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Archive for the 'Exposition' Category

The Age-Old Debate Rages On: My Views

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Sometimes I am not sure where I stand on the thorny issue of abortion.  While I could never see myself choosing such an option, I cannot say what I would do in a situation that might call for it.  I do not think any of us can.  It is not for me to judge another's choice, and I do not feel comfortable taking that choice away from anyone.  I suppose, in that light, I am - for the most part - pro-choice.  True, too, I have a problem with dictating the choices another makes.

While I can understand how people say it is "murder", in a sense – it is killing a somewhat sentient, living being…maybe – I also see a need for such in certain, horrible, situations.

In this over-populated world, filled with starving and struggling children and with poverty levels as high as they are in this country, it is, perhaps, almost favorable to have an unwanted or un-prepared for child aborted.  There are millions of children already living that need loving homes by means of adoption; just as there are millions more living in poverty or suffering abuse at the hands of parents who cannot support them and do not have the ability - or desire - to do so.  There are children being born every day to parents on welfare who care more for the extra dollars that child will add to their government checks than for the living being they have created.  These children, born to parents who do not truly want them or who cannot readily support them, may have been better off not coming to Earth at this time.  That is a harsh reality and a difficult stance to take, and I do not - I assure you - take it lightly.

That is not to say that all of these people would have been aborted had their mothers that choice; far from it.  That is to say, however, that the choice should be there for responsible mothers-to-be who feel that they would not be able to provide for a new baby and are reluctant to add another child to the excess of youth needing adoption and/or saving.

And it would seem, as much as the pro-life proponents cry for the life of such children, they have little care for what becomes of their lives - or the lives they may someday affect - once they have been born.  Once these underprivileged children reach adulthood, a number of them will repeat the patterns of their parents; living off of the government or - worse - entering our penal system.  Our prisons are overflowing with adults who were once unborn children, born into a life of poverty from which they were unable to escape.  Why, I have always wondered, do pro-lifers not care about the lives of children, teens, and adults who live hand-to-mouth and, more often than not, get caught up in the life of crime they are so predisposed to due to such living conditions?

The world is filled with unwanted children who are never given a fair chance at life; many of them end up in our prison system.  Who cares for them then?  The pro-lifers cry out for the lives of the unborn; yet who is to care for this multitude of outcast or handicapped children once they are born?  At the time they become little people and, eventually, adults where are these pro-lifers; what are they doing to sustain a life that they insisted should be born?  They are not helping with the insurmountable medical bills of a struggling family caring for a disabled or mentally handicapped child.  They are not holding the hands of grieving parents who watch as a beloved child suffers and slowly dies from a terminal disease.  They are not comforting or offering financial assistance to the young, single woman who was raped and could not be prepared for the child borne of her nightmare.  They are not there to support the woman who gives birth to a child she cannot financially sustain and that has to opt for the painful yet noble choice of adoption; nor are they there to help her search for adoptive parents or find the child a loving home and keep it out of the mess that is foster care.  They are certainly not there when that child – perhaps unwanted on unprepared for – grows into a tortured young adult and lands in an ever-growing prison system.  That is, unless that child – now a broken adult – faces the death penalty for their crimes.  Often times – and not always, but too often for comfort – those same pro-lifers, who rally for the life of the unborn, are there to rally for the death of the long-born and living.  That is not to say that all pro-lifers are hypocritically pro-death penalty; they are not.  Yet none can deny that there are a large number of pro-lifers whose value for actual life seems to be rather shaky.  They decry the death of a fetus – argumentatively and possibly not yet alive (I am not going to venture into that debate) – yet shoot at or plant bombs to harm or kill abortion doctors.  Some are vehement pro-death penalty, which is something I can never quite wrap my mind around; how can you hold one life over another, unborn or born, yet to take its first breath or breathing for many years?  What is, truly, the difference?  Is not a life, a life?

President Obama has been lambasted for being the "Most Pro-Abortion President Ever".  Though he supports choice, he has worked diligently in his short time in office to expand programs that would lower the rate of abortions.  Abortion is not always the answer.  Hopefully, it is only rarely so.  Yet there are times when it is the only viable option and - for those times - the choice should be available.  In agreeing with President Obama on this issue, I take the stance that no one wants an abortion to happen.  I believe many pro-lifers fail to realize this important fact.  Even as pro-choice, all of us want to eliminate the need for any abortion.  That would be the ultimate; that would the greatest joy and end to the conflict for all involved.  Yet that is, sadly, not the world in which we presently live.

And I Will Smite You With Furious Anger

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

Though it's been around longer than the Internet itself, the age-old retort seems to have taken on a new life with the current state of to-the-second, worldwide reporting that we all not only have access to but - often - the ability to comment on in a public forum.  Before, it was murmured angrily to one's self; a particularly overzealous person might try and hunt down the person who had stoked their ire's home phone number or address to physically harass them - but this was not only rare, it was much more difficult to accomplish.  In this day and age, getting one's contact information is often only a two-second Google search away.

