Opinions, Writing

Is the price of an opinion too high?

When someone offers an opinion, they are essentially “putting in their two-cents”.

If someone wants to know what you think, they might say “a penny for your thoughts”.

These idiomatic expressions both suggest that the value of an opinion isn’t worth much monetarily.  I believe that the value is even less if that opinion is offered by the news media and/or the panel of “experts” that they love to assemble.

I prefer to define the word “opinion” using this analogy: When one seeks an opinion, they are usually looking for an accomplice.  In other words, they really don’t care what you think, they just want you to agree with their position so they’ll feel better.

Is two-cents too high a price to pay for free speech? Of course not, but two-cents is two-cents more than I would ever be willing to pay to sit for 5 minutes and endure the constant barrage of opinions being offered by the media.

Everyone seems to have an opinion…and a motive. Maybe if we closed our mouths, opened our ears and turned off the TV, we might just…who knows? But that’s just my two-cents.

Here are a few thoughts from a gentleman speaking to George Strait in the movie “Pure Country”.  It’s short and he is right on point.

poetry, Writing

The Traveler’s End (Borrowed from Travelinggump.com)

The Traveler’s End
O’ weary traveler, aged and too weak, lies resting in the grass and soon falls asleep.

He dreams of past travels, his path lies ahead, but is blocked by an Angel, who’s voice speaks of dread.

He opens his eyes, his journey complete, for he has seen his fate and soon starts to weep.

Resting nearby, She’s saddened to see, that the traveler has learned, what is now to be.

His adventures have ended and time will not wait, for St. Peter is standing, holding open the gate.

Heaven hath decreed and called out his name, She learns that Death’s been sent, to take him away.

Though the hourglass has spoken as no sand remains, the soul of the traveler, owns her heart just the same.

She cries out to heaven, for here he must stay, but the Angels refused, crossed their arms and looked away.

As Death drew near, aware of her plight, he cautions her gently, not to resist Heavens might.

Softly she spoke, as that is her way and begged Death to leave, without much delay.

Death paused for moment, unsure what to say, then bows to her warmly and leaves, on his way.

But Heaven was watching and reminded him his task and also that pleasing Mother Nature, is not what was asked.

Now the traveler was at peace and all that remained, was for Death to guide him back, to that Heavenly domain.

Impatience was growing, within the Celestial reign and Death was reminded, to look once again.

Death peered into the darkness, but no traveler was seen, as She had blinded his eyes, by a deft use of rain.

He had others to tend and soon he was gone, as many souls still need passage, to the land lying beyond.

She went to the traveler and protected him from sight, as the angels were curious where he had gone to that night.

Mother nature is strong and incredibly wise, She keeps what she wants, from all prying eyes.

Though never thought fickle or a thief in the night, Mother Nature surprised Heaven, by cunning and might.

The Angels then wisely, after searching all night, chose to not turn this folly, into a Celestial fight.

What virtue has he, to earn such a right, to be hidden from Heaven at this very time?

He was gentle to her, our Mother you see, kind with her home, as true traveler’s should be. He basked in her beauty and never once did stray, always “smelling the roses” as he traveled each day.

In sunlight they wander, though the Angels do stare, Mother Nature and the traveler, walk the earth, hand in hand.

As twilight comes and the sun yields to night, their two souls join as one, turning darkness to light.

He now sleeps within her bosom, eternally at home, resting ‘neath his name, carved in white marbled stone.

Opinions, Writing

The Dilemma of the Modern Family

The word “family” is defined by Google as “a group consisting of parents and children living together in the same household”.  That broad definition seems appropriately vague, considering the modern family dynamic of today.  So, which is “better”; two adults who create “biological” children, raising them together in a genetically matched family or a mish-mash of DNA brought together by two adults, forming a genetic melting pot of a family.  I believe that both arrangements can have positive outcomes and that one is no better than the other.

Throughout our history, families were considered to be “broken” if the parents divorced, suggesting that the children, who were now from a “broken home”, had a significantly higher chance of failure in what ever life threw at them.

