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Bully Nation

Any time talk of secession comes up, many Americans are inclined to think back to that nasty period in our history: The War of Between the States (more commonly referred to by the uninitiated as The Civil War…which it was not—and I don’t just mean in a “ha-ha nothing civil about it” way, but BY DEFITION a “civil war” is when two powers fight over the control of one government. The American “Civil War” was nothing remotely like that. Calling it “civil war” was a calculated political move by Lincoln—a smart one, but a political move nonetheless) and automatically assume any talks of secession means war between north and south.

Even many Southerners today are quick to lambast the idea. I don’t know if this comes as a result of being whipped into submission once already, a fear of being perceived a racist, a fear of the federal government, a lack of knowledge or some combination thereof.

You want to know my theory?

Why thank you for asking…

I think it comes because of many American’s inherited ideals of the White Man’s Burden…or, if we modernize that: the need to control everyone else. Having taught ESL for several years and being friends with many of my former students, I see them post on various social media, and (when I can read them) they have no great love for the US—regardless of who is in the White House (I’m sorry all you Obamaites—the “world” doesn’t really like him that much better than the last guy despite what you’ve been told). And so that makes you wonder, what exactly is it that so many of them don’t like? To the poor of the world, the US is still the land of opportunity—well, it still represents that, even if it isn’t true. The truth is, they don’t like that we “police” the world.

And I don’t blame them. As much as I don’t want Iran to have nukes, why is it up to the United States to tell them they can’t? If Russia told us we couldn’t have something, we’d flip them the middle finger pretty quick because…well, we’re the US and that’s what we do. So why do we get to tell Iran what they can and can’t have?

Because we’re the bully nation.

Even with the current depressed state of the military, we have the world’s foremost military—hands down. He who holds the big stick makes the rules. So, we dictate to so many nations what they can and can’t do…not just because we can, but because we think we’re right.

And that brings us back to secession. As a nation we supported the breakup and secession of countries from Mother Russia; we supported the breakup of Yugoslavia; I imagine there are others of which I’m not aware. Why then, as a nation, do we refuse to allow “secession” to be part of the national discussion? It should be a very real part of the discussion. Secession doesn’t mean war. Russia still gets along fine with Ukraine and BeloRussia and Latvia. The US gets along just fine with Canada. There’s no reason to automatically assume that secession must be war, not at all.

Not long ago on Facebook, someone I don’t even know got violently mad about a secession comment I made. When I tried to get to the root of it, he basically said “because you can’t.” An old friend of mine, here on this blog some months ago could never answer the question “why do you care?” The truth is, they both think they know better than the people who talk secession…and therefore their will should be imposed on those with whom they disagree.

Just like a bully.

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In the Spirit of Thankfulness part 1

All these posts going every day on Facebook got me a bit in the thankful mood…but there was no way I was going to keep up with that. So, I offer, here in its entirety, my 30 days of thankfulness! So, I’m thankful for…

30 life! I don’t know that I’ve ever taken it for granted, but the recent scare made me consider it all the more.

29 my wife! (and just for all you snarky folks looking at the numbers—it isn’t a countdown or a count UP, it’s supposed to represent the 30 days of November!) She’s better to me than I deserve! I love you, BJ!

28 my job. In this messed up economy which only looks to get worse, I’m glad to be doing something I enjoy: teaching creative writing to (mostly) pretty motivated students.

27 my daughter. Even though I’ve tried to convince her to stay OUT of the arts because it’s the pathway to a lot of potential heartbreak, she’s multi-talented and incredibly smart, too…if she’ll just apply herself I have no doubt she’ll be incredibly successful(on both counts!).

26 having a roof over my head. Even though I’d really like to sell my house in Oxford so that I can get my family all back under one roof all the time, I know we’re fortunate to have a home with electricity and running water.

25 my son. Also incredibly talented (can you say FIRST CHAIR bay-bee!) and smart, I appreciate the fact that he’s just as happy geeking out with me playing war games as he is doing anything else.

24 my doctor. When we first moved to Oxford, Dr. Will Dabbs was just the kooky doctor we took the kids to see. Over time, however, he’s become my doctor and my friend…and I DO trust him with my life!

23 facebook. Yeah, yeah, I know. I can hear all the groans now. But I’m of the age that I can remember life before social media and there are a lot of names on my facebook “friend list” that I didn’t speak with that much and that now I get to at least keep up with them now and again. For writer-types who dwell in caves, it’s nice. And even though I hid EVERYONE during the last election season—that’s over and I can now enjoy posts again.