What is it that I am speaking of?  Why, the time-worn "death threat", of course.

We have - with our prevailing technology - instant and intimate access into the lives of millions who end up, for one reason or another, under the scrutiny of a media scrambling to keep up with a demand for minute-to-minute news.  What might not have even been considered a newsworthy story ten years ago could end up as front page sensationalist fodder today.

Media has traditionally had days and weeks to compile their news stories - now they have mere minutes.  We get - and want - more than ever before; we crave this mass feed of stories and reports.  Newspapers struggle to maintain their relevance; who wants to wait and read day-old news when they can get the latest and greatest - from blazing headlines to gossip trash - with a few strokes of the keyboard?  Nearly - and sometimes - live news, updated by the second.  There is no doubt that the Internet has changed the face of media dramatically.

Yet this isn't a commentary on the face of modern media, or how it's insomniac state is leaving traditional media in the proverbial dust.  This piece is about how that ever-present deluge of information - from the important to the irrelevant - has created a sort of vigilantism heretofore unseen.  From reality TV to the melodrama of everyday people's existence, lifestyles and life decisions that are alternative to how we live or what we are used to are broadcast to us in a never-ending stream.  The result?  Hordes of people who unfortunately, also, have internet access and ignorantly assume that anything differing from their choices in life and/or religious beliefs is pure, unadulterated evil and must, therefore, be destroyed.

While getting depth from a Cracked article might seem facetious, there is often hard truths and pertinent wisdom to be garnered from the witty puns and satirical commentary offered there.  Look past the laughs, and some of the things they share are downright depressing.  If humanity has reached a new low, Cracked will often be the first to point it out; all while making you laugh loud enough to out your Internet surfing to your co-workers just so you won't be able to hear God weeping.  And so it was that a recent piece by Ian Fortey titled, 8 Awesome Cases of Internet Vigilantism, got me thinking about internet vigilantism (obviously) but also, and more to the point, death threats.

Death threats seem to be the bread and butter of  people who hate everything that doesn't fit into the neat, little package of their personal ideals.  If I write an article extolling my love of the color purple that reaches a large enough audience, without fail, there will be at least one purple-hating person so irked by my purple passion that they will threaten to kill me.  People with an opinion to share or a story to tell receive death threats online like a Hotmail account receives spam.

Whether you voted for McCain or Obama, chances are that if you were very vocal about that choice during the elections, people were also very vocal about wanting to off you.  If you believe that homosexuals should have the same marriage rights as the rest of America - and choose to say so in a public forum - there are folks sitting at their computers right now who want to assist you in buying the farm.  Have you sounded off with the thought that teaching Creationism in schools is utterly ignorant and a giant step backwards for science?  Then there are some people - many of them parents - who would gleefully help you take a permanent dirt nap.

I could go on for days with the general examples - and especially the death puns, which I'm growing kind of fond of - but I think you see my point.  I'll do one better, then, and offer up a few specific examples for your consumption.

When - in December of last year - Vice President Joe Biden came to Linda Brown's Wolf Den Kennel in Pennsylvania to adopt a puppy, Ms. Brown was - naturally - honored.  Yet what should have been a banner day for her breeding business and a fun, family factoid to pass down through the generations became nothing short of a nightmare.  A nightmare that - naturally - garnered Linda Brown more than a few death threats.  What despicable act could Linda have committed to cause people to not only want her dead, but to assist her in becoming so?  She breeds dogs, and Joe Biden - who didn't seem to suffer the same humiliation and backlash for his choice - bought a German Shepherd puppy from her.  Were you waiting for something more?  No, that about sums it up.  Horrible, isn't it?  No, but PETA - especially - took umbrage with the woman who would choose to sell one of her dogs rather than send her business away to an animal shelter; their response was to quickly spew out this oh-so charming ad, Buy One, Get One Killed and and jam up the local television airwaves by having it played extensively in Linda's area.  Once the story broke, with PETA's help, of course, Linda's own, personalized death threats began to arrive.

I'm as much about adopting shelter pets over breeds as anyone - my own four kitties are rescues - but if someone chooses a breeder's animal over a shelter animal I don't get irate about it.  That is their choice and there is nothing wrong with that.  Domestic animals have been bred for hundreds, if not thousands, of years and it is bordering on the insane to think we should let them all die out in the hopes that a mutt-only race will eliminate the mass euthanasia of animals in shelters.  The problem is not breeders like Linda Brown, but irresponsible pet owners who don't spay or neuter their pets and let them roam the neighborhood to sate their lust in back alley orgies.  If you have half a brain, I think you will agree.  Apparently the dozens of morons that threatened to kill Linda Brown do not.

A prime example is the infamous Octomom, Nadya Suleman.  I can't stand the woman, personally, but I don't want her dead, nor would I threaten her life because I think she's a selfish, psycho whore.  For all that she's batshit crazy, it still does not excuse the hundreds of death threats she has received.

