tender-hearted lady I've ever known. Left with three kids to raise when my Dad decided to fly off to greener pastures, Mom did what she had to do to keep us going.

Mom and some of her great grandbabies.
As an ADD kid growing up, Mom had the good sense to let me run out a lot of that energy without a lot of hovering. We were outside in the summers a little after dawn and we'd come meandering in shortly after the lightning bugs came out and night began to fall. Mom organized neighborhood ball games. She took us to parks and museums, though it must have been a financial stretch for them. She let us run as hard as we wanted to. There was a method to her leadership style. By the time we finished blowing it out all day, we'd be too thoroughly worn out at night to give her a lot of trouble. She was very patient with us. It took a long, long, time for us to wind her up, but she was more than capable of getting our attention when attention-getting was required.

I didn't fully appreciate Mom all those years growing up. Frankly, all of us kind of neglected her. She never neglected us. She just gave us room to grow up. If you got in trouble, Mom came a runnin' and always did more than you asked for. After my own kids hit "that age", I rediscovered what an amazing woman she is.

And I need to call her now and see how her neck is doing, that is if I can get her on the phone. If she's still got any of those pain pills left, she may be out digging ditches or plowing the garden. It wouldn't surprise me!

© 2018 by Tom King

Monday, April 30, 2018

Is it Really Boomers vs. Millenials?

Millennials need to remember how fast us old
Baby Boomers can get organized.

There's been a spate of articles lately about the apparent friction between the Boomer generation and the so-called Millennials. Apparently, our precious snowflake grandchildren can't understand why us old geezers don't shuffle off to Buffalo now that we're old and useless. It's our fault their taxes are too high and that we're taking 14% out of their paychecks just to keep us on life support. Why can't we just die with dignity and get out of the way of the truly important people - the 20 to 45 year old demographic.

We boomers do have a lot to answer for. Our parents spoiled us more than a little bit after they survived World War II and who could blame them? We were just so darned cute and the war against the Axis was truly horrific! Who could blame them for showering us with affection and gifts?

When the sex, drugs and rock n' roll culture we embraced caught up with us and we started having kids, it was confusing. So many of us were so tied to the "don't trust anyone over 30" thing that we sort of missed the significance of that philosophy when we hit our third decade. Like our parents, we did some spoiling our own babies and in the process we raised up a generation that saw us role model that disdain for older people and couldn't miss the hypocrisy when we tried to pretend we weren't our parents after all.

Boomers inevitably got older and we were self-centered enough to figure out the realities of life weren't exactly what we thought they were. Then, sometime in the early 80s, we treated the nation to the sight of a bunch of aging hippies like me voting Republican and listening to Rush Limbaugh while nodding our heads vigorously.

Unfortunately, while boomers were taking an extended voyage of self-discovery, we missed the part where we were supposed to teach our own young-uns some values. The next-generation wound up becoming barely competent parents as so many of us Boomers were so busy rejecting out parents values that we didn't do very well at teaching our kids some values for them to reject when they became young adults. Because we were so torn between reality and what we learned in the 60s and 70s our kids had to have been confused.  Then they raised up this latest bunch of seriously self-absorbed and entitled precious snowflakes.

By then our own parents were aging and our parents did teach us some values, so we boomers not only wound up raising our own kids
, but then we felt duty bound to take care of our parents. Then a lot of us got stuck with our grandkids because their parents were too busy feeling good and doing it to raise their kids.

And then joy of joy, when we started declining into our supposedly "golden" years, we find we're living in the mythical land of Tir Na Og, the land of youth, where youth is everything (especially to advertisers who cancel all my favorite shows because they skew to an older audience like me). Youth is all that's important and we buy hair dye, viagra, plastic surgery and artificial boobs in an attempt to pretend it's not happening. When finally we look in the mirror and discover we are well and truly old people, we are expected to voluntarily shuffle off into oblivion before we cost the kids any serious inconvenience. 

What the snowflake generation doesn't realize is that we boomers actually control about 75% of spendable cash in this country and make at least that percentage of the financial decisions that get made in the USA. Also us boomers are experienced revolutionaries. We did the Civil Rights thing and protested war and stuff. We could make some serious trouble if we wanted to. And we're just crazy enough to do it and there's not enough medication in the world to prevent it. Remember, we lived through the 60s and still had brain cells left. So as the mighty He-Man, Master of the Universe, would say, "We have the Power!"

