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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Unsettled Chapter 9A "It Was That Awkward Age"

There I was standing at my school locker dialing the same combination that had worked all year and yet for some reason it would not open. My situation was worse than that. Much worse. I’d been trying the combination over and over for two hours, missing my first two classes--I never missed classes--and in just one minute I’d be late for 3rd hour, but what I needed was inside of my locker--or so I thought--and if not, I was pretty sure I’d just squeeze inside, pull the door behind me, and wait out the day.
The nameless faces jostled by paying little attention. It was as if I wasn’t there, which suited me fine. But it also made no sense. Surely at any moment someone would notice. Someone would point me out, and then everyone would stop and stare. I could feel the storm of humiliation gathering over my head, waiting to rain down--not because I couldn’t open my locker but because I was standing there in my underwear. No T-shirt, just the briefs, and yet all morning, even the eyes that met mine seemed completely nonchalant about my white Fruit-of-the-Looms.

There I stood like one of those kids in the Sears catalog who smiles at the camera as if it’s perfectly normal to sport your whitey-tighties for all the world to see. Who were those catalog kids anyway? Where did they hide for the rest of their lives? Can you imagine transferring from school to school, having to move each time the other kids figured out you were the dweeb in his underwear on page 34? Well, not me. No way. I did not want to be that kid in his underwear. Yet there I was, trying to act normal. Smiling at passers-by as if to say, "Buy the three-pack and save."
[I realize this picture is not from the right page in the 1971 Sears catalog, but there is no way I'm putting the right page on my blog.]

24 left……14 right….17 left. Please, God, let it open this time, but no…

“What’s the matter, Tom? Can’t get your locker open?” the voice came from over my shoulder. It was Camille Petropoulos, the pretty Greek girl in my journalism class. “Mine does that sometimes. Let me try. What’s your combo?” I told her.

The traffic in the hall was thinning. There I stood in my underwear beside a girl who flirted with me in class the way my sister’s friends did, as if I were too young to take seriously, a nice boy, fun to coax a smile from, but completely “safe” to joke with because (A) these girls all had boy friends, and (B) I was a half a foot shorter than them and clearly still a “boy."

It was that awkward age....I was what some adults euphemistically called a late bloomer with a "growth spurt" lost somewhere in my genes. Before graduating, I’d grow seven inches, but for now, I was the third smallest guy in my grade level (of about 400 students). I had never shaved and would not need to shave daily until my junior year--in college! There were sparse, struggling hairs under one arm but nothing under the other. I loved P.E. class but hated the required showers afterwards. Need I explain? Awkward age indeed! I was surviving sheepishly among a growing population of Neanderthals.

Don't let this snapshot fool you. I was not a wimp--quite the opposite. Thanks to two older brothers and Dad giving us all boxing gloves years before, I was scrappy, and held the school record on the gym wall in pull-ups and push-ups. That year, I was allowed to practice with Dave's wrestling team over at the high school and even wrestled in "exibition matches" when they faced schools that included 9th grade in their high school. A full year later, I'd still wrestle in the 98-pound class--weighing in fully dressed. My brother Dave and most of the team had to cut weight each week and weigh-in… in their underwear.

Camille pulled the handle up and the locker opened, “There you go. See you in class,“ she smiled, as if nothing was wrong.

I looked inside the door, hoping to see my clothes, but nothing. Nothing but books. The hall was nearly empty, except for two guys running to beat the bell and a couple kissing in the corner who had not been on time to a class all year. The bell rang. In fact, the bell kept ringing as if it were broken, as if the janitor was trying to muffle it with a mop. Then the hall went dark. I fell backwards to the floor and sat up reaching for my locker door and felt nothing but the soft blankets of my bed.

Dad’s Big Ben alarm clock was ringing in the next room, muffled by his fingers as he reached for the off switch. I plopped back down in my pillow. "How is it?" I thought, " that the sounds of real life provide perfectly timed sound cues in my dreams?"

That bell meant it was 5: 00AM Saturday. It had long become my custom to roll over in bed until Dad stepped in and said, “Up and at ‘em, Tom.” But this morning I did not have to wake up. I was not going to work with Dad and Dave and Paul until after lunch.

My brother Paul had a Detroit News paper route that he‘d passed along to Dave the year before. They still did the route together on Sunday morning, but Dave did the route most of the time. He hated it, and took a lot of guff from his friends, but the route had been in the family for many years, and Dad figured it was my turn to take it. Truth is, Paul and Dave were bigger and stronger than the 98-pound runt of the family. So Dad decided I’d stay back and deliver the route and then come out with Mom when she brought lunch.

