Family, History and Love

Wanda and I have been discussing, of late, the need to set down in writing some portion of our family history so that in the future our children and grandchildren will have the stories and tales of our lives direct from the source. The technophile that I am, I choose to do this online so that the what we write will be accessible and available for comment to our wider family (though I reserve the right to moderate those comments).

To that end, I have repurposed this blog. In coming posts, we will endeavor to provide an abridged story of our life (hey, everyone has their secrets). We're writing this for our children and their children and those that come later so elements of these tales will be familiar only to our family,

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Vote 2008

I don't normally write about politics. My blog is primarily reserved for my photography projects and family events. This year, however, I feel that the state of our country requires me to speak out. Since my blog is where I share my opinions and comments, it seems most appropriate that I speak here.

Let me preface the remainder of my post by stating that I would never presume to tell anyone how to vote. That's an individual and very personal decision and depends greatly on your world view, your perception of what is needed to make your life, and the lives of those your care about, better. But, I will tell you what it is that has lead me to my vote in hope that it might persuade others to rethink their positions or at least to consider the options.

I'm sure that because of the banner above, you already know how I plan to vote, and many of you have immediately labeled me as a liberal. You may be correct from your perspective, but from my point of view, I'm both moderate and independent. And before you assign to me any particular stereotype, consider my background and my beliefs.

I retired from the US Navy after over 20 years of active duty service in the Submarine Force. I was trained as a Nuclear Reactor Operator and worked my way to the rank of Senior Chief Petty Officer before I retired. My military background has reinforced my belief in a strong national defense, but certainly within limits, and I know the pain of long separation from my family on the orders of others. I understand the dedication of our nation's service men and women, but I also know the arrogance of many of our nation's leaders when it comes to using these men and women for their own agenda.

My years in nuclear engineering have shown me that nuclear power can be a safe and clean energy source, but it has also taught me how important it is to have strong regulations and control of the industry and the disposal of the hazardous waste.

I was born and raised in the rural south and began attending school before they were desegregated in my county. My family was not well off. Neither of my parents ever finished elementary school, much less high school, and they struggled to get ahead. Both of my parents worked, and my dad took on extra jobs during the holidays to provide for us. Eventually, life did get better, but only through my parent's hard work.

My father is a devout minister and my family is by and large devout Christians. So, I have seen first hand how faith can help people get through hard times. I've also seen the ugly side of religion when people start to believe they are better than those around them because they believe their particular dogma is superior to all others.

I have a strong belief in family, and I have been married to the same woman for over 30 years. We raised three children and now have three grandchildren who we adore. Family is important, but the "family values" espoused by the religious right have less to do with family and everything to do with political power and imposing their beliefs on others.

I'm an Independent. I've voted for both Democrats and Republicans in the past, choosing to cast my vote for the person and not for the party. I still feel that way, but the modern Republican Party and its current affiliation with religious fundamentalists, xenophobes, and run by a small coterie of NeoCons frightens and disgusts me.

This is a party who policies of unilateral nationalism and corporate cronyism and enfranchisment have lead to:

1. A military stretched thin by two wars, repeated and extended deployments, and inadequate care for our veterans. The slogan "Support the Troops" meant nothing when it came time to vote for veterans health care, educational benefits, and body armor.

2. A squandered budget surplus and trillions of dollars in national debt. Corporations and CEO's have been enriched, while banks and stock markets have careened out of control with little or no oversight and predatory lenders have convince millions of otherwise smart people that they could afford more for less with "creative" financing schemes that have turned out to be deceptive and ruinous.

3. The Bush tax cuts that the Republicans want to make permanent have help to create the greatest gap between the rich and the poor in this country in history. The theory that tax cuts are a panacea for all our ills has been proven to be false and the concept of "trickle down economics" is simply silly.

4. An erosion of civil liberties and personal freedoms that should scare every American citizen to their core. American citizens have been arrested (on American soil) and imprisoned by the military with no access to a lawyer and no charges lodged against them on the mere assertion of the president that they were "unlawful combatants." The government, under the leadership of this Republican president, has tried to destroy the concept of habeas corpus, posse comitatus (through the 2007 Defense Authorization Act and via a signing statement on the 2008 Defense Authorization Act), and has authorized wiretaps on American citizens without warrant. Additionally, the integrity and moral authority of the Justice Department has been undermined by the appointment of Attorney Generals like Alberto Gonzales and the influence of polital appointees who have intervened in and circumvented the recommendation of non-politcal career lawyers. These troubling activities continue today under the tenure of the current AG who has done little to restore the independence and integrity of the Justice Department.

