Mar 21

The Free State of Jones (alright-alright-alright)

Editor’s note:

This was originally published at Travellinbaen.com back in 2009. I’m republishing it now because the movie version starring Matthew McConaughey is currently being filmed and because of a Facebook conversation on Mac’s page. Probably shoulda cleaned it up a bit before posting, but rewriting is, like, hard and stuff. I hope both of you who read, enjoy, and *spoiler alert* the South loses in the end.

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“I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell.” –General William Tecumseh Sherman, USA

TB, like most Mississippians has long known of “the Free State of Jones.” Also like most Mississippians, I didn’t know much. But I’ve always heard about how Jones County was “different” and part of that was because the county seceded from the state of Mississippi during the Civil War. In the version I heard most, they didn’t secede to rejoin the USA, they just seceded to be on their own. So when I saw the book, “The State of Jones” by Sally Jenkins and John Stauffer sitting in my local bookstore I had to pick it up. After reading the first few pages I was hooked. I learned while standing there in the store that the story of the Free State had been well documented. In fact the primary source for the book was an interview with the partisan leader Newton Knight conducted by a newspaper reporter in 1921, just before Knight’s death. As I read through the book I continued to be impressed with the first hand sources unearthed by the authors and their documentation of them in the endnotes. I also learned that the Free State’s so-called secession from the Confederacy was absolutely true in fact, though the men who led the revolt probably never considered using such a word for their deeds, and certainly issued nothing so frivolous as a proclamation.

The story told by Jenkins and Stauffer is fascinating to a Civil War aficionado, illuminating the experience from the foot soldier’s perspective and from that of the families left behind on the farm. It indirectly tells more of the slave experience during the war than anything I’ve ever read. But its scope encompasses bigger themes of Mississippi, Southern and even National political divisions that remain to this day, and that I’m not completely certain the authors even recognized. One thing they did recognize and develop was the idea that the men who led the South to war and who survived the war–some in spite of great peril at numerous battles and some because of the Twenty Negro Law that exempted large slaveholders and their sons from service–essentially “won” their cause. Using the example of Newton Knight, the authors traced the political domination of Jones County in a direct line from the men who ran the place in 1860 to the men who ran it in 1865, with the tacit blessing of their recent Union Army vanquishers. And they showed how the causes of the planter class of continuing free labor and social control of both the black race and poor whites were won.

Knight was of the yeoman farmer class who typically owned no slaves and who opposed the war in large numbers from its outset. I was surprised to learn that Jones County voted to send its delegate to Mississippi’s Secession Convention with instructions to vote “no” to secession. Upon his arrival in Jackson, the delegate was by turns wined and dined, then threatened of his life in order to change his vote to “yes.” He did, and he was given a plum job in the new government. The dirt farmers of Jones County and their neighboring south Mississippi counties were initially livid with the act of their delegate and the convention as a whole.

However, most of their opinions changed at the onset of hostilities and many from Jones and thereabouts signed up to fight for the South. The rest were drafted, save the few Jones families with large slaveholdings. Knight was drafted along with most everyone he knew and resigned himself to service in the Confederate Army. In the Civil War, men from communities typically served together and Knight was in a company of Jones and Jaspar County men he knew well. They suffered mightily in battles around Corinth and eventually down to Vicksburg where they endured the entire siege of the western bastion and suffered all of the privations brought on by General Grant. Knight and his friends were eventually taken prisoner, then paroled to go home and fight no more, which suited the company just fine. It did not, however, suit the Confederate government who needed men.

After arriving home Knight found his home country in a desolate state. Without its men, the area farms had been insufficiently tended by the women and children left home alone. Worse, the Confederates were constantly imposing levies on crops and stock and even when the levies ended, corrupt local politicians, the men exempt from the front line suffering, continued to take. Between the hunger, the insults inflicted on his home and family and before long the attempt by authorities to impress him back into military service, Knight, along with hundreds of his neighbors rebelled. The authors speculated there were thousands of similarly situated ex-soldiers taking the same course of action throughout southeast Mississippi and along the coast–the part of the state without a plantation culture. Along with the entire state of West Virginia, much of east Tennessee and several other enclaves around the south, not only Jones but most of south and east Mississippi were in open rebellion by 1864 against the Confederacy.

While it clearly wasn’t the original impetus, as Knight and his men caused more trouble for the Confederacy and drew more troops into their pursuit, he eventually came around to the point of view he held less emphatically before the war–that he was a Union man and opposed to slavery. As his band swelled with deserters and parolees, they began to undertake missions of sabotage to the Confederate war effort. Most of these acts served the dual purpose of hurting the Confederacy and feeding the local populace, white and black. Knight’s gang relied heavily upon the “invisible” black population of the area to hide them from pursuing cavalry, to warn them of troop movements and to feed them in the swamps where they hid. Before long, Knight had fallen in love with a former slave and taken her on as a second wife. Quickly thereafter came children. As his relationships with the former slave class increased, his dedication to the espoused Union principles of freedom and equality likewise grew. And it was this idealism, grown of suffering and fear, that set up what was to me the central point of the entire tale.