22 technology. I’m a technogeek, I admit it. I love technology. And even though I’ve fought (and still do) the idea of me carrying around a cellphone, I LIKE what they are capable of…I just don’t want to have to carry it around.

21 my parents. I’m blessed to have the best set of parents in the world. How they managed to allow me to continue to live in their house when I was a smart-aleck teenager, I’ll never know. I’m thankful for the way they raised me and for the values they taught me.

20 my church. When you move around as much as BJ and I have, it’s difficult to get “settled” with a church family. We’ve been fortunate, though, in that every place to which our names have been on the roles, they’ve welcomed us with open arms: FBC Muscle Shoals, FBC Loretto, FBC Piggott, Yellow Leaf BC, and FBC Oxford.

19 my books. Yeah, I know this sounds like a very materialistic thing…and maybe it is, but I’m still thankful for them (and for BJ allowing me to surround myself with them). Maybe it’s a writer thing, but I do love to—when I’m in “thinking” mode—to just sit back and take in the surroundings of my books, looking at the titles and recalling the emotions of the read or the particulars of it.

18 BCW. Or Byhalia Christian Writers Group. I was shocked by the lack of anything remotely faith-based in Oxford (aside from the Churches, of course) and really expected to find multiple writers group in Oxford…I mean, it’s OXFORD, the home of Billy Faulkner. Byhalia, Mississippi was the closest group I could find…and they treated me like a long lost brother. I don’t get to go as often as I’d like (for various reasons—one of which it’s an hour drive one way), but I know they remember me in their prayers—and how can one NOT be thankful for that?

17 my bed. Traveling makes you realize just how much you appreciate “your” stuff. And while BJ made me buy a mattress for the apartment in Florida, it’s still not “my bed.” And being a reenactor, I sleep on the ground every now and again. Yes, I’m very thankful for my bed.

16 Spalding. Yeah, one of my alma maters makes this list. It’s not that I am NOT thankful for the others—I am—but Spalding has that special place in my heart, mostly because, I think, the admin and faculty there have embraced the idea of nurturing the writer. It’s the first “hall of higher learning” that did NOT scoff at the body of comic work I have.

15 Spalding peeps. So, yeah, I can’t mention Spalding without mentioning my classmates/colleagues who helped make the program what it is…and ALSO embraced my comic geekiness, some of them even sharing that. There are lots of names I could mention, but the Devil Dawgs (don’t ask—long story) are deserving of special call-out for my thankfulness: Marjetta Geerling, Kat Shehata, Karin Goodwin, Rebekah J Harris, Mary Knight (one of my favorite Yankees!).

(so this is longer than what I thought it would be…to be continued)

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Facebook, Michael Jackson style

(with apologies to Michael Jackson. Please read to the tune of Thriller)

It’s close to midnight and something silly’s lurking on your screen

Next to your laptop, you wonder why you’re not asleep in bed

You almost scream but terror is your spouse rudely awakened

You ctrl/alt/delete as farmtown looks you right between the eyes

You’re paralyzed

You hear the door slam, and cast a wary eye up at the clock

You feel the cold hand, and think that she’s about to change the lock

You close your eyes and hope that she won’t even hear you breathing, dude.

But all the while, you hear her creeping up behind

You’re out of time

They’re out friend you, you haven’t seen that dude in 20 years

They will harass you, unless you learn how to click the ‘ignore’

Now is the time, to flip the pages of your high school yearbook, yeah

All through the night, I’ll save you from the endless search for friends

I’ll make you see

Cause this is facebook, facebook time

And no one’s gonna save you from the typos in your posts

You know it’s facebook, facebook time

You’re fighting sleep tonight writing a silly, stupid rhyme

Darkness falls across the land

The midnight hour is long past, man

Quizzes come from everyone

To label you the king of fun

Cause this is facebook, facebook time

You’ll get right in the bed after you take just one more quiz

Facebook, facebook time

You’d take a drink of coke but it has lost all of its fizz

The simplest games keep you transfixed

The odd way you get your kicks

And comments come from all friends

It’s not a way to make amends

And though you swear to go to bed

Your body moves not one bit

For no mere person can resist

The addiction of the facebook

Yes this is facebook, facebook time

Cause it’ll suck you in more than Myspace could ever try

Facebook, facebook time

So accept my friend request and be my

Facebook, farmtown, mobwars, buddy here tonight.

