Thursday, December 21, 2006

Faith and the Law

Today, there’s been a big furor over Keith Ellison's choice to place his hand on the Quran in his private swearing in ceremony. During his public oath of office, he’s going to be doing the same civil ceremony as everyone else (raise your hand, swear to uphold the Constitution) but during his private ceremony for friends and family, he’s going to place his hand on the Quran instead of the Bible.

This has some lawmakers up in arms because they say that the only book you should ever swear on is the Bible and that it’s horrible that this man is using another book to take his private oath of office. They even try to state that the Bible is the book that binds the American people together.

I think that these people need to be removed from office. They need to be taken out of office right now because they have, in a thinly veiled manner, expressed a very dangerous sentiment – that the laws of the people of the United States of America (who are quite a diverse group no matter how it seems at times) should be governed by an entirely Christian law system and that is by no means in the best interest of the people whom they are supposed to represent and serve (politicians serve you. Never forget that).

A politician’s duty is to act in the best interest of the people. It is not to act in such a manner that the tenants of his faith become law. That would be no different than the laws which limited the rights of non whites. Here’s a brief recap of United States civil rights history – those laws were struck down and for good reason – because they put the interests of one group of people above all others for the simple reason that they could (not because it was what was best for the people, and not because it was the right thing to do as was the case in mandating that buildings be handicap accessible, but because the group of people in power wanted to make sure they kept it).

One of the reasons (though by no means the only reason) that people first started settling here was to get away from the enforced religion of the Church of England. Now the politicians here are trying to become what the settlers were running away from.

The document which ties the people of this country and their political representatives together is not the Bible (which so many people seem to swear it is). It is the Constitution of the United States. If you want to swear your official oath of office on a document, do it on that one, because the faith you are should not matter. What matters is that you do what is best for the people.

It should not matter if you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Taoist, Zoroastrian, or the member of any other faith. The document that ties you together with your neighbors, the people down the street, and the ones in the next town, the next county, and the next state over is not your book of faith. It is that piece of parchment that says that you have a right to free speech, that you have the right to bear arms, to peaceably assemble, and above all that the religions of others should not interfere with the making of laws or how they are enforced.

Religion is a private choice. It is something that impacts your life on a personal level. The law and how it is carried out impacts everyone that it affects no matter their gender, race, sexual preference, or religion and it should not be determined by the tenants of one faith over another.

By all means, be proud of your faith (I am). Let it help guide you in the choices of your personal life (I do). However, don’t go forcing it onto other people (whether it be through laws, rules, proselytizing, or other means).

Current mood: annoyed
Current music: Wire Train – I will not fall

Friday, December 15, 2006

Fun and Games

I like poker. Heck, I even used to be pretty good at it. It even helped pay for my books in college on a few occasions.

Unfortunately, I don’t really get to play anymore (apart from online, and most of the people who play there are absolute morons when it comes to betting) since there’s nobody around here that I know who plays much. However, while wandering around Dollar Tree, I ran into something interesting – packs of poker chips. Granted, they were plastic poker chips, but they aren’t your typical cheap looking plastic poker chips. They’re designed to look like the more expensive composite chips and have a decent feel and weight.

At $1 for 60 chips, I just couldn’t resist (since even the cheap looking plastic chips are more than that), so I put together a set of 600 – 100 each of white, red, blue, green, black, and purple (for those of you who don’t play poker, that’s $1, $5, $10, $25, $100, and $500 respectively). I figured what the heck, I’m going to start playing again eventually (and still play once in a blue moon as it is), so I might as well have a set of decent chips.

Then I had to find something to put the chips in. Standard poker chip cases are way too expensive (anywhere from $20-40 for the cheaper ones depending on capacity, and I don’t want to pay more for a case than I paid for the chips), so I went wandering through the craft store down the mall and ran into some containers for $2 each that turned out to be absolutely perfect.

Two cases fit exactly 600 chips with enough room to get them out easily, so I paid $14 for a decent poker set. All in all, it was rather a nice find. Not something I needed, but I couldn’t pass it up since poker is something I enjoy. I just wish I was able to enjoy it more often.

