I consider Roe v. Wade Settled Law

Of course, it isn’t.

Now a new abortion case is approaching the court from Mississippi. The state now bans abortions after 15 weeks. This time scheme is purportedly based on when the fetus would be viable outside the womb. With advances in medicine, we might be approaching the time when abortions are banned before a woman could reasonably know she is pregnant–some suggest banning abortions as soon as it’s possible to detect a fetal heartbeat.

My political/moral views are somewhat eclectic, but the libertarian side of my beliefs is that government has no right to tell me what I can eat, smoke, drink, worship, think, believe in, do to/for myself (including taking my life), or–if I were a woman–whether or not I could end my pregnancy.

Certainly, as a man, I cannot support anyone–especially men–who believe they have the right to get involved in a woman’s personal choices, including giving birth.

I have long feared the day when the government would try to justify getting involved in the lives of pregnant women, dictating what they can and cannot do once the pregnancy is discovered. That is, making a list of forbidden activities that could harm a baby and/or charging women with murder if a life choice can be proven to have harmed a baby.

So many people argue against abortion due to their religious beliefs. I see this as arrogant and irrelevant. In a country that supports freedom of religion we cannot help but support freedom from other people’s religions. In short, the law cannot base its restrictions on what one (or more) religions restrict simply because we cannot apply a religion’s beliefs to people who are not part of that religion.

Now there is talk again about adding more justices to the Supreme Court. That only works for us if we like the current philosophy of the court–or if we don’t. FDR tried this and we often laugh about it now. But now people are actively thinking about trying it again. Where will that end? Will we one day have a court with more members than the Senate?

Sure, three more liberal justices might do the trick for now to prevent the Court from modifying or overturning Roe v. Wade. A short-term gain, to be sure, but probably a very bad road to travel, long term.

The public’s view about abortion shifts over time, though I would like to see a higher percentage of people in surveys stating neither “pro” or “con” but “none of my business.” When people believe it is their business, they are–in my view–saying that they don ‘t really believe in freedom and that they want government to ban the freedoms they don’t like.

Our first right, I think, is to be left alone and not have one level of government or another lurking like a vulure that will swoop down on us when some person or some group thinks they’re entitled to make us live according to their belief system rather than our own.

–Malcolm

wonderment, perhaps

When children come into our lives, however briefly, we often find the wonderment we once had and lost. The baby arrives from another realm, one we’ve also forgotten, and immediately goes about discovering how our world works. Some discoveries bring pain, but most provide more than enough incentive for a happy “ahhh” or “oooh” and a smile that reaches from here to eternity.

We can learn a lot by watching a child.

Perhaps wonderment is the most powerful state of mind we can achieve, the ability to see the universe in a grain of sand and excitement in each new discovery. Water fountains, ice cream, a kiss, our beautiful differences, unexpected humor, the sea and the sky, love that’s true.

Losing wonderment is like choosing to be blind or deaf, and unconcerned about what we’re choosing to miss out on. But age often makes us tired and so do numerous betrayals that most babies have yet to experience. So, we close ourselves down to the beauty of new experiences for fear of getting hurt.

Sometimes after trying on many suits of clothes and searching down many roads, we find ourselves and the wonderment we once took for granted. Limitations and bad dreams immediately fall away. What a miracle.

We can, if we wish, be on the lookout for wonderment rather than sitting in front of the TV every night waiting for entertainment from outside ourselves. Life is never over after “bad luck” even though we might think so. There are still water fountains, ice cream, sea and sky, and love that’s true. No doubt there are risks to being open to the joy of something new, something potentially transcendent. 

Not to worry. Wonderment eases all pain and takes away all disappointments while giving us the moon and the stars.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing

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I’ve got the sun in the morning and the moon at night

The lyrics of Irving Berlin’s 1946 song written for “Annie Get Your Gun” tell us what the singer doesn’t have but then say, nonetheless, that s/he has the sun in the morning and the moon at night. The story, as Wikipedia says, “is a fictionalized version of the life of Annie Oakley (1860–1926), a sharpshooter who starred in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, and her romance with sharpshooter Frank E. Butler (1847–1926).”

MGM’s feature film by the same name appeared in 1950 with Betty Hutton as Annie Oakley and Howard Keel as Frank Butler. While Merman, Hutton, Keel, Oakley, and Butler have almost faded into the mists of obscurity, the song maintains its traction through recordings by Reba McEntire and others.

But, on this Thanksgiving Day, I wonder how the sentiment survives, that the daily comings and goings of the sun and the moon are enough. Is there beauty enough to sustain us, or the fact that as long as we’re seeing them we’re still alive, or perhaps the symbolism behind the images. To be blunt–along with the often-quoted line, “You can’t eat the scenery”–seeing the sun and moon in the sky doesn’t put food on the table.

Perhaps the song is a bit idealistic, then.

And yet, maybe the beauty of the sun and the moon in the sky has an impact on us, feeding our hungry souls. We can be thankful for that even if the food is metaphysical. Such food gives us the power to persevere and perhaps triumph, as Ollivander, the seller of wands in the Harry Potter series told the originally down-and-out wizard, “I think it is clear that we can expect great things from you, Mr. Potter.”