It would appear that, these days, people want to viciously murder others for the most seemingly asinine of things.  In the heyday of my popular celeb-bashing blog, Star Suck, I honestly lost count of the number of death threats I received; printing them out, I could have wallpapered every room in my house with what landed in my inbox or in the blog's comment section on an almost daily basis.  Every time I would voice my opinion on the latest untalented starlet or worthless heartthrob, hormonal, overly-excited tweens would inundate me with unfailingly creative methods for ending my life.

My pending annihilation was not always at their own hand; some would simply "pray to God" that I was hit by a car, stricken with a deadly disease, or raped and left for dead by a band of roving brutes (yes, those were all real threats I received).  It was almost like the 21st century equivalent of being stoned to death by an angry mob.  These "children" had apparently been raised with the mindset that anyone who disagrees with you or dislikes something you love is not only dead wrong but should also suffer endlessly; either by repeated torture or quick death.  Most of their sentiments ran along the lines of something like this:

- i love hil and i’m 20 get a lie yall losers!!!! yall suk so i bet u would luv 2 so suk her tits so stop bing jelous!

- i like and love hil alot!  any1 tHaT doesnt love hil shuld jus get hit by a CAR!!!

- I have an important comment about hil I think she is a REALLY NICE GIRL and I think anyone who doesn’t like her is just stupid and f***ing ugly.

If you don't like the person they emulate or look up to, you are fairly worthless in their eyes; worthless enough to, often, be deserving of death.  For not liking Hilary Duff.   Yeah.

Laughable though it is, in all seriousness these children are going to have a difficult time in the world once they are grown; very few circumstances are going to jive with their limited life view.  If they do not learn to accept an idea without embracing it, they are in for a life of frustration and anger.  Though, perhaps, these are simply the types of kids that grow up to be the Internet death threaters I have been writing about here.

So is it all Internet trash talk, typed out in indignant anger?  Or do the people ignorant enough to make death threats on innocent persons - people they do not even know or know anything about other than what they have heard in the media - really have it in them to kill the object of their wrath for simply thinking or behaving differently than they would?  Does the anonymity of the Internet simply allow otherwise-cowardly douche bags a way to vent their unwitting rage, or does it just give an easily accessible, public forum for them to threaten that which they really would do if given the chance?  Before the Internet, it was generally next to impossible to find or contact the object of a news story.  Nowadays, we have Google.  Were these kill-or-conform types always around or are the vast majority of them a lot of hot air?

I can't say for sure, truth be told.  I would like to believe, naturally, that the majority of it is no more than talk.  Yet from what I've learned of base human nature from being a citizen of the interwebs all these years is that anything - no matter how odd or disturbing - is possible.

Teens and Plastic Surgery

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

This morning, I read a disturbing article at ABC News that stated teens-those under 18 years of age-were getting plastic surgery at an alarming rate these days. In fact, that the number of teens going under the knife has jumped considerably in the past few years:

Between 2002 and 2003, the number of breast implants for girls younger than 18 nearly tripled, from 3,872 to 11,326.

... from Teen Trend: Breast Enhancement No Biggie at ABC News

Naturally, there are times that plastic surgery is needed for those under 18; there are valid medical reasons that a young person might require plastic surgery. This was the case with Stephanie Kuleba who lost her life after suffering complications from anesthesia during breast augmentation surgery. Though only 18 years-old, Stephanie suffered from asymmetrical breasts and an inverted areola; conditions that caused her suffering from more than just self-esteem issues.

Stephanie's death has brought to light the new trend of young people getting plastic surgery for non-medical reasons. It's an idea that is so commonplace that many parents offer paid-for plastic surgery to their young daughters as birthday or graduation gifts.

It's hard to fathom doctors agreeing to perform such procedures on still-developing young women on no more than the mercurial moods of youth. Bombarded as young women are today with plastic perfection and the need to look like a cookie-cutter Barbie clone to "fit in", it's no wonder so many young girls feel the need to so drastically alter their appearance. Yet should we be encouraging this behavior?

Though a young woman may feel a desperate desire to feel attractive, most that decided to wait until they were older to undergo such procedures often changed their mind. Psychologist consultant Eileen Bradbury counsels young women opting for plastic surgery before they take the leap. She says:

Adolescents often believe they are lot more mature then they actually are. As they lack insight into the difficulties that they might have in the future, they tend to be very black and white.

Adolescents have always been self-conscious. It's just that in the past people have had to wait a longer time, and I would imagine as time passes people drop out along the way. I've had people say to me, 'I thought about having it done, but then when I grew up, I changed my mind.

... from Teen Trend: Breast Enhancement No Biggie at ABC News

However, some consultants - such as Ellen - and psychiatrists do decide that certain teens are good candidates for the surgeries. If a teen shows themselves to be mature-minded and to have fully thought out the consequences and risks of their decision, many doctors will agree to operate on them.

It's disturbing to think that our upcoming generation is so very quick to turn to the knife and undergo the risks of surgery to change their natural appearance. If this keeps up, the world will be over-populated with a sea of Barbie and Ken clones in the next fifty years; a mass of perfectly plastic people without any of the beautiful and unique characteristics that make us different and special.

