Monday, July 25, 2005

ANIMALS MOURN

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By Elaine Meinel Supkis

For many eons there has been debate about whether animals can feel pain (!) or if they can mourn the death of a loved one or remember the past. Many humans cling to the notion that only we do these things. This is so we can brutalize animals and not feel guilty about it.

When people claim they can see the feelings of animals, the Aristotleans scoff. Aristotle was the ancient Greek philosopher who wrote extensively about many things, often quite wrongly, he being a man of his times, unable to see how trapped his mindset was, due to his cultural upbringing.

Debate has raged and still rages. The cruelties of modern farming are an extention of the belief that animals don't feel anything much so who cares what happens to them.

I am not of that school of thought.

Today, Molly, our oldest horse, a very sweet and charming old mare, died. I knew something was wrong when she and her consort, Sparky, didn't show up at the paddock gate looking for apples. I called. From far away, the geldling trumpeted. Sparky, you see, is a "proud cut" which means he acts very much and looks like a stallion but can't impregnate a mare.

Today, his call was filled with alarm. He charged out of the old barn and gallopped up the mountainside to me, neighed with all his vigor and turned tail, running back to where he came. I ran after him. He ran back out to see if I was really coming, then ran back into what used to be Molly's old stall.

She was lying on the ground, utterly still.

Sparky neighed to her. He nuzzled her and then stomped his feet and looked over his shoulder at me. I crouched next to her and saw she would rise no more. "I'm sorry, Sparky," I said, sadly. He blew up and ran outside and running in circles, he vent his rage. He followed me to the new stalls. There, I fed him, but he kept looking down the mountain. As soon as he finished, he roared off across the fields covered with wildflowers to stand guard over his fallen mate.

I must bury her tomorrow. It will be hard on Sparky.

He isn't unsual.

Chip and Dale were America's largest ox team. They appeared on TV. They lived fewer years than Molly who was nearly 30 when she died. Chips, the bigger ox, died on the cusp of the Millennium, at midnight. I sat out in the iron cold hard field with him where he fell and broke his hip, holding his head, his huge horns resting on either side of me. Dale, who worked in team with him since they were calves, stood next to us, lowing sadly as his brother struggled to breathe.

When Chips died, we had to dig a huge pit for him. When the time came to bury him, we used a huge crane to lift him into it. As soon as the first shovel of dirt hit his body, Dale blew up.

Swinging his horns, he bellowed at us and rushed at the operator moving his brother's body. I wrapped my arms around his head. "Dale, come with me, come, now, come, boy," I sang to him. Lowing pitifully, he hung his head and followed me away. Later, he spent the day, standing on the grave, tears running down his broad cheeks. Finally, I took some grain to him and said, "Let's go home." He then moved into his brother's stall. He never set foot into his own stall again.

I know tomorrow is going to be hard on Sparky. I will have to tie him up. He won't let me move Molly, that is certain.

When my great English Mastiff, Cleo, was dying of cancer, it was two years after Chips died. It was the middle of winter. Cleo dragged herself to the front door. It was snowing. She indicated to me, she wanted to go outside and so I dressed up and followed her. She dragged herself to the darkening woods. It was very quiet except for the plopping of snowflakes upon the soft white mantle that covered the land.

When animals are dying, they go off to be alone.

Out of the dim light came first the cats, all four of them. They sat around Cleo in a circle. One of them rubbed against her for she loved to wash them but she was in too much pain to respond. She sighed. Then the neigh of Sparky who came trotting over with Molly at his heels. By then, Dale, the ox, came ambling over. Colleen, the sheep herding dog, nuzzled her pal, Cleo.

"Shush, all of you, back into your houses!" I said and I herded everyone away and then went back to Cleo only she was right behind me, dragging herself through the snow. She didn't want to be left alone, after all.

The next day, she died.

Colleen was desolated. She refused to get out of bed for three days. Finally, I took her to visit the pound...where she met her new friend and this is how we adopted Coco, a lovely elderly Newfundland who was going to be put down. She lived with us for several years.

Well, it isn't only mammals! We had a turkey hen. She couldn't hatch her own eggs so she took one of the duck nests and hatched a duck egg. The little duckling was a riot. He would scamper onto his mother's broad back and ride her around. She cooed and petted him and loved him.

And one day, stepped on him.

I knew something was wrong. She made a giant fuss. She wanted me to fix him. When I picked up the limp body, she became enraged for a minute but I sat down and showed her I couldn't bring him back. She followed me into the kitchen, still wailing away.

