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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Are We Still Here?

I'm confused.  I first heard that Dec.21st, 2012 was the date that the world was going to end because of the Mayan calendar coming to an end (or Nostradamus predicting it, or whatever you choose to pay attention to), and then a couple of days ago I heard that it was actually going to end on Saturday, May 21st, which of course it didn't.  And now I'm hearing that God is actually going to destroy the universe on Oct.21, 2011, five months AFTER the so-called Rapture. Can people get these dates straight please?  If I'm expected to prepare for the end, I should at least know when the end is going to be.

I was happily sitting with my best friends at my diningroom table drinking a beer when the end of the world was supposed to happen.  I couldn't think of a better place to be if the end was near.  The next day, I searched high and low for stories about the world NOT ending, and barely found a couple.  I guess it's not big news when the world doesn't end.  They were trying to interview Harold Camping, the minister who led his Christian followers to believe that the Rapture was going to happen at 6pm in every timezone, with massive earthquakes and natural disasters, and only those who believe being "saved" and disappearing up into heaven, leaving even their clothes behind.  The media found Mr. Camping at home, somewhat embarrassed and and expressing his "flabberghast" that it didn't happen.  Well, yeah.  Someone put up a billboard on some highway in the US afterwards that said simply "Well, that was awkward."

Some will use this (and already have) as an excuse to belittle all Christians and their beliefs. That, to me, is just as ignorant as following an old man who thinks he can pick the date that the world ends.  Live and let live. I feel a little bad for him, really.  I think this man sincerely believed that it was going to happen, and I think his followers were equally as convinced.  They were not much different from the suicide bombers who were told that if they succeeded in killing infidels in the name of Allah, they would be given the gift of 47 virgins when they arrived in heaven.  Only thing is that you can't prove they don't.  At least with the Rapture, we all know the result.  Awkward, indeed.

There is certainly a lesson to be learned from all of this.  And no, it's not that people who believe in the Rapture or 47 virgins are nuts.  The truth is that the world is going to end for us all one day, although not likely all at once.  We have a limited time on this planet, each of us, regardless of how we believe it's going to happen, or when.  There were a lot of jokes going around online about what we might like to be doing when the end comes...well, we probably won't have a lot of choice about that.  But it does make you think about that bucket list.

The conversation at the diningroom table at around 6pm on May 21st with my good friends was varied and upbeat.  But we did discuss the fact that we are most of us close to or over the age of 50 and we're facing the fact that we'd better get going on those things we've been meaning to do, or the places we've been meaning to visit very soon.  Whether it's like my friend Crystal who worries that there isn't enough time to read all of the books she wants to, or some of us who have always wanted to travel to a certain place, or whether it's just learning to live in the moment, which is my desire;  now's the time to get going and start doing.

So I'd like to thank Mr. Camping for starting that conversation.  I'm not sorry that his prediction didn't come true, and I feel bad that he went so far and did so much to convince us of his theory and only ended up flabberghasted.  But if we're all really smart, we'll use our time left now, however long it may be, to learn to live our lives more fully.


IJ

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Let Hatred Die

I was happily watching the only reality TV show that I can stand, "Celebrity Apprentice", when the station I was watching it on suddenly shared the breaking news that President Obama was going to speak.

I know, why in the world do I watch Celebrity Apprentice? you might be asking yourself.  I normally can't tolerate reality shows of any kind, but for some weird reason, I like that one.  Maybe it's watching these famous people make fools of themselves, or maybe it's the fact that some of them end up being kind of decent after all.  I hate Donald Trump, but I like his show.  What can I say?

Oh, wait...that's not what I wanted to write about.

I've been reading a lot of articles online and in magazines (yep, I still buy the occasional magazine) since the killing of Osama bin Laden, and what his death really means.  Time Magazine had a number of articles from different sources on various aspects of the event, including an interesting essay on the last page called "Where Victory Lies", discussing what bin Laden was able to change about the U.S. and what he couldn't touch, psychologically speaking.  There were interviews with those kids (who are almost grown up now) who were in the classroom with George Bush when he received the news about the twin towers, and there was also an interview with Rudy Giuliani on his perspective.  There were a number of opinion pieces on subjects like Pakistan and the CIA and a very good article describing the actual capture of bin Laden.

And recently there was a story on CNN about one of bin Laden's children who is claiming that international law has been "blatantly violated" because the U.S. basically just went into Pakistan uninvited and shot and killed five people, including the mastermind of the 9/11 devastation.  Well, I can't really say I disagree with him.  But what do you do?  I mean Osama bin Laden broke many laws, killed thousands of people, and was plotting to do even more damage.  So the international law argument is kind of moot in the wake of all that.

What Osama's death means and how it will affect everything from now on is only going to reveal itself with time.

But what I mostly fear is a continuation of this old "eye for an eye" attitude, in that killing bin Laden will only inflame certain groups and continue to prolong this "war on terror" that everyone is always talking about.  I mean, look at the Arab/Israeli conflict...it has gone on now for many years, mostly because they can't stop their revenges and retaliations, which leads to more revenge and retaliation.  The Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, although seemingly at peace with each other, appear to still have some rumblings recently.  Hatred and revenge just can't die.

Even in the U.S., people hate each other, they hate Obama and consider him a Muslim who wasn't even born on U.S. soil.  Not even the release of his official birth certificate could placate them.  TV personalities on both sides of the political spectrum have received too much attention for basically inciting hatred, and the killing of Osama bin Laden isn't going to end that.

So as much as I am...what should I say?  Awkwardly relieved?  Uncomfortably satisfied?...that bin Laden is gone, I think there are far more insidious problems that need to be addressed.  I can't say I would know where to begin, but hatred is certainly a human problem that we need to find a cure for.  Where is it coming from and why does it exist in the first place?  Hatred is a seed that grows and spreads like wildfire...adults pass hate on to their children, religious leaders teach their followers to hate those who do not follow their religion.  We turn our fears of people who are "different" into a hatred of them without even knowing who they are, we hate people of different political views, we even hate our kids' teams' opponents in hockey or baseball! 

It is hatred that comes from ignorance that needs to die.  Bin Laden is a personification of that.  He hated the west so much...the "infidels"...that he spent many lives and much of his money trying to take us down.  He has given a bad name to Muslims, who are as a whole a very peaceful people.  And if we're really smart, which I know we can be, then we have to start looking at our own lives, our prejudices and lack of awareness, and start making changes.

I know.  It's asking a lot.  And maybe I'm naive and/or idealistic to expect that the death of bin Laden is going to do much other than to piss a few more extremists off and cause westerners to do anything more than scream "one for our team", like it's a game.

But I'm not even going to use the word "hate" in my vocabulary anymore.  I simply dislike Donald Trump intensely.  Doesn't feel as powerful, but it'll do...

IJ