When the war ended Knight expected to be rewarded by the Union and to see changes to the antebellum social and political order. He had been commended to higher political authority by several of the Union officers he’d assisted during the war. The Confederate armies had been soundly defeated in the field and he had contributed to the result. To his astonishment and disappointment, within months of the war’s end he was a forgotten pawn. Forgotten to the Union at least–the planter class remembered him well. Knight was driven by the ex-Rebels to the backwoods compound of his dual family farm. The black equality he’d thought he had helped earn was wiped out by the Black Codes, precursors to Jim Crow. The old Confederate Generals and Colonels were back in charge of the government. Even the school he’d built for his white and black children to attend, under the teacher whose salary he paid, was burned to the ground. Still formidable as a fighting man, even feared, he was able to maintain a redoubt on his family land, but it is unlikely that Knight slept soundly even once between 1866-1921, and the reason had nothing to do with his maintenance of two wives.

It all made me wonder, what was the Union fighting for? It wasn’t to free the slaves. That was but a slogan. The men behind the bayonets may have believed that was their cause, but did Lincoln? We’ll never know as a consequence of his assassination. What we do know is that former slaves gained little or nothing from the outcome for a hundred years out from Appomattox. Beyond that, the slaveholding class was allowed to take back political power in the South without Yankee opposition in the decade following the cessation of hostilities. Was it money? Lincoln was a railroad man after all, and it was via the transport of southern agricultural produce in large part that the railroad men became tycoons. Anyone who studies history knows that in almost all wars from the beginning of recorded history, you must determine where the money leads in order to understand the conflict. I’m sure the issue has been addressed among the innumerable texts about the Civil War, but I’ve not seen it. Maybe the Federals thought they could simply impose their will through military might but found, like modern armies and nations do, that no amount of military strength was enough to change hearts and minds. For me its an open question, but at least now I know the story of The Free State of Jones, of Newton Knight, and of his unfulfilled idealism. As someone who considers himself a student of history and particularly of Mississippi history, the telling filled a gaping hole in my understanding of how my home state has come to be the place it is today.

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If anybody made it through all that, which is of great interest to me but perhaps not to one who reads a blog for a moment of mild amusement or escape from the daily grind, there are a couple of more notes I would’ve like to have worked in to my essay.

First, it is natural I believe, that southerners engage in mental gymnastics to justify our ancestors’ actions with regard to secession. After all, nobody believes in slavery any more, and it is difficult to imagine folks with near identical DNA as ours supporting it. It is a tenet of southern popular history that the war was fought over love of the Constitution and states rights. But deep down, most of us know that’s a lie. I’ll admit to ascribing to that orally taught history for many years and even still wanting to believe there was some just cause for which the South fought. I had never heard of the Declaration of Secession until I read this book. I’m not going to link it but if you google the term you will find it easy enough. It destroys the myth that the South fought for anything but slavery. It is likewise broadly accepted that the North fought for the noble purpose to preserve the Union and to stamp out slavery. Considering their post-war actions, there must’ve been some other motives too.

Finally, it was but a side note in the narrative but one I found interesting. Many of the partisans who fought under the command of Knight and alongside him against the Union developed selective memories in the years following the war and particularly after the restoration of the old boy network. Whether from racism, personal preservation or psychosis, they almost all came to embrace the mythology of the “Lost Cause” and their roles in furthering the interests of the Confederacy. Knight had kept detailed records of his men and their activities so we know who fought with him. But in their public dealings and their oral family traditions many completely rejected their role in the “Free State” in favor of their imagined role as heroic men in Gray. I’d be interested to know how their descendants view the facts illuminated by Jenkins and Stauffer. Many of the names from this book, both patrician and yeoman, are still well known in that part of the state.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.missingtheground.com/2015/03/the-free-state-of-jones-alright-alright-alright/

Mar 20

Hubby

Quote of the Day:

A community is like a ship. Everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm.”     –Henrik Ibsen

TB got word last week that one of his old ball coaches had passed to the other side.

Hubby was, among many other things, the Manager of the 1979 Burnham Pontiac 9-10 year old Dixie Youth ball club, a strong third place finisher in the Pascagoula Gulf League. We practiced every weekday from late February through the beginning of June, except for rain and game days, at the backstop behind Ingalls Avenue Baptist Church out where their property met the Louise Street softball fields. We ran laps before and after practice and whenever we started making too many errors in infield practice. Everybody took a turn at catcher during batting practice. Some of the boys ate blackberries that grew for a month or so on the small chain link fence dividing us from the softball fields.

