Beyond Good and Evil

Dr. Ronnie J. Hastings

Archive for the month “March, 2012”

You Go, Girl! (II)

This is (II), which goes with (I here‎). Hopefully, this will ingratiate me back in good graces with the women I outraged as they read (I).

I’ve told Judy Roach that I am a reformed male chauvinist pig, not a cured one. (I) is probably a case in this point, but I like to think that it is more accurate to call me a feminist, a champion of women’s rights who happens to sport a pair of testicles.

Of the three prongs of the social revolution of the 60’s that helped shape Bill Clinton, so many of our generation, and me, the most successful prong, in my opinion, is the women’s movement. Congratulations, ladies! You’ve come a long way, baby! We still don’t have the ERA women deserve, so there is much left to be done, so, you go, girl!

My good friend Dr. Jim Burns recently reminded us that Obama is doing his part to further and protect the rights of women. It is a major reason to vote for him which I stupidly left off my list of reasons.

Nowhere does sexual discrimination show its ugly head than in the issue of control of reproductive rights. To this day, as we saw a Washington Republican/sexist organized panel consisting of all men testifying on women’s reproduction and contraceptives, it is amazing how the church, the government, and sexist men everywhere want still to control what goes on in the bedroom between men and women, and, moreover, want to make the bedroom a playing field tilted in favor of those of XY chromosome persuasion.

Let me ask, was there any social outrage when male enhancement drugs like Viagra and Cialis came out? Oh, let’s allow the men to expand their sexuality and live more fulfilling lives! But the women? Let’s fight contraception, abortion, and all manners of ways women can have to control their sexuality similarly as do men. After all, they are JUST women! The idiot Limbaugh, as my grandfather used to say “split his britches” when he tried to attack that young female law student testifying for the right to have women’s contraceptives covered by insurance, calling her promiscuous. Such hypocracy! Do you think men have trouble getting their Viagra or Cialis covered by insurance? Hell, no! The same could be said of the idiot Perry here in Texas, as he leads the fight to cut support for women. When I think of what should be done to the likes of Limbaugh and Perry, I think of what my granddad and uncles used to do to young boars with a pocket knife. But, admittedly, that is too barbaric, even for them, so, more realistically, I hope that young law student gets her degree(s) and goes after the discriminating words and discriminating laws against her sex.

Personally, I am proud to say I had in Cisco within my own extended family examples of strong, pioneering women who were “ahead of their time,” even before the revolution — a great aunt, an older female first cousin, and my mother. Since then one of the coolest social experiences of my life is meeting and getting to know strong women who remind me of these three. Many of these strong women, I’m proud to say, are former students of mine.

American Catholic women are showing the way for all females everywhere. According to one survey I heard, 98% of American Catholic women use contraceptives, despite the official positions of the Church and the Pope. Even if that number is exaggerated, this speaks volumes. To wit: American women of all religious and non-religious persuasions are acting upon a high moral principle: just like the men, women should have complete control of their sexuality. Contraception, abortion, and reproductive and sexual good health are not the concern of the church, the state, or the neighbors.

The bottom line of this moral principle is biology. Of all the anthropoid apes (gorillas, chimps, orangatans, gibbons, and humans) the human female is the only one not to show external signs of ovulation during the monthly cycle, except for one — the menstrual flow itself. This has evolved, the consensus goes, to fool the male into observing the woman as inviting and receptive for sexual intercourse for almost all cycle long. And, as a rule, the straight male buys into this charade with gusto! Why would women evolve this way? It is the essence of our pair bonding, the life’s blood of our species. In our deep evolutionary past, when some human females had swollen genitalia at ovulation, they got less protection from the males (remember, these were tough times, when it was not clear our species would survive the nights full of predators like leopards, and women biologically live and lived more in periods of vulnerability than do men, because of the effects of pregnancy) than did those women not so swollen. This is because the “mood” of women showing external sign was like that of other animal females — the swelling denotes limited receptivity. In other words, a woman not swollen is seen by the men as more receptive if she does not tell him to go to hell (Often, a swollen woman would tell a man to go to hell, if she was being selective in her mate.). The women who survived the night were the ones with a man alongside her with some kind of weapon to ward off the leopards, because he had deposited enough sperm in her for him to believe the child she will bear will be his. If she doesn’t display swollen genitalia, he gets month-long sex and she gets month-long protection; she is more likely not to conceive with each mating, and if she does conceive she has the ability to keep the father around and away from other women. Later, when clothes came along the fascade became easier for the girls.

This is the biological basis of what we call “falling in love,” or pair bonding. In time the “keeping of one man to herself” and “wow, she will do it all the time” combined into a couple loving each other for much more than for sexual activity. It became the basis of all romantic culture to this day. We say things like “I am incomplete without you” to the one with whom we bond.

Have you noticed something here, ladies and gentlemen? We are who we are primarily because of the women. Certainly, in the sexual sense, women run the show! And they always have. One of the ironies of human history is that societies are primarily patriarchal, not matriarchal. I would guess that is because pregnancy is incapacitating. It became more practical for women to let the men think they run the show. The outcome of that has, throughout history, been a long line of abuse and mutilation of women, unfortunately. Women do not deserve, nor have they ever deserved, the sexist discrimination and abuse they suffer to this day.

Here’s a goody: The “default” sex in nature is female. This was proven in humans when a mutation was discovered going back to the 18th century on an island in the Carribean, were a few little “girls” turned into boys at puberty! And I mean “turned” in every sense of the word: their female genitals morphed in a few weeks into male ones. Turns out, if we are born males, or XY, and in the womb we do not get our first shot of testosterone (the second comes at puberty), as the Carribean mutuation was apparently causing, we are born girls, complete with all the female equipment, as if we were XX! (Cases were documented in certain villages along certain family lines, when a little “Roberta” turned into a lilttle “Robert,” over a short period of time. Equally fascinating was that in most cases the village treatment of the changed child morphed along with the child. “Robert” was accepted, for the most part, as had been “Roberta,” who had disappeared.) I think the ramifications of this tidbit is worth another discussion sometime, but, for now, I can’t see how it favors the “male cause.”