I could go on about other issues such as the erosion of the principle of Church/State separation, the underfunding of educational mandates such as the No Child Left Behind Act, the use of torture and disdain of the Geneva Conventions, as well as the lack of a coherent and realistic foreign policy and the loss of America's respect among its allies and friends around the world.

What bothers me most, though, is the extreme partisanship, dirty tricks, dishonesty and arrogance of this current administration, and I just don't see that changing under a new president whose voting record supports that of the current president in all things that matter.

I believe in the Constitution of the United States of America. I swore an oath in 1975 to protect and defend this instrument of our freedom against all enemies foreign and domestic, and I renewed that oath several times during my subsequent 21 years in the military. This means I believe in the freedom of expression (not in free speech zones), the freedom of (and from) religion and the separation of Church and State. The right to privacy and the rule of law, and the right to be secure in my person and in home (not in warrantless searches wiretaps, searches, and seizures or in indefinite imprisonment without charge or a trial by a jury of my peers) are paramount liberties in my book.

It also means that I believe in the principle of checks and balances designed with great forethought by our Founding Fathers who personally experienced the capriciousness and arrogance of a "unitary executive" known as the King of England. Our Constitution was designed specifically to limit and balance the power of the executive branch with strong judiciary and legislative branches of government. The concept that a president, of any political stripe, could unilaterally declare war, imprison citizens, and override legislative acts through executive signing statements would be an anathema to the patriots that envisioned our democratic process.

For these reasons, and many more, I am voting for Senator Obama. I believe he will restore dignity and honor to the presidency by restoring the rule of law and the principles upon which this country was founded. And yes, my vote for Senator Obama is as much against the Republican Party as it is for him personally, but John McCain has shown by his voting record and by his choice of the divisive, and unqualified Sarah Palin (fundamentalist and supporter of the Alaskan Indendence Party), that he can't be trusted to right the American Ship of State. His erratic actions during the current financial crisis, his continued support for the war in Iraq, the Bush tax cuts, and his abrogation of previously stated principles to gain support of the fundamentalist base of the Republican Party give me no confidence in his ability govern or to bridge the partisan divide that currently strangles our country.

So vote how you will, but remember, one definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and yet expect different results.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Moving into Fall

It's getting cooler, wetter, and the leaves are slowly turning into the muted yellows and reds that herald the fall season in the Northwest. The Willamette Valley stays fairly green throughout the fall and winter. With so many evergreens in Oregon, that's not surprising. But the grass also stays pretty green, as do the ferns and many other plant species.

Usually this means it's time to move my photography indoors. This year, I'm going to try to do more outside shooting, including a great idea for glamour in the fog that a good friend of mine gave to me. I'm also hoping for a good snowfall in the valley this year, as I have a couple of ideas I'd like to try in the snow as well.

With the arrival of fall, and definitely with the arrival of grandchildren, we've enjoyed going out to Sauvie Island to visit the Pumpkin Patch to choose our pumpkins for carving to let our granddaughter play in fields and on the hay pyramid. This year, we got to take our grandson as well. The only thing that would have made it more fun, would have been to be able to take our other granddaughter along as well. Her mom and dad took her to a pumpkin patch in California where they live, though, and I'm sure they had fun too.

We're going to visit that granddaughter next week. Our son and daughter-in-law think we're coming to see the whole family, but Wanda assures me that we're going there to see the baby. We haven't seen her in about a month (except for on video sharing), and Wanda is getting itchy to hold her again. The period between this visit and Christmas is going to be very difficult for her. It's a good thing Ryker, (our 6 week old grandson) is around for her to cuddle. Of course, it's fun for me too...

Being a grandfather is great fun, and I really enjoy holding and playing with my grandkids. My maternal grandfather died before my mother was born, and my paternal grandfather had very little to do with me, so I've had to wing it. I'm going to try to be as much a part of my grandchildren's lives as they and their parents will allow. Fortunately, they've all been great.