Sunday, March 31, 2013

Free Candy Day!

While you were sitting idly in Church, I was learning about Bronze Age Astronomy while waiting on my laundry.
In 1999 some looters in Germany came across one of the most amazing archaeological finds in recent history, and then wrapped it in a towel with the intent of trying to sell it to the highest bidder. A few years later, that "bidder" was a Swiss Archaeologist named Harald Meller who had tipped off authorities and helped coordinate a sting operation to arrest some of the thieves and obtain the artifact for himself to study. Dr Meller had no idea how this would change everything we know and understand about "how we believe"

THIS is what's commonly known as the Nebra Disk, it's both a calendar AND an ancient religious "document" about the size of a lunch-plate.

The sun and moon images pretty much explain themselves, but what are the curved shapes on the edges, you ask? According to historians and scientists in Europe, many of whom originally thought the Nebra Disk was a fake, the thick band on the far right is a solar calendar placed at almost exactly 82 Degrees. In ancient Germany, the difference in where the sun would have risen between Summer and Winter is 82 Degrees.

The striped "arc" on the bottom is widely believed to be a symbol of a boat. It's a widely known fact that ancient European cultures associated boats with spiritual journeys and the movements of deities, this belief was widely held by European societies even long before the Vikings. There's also the ancient Egyptians who believed that a boat carried the sleeping sun-god Ra to a safe place during the night until he could be "risen" in the morning.

"I'm on a mutha-fukkn' BOAT!"

Essentially, the Nebra Disk may very well have been the world's earliest known portable ministry tool: It was elaborate, accurate, and small enough for any traveling sage to carry with him and demonstrate it's "knowledge" to wherever he traveled, instead of making lay-people of the time risk their lives journeying all over Europe to commune with their gods (but people still do this even today: I.E., Mecca)

So what makes the Nebra Disk so special in terms of ancient faith and belief? Instead of high-tailing it to places like Stonehenge or any other monument to observe the seasons, the Nebra Disk made it possible for Bronze Age peoples in central Europe to do this literally at home. Ancient Europe, previously thought to be little more than warring tribes while Greece and Egypt built palaces and cities, apparently had a thriving and active (but bloody) religious society.

Fast forward a few thousand years, replace the bronze disk with a written language, you pretty much have a Bible, Koran, etc...

So when you get right down to it not only is the story of a "risen god" nothing new, technically neither are door-to-door missionaries. Only instead of focusing on winning converts, the idea may have been to organize a farming culture into an organized society (checkmate, Mormons!) In truth I don't know for sure, I'm not a professional historian nor a scientist. Many experts still can't seem to agree what the Nebra Disk's intended purpose was, as amazing a find for it's time as it is.

So next time you hear some well-groomed little punk ramble on about how amazing it is that "He Is Risen" and points the original source to his favorite story-book, feel free to point out his folly and whip out (a more accurate and official assessment) of the Nebra Disk.

But hey, at least we get a basket of jelly-beans out of it, right?

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Can Has Photo-Copy?

1 year and 5 doctors later, I am still not "fixed." Yesterday I had met with a doctor a the University of Arizona Medical Center about the problems I've been having since February of 2012: I'm still in pain, it still hurts to move my upper-body, and no one I've been able to talk to has offered any treatment that has had any notable effect. The doctor at the U of AZ said he didn't know what was causing my pain, but he insisted that he didn't think herniated disks were the cause of my symptoms.

After referring my case to another doctor on campus, a neurosurgeon who apparently specializes in pain, I was on my way out of the office and about to check out at the reception desk. All I wanted was one photo-copy of my intake form so I could have it for my own personal records, I will need to make a VA claim regarding my injury in the near future.

The staff proceeded to argue with me about why they didn't want to make my kindly requested copy, that it wasn't necessary for me to have it because they were giving me another referral form (which turned out to be a barely legible pink slip of paper with notes scribbled onto it) and tried to hurry me out the door despite my protests.

One employee proceeded to try and take my only copy of an MRI from me for keeps. Um, how 'bout NO!

With the VA as cluster-fucked as it is, even if that copy wasn't absolutely necessary for the process, I still want to keep MY OWN RECORDS regarding my injury. But I guess a 30-second copy-job for an injured Iraq Veteran is asking too goddamn much, silly me for being an undue burden to my country's medical system.

I guess I should have taken my undeserving broken-ass somewhere I belong like, gee I don't know... CONGRESS!

This Might Hurt

I talk a lot of shit about religion, deal with it or hit your "STUMBLE" button. I also talk a lot about what my experiences in Iraq have done to shape my world-view. Sound extreme? Maybe, but you'd be very hard-pressed to leave such a situation alive and NOT be changed by it in some way (and if you haven't, then I seriously have to question your intellectual capability.) Sometimes this disturbs people, and I understand why. Warfare is not a realm that a lot of people understand or can even comprehend, but I'm going to talk about it anyway because I know there's no fucking way I'm the ONLY female Iraq Vet in the whole US who saw and experienced some really horrible things that need to be seriously discussed and addressed.