As an aside, any biologist, MD, or pediatrician will tell you that the same tissue in the fetus will form either into male genitalia or female genitalia, depending upon which hormone surge occurs. That is, XX triggers a surge of estrogen to form a girl, and XY triggers a surge of testosterone to form a boy.

We are seeing sexual freedom in every sense of the word come to women as well as men. What social conservatives cannot stomach is: that means women are free from having to marry, having to have children, etc. etc. Finally, finally, we are seeing women achieve the status of true citizens. Conservatives tend to be a century or so behind; perpetuation of the species is a matter of pair bonding, not marriage, which is a mere social construct. In the long scheme of things marriage will wax and wane, with no negative consequences to us as a species; what is alive and well, and in no danger whatsoever of diminishing is pair bonding. Pair bonding is in our genes, not marriage.

I am an opitimist, and I look forward to women worldwide controlling not only their sexuality, but more and more power and money. I think that will be a world much better than the one today.

By the way, ladies, if you are looking for a religion that treats you better than the others, I recommend Christianity. Its historical record is better than the other major religions, even though it is still patriarchal, for the most part. As we learn more about the origins of Christianity and its teachings, it is exciting to see how women are “shaking off” the sexist reprisals the early Church hurled at the “weaker” sex. The essence of the Christian belief in love is the relationship of a son to His mother; Jesus was shaped, like any other boy who grew up with his mother, by a strong woman. Too bad the Catholics elevated her beyond her strength, her motherly humanity. But lo! Now we see the comeback of Mary Magdalene; she is called a “whore” in fewer circles, nowadays; the sham of the Church running a smear campaign against her is being revealed. She was as close to or closer to Jesus as any of his other apostles. See the March 2012 National Geographic? She is now listed (I think correctly) as an apostle along with the others; she was the first at the empty tomb; she was one of the first evangelists; she showed the “boys” how to witness. Now, I’m not talking The Da Vinci Code here — that is a novel. (Is there any part of the word “fiction” we don’t understand?). Everyone should look her up in the lost gospels.

And should any of you ladies not be looking for a religion at all, more power to you! You, go, girl!

In case any of you doubt I can get more controversial, how about this? Think about this, ladies. I think the depiction of the apostle John (the one who Jesus loved) to Jesus’ left in Da Vinci’s painting of “The Last Supper” is too feminine — it’s a woman! It’s Mary Magdalene! Don’t argue with me — take a close look at it. If that is not a woman, but a true rendering of John, then John must have been a “pretty boy,” if you get my drift. Way to go, Leonardo! You brush-stroked a blow for women everywhere for all time!

I leave you with something that has really helped me in recent years — evolutionary psychology. I am like most men, I think; we can’t figure out women! I have lived with the same woman now for over forty years, and she still baffles me! The thing is, I still baffle her. Evolutionary psychology says that we sexes are not supposed to understand each other, for, if we could, we would not get so crazy and irrational about each other when we fall in love. Or, in turn, our ancestors might not have made it as a species in those leopard-filled nights. If you have ever fallen in love, you know you cannot see the flaws all of a sudden in the object of your desire. Sylvia and I are so fortunate — we went “ga-ga” for each other at roughly the same time. Whatever might seem to each something undesirable if we were completely rational about the situation was ignored and brushed aside. That is the modus operandi of falling in love, of pair bonding. That we are married is, in a wierd sense, incidental, done so society doesn’t bug us about our relationship, as if our relationship was any of their business!

Thank God for women! I love every part of them; I wish I could fathom them a little more than I do, but, I think I just argued that that is wishful thinking. Thanks to all of you of the XX for making us all possible.

How’s that, ladies?


A Defense of Bill Clinton (I)

Ok — this needs a preface — (I) goes with (II), so don’t just read (I) — go on to read (II) also before you judge or come to conclusions or whatever. I hope you respond after reading both.

(I) is for the “boys” and (II) is for the “girls.” Or, I should say for men and women — very much adult, I’ll have to warn you. But the very serious, adult subject of men and women can be very funny as well as informative, too, I think.

In all the Obama-liberal-conservative stuff (I prefer “crap”) bantering back and forth, someone mentioned Bill Clinton and the Monica “saga” — you know, “I did not have sex with that woman…” and all that. I was watching Bill on the telly that night, and, you may not believe this, but I KNEW exactly what had happened, as in sexual acts, etc. I am willing to bet there are more guys out there than are willing to admit knew the same thing that very night.

Before I tell you how I knew, you have got to know Bill Clinton is one of my all-time favorite Presidents, he and I being almost the same age. He and I grew up in the same 60’s America, and we both “took” to the three-pronged revolution of that era (anti- Vietnam war, Civil Rights, women’s movement) in about the same way. During Bill’s Presidency, I joked that he and I were at Woodstock together in ’69, and that for both of us “..neither one of us inhaled!” (not true, you knee-jerk jumpers to conclusions — it’s a joke!) So, I understand Bill; always have, always will.

Now back to Monica. At the time, I was teaching in Waxahachie with a lot of young women teacher colleagues of a generation much younger than mine. From one of them, a very good friend, I was enlightened that her generation had a different de facto definition of sex than did mine. Specifically, the act Bill and Monica performed was not considered “sex” for her generation; only complete coitus was considered “sex.” That was certainly different from the sexual definitions of my generation, wherein many considered “making out” or “heavy petting” sexual!

So, I knew what Bill was doing. He was using a definition of a sexual act from a younger generation than his. From that definition he was not having sex with Monica; he was not lying. Now, you have to admit, that was a much better job of rhetorical semantics than his infamous “…it all depends upon your definition of ‘is’….” (you gotta think he was an old HS & college debater).

