Saturday, June 20, 2009

O'Neill



When I was going through his pictures this afternoon, it was hard to decide which ones to use. As dogs go, he was photogenic but he dearly hated to have his picture taken. There are probably more pictures in my camera of his retreating fuzzy butt as he trotted away than expressive shots like this one of him blissed out on the couch.

That couch, by the way, was his. It was purchased with him in mind after he managed to destroy three of them by dint of chewing, dirt and general doggieness. This one withstood the last four years of his life and after me, my mother, his My Kebbin and Cookie Monster, it was probably one of his favorite things ever.



If you've read very much of this blog, you're probably aware of some of his antics over the years. Here's a bit more of his story:

He was part of a four-pup litter born in 1997 to a registered Old English Sheepdog mom. The identity of his father was always a little muddy. I have heard that his dad could have been either the doofusy Bearded Collie who loved to come visit or the suave Huskie who had a talent for climbing fences and a yen for pretty English girls.

When we first met him and his brothers at the shelter, the workers were pushing the other three pups, McNeill, McDuff and McGruff and letting O'Neill kind of languish in the background. His brothers had blue eyes or one blue eye and one brown eye and they thought it would be easier to get them adopted first. Also, O'Neill had feet like pie pans and was already the biggest of the four. I guess they figured things weren't looking too good for the boy. One thing he had over his brothers was a mellow, sweet disposition. He loved to play, but he also loved to be cuddled. There was never a question about which brother was going home with me that day. It's funny because when I brought him in for his first well puppy visit, the vet told me that they were worried he wouldn't find a home because of his brown eyes and quiet personality.



He was there through health scares, career changes, family crises. It wasn't until much later on I realized how much he served as my id, whether it was saying what I really thought about Sean Avery or farting in the general direction of The Worst Boss Ever and then smiling and wagging. A friend who was struggling through his dissertation while teaching full time considered O'Neill a brother under the fur. He went so far as to include O'Neill in the acknowledgments when he published his paper. He was a big, sensitive boy who adored children and small animals. He loved Spanish Guitar, C-Span and Sesame Street for background noise. He had a vocabulary of words and phrases that he recognized and would respond to when he heard them: pink squeaky, cookie, eating time is over, cornbread, go peepee, chicken, slider, go putter, cookie monster, Kebbin, go to bed and hey ball are the ones that come to mind at the moment. He loved summer and shared my thing for veggies. He would let anyone who dared to eat a stalk of broccoli without sharing know that they were horribly remiss in their manners and enjoyed delicately shelling and eating peas. The latter was the source of bets, astonishment and sometimes consternation for years.

Kebbin, or My Kebbin, is Big Gay Kevin. He was one of O'Neill's biggest fans, closest guy buddies and most vocal advocate for his rights as a Canine-American. I had never quite understood the dynamic behind married friends who got slightly resentful of their mates' buddies until Kevin and O'Neill laid eyes on each other. I might as well have left the house so the two of them could lounge on the couch together to watch PBS and eat White Castles. Whenever Kev came over, O'Neill would bound ahead of me and lots of growling and wrestling would ensue. I was lucky to get a backwards glance as if to say, "My company is here. Why don't you go into the kitchen and fix us some sandwiches?" If I had to pick a mental image that sums up their relationship, it would have to be one of the multiple times I've caught them sprawled on the couch, sharing a frappuccino. No, you did not misread that.

He died at home on April 29th. I won't go into great detail about it other than to say that after living a good, long life he realized he had worn out the body he was given and grudgingly admitted that it was time. He was and is loved and sorely missed by me and everyone who knew him.

The other day I got an email from someone asking me where he was and why he hadn't written about the Stanley Cup Finals or the NHL Awards. "Man!" The writer told me, "That dog is funny! You need to let him write your blog from now on."

I think he would have agreed.



copyright 2009 jas faulkner

Thursday, June 04, 2009

"What Is The Law And How Do You Read It?" Luke 10:26

Another Precis


This has to be one of the hardest essays I've ever written. Why? Partially because it's such a hot-button issue and I know that there are people in my life who will be very upset by what I'm going to say and partially because it's such a hard subject that I am afraid I'll be hurting more than helping by adding to the discourse. So now I'm putting on my virtual vestments, getting behind my digital pulpit and delivering another sermon. I really hope the next time I do this, it will be over something joyous. I'd much rather bring the funny.

Peace be with you.

