Eden Hill Journal

Comments, dreams, stories, and rantings from a middle-aged native of Maine living on a shoestring and a prayer in the woods of Maine. My portion of the family farm is to be known as Eden Hill Farm just because I want to call it that and because that's the closest thing to the truth that I could come up with. If you enjoy what I write, email me or make a comment. If you enjoy Eden Hill, come visit.

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Location: Maine, United States

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Underwear

It has been ten years now since I was first overcome by my mid-life crisis. I still frequently mentally thank the woman who inadvertently drop-kicked me into it too. Mid-life crisis is an awakening, sexual and otherwise. I can't even begin to imagine who I would be or what my thoughts would consist of had I not been through this middle-aged transition. I suppose for many people mid-life is the point where we realize how much closer to the end we are, how much more quickly time goes and how precious that time is now that we don't have a lot left. Those of us who have been parents have by mid-life experienced the paradigm shift from thinking our own youth was a huge part of our life, like something on the order of 900% or more of our meaningful existence, the view we all seem to have had at age 18, to the realization that our children grew up really quickly! While I'm not immune to such mid-life thinking, I've attempted to take a different path through mine.
Perhaps one of the first changes I made when I reached the crisis was that I stopped wearing underwear. I do still wear t-shirts most of the time, but they aren't really underwear to me. They are shirts. But they used to be underwear in my thinking. Even t-shirts covered a part of my body that I was ashamed to let people see. That's the thing with underwear. It covers those parts of your body that you don't want people to see. The original intent of underwear is to serve as a buffer between our outer clothes and those areas of our body which we consider to be the dirtiest or the smelliest. If we start to smell we can always change our underwear. We don't have to change our clothes too. But even this view acknowledges that there are parts of our body which are dirtier and stink more than the rest of us.
Step one in my mid-life crisis was to eliminate this kind of thinking from my daily life. My body isn't a dirty thing. I drive old cars and have worked on my own cars since I was a teenager. Those are dirty. Working on cars is where a man meets dirt! The same can be said for gardening or carpentry or plumbing. One of the filthiest things I have ever done was when I worked on televisions. The high voltage of a television picture tube combined with the air circulation involved in keeping all the electronics cool turns the inside of a television set into an air filter drawing in and storing some of the worst imaginable kinds of dirt from the air inside our homes. That situation is compounded exponentially if the viewer smokes while watching television. Part of my job was to clean out the insides and even the outsides of the old television sets that came in for repair.
The point is, I know the meaning of dirty. I've learned it from decades of experience. But as to the other meaning of the word, I used to think there were parts of my body that were by nature "dirty." Mothers have a way of teaching us such things and my mother wasn't negligent in that respect. I learned to respect the need for underwear.
Back in the 60s and 70s when women decided to become liberated, one thing they did to demonstrate their new liberation was to burn bras. I didn't think much about the symbolism of this act of defiance at the time. My mind was more on hoping I might catch a glimpse of the outline of a woman's nipples through her blouse. Seeing women's nipples was a very rare experience for me in my youth but I was aware of the intoxication of men by the beauty of women. Liberated women might have a problem with that male notion, but to me, that's just the point. Women who burned their bras weren't so much saying they wanted liberation from the rules that govern women. They were saying their breasts and their nipples are by nature beautiful, not something dirty. Shedding that piece of underwear revealed a woman's natural beauty. It didn't expose something ugly that should be kept from sight.
Somewhere just before my 50th birthday I realized that the same holds true of my own private parts. I had never known this before, but I discovered that if I took off all my clothes, if I presented myself naturally, there are women in this world who wouldn't think I was ugly, who wouldn't see me as dirty. Those parts of me that are normally covered with underwear aren't as dirty as I'd been led since my childhood to believe. Taking off my underwear was liberating! So that's what I did. Oh sure, sometimes I wear underwear, but I don't like doing it and when I'm wearing underwear I just can't wait to take it back off.
You may have guessed that I might be going somewhere with this discussion. I am. I have been thinking about this week's situation with Ted Haggard, the conservative Christian leader disgraced by charges of drug use, infidelity to his wife, homosexuality, and illegal sex with a prostitute. As of yesterday, Haggard remains publicly in denial of anything other than being tempted by drugs.
It dawned on me this morning that some of us tend to live as though our souls wear underwear. Haggard had this public image of a respectable Christian leader pompously asserting his right to preach and model righteousness. We all understand that beneath that exterior veneer, beneath the suit, there is another layer, that of a family man. But Haggard has shown us that this second layer is just another layer of clothes. This is his underwear. This notion that he is a healthy heterosexual family man with a beautiful wife of the opposite sex with whom he shares intimacy is underwear. If we look at the man without his suit, this is what we are meant to see.
But it is beginning to look like Haggard has been caught without his underwear. Being ashamed, he quickly put his underwear back on and insisted that he is still clean, still a good family man faithfully married to a beautiful person of the opposite sex. He doesn't have anything filthy going on beneath this layer. Perhaps that's true. Perhaps he doesn't. But the point he is magnifying is this. What he is being accused of doing is filthy in the minds of right-minded conservatives and righteous Christians. Whenever we look beneath the underwear, and heaven forbid that we do, what we will find is filth.
Perhaps better than anything else, this situation models conservative thinking. Conservatives tend to be OK with the filth just as long as it remains out of sight. That layer of denial that says that we aren't in reality the filthy beings that we would appear to be if we stood naked is our underwear, our protection. In the conservative mind, denial is the key. Without it we would live in disgrace. We would be forced to face our own filth.
My own mid-life crisis was the turning point for me, the transition point from this conservative thinking to liberation. For a decade now I have been asking myself why it is that I should believe in my own filth and why it is that I should believe that the things other people choose to do are filthy. This notion that things are just dirty, that dirt can be covered by a fresh layer of clean clothes, no longer works for me. By my own choice I have decided to face the naked truth about myself and about the world in which I live. By my own choice I have been liberating my soul.
And maybe that is what we refer to these days when we talk about being a liberal... maybe not, but just maybe so.
It's not as though I walk around naked all the time. Far from it. Nobody I know lives that way. But I want to live my life in such a way that when I do choose to shed the outer layer, to take off the suit that makes me suitable to be in public, I am then the real me, not someone cloaked in denial ashamed of what lies beneath.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Kerry Again

