Inane Ramblings

12 April 2011

Back to Gilwell

I’ve been to Gilwell this weekend.

Or, more specifically, I got to be a Boy Scout again this weekend.

I hope you all at least peeked at the Woodbadge links I’ve been dropping around the past few days. This is the top of the list, highest level training the BSA makes available to its adult staff. I have heard it called “The Eagle for Adults”.

Starting on Saturday morning, I was assigned to a patrol of complete strangers, and we started right off with a Troop Meeting: we met our camp staff, had a Patrol Guide assigned to us, and we started working on a new skill straightaway.

Not unlike the experience of a boy walking into a Scout Troop for the first time. That is intentional; over the years, I’ve been in many training sessions where we break out groups into Patrols of 8 leaders. This is the same “Patrol Method” that was devised by Baden-Powell himself. Why mess with what works, right?

Over the rest of the weekend, we had multiple tasks and challenges thrown at us, patrol competitions, and many sessions of skills instructions and exercises to help us to get to know the members of the Patrol better. More importantly, a lot of the exercises were designed for introspection and to help us answer the questions “Why am I here?” “Why am I a leader? “ And “What do I want to do for future Scouts?”
If you read my blog from a Saturday or two ago, you know I’ve recently held up the mirror for a wee bout of soul-searching.

In any case…we survived the weekend and our Bear Patrol went through the team-building phases of “Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing” and we’ve developed into a tight group. There’s challenges ahead over the next month as we get ready for Weekend II…we’ve got to work on a presentation, have things ready for a campfire, make a Patrol Flag, and actually plan and execute a mid-term camping trip of 3 days and 2 nights.

But Woodbadge is only half-finished at that point. For the next year to 18 months, I’ll be working on my “Ticket”. Deceptively simple, it’s five or more specific tasks designed to strengthen my unit, myself, my leadership and teaching skills, or anything else I can think of. This is what I’ve got myself worked into a frenzy over….but after this weekend I’m feeling much better about it.
In any case…Your Loyal TriSec has had much to ponder these past 72 hours. Woodbadge is described as a “transformative, peak experience in your life” and so far I’m not disappointed.

21 December 2010

Musings on the Creche

We’ve all seen them. Somewhere in your hometown, there’s bound to be one or more. Some of them are nicely done…some are tacky…and some are an epic fail featuring a Santa nearby. (Pick only ONE theme, hmm?)

But what about the crèche? In recent years, the Right has made a career out of the “war on Christmas” and how it’s been secularized and destroyed by the liberal elites. At a 10,000-foot level, the Right seems to conveniently forget that it’s their friends in big business and Corporate America that have turned Christmas into the consumer spending orgy that it is, but I digress.

No, take a look at those crèches again. The debate has been whether or not they should be on public land, whether it’s the town green, the City Hall lawn, or elsewhere. Where is your crèche?

In the City of Waltham (MA) we have one on Waltham Common behind city hall. But the City just gave them the space and ran a power cord out of City Hall for the lighting. It’s noted on the sign that it’s proudly sponsored by one of the local Catholic churches. Several other churches in and around the city have a prominent crèche displayed on their front lawn.

In the neighboring town of Lexington, across from the battle green is a small church with a HUGE nativity on their front lawn facing the public park. And along Waltham street, there is a golf course that’s closed for the season, but has given prominent footage to yet another nativity in a nicely lit glass-enclosed shed.

The point of all this? Maybe there is none. Nativities are out there if you know where to look. Nobody is stopping anyone from putting one up on public or private property, or on the church’s own front lawn. But I suppose I would have to draw the line if the crèche was noted as “sponsored by the City of Waltham”.

12 November 2010

Just some thoughts

I’ve been feeling a little paranoid recently. I can’t really put my finger on it, but I suppose it’s a wee touch of the PTSD.

Those of you that follow this space know how much of a victim of this economy I have been. In 2009, I got laid off from one job, lasted 60 days at another, 30 days at one more, and then became a contractor with no benefits for almost a year.
In short, I was always looking over my shoulder for that assassin.