I would like to see more corporations and media mavens focusing on positive self- and body-image rather than glorifying stick-thin and unhealthy celebs. The message we are sending out to our youth is "if you don't look like this, you aren't attractive - in fact, you're nobody".

Everyone remembers the awkward years of puberty and just beyond, and the agonizing over your looks and trying to fit in and be attractive. It's a difficult time for anyone - but how much more so must it be for today's young teens and adults who are faced with an ideal that is impossible for anyone to live up to. The people they look up to and want to emulate are almost not real - in movies and in glossy magazines they are polished and airbrushed to godlike perfection. In an attempt to look like these painted perfect people, young people are losing their own identities as they wallow in low self-esteem and-often-self-loathing.

How else can one explain the rise in not only plastic surgery among our youth, but in eating disorders, self-injury, and other harmful traits that show a severe and detrimental self-loathing. Young people today do not only have low self-esteem, many of them hate the bodies they were born into. They will actively and determinedly seek to starve, injure, or undergo the risks of surgery simply to "look" better so that they will "feel' better about themselves.

Yet when the bad body image is there to start with, all the dieting, plastic surgery, and new clothes in the world can't make someone feel better. It has to start inside.

Instead of giving these girl's plastic surgery as a gift, these parents should be encouraging their children to be proud of themselves and their unique traits - to love themselves just as they are. Telling them to go out and use surgery to fix whatever Nature has blessed (or even cursed) them with teaches them no coping skills and it is not an effective way to learn how to face challenges and acceptance of life's difficulties.

This rising trend disturbs me just as much as the continuing rise of self-harm and eating disorders in today's youth. Until the mass media makes a conscious decision to stop peddling plastic perfection and questionable role models like they do to our youth, nothing will change. Instead of giving these impressionable minds someone to focus on and worship, teach them to love themselves and see their own uniqueness as amazing. I want to tell them all, "Yes, Miley Cyrus is amazing - but so are you." Until they realize this, nothing will change.

Got Porn?

Sunday, April 13th, 2008

On the 21st of March, sxephil, brought up the age-old question of porn in relationships - yes or no, friend or foe? Baret and I both have long been fans of the The Philip DeFranco Show so we had a good talk about the topic ourselves and I left a silly comment, mostly tongue-in-cheek but true nonetheless.

Give it a read:

I don't mind if my b/f watches porn, and often we watch it together. I think it's just part of life, really - men need porn. ^_^

Imagine my chagrin to see two people responding to my comment in the most ludicrous fashion! One astute individual insisted I "must be a guy" (because I like porn?) and the other said I had an addiction because I said porn was simply part of life (well it is - if it's your entire life then that would be an "addiction").

The comments:

OzymandiasD: Wow, your a guy aren't you

RobertsGames: a part of life?, lady thats an addiction. It should just be like, well theres that one site so lets see, not like its a duty.

Obviously one is an ignorant chauvinist and the other a bumbling fool attempting to look clever (too bad he completely misunderstood what I was saying!)

I firmly believe that porn can be used as a sometimes, fun "something different" in healthy sexual, adult relationships. Why the heck not? How that makes me "a guy", I've still yet to figure out. It's shocking to me that in today's society it's still so hard to believe that a grown adult woman could enjoy porn and not be considered weird or sick.

I like to think that we've moved away from these puritanical ideals about how women should be and what they are allowed to express about themselves sexually. Yet it seems not. People seem genuinely shocked that a woman not only enjoys porn herself, but is comfortable enough in her relationship to let her man enjoy it, too (with or without her).

Yes, I made the comment that men "need" porn - facetiously, of course - and to a certain extent, they kind of do. If it helps them to relieve some stress, blow off extra sexual tension, and they enjoy it, what the hell is wrong with it? Men are programmed to spread their seed; I'd rather mine be spreading it into a Kleenex than his hot co-worker's snatch.

As to porn being part of life - well, it is. Get used to it; it's here to stay. You can either turn away from it and ignore it (or futilely fight it, as some do) or you can accept and enjoy it. You don't have to acknowledge its presence or you can freely revel in its debaucheries - either way, porn is a fact of life.

And, I hate to tell you, so is the fact that some women do enjoy it. Even more shocking, some of them enjoy it with their partners! I know, it blows the mind. There is nothing wrong with an adult couple enjoying pornography together to spice things up from time to time.

I suppose I'm just blown away by the fact that I - because I am a woman - get lambasted in comments for admitting to enjoying porn and letting my mate watch it. I just assumed we were way over such prejudices and misconceptions. Sadly, it seems I was mistaken.

How To Market a Crappy Book

Monday, March 24th, 2008

In 2006, an unannounced and poorly written work of fiction that claimed to "bare the truth" on America's evil and behind-the-scenes lies about the War on Terror and 9/11 was self-published at iUniverse. The author was someone by the name of E.A. Blayre, III and the book opened with the ominous and farcical notation "Homeland Security Warning: Possession of this novel may result in unlimited detention".

iUniverse gives you an "inside" look at the work, which isn't worth attempting to wade through - if you try, don't say I didn't warn you.