[Factual changes in the paragraphs to follow were made 4-4-09 and are in this color.]

I did not like delivering the 52 papers any more than my brothers did. But at that minute, hearing Dad whisper “Up and at ’em, boys!” to Paul and Dave in the beds beside me while I got to roll over and drift back to sleep, I did not mind the straw I’d drawn. After two years of getting up early to go with Dad, I did feel a little guilty as their silhouettes grabbed clothes in the dark and began slipped out the bedroom door. Some time later, Dad came back to began pulling the door shut.

“See you at lunch time,” I whispered, wanting him to know I was awake.
“Yep. We’re starting the well today.” His voice was wide awake.

"I know. How deep will we get do you think?”

“Oh, I’m hoping two crocks down. We’ll see. If you don’t fall back asleep, don't wake the others.” he whispered, pulling the door shut. I heard the other two bedroom doors shutting beyond mine, and then, a moment later, the back door of the house made a soft thud behind them.

Mom was still asleep in the room to the right of our bedroom door; Kathy and Jimmy were asleep in the room to my left. Kathy, being the only girl, had always had her own room, but Mom and Dad moved Jimmy's crib to her room about a year before.

I was in the top of a bunk bed set we had just bought used from an ad in the paper. My little brother Jim, who was now three years old, was asleep below me. Paul, Dave, and I had shared a room for nearly ten years, but when Jim moved from his crib to share a bunk bed with me, we got our own room, and Paul and Dave set up their beds in the basement. There was no bedroom there. We just had the beds set up at the far end around the corner by the furnace room. It would be that way for four more years.

I rolled over and went back to sleep, half afraid I’d find myself back at my locker standing in my underwear, but I didn’t. Instead I dreamt the paper route in my head. I was happy to see I still knew it by heart, and even happier that I was fully dressed as I rode my bike from door to door.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The First No Well

I like Christmas music. We've been playing it for a couple weeks in our house and cars, but we're not yet playing it in the halls at school. We wait until after Thanksgiving for that--no point in getting the kids ready for Christmas Break too soon.

In the years following 1970, I used to sing the Christmas chorus "The First Noel" this way: "No well. No well. No well. No well. How can we get water if there's no well?"
I meant no disrespect to the original words; it's just that I was warped by our "no well" experience in 1971.

When you hear the word WELL, what image comes to mind? A quaint little "wishing well" with a bucket on a rope wrapped 'round a wooden crank? A farm well--the kind with rusted windmills that still stand against the big Midwestern sky? Do you think of a scary movie or a song "'bout a ghost in a wishing well"? Or of abandoned pits like the one down which “Baby Jessica” fell in 1987?

I'd almost forgotten about her. Like nearly everyone in America, we were glued to that "baby-in-the-well-drama" for two nights, and the viewership paved the way for what networks would later called "reality TV." But I digress...

The purpose of this post, like the one about cisterns, is to lay some groundwork for the "Unsettled" chapters that will follow. I plan to write those in story form so it may make more sense if we have this discussion first.

There are basically three ways to excavate a well (double-click picture to enlarge) : A well can be (1) drilled, (2) driven (sometimes called a "driven-point well" common here in the sandy soils of west Michigan), or (3) dug--as in hand dug with a shovel. When I think about wells, I think about digging.

Through the years when I've told people "we dug a well with dad" they envision one of these methods, and the truth is what we did looks closest like the drawing on the left of the diagram above, but it was a little more complicated than that. This is obviously not my dad in the video, but this is very similar to the space in which he worked.

The workers in the video above were digging and then pouring cement around the inside bottom of the well as they dug. They had not yet hit water, but every time they had a foot or so of exposed earth under the concrete wall, they lowered buckets of concrete to "add more wall" at the bottom as they gradually went deeper.

Wells like this old one, were dug first and then the masonry work was built from the ground up inside the dirt hole.

This was the method most commonly used throughout history. If you have the time, you can see how it's done in this seven minute video. The labor involved in this sort of well is even harder than what we did with Dad, whose idea was unlike anything I've seen done anywhere else.

I wish we had some video of Dad down in the well and my brothers and I hauling up 5-gallon buckets of dirt and clay. I'd settle for some photographs, but the truth is during the nearly ten weeks of digging the well. We took no pictures. When we first bought the land, Mom took lots of pictures. (I've shared many of them in previous chapters.) But by '71, she had grown somewhat weary of the slow progress we were making out at "the property." Oh, she was still very supportive and brought out hot meals for us every Saturday, but in the two years since the barn had been completed, all of our Saturday work was on roads and creeks and "infrastructure" such as electrical and excavation for where the house would someday be, but there was no sign of a house.