I don’t recall exactly what Hubby’s day job was, but like most all the other coaches in our league, he was in industry, rising before dawn every day and off early enough to conduct practice from about 4 to 6, though most got there early and all left late. If there were games he got to the fields around 5:30 and left about ten, probably had a chili bun and a coke from the concession stand and then headed home unless he was dropping somebody else’s kid off first, then snatching a few hours of sleep before another early morning, practice, maybe swing by the fields…..day after day during the season. Then all star season started and ran through August.

Early one summer–it may have been 1979 or it may have been another year when I was on another team–Hubby took a week’s vacation. Vacation! The very word conjures in my mind images of solitude, detachment, escape from the workaday routine, from the worries of the present, leaving behind all but my innermost circle to their own problems for a bit. What Hubby did during his precious week off was invite a half dozen of us boys over to get in some pitching work with his own sons in his back yard behind Eastlawn Elementary. It was baseball camp before I’d even heard of such a thing. We all practiced for an hour or so and then he turned us loose and we spent the rest of the day rampaging about his house and neighborhood, eating his food and tearing up his grass. We did it all week long. I don’t know precisely what Hubby’s motivation was. I don’t think it was because he was trying to make some grand statement about what’s important in life or encouraging friendships and connections within a community or about “it taking a village” to raise kids; I just think he thought it would be fun and helpful. But the rest was true too.

Hubby was part of a group of men from that time and place who defined to me what it means to be part of a community. Those men–I associate them with sweat stained shirts and dusty jeans and well worn ball caps and, for Hubby in particular, a big, proud smile. None of them were perfect. Most of them made mistakes. But they were all out there dealing with their own kids and those of their neighbors. Teaching a little baseball, yes, but talking to us about everything else. That’s what I really recall most about Hubby, and the others, conversations during baseball’s interminable down times.

We lost Six and Linwood years ago and Teddy Bear recently and now Hubby and I don’t mean to leave anyone out and God forbid but they won’t be the last to go. I mourn their loss; I mourn especially for the disappearance of the sort of community values that go with them.

Today I mourn for Hubby in particular and for Nell and the boys. But I also celebrate his life. It was well lived, and it touched me and countless others in a positive way. A dying way.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.missingtheground.com/2015/03/hubby/

Mar 17

The Tooth Fairy Cometh

Quote of the Day:

One should either be sad or joyful. Contentment is a warm sty for eaters and sleepers.”     –Eugene O’Neill

The Tooth Fairy crept in, eyes adjusting to the darkness, attuned to any departure from the peaceful rhythm of air rushing in and out of the subject, senses alert for the crushing attack of a stray Lego. The Tooth Fairy wore no silly pink tutu. Hell he didn’t even have on his shirt. Gliding skillfully to his target, careful to prevent any clinkage, the Tooth Fairy reached under the li’l girl’s pillow for the expected tooth. Or in this case, a pebble. Well either a pebble or a broken baby tooth. It was hard to say.

The tooth came out five days ago in the back seat of a Toyota Highlander in Memphis, Tennessee, outside a cupcake shop on the first day of a road trip. Everybody knows the Tooth Fairy doesn’t do business in hotel rooms–she’s not that kind of boy at all. So anyhow the tooth got shown all ’round and the new gap was proudly displayed and a not insignificant spittle of bloody saliva was deposited in the parking lot of the fluffy cupcake place and the tooth was placed for safe keeping in the cupholder of the li’l girl’s car seat, itself, like the Tooth Fairy, in its final days of usefulness, and it was carried through monsoon conditions across the Mississippi River to Arkansas, up to Branson of all places, back to Little Rock and then home to Jackson.

Somewhere between the mildewy indoor water slide and Mary Poppins that tooth got chipped or dropped, probably both. When it came time to retrieve it so it could be placed under the appropriately home-based pillow, it was no longer in the cup holder. The li’l girl’s Father, on hands and knees in the garage, eventually found this pebble-tooth fragment item on the floorboard amongst a veritable crumb buffet of popcorn, cereal, goldfish, french fry, acorns, mardi gras beads, crayon, pebbles and yes cupcake. He showed it to the li’l girl who looked at it dubious-hopefully. A short pause, but they went with it.

Usually this particular li’l girl leaves a note for the Tooth Fairy. She likes to keep her teeth, you see. Yeah, don’t ask. She comes by it honestly, that’s all I’ll say.

