July 19, 2005

Thought of The Day

Some people are like Slinkies. They really don’t serve much purpose, but they can still bring a smile to your face when you push them down a flight of stairs.

Posted by Clancy at 11:27 AM | Comments (1)

July 18, 2005

For my Wife

Saturday I stopped by the greeting card store to pick up a birthday card for my beloved bride since today is her birthday. I’m often rather gifted at buying cards – I usually find one that captures my sentiments and feelings exactly, but I had trouble Saturday. The first little shocker came when I realized that I needed to be looking in the “For Wife” section of the birthday card isle. I’ve never done that before and it was weird. The first card I read was good. It actually brought a tear to my eye, but then again, commercials on TV can do that too. (Have you seen the Nike/Lance Armstrong Oct 8, 1996 press conference commercial!?) Anyway, I kept looking because, well, because that's what I do. I read every “wife” card I could find. Then I came back to the first one. It was still good, but somehow it had lost its initial luster. I wandered around the store, looking at the different cards in other sections. I read more and more, but ultimately came back to the original section and the wound up buying the original card. I signed it and left it for her this morning, and although I really like the message, it seems to be missing something.

To make matters worse, I don’t have a gift. Well, OK, I might have done a little something – but since *I* didn’t wrap it, it still feels like I don’t have a gift. She kept telling me that she doesn’t want anything and besides – she’s getting her present next month. (When Yoda is born.) And truthfully, although we are far from rich, we are fortunate enough that we can get what we want when we want it. (Within reason - we don’t have the 50” Plasma screen TV for the living room. Yet.)

Anyway – I just want to say to my dearest wife – I love you.

And to remind you that:
I can hear the ocean when I look into her your eyes
My heart is swept away like a paper boat on the tide
I’m destined to run aground with her you by my side
Together we’ll wake up to a watercolor sunrise

Happy Birthday!

Posted by Clancy at 1:30 PM | Comments (2)

July 8, 2005

Never the Twain Shall Meet

In the aftermath of horrific events like 9/11 or yesterday's bombings in London, we search desperately for the answer to a single, simple question - "Why?". It's a way of seeking some sort of logical order amidst chaos and confusion, for our species is not particularly comfortable living without order. It's also a means for identifying who or what to direct our anger and anguish towards, for these are powerful emotions that are directly associated with action ("I'm so angry… I've got to DO something!). I understand the need for the search - I do it myself… but it occurs to me that it's a very frustrating, and possibly fruitless, undertaking this time, unless we step a bit outside our normal comfort zone.

This is NOT a political commentary. Politics are a touchy subject that Clancy and I have learned to steer clear of as much as possible. We rarely see eye to eye, and I get very emotional in a discussion. I guess my politics are extremely personal to me - not a matter to be worn on my sleeve for all the world to see, nor something that I feel I should have to justify or explain to anyone else. That being said, I have some thoughts about human nature bouncing around in my head that seem to help me put some context around what is happening in our world. I don't agree with it… I don't condone it… I am no less affected and horrified by it… but context helps me to put a different kind of order around the chaos. Call it food for thought.

In searching for an understanding of why someone would conduct mass terror, we apply our own basic sense of logic in assessing the enemy's motives and goals. This is a mistake. These people have a sense of logic, yes… but it is so vastly different than ours that it's nearly impossible for one to understand the other. Huh? Some examples of what I mean...

• We are dealing with religious fanatics. To these people, there is no separation between religion, government, society, culture or self. It is all one and the same, and they don't understand how we can separate these things any better than we can understand how they cannot.

• Because there is no separation between religion and self, these people do not place the same value on a single human life as we do. In fact, they place no value on a single human life - not their own, nor anyone else's. Protecting and/or advancing the religion is ALL that matters when there is nothing else.

• Without a true sense of self, there is no comprehension that a single person can make a difference or affect change. There is no understanding of the ideals of freedom or democracy. Again, protecting and/or advancing the religion is ALL that matters when there is nothing else, and what greater threat is there to the religion than individuality?

• There is no room for tolerance in religious fanaticism - no room to have different thoughts and opinions. In fact, the fanatic sees only two types of people in this world - those who agree with him and live life as he does, and those who don't… the infidel. He can't understand the infidel at all - for his religious tenants are ALL that he knows and the foundation of everything he is. If you don't agree, if you offer alternatives, you are a threat to the only identity he knows. You are the enemy.

• To a religious fanatic who is driven only by the desire to protect and advance his religious beliefs against his perceived enemies, "life" is nothing more than a fight - a "holy war". A holy war that has been fought for hundreds, if not thousands of years. So now you have a person with no sense of self, with no sense that he can actually make a difference, fighting a "war" that was started long before his birth and that he cannot imagine winning in his seemingly inconsequential lifetime. This is where 'martyrdom' comes from. The highest achievement he can hope for is to inflict as much pain on the enemy as possible at some point in time, and to keep the way as clear as possible for others to do the same.

It's almost impossible for us to understand how someone can think this way, isn't it? We value human life, freedom, individuality and tolerance. We are willing to give our lives to protect these things for ourselves and others. This is every bit as strange and incomprehensible to the religious fanatic as we are to him.

In the context of the religious fanaticism we are faced with, terrorist acts like bombing the World Trade Center and London make sense. It is an attempt to maximize damage to the perceived 'enemy' and keep the 'holy war' raging on. In the context of our own ideals and morals, it is barbaric and senseless murder. Never the twain shall meet.