Add to this the fact that my sister Kathy had gone away to college during the 1970-71 school year, and parting with kids for college has a way of making parents feel old, and the place you live, because it becomes the place children "come home to" feels more and more like where you ought to stay. Mom never said this aloud, but it was part of her mixed feelings about moving and the slow pace of our hard work.

There was much more involved, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Suffice to say that during those years Mom took fewer pictures. So these images and videos from third-world countries are very helpful.

See the men rolling the concrete culvert in the photo above? Our project, when I get to that part of the story, began with seven culverts just like that, and by the end of the project they looked like this. How we got there, I trust, will be as interesting to you as it was memorable for Dad, my brothers, and me.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Just What is a Cistern Anyway?

In 1997, I had the privilege of traveling to the countries of Jordan and Israel. I was asked to make a video about the historical significance of scores of sites in that region. Part of that documentary tells the story of the ancient mountain fortress just east of the southern end of the Dead Sea called Masada.

In this otherwise dessert region, it was the many cavernous cisterns built in the northwest side of the cliff that held the secret of why the fortress was virtually (and secretly) self-sufficient during one of the most heart-breaking sieges in history. It was also in one of these then water-filled cisterns that two Jewish mothers (and 3 children) hid during the siege and lived to tell what happened there.

We don’t use the word “cistern” much anymore, but it is a holding reservoir for water--large or small. In fact, each of our homes probably has at least one or two cisterns in daily use. I’m referring to that modern marvel, the cistern toilet. There was a time when the cistern (now called "the tank") was mounted high on the wall to create more water pressure for the flush.

Some cisterns have no pressure at all. On the way to Masada back in 1997, we stopped at some public restrooms that had open cisterns for "flushing." You’ll notice in the picture there is no stool, just a porcelain hole in the ground with molded “foot prints” to tell you where to put your feet. These "facilities"are common in the Middle and Far East (We also encountered them in Northern Thailand.) When you’re ready to flush, you scoop the water from the cistern and--vwella--you can “flush” as often as you like. (No need to wait for the tank to refill.)

Okay. That was perhaps too much information. The remainder of the post will focus on the less personal uses of cisterns.

Cistern beside Farm House

In the previous post, Professor Harold Hill, warned listeners that the presence of a pool hall in their town would leave "parents caught with a cistern empty on a Saturday night." Farm houses often had underground cement cisterns beside the house that gathered rain water from the house gutter system.
Sometimes cisterns were connected to the farm well and water had to be pumped by hand to fill the closer source. Sometimes they were elevated beside the house like a small version of the wooden water towers from the same time period. (Seen in photo at right.) Elevated cisterns were "pumped" full to provide "water pressure" to all plumbing in the house.

These elevated wooden cisterns were, of course, the precursor to the various styles of steel "water towers" that sprang up across America through the 20th Century.
They come in all shapes and sizes. The larger designs commonly hold a million gallons of clean fresh water supplied to thousands of homes within several square miles.
Not all city water towers look like the ones we see most often. A few blocks from where my daughter goes to college (and just down the street from her favorite chocolate shop) is the famous Chicago Water Tower built in 1869. This giant "Sand Castle" is said to be the only building to survive the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. It's an ornate cistern that still serves its original purpose 140 years later.
In preparing this post, I learned that my father's desire to dig a "cistern well" was actually both an old concept and a new, very "green" idea three decades ahead of its time. It was a 35 feet deep well and 6,000+ gallon cistern all in one, but it was nothing like the cisterns in the following videos
Here is a link to a brief video about modern above-ground galvanized cisterns. And the screen below is a report about somewhat smaller cisterns similar to what used to be called "rain barrels."

If you found that informative, and have a little more time, here is a much bigger version of the same concept for the truly "green" home of the 21st Century.
There is nothing new under the sun. Man's need for convenient, clean water is a sub-plot of recorded time. Today most of us take this luxury for granted, but depending on where you wish to build a house, it becomes one of the first problems to solve. In our case, back in 1970, the land we owned did not have access to city water, and my dad equated an ample water supply with the self-sufficiency behind his desire to move to the country in the first place.
The next chapter is about digging wells in general, but the chapter after that is the long-awaited story of Dad's unique idea (that I have not seen anywhere else in all my research). It was an idea that Dad thought would take us four or five weeks, but as usual he misjudged the downright toil involved, and the project took nearly twice that long, taking every Saturday of that summer, from May through August . Ah, what memories!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Cistern Empty on a Saturday Night

A Brief Demonstration of
the Tangled Tangents in My Mind

We had a powdering of snow this week, and it made me think of Mom. This will be our first Thanksgiving and Christmas without her. The thought of snow brought this fact to mind because of an old family tradition my mom started over 50 years ago. I've written about before. When the first good snow of the year began to fall my mom would run to the phone to call loved one's far and near to ask, "Are the Lights on at Palmer."