The book, America Deceived, may have quickly faded into the oblivion and obscurity that the majority of badly written, self-published opuses go had it not been for a niggling comment-spam campaign that ran - and still runs - like wildfire through the vastness of cyberspace.

Someone - or someones - involved with this "book" decided to promote it by spamming up the comments of blogs, news sites, etc. The result is a litany of spam across the Internet espousing on the "evils" of America and how it "hides the truth" - especially how it "bans books like America Deceived".

Here's the latest example, culled from an article on USATODAY.com about George Michael:

"George Michael, Spitzer and his hooker, OJ jailed, Paris Freed, Whoopi and the View, all distractions. While mainstream media creates illusions, the gov't steps on our throats by opening our mail, suspending habeas corpus, stealing private lands, banning books like "America Decieved" from Amazon, conducting warrantless wiretaps and starting wars for a foreign gov't. Impeach them all and end this madness.
Final link (until Google Books bends to pressure and drops the title):
- link -"

- from USATODAY.com

All of these rants and comment-spams include, at the very bottom, the "link" - with a warning to click on it before Google Books is forced to remove the truth-you-deserve-to-know - just as Amazon, Wikipedia, and a number of other sites have supposedly done. Yes, according to the spam-pushers here, the book is banned from the Internet's biggest information hubs because of its daring revelations. Who, exactly, has "forced" these sites to "ban" the book - or any proof that it has ever been "banned" at all - is left for any and all to postulate.

The Amazon page for the book can be found here, where you'll see a number of commenters take on the lies perpetuated by this spam attack; one too ignorant to actually work. Yes, pretty much anywhere people have come upon the comments and insinuations of "mass banning", nearly everyone has been able to smell the bullshit and out the commenter.

I've seen these comments under a number of pseudonyms, but lately it all seems to be coming from someone called "reader11722". Poking around, I found this person on Digg using the name "Thomas Pensi II"; his two comments there are, also, comment spam referring to America Deceived and Amazon's supposed "banning" of it. Every one of his comments on the USATODAY website (reader11722's page) evolve into tripe about America Deceived being banned from Amazon and oh-by-the-way here's the link. (His page is being reviewed because I reported him - his last comment was left 30 minutes before I began this post).

How sad that you have to resort to lies and spam to promote your book, and to try and trick people into buying a copy. The worst part is, he's getting people to go to the link - where they're offered to read a portion of the story to "try it out" - and honestly, no one is going to want to drop any amount of hard-earned cash on that crap. It's a stupid, unbelievable story that tries too hard to be a big, impressive "detective-type" novel.

No, people, Amazon - nor anyone else - has "banned" America Deceived. It's all a silly, little spam ploy to get you to notice some sad wouldbe-writer's crappy, self-published book and to try and trick you into buying it; that's the only deception going on here.

In all honesty, Amazon should've banned it - just for the fact that it sucks. Forgive me, but jackassess like this give us hard-working, honest writers a bad name - those of us that try to get noticed and published on our own merit and talents have no respect for morons like this who exploit people's fears and spam up the Internet to get their work noticed.

Magnola Memories – An Absolute Delight

Monday, March 10th, 2008

...Cross-posted from my graving blog, A Graver's Journal...

I honestly can think of no way I would prefer to have spent the evening this past Saturday, such was the marvelous time I had at the Foundation for Historical Louisiana's production of Magnolia Memories V at Baton Rouge's Magnolia Cemetery. The events were scheduled for Friday, March 7th and Saturday, March 8th; it was the 6:45pm Saturday show that we attended.

For the past few years, the Foundation - with the help of volunteers, actors, musicians, and others - has brought the stories of some of Baton Rouge's most notable history-makers to light and in the flesh. Each year, a number of the cemetery's occupants are chosen to be represented by local actors and their stories told. These "stories" are actually fascinating scripts compiled from local folklore, historical records, descendants' generation-to-generation tales, and news archives. Each actor stands, in full costume, at the grave of the local luminary they are representing and regales the audience with his or her lifetime achievements and notable deeds, which are sprinkled with history and lore about Baton Rouge itself.

The delightful performances are only part of the entertainment, for as you follow your guide - a white-robed and feather-winged angel - throughout the cemetery, your ears will pick up the melodious sounds of a variety of musical instruments. Set up between the graves and performances are a number of musicians playing doleful diddies or soulful ballads on instruments such as the violin, guitar, bagpipe, cello, and even the harp. Still others added to certain performances with some of the most beautiful vocal stylings I have heard in years.

Though we heard from many that the previous night had been brutal due to the wind, the weather for Saturday's performance was crisp and clear. We traipsed wordlessly through the sleeping graveyard under an inky, starlit sky. The graveled paths winding through the cemetery were lit by brown paper bags containing sand and votive candles, while certain graves - usually those near an actor or musician - were illuminated by bright, floodlights.