Nobody could possibly have said it any better than Keith Olbermann. What irony that the entire Republican Party is so stupid they didn't understand that Kerry was calling Bush stupid! How insane we have become as a nation under Bush's "leadership!"
Watch the video and read the transcript of Olbermann's commentary. The truth is priceless.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Hardly Worth Noting

It has been said that American voters are likely to abandon their support for Republican politicians in the US House of Representatives and to some extent in the US Senate on election day next month. I tend to think that the reality, when it happens, won't be as significant as news reports and liberal blogs would have us think. Even if both houses of Congress went to Democrat majority rule, the fact remains that nearly half the voters in this country still vote Republican. In light of what has been revealed this year about the Republican Party, it is significantly depressing that half the voters in this country would still support that kind of politics.
I'll agree that in both parties there are some "bad apples." But what was revealed this year is that nearly the whole Republican barrel has become spoiled...
We have learned that Republicans have attempted to virtually take over the lobbying industry in Washington and in so doing have turned Washington politics into a pay-for-play system, pay off Republican politicians if you want anything from Washington.
We have learned that the Republican party is the party of closet homosexuals where it's fine to be a homosexual, just keep it hidden.
We have learned that we are killing far more people in Iraq than Republicans want us to think and that more Americans are dying over there than we are being told, all for a cause that nobody really understands primarily because it is not OK to actually state the real cause for the war, the permanent establishment of a strong American presence in the Middle East with Iraq as our base of operations. Under Republican leadership we won't be pulling out any time soon, and despite the immense propaganda effort in American media to convince us otherwise, we are beginning to understand this important point.
We have learned that the ad hominem fallacy is now the standard form in Republican politics. What was once just a fringe tactic has become mainstream for Republicans. This is no doubt true because of the success of conservative talk radio and Karl Rove politics.
We have learned that the President can spy on anyone he wishes to spy on in the name of "national security" and be exempt from the law. This spying is done in the name of the War on Terror but it includes any of the President's political critics. The days of Watergate-style investigations in Congress are long gone.
We have learned that agents of America can torture political prisoners just as long as they agree not to call it torture.
We have learned that no critic of Republican power is safe in this country. The Constitution is now nearly powerless and Republicans are working to replace any federal judges who think otherwise.
We have been told that the word "fascist" now refers to Islam, not to absolute power by the wealthy industrial class.
We have learned that only traitors hope for a more democratic America, that the founding fathers feared democracy.
We have learned that the 9/11 commission didn't do a very good job. They ignored important and controversial evidence while leading commissioners had conflicts of interest with the oil companies.
We learned that Republicans live in a state of denial and that conservative Christians tend to be Republican for this very reason. Isn't evangelical Christianity all about denial in the first place?
One by one, Americans have come to learn that the America Republicans are creating isn't the America we grew up believing in. Those who have come to realize this are wondering just how long it will take for the majority of Americans to come to this awakening. Will it be too late when that awakening comes? Will we have lost all our constitutional liberties by then?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Cat in the Bag

The Associated Press's Todd Richmond has finally let the cat out of the bag. An alternate reference to this story is here. It would appear that for the very first time, a top White House official has stated the real reason for the War on Iraq. According to Richmond, Rove is "saying the U.S. can't leave one of the world's largest oil reserves in terrorist hands."
While that would seem to make good sense on the surface, if you think about it, Rove isn't just referring to the War on Iraq. Rove must also be referring to Iran, known to have a huge oil reserve and identified by Bush as a supporter of terrorism. But the picture is actually even bigger than that. To provide the kind of security that Rove is speaking of, the United States would need to secure all of the oil reserves in Muslim dominated areas including Saudi Arabia and the huge Caspian Sea reserves whose oil and gas is piped through several Muslim nations to feed the world's energy thirst.
For a long time now Bush critics have been saying and Bush has been denying that this so-called "War on Terror" has been all about oil. Bush came into office placing the architects of the Project for the New American Century in control of our military. The agenda of that "project" dating back to before the 2000 election includes securing the world's energy resources militarily. Bush and gang have been keeping that cat tightly contained in the bag up until now, but it has been obvious to critics of the Bush strategy that this is the real reason for the war. Republicans fear that the money we spend on feeding our greed for energy will wind up advancing the cause of Islam. Therefore it is important to identify Islam as "terrorist" and declare war against it so we can secure the energy reserves under Islamic control without feeding our money to Islam.
The cat's now out of the bag thanks to Karl Rove and his worries about the 2006 election.