Just because you don't understand something doesn't make it an illegitimate matter or concern. You don't HAVE to understand, but if you sincerely want to then thanks for the effort and please keep reading. You don't HAVE to understand how our gun laws work to know that we have an issue with violence in our country, nor do you HAVE to understand how guns themselves actually work to know that restricting clip sizes or certain guns themselves won't do jack to stall the growing plague. 

About halfway through the deployment, I met someone. He was incredibly swift, intelligent to the point that he could talk your mind into spirals but you'd catch every little thing all the way round-and-round, but unlike most Warrant Officers I'd met before he was NOT an overbearing entitled jack-ass. Quite the opposite, in fact. He adhered to an ideal of compassion and morality that I have yet to see in any other military leader that I've met or worked with. He walked his talk even to his own detriment, which angered several of his "bosses" who just wanted him to go with whatever half-baked plan they had in mind.

He also had dirty-blonde hair, mischievous pale-colored eyes, and quietly boasted to be quite the cunning linguist. Yeah, you already know how far this went...

Nothing makes for a "Whirlwind Romance" quite like the ever-pervasive threat of a horrible death at any given moment, that and I'm a sucker for a perfect sunset.
Rank-difference and UCMJ rules aside, my husband knew the whole time and was perfectly okay with this. In fact, he had a lady-friend back home and heard no objections from me about it at all: She's actually a really cool person, once I got home 'good times' were had by all. Halfway across the planet and completely devoid of any of the familiar comforts of normal human life, who could blame ANYONE for seeking solace and warmth in another human being?

Then my squad-mates found out and not only figuratively crucified us both for it, but then relentlessly sought me out for their own... reasons. I guess they figured that if I was down with having consensual sex with another willing and healthy adult, then I owed it to them (as "their female Soldier") to oblige them after having been out there without any action for so long. I reported every single one of them who propositioned me, especially one who somehow got it in his head that my fall-from-grace was the only permission he needed to follow me places and call me names in front of my team: I'll call him "R" because he's a fucking Retarded Redneck whose Retrograded Reasoning Resembles 3rd Reich era Ridiculousness and was quite possibly also a Racist.

"R" never left me alone after that, he loved to ask me if I was carrying my lover's baby and what diseases he gave me (NO and NONE: I've never had an STD in my life and I have medical records to prove it.) He followed me and my roommate, whom I couldn't fucking stand any-way because everything was non-stop Jesus-banter from her, almost everywhere. He looked for excuses to come pounding on the door to our quarters to 'remind us' about any trivial little thing. The night my 'relationship' was discovered, "R" forced his way into my room and shoved me into a wall, he purposely smacked my head into it.

I myself reported him alone on at least five occasions in less than two weeks, my roommate had her head so high in the clouds I think she really was looking for angels. She told me I deserved it for making such a mistake, she was angry at me for him being a twat. Okay, sugar-plum, where you come from I guess victim-shaming in a social norm. Oh, you're from Georgia? Fucking figures. Despite "R" treating us both like crap, she regarded him like family and he could do no wrong as long as he was coming after my "heathen-ass" as well. After a while I had lost track of my complaints about "R" and his threatening behavior, even then not a single NCO or Officer in my unit did anything to stop him.

I broke the rules, I got into trouble and got my first (and only) Article 15. Fine, I fucked up, I get it. But since when is Sexual Harassment and Assault an acceptable means of punishment by the UCMJ?

If it were simply a matter of making a mistake, having my sentence carried out and being done with it then I might have just been able to accept the situation and move on with my life. But after everything went down the way it did, to this day I am convinced that my only real mistake was playing the same game as my male-counterparts and beating them at it: One of the very same team-mates bragged about having nailed a female "butter-bar" (a less than flattering term for an Army 2nd Lieutenant.) I even got asked out on a date by a Lieutenant Colonel at the coffee-stand in front of a number of other Soldiers, they could have cared less!

I looked my own C.O. in the face and told him EVERYTHING that had transpired since it began: About being forcibly pushed into a solid wooden wall, being called names and propositioned for sexual favors on a near constant basis, on one occasion another Soldier from a whole other unit on the FOB came to me asking me to "help him" because someone (gee, I wonder who) had told him that I was the lady to talk to about that sort of thing.

To this very day, to the best of my knowledge and inquiry, no action whatsoever was taken against "R" nor my negligent "leadership" for encouraging him.

What does yet another horror-story about sexual harassment and misconduct against women in the military have to do with religion? Good question. Because since day one of the deployment itself, I have had almost non-stop day-after-day verbal confrontations with fellow Soldiers about the fact that I didn't have the same imaginary friend many of them do. General Order Number One expressly forbids attempting to convert or in any way preaching to a local National any religion at all, yet some Soldiers still left Chick-Tracts in public places where Iraqis were likely to find them. I even came across one printed (from a computer) in Arabic!