It was hard, disposing of him. Sheep: whenever something went wrong with the flock, the two matrons, Curly and Stella would baaa with alarm and go off and seek me out, even going so far as to banging on the door. When giving birth, the mothers all looked forwards to my arrival. They would huddle next to me and I would sleep on my plastic folding chair in their birthing hall. Scientists were "surprised" to find that sheep show anxiety when a bad person they don't like shows up and their chemistry shows happiness when they see a smiling face and hear a cheerful voice. "Lambies, come to me," I would sing to them and all the heads would shoot up and off they go, looking for me.

When Jane Goodall started studying the chimpanzees, many scientists were angry about how she talked not only about them but with them. She learned their language and signals and she can charm any chimpanzee she meets. All greet her with relief and joy, even, the happiness of being with someone who understands them at last, inexpressible.

People who believe animals can feel usually believe that people can feel. This concept is the bedrock of liberalism. Caring not only for one's self but reaching across to other humans and other living things is what a true life is all about. I firmly believe that when we all die, we are judged by those we showed mercy to in life.

The scales of justice are held in the hands of a wise being who knows what is within our hearts and can see it all, even things we try to hide from ourselves.

I am a predator. I have blood on my hands. But I also took care of those creatures who passed through my life. Even when I ate my turkeys, they had a very good life. Food and shelter and fun, freedom and joy. They had a great time. My hens lay eggs for me and I eat them. But they live a good life, free and happy, coming to me willingly when I call them.

Even though Sparky likes to object when I harness him up, he still enjoys himself, it is all just a ritual. He hates being ignored. He is going to be difficult now. He lost the love of his life, the girl who smote him the minute he laid eyes upon her, as I led her up the mountain, he ran alongside the fence, neighing to her. When I put her in the opposite pasture, he gathered up all his strength and bounded over the fences and dancing in front of her, flexing his huge neck, his long tail streaming in the wind as he ran, he took her and she, the wall flower mare, blossomed. She discovered that no man or anything could touch her without Sparky's permission.

When dogs attacked her, Sparky drummed them into the dirt. When lightning flashed, Sparky would defy it, standing brave with his chest into the wind, ears back. When it snowed, Sparky would make paths for her and trample down the deep snow. He was a pig, though, if I gave them apples, he always wanted all the apples. But then, no one is perfect.

Love and live, everyone. It is the best we can do.

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Friday, July 22, 2005

THE NEW YORKER TALKS TO RATZI

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Way back, last spring, I read in the NYT that the new Pope was an old foe of mine. And that he blamed me for driving him out of Tuebingin and turned him, like a witch waving her wand, into a conservative.

From my earlier article:
But while his deep reading and thinking in theology, philosophy, and history were fundamental to development as a theologian, it was the protests of student radicals at Tübingen University - in which he saw an echo of the Nazi totalitarianism he loathed - that seem to have pushed him definitively toward deep conservatism and insistence on unquestioned obedience to the authority of Rome

We met, we argued and I terrorized him so badly he decided to be a Nazi. Amazing! Will wonders nevercease. Actually, the reason we argued and I was "vulgar" was because he was already a Nazi and this ticked me off greatly! I can spot a Nazi from pretty far away.

The article details his humilation at my hands...ahem. He was oh so learned and could quote anyone but I was there and there was precious little for me to quote since most literature is anti women's rights! So we got in a classic fight over "this is MY body that I live in and YOU can't order me around" stuff. Then I accused him of being "Kinder, kuchen, Kirche" Nazi. That was so mean of me he decided on the spot to be come a Nazi. I suppose.
I decided to write to the New Yorker because their article, unlike the NYT one, doesn't detail the final meeting in the Neue Halle where I drove the future Pope batty. It only says "It is not clear why he fled Tuebingen and became conservative". Heh. Unlike the more honest NYT headlines for their story.

Of course, the NYT was lying, too, for as I pointed out in 1968, Ratzinger was no liberal.
To the Editor,

In "Reading Ratzinger," Mr. Grafton says, "It is not clear what opposition (Ratzinger) encountered (in Tuebingen). but it is certain he responded to the radicals with a radical change of course of his own."

The New York Times interviewed the new Pope last spring(April 24, 2005 "Pope Benedict XVI: Roots of Conservatism; Turbulence on Campus in 60's Hardened Views of Future Pope). He described to the reporter how he was confronted by students on a specific day in a lecture hall and we literally chased him away. He mentioned in particular, a (female) student who called him a Nazi at his last appearance there.