Many, many years ago, probably before some of you were born, Dennis Miller was a young guy with big hair and the anchor's chair on Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update. Yep. Seriously. And those Ramones t-shirts? There really were Ramones at one point and they were great. But that's for another day. I bring up Dennis Miller because he made a statement back then that drove home to me why I needed to rethink my views on reproductive rights. I believe his words were something to the effect of, "When I get a working uterus, I'll get a say in the matter."

It's a pretty simple answer to a very hard question. Who gets to decide? It would be nice if we could all, to a person, make a rational, dispassionate stand for the right thing. It would be nice if we could take stances that are free of our own experiences and influences. I just don't think it's possible and that's why I ask you to look into your own heart and open yourself up to hearing the people on both sides of the debate.

Are we even sure of what the right thing is? We weren't created from a single mold, all the same and cookie-cutter perfect. We are all unique and beautiful and molded from the same elements as the stars. That's right, you, me, everyone, we're the stuff of stars. Like stars, we're shiny, irregular and possessed of so much that is ours and only ours....and all made from the same stuff that makes up stars. Wow.

Who are we to question the wisdom of a diverse humanity? The writers of the Bible must have felt the same way when the inspiration hit for Chapter 38 in the Book of Job. To give you some context, Job has finally had enough and he questions God as to why he is being tested. Th response is 41 verses of goosebump inducing poetry that reminds us how magnificent the gifts of the world and life and humanity really are. Included in that poetry is a deft, unmistakably mighty swipe to the side of our collective heads to remind us that we don't know it all. We can't know it all and when we endeavor to decide who lives and who dies we need to ask ourselves what right we have to make that decision.

The men who decided that Pvt William Long and Dr. George Tiller needed to die claim they were doing it to protest actions that compromised the sanctity of life. They did so by killing two men, probably without ever knowing what these individuals thought or felt about what they were doing or why they were doing it. How damaged, how removed from the best part of what makes us human do we have to be to kill someone as a symbolic act?

The worst part of all of this is that Tiller, Long, and their murderers are getting lost in the verbage because we can so conveniently scoot them behind their names and their professions and their deeds as abstract symbols. Tiller becomes an almost faceless entity who represents the abortion debate and William Long, who was really just a kid, is barely acknowledged because the press and we as a people are so weary of debating about war. We can overlook the human cost because we can see these people as symbols in an argument over ideas. It becomes black and white and you're for or against with the luxury of never seeing how it looks from the ground.

This isn't a new idea. In Luke 10:25-37, Christ tells the story of the Good Samaritan. I think it's interesting that Jesus chose to identify the players in that story by their places of origin. In older translations, it is understood that tribal and regional prejudices figure into the reluctance of some to offer help to the traveler who was robbed and beaten. The Samaritan was willing to see a person in trouble and instead of looking the other way, he chose to be kind. At the end of the story, Jesus even spells it out for us:

Luke 10:36-37

36"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"

37The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."
Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

So I think it's pretty clear. We have to be merciful. If it's not a part of your nature, maybe you need to fake it until it's real. That starts with empathy. It starts with these questions being more than platforms for talking points. Lives are changed, sometimes ended over these arguments.

I have said that we are molded by our experiences and their effect on us is unavoidable. In all fairness, maybe I should tell you where I stand and why. When I was young, I was pretty sure of what I thought about the question of abortion and the legal devices involved in reproductive rights and regulations. In 1990, I found out I was pregnant. I had no intention of backing away from anything I wanted to do, but to my surprise, I also knew in my gut that I was going to do my damnedest to be the best mom I could be. I even picked a school with a good education and early childcare development program so I would have resources available for my baby while I was in grad school. A month after I found out, I miscarried. My boyfriend at the time was relieved and everyone else seemed happy for me but me. There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about what that child might have been like. I wouldn't wish this on anyone.

One thing I am grateful for is that I didn't face the kind of legal inquiries that women in my position have been subjected to in the past. When I hear about women who are dealing with the grief of losing a child to miscarriage or congenital illness, I feel some relief that the small mercy of legal protection is in place for them, at least for the time being.

I don't expect anyone to change their mind based on what I've written. All I ask is that you think about it. Whatever side you're on, whether it's the morality of our going to war or legal interventions regarding women's health issues, think about the Samaritan who didn't see The Other, he saw a person suffering and answered with kindness.