For almost the entire time I was there, before AND after my dealings with my "boyfriend," I heard no end of my apparent short-comings and faults due to my inherent absence of belief in the christian god. Apparently I had no morals (even though I didn't lie) and I also had no respect for the rights of others around me (even when they kept me awake for almost four consecutive days by randomly beating on the door to my room and cat-calling me.) Obviously, faith in god lays some pretty convincing frame-work for social harmony and morality, eh boys?

It's perfectly acceptable to break the rules for a good cause, be it "spreading the Word" or getting laid. As long as you are, of course, a man.

Only one other person in the team stood up for me and dared call them out on their bullshit, they rewarded his bravery by shipping him away. This man I now regard as the brother I didn't have the privilege of growing up with. As for me, they read me the riot act: It was bad enough that an act of consensual sex (a concept the military has always had trouble understanding) brought "shame" upon me and the unit (but allowing a psychopath to hound and harass me to no end was just fine) but then I needed to be taught a lesson (that my vagina is Company property and I have no say over who gets to see it or if I even consent to it, gotcha boss-man...) all of this I HAD to understand.

After all, according to my supervising NCO who coerced the confession out of me by locking me in a room with a wild-eyed "R" and my other superiors...

"The UCMJ was modeled after the Bible."

Hey I never said I was a GOOD person, just an HONEST one. I'd rather live my life as "the Whore of Babylon" who at least had the balls to tell the truth about a difficult personal affair than as a deluded bully and fraud whose only goal in life was to wield as much power over others as they thought they could get away with.

Apparently the very same old book that tells followers that it's permissible to stone skeptics and sinners to death has been the driving force behind our armed forces and how they conduct themselves toward the enemy and each other, well hot piss! If THIS is honestly the case, then I'll have nothing further to do with either. If THIS is the standard of behavior for what is meant to be "modeled after the Bible," then our military has far bigger problems than anything that terrorists or North Korea could ever throw at us.

As a footnote I'd like to add that since all of this transpired in 2011, ONLY ONE Soldier had the decency to apologize to me for his behavior: it wasn't "R"

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Oh Dear...

Some film-makers just want to watch the world burn. And then there's Ridley Scott, whom never ceases to both amaze AND infuriate me: 

I had a wee bit of a drunken "rant" about a little mess left over from PROMETHEUS that never quite got cleaned up. I'm not proposing a definite fix for that big of a problem, but as a long-time fan of the series I wouldn't mind being part of the solution!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Backlog This

I am in a pretty good deal of pain every day of my life. Back in February of 2012, I volunteered to take a Diagnostic APFT so I could apply for a position on a US Army FET Contingent (Female Operation Team.) It took our military 10+ years to figure out that local women in predominantly muslim countries will ONLY  talk to other women. Since my first few years of military life were something of a disappointment for me, I figured I'd start the application process to do something with "the REAL Army" for a change. One step in the application process is an APFT score above 70% in each event, part of what that diagnostic APFT was for was to get my packet started if I had passed.

I had already failed at Push-Ups, but since it's a practice-run it doesn't count. Then came Sit-Ups, usually that's the hardest part for me. There's a general assumption that women are better at Sit-Ups because of how our hips are situated. I call bullshit on that one, in fact, we suck at them. The two-minute timer kicks off and I blast about half-way through before I feel a huge SNAP!

It felt like something exploded inside my shoulder and then tried to close in on itself like a black-hole. THEN it began to burn.

Of course I started crying, it hurt like a mother-fucker. I was also pissed off and frustrated, I had already put this off for far too long and now this is just another wrench in the gears of my plans. Despite my protests, they made me finish the last even: A two mile run which I could barely jog (I failed, in my defense I've always passed the timed-run with shining colors in the past.) Again, since this was a voluntary diag, they didn't count it officially.

I spent the next year or so seeking medical treatment for my injury, not once hearing a solid diagnosis as to what was actually wrong with me. The first doctor I contacted told me everything from Arthritis, Fybromialgia, Scoliosis, "just a bad muscle-spasm" and at one point told me that he thought I was making it all up. Another doctor told me that I ripped up my Trapezius & Rhomboid muscles into ribbons and I now have more scar-tissue than muscle in my right shoulder.Only within the last month or so did I FINALLY find out what the real problem was: 

Herniated and Bulging Disks, they press onto very sensitive spinal nerves and cause massive 'electrical damage' much along the same lines of frayed wires shooting off sparks.

The procedure-in-progress shown above, basically a variant of an Epidural going directly into my spine using anti-inflammatory drugs to calm the angry nerves, relieved my pain for about a day. The following morning I was back at square-one, repeat procedures yielded about the same results: I was my normal self for about 24 hours, the next day I couldn't even turn my head from side to side. One of the disks in question, the biggest culprit, can be seen just above the head-end of that giant needle sticking into of me. It's choking the life out of a group of nerves that go into my right shoulder, the nerves end at my hand.