And for that, they tried to impeach him! What a waste of our taxes! Bill Clinton did NOTHING to violate his oath of office. He did not let this personal matter affect his performance as President, affect his doing a great job, the job he promised when elected. In the minds of many, because he was not “tarred and feathered” or “run out of Washington on a rail” they later spent millions (The lawyer Starr, now President of Baylor, got a lot of it!) trying to pin something illegal on both Bill and Hillary. As Shakespeare said, “Much ado about nothing!” They found NOTHING. Talk about a waste of our money! I think what the “righteous right” did, or attempted to do in this time, was more disgusting than what Bill and Monica did in the White House.

If anyone did besmirch the Presidency and the White House, and SHOULD have been impeached it was that criminal “Tricky Dick” Nixon! “Slick Willie” Clinton is a saint (though a fallen one) compared to him!

The other thing is a shout-out for Monica: What about that sorry excuse for a friend (of stain-on-dress fame) that ratted on Monica’s confidence in her? What a bitch! I can only hope Monica has good friends today.

Now, there is no defense of Bill’s lack of judgement. As we males like to say, “He was thinking with the wrong head!” As Robin Williams is famous for saying, “Guys have two heads and only enough blood to run one at a time!” Bill committed an offense against his marriage, against his family — nothing more, nothing less. Since then, his family has appeared to work things out. Good for them! That is none of our business. He did not besmirch the White House, his office, or his country. I’m inclined to think, thanks to my friend, he did not even lie on the TV that night.

In the aftermath of this, I am amused how Americans want their President to be some kind of moral knight in shining armor. Our President takes the oath to uphold the Constitution, not to be a moral example. Why we expect a saint from the President is beyond me! We’ve never had a saint for President, and we never will, in my opinion. You would think that as we find out about FDR (an assistant), Eisenhower (a jeep driver), and JFK (Marilyn Monroe, and — recently — an “intern”), we’d get the message.

Some of my favorite jokes have come out of the Bill/Monica “scandal:”

1) Bill did not blow it; Monica did.

2) On the basis of rumors concerning Monica and Bill’s cigars, Bill’s cigar humidor is the only one in the history of the White House to have a yeast infection.

Next is (II).


It’s a Dog’s Life

My son Chad and his family (along with the extended family) are going through the trauma of their black and tan female miniature dachshund, Harley, coming down suddenly with the infirmities of old age. The reaction is as if she was a human family member, and I completely understand why.

I grew up with dogs, both inside the house and outside in the yard. My mother kept housedogs and my father, as a coon hunter, raised coon hounds, both purebred and grade. My wife Sylvia did not grow up that way, but it was not until our sons left home (or thereabouts) that I experenced, primarily because of her, life without at least one dog. Not that this is a point of contention between us — I agree that not having a dog means you don’t have to worry about being tied down like my parents found themselves, due to owning lots of dogs and lots of livestock. By paying the price of not having a dog around, we are going to be able to travel whenever, if my “real” retirement ever gets here (Right now I am half-time, semi-retired, quasi-retired, neo-retired?).

But I still need my “dog fix,” and I try to get it through Harley when I visit Chad, or through Bill and Pamela Adling’s dogs when I visit them. Once you love dogs, you never get over them, nor, in my opinion, do you ever want to.

Why is this so for so much of mankind?

A favorite dichotomy of classifying all of us (like a wine person compared to a beer person) is “Are you a dog or cat person?” Without question, I am dog/beer. I don’t hate cats and wine — I just don’t care for either so much, when compared to dogs and beer. (Add “dog freak” to the Long List — I think it already contains the beer thing.) Now, I know there are exceptions: my wife Sylvia is neither dog/cat nor wine/beer; some are both dog/cat or both wine/beer, or “both-both.” And all the other combinations of these categories I did not mention!

My preference, because of the way I was raised, is hounds. I prefer beagles, dachshunds (short hair), basset hounds, blood hounds, fox hounds, and, of course, all breeds of coon hounds. (Delightfully, Westminster Kennel Club recently added new coon dog breeds to its show — to Black and Tans, Blueticks, and Redbones, have been added Plotts and English coon hounds — anyone know the sixth breed (I know from my dad’s coonhound mags)? Treeing Walkers, which looked similar to fox hounds, only with a heavier muzzle.) My dad raised purebred and grade Black and Tans, along with a Redbone or two. My parents raised a couple of carefully planned (NOT a puppy mill) litters of pure-bred Black and Tans: some of the greatest memories of my childhood are rolling around in the back yard playing with those puppies! I can today walk on the same spots where I played so, as Sylvia and I have restored the house in Cisco where I grew up and helped my parents raise dogs. [Come to think of it, I got to do the same thing with a litter of Beagle puppies Runt Dill of Cisco had at his house one time — it was awesome!] My nuclear family and all my friends from my childhood out there in cyberspace who visited the “Hastings’ kennels” know what I am talking about. I have a great collection of memorabilia from coon hunting, showing coon dogs on benches at dog show contests (like Westminster), and, of course, coon hounds hunting raccoons.

But to state my “tastes” in dogs is not a sufficient answer. It does not account for why dogs are so purvasive in human culture across the globe. If you have been watching “dog specials” on TV, including “The Dog Whisperer,” and have been paying any attention to research in animal psychology (That’s what I said — animal psychology!), you know there are some interesting answers out there.

A recent piece of research, of which Chad recently reminded me, is that the brain activity in humans is virtually the same for humans when shown either a picture of a human baby or a picture of a cute puppy. To me this means the affinity we have with dogs has to go way back, in order to be so deep in our psyche. In turn, we have to look at paleoanthropology, archeology, present anthropology, and evolutionary psychology.

