Sunday, April 30, 2006

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

This post has been simmering inside my mind for a while now. It started coming to the surface when a friend of mine talked about how the United States has to be willing to "get their hands dirty" if we're going to win the war on terror. That sounded remarkably like what my fellow Iowa blogger Homercles wrote in response to a question I put to him in his comments. Despite being far off the original topic, he was gracious enough to answer it.

My question:

So tell me because I truly would like to know - how can you, a Christian, support [Bush]? Or do you not see that he has no right to the moral high ground that he claims?

Portions of Homercles's response:

First, you need to understand my one fundamental assumption: that Islamic Fundamentalism must be stopped now, and that any price we pay now will be less than the price we pay if we do not confront immediately and aggressively....

Going back to my fundamental assumption, you have to understand that I feel we're in a time where we may have to do a great many shitty things to come out of this alive. You're worried about moral high ground, and I'm worried about Americans everywhere still being able to suck oxygen.

Any temporal, ethical, or spiritual price we pay will be terrible, but it will be infinitely less terrible than the price we have to pay if we continue to ignore the wolves at our door. All in all, it would seem that my willingness to do the exact opposite of what I was taught would make me a pretty poor Christian. I'm not happy about that, but I accept it. If it means that the next generation can finally have a chance to grow up in an era without fear, then I'll support any number of ruthless deeds without hesitation.

I don't think Homercles is alone in this opinion. I think this country is gripped with a paralyzing fear of terrorism. And because we were so afraid, we are willing to allow our country to do things we'd have never agreed to before September 11. I understand this fear because I absolutely felt it too after 9/11. I was in favor of the attack on the Taliban in Afghanistan. I didn't worry about torturing terrorists. I wanted them dead, all of them, or in as much pain as possible. That's a normal reaction to the trauma that we all faced on 9/11. And when I was told by Colin Powell that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction and needed to be stopped, I supported the invasion of Iraq. At the time, I was scared of what might happen to us if we didn't strike first. And at the same time, I was fearful of this policy of pre-emptive war. It is a policy based in fear. But I was too afraid to not support it. And I think my fear was the same that was felt by an overwhelming number of Americans. No one wants to admit to being afraid; we mask the fear with anger or cloak it in justice, but at the root of it all is an overwhelming dread that we might see airplanes crashing into our cities again. We may not admit the fear aloud under the bright sun of day, but in our bedrooms in the dead of night, we feel it crawl into our hearts.

If I were a pyschiatrist, I'd say our country has an acute case of post traumatic stress disorder.

Whether this fear has been encouraged by the current administration is immaterial. I don't care to argue politics when our nation's soul is at stake. We are responsible for allowing fear to grip us. If we do not speak out, we are responsible for the actions this country has made in response to the fear we all feel.

Homercles says that while I'm worried about a moral high ground, he's worried about surviving. It's an old question, I suppose. Do the ends justify the means? As each year passes by, as I strive to provide for my daughters a clear path to follow, the more I believe the means are everything. The fact is, nothing ever ends. We won't get rid of fear. All we'll do is show our children the wrong way to deal with it.

"...if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."

I say tear your eyes away from the abyss. Look into the eyes of a child. And then tell me that we don't have a duty to find a better way.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Ah, the Onion...

A friend sent this to me and I just have to share.

I love the Onion.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A short play

Scene: The living room of a modest suburban Iowa home. There are two characters, myself and Rachel, my five year old daughter. It is morning and we are about to leave for preschool.

How do I look, Rachel?

That shirt does not work with those pants, Daaaad.

(somewhat dumbfounded)

Daddy, that shirt does NOT work with those pants.