I do believe am that person. I remember the theologian, as well. I was fighting for women's rights, previously, in America, and in 1968, I was a student in Tuebingen for one year when we had the fateful confrontation. Many articles like to gloss over the Pope's past but he couldn't hide from me. My father, Dr. Aden Baker Meinel, was one of the top OSS/ONI officers in Germany at the end of WWII and he was one of the first high ranking officers to enter Dachau in 1945 and the present Pope happened to be one of the people guarding the village of Dachau when he fled at the approach of our army and his family still lives really near Dachau and my father's rage and frustration with the people living near by as he struggled to figure out what that concentration camp was doing is famous because he kept demanding, "How could you possibly ignore this place? Why are there so many dead people here?"

They all pleaded innocence due to total incuriosity. My father said this was ridiculous because he could smell the camp from far away. It made him ill.

I accused Mr. Ratzinger of being an unreformed Nazi because he scolded me for being a feminist radical. His "Kinder, Kuchen, Kirche" beliefs was stuff straight out of the Nazi philosophy.

This debate shocked everyone, they assured me he was a liberal. I countered hotly, auf deutsch, of course, "If he is a liberal then he should support women's rights!"

This included in particular, the right to birth control.

Rather than debate me further, he fled the lecture hall. I won that round. Well, here he is, coming back into play, using the Church to try to imprison me in my home and take away my civil rights here in America. He was never really a liberal and he certainly isn't one today. I will fight him and his army of reactionaries tooth and nail. I challenge him to continue our debate. I will even fly to Italy and argue in the Vatican if he is too scared to meet me on my own ground.

Thank you,
Elaine Meinel Supkis


All the papers and magazines seem bent on making pretty-pretty with this petty tyrant. They are very gingerly with him. Well, I didn't like him back then and I loathe him today. I hope they give me at least some voice in this whole matter. It obviously bugs the hell out of the Pope. I will note, he was happy to talk about this back in April and much less forthcoming today. He knows I have challenged him to a debate. He knows I am out there and watching him.

He knows he will lose a debate with me. No one is better able to talk about the grim subject of fetuses than I. I have no sense of embarrassment concerning the blood and gore of concieving, carrying and delivering babies.

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Tuesday, July 05, 2005

SIEGFRIED'S DEATH MARCH

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Last week's funeral for German war dead. Unlike our hidden funerals, full pomp and ceremony on national TV.

The carnage continues in Afghanistan and Iraq. One of the casualties in Afghanistan were German soldiers. They were buried in a great ceremony last week. Unlike the American funerals which are kept off the front pages and out of the general populace's eyes.

The Germans have a great deal of experience with military funerals and many soldiers' deaths. We barely had any in WWI, the Germans had a great number of lives literally blasted away just like the Brits and French. This was certainly true in WWII, also.
Americans mocking living people who survived WWI and WWII and lost many loved ones as "surrender monkeys," and so on, is just another sign of how juvenile and ill mannered we have become thanks to more than a century of being sheltered from the true horror of war.

I found the German pictures of their funerals most interesting because so very little has changed in the last 200 years.
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The neutral black/red/gold post WWII national flag, deliberately designed to be utterly uninspiring, has regained the Imperial Eagle first seen on the war shield of Emperor Frederick I of Germany back in 1200 AD.
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From the Imperial College of Heraldry, the Coat of Arms of the Holy Roman Empire.
Well, well, well, isn't that the Holy Roman Imperial coat of arms draped upon those coffins in Germany? These symbols come back again and again. For once, there was no eagle defiant! When Frederick II, Wonder of the World, struggled for power with the Popes, losing in the end in 1250, his banner had the spread eagle and when he went down along with all his Hohenstaufen sons, legal and bastard, the coat of arms died with him.

When Prussia reunified Germany for the first time after the interregum, the namesake of the earlier incarnation, Frederick the Great of Prussia, again, took up the old coat of arms and defiantly replanted it on German soil.
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The Imperial and Royal Coat of Arms of HI&RH Prinz Karl Friedrich von Deutschland, Herzog von Swabia, de jure Kaiser Charles VIII of Germany, Or a double-headed eagle displayed sable armed, membred, beaked and haloed Or, langued gules ( Holy Roman Empire )charged on the breast with an inescutcheon Or an eagle displayed sable, armed, membred and langued gules, beaked and haloed Or,( Kingdom of Germany )charged on the breast with an inescutcheon Or there on three lions passant inpale sable armed and langued gules ( Duchy of Swabia ).
One on top of the other, the various incarnations of eaglehood and at its core lies the ancient emblem in its full blood red fury.

The American eagle harkens to all this history. This is why Benjamin Franklin was not happy about the choice. The Founding Fathers tried to make the eagle less cold and dark by lightening it up, using the bald eagle with its white head and having it carry olive branches in one claw. From Great Seal.com
(Franklin's letter concerning eagles rampant) "For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.