Close, but probably not quite, to a consensus among those who study the origins of our culture is the view that we as hunter/gatherers (prior to, say, 10,000 yrs ago) began keeping wolf puppies in our camps because they were good alarms to danger and good deterrents to unwanted varmits. Our children loved to play with them (like me rolling in the back yard), they were nice hand, feet, and bed warmers, and they were handy, especially when, in addition to their roles around the camp, they began applying their natural hunting instincts toward aiding the men tracking game. All you had to do to make them better is toss them a morsel or two.

Think about this process from the wolves’-becoming-dogs point of view. [What does seem to be a consensus now is that all breeds of domesticated dogs came from wolves exclusively, and not perhaps some from jackels or foxes, or coyotes, as formerally speculated. DNA has settled that issue.] This adoption is a nice fit psychologically for the canine: it feels as if it has been accepted by another pack of predators, but a pack in which the wolf/dog cannot become leader — but, this is a small price to pay for such a cushy position. You get fed for doing things that come naturally to you, and get stroked and otherwise pampered to boot! And you do not have to risk life and limb in the savage world of nature getting something to eat — the food thing is done for you! And all in a safe environment to which you have the satisfaction of contributing. This is a good deal! It is like being on life-long R&R!

Recent research shows that a completely wild population of captive canines (Russian silver foxes) can be turned via selective breeding (select only docile pups receptive to human love) (within a handful of generations) into a population of domesticated foxes! They actually change physically (wagging tails, spotted coats, prolonged puppy features and behavior into adulthood (neoteny), etc.) as the population is genetically shifted toward domestic behavior, and they remind you of our modern dogs.

So, by the time agriculture rolls around (less than 10,000 yrs ago) the wolf/dog is now a canine that cannot possibly survive without the services provided by humans, either still in nomadic hunter/gatherer groups or now settled in permanent agricultural settlements; they have become what we recognize as dogs, completely dependent upon man. And, in addition, they have added to their list of services patroling storage bins for mice and rats that are ravaging the harvest stored to get everyone through winter. This service was also picked up by (here they come) wild ferrel cats, who could deal with the varmits at least as well as could the dogs, and who found in humans the same good deal as the dogs had done. Cats, as we now know them, became as dependent upon people as dogs.

But dogs have an advantage, in my opinion, over cats in competition for the “resort” features of giving up the wild for the world of humans. Dogs “think” more like humans than do cats. Humans live in packs, too, like wolves, only we call them “families,” or “villages,” or “towns” etc. Humans hunt in packs (go out and work), like wolves. Humans form permanent bonds with sexual mates (pair bonding) and with other pack members (relatives, friends). The dog recognizes what it sees in humans, and humans recognize what they see in dogs. Not so with the cats. This is perhaps why, when growing up, in my family cats were relegated to necessary-to-feed guardians of the barns and sheds to keep away the mice and rats. We would rather have the dogs stay with us in the house overnight, rather than cats, who can be kept outside in the barns 24/7.

Dogs relate to humans with a pack mentality; they want to please their “master,” the “leader of the pack.” For some dogs that master is a one-time designation; for others the leader is seen as whoever will feed them and give them shelter. Some dogs (see “The Dog Whisperer”) see their master as unworthy as the being the leader of the pack, perhaps wanting to be the alpha male or alpha female themselves — how many times has Cesar said “you’ve got to show them who’s boss!”?

On the other hand, cats don’t have a pack orientation [One exception is the formation of prides among lions in Africa, an adaptation unusual among felines due to the extreme measures demanded of the top predator in the unique niches of East Africa.]. They still think of themselves as solitary hunters sneaking up on their food bowls dailly. The dog sees its master and thinks, “How great to see my master again!” while the cat thinks, “That thing is still too big to attack and eat.” No wonder cats seem aloof and independent, and dogs seem loving, attentive, and dependent.

My mother, while she was in assisted living, used to participate in a visiting-dog program wherein dogs just hung around the residents for a while being petted, etc. — hung around just “being dogs.” As the residents petted and talked to the dogs, you could see stress and anxiety diminish, in both humans and canines. When I was present with my mom at these times, I felt so privileged that she and I could share so much of our lives together conjured merely by the presence of a dog; we swapped Hastings dog stories; my life and her life had been made better by domesticated, docile wolves — dogs she and I lived with together in Cisco.

It could be argued that humans and dogs share a symbiotic relationship of mutual interdependence. Psychologically, we have co-evolved. Take a long, loving look into your dog’s eyes the next time he/she lays its head in your lap or lays down at your feet, and you will feel a deep connection, I predict. The question is, which of the two species, human or canine, shaped the other more?


The Violence of our Beloved Football

Don’t know yet the extent of the waves of repercussions caused by the NFL rulings and punishments against the Saints’ organization concerning the bounty hunting scandal on the Saints’ defense.

First, I feel sorry for the Saints’ players who did not participate, like Drew Brees and all the offense. The coach who used to be with the Saints and ran the bounty program now has his career ruined; gotta feel sorry for him. Does the head coach deserve such a suspension? Does the team deserve the punishment in draft choices, etc.?

Now, despite the fact I have always never been a fan of overly-strict rules, having taken hits from such personally, I do agree something had to be done. It was just like when SMU in college was dealt the death penalty by the NCAA: the Saints, like the Mustangs, were told not to do it anymore or suffer the consequences; they ignored the warning, just like SMU did, and the “book” was thrown at them. Just like the NCAA back then, words like “making an example” and “so it will not happen again” are being bandied about by the NFL (again, sounds personally familiar).