And what of it? The Tooth Fairy, contrary to popular belief, doesn’t really care about the tooth. Truth be told, he’s a damn sight more preoccupied with sizing up the new gum-gap and how far off center the middle teeth are and calculating the odds and eventual cost of braces in the event that such a currently-goofy, almost frightening, yet completely charming li’l smile is somehow not in the normal course of things.

But not tonight.

She’s eight now you see and already asking the hard questions in life, striving to come up with plausible reasons to put them at bay. Plus, while she doesn’t really get the significance of those silver dollars that always show up, she wants the cold hard cash which inexplicably this year transformed from one unusable gold doubloon (Presidential dollar) and two shiny dimes (her favorite coin) to a five dollar bill. But she just isn’t worried about what the Tooth Fairy does with her teeth any more now that she knows—now that she very carefully avoids thinking about who he is.

Eight years old and eight baby teeth gone. Eight times the Tooth Fairy has come and by the time he’s due back, he doesn’t even know if he’ll be needed. Shoot, it’s a stupid tradition anyway and doesn’t make a bit of sense and why should he be a slave to a pointless tradition anyhow?

Sliding his hand under the pillow with tender practiced ease, the Tooth Fairy slowly comes to realize the tooth-pebble-fragment-whatever isn’t there.

Well that just figures. When she finds it tomorrow the jig will really be up. The Tooth Fairy scowls in the darkness, but nobody appreciates his exasperation.

Recovering quickly, he slides the coin and the bill under the increasingly self aware, but still perfectly innocent child’s head and kisses her on the head, just like every other night.

If she wakes up in the morning and finds the “tooth” untaken, well, the Father and the li’l girl will come up with something together to explain it.

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://www.missingtheground.com/2015/03/the-tooth-fairy-cometh/

Mar 13

Spiderweb

Editors note: Some of you may remember but I wrote these short connected stories a few years ago. I posted them as separate stories and they made sense to anyone reading them in real time but it always bothered me that they were separate. Anyway, I put them together in one post just to ease my mind. Enjoy.

Chapter 1-Alexis

Alexis woke up and immediately wondered where she was. She smelled cotton candy. Alexis decided she was dreaming because she couldn’t quite get her bearings and the smell of cotton candy almost always meant she was dreaming. That smell always took her back to her childhood. Every year her dad would take her to the midnight madness at the county fair. It was their special trip and dad would always buy her all the cotton candy she could eat. It didn’t matter that they had to get up early in the morning for church. Momma always understood as long as everyone else understood that they WOULD be attending church. Alexis smiled. Her momma still called every Saturday night to see if she would be able to come to church the next morning.
The dream lurched. “Where am I now?” Alexis pondered. Ahh, she thought, I recognize the campus. This is the night I received my drop from Chris. It was a silly fraternity and sorority tradition that had gone on for decades. A drop was like a pre-engagement token. Chris’s frat brothers had him all trussed up like a pig ready for the smoker. He had all kinds of crude comments written on him in permanent marker that Alexis thought would take a month to come off. Turns out they were gone in a week. Alexis smiled. She had told Chris that all this wasn’t necessary but she was secretly thrilled that he had done it.
Alexis was digging her dream. A stark contrast from the night terrors she had suffered from in childhood. The dream jumped again. She was flying now. This was the best part of any dream, soaring like a bird through a canyon. There was a railway below with a long train chugging along at a good pace. “I will race this train” she thought to herself! Down she swooped and started overtaking the great iron beast, flying at most 3 feet above it. As she approached the engine, she saw the mountain looming ahead with a tunnel for the train. “More speed!!!” Alexis turned on the afterburners and shot toward the front of the train. “This is gonna be close!” At the ABSOLUTE last second, Alexis dove down in front of the train and entered the tunnel. Alexis smiled. She had won! She could see the bright sunshine at the other end and zoomed toward it.

Chapter 2-Jonah

Jonah had been on the force for 5 years. Still a young buck by the veterans standards but long enough to have seen some shit. He hated calls like the one he was on now. A jogger had been struck by a drunk driver over on Marquette Drive. When Jonah arrived on scene, the drunk was already hooked up and sitting in the back of Reggie’s squad car. Jonah approached the vehicle and could hear the drunk guy through the window. Sounded like he was singing Elvis, or at least trying to sing Elvis. “Sonofabitch doesn’t have a clue what he did.” Jonah mumbled to himself.
Jonah went to inspect the crashed vehicle next. The right hood and fender was smashed in and the windshield was shattered on the right side as well. Jonah figured the jogger’s head had struck the windshield when he was struck. Jonah peered closer at the windshield and could see what appeared to be human hair stuck in the spiderweb at the impact site. “Guy never knew what hit him” Jonah thought. Reggie tapped Jonah on the shoulder and motioned for Jonah to look under the car. Two jogging shoes. “We will have to bag those for evidence” Jonah said and Reggie nodded. It was actually very common for pedestrians to be knocked out of their shoes when struck by a vehicle. One of 1000 little known facts that Jonah wished he didn’t know.
Jonah accompanied Reggie over to the jogger’s body which was covered with a sheet. “How long til the coroner arrives Reg?” Jonah asked. “Should be along shortly.” Reggie responded.
“Do we have an ID on the guy?” Jonah asked.
“Yea. Drivers license in the pocket and this” Reggie handed Jonah the license and a folded page from a magazine. It was a picture of a wedding dress with a hand drawn heart in the corner of the page containing one word. “Chris”.
“Wait a sec…the jogger is a female?” Jonah asked.
“Yea dude. Young twenties. Alexis Youngblood.”

