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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Immigration Fight

There's an immigration reform bill moving through the U.S. Senate right now. Incredibly, Teddy Kennedy and Geo W. Bush are united in fighting to get it passed, which ought to raise suspicions right there.

The provisions of this bill are hard to understand as a whole, and it contains 373 pages that the Senators were reluctant to have read to them. But if I understand correctly, the sponsors want to give legal status to the millions of so-called "illegal" immigrants who are already here, while throwing up barriers against other millions who are waiting to improve their lots by coming to the U.S., temporarily or permanently.

In a nation packed with the children of immigrants from many lands dating back 500 years, it is hard for me to understand what makes immigrants suddenly illegal. And I see nothing wrong with the Mexicans taking back by peaceful osmosis the lands that they lost by force of arms a couple of centuries ago. I see no great loss in Texas, Arizona, and Southern California being rejoined by Mexico. In fact, in the case of the former two states I see nothing but gain, and it would be good if Oklahoma could join them.

I know that animals are universally territorial, but we pride ourselves on being civilized, and I would think that that would involve treating the whole earth as one gigantic commons that is to be treated with the greatest respect.

I call the current fight over the immigration bill part of the "Pull Up the Ladder" syndrome. Having found success on a particular plot of land , former inmigrants -- after having driven out the former inhabitants by murder, theft, and bad faith, and after having lured other immigrants there to help set things up -- then turn around and fight to keep out still more immigrants, especially if the new aspirants are of what they regard as a different and less illustrious human species. This was clearly seen in Oregon, for instance, not so long ago, when they tried to discourage Californians from resettling there.

I may be incredibly offbase here, but I think that people ought to be able to relocate wherever they want, though generally, through the ages, it has been a far better idea to stay home, through thick and thin.


Years after the D.C. incident on my roof but already 15 years ago (time races!), here in Virginia another close friend fell off not a two-story house but just a shed whose roof he was painting, and he broke several bones in one knee, and that put a severe cramp on his mobility for a long time.

Almost always this guy is filled "from the crown to the toe, topfull" -- to borrow Lady Macbeth's wonderful expression -- with good sense, although he hails from New Jersey. But up on that shed he forgot, and he stepped on a piece of plywood that rested on the wet paint, and off that roof he and his 200 pounds and the plywood slid.

Unable to move, he lay on the ground in intense pain for over an hour, waiting for someone to come within earshot, and meanwhile rain started to fall. It was only after two years of much therapy and agony and inconvenience that he, the hyperactive type, got back on his feet. He was in his mid-50's, and his leg never did heal quite right. And recently he had to undergo surgery to have that knee replaced, and today he is not quite a model of physical fitness.

Though I sprained my ankle a number of times when I was a child, I have yet to break any bones, and I would very much like to keep things that way to the end. I like my chances of managing that.


A neighbor down the road who is an X-ray technician told me that men over 50 should never go up on ladders. He speaks from terrible things he has seen in emergency rooms.

Though I am now many years past that cutoff age, I still violate that very sensible principle now and then. I don't go up farther from the ground than my height, I make sure my ladder is well seated into the ground, I tie the ladder to anything I can, I go up and down the rungs VERY slowly, and I fight to keep my ever-wandering mind from wandering. Still ... Why? The answer must have to do with living in the country, where it's hard to avoid tasks asking for going up ladders. But along with that I know that the fates are always there, waiting to be tempted.

You Should Scream

Once while I was living in D.C. I had to call the Fire Department to get me off my roof.

My house was a brick two-story colonial with a regularly pitched roof. I had gone up there on a ladder to attach an antenna to the chimney for my FM tuner. But no sooner had I gotten up there when I saw that I had made a big mistake in my choice of footwear. I had no traction on the shingles, or "purchase," as Paul Brown, the legendary coach of the Cleveland Browns, called it. So, unable to get back safely to the ladder, I struggled up to the ridge and then along the ridge to the chimney. The house had a working fireplace. I yelled down it to my wife to call the Fire Department.

I was wearing bowling shoes, and their extra-smooth soles, added to my fear of heights, was the problem. I had taken to wearing them around the house after I had discovered that bowling was yet another sport at which I had no aptitude. Thinking at first, however, that I would be the next 10-pins champ, I had invested in the right equipment, and that included the shoes and also a ball with the holes drilled in a special way, the (something)-Bates method. Getting the right equipment is the second thing I do when I go into a new activity. The first is that I pile up a small library on it. But now that I think about it, that is probably exactly the reason why I failed at bowling. I didn't buy one book on the subject. Incredible!

The firemen came quickly and threw up a ladder that hooked on to the ridge, and I climbed down safely, with extreme relief that I would be able to live a little longer, with nothing broken. It happened so fast that none of my neighbors saw it.

I ignored the bored and disdainful looks on the faces of the firemen, nor did I pay much attention either to the remarks of one of my best friends later. He said he would've stayed up there till doomsday before he called the fire department. I informed him that I was a Zen Buddhist (a slight exaggeration) and that one of the things that Zen teaches is that when something hurts you, you should scream. Screw the macho bull!

Saturday, June 16, 2007


The beauty that so often accompanies being young is a promise that is rarely kept. This suggests that if there is such a being as a Creator, then it is lacking in good character, as we understand that quality. Or either it suggests that the Creator was so taken with his product that he rolled it out of the shop in an unfinished form, resulting, similar to automobiles, in a state of almost instant recall.