"With all this Injustice, he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping & Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District. He is therefore by no means a proper Emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country . . .

"I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America . . . He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on."
Oh, do I know turkeys! Wild turkeys, bronze turkeys, raised them, interacted with them.

They are slow to boil but the red invades the bald head until it is bright blood red, the chest grows tremendously with air inhaled, the head cocks back, the tail spreads and then the turkey will literally fling himself upon humans, cars, lawn mowers and even old shoes. Not gobbling, that is for other turkeys, no, it is the "Piff piff!" of snorts of rage. A red stripe can create this monster bird. A red flag waving. Yes, turkeys are most appropriate, especially for the crew running America today. They are not eagles that lust for battle, they are barely turkeys.

I have seen fiercer Chickadees.

The Germans in particular have created mythos/impulses that are extremely warlike, the music, the culture. Wagner, anyone? Think you can resist his allure? I grew up on Wagner. I have fought in recreations of medieval battles. I know the ersatz romantic feeling of bloodlust. Sword in hand, in full steel armor, standing on a hill, contemplating the developing fight, charging into the fray, joyously.

I have ancestors who invaded England. And we still got kicked out (and I suppose the feeling was "good riddance", no?)

A good 500 years, thrashing around, killing each other, being cruel to the natural residents of that fair isle....we were actually grateful to find relative peace in America in between our wars and insurrections and invasions on this continent.

Back to Germany: America, anxious to run an empire without dying in battle, seeks to rearm Germany, and begs Germany to reunite Europe into one entity, holy or not. And we seek to rearm another dangerous foe, Japan! Like Germany, religion and ancient lineages converge to make a dangerous mix.

What saved us in WWII was the fact we didn't goose step. The co-ordinated crump of thousands of steel clad heels striking the cobblestones in unison as thousands march together, stiff legged, a uniquely German achievement I hope we never have to witness again. We slouched into Europe and explained to everyone, we didn't want to fight all that much, we wanted to finish our business and go home.

Yet here we are, fighting foes in Iraq and Afghanistan who want us gone and want our militarism and God Bless Americanism and screaming eagles and shock and awe gone. Period. We can't stomach the bloody mess needed to goose step around the planet waving imperial flags!

Thank god...I hope.

From the Albany Times Union:
Army Specialist Stephen Z. Madison, 23, a native of Corinth, was found dead in his home at Fort Riley, Kansas, late last week. Madison was recovering from burns he suffered while serving in Iraq last fall.

Although he was still under treatment for his burns, he was not hospitalized at the time of his death, his father, Stephen R. Madison said today. Stephen Madison's wife, Mary, found her husband unconscious in their home on the army base.

During his second deployment to Iraq, Madison was scalded while taking a shower, suffering severe burns to his left arm and torso. His father said he was scheduled for another operation to his left arm this summer to give him better mobility.

Madison enlisted in January 2001, a "spur of the moment thing'' that was a surprise to his family, his father said. He was assigned to the 82nd Medical Company and repaired Black Hawk helicopters, his father said.
Suicide. One of many, alas. A normal human. He thought, perhaps, the gory glory of the eagle rampant would be romatic.

It is a deadly thing, this bloody bird. It rips millions with its beak and feels no mercy, no love. It just wants to be fed.

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ATHEISM IN NEBRASKA

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Socrates put to death for being an atheist.

An alert has been put out across the left spectrum of the web to grab a story and pass it on. In Nebraska, a slightly possible swing state, the march of the far right wing treads heavily upon the earth. They work endlessly and mindlessly to undermine the wall separating Church and State, desperately trying to conflate the two so they are one, indivisible, unfightable.

The insecurity of Christian ideologues forces them to pave over secularism so they can be comfortable in their private delusions.

This latest battle shows clearly why they are dangerous to democracy and the Constitution. From the New Nebraska Network:
Today, the Omaha World-Herald went ahead and revealed in a front-page story the name of the plaintiff in "ACLU Nebraska and John Doe v. the City of Plattsmouth," the local variant on a series of court cases nationwide challenging the constitutionality of displays of the Judeo-Christian Ten Commandments on public property.

They'd been itching to pull the trigger on this one for some time, getting into quite the verbal and legal battle with the ACLU over their planned revealing of "John Doe's" true identity. The ACLU lawyers in the case claim to have faced incredible harassment from the public themselves and wanted to shield their client from such pressures, including potential death threats.

After the World-Herald's uncovering the identity of "John Doe", the ACLU sought a court injunction to prevent them from publishing this information, but the effort failed. Ever since, the ACLU has been a frequent target of pithy editorial comments for their supposedly hypocritical attempt to impugn the rights of a free press by fulfilling their duty as lawyers protecting their client.