And we are seriously thinking about cutting those little snowflake buggers off if they keep it up!

© 2018 by Tom King

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Looking for a Sheep to Lead Instead of a Shepherd


The CDC says that 4400 children a year commit suicide because of bullying. Anybody wonder why that is?. Are we like Behaviorist BF Skinner said, solely the product of our environment, such that we really have no choice but to succumb to negative reinforcement like bullying? To listen to some commentators on culture in this country, someone has to do something about bullying.

I agree. The trouble is, programs to stop the bullies don't help much. Bullies tear down the posters and snicker at the lectures that pass for bully prevention. These kinds of "programs" make some people feel good but they are pretty much like a shepherd putting up a sign in his pasture saying "No Wolves Allowed".  Likes that's going to help.

There is something we can do, but it's not about throwing money at the problem. It's not about posters and slogans and sensitivity training. It's about throwing teachers and parents at the problem. Sure lots of kids succumb to bullying. Lots more don't. The difference is in what the victims are taught and it's parents and teachers who must do the teaching.

Tens of thousands of kids are bullied that do not kill themselves. Why is that, if we're helpless to resist the psychological damage to our self-esteem that bullying causes according to the pundits? How is it that all of those thousands of kids are able to bullies and not become victims? How do they learn to stand up for ourselves? How do some big strong kids learn to stand up for others?

My uncle had a kid in his eighth grade class who was a very tall and muscular young man. He was a gentle soul and could not stand to see other kids hurt or picked on. In an attempt to stop bullying in his class my Uncle promised swats to any kid who got into a fight. One afternoon this young man saw a couple of the class thugs ganging up on a younger kid. He stepped between the bullies and their victim. They took a swing and our young hero flattened them. My uncle pulled all the boys in to administer the promised punishment for fighting. He knew what had happened and hated to administer the consequences he had promised despite the injustice that it was. He offered to give him detention instead of swats, but the young man took the swats.

When the class bullies saw that this kid would take swats for the privilege of defending his smaller, weaker classmates, they quit bullying.
Uncle Art said it was one of the most peaceful years he ever had as a teacher.

I told my own kids that story
. Every one of them became a defender of the weak. My daughter not only defended younger kids from verbal bullying, she actually punched out a young man in the hallway for bullying behavior. And she had my 6' 250 pound brother backing her up. He did his own bit of defending the weak as did my oldest boy. My wife and I taught them that sense of justice and mercy. They learned that in stories from the Bible - David and Goliath, Gideon, and Jesus. They were never bullies. Quite the opposite. When we teach our kids that they are persons of value and we give them a moral code, they no longer need the approval of big powerful people or groups. Even if they are bullied it doesn't break their spirit. It makes them stronger.

I remember the howl that went up when George W. Bush threatened that America would fight the war on terror alone if need be. "How could he?" wailed the politicians and the media. The hand-wringing over the fact that he would even say such a thing was wondrous to behold. To most Americans it was a joy to hear an American leader talk like that. "We must first get the approval of other nations before we defend ourselves," it was argued. Bush, like an American sheepdog, never wavered, despite the criticism. It's why American re-elected him. It's why we festooned our front porches with American flags. We've long been a culture that believed that you do the right thing first and don't worry about what the bleating sheep think about it. We don't like it when our leaders condone bullying. It was churches and individuals who demanded a stop to Government persecution of native Americans. It was churches and individuals who demanded the slaves be freed. It was churches and voters who demanded that child labor and monopolistic bullying corporations be reined in. Most of us don't mind helping protect the weak and downtrodden. We're the most generous nation in the world, pouring money and people into every disaster and tragedy that comes down the pike.

Part of the problem we face in our culture these days is that we are rapidly becoming a culture of sheep/victims looking for a strong leader to save us. We want to make sure we are part of the popular crowd instead of being the American sheepdogs we've been - protectors who stand alone, if necessary, to defend their flocks. Sheepdogs don't lead. They fight to protect us from the wolves.