I am now on my 5th job in less than 2 years, which is fortunately a “permanent” position. I’m still on new hire probation, and things still seem to be going well for the moment. But I get nervous every time I see my supervisor talking to the department manager or whenever I see the HR folks lurking around. Just this morning, I saw one of our HR staff huddled with the boss at her desk, and I broke out in a cold sweat. But she was just ordering lunch! I sure hope this feeling passes at some point.

Speaking of passing feelings, I had an old friend from high school deface me over Veteran’s Day. Yes, you read that right. I don’t have to preach to the choir here; you know where I’m coming from. In any case, I updated my status to thank our vets and disparage the incoming congress, since we all know what will happen to the veterans once the Tea Party is in charge. Anyway, she took exception, said she was tired of all my ‘hate’, and defaced me. I guess there are some among us that we’ll never reach, no matter how hard we try. Suffice to say, you can argue with me all you want over veteran’s issues, but know this going in: You Will Lose.

Finally today, something that ties back to my first point. In 2008, I attribute the start of all of my job troubles to passing up an opportunity to relocate to Maine. Collateral damage was also sustained to my Scouting career, as I was planning on taking the top-level adult training called “Woodbadge”. Since I thought I might be relocating, I decided to pass on it, reasoning that it wouldn’t be fair to my Pack to go through the training and then leave town so they derived no benefit. There was a class last season for the Scouting Centennial, which I could not go to for monetary reasons. But now we have next year’s class ready to go, and I have found out from the Scoutmaster that it’s the 75th anniversary of the program next year, and some special things are planned. I’m thinking I’m going to take it; it will be a nice bookend to the past two very tumultuous years.

11 September 2010

It's Burn a Quran day!

A small “Christian” sect in Florida has chosen today to burn some religious texts. I’m not sure what so-called Pastor Terry Jones hopes to gain by this, except perhaps a comparison to the events of November 9-10, 1938.

Book burning has a long and shameful history…it’s a tool often used to scare and intimidate, as well as irrevocably destroying things a particular group of persons is opposed to. That could be the state, the church, a civic group, or even just an individual down the street. But what does it say of those who would burn books? I would have to call it the height of intolerance and hatred. What could words possibly say that is so alien to your beliefs that your only choice is to destroy it forever?

Book burning, biblioclasm or libricide is the practice of destroying, often ceremoniously, books or other written material and media. In modern times, other forms of media, such as phonograph records, video tapes, and CDs have also been ceremoniously burned, torched, or shredded. The practice, usually carried out in public, is generally motivated by moral, religious, or political objections to the material.

Some particular cases of book burning are long and traumatically remembered - because the books destroyed were irreplaceable and their loss constituted a severe damage to cultural heritage, and/or because this instance of book burning has become emblematic of a harsh and oppressive regime. Such were the destruction of the Library of Alexandria, the obliteration of the Library of Baghdad, the burning of books and burying of scholars under China's Qin Dynasty, the destruction of Mayan codices by Spanish conquistadors and priests, and in more recent times, Nazi book burnings, the burning of Beatles records after a remark by John Lennon concerning Jesus Christ, and the destruction of the Sarajevo National Library.

Some particular cases of book burning are the result of "unacceptable" material according to a group's moral, community and or religious standards; for example child pornography

Earlier in the week, General Petraeus went to the media and made some statements that such a burning event would be counter-productive and could even put US troops in harms’ way. That seems reasonable to me; after all, consider if the positions were reversed. You know it’s going to happen if they follow through with the burning today; when there is a Bible-burning in Tehran in the next ten days or so, would you want to be a Muslim in certain sections of the United States? It won’t be a safe place for a while.

Of course, we all know what today is. 9 years ago, a handful of religious extremists drove some airplanes into the WTC and the Pentagon. The same Koran that is being burned today was used to manipulate these men into murder and mayhem. Somewhere among the vast amounts of books and paper in those towers, I’m sure we could have found a few Korans, Bibles, or other religious texts. I’ll admit it’s a stretch, but the terrorists in all probability burned their own book by their actions.

Does that make them any different from Mr. Jones, or those among us that would listen to that rhetoric?