On particularly bad days I'm woozy and mere nodding kills me, there are days where I have to physically force myself to get out of bed. I get these headaches that start with my neck muscles tightening up like an internal anaconda choking it's prey, then slowly moving up the back of my head until it finds it's nasty snakey-self inside my skull somewhere: I can't do a damned thing when it gets to that point.

This injury is so painful that I can't even carry my own purse anymore.

The weirdest injuries are the ones that you can't really see. A Combat-Veteran without a limb or two is an unfortunately common occurrence, but most military injuries aren't so obvious. Hell, mine isn't even combat related. And what was even MORE irritating was being on a can't-do-shit profile for over a year: It seemed like when I WAS an able-bodied combat-ready Soldier, nobody really needed me around for anything. But now that I'm practically a fucking Invalid I was getting phone-calls halfway through appointments wondering where the hell I was, never mind the fact that I was otherwise constantly being dragged to the Motor-Pool or some other menial bitch-work that my profile would put into question.

And the best part of this ordeal is that not only have less-than-understanding "leaders" casually accused me of faking it despite all manner of evidence to the contrary, but my own doctor led me along for months telling me he'd put me in for a Medical Evaluation Board (but never actually did, boy was my face red when I found out!) So now here I am with one foot out the door with little other recourse than an already strained and back-logged VA system.

I am NOT going to wait 2 years to see a doctor without calling someone in Congress and throwing a very messy bitch-fit about it.

Assuming I can get my files in order, make the VA do their jobs or publicly humiliate them while trying, I may still never get my full benefits from this injury legitimately sustained on the Army's time-card. And if I hand them my two-inch-thick folder of medical paperwork and they deny it, which can happen in some cases, I won't rest until SOMEONE gets shit-canned for not doing their job.

I spent a year in one of the shittiest places on Earth so that you can put gas in your tank, now the VA is GOING TO fix my goddamn spine or I'm GOING TO hold them publicly accountable for failing me.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Crazy Will Always Find You

Leaving your religious community can be painful. I recently had a chance to "meet" two very interesting people. One man is from the UK who recently left the Jehovah Witnesses because he was sick of the toxic 'environment' that they apparently need to survive as an organization:

The other is a man twice divorced, virulently sexist and homophobic, and is trying to JOIN the Jehovah Witnesses. I am very strongly under the impression that he may only be doing so just so he can get out of the Army, I can't fathom why else someone at his rank and pay-grade (and all the perks of his particular MOS) would walk away from a job that offers free health-care for himself and his family. 

People will do all kinds of weird shit over religion, but you knew that already.

 I count myself as lucky that trading faith for reason, while very painful at times, didn't cost me much as far as friends or family. BOTH of the people I just mentioned have something in common: They have lost the support of their communities and they are trying to make them suffer for leaving them. One has been disassociated  by his congregation, the other is well... trying to quit his job.

Childish jealousy-issues aside, sometimes when someone leaves a particular denomination or faith there is a proverbial tsunami of backlash against that person. They feel betrayed, they promptly denounce them and in some cases (as my British friend soon discovered) publicly harass and humiliate the "Apostate" perhaps to try and shame or frighten them into returning.

Now that I think about it, it sounds a bit like a bad marriage.

All religion really does is lay down unrealistic sets of rules for their followers and decry outsiders because they don't follow them. Apparently it's okay to bend or break some of these rules by attacking heretics who dare criticize them, and therein lie the problem of religion in general: It's not just the whack-jobs that practice this public shunning, to a point it's all of them.

If an ex-Christian leaves their church, the typical response given by remaining adherents goes a bit like "Oh then obviously s/he wasn't truly saved." Which is dumb because it implies that if you disagree, even in the slightest degree (which ALL churches do, otherwise there wouldn't be so many of them ALL claiming the One Truth) then you were never a real believer. I use Christianity because it's the most prevalent example in Western society, so then because there are so many "brands" out there on the market, the definition of a believer is going to vary so greatly that the idea of a "true believer" cannot be solidly established or defined.

"Then you were never a Christian in the first place." Then by your own logic, neither are you.

OBVIOUSLY, that person thought long and hard about deciding to stop showing up to meetings. By your own 'rules' the only thing you can really do this day and age (without going to prison for murder) is "turn the other cheek." If you lot were really so righteous, the thought of someone walking away wouldn't bother you in the slightest.

As for getting out of the Army, surely one could have just as easily come up with something more original than joining a cult. Of course, it WOULD BE easier for you to get along in a group where women have no say and "fags" don't exist, because in the real world that shit won't stand and everyone knows it.

How about instead of writing your name on a piece of paper (that you might really really REALLY want to take off of it in the near future) you make a doctor's appointment, sneak a fork in your sleeve, then say "Doctor! It hurts when I do THIS!" and then stab yourself in the knee.