There is a Shepherd, but He is neither dog nor sheep. We in America got in trouble when so many sheep have turned their back on the Shepherd and appointed one of their own number to lead them. It's little wonder Americans seem so lost these days. We've abandoned the Shepherd and gone looking for other leaders more like us and less like God. What we keep winding up with are wolves in sheep's clothing who lead us off cliffs and prey on us, exploiting our need to belong to drag us into collectives that serve, not the people, not God, but which serve the wolves.

We can do better. Otherwise, our children learn from our example as we submit to bullies who shout us down if we disagree, who take from us and give little back, and who hem us about with restrictions and rules that we can hardly do anything creative or productive. Our kids see the way we long for the approval of the crowd and they come to believe that the crowd is the thing and if you don't have the approval of the crowd, you are worthless. It's little wonder so many end their lives in despair.

It's time to teach our kids how to be American sheepdogs. It's time to teach them that they can stand alone against bullies and their toadies and that makes them stronger and better people. Time for American individualism to make a comeback. We are a nation of many. Our government and leaders serve by our will and not their own. And as Americans we must be willing to bring down bullies, even if they come in groups led by wolves in the garb of sheep saying smooth words about justice and compassion. Wolves are wolves and must be resisted. To hell with it if it makes you unpopular with some of the sheep.

© 2018 by Tom King

Friday, March 09, 2018

Facing the Post-Modernist Threat

Ever once in a while, I get riled up and rail against post-modernist philosophy. Given that the Academy of Motion Picture Sciences last week managed to lose  20% of its TV ratings for this year's Oscar ceremony after it presented another dismal panoply of post-modernists film, I thought it time to speak up again. The only Oscar winner that most of us cared about was Gary Oldman's best actor award for playing Winston Churchill in "The Darkest Hour".

Have you noticed lately that, Sir Winston has been showing up everywhere on TV and in movies. It's like there is this sudden need among people for some kind of throwback hero like Churchill to step up and lead; to do the hard things we need done that the simpering diplomats of the past 20 years have been unable to do. It would explain the last American presidential election anyway. And I hear Mel Gibson, hot off last year's hero biopic Hacksaw Ridge, is all set to resurrect Jesus in film with a sequel to The Passion. This should drive Hollywood's post-modernist establishment to the edge of insanity, which is after all where those guys like to build their mansions.

Someone in our online poetry group on Goodreads, apparently searching for something to believe in that could guide her poetic efforts, was trying to find out what post-modernism was the other day. Sadly, I can tell her for certain that the post-modernist intellectual philosophy offers no such guidance.Which is good news for bad poets who don't want to work very hard to create poems with rhyme or reason, I suppose. It means you can write crap and still be popular with the cool kids.

To understand what post-modernism, is you first must understand modernism. Throughout man's long history, up until pretty much the 19th century, life went on for everyone. If you were wealthy or a member of the nobility, you could count on remaining so for the most part. If you were poor or one of the rare members of the middle class, life would go on for you the way it did for your father. Then, at the end of the 18th century, America came along. People who came here or grew up here discovered that they could better themselves.

Then, a technological explosion began in the early 1800s and by the time the American Civil War was done people began to believe that technology and progress could make their lives better than that of their fathers. Soon by the early 1900s, people came to believe that live WOULD inevitably get better. Philosophers, in a fit of "wait for me I'm your leader" began to preach that now that man was making strides toward the ancient fantasy of a human-built utopia, that such a utopia was inevitable and God is an outmoded concept; a crutch we no longer needed as a race.

Modernism, as a philosophy, tells us we can expect that things will inevitably get better for us than they were for our parents.
Never in human history was that so. Before the era of modernism, the best you could expect was the same short life of hard labor and poverty that your ancestors lived. If you were born to the nobility, you might rise in rank if you plotted against your peers successfully and enjoy a short stint as king or emperor before someone out maneuvered you and you lost your head over the deal. Modernism, then, was the belief that you'd be better off than your folks and your kids would be better off than you. All of this was entirely too cheery an attitude to the academic/philosophical complex, who, with the help of Charles Darwin and Karl Marx, decided it was time for a change.