When all the calls were done, she'd stand at the big picture window off and on all night, smiling and singing, "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!" She had a nice singing voice, and knew hundreds of songs by heart, but more often than not she'd just chirp out the first line of the song like a gleeful little girl at the news of getting a puppy. Snow made her that happy.
This week's light snow was not enough to trigger the tradition, but we're expecting a good snow this week, and it occurred to me that we won't be able to call Mom. It also brought that song to mind, and then when it came on the radio while I was driving home alone from work, I just had to call my sister on the east side of the state. They, too, had a trace of snow, and she was feeling blue for the same reason.

Did you know "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" was written by Meredith Willson? Yep-- the year my parents were married, 1951. Willson is much better known for The Music Man, which was one of the albums my mom played when it wasn't Christmas. I got to know that musical well. Willson was from Iowa, and in 1982, when Julie and I visited there to be interviewed for teaching positions, I caught myself singing "We ought to give Iowa a try" on the way home. We did, and in fact, we lived there 18 years, during which time I directed the stage production twice.
A few years further back, when I was in college, I did a one-man adaptation of the unsung opening number on the train seen below.

Can you imagine one person doing those lines as a “dramatic reading,“ using different voices for five "characters"? It wasn't that hard actually. I still know it by heart. The steam-driven rhythms and iron-wheel pace of that number have worn a groove in my mind. I fear that if I live long enough to someday drool in a nursing home, I'll be shuffling down a tiled hallway mumbling:

“Why it's the Model T Ford
Made the trouble
Made the people wanna go
Wanna get, wanna get
Wanna get up and go
Seven, eight, nine, ten, twelve,
Fourteen, twenty-two,
Twenty-three miles
To the county seat…”

Visiting guests will look on with pity while the passing nurse whispers, “Don’t pay attention to him or he’ll do the whole show.”
(Stick with me. There's a point to this post...)

Willson’s gift for using words like percussion instruments also shines in Harold Hill’s fast-talkin’, snake-oil song: “Ya Got Trouble,” which provides both the title of this post and a segue to the next:

“And all week long,
your River City youth'll be fritterin' away
I say, your young men'll be fritterin'
Fritterin' away their noontime,
suppertime, choretime, too
Hit the ball in the pocket
Never mind gettin' dandelions pulled
or the screen door patched
or the beefsteak pounded
Never mind pumpin' any water
'til your parents are caught
with a cistern empty on a Saturday night
and that's trouble
Oh, ya got lots and lots o' trouble…”

The line is at 2:20 in this Youtube clip:

Hill knew his conservative River City audience, and “a cistern empty on a Saturday night” meant that someone would have to pump water on Sunday. A hundred years ago that was “trouble” because work of any kind on the Sabbath was to be avoided. A lot has changed since then, but that’s for another post.
I've shared all these thoughts to introduce the word cistern. The next chapter of the "Unsettled" story is all about how we helped Dad dig our cistern well back in 1970. Read on…
You might be thinking, “Wait a minute, Tom… you told us about snow and Palmer Park and your Mom's song and all this Music Man stuff just to talk about the word cistern? Why wait for that nursing home? You're already senile!" I often wonder myself.
Some call it "associative thinking" when one thought leads naturally to another, but my mind is sometimes a tangle of tangents that I alone can sort out. That's one of the reasons it has taken me over a month to get to the chapters about digging the well with dad.
I hope it's worth the wait.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Verteran's Day 2008

There are two things I have not heard talked about for a long, long time. The first is the horrors of September 11, 2001. Oh, I know we saw the candidates place flowers at ground zero two months ago, but when is the last time you actually remembered that day and the fear we all had that it may happen again? Montage of 9-11. Second hit.

The second thing we've seen less of--and praise God for that-- is endless footage of violent battles in Iraq. Make no mistake. The war there is not over, but it is being won, and last month saw less casualties than any month since fighting began. On this day of honoring our men and women in the armed forces, I thought I'd pull up one of the first posts I ever wrote back in 2004, the week after Veteran's Day. The story will remind you of the progress we've made in Iraq and the brave soldiers who have made it happen.