Many studies on the effects of divorce and the family have been commissioned and published, mostly by religious groups, with the results influencing generations of parents to continue a “bad” marriage, usually to the detriment of the children. Of the parents who did divorce, many of their children were led to believe that they were now somewhat different, less-than or flawed as human beings.  These myopic conclusions have been used by elements of our society, mostly to further an agenda or religious belief that supports their position on an issue.

Society, as a whole, allows this stigma to continue by labeling children as either this or that based on the parents choice of family structure, forgetting that the child rarely has a choice in the matter.  The first step is to stop with the traditional religious dogma that suggests that divorce is against God’s will and accept that divorce, while hopefully not a couples first choice, is a reality and is going to continue to be an option, regardless of the church’s position. In addition, I believe that this “pressure” adds to a child’s feelings of shame; as if he or she needed more things to feel bad about.

I am the product of a “broken home”.  My mother and father divorced when I was an infant, each remarried, had children and the “new” parents brought with them, additional children.  Suddenly, I have half-sisters, a step-brother, step-parents, step-grandparents and so on.  Growing up, they were all I knew.  The “step” title seemed to only appear when I wanted to create distance from someone who had irritated me. Unfortunately, the world made sure to draw the distinction and was never remiss at reminding me that despite my parent’s failures, I could make it in life if I didn’t make the same “mistakes” and followed a more traditional and usually biblical path. Oddly, I didn’t feel that I had a problem. My “other” father lived two hours away and there I had a brother, sister, and another mother.  At worst, I would describe this dynamic as “messy”.

But this was my life. I had friends whose parents were not divorced and they seemed to have a life similar to mine. Initially, I remember being jealous that everyone in their house had the same last name.  Other than that, we all grew up, graduated high school and went about our lives.  It was then that I realized an important point.  It wasn’t the divorce, blended or non-blended, step this or that; it was the parents.  I noticed that how you turned out had very little to do with your parents’ marital status, but was more accurately reflected in how you were parented.  It didn’t seem to matter whether you had one parent or two.  It was in how they, the parent, filled their role. In my large circle of friends, some had deceased parents, divorced parents, a single parent, two parents, either mixed or biological.  Some were even raised by extended family members.

Whether you turned out, whatever that means, seems to have been based on three things: 1. The influence of the adults in your life, 2. the choices that you made and 3. a bit of good luck. I hoped I would do well as a parent and an adult, only time would tell.

Then at 20, wondering what kind of parent I would be was no longer academic, it was suddenly very real. What kind of husband would I be? It is said that we are the sum of our life’s experiences and at this time, I didn’t add up to much. I thought of all of my parents and what I had learned up to this point.  Each parent stopped being part of the “parenting group” and became an individual.  Jack, Rod, Kit and Helen were my role models and I would pick and choose the positives of each hoping to become the best parent that I could.  It was then I realized that I was alone and that ultimately, I would be responsible for my own behavior, as upon closer inspection, I really didn’t want to follow any of them, especially Jack and Rod.  I realized that I didn’t know Helen very well and that Kit (my mother) had been the most influential person in my life but didn’t appear to have enjoyed being a parent in the way that I wanted to be for my children. (Two points: 1. I was a “mouthy” teenager and 2. Her childhood was less than ideal). Regardless of whether she enjoyed it or not and because of her efforts, I turned out and have done quite well.

This had, in my opinion, cemented my belief in that it doesn’t matter whether you are raised in a “traditional family” or a “blended family”, it’s the people who surround you who make the difference.  Staying together “for the children” or because the “bible says so”, do not make parents better people anymore than a captain who goes down with his ship, makes him a better captain.  Dead is dead, either in the physical sense or the marital one. I have also learned that your children do know the difference and if you are delusional enough to think that you have fooled them on your success at staying together for them, you’ll certainly learn later when they choose their path at parenting and use your relationship as an example of the kind they want to avoid.

In addition, your adult children are the measure of your success or failure.  They know all and are not fooled, ever, by any efforts to hide who or what you are.  No one will ever know you better or love you more, despite your misgivings.

A step further, since it doesn’t seem to matter how your family unit is biologically constructed, I suggest to you that with decent parenting, a child can actually become more enriched from a blended family structure. Let that soak in. To purists of a traditional family structure, this idea is akin to choking down a brick. This is not to say that traditional is bad, it just has limits. Imagine a blended family that has a racially diverse makeup.  The advantages are obvious.