I do not think the NFL would have reacted so harshly say, 20 or 30 years ago, as the philosophy and spirit of the game has evolved, and I’m not sure it has done so for the better. Oh, it has done so for the betterment of the health of the players, but, and this is my first point, this is football (like hockey and rugby, not ice skating or tennis) — a game played by most because it is violent. I am a fan of football only, never having been a player, but since high school I have “come through” the game, seeing it from the “inside out” as a manager (trainer) for the HS team in Cisco all four years of HS. I emerged an incurable fan of the game — an incurable fan of its violence, I’m afraid. As I’ve told my classmates who were players, in HS I did not remember offensive moments very well; what I do recall are great defensive plays and plays in which players were nearly or literally knocked out. I remember having to administer to them doses of strong ammonia (“Am-caps”) on the field and on the sideline, just to get them to “come around.”

I am a season ticket holder for the home games at Texas A&M each season; I long for the days of the old Aggie “Wrecking Crew” defense that could shut anyone down; I remember the days when relief and optimism came upon the crowd when our defense went in, not our offense. Hits and sacks were the emotional moments, not touchdowns.

I have been, it seems, a lifelong NFL and Dallas Cowboy fan. I love any great NFL defense, because the pros play defense as no others, of course. I don’t think of Don Meredith and Roger Staubach as much as I think of the Doomsday Defense, and Bob Lilly, Leroy Jordan, and Chuck Howley. I remember the Minnesota Vikings’ “Purple People Eaters” and that defense the year the beloved Buccaneers won it all. Today, I am more impressed by the Ravens than by any teams that lead the league in scoring.

In other words, give me a 13-10 game any day over a 38-35 one. Give me a balanced offense. I know, I know, you cannot grind it out exclusively like they tried to do in the NFL’s infancy: you can’t do that because the defenses are too good. I would rather see a form tackle by a linebacker or a pancake block in front of a running back by an offensive lineman than see a pretty-boy quarterback throw a long pass down field to a graceful gazelle of a wide receiver. If you want to see people throw and catch, like glorified touch-pass, watch baseball; if you want high scores, watch basketball.

The essence, then, of football, is the violence of body-on-body collisions, by definition potentially dangerous. When you sign a pro football contract, you are essentially signing off on others’ having the duty to physically abuse your body, and to do it at the highest possible level. Because of the violence, a long career in the NFL is rare if you are someone besides a kicker.

Yet, the NFL game has evolved into such a big business, that quarterbacks are major investments rather than one of a team of 11. New rules and regulations have been put in place protecting the expensive pretty boy QB. They might as well put a “no tackle” practice jersey on QB’s every NFL game. Papa Bear Halas, Vince Lombardi, Tom Landry, Bud Grant, and Al Davis are rolling over in their graves. It was Davis who famously said, “The quarterback must go down, and he must go down hard.” And the Raiders became the most notoriously dirty defense in the league, knocking out long lists of players each season. How much different is that than seeking to knock out of the game certain players? If there was no bounty involved, could we tell the difference between Al Davis’s defenses and today’s Saint defenses? Only the NFL commissioner knows for sure.

I know what you are saying: But NFL athletes train year ’round now — they are more capable than ever of shelling out violence that can hurt people, despite the advances made in protective gear players have got to wear nowadays to avoid getting hurt. But are these collisions more violent than in rugby? Or in hockey? Imagine if rules were put in place restricting the ways a hockey player can check an opponent, or the ways a rugby tackler can square up and stop a runner cold. Remember, the rugby players have no equipment protection comparable to football or hockey. Is the new NFL equipment a licence to go “beyond reason” and launch “to maim,” something rugby players cannot morally do?

Now it seems football is not about players like Dick Butkus crowding the line of scrimmage as the Bears’ middle linebacker and spitting on the hands of the center before the ball was snapped; rather it is about the influence of players like Michael Vick or Tim Tebow on our young people. It is not about Sam Huff running down a ball carrier clear across the width of the field and taking him out of the game with a hard clothes-line; rather it is about the long term effects of dirty hits. It is not about Ted “The Stork” Hendricks rushing the QB from his defensive end position, delivering a fore-arm shiver to the poor running back trying to block him and keep him off the QB, spinning and grabbing the jersey of the QB so he cannot throw, and flinging the QB down onto the dirt for at least two or three rolls; rather it is game of one-ups-man-ship the NFL owners try to play with each other over salary caps and new stadiums. It is not about Jack Lambert grinning his toothless grin and submarining a sweep play to his side, taking out two blockers and the ball carrier; it is about who Tom Brady and Tony Romo marry. It is not about equally toothless Larry Wilson coming full speed on a safety blitz and lauching himself completely over the blocking back to land on top of the QB’s head; it is about speculating on what broadcasting career such-and-such a popular player will enter when he is forced to retire.

You can’t have violence in sports like figure skating (ask Nancy Kerringen –?), but don’t you have to have it in the new arena cage fighting, in boxing, and in football? Sanctions against the Saints should be for perpetuating violence in unscrupulous ways, unscrupulous even for football, not for reducing the violence. Defenses should still go after the QB and other offensive players, just don’t be systematic, descriptive, and so open about it — for football’s sake, don’t overtly pay players for specific acts of violence! In the NFL even defenses have to be smart, like the old Raiders’ defense.

Then again, maybe Al Davis had an NFL league office easier to circumvent and bend rules with than the Saints have today.

If the NFL is, by its new rulings, bringing itself closer to a day when games become high-tech feats of men in robot armor moving with artificial enhancements playing keep-away by tossing the football among themselves, and every throw and catch judged for its aesthetic quality, like a synchronized swimming performance, and every act of bodily collision penalized as too barbaric, then I fear I will have to dust off old NFL archives and watch games of yore, in the best tradition of the crowds in the Colosseum in Rome.


Sticks and Stones May Break Our Bones, But Words We Don’t Know Can Also Hurt Us, or, Jesus Was a Liberalist

The Long List of names I have been called and of labels directed at me for attempted attachment keeps growing.