The Marine Did His Job (originally posted 11-2004)

Last week in honor of Veteran’s Day, ABC aired Saving Private Ryan, the first Hollywood movie ever to cause me to grieve. It’s a film that earned is strong "viewer discretion" warning, but it's also one that should be seen by every American old enough to understand the words “freedom” and "cost." War, accurately portrayed, is hard on the eyes and harder on the stomach, but to the post WWII generations, Saving Private Ryan gives new meaning to five words:
Duty, Honor, Country... Thank you.

Monday night and again tonight, I saw a similar film. It was shorter—not shot by Spielberg but by an NBC imbedded cameraman in Iraq. I hope you have not seen this footage, and I hope it soon fades into the fog of "news that isn't news." But if this story has legs, I fear that a young marine may be in trouble for actions that should never have been seen in our living rooms. Allow me to describe what I saw, taking a few liberties afforded a typical screenplay:

Roll camera. A handful of marines are seen crossing an iron bridge in Fallujah, Iraq. As they approach the road ahead, they look up at the empty green girders of the bridge. The frame freezes and dissolves into a Flashback of the same image—this time with two charred bodies of American contractors hanging overhead with a throng of laughing thugs dancing below, firing rifle shots in the air. The gun bursts snap us back to “real time” and our marines take cover at the foot of the empty bridge. They trace the fire to a nest of remnant insurgents about 100 yards away, hit it with a small missile, and all is quiet but the sounds of war in the distance.

As they move along the rubble, they meet up with part of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Regiment with an imbedded NBC cameraman. They exchange wary glances, and the newcomers are warned that the mosque they're approaching had been raining “AK-47 fire from Ala” down on them for two days, but it was finally put out of business yesterday just before the main wave of fighting moved north. As they cautiously advance, they give a wide birth to the strewn bodies of masked enemy soldiers along the road. The camera guy gets some shots of the carnage. “Don’t touch the bodies,” one grunt warns. “Some of them are booby trapped. One went off on our buddy yesterday. Killed him.” Another marine, whose face is still bloody from what looks like a bullet graze, adds, “And shoot anything that moves. Yesterday I nearly got my head blown off from one of 'em who didn’t want to die alone.”

Suddenly, the boots stop at the base of a minaret, which the day before was illegally used as a machine-gun nest. They quietly enter the shattered sanctity of the mosque, camera rolling.
The distant popping of gunfire fades. “It’s too quiet,” a voice whispers. Each trigger feels a tremulous finger, poised. Sunshine streaks in through high windows. The Marine’s eyes adjust to the light and each pulse quickens as the shapes of bodies on the floor emerge from the shadows. The marine with the wounded face cautiously steps toward one of them. The body is on its side; his hand is out of sight. Is he alive? Is he hiding something? “Why risk it again,” he thinks, remembering yesterday’s stinging blast to his face. And with little thought he fires a shot into the heap on the floor.
End of screenplay.

On the big screen, that scene in the mosque would run about 30 seconds, but unfortunately the incident was real, and the wounded marine who fired the gun may face criminal charges for shooting an unarmed “prisoner of war.” That’s the story. I don’t know every rule of the Geneva Accord; I don't know this marine (and hope that his name is never released). I don’t know every detail of this incident (though all but the dialogue and part about the infamous bridge is in the reports). But I do know this: that battle-weary marine was doing his job. Most soldiers in this unconventional war of human bombs and desperate terrorists would have done the same.

War should never be reduced to “reality TV.” There are no commercial breaks; no game-over buzzer at the end of each battle; no getting voted off the island. War is a mangle of man and machines where things blow up and people die. The horrific images should not be casually viewed and second-guessed from a living-room couch. I suggest a new rule for our military and our imbedded media:

Whenever an imbed's footage can help prove the facts of this war on terror, use the footage, but never should an imbedded camera be used to subject a fighting marine to criminal charges for pro-active self-defense in a time of war. Soldiers live between frenzied snaps of time, and he who hesitates is lost.

Update: in May of 2005, well after this post was first written, the marine (who remained un-named) was cleared of misconduct. His actions were deemed proper in the realities of war.
Three years later the city was rebounding as one of the success stories of the surge that helped win the hearts of those liberated from Saddam Hussein.
Now let us pray for continued progress toward victory and the safe return home of those who represent all we honor today. May their sacrifice never be tarnished by lesser men and women.
(Here are more positive stories fro Iraq. Scroll down to video from 10 months ago).