At the time, the World-Herald promised they only wanted to serve the public interest - not endanger anyone - while questioning the ethics of anonymous lawsuits that seek to influence public policy. Well, obviously, as evidenced by today's story, it serves the public interest not only to know the plaintiff's name but also to see his picture and that of his license plate. Otherwise, why would the World-Herald run these photos?
This is how the right operated in pre-Nazi Germany. They would target individuals and then proceed to harass and intimidate and even assassinate them. This public lynching style was done for years, earlier, in America. Cut a minority out of the herd and then make and example of them, violently and in the open.
Poor man. For someone who claims to have already "had threats to firebomb my house, to have my son beaten" this has to seem like a contract on his and his family's lives. Is this really the treatment one deserves for standing up for something they believe in against the majority? Pretty damn despicable of the World-Herald if you ask me. Shame on writer John Ferak, photographer Jeff Bundy, and the whole damn outfit for showing such a complete lack of sensitivity.

Hopefully, the good people of Plattsmouth will show more concern and compassion, keeping this battle in the courts where it belongs.

What's most pathetic about the World-Herald's running this article today, though, is actually its lead editorial which has the audacity to demand a federal shield law that protects the identity of anonymous sources in the press.

How hypocritical is that to reveal the identity (and so much more) of a man afraid for his life on the same day they demand reporters be exempted from ever being forced to reveal such things in a criminal investigation. Talk about a power trip - the World-Herald wants to be judge, jury, and executioner...above the law in every way.
The mainstream media is in full bellow...trying to protect Karl Rove from prison for sneakily outing an undercover CIA agent in an attempt at muzzling, intimidating and frightening off a Bush critic who was challenging the ruler's excuses for an illegal war.

Their inability to understand why the reporters must talk to the prosecutor and why anonymous plaintiffs in unpopular lawsuits should be protected is a deliberate trick designed to fool people. If that doesn't work then they wave the flag and yell "God Bless America."

I have something very personal in this fight. My grandfather, Edison Pettit, was born in 1889 and was named after the inventor of the light bulb, Thomas Edison. He was born in Peru, Nebraska and went to college there and ended up teaching first at Washburn College in Kansas before going to the Yerkes Observatory (my birth place) where he met my grandmother, Hannah Bard Steele.

He left Nebraska for professional reasons, of course, but the main thing is, he became an atheist back then and this led him down the path of discovery to explore new worlds and to try to understand the mysteries of the universe without the blinkers and blindness of faith. Atheism and science go hand in hand. Even people who profess to be religious secretly hold doubts if they are true scientists.

In my own life, I have discovered various tests of scientist's ultimate faith for when I begin to discuss the origin of time/space and the paradox of impossibility of existence and the implications of what if the universe is collapsing due to increasingly deep gravitational pools and other fundamental stuff, if they wax enthusiastic with the discussion and are eager for more or to refute me, I know they can "think". If they cut this off and pretend none of this really matters, who cares? Then they are probably insecure or incurious (or bored, heh).

Socrates was forced by the Athenians to commit suicide because he asked too many questions that had a bearing on assumed religious modes. All great empires and cultures end up crushing dissidence and atheism to maintain a grip on power and to control minds and bodies so humans will willingly feed the Machine without questioning too closely what its purpose really is.

One side effect of killing off or intimidating or harassing atheists is, it kills scientific inquiry. One can see this across the Midwest as feebleminded monomental people try desperately to undermine the teaching of modern science. To keep humans separate from living things requires destroying the biological sciences and the information pouring into the astronomical world undermines the earthcentric, homosapiencentric universe and it, too, must be destroyed. Just as Catholic Spain destroyed the humanities and sciences during the 1600's reign of terror, or Galileo being forced to recant his own observations concerning the planets and the sun, truncating scientific inquiry has a downside: those who succeed end up being left in the dust, technologically. Poverty and loss of power follow close behind.

My grandfather left Nebraska and not only never came back, he seldom mentioned the place. It held no fond memories for him. He died in Tucson, his own observatory next to his bedroom. I used to live in it because when we moved him home with us, we ran out of bedrooms so I moved outside, nearby.

The Midwest complains about the loss of people. My grandfather's own town has half as many residents as in his youth and it is significantly worse off. Anyone with any gumption or talent leaves. And they don't go to some nice, Christian, intolerant, viciously patriotic place, they head for California or the big cities just like my grandfather left. And they don't come back, not even to visit, often.

Spreading this blanket of woe across the nation already is driving off people. Young scientists from abroad are rethinking the wisdom of relocating to America to study.

This is why the anonymous fight of the atheist in Nebraska is our fight, too.