Bob wrote about this on Thursday; words can kill. Throughout history, and that must include the Bible and the Koran, many forces have used words to incite their followers to violence. The First Amendment gives us the right to say these things, but it does not give us freedom from responsibility for our actions.

If I want to burn Bibles on Christmas Day in front of a church, I can’t then complain that people beat me up. My fear is that the burning today will lead to more dead GIs in Iraq and Afghanistan, or maybe that dreaded terrorist act on our soil. Given how balkanized the country is now, any further attack that comes on the US might just lead to our downfall as we try to respond to it. No less than Jesus Christ himself said the following: “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.” (Matthew 12:25) The Republicans and the religious right seem hell-bent on furthering those divisions, instead of healing them. We have started down a dark path, but will it lead to our destruction, or is there still time before we plunge of the cliff?

In the big picture, the Koran-burning today will be consigned to the dustbin of history, but history has a very long memory. Abraham Lincoln once said “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” That can be extrapolated to many things...heroic, infamous, or otherwise. Words and actions have a legacy.

Is this a legacy that Pastor Terry Jones is ready to live with?

03 August 2010

Tea Party still gets it wrong

Perhaps you’re lucky enough to live near a historic site that is also a living museum….I think it’s a cool thing to see and hear re-enactors going about the business at hand, whether it’s Colonial, Revolutionary, Civil War era, or even WWII. There’s a certain amount of voyeurism there, depending on the skill of the re-enactor and the setting, it can often feel like you’ve stepped out of a time warp and are peeking in on our past.

One of the better places that does this is Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. I’ve been there. Unlike some places surrounded by modernity, Williamsburg took great pains to preserve the “historic block”, and it’s over a square mile of dirt roads, horse poop, and colonial era architecture. It’s really a neat place.

But now, it’s come under fire. It saddened me to learn that the Tea Party has taken over in recent weeks. For some unknown reason, they’re there shouting at the rallies, and trying to engage such historical figures as Patrick Henry and George Washington in debates about modern policies and how the sitting President is secretly a socialist. To their credit, Williamsburg remains nonpartisan, and the re-enactors do their best to respond in the appropriate 18th-century manner.

This whole thing has got me thinking, though. As I write this, I’m sitting about a mile from where the *actual* tea party took place. I’ve blogged about that elsewhere; the Tea Party has completely missed the point, and like the “Minutemen” or the “America First” crowd, they have misappropriated a name from our past and are using it completely counter to what the originators had intended.

But that’s a common thread among the Right. Remember President Reagan using Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” as a campaign song? I believe it’s a fault of conservatives; I just don’t think their brains are wired the same way as yours and mine. All of the hate and vitriol they absorb on a daily basis from Rush, Beck, and who knows who else, has somehow affected how they interpret the past.

For some folks, Paul Revere, or Lexington and Concord, or the House of Burgesses, are just things that happened in a history book. For those of us that live and work by these places, they are sacred ground. I drive on Paul Revere’s route at least once a week, and every day I drive to the store I pass by the Battle Green at Lexington center. These places aren’t dry, historical things that exist in the abstract.

Real men stood on these places. Men who believed in something, and believed it was worth fighting for. It’s incredibly moving and humbling to stand on the Green and remember that the blood of the Patriots is still in the very ground I’m standing on. To some extent, I think the people of the South, or Texas, have that same connection to their history that people in the so-called ‘heartland’, or sitting behind their TV desks just don’t have.

This is something the Right fails to take into account when they hijack the past. Those of us that live here know what the truth is, and we’re not happy with how it’s been manipulated to suit the needs of a few ill-informed demagogues.

American history started here on the East Coast. The Revolution started here on the East Coast. The seat of the National Government is here on the East Coast. I think, more than anyone else in the United States, we’re in touch with our history and what it really means to be a Patriotic American here on the East Coast.

The religious right, and the Conservatives among us make much ado about playing to the “heartland”. But what is the true heartland of America? It’s here…Lexington, Saratoga, Gettysburg, Trenton, Shenandoah, and uncounted other places that all contributed to the birth and growth of these United States. But somehow, we’re the ones castigated and outcast because we’re not “Real Americans”.

Somebody needs to review their history.