Oh. Okay, let me see what else I got.
I exit to the bedroom, return a few minutes later wearing a different shirt.
That's so much better, Daddy.
End scene!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Going back to Appalachia

Once again, my brother and I are going back to the Appalachian Trail for another week long hike. Well, we'll see if it's actually a week long hike. Usually it doesn't last that long. We're hiking in June this year, which is about a month and a half earlier than usual. I can't miss work in August as that's the busy time. That means I have only a month and a half to prepare. Fortunately, there's a great facility at my work that's free. I started working out on Thursday and then went again on Friday. I started by running as I've always enjoyed that. I ran 3/4 of mile both days on the inside track. I also used one of the machines to strengthen my legs. I was really aching yesterday, but am feeling okay today. I plan to get to the Linder Trail near my home too, and hike with the backpack as I've done in previous years. It's nothing like hiking the AT, but it's as close to it as I can get in Iowa. I also do exercises to strengthen my knees; otherwise they have a tendency to lock up on me.

Why do I keep going back?

Probably because it's the one way that I have to test myself physically. My life is filled with a lot of sitting around. I sit at work. I sit at home writing or doing other work for Dreamwell. I sit and watch way too much TV. We live in a sedentary society. This hike affords me the opportunity to stretch myself physically. I could do a lot of simpler activities, I suppose, like join a volleyball league or go to the swimming pool a lot. But those are easy things and I'd rather do something really difficult. It's just the way I am.

And besides the land is so beautiful there. You can almost forget that we've transformed this amazing green world into a mess of iron and steel.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Ah, Rachel...

The other day, I was driving Rachel to preschool and she asked me if God made the tornados. I told her I wasn't sure (because you know, I'm really not).

She said with a little annoyance in her voice, "Come on, Dad, can't you just make a guess?"

This is why it's tough to raise kids in a culture permeated by religion when you're not religious. I did make a guess, by the way. I told that while God didn't create the tornados that hit our little town, he probably did create the world and everything in it and that included tornados that pop up from time to time. She seemed satisfied with that answer.

Another Rachel moment... she was asking me about dying Easter eggs. I told her that we don't really celebrate Easter, no one in our family actually likes eggs, and so we probably wouldn't be dying any eggs.

"But Dad," she says in her wheedling voice, "it's fun for the whole family!"

Fortunately, they did Easter eggs at preschool. I have to wonder if there were any Jewish parents who were a little uncomfortable when their kid brought home an Easter egg.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Tornado in Iowa City

A tornado whipped through downtown Iowa City last night causing much destruction. We're okay as it didn't come near us at all. The girls and I spent the night in the basement watching the green and red blobs move across the TV.

I drove through part of downtown today and it's really a mess. Lots of cars smashed, trees down all over the place. A Dairy Queen was destroyed. The roof blew off Menards and hit the nearby Walmart. Car dealerships were really hit hard too. I drove by one and it was devastated. Cars destroyed, trees down, just amazing amounts of damage. St. Patricks Church lost its roof. One of the really nice parks in downtown Iowa City had a lot of downed trees. They're working hard to get them removed now. That park will look very different when they're done. The power is still out in downtown Iowa City. National Guard troops are directing traffic.

Here's a picture of St. Patrick's Church.

Wow, we're the lead story on

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Idol round up

So I was wrong about Carrie. I admit it. She wasn't horrible. She was decent. Damn it all. But again she shows she's either incredibly stupid or incredibly fake. She claims to not understand the phrase "on paper" as in "On paper, that should have been a terrible performance." Even Simon appears to be getting annoyed with her dumb girl act as he started to explain and then just said, "Oh forget it."

Chris disappointed. I agreed with Simon. Chris could have used this week to really create one of those moments to remember. Like when Constantine sang Bohemian Rhapsody last year. Instead we got a never heard of Queen song and was completely forgettable.

I appear to be the only person on the internet who thought Ace was the best performer last night. I really enjoyed his take on We Will Rock You. I am shocked that so many people didn't.

Bottom three:

Bucky, Elliot, and Ace probably. Poor Ace. I think it'll be Bucky going home, though.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Idols sing Queen

I have much fear heading into tonight's show. Can the Idols do justice to Freddie Mercury? USA Today spoils the songs each contestant will sing. My comments are in bold.

•Ace Young, We Will Rock You: "I urbanized the verses a little, just by riding on (the notes). I put a little R&B soul on it. When we were done, they said, 'That sounds like a record.' " I think Ace has a decent chance to sound pretty good this week. This could be the week where he returns to his Father Figure form.