Beginning as far back as high school, I have been called or labeled a progressive, a liberal, a pinko, a communist, a socialist, a fascist, a Nazi, a Democrat, a secular humanist, a scientific revolution freak, a political revolution freak, an agnostic, an atheist, a Christian, a Texas-phile, a Texas Aggie, a Marxist, a liberation theologian, a Southern Baptist, an anti-cleric, a nuclear physicist, an arrogant high school teacher, a great teacher of math and physics, an unqualified math teacher, a painter of Texas flags on barns and sheds, a history freak, an American Civil War buff, an unintentional expert on Cretaceous fossil fish teeth, a barbed wire artist, a country redneck, a designer and builder of porches and decks out of composite materials, a male chauvinist pig, a land owner, a student of comparative religion, a gadfly, a Teutonic freak, a Napoleonic freak, a lover of ’66 red Mustangs, a coon hunter, a rock mason using only unaltered, natural-shaped rocks, an optimist with rose-colored glasses, a member of a sneaky group of pranksters, an amateur dinosaur track hunter, a militaristic war-hawk, an Obama-phile, a dinosaur freak, a rock-and-roll freak, a painter of the Lake Cisco dam, a heavy metal music freak, a cancer survivor, an anti-creationist, an evolutionist, an anti-intelligent designer, a hippie, a PhD, an absent-minded professsor, an empiricist, a philososphy-phile, an epistemology freak, an incurable screamer of rock songs in karaoke bars, a beer connoisseur, a protester of stupid rules, a feminist, an insatiable reader of non-fiction books, a war gamer, a lover of all things Cisco, Waxahachie, or College Station, an astronomy teacher, a fanatical football and baseball fan, a driver of tractors and trucks, and a writer of “improbable histories.”

To this, since the latest of my Facebook postings and the formation of my website, have been added 1) an intellectual, and 2) an idiot (This last one brings me full circle, so to speak; this is exactly what I was called as a freshman in high school!). I must be doing something right!

Let’s see, today is Wednesday, so if I were to call myself something for the day (for it would change each day, you see), I would say I am a dealer of ideas. (Some of you are old enough to remember the old black-and-white movie and TV series “Dr. Fu Man Chu” — “They say the Devil deals in men’s souls; so does Dr. Fu Man Chu!” They say the Devil deals in ideas; so does Dr. Ronnie J. Hastings!

Let me take one of the ideas suggested by the list above, say, “liberal.” Problems occur right off the bat, because what Americans mean as liberal and what Europeans mean as liberal are slightly different things, and the difference, I think, is crucial. The word “liberal” was first used in reference to the Whig political agenda in Britain in the early 1800’s. It was not incorporated into American politics through the American Whig party, necessarily, but, rather, through American suffrage, grassroot, and populist movements of the 19th centrury.

The original political definition of “liberal” grew, in my opinion, out of the successes of the American Revoluton and the French Revolution, both in the 18th century. There was nothing conservative about these two revolutions! What I would suggest as “liberalism” was actually born out of these two pivotal events, embodied by the words “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in the case of America, and “liberte, egalite, and fraternite” in the case of France (liberty, equality, and brotherhood). The Reformation ,the Renaissance, and the Enlightenment had combined to spark the minds of America’s founding fathers (Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, and Paine) and to set up the political landscape of revolutionary France just prior to 1789, defining the terms “liberal” — those who sat on the “left” side of the chambers in France — and “conservative” (aristocratic) — those who sat on the “right” side of the French chambers. Liberalism, as I will call it, is the equal balance of all three (liberty, equality, and brotherhood [humanity-oriented]) and is the political ideal to which I think history is showing us to aspire. Liberalism has existed in this ideal form in America only in the short interval from Washington’s first term to Jefferson’s first; it existed in France only from the moment the Revolutionary government was formed to the institution of the Terror.

I am not sure we’ve witnessed any equal balance since, at least not in the USA. We have not truly reaped the benefits of liberalism. All systems of government seem to have the three words out-of-balance in some way. Some easy-to-see examples will suffice: the French Terror exalted equality at the expense of freedom and brotherhood; Marxist-Leninist communism exalts an inequality at the expense of freedom and brotherhood, ironically the same as monarchies, fascist-regimes, and “Christian” regimes such as the Papal States and Cromwellian England. Modern-day socialism makes a similar mistake as did the Terror: pushing equality at the expense of individual freedom and of genuine brotherhood – only without the beheading; unfortunately, in my opinion, that is what most Americans today call “liberal.” It is essentially a misnomer. So, to be clear, I am pushing “liberalism,” not whatever is labeled “liberal,” like socialism. Perhaps, to avoid being mired in the prevailing view of “liberal” today, those who are of the persuasion of “liberalism” should be called “liberalists” instead of “liberals.”

The original definition of conservatism was to work for no change, to keep and defend the status-quo. Those already with power and wealth, the aristocrats, and later, the capitalist rich, had no need for change, for they deemphasized equality and brotherhood; they paid attention only to the “liberty” part. Today American conservatives interpret “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as “my freedom, my entitlement, and who-gives-a-shit about my neighbors.” American conservatives whitewash over this “official” OK for selfishness, greed, and inhumane treatment by appealing to the myth that we are a Christian nation, which, in their myopic minds, means the poor, needy, and working have-nots will be taken care of by Christian charity (remember the solicitors of Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, and his response to them?) (Incidentally, Christian charity through the organized churches cannot begin to meet the growing need of social services in our country.) Conservatives, as a result, are champions of some form of elitism: the smarter, the richer, the powerful, etc. etc. are better than the others. I know the book was about communism, but the conservatives of today remind me of the pigs in Orwell’s Animal Farm, remember? — “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” Conservatives, in my opinion, give only lip service to liberte, egalite, and fraternite, covering up their treason to the liberalist ideals that our forefathers ingeniously envisioned with feigned Christian piety, which is another treason — the treason betraying separation of church and state and the freedom to worship and the freedom from worship.