After our first child, we had two more and then divorced. I married Lilly, who already had two daughters and now there were seven of us; three daughters, two sons and us, the parents.  That was a long time ago and the story continues happily. The story did not begin that way though.  Does the end justify the means? Only our children can answer that question.  In the beginning, there was chaos and many suffered.  To me, this is where the traditional family scores the most points.  But only here.

As the marriages came apart, the children suffered in ways that only time will truly reveal.  When my parents divorced, I was an infant and I have no memory of the event.  Our children weren’t so fortunate.  The “other” parents suffered tremendously.  They, for the most part, didn’t choose this new path, although their behavior ultimately had a part in its creation, and they were dragged along for the ride.

Anger, frustration, jealousy and sadness were thrust upon them and I regret being a part of it’s cause.  The children, who had a front row seat to the carnage, were forced to make choices and accept that they had very little, if any, control of their environment or future. It was bad and there we were. It was time to parent and all four of us, to different degrees, did just that.

I remembered the blended family that I was raised in.  Lilly remembered hers.  To me the core was simple.  No one is a “step” anything. I now had five children, they were all mine and I promised Lilly that I would never treat them otherwise. We would provide a home which was rich is the celebration of the normal.  Lilly made sure of that.  Holidays, birthdays and family trips were big events and life began again.  The “other” parents (I honestly don’t know how to address them here) participated and remained an active part of the children’s lives, making significant contributions when and where they felt it necessary.

The seven of us grew stronger as a family.  Each child is different and special in their own way.  They meshed incredibly well and see each other as brother and sister.  Our family gatherings are a celebration to the diversity of the gene pool, to success, where failure was possible and a reminder of the path that was taken.  The failures of four adults has been turned into the success of five wonderful children.  Lemonade from lemons.

So which is better? I have known no other way, nor has Lilly.  Our children have and they will judge which, if they choose.  If the initial divorce carnage could be eliminated, I feel the blended family offers more variety of life than traditional. I like to think of it as either being raised in a small town or a large city; the opportunities for growth and learning can be greater in one, more so than the other.

When I started this article, my intention was to argue that the blended family was actually “better” for the overall development of a child.  Unfortunately, while writing this, I was forced to remember the pain which made this story possible. There are no easy answers to marriage, parenting or life. It appears that the only solution, without the pain is, well…polygamy.  I’m quite certain that this “solution” won’t fly with Lilly.

The antiquated “broken home” label needs to be eliminated. We are all broken in some way. Blended families represent “a celebration of diversity” and this description more accurately reflects the aspirations of today’s Modern Family.

 

 

Opinions, Writing

Mark Twain Offers A Few Thoughts On Humanity

I felt that this “story” from Mark Twain was an appropriate addition to my earlier article “We’re acting like animals?”

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“Man is the Reasoning Animal. Such is the claim. I think it is open to dispute. Indeed, my experiments have proven to me that he is the Unreasoning Animal… In truth, man is incurably foolish. Simple things which other animals easily learn, he is incapable of learning. Among my experiments was this. In an hour I taught a cat and a dog to be friends. I put them in a cage. In another hour I taught them to be friends with a rabbit. In the course of two days I was able to add a fox, a goose, a squirrel and some doves. Finally a monkey. They lived together in peace; even affectionately.
Next, in another cage I confined an Irish Catholic from Tipperary, and as soon as he seemed tame I added a Scotch Presbyterian from Aberdeen. Next a Turk from Constantinople; a Greek Christian from Crete; an Armenian; a Methodist from the wilds of Arkansas; a Buddhist from China; a Brahman from Benares. Finally, a Salvation Army Colonel from Wapping. Then I stayed away for two whole days. When I came back to note results, the cage of Higher Animals was all right, but in the other there was but a chaos of gory odds and ends of turbans and fezzes and plaids and bones and flesh–not a specimen left alive. These Reasoning Animals had disagreed on a theological detail and carried the matter to a Higher Court.”
Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth: Uncensored Writings, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2004.

Opinions, Writing

We’re Acting Like Animals? If Only We Could Be that Evolved.