At each grave performance, we were seated on small, black folding chairs that were set up in three or four rows just in front of the headstone and actor portraying its occupant. Tall, lantern-like heaters were set up around the folding chairs to offer some warmth from the biting cold.

What I had read, and later discussed with one of the guides, was that every year the notable deceased are chosen at random. It just so happened - it was later discovered - that there were quite a number of real-life connections that bound together nearly all of those who had been chosen this year. This happens every year, in some form; yet this year was more remarkable than the ones before for the unique yet interesting ties that bound the people whose lives were being showcased.

And what of these people and their noteworthy lives? Who were they, and what did I learn about them, and from them about our great, capital city?

The evening began with an introduction by Charles Ferdinand Rabenhorst, who - in 1866 - founded the local yet renowned Rabenhorst Funeral Homes, which is still, today, four generations and over 130 years on, operated by the Rabenhorst family. The affable Prussian, Mr. Rabenhorst, who spoke so lovingly of his beloved wife, Caroline, was played (perfect accent and all!) by Robert Wilson.

From there, followed by the mournful tones of a bagpipe, we were led to two, stout, white marble markers bearing the surname "Magruder". These were the graves of education pioneer and Mississippi native, W. H. Nathanial Magruder, and his wife, Mary. Magruder was the founder of the Magruder Collegiate Institute, once located on Government Street in Baton Rouge. Throughout his life, he was also a teacher and professor who taught, among many of Louisiana's later lawyers, doctors, clergymen, and politicians, a number of the others who were being represented in the cemetery this very evening. The aged educator lived to the ripe, old age of eighty-five, before passing away in March of 1900 - not long after losing his beloved wife, of whom he spoke so fondly. Professor Magruder was played - eloquently so - by actor David Besse. It was hard not to see Mr. Besse as the long-dead professor, he played the part so very convincingly.

Our angel guide then led us further into the cemetery, and we soon found ourselves almost on Florida Boulevard itself as we were seated before the grave of the independent and strong-willed writer and banker, Miss Vallie Mentz Seitz. After making sure the gentlemen of the group addressed their hostess properly, and that the ladies were well-situated, Miss Seitz went on to share her grievances about the decline of common courtesy, in the form of genuine Southern hospitality, that she had witnessed growing older in her time. Miss Seitz would be in for quite a shock today! As well as sharing her achievements of being the first female to hold a clerical and banking job (which were male-only positions until she took them over) and of being a published author (of a book as well as a screenplay), she admitted to being held as "eccentric" in her older years - mainly for her propensity to use her umbrella to whop the hood of vehicles for not stopping, as they should, to let a lady pass. Surrounded by friends and the kindness of the elderly patrons she spent her free time helping, the affable Miss Seitz never married and spends eternity buried alongside her mother, whom she cared for the last twenty years of the older woman's life. Played by Nancy Litton, our time with Vallie could only have been more perfect had we all been sipping a cup of tea in a parlor, as befitting a meeting with a true, Southern lady.

Vallie left us with a tidbit of gossip that involved her cousin, Josie's, hot-tempered husband and a young doctor whom he supposedly shot dead - for reasons somehow related to cousin Josie! Little did we know, this was a hint about the gentlemen we were about to meet next.

Almost directly across the cemetery from Vallie Seitz, sits the impressive family plot of the Hart family, which holds the remains of J.M. Hart - a well-known and respected man in the local community at the time - and his family. It wasn't, however, one of the Harts we were here to meet. Standing on the plot, and next to his grave, was an affable and handsome young man who introduced himself as Dr. Aldrich. Dr. Henry Robert "Harry" Aldrich had married into the affluent Hart family by wooing their daughter, Gertrude. Gertrude and Harry had a growing family, a nice home, and the practice was thriving - it was a wonderful life, until it was cut short by murder.

As the good doctor told us of his life and all that he had lost, a voice rang out from behind us - and up walked a man that was introduced to us as Judge George Kent Favrot, the man accused of ending Dr. Aldrich's life so many years ago. The men engaged a courteous-enough discourse, though there was obviously a thinly veiled distaste one for the other. We then heard the story, told between the two of them, of how Judge Favrot was told - at a drunken party - that Dr. Aldrich said something loathsome and degrading about Mrs. Favrot. What exactly was said that inflamed the Judge so has been lost to time, and whether the Doctor even said it is up for debate. Regardless, on November 7, 1906, George Favrot was waiting for the 39 year-old doctor as he left work and stepped out of the Raymond Building on 3rd Street in downtown Baton Rouge. Three shots rang out and Dr. Harry Aldrich lay dead on the street.

At least, Doctor Aldrich scoffed, you paid for your crimes! This, however, was not the case. Poor Dr. Aldrich could not keep to his feet as Judge Favrot told the time-old - and unfortunate - tale of common Louisiana politics; no jury would convict the well-known and well-liked former lawyer and present judge, and he went on to live a long, esteemed life that eventually landed him a seat in Congress. He was buried with honors in Roselawn Cemetery after a long and productive life; not on this Earthly plane, it seems, did Judge Favrot ever pay the price for ending the doctor's life and shattering his promise and dreams. The parts of the ill-fated doctor and wickedly shrewd judge were played to perfection by actors Drew Cothern, as Dr. Alrich, and Johnny Worsham as Judge George Favrot.

