Monday, November 17, 2008

On Liberalism and Knitting

No, there is nothing connecting these topics together, other than I happen to have been thinking about them both a lot lately. Perhaps if I were an English professor, I would be able to come up with something that links these two ideas together. But since I'm not, I won't try.

I've been wondering for a while now, when did the word "liberal" become "bad"? I mean the word "liberal" means open-handed and generous, not literal or strict, according to Merriam-Webster. But all I seem to be hearing about for the past election cycle is how horrible it is to be liberal: how liberals are pro-abortion and even pro-death. Now I've known many, many people in my lifetime who identify themselves as "liberal," politically. But, I know of not one person who thinks abortion is a "good" thing to do. No one recommends everyone have one. And as for "pro-death," isn't it those horrible liberals who oppose the death penalty? Oppose the war in Iraq? Even try to save such things as tree-frogs and spotted owls? All as a result of their dislike of death. It is my opinion that it is myopic, and even mean-spirited to say that anyone is "pro-death," regardless of your opinion of another's view of the death penalty, abortion, or the tree-frog.

Personally, I am opposed to abortion: I believe it to be a sin, immoral, and I believe life begins at conception. However, as I do not run the world (and I have no wish to), I recognize that not everyone will agree with me. Scientists and doctors cannot agree on when life begins! And, as my belief regarding this comes from the Bible, I do not feel that I am in a position to impose my views regarding this upon others. I certainly do not believe it is the place of the government of this country to impose its views on this either, especially not when based primarily on religious philosophy. So, yes, I am anti-abortion and pro-choice. Both.

This country needs liberals. Without liberals, schools could still legally be segregated, the Voting Rights Act would not have been passed, it would be perfectly legal to discriminate against a person because of their race in private establishments, and none but the first ten amendments to the Constitution would be in existence. All were the results of "activism," and flew in the face of strict adherence to the letter of the law, then in existence. However, change for the sake of it is not good in government, either. You can't be changing the Constitution every ten minutes on a whim, and the Court cannot decide to depart from the current law, "just because." It would create the most unstable government in the world!

So, yes, this country needs conservatives, as well, to hold back and say, "Look! This is the Constitution, and this is why these things were put in there in the first place! This is what our country was founded upon." But keeping things the way they always have been, just because "this is the way it's always been" is a danger as well. Nothing makes me more angry about office procedure than the following conversation: "Why do we do this in this way?" "Because it's the way we've always done it." "But wouldn't it be more efficient to do it this other way?" "Sure." "Then, why can't we do it that way, instead?" "Because we've always done it this way." We need both parties in government. Liberal and conservative. We need the liberals trying to move forward and change things all the time, and conservatives trying to hold things the way they are. This way, we never get too far ahead too fast, but yet when change is needed, it can be done.
End of sermon: Now the knitting! These are my July and September socks!

Here's a better view of the green ones, so you can see the pattern, hopefully.

Now, I'm all excited about my winter project: a fisherman's sweater. Cozy and cabley. I got a really light caramel color brown for it. (I only paid around $25 for the yarn!) And, it's the kind of pattern that lets you figure out measurements and shaping and stuff for yourself! I'm thrilled.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Happy Veterans' Day!

One of the perks of working "in government" is that you get random days off work: Veterans' Day, for example. So today, Betsy and I had our yearly vet appointment to update her rabies, bordatella, and parvo shots (I think there are a couple more in there, too); test her for heart worm; get more chewies; and an all-around check-up. She's apparently in excellent health -- her temp was a little high, due to excitement, and her heart rate was somewhat low. The vet attributed the heart rate to her "athletic" lifestyle. While I'm not particularly athletic, with the exception of a daily walk and an occasional hike, Betsy is. She plays and runs randomly around until she simply collapses. Every moment not playing is wasted, according to her! When she was teeny-tiny, she'd be so sleepy by bed-time that she would sit there in her crate swaying back and forth trying to stay awake! And today at the vets, she made friends with all the techs and one of the other canine patients. She tried to make friends with a large German Shepherd, but he was a little large and loud. She was a little frightened of him, and he wasn't so much in the mood to make friends. No one still has any clue what breeds she might be comprised of, although everyone I've asked about it is pretty sure there's either Australian Shepherd or Border Collie or both in there somewhere. The face, ears, body-size and behavior make that pretty clear. Everything she does screams "I am a herding dog!"
So, after the vets, I had lunch with a friend, went shoe-shopping, grocery shopping, and bought another video game. It was the most efficient shoe-shop I've ever had. In and out in 15 minutes, with two pairs of shoes. I generally hate shoe-shopping, but if it was like that every time, I'd do it more often! It was definitely time, too. My tennis-shoes are 13 years old! (But they are so comfortable! Who needs treads?)
Oh, and a couple weekends ago Adagio re-appeared. I discovered this upon going to investigate a huge commotion of thumping going on at the back door, and I saw two fluffy dog-heads in the dog-door. Eventually, they sorted out who was to come in first (which was what the problem was, apparently) so here's the both of them, panting up a storm, both with soggy chewed-on ears. And yes, Betsy's nearly as tall as Adagio now, but weighs somewhat less. Sadly, Adagio's latest escape resulted in the neighbors finding it necessary to lock her in an ex-pen with a piece of plywood for a floor (so she can't dig out, presumably) during the day. Normally, I'd say that's not so bad, but there's a doghouse in there, in addition to their other dog, making for not much room. Plus, it can't be comfy for a dog to have to "potty" on plywood so close to her bed. However, just as I finished the last sentence, Betsy went over to sit at the baby gate, intensely interested, and I hear this surreptitious "clink, clink." Lo and behold Adagio has come in my dog door, all the way across my house, looking for Betsy! I took down the gate to let Betsy out, and they both went straight outside for their romp. What fun!! I'm now going to try out my new game.