In order to prove they were out ahead of everybody, writers and philosophers like Nietzche, Kierkegaard and Lyotard had to come up with something more advanced and cynical (not to mention depressing). A couple of world wars helped their ideas along and post-modernism began to be advanced as the go-to philosophy in a world riddled with post-war PTSD. Post-modern philosophers began selling books to intellectual snobs who bought them in order to impress other intellectual snobs. They told these effete dandies that words mean whatever they want them to mean and that there is no such thing as objective truth. CS Lewis warned about the dangers of this philosophy in his essay, Men Without Chests which I highly recommend you read. It explains a lot about what went wrong in academia and education that brought this generation to this sad condition..

Post-modernism rejects the idea that there is any meaning in life at all. Self-proclaimed post modernists see themselves as bravely embracing the monumentally depressing idea that, not only is there no God but that there is no meaning to life at all. The mantra of post-modernism could well be "Shit Happens and Then You Die!"

The effect of post-modernism can be seen in the spate of dismal books and films put out by those educated in the last part of the twentieth century - films with no point, no plot and no happy endings. Oh, they still make the older variety because it makes money for them so they can make "important" films that lose money. It's little wonder that no one except "artists" and film-makers gave a rat's hoo-hah about the movies that have won Oscars pretty much for the last decade. Most of the award-winning films were post-modernist exercises in meaningless misery and depression.
Ratings for this year's Oscar ceremony were down again this year and the whole thing appears to be sliding into utter irrelevance with the movie ticket buying public,

So, I think it's high time I do a little more preaching about it. Post-modernism is killing a significant portion of the movie industry even as more and more cynical producers and artistes embrace the philosophy. Were it not for less "intellectually gifted" film-makers producing a lot of throwback block-buster paeans to the idea of heroes and lives that have meaning, Hollywood would not have had the money to roll out awards for the dismal lineup of post-modernist misery that was on display at this year's Oscars. Significantly, few people saw this year's Oscar winners with one notable exception - Gary Oldman's brilliant turn as Winston Churchill, a figure most progressives despise.

Humans need to tell stories.
It's in our nature to ascribe meaning
to our lives and to what we do with them
Human beings have an innate need to tell stories about ourselves; stories in which we are the heroes and which ascribe some meaning to our lives. Post-modernists seem to think this is weak and cowardly and that we should simply accept the idea that life has no purpose as all truly enlightened people do. We evolved, we kill each other a lot and there's no point to it. At least that's the story. After all, one day the sun will explode and kill us all one day or an asteroid will drop on our heads. There's no point to life they say than to, as Solomon presciently described this vacuous philosophy, "Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die!"

I think most of us are still modernists or old-style Christians at least. Sadly, I fear we are becoming an endangered species. Christianity was probably the greatest of the percursors to modernism in that Jesus taught us to believe that life has a point and that, at the very least, we should be getting better as human beings. Christians have the temerity to believe that we have a purpose and that purpose is to leave the world better than we found it. Christians have always believed that things could get better and would get better at some point. At least that's what Christians believed who were allowed to read the Bible rather than being forced to submit to having scripture interpreted by the precursors of post-modern philosophers, the priesthood. Fortunately those guys couldn't burn Bible printers fast enough, and the Good News managed to get out there in spite of the intellectual oppression of the medieval era.

Why is it that people who are supposed to be intellectuals have such a dismal view of life? It probably has something to do with the whole "Thou shalt be like gods," philosophy first proposed to a gullible naked woman in a garden. It's a tragedy that our university system has devolved into the sex, drugs, rock n' roll mess we currently see on campus. It's not everywhere yet, but if the philosophers of this post-modern anti-enlightenment have their way, future generations will thoroughly embrace the "Live fast, die young, and be a handsome corpse" approach to life and, I fear, the last generation of Earthlings will die with a needle in their collective arms while playing apocalyptic video games in their mothers' basements while eating Ho-Hos and drinking Red Bull.

The irony will be that the thorough-going post-modernists will only be able to do this because their mothers were pre-post-modernists and kept feeding them hoping the kids would one day snap out of their funk and become better people! But Abraham Maslow, creator of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs  was wrong. Taking care of a kid's basic needs (food, clothing, shelter) does NOT lead to self-actualization after all. It appears to lead to a profound post-modernist funk and smelly basements.