•Bucky Covington, Fat Bottomed Girls: "Yes, we all love the fat-bottomed girls." Oh, Bucky. Just when I was beginning to like you. This will be a train wreck. Bucky may finally get his ticket home. Let's hope so anyway.

•Chris Daughtry, Innuendo: "It's a relatively unknown song. It just had a mixture of a dark feel and a positive message. And I just found out they've never performed this live." I don't know the song, but knowing Chris, it ought to be good.

•Elliott Yamin, Somebody to Love: "I was drawn to the passionate emotion of the song. I heard a lot of soul in it." This could be good. Maybe.

•Katharine McPhee, Who Wants to Live Forever: "How could (this) not be fun? We're working with so many different legends." I don't know the song.

•Kellie Pickler, Bohemian Rhapsody: "We only have 1 minute and 30 seconds, and the song is really long. Having to cut so many pieces is really hard to memorize, because I'm not singing the song as it's originally played." Ugh! I can't believe she'd be stupid enough to do this song after Constantine's performance last year. Oh, wait, we're talking about Kellie. Crash and burn.

•Paris Bennett, The Show Must Go On: "Being with the band was a big experience to me, never being with a rock band before. I was able to pick a song that fits me, that's still rocky." Don't know the song. I don't think I do anyway.

•Taylor Hicks, Crazy Little Thing Called Love: "You listen to a Queen song, it's really melodic and very powerful, and the dynamics (are) really cool." This could be a great performance. Looking forward to it.

Friday, April 07, 2006

The other side of the bus story

There is a guest opinion in the PC today which sheds some light on the bus drivers' position. I wrote earlier in the week about how they endangered school kids by striking in the middle of the day. Bus driver Dean Phinney has a lot to say about it.

Phinney says the bus drivers "asked the school district for a student list to enable us to call the night before and to tell parents about any disruption of service, but this was denied." I am damn glad they denied that request. Speaking as a parent, I hope a group of disgruntled workers wouldn't be allowed access to my phone number and address.

He then lists all the ways in which they tried to contact the superintendent, the school board, and the PTO. He includes this out of context quote that makes no sense: We were compared to the old, less-than-legitimate Teamsters when the board president said, "When Teamsters were Teamsters under Jimmy Hoffa." How about giving us a little context so we can understand exactly what was said, Mr. Phinney.

I had wondered how the schools were able to handle the situation so well when the drivers abruptly struck in the middle of the day. Now I understand. They knew something like that could happen and probably were pretty prepared. It'd have been nice if the PC had done a little more investigating and reported that.

At the end of his opinion, Phinney writes:

"We tried several different venues and kept getting the doors slammed on us. What were we to do? We had no intention to use the students as "pawns" as stated by the P-C. Drivers and associates needed to have people finally take notice and listen."

After reading this opinion, I think it's very clear that Phinney and his fellow bus drivers had every intention of using the kids as pawns. They felt they had to do that in order to get people to listen. I support their efforts to unionize, but their methods are not at all justified and frankly make me sick.

Parent-garten Roundup

Yesterday, I attended kindergarten roundup, where the parents and kids visit the school, meet the teachers, and learn what they need to do to be ready for fall. There was one moment that really affected me. After the principal welcomed all of us, she introduced the teachers one by one. If our kid had the same nametag as that teacher, he or she should go with the teacher to a classroom. Rachel was in the first group. She just jumped right up and made a beeline for the teacher without a glance back toward me. I noticed this was not at all uncommon. With one exception (there’s always one), these kids were ready to go. But I wasn’t so sure I was ready. It was another one of those moments that gave me a little more insight which lead to more understanding of my parents’ actions when I was a kid. You never really appreciate all your parents go through until you have your own kids and experience those feelings for yourself. Anyway, after the last of the kids had gone, and we parents were all sitting there with wistful, sad smiles on our faces, the principal says with compassion, “That was just a taste of what you’re going to feel that first day of kindergarten.” And then she went on to say that the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) will have a coffee and cake get-together for parents after drop off on the first day. That kind of stuff makes me feel good about this school.