Chapter 3-George

This was the only part of George’s day that didn’t suck. Buck Cherry’s was the local juke joint out on 40 and George stopped in to visit daily. George hated his job. He tried to remind himself regularly that he was lucky to be employed while so many other folks out there were unemployed. It didn’t help. The boss man was a dick from way back and seemed way more interested in furthering his nephew’s career than anything George happened to be doing. George had quit giving a shit a long time ago.
By all appearances George had the perfect home life. A loving, beautiful old lady and a son that was the envy of all the Pop Warner parents every Saturday. But George needed his pit stop to help with that as well. Home life, as good as it seemed on Facebook, was a huge stressor on George. The whisky helped numb that. George knew that he was hiding. He knew that he had an alcohol problem. He just didn’t care.
Life was so easy here in Buck Cherry’s. Everyone knew George by name. He had graduated with the owner and usual bartender Roy. There were normally only about 5 or 6 patrons in the bar on any given day. Most, like George, were regulars although the occasional stranger would straggle in. Everyone would take turns buying rounds. This economically came out the same for everyone at the end of the day but it sure felt good getting all those “free” rounds.
George knew he was getting too drunk and he needed to leave. Bobby Pickens talked him into one more game of pool. 5 drinks and 4 games later, George headed for the door.
“George, why don’t you let me call you a cab buddy.” Roy hollered from behind the bar.
“Hell Roy, you seen me worse than this! That night with the girls and the cemetery comes to mind!” George hollered back.
“Never let me forget it will you, you sonofabitch?!” Roy bellowed as he was belly laughing.
George was in the parking lot now…where the hell was his Buick? After a few stumbling minutes, he saw it. He dropped his keys trying to unlock the door. For the briefest of moments, George thought about taking Roy up on that cab. “Bullshit” George said out loud to no one and fired the Buick up. Home was only 5 minutes down the road. What could possibly happen?
As George peeled out of the parking lot, his favorite song came on the radio. Hound Dog by Mr. Elvis Aaron Presley.
George knew every word by heart.

Chapter 4-Chris

“Bossman, did you remember I asked you to get off an hour early today?”
“Aw hell Chris, you see we’re slammed right now!”
“I know boss but I got my bachelor party tonight, you know? I am only getting married once!” Chris smiled his devilish smile.
Bossman couldn’t help but grin a little. “Get outta here you shitheel. You want to make the biggest mistake of your life, go ahead.”
“Be less cranky old man!” Chris shouted as he hit the door.
Chris had a little pep in his step as he headed toward the parking lot. A bunch of his friends from college had made the migration to help Chris kiss his bachelorhood away. Chris hadn’t seen them for a couple of years, not since he dropped out. Chris was always sharp, but a little too much partying and some misplaced priorities can derail sharp in a heartbeat. Things hadn’t turned out so bad. He had landed this pretty sweet construction gig two weeks after getting home. The hours weren’t bad and even though he and the old man liked to rib each other, they got along great.
Chris’s thoughts turned to Alexis. He still to this day could not imagine what he had done to get so lucky. They had met in biology class at the University and really hit it off. There wasn’t any romance at first even though Chris had some carnal thoughts from the beginning. Late night study sessions kindled a friendship, some knowledge and a lot of laughs. That was the best thing about Alexis to him. That girl could make him laugh no matter his mood. They would talk on the phone til 2am almost every night about everything and nothing. Chris smiled thinking of how his roommate in the dorm threatened to kill him more than once over this annoying habit. The very same roommate that was going to be standing beside him next week as he said his vows.
Chris pulled up to the new apartment that he and Alexis had just rented. She wasn’t too keen on the neighborhood but it was all they could afford right now. Chris had already asked for more overtime at work and Alexis was supposed to start at the hospital next month. They wouldn’t be here long, Chris thought. As Chris unlocked the door and stepped inside, his phone started ringing. Chris looked at the display and saw it was his soon to be father in law. “Oh, great” Chris mumbled. The old man didn’t seem to like Chris much. Not that Chris could blame him. He was stealing the poor guys little girl.
“Hey John.” Chris answered…
“What?”
“WHAT??? Where? WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?!?!”
In these moments…time slows down…the phone took an eternity to hit the floor…a split second before Chris’s knees.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.missingtheground.com/2015/03/spiderweb/

Mar 06

Be smarter. Please.