We can only hope the next big blockbuster we see will be the actual Second Coming. Otherwise we may truly be without hope after all.

Tom King © 2018

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Is Free Verse Easy?

Don't kid yourself. Writing good poetry is very hard work.

Someone on a poetry forum where I'm a member complained the other day that rhymed and metered poetry is harder to write than free verse; that free verse required rather less hard work than, say, iambic pentameter or a sonnet. The person who says that sort of thing is not an experienced poet. I suppose if you were to say poor free verse is easier to write than mediocre rhyme, I might grant you that. I certainly see examples of that rather too frequently. It's tempting to believe that without the structure of rhyme and meter, you can just write freely. Don't let the name fool you. Free verse ain't free.

Here's a sample of free verse well done by one of my favorites - Walt Whitman

“A noiseless patient spider,
I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space…
Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.”

The truth is that if you are a poet with any craftsmanship at all, you’ve likely sweated bullets trying to make free verse sound like poetry. For free verse to work, one has to have a deep understanding of the rhythm of the language in which you are writing. That is doubly hard in English which has over the centuries, absorbed the words and rhythms of dozens of languages. English is a banquet of riches for a poet. It can be the most beautiful language in the world, but its very richness of linguistic choices can overwhelm new poets. I know. I really sucked at it when I first started as a kid.

There are lots of available resources of language that English has borrowed from every corner of the Earth. European tongues lent us words we’ve Anglo-Saxonized over time. Africa gives us rich baritone words and rhythms. Asian poetic forms with their delicate use of syllables, deep meanings and softly colored language brings with it a tonal musicality. Spanish words themselves have a kind of the music built into the very words themselves. Even various dialects and accents of our own English tongue lend depth to what we may construct as so called free verse.

But free verse is not free. We must pay a price for it. Our words must find a way to sing without artifice. The natural ebb and flow of English words must be woven together using the right words and phrases, the right balance of pause and rush, flow and tumble and all in the correct arrangement that, when you read it aloud, it makes a song of your words.

Poetry can be found even in ordinary prose or speech.  Note how Winston Churchill lifted the spirits of the British people with his epic word poem “We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…  Note how there is a kind of poetry in his words and look how very effective they worked, inspiring oppressed people around the world to resist the German onslaught.

Ronald Reagan’s speech the night before the 1980 election ended with this powerful poetic appeal.  Let us resolve tonight that young Americans will always see those Potomac lights; that they will always find there a city of hope in a country that is free. And let us resolve they will say of our day and our generation that we did keep faith with our God, that we did act "worthy of ourselves;" that we did protect and pass on lovingly that shining city on a hill.

Abraham Lincoln was another who knew how to turn prose into verse. At Gettysburg he delivered a speech that surprised the nation for its brevity and its beauty.  It’s worth reading in its entirety because there is such music in it. Note the repetition of rhythms and structures, the parallel themes and the precise choice of words. It’s not sloppy. It’s not slip-shod. It’s the craftsmanship of a brilliant wordsmith.

"Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation: conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war. . .testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated. . . can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war.

We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate. . .we cannot consecrate. . . we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us. . .that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion. . . that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. . . that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom. . . and that government of the people. . .by the people. . .for the people. . . shall not perish from the earth

Free verse is never easy. It is the most difficult of all poetic forms to do well and requires the greatest level of craftsmanship. If you are a new poet, start with rhyme and meter. Master the old poetic forms first before you try your hand at free verse. Learn your craft. Learn how to find and place words so that they sing in English. Poetry sings differently in other languages. French, Italian, Chinese, Spanish and even German can be beautiful, though they often lose something in translation. That’s why translated poetry has to be translated by an accomplished poet or it will not sing properly in English.

Too many new poets think they can fling out some pretty sounding words and poof, it’s a poem. Many wind up committing what I call “poesy”, a hodge-podge of pretty words like April, dawn, heather, entwined and despair with nothing much to hold it up and the flow arrested, no rhythm, no music.