Other quick thoughts…

-- The art teacher made a big deal about the kids not wearing clothes on art days they’d be afraid to get messy. I was thinking to myself, “Um, Rachel won’t care what shirt she gets messy!” The art teacher also said they do 50 minutes of art per week adding that if she had her way, it’d be a lot more. That’s a good attitude for an art teacher to have.

-- I am thinking about getting involved with the PTO. I want to know what’s happening at school and working full time lessens my every day access. So I may do that. It’ll cut into theater time, of course, but well… you know, kids are important.

-- Notes home are categorized using the traffic light as a metaphor. Green notes are “Your child did this really wonderful thing.” Yellow notes are warnings. And a Red note means your kid hit someone or teased someone or some other horrible thing. After the principal explained this, a dad in the row ahead of me leaned over and whispered to his wife, “We’l be seeing a lot of red notes.” And he said it was a slight smile on his face, which I found to be very unnerving.

-- I found it interesting that the school counselor has become more proactive. In my day, you never saw the counselor unless things were really bad. Consequently, I never once went to that office in my 12 years of school. Apparently, this school counselor spends 15 minutes each week observing the class and will often schedule one on one with kids just to see how things are going.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Judas... not such a bad guy?

If this account is true, then the story of Judas and Jesus becomes much more interesting. It basically suggests Jesus told Judas to betray him. Judas' act was one of great heroism and self sacrifice because without the betrayal and subsequent crucifixion, Jesus could not have fulfilled his destiny.

It's a much better story that way, don't you think?

Goodbye Mandisa

Mandisa was kicked off American Idol last night as predicted. She was the first of the top 12 that was booted who had a chance of actually going far. But she chose some bad songs the last couple of weeks and her performances were not as good as we'd seen previously so it wasn't a complete shock. Plus, she probably lost the gay vote because of a comment she made last week.

"This song goes out to everybody who wants to be free. Your addiction, lifestyle and situation may be big, but God is bigger."

Using the word lifestyle lead to a bunch of people on the internet wondering whether she was subtly bashing gays. And then it was pointed out that homophobic author Beth Moore was Mandisa's "American Idol". Whether or not Mandisa actually agrees with Moore's homophobic views is unknown. However, it seems possible the suggestion of that, true or not, contributed to her demise this week.

(There's a great post about the whole controversy here. MJ's Big Blog is a great source for AI news.)

All I know is I didn't appreciate being "blessed" by Mandisa at the end of show last night. Ob-NOX-ious.

Dennis at Kirkwood

On June 30, Dennis DeYoung will perform at Kirkwood's Cedar Rapids campus as part of the Freedom Festival. Tickets are only $10. This is great news! I've been a Styx fan forever and my favorite Styx songs have always been the DeYoung ones, not Tommy Shaw's contributions. The only downside is that it doesn't sound like he's doing the full orchestra concert like he's done in the past. I saw the first concert of that sort that he did in Chicago a number of years ago. Hearing Come Sail Away with an entire orchestra behind him was amazing.

(So, Ali and Dieter, whatcha doing June 30?)

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Fives Meme

My wife tagged me with this one...

1. Five minutes to yourself: how would you spend them, ideally?

Since I only get five minutes, I think I’ll choose to lay down outside in the grass in my backyard looking up at the sky on a warm summer day. I can do that for about two minutes before becoming bored. The other three minutes I guess I’ll spend playing the girls.

2. Five bucks to spend right now: how would you spend it?

I’d get a Star Wars action figure. One of the cooler ones. Just cause what the hell.

3. Five items in your house you could part with, right now, that you hadn't thought of already? (In other words, cull the junk, mentally at least.)

Some of the “momentos” on my dresser which are really just crap I ought to get rid of.
At least half of the old computer equipment in the basement.
I am sure that’s five items at least.