The anti intellectual vibe in this country is getting out of control. Some examples.

The anti vaccination bullcrap has been getting a lot of play lately. A growing number of parents in California have been driving the uptick in measles cases, for the record. Mainly white, affluent parents who think putting anything foreign in their little Hitler will keep him from lording over the underlings when he gets older.

A young black kid gets out of the ghetto and goes to law school. Earns straight A’s and lands a prestigious job at a large law firm. Becomes rich. He speaks as you would expect a man of such intelligence to speak. Proper grammar and probably a few levels above you and I. What does black society say about him? “Sellout.” “He’s acting white.” “Not keeping it real.”

Republicans decrying global warming. A republican senator throwing a snowball on the floor of Congress saying that destroys the libtard argument of global warming.

Religionists decrying evolution and Earth age and basically anything that doesn’t adhere to the “Law of God”.

Rednecks exclaiming from the highest mountain their pride in just being “A good ole country boy”.

I’m over it. When did this become hip? I am probably about to step on every single person’s toe that reads this, if I haven’t already, but it needs to be said.

Beware ANYONE, in any environment, that encourages you not to learn. I don’t care if it’s your preacher, a teacher or the frigging ice cream man. Learning is a primary human trait. It’s the reason we are not still hanging from branches and throwing poo at each other. Apologies to the religious crowd. “It’s the reason God didn’t poof you out of thin air not throwing your poo at your mate.” Learning should not be discouraged. It should be encouraged at every single turn you ever take in life. Science is not the enemy. Is science always right? Nope. That’s the nature of science. Use all available evidence and come up with a theory. New evidence comes up? No problem amigo. Revise theory. Some people point to this and say science isn’t believable. I point at them and say “please don’t breed”.

Whatever your creed or color or nationality, if you wear pants and breathe oxygen, I need you to listen to me. I need you to be smarter. I know this is a tall order. Here’s the good part. You can just trust the smart folks. Anti vax quacks? Trust the 95% of doctors that tell you to vaccinate your kids. Your thoughts on the matter really don’t count. The people that we entrust with our healthcare almost universally agree it’s a good idea. Anti global warming folks? Trust the 95% of climate scientists that agree on this subject. As evil as the US govt is, I doubt even they could coerce 95% of anyone to do anything. It is not a conspiracy. Unlike that crack shot sniper on the grassy knoll. If you believe ANYTHING that goes against the vast majority of people that study said thing…I am going to go out on a limb and say you’re wrong. Call me crazy.

Y’all get the gist so I’ll wrap this up. I think social media is ruining me on the human race. The more I am exposed to you, the more I want to move to a mountain retreat and never speak to any of you again.

But don’t be mislead fellow smart folks. I will let y’all in after a rigorous multiple choice exam and 3 packs of slim jims. We have to have rules.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.missingtheground.com/2015/03/be-smarter-please/

Feb 25

Technology is making us stoopid.

I have been noticing lately that my spelling is getting worse. I blame Apple. Autocorrect is making me more stoopid. You see, Word has underlined stoopid and is begging me to change it. Screw you Word. I’m leaving it. Wrap your little computer head around that, T-1000.

In all seriousness though, I think technology is making us dumber. I am seeing it in a small way with my diminishing spelling skills. I used to be able to spell anything. I have gotten lazy. I don’t even try to cipher it out anymore. I just machine gun it out there knowing the computer is going to fix it.

I think we will see this become more pronounced over the next 50 years and beyond. Today’s generation of kids are being raised on this technology. How lazy are they going to be as adults? By that time, the computer won’t just correct word spelling. It will correct the entire text for spelling, grammar and who knows what else. How many times have you heard a kid (or adult) say “What do I need math for? I have a calculator in my pocket.”

Warning-Entering black helicopter conspiracy territory. Enter at your own risk.

At some point in the future, computers will do everything for us. The world of non-mobile fat humans in the movie Wall-E comes to mind. Make no mistake, sooner than you think, most things done on this Earth will be done by tech and robots. Driverless cars are already here. How long before they knock cab drivers and garbage collectors out of a job? Apply this logic to every job you know. It’s scary stuff.