You'll be out in no time.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Don't Try This At Home

NCO's Behaving Badly. Life in the military poses some unique challenges for service-women, but can I personally guarantee that there's nothing that needs on-the-spot correcting THIS URGENTLY:

The military doesn't need more budget cuts, it needs to start flat-out firing people that do dangerous things like THIS. 

I CAN, however, almost certainly guarantee that were it possible to actually get "fired" from the military like any other job, rape and sexual harassment would be nearly eliminated overnight.

Sounds Legit

Sadly... I saw this on Memebase and it made me wonder...
... Is it any wonder why Atheists and Wiccans (seem to) get along so well? I'm of the opinion that believing in less violent bullshit is, well... still bullshit.

Let's see how many more ellipses I can put in this post...

I guess you could say that the last nail in the coffin for me was hammered down while I was deployed. This is going to sound bad, but in a war-zone, you get used to violence. After a while, distant fire-fights and mortars don't scare you as much. I was what is commonly refered to as a "Pogue" aslo known as a "Fobbit." My job in the Army is not necessarily combat related, but that doesn't mean that combat doesn't find you on occasion (usually in the form of bombs.)

But to this day the most sickening things I've seen from other human beings came from those wearing the same uniform as me, but that's for another post (I've run out of wine.) I just don't get how any all-knowing ever-present being, from ANY pantheon, could ignore such a festering SNAFU as the Iraq War. Worse yet, many Soldiers and Veterans that I still talk to tell me their combat experiences have strengthened their beliefs. I now have a better idea of why battered lovers refuse to leave their abusive partners, perhaps the two situations are not so different...

My last week in Iraq (Baghdad,) I watched a rocket hit a small building with Military Police inside. I'm reasonably certain that some of them were killed.  

The thing about life (and death) in a combat-zone is that you hear the mortar/rocket/bomb hit, there's sometimes an alarm that's usually supposed to go off and warn people followed by the "All-Clear" signal, then if you go back to your room and the internet is down it usually means that someone died in the attack. They shut down internet services to prevent that Soldiers' family from finding out via Facebook.

I don't know anything about those MPs, probably never met them. What did THEY believe in, if anything? Did they pray every day, meditate or speak in tongues... the god that they probably dedicated their lives to, I can't help but wonder if they were afraid in the end and perhaps called out for him... then what?

Crumbling concrete, an alarm... silence (Exeunt.)

People have the right to believe as they wish and on their own terms, but if that were me bleeding out under rubble and hearing only my own straining voice calling out for mercy from my so-called creator, only to behold everything fading to black, I'd imagine I might feel pretty angry and scared. Look where my years of Sunday Sermons and thousands of dollars on devotional books has gotten me, and now it's over.

Pardon me, but I have a serious problem with the idea of a benevolent deity "calling home" such a loyal servant in such a disgusting manner. That'd be a bit like whatever company you work for "promoting you to District Manager" by shooting you in the dick.

Are people so afraid of The Great Beyond that they'll hang off from whatever insanity they can barely grasp like scared monkeys in a forest-fire? Are you really so certain of your convictions that if a rocket were to hit you out of the sky RIGHT NOW, that there wouldn't be some shred of doubt lingering in your mind?

Imagine then what people who believe in reincarnation and "energy" must be thinking, if this had happened to them: Almost there, just a moment more... damn it's cold, I though this was a desert. Wait a sec, nothing's - (dead.) People can't contemplate death because we don't have any experience close enough to it, and NDE's have so far been proven to be little more than high-powered hallucinations caused by the brain shutting itself down.

Maybe when I eventually die, all that LSD will catch up to me.

No amount of prayer or 'energy' in the universe will stop an incoming RPG, as you've no doubt observed. And you'd be very hard pressed to convince me that this is all the plan of a loving god who wants what's best for us. Right, because god clearly knows that war benefits EVERYONE. Maybe shit just happens and sometimes people die in the process, is that really so hard to understand?

After I got home, I never did any spell-work again. After having endured a whole year of almost non-stop despair and horror (but there were a few good times, too) It kinda forced me to really sit and think about why I would anymore. Spells can't even guarantee a winning lotto ticket or a job interview, so who am I to think it can do jack to stop someone from getting killed in the most horrible way I can think of? If witch-craft is a crap-shoot at best, since I've been told time and time again "it doesn't work that way" then why do it in the first place?

Either magic isn't real or I musta' been rolling 1's all these years.

I'm really not trying to be rude or disrespectful, Wiccans and Pagans take a lot of heat from mainstream monotheists just like... well, almost everyone who isn't a theist. But I just couldn't walk away from these questions and I challenge you reading this to think this over, too: If you can't stop a rocket, or summon one yourself, then what is it all for?

As for my old crystals, I'm going to give them to a friend. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Pile of Shit

Being an Atheist won't make you smarter.