Besides, the family holiday gathering is this Sunday, and they used to play cards all the time, so I figure that maybe I can wrangle them into a game. It sure beats the heck out of the rather somber affair the family Christmas tends to be now that my grandmother is dead. I swear that most of the time they look like they’re still doing this just because none of them wants to be the one to quit.

I figure that, if I can pull it off, I can make a smile or two their gift for this year. It sure as hell beats most of the gifts that family members tend to exchange, and I think that we could all use it at the moment. In fact, to be honest, the memories are the really important part anyway. The gifts don’t really matter so much (though I have to say that I do love the Bosca leather wallet that I got a couple of years ago).

Apart from that, anyone around here want to play poker for fun? =]

Current mood: recovering from the flu
Current music: Massive Attack – Teardrop

Monday, December 11, 2006

Some people say that I have way too much incense (of course, they say the same thing about my music, movies, books, and various other things). I will agree that I have quite a lot of it in many different varieties, but I use a lot of it. I use it for meditation as well as to make the house smell nice. It doesn’t take up a lot of space – I just have a drawer reserved for it.

The problem comes in restocking. The person who owned the shop I used to buy all of it from (and who was something of a friend to me) sold the shop some years ago to someone else before moving across the country and didn’t give the new guy a list of all of his suppliers. Now even the shop itself is closed because business went through the floor, so I’m back to looking for the stuff all on my own.

There are no occult – or even herb and oil – shops around here (Don’t read too much into that. I’m Taoist. There just aren’t a whole lot of places that you can find incense resins – especially around here), so that’s not really an option. Besides, I can just see the reaction I’d get from going into a new shop and striking up a conversation with the person behind the counter, pulling out the bottle and going “do you know who supplies this?”

Most of it is no big deal. I’ve found replacement suppliers for all but one of the things at quite good prices (in some cases slightly better than I was getting from my friend, but that’s okay because I was contributing to the local economy). There is, however, one which I simply can not find and it’s driving me up the wall.

It’s an amber resin, but it’s cut with something to make a sort of slightly fibrous powder. Now, I can buy straight chunks of amber resin, but I really like this stuff because it mixes so well and I just can’t find it anywhere.

It’s getting to the point that I’m considering calling my old friend and asking him where in the nine hells he got the stuff from. Yes, I looked up his number for this reason. Haven’t talked to him that much since his wife died and he moved, but I want to know where the heck he got this stuff.

Thankfully, looking up his number wasn’t that difficult – he has a very unique name. I figure what the heck, I’ve been in the mood to talk to him lately anyway, but I admit that I have ulterior motives.

Current mood – tired
Current music – Socialburn – Down

Saturday, December 02, 2006

TV Inspired Insanity

I admit it. Late at night, I basically just idly flip channels if I can’t sleep. This leads to some really weird thoughts (okay, let’s face it – most of life leads to some really weird thoughts for me).

While Channel surfing, I happened across a program on crystal meth. It listed two of the signs of being on meth as erratic behaviour and staying up for days on end.

I can see software developers everywhere coming under suspicion of meth use – especially during crunch time =]

Of course, I also wanted to smack the woman who was running the show because she was sensationalizing the whole meth issue by saying that that’s the reason so many houses catch on fire this time of the year – either Christmas trees catching on fire or people cooking up meth in their kitchen.

I hate people who do the shock and awe crap.

Before that, I came across an ad for the Army vs Navy game. For those of you not in the US, the Army and the Navy have one big televised football game every year. It’s a pretty big rivalry.

This lead me to wonder why the other branches of the armed forces, the Marines and the Air Force, don’t have televised games as well.

After a moment or two, I think I came up with the answer.

The Air Force team would basically say “okay, we’re here. Let the Army deal with the rest.”

As for the Marines, they’d gun down the opposing team including the coaches, preferably before the game began and then take down the referees and the crowd just to be sure that there were no rival team members hiding among their ranks.

Don’t start sending me hate mail. Several of my friends have been in the Air Force and my father’s an ex Marine. I’m allowed to make the jokes =]

Current Mood – amused
Current Music – Harvey Danger - Authenticity