What are we going to do when we create real artificial intelligence (AI)? Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk both think it will mean the end for humanity. I tend to agree with them. We already know how much faster computers move than the human mind. How long will it take the AI to grow its intelligence many multitudes of degrees past ours? Not long. Do you know why human beings are the dominant species on this planet? It’s not because we have opposable thumbs or god like hair. It’s that mass of tissue sitting between your ears. We are the smartest species on the planet.

What happens when we are not?

Permanent link to this article: http://www.missingtheground.com/2015/02/technology-is-making-us-stoopid/

Feb 20

Compulsion

I am just about fed up with your bullshit, religion. Nevermind all the shenanigans Christianity is constantly pulling over here in the States. Now we have ISIS mass beheading Christians in an attempt to poke the bear into a fight and bring about the end of the world.

“What’s that Jack?” you are saying. That is correct. Radical Islam (currently ISIS) believes in a strict interpretation of the Koran and believe they are intricate players in an all out Armageddon. I HIGHLY suggest you read the following link. It is long but you will have a much better understanding of who we are dealing with over there if you take the time to read it. Let me tease the article like this. If Al Queda was a cracked out doberman…ISIS is a full grown angry Bengal Tiger. They are two totally different animals. And one is obviously more ominous. Make no mistake about it. ISIS is 100% about bringing about a religious war to this planet.

What ISIS Really Wants

The problem, as I see it, with Islam is the statement that it is a religion of peace is total hogwash. Their holy book is quite clear on their mission of taking over the world by force and killing infidels. It’s spelled out in black and white. Now the majority of Muslims in the world decry radical Islam in the public arena. But they follow the same book. They kinda believe it to varying degrees. This is where we run into a sticky wicket when we go to war with them. We bomb the radicals. Innocents get killed. Muslims that were on the fence get mad and join the revolution. Rinse and repeat.

As to the Christians getting beheaded, I wish we could stop pointing out that they were Christians. 21 PEOPLE got their heads removed. Saying they were Christians further fuels the religious war bonfire that they are TRYING to light over there. It means about as much to me that they were Christian as it would if they were all drivers of Green Priuses. Don’t get me wrong. I know you are sitting there thinking “How much of this BS are we supposed to take before we go kick some ass?” I get that sentiment, believe me. Heck, I am almost totally against getting involved overseas but if we started carpet bombing that cesspool over there tomorrow, I wouldn’t lose a lot of sleep. The problem with this, however, comes back to what I touched on before. There are a billion Muslims in the world. I really don’t think we want to turn the current 5% of them that are radical Islamists into 100%.

I think most organized religions are bad but Islam is the most rotten of the bunch by a damn sight in my opinion. They are stuck in the Middle Ages and want to bring that mindset to the rest of the world. But, saying that, I also don’t think that Christians should forget that they were not unlike radical Islam back in the day. Even today, they want to convert everyone to their religion. They just don’t cut off your head to do it.

There isn’t an easy answer. Read the article I posted and tell us what you think. I have said it before but I honestly believe that if we could wave a magic wand and make all religion disappear from this world, we would all be better off. But that is never going to happen. So we are left having to deal with this mess.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.missingtheground.com/2015/02/compulsion/

Feb 12

Home Schooled Kids and Public Sports

So the Mississippi Senate today shot down the “Tim Tebow” bill. It would have allowed home schooled kids to play on public schools sports teams. This information came to me via a friend and an article on the Clarion Ledger facebook page. As usual, the comments on the article really brought out the best in people.

Right off the bat, let me say that I never realized there was such a widespread stigma against home schooled children. Some of the comments were downright rude and all around ignorant. There was a pervasive sentiment that home schooled kids think they are too good for public schools. That they feel themselves superior to public school kids. That they sleep til 10:00am every morning and play video games all day. People were definitely basing their opinions on whether or not the kids should be allowed to play on emotional feelings.

I don’t really know anything about home schooling. Definitely not enough to have an informed conversation on whether or not it is a good idea to home school your child. Here’s what I do know. This is the United States of America and if you want to keep your kid home and teach them, you should absolutely be allowed to do so. I was surprised that in Mississippi, the bastion of Christian conservatives and purported upholders of American individualism, there was such a widespread sentiment that if you didn’t go to the state sponsored school you had to be a pariah. There was definitely an opinion that these kids were somehow cheating in being home schooled. “My kid has to go to school, yours should too, by God!” This in a state where yelling “OBAMA’S A SOCIALIST!” is a mating call.

On the question of whether or not the home schooled kids should be able to play on public schools sports teams, I say absolutely they should. Here is the big reason why. Home schooling parents have put in just as much tax money as you to fund that public school. Technically, they are paying for your kids’ education. If anyone should be pissed around here, it should be them. In my opinion, if a home schooled child needs to come take a year of math in the public school he should be allowed to. His/her parents have already paid for it. All of the arguments I saw today against letting them play fell apart at that one fact. Their parents pay taxes. The only legitimate argument I saw was that student athletes need to maintain a certain GPA to play and there was no way to verify the home schooled kids grades. This is a legitimate point. We need to figure out how to make that happen.