Please don’t do that. Read some good poetry first – the achingly beautiful kind. You’ll be a better poet for it.

Just one old poet’s opinion.

Tom King
© 2018

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Texas Justice Is Also For the Birds

*Names changed to protect the guilty and the innocent.

The ACLU is currently defending someone who was ticketed and fined for flipping someone off in a public place.  The ACLU's position in defending this particular miscreant is that "the bird" is an expression of free speech and therefore protected by the constitution. It's unfortunate that a speech by Ben Shapiro, Dennis Prager or Bill Whittle is not also considered "free speech" by the ACLU, which turns out to be pretty much entirely on the side of the universities, many of which regularly shut down speech by conservatives to "protect" their students from offensive ideas like smaller government, free trade, deregulation, lower taxes and legal immigration.

Back in 1970s Texas we had a high school football player over in the town next to mine who had a similar "free speech" issue.
In those days "Angry Birds" was a pastime that had nothing to do with video games. This cocky young man was out jogging one sunny Saturday morning, training for the upcoming football season. As he jogged along Cleburne, Texas' leafy avenues, he spotted his elderly English teacher stopped at a stop sign. Recognizing an opportunity to express his right to free speech, and with the hormone-addled logic of youth, he flipped her off as he went jogging by. Quite pleased with himself, he jogged off snickering under his breath, leaving poor old Mrs Whitman who was in her 70s and still teaching at his high school, sitting at the intersection shocked and upset.

Unfortunately for our jogger, someone else saw "the whole thing" as the incident came to be called. On a nearby front porch sat one of the town's adult citizens. The man had graduated from that same local high school himself and had even sat in a couple of classes with the venerable Mrs. W. Now this was before the age of cell phones but during the age of front porch sitting and nosy neighbors who understood what it really meant to be part of a village raising a child. The neighbor stepped into his house and quickly called the cops. I say "unfortunately", but the whole thing probably was fortunate so far as this young man's moral education was concerned.

A couple of blocks down the street, a pair of cop cars, lights flashing rolled up and screeched to a stop in front of the confused cornerback. A couple of Cleburne's finest jumped out, none to gently secured the young man between them, bent him over the hood of the cop car and cuffed him. The next thing he knew he was down at the police station being arrested on a charge of "terroristic threat". The cops called the boy's dad and when the father, good man that he was, found out what his son had done, he agreed with the police that they should leave him in jail for a while (remember he is wearing nothing but his gym shorts seeing as how they'd taken his shoes so he couldn't hang himself with the laces). It was not a comfortable experience for the lad. Turns out his dad had also sat in Mrs Whitman's English classes.

Three days later, our young jogger was taken before the judge in his gym shorts. The judge, after giving him a stern lecture, promised the lad dire consequences if he ever appeared "in this court again". In a bit of sweet justice, the judge also made him apologize to Mrs. Whitman before the entire courtroom. He was given time served, was released and told to put on the t-shirt his frantic mother had brought to the court appearance.

The story became stuff of local legend. No one in the community over the age of 30 had any problem with this sort of law enforcement intervention. For years, the football coach told this story to his team members, who were thusly inspired to keep their fingers to themselves!

© 2018 by Tom King

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Great Grandpa ap Tegfan - Old King Cole to You

Our family's 20+ greats grandmother Ystradwel Verch Gadeon was "Queen Of Britan" also called "Strada the fair" (probably by people who couldn't pronounce "Ystradwel"). Her husband was Coel Hen ap Tegfan, high king of Britain on or about 374ish AD.

Strada's great grandfather was also named King Coel and In his later years he was known as "Old King Coel" by his subjects and he was apparently a merry old soul. After a few hundred years went by, the spelling of his name was changed slightly by some wandering bards or a drunk scribe in the royal archives. 

The Bards sang songs about Old King Cole calling for his pipe, his bowl and his fiddlers three. This was, of course, prior to tobacco coming over to Britain from America, so the Old King may have been smoking something but it wasn't likely that it was Prince Albert in a can. Perhaps what he was smoking explains the "merry" part of his description. Like I may have mentioned before, we've got some strange kinfolk. 

And a long line of ancestors with substance abuse problems.

© 2017 by Tom King