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Another mass shooting occurred today at a small church in a small town in Texas.  At this time, at least 26 have died and the suspect has killed himself…again. Same story, same ending; again and Again and AGAIN!  How often? I checked on-line for statistics with the intention of going back 20 years.  I made it to 5 and my hand was aching from all the writing. Yes, 5, V, FIVE,🖐 years and I had found 18 incidents of violence in the United States where at least 3 people were killed in a related event on a given day.

Date                 Location                    Dead   Inj.   Susp. Sex   Susp. Dec’d?    Notes

  1.  11/05/2017  Sutherland Springs, TX      26     Many      M             Y      Church Shooting
  2.  10/01/2017  Las Vegas, NV                       50+   500+       M             Y      Concert Venue
  3.  06/14/2017  San Francisco, CA                3        0             M             Y      UPS Co-Wrkrs
  4.  06/05/2017  Orange County,FL                5        0             M             Y      Co-Wrkr Killing
  5.  01/06/2017  Ft Lauderdale, FL                5        6+           M             N      Airport Shooting
  6.  09/23/2016  Burlington, WA                    5        0             M             Y       Macy’s Store
  7.  07/08/2016  Dallas, TX                              5        9+           M             Y       5 Police Ofcr’s
  8.  06/12/2016  Orlando, FL                          49      58+         M             Y       Night Club
  9.  12/02/2015  San Bernardino, CA            14      22           M F          Y       Hus/Wife Killers
  10.  11/29/2015  Colorado Springs, CO         12       9+           M             N       Plan’d PrntH’d

Ok, that’s half of my five year list. I’ll stop at 2 years and 10 incidents; you get the point. The numbers suggest that we are not safe anywhere, that males are more likely to kill and that when they do, most likely they will commit suicide when cornered. It’s that last part that really defines us; animals don’t commit suicide. What’s wrong with us? That question is for a far greater mind than mine to answer.  I have a few thoughts though, actually cliche’s.

  1.  Growing up, I was told not to hurt people, “it’s what separates us from the animals”.
  2.  In Humor, regarding the treatment of pets, “Animals are people too”.
  3.  Humans? “Oh, we’re at the top of the food chain”.

Unfortunately, I feel that we’ve managed to fool ourselves into believing that we have actually evolved beyond that of, well…us.  Our ancestors, hoping that humanity would improve with the passage of time, set the bar too high. They hoped we would become more civilized, intelligent and maybe put down the club; I mean, we’re not animals, right? Some have suggested that it is our intellect that makes us superior to animals, I’m afraid that it has just made us more dangerous. Human evolution? At this pace, we are going to “evolve” ourselves right out of existence. What is wrong with us, why are we killing ourselves at a record pace? I suspect that the answer lies hidden somewhere within our “animal instinct”.

 

 

Opinions, Writing

Who Wants To Live Forever…?

“There’s no time for us. There’s no place for us. What is this thing that builds our dreams, yet slips away from us? Who wants to live forever? (An excerpt of a song written by Brian May, in 1986, for the movie, Highlander).  The song was destined to be performed by a musical legend, the one person who could give it the “depth” that it needed.  What I believe this legend knew at the time and we didn’t, gave him the “voice and pain” to make the song his own.

His name was Farrokh Bulsara and he was born September 5th, 1946 on the East African Island of Zanzibar to parents of Parsi descent. He later moved to India where he spent his childhood learning to play the piano. In his late teens, he and his family, moved to England. There he developed a love for ballet, opera and theater, ironically, although he was a classically trained pianist, he, by his own admission, could read “very little” sheet music but he could sing and it was incredible, he had developed a singing voice capable of an amazing four octave vocal range. Music was clearly Freddie’s passion and he wanted to share it with the world, which he did in an epic way.  He and three others had formed a band. To family and friends, he was Freddie or Farrokh Busara, but to the rest of the world, he was known by another name; Freddie Mercury.

Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of the rock band Queen, was world renown for his extravagant outfits, incredible stage performances, vocal skills and his lifestyle. It is estimated that Queen has performed in over 700 concerts worldwide. But this story is not about the band.  This is about Freddie Mercury, the music and the way in which he faced death.