I do know this with 100% certainty. If home schooled Johnny had a 4.5 40 time, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. :-)

Permanent link to this article: http://www.missingtheground.com/2015/02/home-schooled-kids-and-public-sports/

Feb 09

Very, Very Sweet Home Alabama

Alabama today sort of became the 37th state in our great union to allow same sex marriage. I say sort of because they are going into kicking and screaming. The populace had voted it down time and time again and duly elected other like minded bigots to public office. Chief of the Alabama Supreme Court Roy Moore tried a last minute stop on the impending federal mandate but it mostly fell short. Many offices today in Alabama were issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. In many counties though, the powers that be refused to issue any licenses at all. Literally crossing their arms and stomping their feet in an all out temper tantrum. This fight is far from over.

I was too young to remember the real fight for civil rights. By the time I had any memory of anything, those uppity black folk were attending my schools and drinking from my water fountains and being my friends. I feel quite certain, however, that the people who stood against black equality (and any equality throughout time) felt just as those that are opposing gay marriage feel now. They think they are right. Hell, they KNOW they are right. My only solace is our history though. Racism and bigotry fall by the wayside given enough time. So it will be with this. Being openly racist today is a sure way to get fired and bring upon yourself societal shame. It’s not dead, mind you. People will always hold hate in their hearts. It’s just not acceptable by today’s standards in civilized society.

My overall point tonight though is not really to argue about whether gay marriage is right or wrong. The Christian Right is concentrating their arguments now on states rights. Can the federal government lawfully tell a state what it is or is not going to do. This is not an easy question to answer folks no matter how incredibly wrong a state is. Clearly in my mind, states should not be able to do crazy stuff. Again, should states be allowed to hold slaves or segregate races? That question has been asked and answered and I hope the majority of people would agree that they should be stopped from such barbarism.

I like the idea of individual liberty and I hate slippery slopes. But I know people are stupid, especially in large numbers. If the federal government doesn’t stop them, who will?

What do you think?

Permanent link to this article: http://www.missingtheground.com/2015/02/very-very-sweet-home-alabama/

Feb 09

Joys of Parenthood (the little things)

Quote of the Day:

Insanity is hereditary–you get it from your kids.”     –Sam Leveson

TB had occasion last week to walk the halls of St. Andrew’s Episcopal (Lower) School with Li’l Scamp. As we passed the Spanish room, we encountered a little whippersnapper of her grade, but another teacher. A roundish sort of creature with a pleasantly out of control curly mop on his head. His knees were dirty and his shirt was all ahoo. Most noticeably, the strap of his backpack was clutched resolutely among his mixture of baby, permanent, loose and missing teeth, the rest of the item hanging empty and limp before him.

He and Scamp smiled at each other and she asked him, in light of his appearance, what in the world he was doing.

“I’m half-dog,” he replied, momentarily holding the bag with his left paw, losing his grin and adopting a posture of total sincerity.

“Oh,” replied Scamp, accepting his reply at face value, content with the logic of it all.

Who was I to question anything what with the satisfaction apparent to both of the actual conversation participants? We continued on our path and spoke no more of it, moving on to weightier issues such as the lifespan of the class hamster and his moral superiority over the simple goldfish of a rival set of second graders in the building.

Yet the encounter nagged at my subconscious self, in much the way a basketball nags a poodle.

That night we were discussing our day and I asked Scamp what that kid’s name was. She told me but then carried it further. “He thinks he’s half-dog.”

“Yes, I recall him saying something about that,” I replied.

“But he’s not.”

“No?,” I asked.

Scamp looked at me like I was a first-grader. “Well, can a half-dog talk? Can a half-dog play soccer? Can a half-dog go to the cafeteria?”

Oblivious to the fact we had somehow adopted opposite sides, from whence I’d assumed we’d started in our conversation, regarding the genetic and biological make-up of which our young school friend consisted, I rose to the debate.

“Well, he IS half-BOY, right? And that half of him ought to be able to talk, to play soccer, go to the cafeteria and what-not. Right?”

She simply rolled her eyes, realizing what a hopeless case I am. “Oh Daddy, they would never let the dog part of him do any of that. Not at MY school anyway. Especially not in second grade. Not even in Ms. C’s class, even if all they have is a goldfish. I’m going to bed.”

Permanent link to this article: http://www.missingtheground.com/2015/02/joys-of-parenthood-the-little-things/

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