I realize that I am grossly oversimplifying a very complex psychological state and I don't claim to have any sort of expert knowledge. These are my own personal thoughts and I don't really expect them to make sense to everyone. They do, however, make sense to me - though, and this is critically important, IN NO WAY AM I ATTEMPTING TO JUSTIFY OR EXCUSE WHAT HAS BEEN DONE. It shakes me to the core of my soul, as it should everyone. I am merely trying to illustrate the idea that not everyone thinks the way we do - not everyone is driven by the same goals and desires that we are… and in order to understand how people can do such evil things, we have to step outside of our own context and into theirs. It's extremely uncomfortable and probably only possible to a very limited point… but it's the only way to even begin to grasp why some things happen.

So what is to be done? I don't know.

I know that terrorism and religious fanaticism have existed from the dawn of mankind and will continue to exist for as long as someone feels persecuted… and I suspect that someone will always feel persecuted.

I feel strongly that while the expectation that we will "defeat terrorism" and someday wake up in a world where we can feel completely safe makes for good headlines, it sets us up for terrible disappointment and disillusionment because it can never truly be achieved.

I worry that some people really believe that you can build Gitmos and Abu Ghraibs and "lock up" all the bad guys to defeat the movement and kill the fanaticism. Imagine if religious fanatics overran our way of life with the expectation that we'd abandon our values of freedom and liberty. Would it work? No way! There would be no end to the number of people willing to give their very lives to fight for what we believe in and to help others do the same.

Does this mean that there is nothing we can do? I don't think so. I think that change is possible, but it takes generations, not months or years. It lies in showing people that they are worth something - that a single life does matter - that it is possible for religion to co-exist alongside government - that people with different beliefs and/or backgrounds can live alongside each other in tolerance and understanding. It is a noble undertaking but we should in no way delude ourselves into thinking that we are the masters who have it all figured out. This week in the news there were multiple stories of people being beaten or killed because of the color of their skin - white and black. And ask any practitioner of a pagan or wiccan religion just how much religious freedom they feel they have in this country… No, we cannot get too sanctimonious in this endeavor… but we are on the right path towards an evolution - and we certainly cannot just sit by and let our way of life be cut down by explosions and religious rhetoric. But please… let us understand the 'battle' for what it is, and have realistic expectations about what can be accomplished. And let us look beyond tomorrow or the next day or the next day for the solution, for our situation did not evolve in a matter of months, and it won't be resolved that way either.

Posted by Mrs. Clancy at 5:47 PM

July 7, 2005

I Remember

Over on Helen’s blog, in her comments, Cathy left this comment:

I am a 9/11 survivor and I am here to give you the best advice I know: TURN OFF THE TUBE. Watching the scenes again and again will only add to the inevitable post-traumatic stress and it will gain you NOTHING. TURN OFF THE TUBE. Go outside, put your hands in the dirt, gaze your eyes to the sky, hike until your hips hurt…

When I think back to 9/11, I remember many details about that day. I remember who first told me. I remember how the internet ground to a halt as everyone was trying to get information. I remember going down to the cafeteria where the TV’s were tuned to MSNBC. Big brass was in town and I remember management demanding that the TV’s be turned off and that everyone go back to their offices. Later, when management realized the gravity of the situation, the TV’s came back on. I remember wondering about how they would be able to repair (or demolish) the towers after they got the fires out. When the first tower collapsed, I realized that physics & chemistry had already been at work solving that problem. I remember going outside for a walk at 11:00 AM (lunchtime for people who start work at 6:00 AM) around our beautiful rural campus and noting the complete absence of contrails in the extremely clear blue sky. I remember the discussions I had with my buddy there at work on that walk. He was worried about his family and more attacks. I remember coming back in from that walk to find that management was telling us to go home. It was obvious there was no work getting done that day. Ironically, I remember having done a lot of work that morning before the attacks. I remember getting home only to have my then girlfriend call me to come over. I remember sitting on her couch, crying and watching those dreadful images on TV. I remember our decision to turn off the TV and go for a walk.

And that’s the strange thing. Of all the things I remember most, it’s that walk that always comes to mind first when I think of 9/11. I don’t even remember the exact route, but I remember most parts of it. I think we walked about 5 miles. I remember how very quite and peaceful the whole city was. I remember an old man sitting out front of his apartment building asking me if I was going to sign up tomorrow. It took me half a second to understand his question, then I realized he was talking about the military. I remember somberly telling him that I was willing, but that I was probably already too old and too blind.

After the walk, my memory of the day gets vague. I remember grilling veggies for dinner, but not being too hungry. And I remember resisting the urge to turn the TV back on, but not much else.

Somehow, that walk left a major impact on that day for me. Cathy’s comments are right. Turn off the tube. Go for a walk.

Posted by Clancy at 3:11 PM

The Bloody Seventh

From Der Spiegel

"Rejoice, community of Muslims," the letter states. "The heroic mujahedeens today conducted an attack in London," it continues. All of Great Britain is now shaken and shocked, "in the north, the south, west and east." "We've warned the British government and the British people time and again," the letter adds. "We've kept our promise and have carried out a blessed military operation."

“Heroic” & “Blessed Military operation”!? More like cowardly fools who think that bombing innocent civilians is somehow a military operation.

Mrs. Clancy and I both have our thoughts and prayers with our dearest Helen, whose blog is uncharacteristically silent today. She works in London several days a week and always takes the train (passing through Kings Cross, we believe). Hopefully, she’s merely stuck trying to get home from a city without any trains running. With any luck at all, she’s in a pub somewhere drinking away this most surreal of days.

Update: Helen is safe

Posted by Clancy at 10:05 AM