From there we traveled back across the cemetery, this time coming to the grave of another distinguished woman, Ellen Bryan Moore. Ellen was the most recently deceased of our entertainers this evening, having only left this life as far back as the year 2000. Surrounded by family and buried alongside her dear husband, Haywood, the indomitable Ellen told us about being the first female in the South to join the Woman's Army Corps. The rest of her life was spent in service to her local government - she worked, as she said, "in government, not politics" - though she admitted all of it would have been for naught without the love and support of her loved ones. One can only imagine the struggles - and scorn - Ellen must have faced being part of the Army during the war and running for positions in governmental roles throughout her life; the times that Ellen was born into were not exactly conducive to that of an active, independent, and publicly strong-willed woman. Yet, despite, Ellen did her own thing and continued on - never letting the naysayers hold her down or dim her bright ambitions. Ellen Moore was played charmingly and utterly believingly by actress Neena Kelfstrom.

With women's rights still on our mind, we made our way to the last stop of the evening - the grave of the esteemed and brilliant Dr. Thaddeus Walker. Dr. Walker was the son of former slaves, freed after the Civil War, who instilled in him the importance of a solid education. He took their words to heart, and the young, gifted man was entering college at the age of eleven! If you can imagine the struggles of independent ladies like Vallie and Ellen in earlier times, one can only begin to grasp at what Thaddeus Walker - a black man - went through as he worked his way up through a medical career until opening his own practice in Lakeland, Louisiana (which was later moved to Baton Rouge). The New Orleans-native suffered criticism and was shunned not only from the white community but also, and maybe more so, from his fellow blacks. Some felt, he told us, that a colored man could not hope to be so educated; their own self-esteem had taken such a beating that even they did not believe themselves worthy of an education or capable of holding such a job. Still others, he confessed, felt that living in rich, white society and holding such a prestigious position made him no better than the uppity whites he lived around; Dr. Walker, they felt, was "stepping out of his place". Despite these grumblings, the good doctor went on to build a successful practice with a large and dedicated circle of patients that included people of all colors.

It was during Dr. Walker's speech that a voice from the crowd interrupted - and a handsome black man from the seated guests stood and asked to interrupt Dr. Walker's speech in order to give his thanks. He introduced himself as Dr. Mokissa Murrill, and noted that because of Dr. Walker's triumph over race relations during such difficult times, it was possible that black people such as Dr. Murrill himself - who started a children's clinic in Baton Rouge in the early 1980's - were able to practice openly and garner respect. He had a valid point. There is no doubt that a man of Dr. Walker's obvious intelligence and skill changed the ideas that whites at the time had about their darker-skinned brethren, and that - perhaps even - he became an inspiration to his fellow blacks, reminding them that they could aspire to do anything they set their minds to - rather than thinking themselves doomed to fail or their that skin color was a deterrent. The parts of Dr. Walker - played by Ed Barnes - and Dr. Murrill - played by Eric Street - were not only entertainment, but a gentle reminder of how some of our fellow beings - including the lessons shown us by Vallie Seitz and Ellen Moore - had to struggle to do things that we, today, take for granted. Dr. Thaddeus Walker, living in the turbulent times after the Civil War, was not just a doctor but a pioneer in equality. It could not ever have been easy to walk the path he tread, but in so doing he set a mighty example for everyone that came into contact with him, as well as those of us who learn about his life many years after his death.

The two doctors finished their piece to the deep, soulful songstress who appeared, cloaked, and sang a hymn about Jesus. It was soul-stirring, and I had to tell her - before leaving - that she had the voice of an angel! Indeed, she brought tears to my eyes, so deep into my soul did her voice penetrate.

And then, almost too soon, it was over. We were led quietly out of the cemetery while the groups that had started behind us were finishing up or just coming in. I walked away from the event that night with a whole, new appreciation for that beautiful cemetery and the unique, lively, creative, and brilliant souls interred within. I also garnered a new esteem for this great city of Baton Rouge in which we live, and this amazing state - steeped in so much interesting and intriguing culture and history. There simply is no other place like it on Earth, and to all the souls that have lived (and do live) here and contributed their part to the great gumbo that is Louisiana history, I can only say thank you.

My kudos to the Foundation for putting on a stellar event. I plan to return every year from here on out; I just simply couldn't miss it knowing now how special and enjoyable the entire thing is. A lot of time and effort obviously went into the production, but more than that was the obvious heart that was such a part of it all. The people doing this genuinely cared about their work and the people whose lives they were bringing "back to life"; it made the entire event all the more magical. Thank you for a wonderful evening, and a "history lesson" I'll not soon forget!

History Forgotten or History Misconstrued?

Tuesday, April 12th, 2005

A little backstory on why I wrote what I posted yesterday...