I've talked enough. Let's finish this up and get out of here so we can get seated before the first pitch.


copyright 2009 jas faulkner

Dennis Miller on The Right To Choose

I was looking for Miller's original comments on Pro-Choice/Pro-Life and couldn't find them. However, I did find this rant. Personally, I don't agree with Miller about a lot of things, but his views on social mores and pop culture are often pretty accurate, sometimes more so than we're comfortable admitting.

Now I don't want to get off on a rant here, because basically tonight's topic is a minefield - Abortion. I couldn't be anymore on tiptoes if the show was being produced by George Balanchine. This is the Big Debate, and I'm talking bigger than who was the better Darren on Bewitched. Abortion is our nation's "Final Jeopardy," and I'll wager, Alex, that if our nation fights another Civil War, it will be about this. And I would remind you that this all from my perspective, the male perspective, a one-step-removed perspective, because I will obviously never have to decide on whether or not I should have an abortion. And by the way, my belief is that if men were the ones getting pregnant, abortions would be easier to get than food poisoning in Moscow. Having men decide the fate of a woman's reproductive system makes about as much sense as asking Quentin Crisp to coach the Raiders. All right, enough qualifying, let's get on with it. There's no doubt that passions run high on both sides, and this issue has created a divide in this country not seen since Carly Simon last yawned in public. The prevailing opinions on a woman's freedom to choose are going further to the right than a Greg Norman tee shot.

Pro-life activists attempt to paint anyone pro-choice as having no morals. On the other side of the ledger, pro-choicers are tagging pro-lifers as crazed and backward bible-thumpers bent on running the lives of the people who disagree with them. The truth, as always, is, the case of human endeavors lies somewhere in between. As much as the advance scouts on either side of this issue might not want to admit it, good people do get abortions and other good people are pained by their decision to get one.

Where do I stand? Well, I'm like most of you, I presume, I think there are far too many abortions performed in this country. And I also believe that at the end of the day, as much as I might disapprove, none of them are really any of my business. Look, there are always going to be arguments on this issue. The debate will rage until the end of time no matter what the whim of the Papal infallibility or the politics of the decade. But the simple truth is, that such a passionate and personal decision dictates that the choice be left to the individual. And you know, that's really all we can do, because we're just human beings, stumbling around in the dark, trying to get to the bathroom and kicking the shit out of our shins on the way there.

Now there's some things all right-minded human beings should agree on. We should all agree that abortions should be legal in the case of rape, incest and when the mother's life is at risk -- that's just common sense. But excluding that obvious assumption, everything else in the abortion arena is "in play." There are many quagmires complicating this issue. Religion. Now it seems that religion is most often the backboard for every bank shot put up by someone making it their business to get into your business. Roman Catholic doctrine forbids abortion. Fine. Take that into consideration when you make your decision. Right-to-life proponents contend that abortion is immoral. Fine. Take that into consideration when you make your decision. Another pothole on the road to a sensible resolution to abortion is "when does life begin?" At conception? When a heartbeat is detected? At the first drawn breath? You know, for me it wasn't until last Tuesday. Until then I was just a sperm with an accountant! Okay, so those are the variables, and there are obviously millions more variables that make each individual case unique. But the more you think about it, and the more it makes your head spin, and the more confused you get trying to figure out someone else's life for them, it becomes increasingly apparent that it has to be the call of the individual who is pregnant, because the collective, one way or another, won't have to suffer the consequences of that most personal of all decisions.

My fellow Americans, it is time to suck it up. Look deep into your immortal soul (if you believe you have one) and do the right thing. Have the courage and strength to live your own life, by your own standards, and stop trying to call the shots for everyone else. We all live with glaring inconsistencies, and sometimes, when you see something going on right in front of you that offends you to the very core of your being, sometimes the best thing you can do is walk away, because you know that's exactly what you would want them to do for you. There's only one judge on all this and that's God. And you don't get to meet him until you go backstage after the play is over. And believe me, you do not want to get a "thumbs down" from the guy who created thumbs, all right? In the interim, everybody has got to tend their own garden vis-a-vis abortion. And remember, when it comes to your body, only you wear the robes, and only you carry the gavel.

Of course, that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.


-Dennis Miller



Note: I don't own the rights to this and couldn't find the appropriate contact or copyright information. If there's a question of this adversely affecting his or his publisher's ownership of his words, I'll be happy to take it down.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Peace

“Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him."

-Dr. Martin Luther King






"Nonviolence is not a garment to be put on and off at will. Its seat is in the heart, and it must be an inseparable part of our being."
-Gandhi