During the 1980’s, HIV/AIDS was still somewhat of a mystery waiting to be solved.  An untreated patient could hope for a lifespan of 9-12 years, however many didn’t get that far. In 1986, Freddie, who was openly gay, was tested for the disease. He told the press that he didn’t have HIV/AIDS, but many suspected that he actually did. In April of 1987, his partner, Jim Hutton, confirmed that Freddie did indeed have HIV. Fans around the world were stunned that Freddie Mercury could be so sick with this incurable disease. But, this is also not a story about HIV/AIDS.

This is a story about an incredibly gifted musician, of perseverance, the pursuit of theatrical perfection and of the consummate performer.

I suspect that by 1986, Freddie Mercury knew he was ill and that he was not naive about his mortality.  Also in 1986, Brian May, lead guitarist of Queen, wrote the song, “Who Wants To Live Forever” and in 1987, it was performed perfectly by Freddie Mercury. I can only imagine the strength it must have taken for Freddie to so passionately perform a song that was an “in your face” reminder that he wasn’t going to live forever.  I’m certain that in the recording studio, not a dry eye was to be found by anyone who knew him.

By 1990, Freddie was visibly ill and Brian May had written a song about Freddie and his personal struggle with the disease called “The Show Must Go On”.  Freddie, again, provided the vocals. The song “Chronicles the effort of Freddie Mercury continuing to perform despite approaching the end of his life; he was dying from complications due to HIV/AIDS…”.

This is one of the last videos of Freddie Mercury before he died on November 24, 1991. Even near the end, he carried himself with dignity. I believe he was, arguably, the most versatile and talented theatrical/musical performer of the late 20th century.  He was, without question, totally committed to his love of music. I find myself reflecting on his life and I can’t help but feel that he was essentially performing his own living eulogy to the world before ultimately leaving us with an enormous void, that once contained the genius that is Freddie Mercury.

 

 

 

 

This article was written using my own opinions and thoughts.  The pictures were obtained from IMDB and the internet.  The videos from YouTube, and some items contained within quotation marks from various internet biographies.

 

 

Aging, Opinions, Writing

Why I write articles and what I want from you.

I write two Blogs. Travelinggump.com and Thesunflowermuse.com. The first, mostly for travel and travel tips/ideas, the second, for opinions, thoughts and articles about our social condition. I post on Twitter, Instagram, WordPress and Facebook. Three sites are “blowing up” (Instagram, WordPress and Twitter) with followers. Facebook is “meh” and I would like that to improve.

What I know:

1. If I don’t write or post articles of value and interest, I should expect nothing in return. Generally, I put an enormous amount of thought into most of the articles that I write, especially on Thesunflowermuse. I’m trying to get to the core of the issues.

2. That there is a “process” for getting your posts to the right audience, which I’m working on.

3.  That people are inundated with “stuff” and “like” whatever is easy to see/scan and are generally too busy (understandably) to read in detail. Hence the enormous popularity of pet pictures/videos. Ugh.

4. That despite having a large amount of followers, I am not getting the traction I want, especially on my personal facebook page, which supports the theory; “You can’t be a prophet in your own land” and/or you really need to improve your articles. The first I get, the latter I don’t feel the need to change at this point. Going forward, I’m going to try and confine myself to the two sites listed above.

What I want from you:

1. If my articles are of no interest to you or my opinions are too this or that, leave.
If they are of any interest, entertain you, provoke or evoke a thought or passion, acknowledge it somehow.

2. On Thesunflowermuse.com, my thoughts and opinions can be challenging and are written to be thought provoking. Feel free to complain, gripe or even correct my grammar (please!), something! If you don’t agree, say so!

3. And lastly, on Travelinggump.com, I am fortunate to have excellent advertisers (Amazon, Holiday Inn, Expedia, Orbitz, Trivago etc…). Please search and book through my page as it costs you nothing extra and helps me to keep them happy.

There is so much “noise” on the internet today and I am trying to rise above the cute animal pictures/videos and provide great Travel Tips and Ideas (https://travelinggump.com) and Thought Provoking Stories and Opinions on The Human Condition and Society (https://thesunflowermuse.com). Please Engage.

Best Wishes, Michael

Opinions, Writing

The ACLU, Why Aren’t You A Member?