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Dents in the Carpet Parts I and II


Dents in the Carpet

The Power of Status Quo and The Burden of Proof

On occasion it’s helpful to know a dead language, and most of us know a little Latin whether we think so or not. We all use the term status quo, which basically means “the way things are,” but it‘s often used negatively by advocates of change to mean “the way things have been for too long.”

I’ll begin with a simple example. How often do you rearrange the furniture in your most static room? [Static is a form of the word status and, in this usage, means the room that changes the least in your house, not the room with the most static electricity.] If you consider why you set that room up the way it is in the first place, you may find the reasons remain compelling through time. If you try to change things around, you may end up putting things right back where they were. (which is easy to do because of the dents in the carpet).

This is not always true, sometimes you can rearrange things in a room, step back, and really like it. The difference between men and women when it comes to rearranging furniture, is that (typically) men can live with the status quo of any room. They set up a TV room, for instance, and it can stay that way for all eternity. There is a reason for this (beyond the fact that he thought it through the first time): By age forty, the typical man has helped friends move in and out of apartments and homes so often that they forever hate to pick up the phone for fear it's a friend whose wife just bought a piano. Men loath the thought of moving furniture—even if it's within the same room.

This is less true for the ladies, who by the age of forty, have watched guys heft sleeper-sofas up and down flights of stairs, wrestle them through narrow doorways, and levitate them in mid-air while the supervising female decides where it goes. I know I have just offended the many ladies who, like my wife, have done more than their fair share of grunt work when it comes to such things. But I still contend that women get the urge to rearrange rooms more often than do men.

Before getting off the couch to move it, men are far more likely to challenge the idea, because they understand that, while change is not wrong, the burden of proof rests firmly on those who which to change the status quo. Not only do women sometimes forget CHANGE bears the burden of proof, they seem to forget the fundamental rules of furniture inertia: the heavier the piece, the more indelible the dents, the less often it should be moved. Or as the Romans said in Latin, Quieta non movere, meaning "Do not move settled things."

In other words, it is safe to assume that there is a reason for the status quoand CHANGE has the burden of proof that it will indeed be better, if implemented, than the way things are. Some changes are good and long overdue, but this merely eases the burden of proof; it does not eliminate it.

This topic is far more important that this furniture example suggests. It becomes strategic in matters of law, morality, and politics, all of which come into play in the issue of same-sex marriage now “boiling over” in California. This battle in the culture war was created by the liberal courts who, as if by fiat, changed the status quo (and the definition of marriage), thereby shifting the burden of proof, resulting in the current upheaval of the success of Proposition 8, which reclaimed the status quo that was in place for all time until four months ago.


"Dents in the Carpet" Part II

Prop 8 not "Hate" Reclaims Status Quo in California
This “Dents in the Carpet” series will be a recurring feature here atpatronus incognitus. The title is not meant to suggest that CHANGE should never take place; it is to remind Americans that the “burden of proof” always rests on those who would CHANGE the way things are (status quo).

There is usually good reason why things are as they have been. Beforeupsetting the fruit basket, we need to ask questions like: Is the CHANGE truly an improvement over thestatus quo or is it just different? Who will pay for the CHANGE and is the cost justifiable? What are the unintended consequences of the CHANGE? What moral implications, if any, accompany the CHANGE? And so on.

The relationship betweenstatus quo and burden of proof is perhaps best understood in the statement: “A person is presumed innocent until proven guilty.” The status quo is the individual's presumed innocence, making it the prosecutor’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

“Dents in the Carpet” are reminders that the time to undo wrongly imposed CHANGE is sooner rather than later--before we forget how to put things back in their rightful place. Since president-elect Obama has promised head-spinning CHANGE in the months to come, there's no telling how many parts in this series lie ahead, but lets begin with the most recent example of undoing CHANGE: the successful passage ofProposition 8 to constitutionally define marriage as between a man and a woman in California’s November 4, 2008, ballot initiative.

Before we proceed with this important discussion, let's take a look at a news story from a couple nights ago. Regardless of what side you may take on this issue. There are two undeniable facts: Prop 8 passed fair and square and the 47% who voted against it need to accept that fact just as those who did not vote for Obama accepted their loss on the same night. Second, please study the use of the word hate as this and other protest stories unfold. Ask yourself who is full of hate as you watch this old lady being assaulted (last part beginning at 2:30).