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Facebook again

I’m going to talk about Facebook once again. Maybe it’s just because it’s new to me, but it seems like FB (abbreviated as such among those “who know”) has really taken off in popularity. Either that, or the “older” generation is just now catching on. (my sister has joined—for those of you who know her. Go make her your friend)

But I’m going to digress a minute.

When Dad retired back in 1996, he and Mom moved back to Piggott, Arkansas the next year. Piggott is the place they both grew up and had always called home. They’d been away for 30 years though, so a lot of things had changed…especially people.

They began to meet people they hadn’t seen in 30 years and eventually even got involved in class reunion stuff (they graduated in 1959…yes, this is their 50 year anniversary!). I used to laugh at them because they were always pulling their high school annuals out and searching for names and faces they knew. It would go like this: they’d bump in to someone at one of their picnics, get to talking, swap names…and then realize they didn’t have a clue who they’d just spent the last hour talking with. They’d rush home, pull out the annuals and flip through, looking for the name. Find it…then realize “oh! THAT’S who that is!”

It got so bad, they eventually moved their annuals from the back of the house to a stack right next to their recliners in the living room!

Well, they’ve been back in Piggott for more than 10 years now…and the annuals are still there.

I’m done digressing now.

BJ got on FB a little while back and not long after, began getting friend requests from people she went to school with both from Pearl and from Northwest Rankin. Yeah, you guessed what was coming. She started asking me about names and people and I didn’t know many of them. Well, it often only takes one new “friend” to open up a whole slew of new friends. I recognized one of her friends from Pearl, added them…then started getting my own set of friend requests from names that looked familiar but I couldn’t quite place.

See, on FB, many people either post pictures of their kids or—very appropriately—MODERN pictures of themselves. But, I haven’t seen many of them in 25+ years, so I have no idea who they are when I look at them.

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Facebook r us

So a few months ago I stepped further into the technological age and added Facebook to my growing list of “internet stuff.” My, what an interesting thing it has proven to be.

I first became aware of Facebook through my cousin Caleb Morris, who happened to work as a computer graphics guru at The Piggott Times while I was editor there (see my picture above—it was taken in my office there). This was around early 2007. It’s also the same cousin who now mysteriously doesn’t respond to any of my emails.

But Caleb showed me around one day, trying to prove to me that it was much different from MySpace.com—a site he also had a page on. At the time I was relatively unimpressed and didn’t really have the time to do it anyway, so I just watched and nodded.

Fast forward to September of 2008. I attended the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference up in Minnesota (Minnesoda to the locals) and came away with some info on new technology, social networking and how writers should carefully embrace the new technology as a way of promoting themselves and their work.

I stumbled across a list, I think emailed to me as part of an email loop afterward, that had the top 10 places writers should be online.

Facebook was at the top.

Wow.

Okay, so not really knowing what I was doing—and not getting any answers to my pleas for help from Caleb—I signed up. In weeks flat, I had 50 friends. We’re talking legitimate I know them, worked with them, something—real friends. Needless to say, I was impressed.

I discovered that I could post pictures on FB (that’s the abbreviated version of “Facebook”) and even share them with people not on FB. I liked that because I’d gotten several invites to various picture sites and each one of them I had to “join” before I could actually see the pictures. I’d never see them because I refused to join.

I can post a link to this blog on FB and in fact I’ve increased traffic here considerably just by doing so. As of this writing, I have 363 “friends” via FB. Granted, not all of them are “real” friends anymore, but 90-95% are. Some people want to add you to the list because you both know someone…I haven’t quite caught the hang of that part yet, but it seems to be not an unusual thing. Most of my friends are people I’ve worked with along the way; around 50 of them are former students from when I taught college courses. More recently, I’ve been running across classmates that I hadn’t talked to in nearly 25 years!

BJ got on FB too, and started getting the requests. So we had to dig out our school annuals—we’d hear a name or see a friend of a friend and recognize the name but not the face (25 years can change folks!)…Our high school annuals have been used more the last few weeks than the last 25 years combined.

Since it seems to be the hot thing right now in internet/technology/social networking…why not give it a shot. Heck…even my Mom is on Facebook now! J

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