Author’s note:  The mere mention of the “ACLU” evokes strong emotions in many.  Writing this article is akin to a doctor’s physical; not pleasant but necessary.  I ask you to open your mind for just a minute and then let me know what you think.

Before you throw your phone or computer across the room, please allow me, a Republican, an opportunity  to explain my position.

I’ll start with a partial quote from the movie “The American President”. “Being President of this country is entirely about character. For the record: yes, I am a card-carrying member of the ACLU. But the more important question is why aren’t you? Now, this is an organization whose sole purpose is to defend the Bill of Rights”

The fictional President does ask a valid question. Why are we all not members?Both Liberals and Conservatives will fight “tooth and nail” to protect our Bill of Rights, especially the sections that apply to their particular interest. It’s probably the only thing they have in common.  The ACLU, for their part, provides legal and to a lesser extent, political aide to either “side” in defending perceived violations of the United States Constitution.

So what is the problem with the American Civil Liberties Union and a large percentage of the American population?  Here are my thoughts.

  1.  The ACLU will consider fighting for anyone who feels that their rights have been infringed upon based, I’m certain, on the facts and/or visibility of each case.
  2. Many, or at least a majority of, Americans don’t approve of changes to “traditional” values, either religious or historical, such as gun owners rights etc.
  3. As the American society continues to “evolve”, for lack of a better word, many who feel disenfranchised are forced to seek legal remedy to either enforce a perceived denial of an existing right or privilege or effect a legislative change in which new laws and protections are created that  more accurately reflect, in their view, the needs of a “modern” society.
  4. Many of these legal challenges strike at the historical and religious core of the American value system and are often met by an entrenched and well funded legal/political opposition.
  5. Because of this “entrenchment”, many who have sought remedy have found and received effective legal assistance from the ACLU.
  6. The ACLU, because of its defense of many unpopular positions has developed a reputation of being a “liberal” organization.
  7. This is an unfortunate but understandable casting of their position as most “conservative” causes have many more “avenues” to find support in both legal, political and financial terms and therefore rarely seek their assistance.
  8. Bottom line, the ACLU has been successful at bringing unwelcome change to conservative traditional Americans.

So where do I fit into this? I would describe myself as fiscally conservative and socially, somewhat, liberal; an odd combination. In Abraham Lincoln’s time, this would have made me a candidate for the Whig Party, of which he was a member.

I have been a member of the ACLU for about 10 years. I rarely agree with their position on current issues, but I’m eternally thankful they exist. The ACLU represents “Checks and Balances”.  Could you imagine if one of our political parties had ALL of the power without opposition, without the ability to question? History has shown us the effects of this before. Think Germany, 1939.

I voted for Trump and I haven’t changed my position, but could you imagine if  there were no opposing voices to any President’s political ambitions? Balance is essential.  Balance allows me to sleep at night.  I draw comfort in the fact that whatever the issue, there is an opposing position. In a perfect world this should bring compromise, even though today it seems to bring only gridlock.

Society is growing and evolving rapidly  and though we may not like where the pendulum is currently, the ACLU’s caseload generally reflects the issues of the day. In the 1950’s it was race, today it’s different.  We all benefit from a spirited debate and a thorough examination of all the facts, whether we agree with the issue or not.

I support the ACLU because they give a voice to those who may have gone unheard and they remind one side of the equation that an different or alternate opinion may exist and that it’s supporters are ready and willing to defend it.

I’ve Included a few examples of the cases in which we’ve all enjoyed the benefits of the ACLU’s efforts.

  1.  Brown v. Board of Education
    One of the century’s most significant Court decisions declared racially segregated schools unconstitutional, wiping out the “”separate but equal”” doctrine announced in the infamous 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision
  2.  Gideon v. Wainwright:  An indigent drifter from Florida made history when, in a handwritten petition, he persuaded the Court that poor people charged with a felony had the right to a state-appointed lawyer.
  3. Miranda v. Arizona: The Court held that a suspect in police custody has a Sixth Amendment right to counsel and a Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, and established the “”Miranda warnings”” requirement that police inform suspects of their rights before interrogating them.
  4. Reed v. Reed:  Struck down a state law that gave automatic preference to men over women as administrators of decedents’ estates. This was the Court’s first ruling that sex-based classifications violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.