Elderly Woman Assaulted by Angry Mob

Prop 8 was put on the ballot to correct an improper shift in the burden of proof that happened a short time ago. Throughout recorded time, virtually all reproducing civilizations have operated on the same presumptive status quo: marriage is union between a man and a woman. It's a “water is wet” truism behind centuries of undisputed legislation and case law.
Even in liberal California, the traditional definition of marriage was included in the “Family Code” enacted in 1977, and to make sure there was no confusion, the words "between a man and a woman” were added to the California Civil Code in 1994. To further solidify the matter, four years later, Prop 22 added that the union of a man and a woman is the only valid or recognizable form of marriage in the state. Prop. 22 passed 61.4 % to 38 % on March 7, 2000. So by nearly a 2 to 1 margin, the voters of California upheld the long-standing definition of marriage. (Nationally, the figure is 68%.)
The vote was legal. The vote was clear. So what happened?

In the past four years in California, the state legislature twice ignored the will of the people and tried to pass a bill extending the term marriage to same-sex unions already allowed by the state. Twice the Governor vetoed the bill on the basis of Prop 22’s clear outcome.

In fall 2007, ProtectMarriage.com initiated a proposition that would amend the California State Constitution to include, "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." A few months later in May of 2008, the State Supreme Court narrowly voted (4-3) to overturn Prop 22's ban on same-sex marriage. Thus legislating from the bench against the will of the people in an effort to change both public opinion and the burden of proof.

To further entrench the social coup, 18,000 gay couples “got married” in California last summer, and the liberal legislature changed the wording of Prop 8 from a neutral-sounding "Limit on Marriage Act" to “Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry Act.” So you see the difference? The latter elevates "marriage" to a right and claims a "YES" vote will take it away. No one wants to take away someone's rights so surely the "NO" votes would win. Right? Wrong, because this vote was not about a "right;" it was about a "rite," and let's not forget whose "rite" it rightfully is.

This battle is over a word, a word established and defined not by the state but by scripture and all the churches that follow it: MARRIAGE. This is not a case of the Church (or churches or the Mormons, or the “Religious Right”) trying to impose its will on those who don’t care about traditional religious values; it’s a case of activist homosexual groups trying to claim asacrament of the church that has been so commonly accepted as morally right and good and “ideal” that virtually all Western civil law shared it for centuries.

Marriage was not a secular term adopted by the church, it was church-sanctioned ritual borrowed by (and sometimes performed by) the State for the good of society. That “good” being the assumption that marriage is the best beginning for the most important institution on earth, the family. Every person reading this article is the product of a union between a man and a woman, while that union may or may not have been in the bonds of marriage, most would agree that traditional family order (man and wife who become husband and wife who become father and mother) is still most ideal for the order and perpetuation of society.
It is only when the God-ordained purpose of marriage is abandoned that the term gets thrown up for grabs like beads at Mardi Gras.
After the vote, singer Elton John confirmed my point and said that fighting over the word marriage was a critical mistake. "I don't want to be married. I'm very happy with a civil partnership. If gay people want to get married, or get together, they should have a civil partnership," said John. "The wordmarriage, I think, puts a lot of people off. You get the same equal rights that we do when we have a civil partnership. Heterosexual people get married. We can have civil partnerships." I think he is right. The vast majority of voters--including those who have Biblical issues against homosexuality--consider monogamous, long-term commitment healthier than promiscuity, and it's reasonable that all people in such relationships should be granted some privileges (e.g. hospital visiting, joint ownership, etc.).
On November 4, 2008, against all odds (and with the help of 70% of the black vote--though the protestors will likely spare those churches from their attacks), Prop 8 passed as decisively as Obama's winning popular vote.
Unless all principles of common sense and democracy or ignored, California will now join the other 29 states that have a constitutional “one man one woman” definition of marriage. Those who voted "YES" are not filled with hate--they did not mean to upset the fruit basket. They simply held their ground and used the dents in the carpet to set things straight. . . . For how long nobody knows.

Update November 19, 2008: If eight homosexuals met on a corner in a straight part of town, would all the non-homosexuals be allowed to violently march them out of town? Hardly. And yet a small group of Christians gathered to pray in San Fancisco's Castro District, and had to be escorted away by police--not because they were gathering unlawfully but because their lives were in danger from the "straightophobes."