My, non-believing types sure are a popular lot lately, no? Could this have been an inevitable consequence of a Post-Bush America? Possibly that young people will look for absolutely any reason to rebel and fit-in at the same time?

When I was in High School, I worshiped the very stages that Marilyn Manson tromped and pissed on: He was brash, batshit-crazy and everyone else hated him. My Mom found my copy of Antichrist Superstar, which I paid for by tucking away my lunch-money, and started going to a support group after work. Any of you who have kids can look forward to such things when they hit about 12 years old.

"Not my kid!" You say? Ha-ha okay, if you say so...

To my horror, Chuck Taylors are back in fashion with a vengeance along with glittered make-up, testicle-choking pants and obnoxious plastic glasses (not all that different from the ones I used to get beat-up for wearing.) But for the first time in a long time, perhaps for the first time ever, doubt and skepticism are the new Black. I can't think of any other part of the history of civilization where openly proclaiming disbelief didn't put someone (in our little corner of the world, there are other countries where Atheists are executed) next in line for being set on fire.

Everyone wants to feel special, the kind of warm fuzzy "I belong" that previously we could always count on the blissful ignorance of religion to provide. So what's with thousands up on thousands of "New Atheist" Un-Holy Hipsters that Hitchens' would Hissy-Fit about had he lived to see this?

Am I glad to see masses breaking away from the ties that bind to blind faith and even violence? Absolutely! But I have to ask if there are a lot of us out there that are in this for the wrong reasons, maybe there are some out there who really are just angry.

As for me, I've had enough of people making lame excuses for their bad behavior and saying "It's okay for me because an invisible dude told me so in this book he wrote."

I understand that people are going to disagree, I've been called a psychopath and a "gun-nut" just because I own a firearm or two. I've been called a whore and a disgrace to women because I openly admit that *GASP* I like sex. I thought this was supposed to be a movement that embraced logic and reason instead of rationalized judgementalism and dick-baggery. You can own a gun without having a violent streak, you can enjoy sex without shaming yourself. How about instead of jumping to conclusions for the sake of public opinion, we actually walk our talk?

Besides, at least prostitutes are honest.

No one likes a bully, or a busy-body and especially a know-it-all. I have been accused of all three of these, but the difference is I can at least be civil with people that I don't agree with (until I am given proper reason not to be, in which case I'd rather just walk away.) The side with the sharpest Zing doesn't necessarily win the debate, if that were true you'd win every chess match you engage in just by flipping the board. Go on, try this and see how far you get.

There's questioning a person's opinions and beliefs and then there's being a bully. Sadly, I seem to be seeing a lot of the latter from the younger Atheists I meet. You don't have to hit someone or call them a name to be a bully.

All you need is something to prove and nothing better to do.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Dilemma

Much Ado About Very Little Indeed. There are almost no available resources for Atheists who de-converted from Wicca (such as myself) What gives, Interwebs? Even Richard Dawkins' own organization, whom at one point produced a feature-length documentary debunking New-Age pseudo-spirituality, is strangely lacking Ex-Wiccans as a viable category of supporters. Surprising, given at one point it was said to be the fastest growing religion in America (come to think of it, I can't help but wonder if that was ever true.)

There's sure no lack of action for those of us who pulled proverbial bags over our heads and ran straight into the arms of Christianity, some of them even wrote (laughable) books about this. I don't know what to say, except that I feel lost. SURELY I can't be the only one out there who had just had enough bull-shit for one life-time.

And what am I supposed to do with all my old "stuff?"

There's a big plastic bin full of dried plants and shiny rocks, mysteriously no one I know who still "practices" wants anything to do with it. I used to wear a silver pentacle ring on my right hand, I gave it to a good friend who has been having some hard times: All it seemed to do was confuse him. I had a stack of candles and holders that seemed to vanish rather quickly when offered to needy non-pagan friends, but I still have my statues. THOSE were expensive, I suppose I could keep them as Art, but there are just too many memories of sky-clad wishes and rituals that never came to fruition. They're just pretty pieces of brass, wood and rock.

I am, however, keeping a small selection of my old books purely for reference. I think there are some serious lessons to be learned from my myth-adventures, the rest are at the bottom of the plastic bin in my room.

But I'm keeping my seashell collection, dammit. I worked hard to find all of those.

This just isn't me anymore. I still love to walk through forests and along rivers, but now I have a different kind of appreciation for them as what they are instead of what they might be able to do for me. The trees are living organisms that amaze in their own way, who cares what might (not) happen if I set a small piece on fire in an incense for Isis. My dreams have always been vivid and full of emotion, not messages from dead pets: If the dead COULD talk, they'd have better things to tell us than 'just saying hi.' A winning lotto ticket would be lovely, is that somehow asking too much? Is "The Universe" afraid of what I might spend that money on?

