Monday, September 26, 2011

Some Thoughts on Becoming a Grandfather

Samatha Aeryn Ray-Wickersham, all 6.5 pounds of her, came into this world at around 6 pm on September 24 - four days earlier than the doctors had predicted.  Nearly two feet tall, er long, the kid had her eyes open and was looking around the room when she was barely 18 hours old.  Gonna be smart this one, and with those long legs and long fingers, I can see great things in her future.  Of course, all that is incidental to the fact that this little bundle of squawling joy has just made me a grandfather.

Everyone's been telling me that you change when that happens.  I'm still waiting.  Oh, I was happy that little Samatha, or Sam, which I've already decided fits her better, was born healthy, and that my daughter suffered no ill effects. It was nice seeing my son-in-law, Charles (maybe it's true about girls marrying their dads and boys marrying their moms, you think?) taking to fatherhood so easily - even to the point of volunteering to change a diaper.  But, I'm still waiting for that magic glow that's supposed to envelope you when you become a grandparent; the one that makes you overly indulgent and prone to spoil kids.  I'm sorry, but I don't feel it.

I will, of course, dedicate my next book to Sam.  Nothing unusual there; I've dedicated books to most of the rest of the family, and this is just my way of welcoming her to the clan.  But, I promise you, I will not spoil her.  Teach her to read and do math when she hits three - yes.  I did that for her mother, and she turned out okay.  Teach her to tie a knot and throw a baseball before she's six - yes, that too.  At the same time, I'll also teach her discipline and self-reliance - or, at least, model them.  It's up to her parents to be her primary teachers.  As a grandparent, I will play my secondary role to the best of my ability.  Most of the time I'll be trying to keep my wife from spoiling her.  Now, she's really bought into this magical grandparent thing, hook, line, and sinker. 

So, there you have it.  And, don't forget, you read it here first.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Who are "We the People" Referred to in the Constitution?

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
This brief introduction to the United States Constitution describes the basic aim of the document.  The Constitution was drafted in secrecy by 42 delegates from the 13 original states to replace the Articles of Confederation which had proven inadequate to regulate relations between and among such disparate entities.
In this, Constitution Month, it might be useful to analyze what I believe is the most important phrase in this document – “We the People.”  This is important for a number of reasons.  First, it starts with what the framers thought important, the people.  It didn’t say, we the government, or we the politicians, but we the people.  The Constitution is a people-centric, people-driven document that is designed to organize government to serve the needs of the people, not the other way around.
Another thing that has to be kept in mind is how “We the People” has changed over the more than two hundred years of this document’s existence.  When it was written, “We the People” were white, male, landowners.  After a period of time, those white males who were not propertied were included in the power circle, and combined with the original beneficiaries eventually expanded it to include black men, who when it was written were considered only three-fifths a person.  Then, many decades later, the rights under the Constitution were expanded to include women.  In other words, over time, the power elites saw the benefits in sharing power with others.  Not all, one must understand, felt this way.  We had to fight a civil war in order for the power circle to include people of color, and the fight over extending rights to women raged on even after blacks were granted rights on paper; an act that took more than a century to be actually implemented in a manner that can almost be called ‘fully.’
Therein, I sincerely believe, lies the real power of our Constitution.  It was written in a way that made it possible for changes to be made to reflect changing times.  But, more importantly, those who wrote it did not see right and privilege as a zero-sum game.  They discovered, and we’re still discovering, that sometimes sharing power actually increases it.  In this, there is a lesson for us all.

The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America

A Photographic Tour of Zimbabwe and Southern Africa

African Places: A photographic journey through Zimbabwe and Southern Africa
Authored by Charles Ray, Photographs by Charles Ray
List Price: $25.95
7" x 10" (17.78 x 25.4 cm)
Full Color on White paper
120 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1466266469 (CreateSpace-Assigned) ISBN-10: 1466266465 BISAC: Photography / General
A photographic journal of the author's travels around southern Africa from 2009 to 2011. Photos of people, animals, and places of interest in one of the most diverse regions of the world. Photographs and text by the author.

Improve Your Photography: How Budding Photographers Can Get Pro Results

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Rembering 9/11

This morning, September 11, 2011, I woke early, just as I did exactly ten years ago; unlike then, though, I did not turn on the television. Funny how habits form; I realized later on that I haven’t watched early morning TV since that day. Maybe it’s some unconscious superstition; if I don’t turn the TV on and hear bad news, it won’t happen.

After a light breakfast, I went off to a local home for the elderly to attend a commemoration service for the Battle of Britain. Throughout the service, though, my thoughts kept wandering to that morning as I watched in horror that plane knifing into the second tower in New York City; horror and disbelief, even though I and many of my colleagues had known for some time that such an attack was possible. As I heard speakers talk of the gallant sacrifices of young men and women of the British and Commonwealth Air Forces in defending not just Britain but the free world, I couldn’t help but think of the similarities and differences between the two events. Both saw the forces of freedom and democracy pitted against the darker forces of repression and dictatorship, but unlike the RAF and Commonwealth aviators who volunteered to step (or fly) into the maws of death, the victims of 9/11, except for those killed in the Pentagon attack, were non-combatants who did not volunteer to put their lives on the line. They were innocent victims who had done nothing other than be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

It would be all too easy to let anger be the primary emotion when I think of 9/11, and I truly was angry in the hours immediately after the attacks, but I’ve reconciled my feelings. Rather than be consumed by hatred and anger, or obsessing over why some people hate us, I’d rather devote myself to trying to identify the root causes of such behavior, and develop ways to change things. This doesn’t mean that I think terrorists should be given a pass for the evil deeds they commit. Terrorist networks should be detected, disrupted, dissuaded, or failing dissuasion, destroyed, and, that includes through military means when no other method works. But, I don’t think this should be the first or principal goal. We need to learn why people resort to such measures, and try to give them alternatives. I haven’t discovered the method yet; because, I still don’t fully understand what drives a person to such hatred and desperation that he or she would willingly die just to kill those deemed ‘enemy.’ Part of my problem is I have not yet figured out what it is I’m supposed to be an enemy to or against. It’s not Islam; I have the utmost respect for Islam as a religion, and though I don’t believe church and state should be so intermingled, I respect the right of those who do believe thus to practice it if they wish. When I have it figured out, maybe I’ll be on the way to determining how we can prevent future 9/11s.

One thing I do know is that one element that breeds such behavior is intolerance. The inability to accept differences, religious or political, leads far too often to violence against the ‘other’ side in the debate. It leads to the desire to punish, to extract vengeance, ‘an eye for an eye.’ The unfortunate result is a seemingly unending cycle of violence – we all become blind.