4. Five items you absolutely, positively could never part with in your house?

The photo albums, especially the wedding one.
The kids’ baby books
My computer
The Dreamwell files
All of my writing from ages past

5. Five words you love?


Country night on AI

Last night was country night and I watched somewhat sporadically, which means I fastforwarded through a number of performances. So my comments will be short…

Taylor – this it the third week in a row he’s given a boring performance. It’s time for him to hit the bottom three and realize he’s got to step it up.

Chris – last week he said he could sing a ballad if he had to and this week he proved it. Nice job, Chris.

Bucky – a co-worker of mine loves him and I had to admit this morning that her favorite was one of the best of the night. This was pretty difficult for me.

Kellie and Elliot were good, but not shockingly good.

Mandisa, Ace, Paris, and Katherine were all different levels of enh. Katherine, in particular, cannot connect with the audience. She stands up, sings, looks beautiful and no one is touched by her song. This is purely speculation and I admit not very kind, but I bet she’s a bitch in real life.

Bottom three: Mandisa, Ace, Katherine

Goes home… in a shocker, it’s Mandisa!

How rude

Ah, preschool. You’d think the whole thing would be simple. Unfortunately, it’s been anything but. We’ve not been entirely thrilled with Rachel’s preschool for a number of reasons that all boil down to the lead teacher, but we stuck with it because Rachel does seem to like it and she has good friends there. But today was an excellent example of why we’ve questioned our decision to keep Rachel enrolled. One of the things this preschool requires is that the parents bring milk a few times each semester for lunchtime. (Why this isn’t covered with the tuition is one of the many questions I have, but anyway.) Rachel has been going there for almost two year now and we’ve never forgotten to bring milk when it was our turn … until two days ago. Today when I dropped off Rachel, I was accosted by the lead teacher who informed me that we were supposed to bring the milk on Monday. I apologized, but she cut me off to say that I’d have to the pay the school for the milk since they had to send someone out to the store (which is a block away, by the way). I said I’d do that and then tried to apologize again, but she ignored me, turned on her heel and walked away without another word. She was completely rude and unfriendly and wouldn’t even acknowledge my apology for what was, frankly, a very small matter. I am glad we have only two more months at that place. I just wish we had made a better choice in the beginning. And I really hope that Rachel’s kindergarten teacher is good.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Thoughts about 24's latest twist

Of course, I've been watching 24 this season. It's still one of my favorite shows. However, I am more a little unsure about the latest twist. Don't read any further if you didn't see last night's episode.

Last night we found out that the President is behind the terrorist attacks that are going on, or at least involved in some way. This is the bumbling, unsure, weak willed president that has been a truly fascinating character. For him to suddenly be the bad guy strains credibility. Are we supposed to believe he's been acting weak all this time to hide his nefarious plans? Seems unnecessary as a strategy since he's, you know, the PRESIDENT and could just use the power of the office to do stuff. But even if we let go of the unbelievability factor, the fact remains that they are completely altering one of the most interesting characters on the show, if not all of television.

Of course, maybe we'll find out next week that really someone else is pulling the President's strings. That would be understandable. That I could buy. This president is wishy-washy. He's not a criminal mastermind which is how that last shot of him on the telephone suggested.

I'm reserving final judgment until next week and we find out exactly how the President is involved. If they have completely changed his character... well, I'll probably still watch it anyway.

Bus Drivers screwed up big time

The bus drivers in Iowa City went on strike yesterday afternoon and in doing so showed they should not be entrusted with the care of our children. Do they have a right to strike? Absolutely. But to do so in the middle of the day and leave school administrators scrambling to find ways to get kids home safely was reprehensible. In the end, it worked out, but that doesn't change the fact that the school bus drivers showed at best a complete lack of thought about the repercussions of their actions. They abrogated the safety of children for their own ends.

The Press Citizen agrees.

UPDATE: Strike is over according to the Press Citizen. That has to be the shortest strike ever.

My Survivor blog has the latest news and speculation as well as some spoiling about the show.
About Me

Name: Matt
Location: Coralville, IA
I am a Dad and a Husband. An Actor. An Administrator. A Hiker. A Writer. Probably a bunch of other things too. Read my blog and you'll find out more.
Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama

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