TOLERANCE Has Become a One-way Street

It seems that this street mob seems to be advocating the colonization of homosexuals, a world in which they get to live freely in certain cities or neighborhoods, doing as they please with whomever they please. Non-homosexuals stay out of their neighborhood and they'll stay out of "straight" neighborhoods. Sure. That'll work. The courts will support that. Not on your life! The one-way tolerance street will simply grow and spread as the "straightophobes" keep insisting they're victims of intolerance.
Six days after this post, as protests and mob reactions like that seen in the video above continued across the country, the California Supreme Court agreed to hear three cases testing the constitutionality of Prop 8. Will that left-coast bench have the courage to say, "No rights have been deprived of any group. This is about the meaning of a word that has been in tact for thousands of years. That definition does not fit your chosen relationship. Get over it"? I wouldn't count on it. And if Prop 8 is deemed "wrong" in California, what will become of all 30 states with a constituional one-man-one-woman definition of marriage?
And so begins the "San Francisconization" of the nation, just part of the coming CHANGE we can look forward to.

Links to further articles on this subject:
Two weeks later, the Califonia vote continues to spark nation-wide protests, as the homosexual marchers continue to interpret this issue as an attack on them when it is actually a vote in favor of the status quo definition of marriage as "one man one woman." How long before Obama appeases them?Gay activitist disrupt church service in Lansing, MI.Additional defense of traditional marriage in Michigan
Whether or not you agree with this group...interesting reading
Why the same-sex marriage mob wants to call it hate. 
Here's a quote from a book I may have to read: "The Marketing of Evil reveals how much of what Americans once almost universally abhorred has been packaged, perfumed, gift-wrapped and sold to them as though it had great value. Highly skilled marketers, playing on our deeply felt national values of fairness, generosity and tolerance, have persuaded us to embrace as enlightened and noble that which all previous generations since America’s founding regarded as grossly self-destructive..."
Even though Elton John suggested "...If gay people want to get married, or get together, they should have a civil partnership," many of the protestors sided againsttheir knighted advocate.]

Where the Creek Goes Wide

As promised, here's a total change of subject to help mark the shift from politics back to more pleasant diversions of life. The next chapter of "Unsettled" will be coming soon. In the meantime, here's something very different. [This post was actually written last Thursday.]
Those of you who read here may recall that my middle daughter, Kim, is now in college in Chicago. My oldest daughter is a teacher (interim medical leave sub in 3rd grade) who called me last night to borrow "Kim's book," a hand-made hard cover book Kim made for a "Written and Illustrated" contest when she was in fifth grade herself (10 years ago). Em wanted to read it to "her class." [It's not hers but she's been teaching them for a month as the teacher makes miraculous progress from a head injury after a serious bike accident.]

I'll never forget the year Kim took on the task of writing her own book. She did not want to include "people" in the story because she could not draw people. She was much better at doodling flowers and trees and such. Then she needed a "plot" and I helped her with an anthropomorphic "what if" based on some simple pond science: Toads and frogs start out looking alike in the pond but they grow into slightly different critters who live in very different ways. "What if" two became friends in the pond and then "changed."

Kim went with it. She wrote and re-wrote. I kept stressing that stories--especially stories for children--were meant to be read aloud, so we kept "tweaking" the flow of her narrative. I think you'll notice it as you read. I tend to write from an aural approach, too, and you may think you hear me in some of the phrasing, but I can assure you I merely "coached" her. The final wording reflects her writing and reading each line aloud as if to a child.

Then she began her drawings. This took weeks of entire evenings after school, focusing on one "spread" [two open pages] at a time. She set up a "studio" in the breezeway of the "little blue house" and drew and redrew each page. Sometimes she felt like quitting. Sometimes she'd get in a hurry and settle for a drawing that did not look as good as the pages before, and I'd say, "Kim, you really need to do that over again. Think of the book as a whole. Each page needs to look like you cared. The tree toward the end has to look as good as the tree on the first page. It's the same tree." She'd take a deep breath and sigh, "All right. I'll do it again."

We laugh about it now, but she used to think I was making too big a deal out of this project, and I'll admit I was. I really thought she had a good thing going and wanted her to see it through. That's hard for a fifth grader to do--let's face it--it's hard for adults to do.

When the book was done, she sent it in (by mail to a company far away). About a month later it was returned with a letter informing her she got "honorable mention." She was disappointed, but I think she would be very honored indeed to know that a classroom full of third graders heard her story read aloud today by her "big sister" who watched her write it more than a dozen years ago. [I scanned the book last night before giving it to her sister. The pages were meant to be seen in pairs, but that won't work on a blog. If you can't read the text, go to page menu and "zoom in" to 200% . . . or click on each page to enlarge.]



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