The progressive march of history is clear: conservative political philosophy cannot be sustained. With the price of the blood of millions since the 18th century, the imbalance of monarchies has failed and been dismantled, the imbalance of fascism has failed and been dismantled, the imbalance of communism has failed and been (almost everywhere) dismantled, and the imbalance of Latin American regimes of tyranny against personal liberty has failed and been dismantled. Guess what is going to happen in future to the imbalance of dictatorships, kingdoms, and sectarian states that still survive!

Look at this progressive march in the United States: universal suffrage finally became a reality, but it took into the 20th century to achieve it (Now, white males are joined by females and descendents of slaves at the voting polls.). The privileges of US citizenship are given without the shackles of discriminatory qualifications. (It doesn’t matter if you are blue, covered with green polka dots, and worship an anthill in your back yard, you have the same rights, privileges, and opportunities as the rich, powerful, and influential in this country.) For all this, you must pay a price, but a price well worth it, I believe: US citizenship means you have to work, you have to pay taxes, and you have to be a patriot in your new country — and, conservatives tend to overlook this, your freedom is qualified — you cannot climb the ladder of success at the expense of others! Your gain should not be someone else’s loss.

The three-pronged revolution of the 60’s (anti-war movement, Civil Rights movement, women’s movement) is all liberalist in spirit: perpetrated to extend (instead of restrict, as the conservatives want to do) all of the following — 1) power over your personal affairs, 2) influence in the leadership of your country, 3) your rights as a working, tax-paying citizen, 4) your rights not to be victimized by any form of discrimination, 5) your rights to educate yourself as far as your mind will take you, and 6) your grasp upon the promise of the liberalist, revolutionary agenda of our Constitution and Declaration.

So, when I go to the polls to vote for President, I vote for the candidate closer to the ideals of a liberalist, closer to the ideas upon which our country was founded. To vote for a political conservative is to me tantamount to voting against the ideals of the American Revolution; it would be literally un-American!

And, incidentally, to me it would be anti-Christian. Note that all the unflattering references I had above to Christians and Christianity had to do with church and those who attend church. They had nothing to do, in my opinion, with the teachings of Jesus. All those years I sat in Sunday School and in the church pews revealed to me how little emphasis, in the long scheme of things, was placed upon the teachings of the one supposed to have founded the church in the first place! Turns out, when you read the “red letters” of the four Gospels, or, better, the Jefferson Bible, what Jesus is supposed to have said doesn’t have much to do with the church, with organized religion. Jesus spoke in liberalist terms. The Sermon on the Mount translates almost verbatum into liberalist philosophy. Laws were made for people, not people for the laws. What is best for your fellow man trumps all other needs. The Golden Rule — so universal! Principles that can only be called humanistic are our guides, not some theology propping up some social class of clergy and a string of fancy buildings. He was a revolutionary in the truest sense of the word. Jesus’ adversaries were the representatives of the established religion of his day. Any Son of Man can become a Son of God. I have discussed all this with minister friends of mine (names withheld here for obvious reasons), and in private they cannot disagree with me on most of these points.

Jesus was a forerunner of the liberalist principles of our founding fathers. He was a liberalist way before the liberalist “time” in the 18th century. The American Revolution was fought for purely secular, not sectarian reasons; when the French aristocracy fell under the blade of the guillotine, so did the Church and its clergy. One of my favorite quotes from a French film was “There can be no church in a true republic.” I don’t think we should burn down all the churches — I think we should stop giving Jesus credit for them; such credit insults Him.

If all or part of this moves you to do so, get back with me. All I ask is that you try to do a little more than just add to the Long List of names and labels.


Reason to Vote for Obama: His Record

Ok, Ok, I know musical tastes are not proper criteria to vote for President (see my spiel on the White House blues performance), but I also know many actually vote on criteria equally trivial.

Wow! If there was ever a doubt whether I would vote for Obama again in the November election, it was dispelled last week when, as a part of an invited group of blues artists to perform in the White House, Mick Jagger of the Stones was invited (along with other greats like B.B. King and Buddy Guy)! That is exactly who I would invite to perform at the White House if I were President! Moreover, the musical director was Booker T. Jones (remember Booker T. & the MG’s?) and when Barack & Michelle entered for the performance, instead of pompous state music, Booker T. played his greatest hit “Green Onions.” How cool was that? Those of you who know me know I am dead SERIOUS about this. Vote for the guy who was sitting front row on a White House stage grooving to Mick’s “Miss You,” accompanied by Jeff Beck’s guitar, and, later, to Mick’s version of a Howlin’ Wolf classic. [February 29 at 2:03pm]

I’ve gotten many Facebook responses from Cisco-connected folk and from some of my former students expressing shock or concern that I will vote again for Obama. They flatter me by saying they consider me intelligent, but do not think any intelligent person would vote for Obama, because of his record. To these I would like to return some shock and concern.

First of all, I am shocked and concerned you think I am intelligent… No! No! that is not what I meant to say!!!… I mean, I agree that one should vote for a President (an incumbent one) on the basis of his/her record. I am shocked that these responders I’ve defined above (who I know are intelligent) are NOT voting for Obama because of what they perceive as his record!

“…what they perceive as his record…”– that is the key phrase.

Indulge me a brief walk down “Memory Lane:” In 1960, when I was a freshman in Cisco High School, we had a mock school-wide Presidential election between JFK and Nixon. Nixon won in a huge landslide, and I was one of the handful of students who voted for JFK. Why? Not only to be different (one of my many foibles, as so many of you who know me are aware), but because I refused to be suckered in by the silly, stupid political propaganda about JFK at the time. (Some of you may remember: As a Catholic, he would appoint all Catholics on his Cabinet, place Catholic priests in positions of power all over the country, consult his bishop and the Pope when making all decisions, and have a “hot-line” to the Vatican.) My propensity to be different helped me to recognize this as propaganda: As so many of you who know me also know, across the years I know probably a little too much about Nazi Germany than necessary for the normal human being — you should see some of the books in my personal library. In other words, even back then when I was a goofy HS freshman, I could recognize silly, stupid political propaganda when I heard it.