Monday, November 03, 2008

If I Won the Lottery

I think everyone must think about this from time to time: What would you do if you did not have to work for a living? If you could do anything you wanted, without regard for the cost, what would it be?

My answer is probably quite unique: I'd go back to school! Not to "better myself," necessarily, but to learn stuff. I'd get a masters in history, and maybe a doctorate. American history, probably focusing on either the civil war or the decades between 1917, when we entered World War I and the end of 1941, when we entered World War II. And I'd probably want to teach some classes. Probably high-school or college.

Why in the world do I want to study history? I'm not entirely sure. All I know is that I find it interesting. I don't think memorizing a bunch of dates and places is interesting -- so many people seem to teach history badly. History is not about that. History also isn't about minutia, either: it's not this corps of that army occupied that hill, and this other army sent these guys in this formation to take it with these types of guns, and there were this many thousand casualties. That's not history either. History is about humanity. The decisions people make while they are suffering. Have you noticed that those dates people memorize are always about when horrible things were happening? When you learn your dates in ninth-grade history, it's always about "December 6, 1941 was the bombing of Pearl Harbor" or "October whatever-it-was in 1929 was Black Tuesday the stock-market crashed and began the Depression." The events one learns about are usually incredibly difficult times that shaped those times that came afterward.

What I find interesting about history is how people of those times responded to the crises in which they found themselves: from the small to the great. Some despaired, others made momentous decisions that changed the course of events for better or worse, and yet others simply survived -- living on from day to day as best they could. I think that's why I find the American Civil War intriguing. Those four years -- April 1861 until April 1865 were crucial in shaping our country: probably more crucial than any other event in this country's history, with the exception of the drafting and signing of the Constitution. This country, itself, was tested more than it has ever been before or since. People don't think about it now, but had things turned out differently, we would not have a Federal Government, it would likely be more of an advisory board that coordinates the supreme governments of the States. People would not now have bumper stickers on their cars about "Proud to be an American." It would be "Proud to be a Virginian" or a Rhode Islander, or a Wyoming-ite? Each state would have decided for itself whether to go to Europe during World War I, rather than the U.S. Congress. There would be no federal taxes, nor federal programs.

But unlike the Constitution, the Civil War directly affected the lives of every single person alive in this country. From the end of slavery to food shortages to the massive percentage of men in this country who were away from their families for four years and returned ever-changed, if at all. Everyone felt the impact of war. And one of the most exciting things to a historian, if I may be so bold, is that so many people wrote about it. They wrote diaries and letters. Those that couldn't write often had others write letters to family members for them. Soldiers would dictate to their more literate fellows heartfelt letters to wives, sweethearts, sisters and mothers about being cold or homesick. Sometimes there were just scrawled, poignant notes of missing home and loved ones, but lots of these letters went on for pages and pages. They wrote about why they fought: the Cause, as termed by men on both sides. And there was a Cause -- a higher purpose for those on both sides. The Cause was ironically the same for those on either side. Both sides believed God had pre-ordained their victory. Both sides believed they were fighting for their country, and their freedom. People on each side believed that should they lose the war, the ideals for which their fathers' fathers fought King George would be destroyed, forever.

And so, should I win the lottery, I'd want to learn more: dig deeper, read more. And then I'd want to teach: that is what history's about. It's not about "In fourteen-hundred and ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue." Oh, and about 1917 through 1941 -- I'd want to learn a lot more about that. I know next to nothing about that era. And that was the time the United States grew up. The Civil War made the U.S. a real nation, as opposed to a collection of small nations. The time between WWI and WWII was when we came into our own as a world power: economically and militarily. That is the time during which we went from a new nation, admired but yet to be tested on the world stage, to a nation to which all other nations look.