And this is kinda the problem: Wicca, Astrology and other commonly cherished New-Age ideas aren't so much dangerous as they are "cosmically Immature" (you like that? I came up with it) The odds of seeing anybody blow up a clinic or assassinate a political figure because Brighid told them to are relatively slim, but violence aside it's just as asinine. Why are you gathering your friends in the woods to walk around a camp-fire in the hope of "manifesting change" when a good sit-down with them at a coffee shop or perhaps even casting your vote can just as easily (and more likely) accomplish the very change you are probably hoping for?

While you were probably 'sending positive energy into the Universe' or reading The Secret wishing that things will go your way if you just pretend hard enough, a convoy full of Soldiers just got blown up in Afghanistan. This is not pretend, it's quite real. I've served alongside Christians, Wiccans and Atheists alike: Roadside bombs don't care what flavor Kool-Aid you prefer to drink, the result is the same regardless. When I was in Iraq, I had often pondered what a conversation with a so-called Medium would be like if s/he had been right there beside me for the entire year. If this person's abilities were genuine, if the dead could indeed show themselves and talk to us, of all situations a Combat-Zone seems the most appropriate: Thousands of men and women who were thinking about, just as well probably praying for, their families and loved ones back home lost at the press of a button. Maybe, if they were very lucky, they'll have their names carved into a piece of stone at Arlington to be lost among the great many "occupants" before them.

BOOM! I'm dead! Well, fuck. I'll never see my family or my kids again! Now what do I do for all eternity? I know, I'll go make objects move...

Doesn't it also seem just a little bit silly that none of these modern-day-mages has been successfully able to raise a corpse or cast something vaguely resembling Magic-Missile? If they could, we would have won both wars a long damn time ago. Or maybe we would have lost anyway, depending on when "the Power of Prayer" decided to kick in. Thy-Will-Be-Done rarely seems to enter the minds of those whose squad-mates have just been annihilated in battle, does it? If magic and prayer were real, why does war still happen? Why do otherwise good people continue to suffer while seemingly bad ones prosper? You'd think, if anyone could effectively fix such human issues, it'd be a witch or a wizard.

No Dice, not even a D20.

That's just life, if any mystical forces or beings DID exist they'd have never left us in the first place. Conjuring faeries and angels to fix your problems is on the same level of delusional as speaking in tongues, you'd be much better off simply confronting your asshole boss or changing what you eat than lighting certain colored candles. Flowers and mountains are still fucking awesome and continue to be as such without spirits or gods dwelling within or around them, why spend this one existence asking them for favors when we know they can't answer us?

It's quite literally talking to a rock. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Happiness Is...

I bought a gun today. While my husband and I both own several firearms of varying types, this is the first one that I myself had purchased from a licensed store (Arizona is a Community Property State.) I had been looking for a revolver for some time now, a small and inconspicuous but reliable handgun for open-and-concealed carry. This is a military town, almost half it's residents are either current or retired members of the Armed Forces: VERY Republican, and it shows. I can't take a crap at any public toilet without wanting to wipe myself with any number of anti-government propaganda papers that some 'considerate' stranger had left behind.

The Tea Party practically runs this town. 

I've been to this shop many times to pick up ammo for our other guns, John and I go target-shooting on a somewhat regular basis: There's an outdoor range on the outskirts of town that gives a pretty sweet discount for Veterans and Soldiers. Today was the day I finally added that desired piece to our collection: A Smith & Wesson 442 "Air-weight" revolver, a 5-shooter that takes .38 Ammunition but is rated safe for .38+P rounds.

I don't expect you to know what any of that means.

All I had to do was fill out a piece of paper, wait for the manager to make a phone call to the FBI for a 5-minute background check (which I passed) and $500 later I took it home, along with two boxes of .38 rounds for practice at the range tomorrow. Until then they are safely stored and locked in separate containers, the gun itself in a small resin-plastic box and the ammunition on the top shelf inside our metal gun-safe. All in all, the process was painless, granted that Arizona has some of the most lenient firearm laws in the entire United States.

But I did notice something odd when I was filling out the form and it makes me wonder. There's a section of several "yes or no" questions, among them were questions regarding one's mental health status. I don't know what would happen to someone who has ever been committed or diagnosed with a mental illness, depending on what it was and how severe, but from my perspective it looked like all you'd have to do is put the "right" answer down on the paper.

I'm just wondering, if you turn out to be a nutter does anyone actually document it? If James Holmes actually did go see a shrink not long before legally buying a gun and shooting up a theater full of people, did that psychiatrist actually fill out THEIR OWN PAPERS on Holmes and if they did what happened to them? I can't help but wonder if the weaknesses of our mental health structure are a giant tear in the moth-eaten fabric of society for dangerous people to lie their way through and wreak havoc. Unless I'm wrong, it looks literally TOO EASY for a mentally unstable person to legally purchase a gun (so long as s/he hasn't committed a felony... yet.)

I'm not a rifle-waving gun-nut by any mean or measure, I just enjoy going to the range and practicing. In fact, I'm a card-carrying Democrat.