I was unsettled when I received an email entitled "God-based USA forgotten?" that read as follows:

This is worth remembering, because it is true. Those of you that graduated from school after the early 60's were probably never taught this. Our courts have seen to that! Did you know that 52 of the 55 signers of "The Declaration of Independence" were orthodox, deeply committed Christians? They all believed in the Bible as the divine truth, the God of scripture, and His personal intervention. It is the same Congress that formed the American Bible Society, immediately after creating the Declaration of Independence. The Continental Congress voted to purchase and import 20,000 copies of Scripture for the people of this nation.
Patrick Henry, who is called the firebrand of the American Revolution, is still remembered for his words, 'Give me liberty or give me death,' but in current textbooks, his preceding words are omitted. Here is what he actually said: 'An appeal to arms and the God of hosts is all that is left us. But we shall not fight our battle alone. There is a just God that presides over the destinies of nations. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone. Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it Almighty God. I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death.' These sentences have been erased from our textbooks. Patrick Henry was a Christian? The following year, 1776, he wrote this: 'It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great Nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For that reason alone, people of other faiths have been afforded freedom of worship here.'

Consider these words that Thomas Jefferson wrote in the front of his well-worn Bible: 'I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus. I have little doubt that our whole country will soon be rallied to the unity of our creator.' He was also the chairman of the American Bible Society, which he considered his highest and most important role.

On July 4, 1821, President Adams said, 'The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: It connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.'

Calvin Coolidge, our 30th President of the United States reaffirmed this truth when he wrote, 'The foundations of our society and our government rest so much on the teachings of the Bible that it would be difficult to support them if faith in these teachings would cease to be practically universal in our country.'

In 1782, the United States Congress voted this resolution: 'The Congress of the United States recommends and approves the Holy Bible for use in all schools.'

William Holmes McGuffey is the author of the McGuffey Reader, which was used for over 100 years in our public schools with over 125 million copies sold until it was stopped in 1963. President Lincoln called him the 'Schoolmaster of the Nation.' Listen to these words of Mr. McGuffey: 'The Christian religion is the religion of our country. From it is derived our nation, on the character of God, on the great moral Governor of the universe. On its doctrines are founded the peculiarities of our free Institutions. From no source has the author drawn more conspicuously than from the sacred Scriptures. From all these extracts from the Bible, I make no apology.'

Of the first 108 universities founded in America, 106 were distinctly Christian, including the first, Harvard University, chartered in 1636. In the original Harvard Student Handbook, rule number 1 was that students seeking entrance must know Latin and Greek so that they could study the Scriptures: 'Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life, John 17:3; and therefore to lay Jesus Christ as the only foundation for our children to follow the moral principles of the Ten Commandments.'

James Madison, the primary author of the Constitution of the United States, said this: 'We have staked the whole future of all our political constitutions upon the capacity of each of ourselves to govern ourselves according to the moral principles of the Ten Commandments.'

Today, we are asking God to bless America - but how can He bless a Nation that has departed so far from Him? Most of what you read in this article has been erased from our textbooks. Revisionists have rewritten history to remove the truth about our country's Christian roots.

Let's you and I share the truth of our nation's history and let it be told. For example, in John 3:16, 'For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.'

This information shared is only a drop of cement to help secure a foundation that is crumbling daily in a losing war that most of the country doesn't even know is raging on, in, and around them...

Please do your bit and share this with as many as possible and make the ill-informed aware of what they once had.

And please - begin to tell our children.

The argument for our country being based on Christian principles is one that has concerned me for many years. My own research tells me this is most likely untrue, so I was troubled to receive the above email - even moreso when doing a search for its source online showed that many people had posted it on message boards and websites claiming it as "truth". Not a one, I have found, took the time to investigate the claims put forth in this piece.

It is an injustice our founding fathers do not deserve to dogmatically assume they believed a certain way without any facts. It is foolish to post such postulations without doing a little fact-checking first; people apparently thought "oh, this sounds good" and appended it to a message, email or site simply because it furthered their own cause. Everyone who forwarded, posted or promoted this tripe should be ashamed of themselves.

It only took a few hours of research to point out the fallacies, half-truths and inaccuracies in this piece. Every bit of what is offered up here as "truth" can easily be refuted by simple facts found on the Internet or in an encyclopedia.

I urge you to do your own research on the claims posited in this piece; bring an end to the falsehoods that have been circulating the online community for at least two years now. The great men who gave us our beloved country deserve nothing less; not only does this piece claim they are something they were not it uses this lie to further a cause they were likely absolutely against!

I am trying to find the original source for this material along with the original author. If anyone knows where this was first shown/published and who wrote it, please email me this information.

My findings on this piece are below. Please take the time to read the other side of the coin before jumping to any final conclusions.

(Note: If you would like to link this piece use this http://anima-x.blogspot.com/2005/04/little-backstory-on-why-i-wrote-what-i.html . This information can also be found on my website at http://skatoolaki.com/soap/shanna/foundingfathers-christianornot.htm.)