In 1960 JFK-bashers, as I will call them, used the propaganda trick of “straw-man” tactics, wherein a false version of the man JFK was built up so that he could be cut-down, destroyed, or “burned at the stake” by appealing to the patriotism of voters who, for whatever reasons, “swallowed” all or part of the propaganda. This is exactly the same tactics the Nazis used in building the “straw-men” of European Jews, only with far more sinister goals than just winning elections.

Nowadays, in 2008 and in 2012, Obama-bashers, as Bill Maher and others have correctly, I think, pointed out, are building a “straw-man” Obama, a man who does not exist, to cut-down, destroy, and burn — all so that he is not elected for a second term. Since the 2010 elections, the Republican/Tea Party-dominated Congress has held the nation in extreme partisan gridlock, so that our elected representatives, Congressmen & Senators, are reduced to a “do-nothing” Congressional session while the country’s citizens are struggling and suffering from unemployment, unaffordable health care, and a crumbling pubic infrastructure, all economically worsened by military expenses overseas. And all this motivated largely by the political agenda to make Obama look bad, to deliberately assure Obama will have an unsuccessful, ineffective Presidency.

We have had Presidencies in the past with one party in the White House and the other controlling Congress, but none with such little willingness on Capitol Hill to compromise for the good of the people. And it is not because Obama hasn’t tried. One of the reasons I am voting for him again is that part of his record is: he has made the effort to compromise, to get things done, to respond to the needs of Americans everywhere — in other words, to do the job for which he was elected. My main criticism of Obama is that he has not done this strongly enough — that he is not another Andrew Jackson. But I think we see in him recently a little more resemblance to Jackson, but, unlike Jackson, Obama has had to walk the tightrope of being the first multi-racial President. (Although, I think any of us elected President would qualify as multi-racial; I for instance, would be Scotch-Irish, Cherokee Indian, and God-knows-what-else.)

Yes, the “elephant in the room” nobody wants to talk about openly because of political correctness is that he is “dark-skinned” — “black.” Actually, he is half black. Perhaps only among African-American racists is he referred to as “half white.” Actually, he is half white. I sadly think that racism is a covert, perhaps even subconscious, engine that drives the Obama-bashers. The “straw-man” Obama is at least partially built with the fuel of racism.

It is time to compare the records of the real Obama with the “straw-man” Obama:

The “straw-man” version goes something like this: he is not an American citizen, born in Kenya; he is not a Christian, but a secret Muslim, as proven by a sojourn in Indonesia; he is a Marxist-socialist — anti-capitalism and anti-business; he blindly follows the teachings of the liberation theologist whose sermons he used to attend; he is “out to get” the oil companies; he apologizes to every foreign country for us being the United States; he is a wimp; he wants to redistribute everyone’s wealth so everybody has the same meager amount; and (my personal favorites, as these touch my very alive and well roots in Cisco) he will take away all our guns and tax all our cattle because they fart methane!

Look at the record of the real Obama — the reason to vote for him again:

  1. He is a native-born American, more so than John McCain (born in the Canal Zone)
  2. He is a Christian (probably not my brand of Christianity, but then again, I’ve not met anyone else who has my brand)
  3. He saved the auto mobile industry
  4. Despite the devastated economy left by W’s administration we are, as he predicted, slowly making our way back — seen the stock market the last few weeks?
  5. Unemployment is painfully and slowly getting better — how much better could it be now without Congressional gridlock? A whole lot better, I say
  6. He dialed up the deaths of bin Laden, other Muslim terrorist leaders, and Somalian pirate kidnappers (some “wimp”!)
  7. Since his election, our global credibility has rebounded remarkably. The US is held in the highest esteem since Clinton or Carter. (That means we are respected, not feared, for all you war hawks.)
  8. He nixed the pipe-line from Canada for environmental reasons, calling for a compromised plan that will satisfy our energy needs (I think we are getting such a line.) without trashing so much of our natural landmarks along the way.
  9. We have a start to a universal health plan I trust will lead us to a single-payer system we know works in other countries
  10. Wall Street is more regulated now, saving our wealth from the greed of out-of-control capitalists
  11. He has a tax reform plan even the humane super-rich (W. Buffett) would go for, helping out all us in the middle class
  12. He has brought home our troops from Iraq, as promised, which should prove in the long run to be a big boost in our economy
  13. He lead a slick observation and gentle nudging of the successes of the Arab Spring without getting us into another “hot war”
  14. He has presided over what appears to be a great turn-around in North Korea
  15. He wants to help States repair their civil infrastructures
  16. I think he is setting up an honorable removal of our troops from Afghanistan
  17. We still have all our guns
  18. All our cattle still fart methane on the ranches around Cisco tax free
  19. The “devil” in me compels me to add that he loves the blues and invited Mick Jagger to the White House to perform

I know many of you, if not Obama bashers, can add more reasons of your own.

So, I am the one shocked and concerned. Why aren’t you voting for Obama, especially when you consider the parade of poor candidates the Republicans are squabbling over? Compared to the real, not “straw-man,” Obama, it looks like a parade of clowns to me, just like the decades-long parade of Nixon, Reagan, Bush Sr., and Bush Jr. we’ve had to endure.

To set my personal record straight, I am not a Democrat, as the above paragraph might indicate, despite the fact I have never voted for a Republican Presidential candidate in my life. Of course I am also not a Republican; I consider myself independent, of no party — a-partisan. I vote for the man (or woman, when that time comes), not a party.

Thanks to his record, it is a no-brainer for me to vote for Obama this fall.


Post Navigation