People have been dying at the hands of psychopaths since the dawn of humanity, sadly I don't see that changing any time soon. A lot of people are, understandably, upset over the poor handling and lack of prevention of public incidents involving guns. I would agree that the system is failing people and the innocent lives that pay for that are far too many. I don't think it's a question of HOW, but CAN we keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous people without diminishing what "Shall not be infringed?" 

I don't blame the guns nor the bullets, It'd be arrogant of me to do so. I can't blame the merchants or manufacturers either, shit I can't even blame Hollywood. How is it their fault that people who are already on the brink one day decide to do what they pretty much have for centuries? Mass killing involving guns is nothing new: The earliest known incident of a school-shooting in America dates all the way back to 1764, that's before we were even a unified nation. I don't think guns are the problem, it's humanity.

But the law is written in such a way that banning guns is actually illegal (and with good reason.) I've heard some convincing comparisons between the super-far-left Liberal side's push to bottle-neck access to personal weapons to similar means that Conservative efforts have tried to ban abortion and snuff marriage equality: Just as dumb from the other side of the fence. I know you don't want to hear this, but people kill each other every day. Most of the time they don't need a gun to do it.

Do you have any idea how easy it is to walk into Home Depot with a pile of cash and stroll on out with all the necessary ingredients for a home-made IED? And guess what? There's no background check for cut lengths of PVC pipe and boxes of nails.

Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people and wounded almost 800, he accomplished one of the most bloody acts of terrorism our nation has ever seen prior to 9-11. He did this with materials that anyone, even convicted criminals, are allowed to have and work with. What he did was inexcusable, disgusting and horrifying, and unfortunately unstoppable. It's so easy to look back at violence and say "what could I have done?" This is an understandable reaction, people are traumatized and want to make things "normal" again. Police studies show that many rape victims have been known to change their clothes, even clean their houses, before the police show up to investigate. It's the same mechanism, different circumstances.

We inherently want to go about our lives as though nothing ever happened,  but this just isn't so. Children and teachers were slaughtered like animals in Newtown and no amount of 'regulation' is going to take that pain away or bring dead family members back. I'm sorry, I really am.

The problem isn't guns killing people, it really is people killing people. People who aren't their normal selves or under a severe amount of stress, people who just snap one day and take to a University Clock-Tower. We live in a violent world where people strap bombs to their chests and others shoot up public buildings. Even if you could snap your finger and make all guns go away everywhere, a truly driven murderer will just find another way.

But does that mean we should let just ANYBODY get their hands on a gun? No, I don't think so. Clearly steps need to be taken to prevent as much damage as possible: I've heard suggestions of taking a psych-eval before applying for a conceal-carry permit, or not allowing anyone in a household to own a weapon if even one family-member has a mental illness. Far from perfect ideas, but where do we begin? And how do we enforce the law without violating the rights of sane law-abiding citizens who DO own guns? It's a very hard line to draw!

The manager of the store got off the phone from my background-check, he smiles at me while he writes something on my application for the S&W:

"Good news, according to the FBI they said you're a very nice lady." I call back at John, "Did'ja hear that, love? The FBI thinks that I don't fart!"

If they are unaware of my non-lethal flatulence, I can't help but wonder what any other less-than-honest person could write on a piece of paper and purchase.

A Declaration

My name is J. L. Chadbourne: I'm an artist, an OIF Veteran and an author. 

I'm currently working on a book about the Iraq War (but it's taking me longer than I'd like it to.)

I've been married to my amazing husband John for four years, no we don't have any kids but so far that's fine by us. I also have the world's greatest Best Friend, Ian, who currently resides in Maryland.

John and I are ruled by our two Feline Over-Lords, Mio and Mayu.

I met Neil Armstrong just over a year before he died, I have his autograph (somewhere...)

I've also met Justin Timberlake, Nikki Sixx and some members of Slayer. Oh yeah, and Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) but for a Republican she actually seemed like a decent human being to me. I doubt ANY of them remember me, though.

I'm obsessed with MINECRAFT.

I'm a pretty huge Nine Inch Nails fan! But I also like Glitch Mob, Bjork and even a bit of the ol' Ludwig-Van.

On occasion I read books and review them on YouTube, but I'd really like to do more than just that. But feel free to have a gander anyway.

I have done A LOT of stuff in my near 32 years of being alive, not all of it was good (but it sure wasn't all bad, either.) I have met some very amazing (and awful) people. I've even loved some of them, as well as genuinely hated others. There's lots of people that I know, but have never met: Certainly not for lack of wanting to.

I have three tattoos and I want more.
I have never seen the process of another human being be born, but I have watched several as they suddenly die.

No great big mystery behind any of it, that's just life (and death.) I think making shit up just complicates things far more than they need to be. Even I, after-all, am just a big walking sack of cells and I am not at all bothered by this.

My name is J. L. Chadbourne: I'm an Atheist.