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.

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.

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.

 

 

Opinions, Writing

Humanity, Violence and The Serengeti

Like many others, I’m struggling with the “why” regarding the recent shooting in Las Vegas.  Why did he do it?  Was he crazy, angry, frustrated or all/none of the above?  Was there a latent issue, perhaps a medical condition that caused him to take this action?  The general consensus, at this point, is that he was “crazy”.  He must have been, right?  The current evidence suggests that from the window of a hotel he shot and killed 59 people and wounded hundreds more.  Does that act alone define one as “crazy”?  Be careful here, there are many documented cases of military snipers who have each shot and killed at least as many people or more.  Most are described as heroes of their respective countries and the word “crazy” is absent from their biographies.  Aside from their military feats, most were considered to be “normal people”.

The Las Vegas shooter’s life history has been placed under a microscope as law enforcement searches for a reason, the “why”.  We, the people, need an adjective to separate him from “us”.  We need some reason: he was crazy, he was angry and frustrated, he was…, something that we, the “normal people”, are not.  He needs a label and law enforcement seems desperate to apply one.  As of now, his life appeared to be “normal”.  To the rest of us, that is terrifying and unacceptable.  He needs to be labeled, and soon.  To think that all of us “normal people” could be capable of this behavior is “not normal”.

What is “crazy”, what is “normal” and who or what decides the definitions?

Merriam-Webster.com defines the word “crazy” as “1. a: full of cracks or flaws, unsound b: crooked, askew 2. a: not mentally sound: marked by thought or action that lacks reason.  It continues in subcategories using words like “insane, impractical, erratic and unusual” and so on.

Normal is defined as “2. a: according with, constituting, or not deviating from a norm, rule or principle. b: conforming to a type, standard or regular pattern. 3. occurring naturally. 4. a: of, relating to, or characterized by average intelligence or development b: free from mental illness: mentally sound” and so on.

The common theme here is “mentally sound”; the word “crazy” suggesting that you’re not and the word “normal” suggesting that you are.  The dictionary defines “mentally sound” as “normal, sane”.

I suggest that the term “normal” is subjective.  Is it East coast normal, West coast normal, European, African, Russian or Iraq normal?  Talk about a broad spectrum!  I honestly have no idea if I’m even “normal”.  I’m reasonably sure that I’m not crazy, at least not normally.

Law Enforcement will keep digging and I’m quite certain that labels will be found and added.  We can then go back to feeling secure in the knowledge that he was different from us and definitely “not normal”.  I say that of course with a wink and a smile.

We can add all of the labels that we want and separate all of the people who, by their acts, are “different” than us.  But the sad reality is that we, the “normal people”, are really “not that normal” and are capable of anything and everything.  “Normal” people have had to go off to war and for a myriad of reasons, take human lives.  Some people have supported the death penalty and abortion, while others have not.  Death has been our constant companion throughout human history, always familiar and never far away, yet we still seem surprised when it occurs naturally and shocked when it is by our own hand or the hand of another.

I’m not suggesting that the shooter in Las Vegas should be pitied or his actions tolerated.  But, I am suggesting that we stop trying to always find excuses to separate “these” people from ourselves.  The reality is, they are us, an ugly reminder of what we are capable of as humans.  It would be nice to move forward as a species, to become less violent, but our track record suggests otherwise and morality cannot be legislated.  Aggression seems to be our default setting, being held in check only by a greater fear of punishment through the enforcement of laws and their subsequent penalties.  In other words, we don’t generally behave because we want to, we behave because we don’t like discomfort.

It’s the Serengeti out there and we’re nowhere near the top of the food chain.  We need to accept this as our reality, act accordingly and hope that evolution will move us in a peaceful direction.  To quote John Young, “If you want to see an endangered species, get up and look in the mirror”.

Aging, Writing

What Happened to Old and Happy?

Growing older is rarely kind.  It seems that for every story we hear of someone aging well, we hear of at least three or more who faced enormous health battles and after a heart wrenching struggle, ultimately lost.

I would also suggest that by the time you are 80, if you have not fought or are not fighting a life threatening illness, you are the exception.

We are living longer but at what cost?  Financially and emotionally, families are exhausted.  The lifespans of the terminally ill are now being lengthened, which is a wonderful gift, but like all gifts, a price is paid by all involved.

We are all generally aware of the enormous costs of medical care, long term care, rehabilitation and medicine.  Has anyone ever saved enough to cover the projected cost?  How do you pay for this and have the now fictional retirement of your dreams?  The circle of life, the dream, seems doomed to fail.  How do you make a plan at 30 for this?

This is a depressing thought but it is the reality faced by many we know.

I am not an expert in this field and have written this article based on my observations, speculation and conjecture. Having said that, I challenge you to prove me wrong.

To grow old, be healthy, comfortable and dare I say, happy, is bordering on being a miracle.  I would be curious to know if the amount of people who are “old” and actually “happy” today, with all of our medical advancements, is any higher than they were 100 years ago, all things being equal.  We may live longer today but how many are actually happy?

 

Uncategorized

Another Kind Of Story

Welcome to my second blog.  My first, Travelinggump.com, is where I write about my passion for travel.  But what about everything else? That’s where Thesunflowermuse.com comes in.

This is my “overflow”, non-travel, anything goes Blog.

So with that informative introduction,  it begins…

(“it” being World Domination or something similiarly bold, I mean, go big or go home, right?)