Seeing the sun in the morning and the moon and night gives us hope, and there’s little nourishment or incentive more powerful. We can be thankful for that on this day.

Malcolm

One last time: I did not write ‘Speed on Wheels’

When I was a little kid, men who were the age that I am now, asked me if I was (or was named after) Sir Malcolm Campbell. I shrugged, indicating, maybe. Then I went and ask my dad, “Who the hell is this guy?” (Note, when I was in grade school I wasn’t actually allowed to use the word “hell.”)

I learned that he was a famous racecar driver who at various times during the 1930s and 1940s held the land and water speed records. And, he wrote the book Speed on Wheels about his exploits in his car named “Bluebird.”

The Campbell-Railton Blue Bird with a supercharged Rolls-Royce R V12 engine took the speed record at 301.137 mph in 1935. It’s probably not street legal though if it is, I don’t even want to know how much Allstate or State Farm would charge to insure it. If I’d persuaded my parents to let me buy that Jaguar I wanted, I would have found an Audubon-style license plate of a bluebird to put on the front.

However, this was not my car. Since it wasn’t (and still isn’t), I did not write this book:

Yes, this is an earlier car than the one shown above. When I told people I was a writer, some said “Congrats on Speed on Wheels.” I didn’t know whether to be flattered or to shout, “What the hell’s wrong with you?”

I wanted to get a picture of Campbell and say, “Does this look like me?”

“No, it doesn’t, does it?” Sure, maybe it’s all smoke and mirrors and this is me; the trouble is if it is me, I’m dead. Somebody somewhere looked at Campbell’s dare-devil life and said it’s amazing he died of natural causes. Unfortunately, his son Donald–who held both water and land speed records–was killed during a record attempt in 1967. I’m superstitious enough that I decided when I read the news that if I ever had a son, I wouldn’t name him Donald.

Summing up: I drive a 14-year-old Buick and it’s not blue. Its top speed is somewhere around 90 mph.

Malcolm

My books “College Avenue,” “At Sea,” and “The Sun Singer” will be free on Kindle for Black Friday, November 26th through November 30th.

Lusitania and other doomed ships

Last night, my wife and I watched another documentary about the Titanic (1,490–1,635 deaths), this one about a private notebook kept by the judge in the British hearing that–for reasons unknown–hadn’t been read by anyone. The documentary yielded a few interesting ideas, but little that was new.

Other than the discovery of Titanic by Robert Ballard in 1985, most documentaries have yielded very little that is new, though Ballard’s discovery confirmed what many survivors claimed and many experts denied, was the fact that the ship broke in half before it sank.

We speculated as we watched this documentary why there is so much more out there in documentary land about Titanic than other ships that sank, some with more casualties. White Star Line’s publicity about the ship? The famous people aboard? The fact that the accident was so preventable?

Hard to say.

Wikipedia photo

The first edition of The Last Voyage of the Lusitania (1,198 deaths) came out in 1957 a year before the Titanic movie A Night to Remember. I read the book before I saw the movie and found it more haunting.

Years later, I learned that 9,400 people died when the Wilhelm Gustloff was torpedoed in 1945 and that 4,386 people died when the Doña Paz sank in 1987.

We never hear anything about those disasters, or even about the Lusitania, much less the 1917 collision and subsequent explosion on board the SS Mont-Blanc of Halifax, Nova Scotia in which 1,782 confirmed deaths and a hard-to-believe amount of on-short devastation.

When the Night to Remember feature film came out in 1958, everyone saw it and talked about it and sang the 1952 original version of the song “When the Great Ship Went Down.” The 1997 film Titanic certainly got plenty of attention; it was a splashy production, that included the fact the ship broke in half and had that mesmerizing Jack and Rose story.

And yet, I continue to be drawn back to the Lusitania story and the swirl of anti-German propaganda that came after it. Much is made about the fact that the ship carried munitions, as though that means the “sinking doesn’t count” because it was a warship more than a passenger ship. I doubt the passengers knew they were sailing on a warship.

I have never feared the sea. I traveled to Europe by ship (though slower than Titanic!) and while in the Navy made three trips to the Western Pacific in an aircraft carrier. I always found the sea calming rather than boring and never worried about sinking. Yet the horror and chaos of major passenger ship disasters seem to tug at our heartstrings whether we’re reading about Lusitania or the 1914 Empress of Ireland disaster in the St. Lawrence River in which 1,012 died.

We seem to analyze and re-analyze these disasters as though when we get to the end of the documentary, book, or feature film, this time the ship won’t sink.

Maybe the fact that I grew up next to the sea and was a navy sailor has influenced me as I ponder these disasters and wonder what it would have taken to avoid them.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “At Sea,” a Vietnam War novel inspired by his experiences on board an aircraft carrier in the Western Pacific. It will be free on Kindle this weekend.

Why don’t people know this stuff?

A few days ago, a reporter walked out on the street after doing a story about the Supreme Court to see how much random passersby on the street know about the court. When asked how many justices are on the court, several people thought 35 sounded about right. When asked what the court does, some thought it passed bills.

Recently, news reports of a Pew Research Center study showed that half of all Americans don’t know six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust.

Years ago, when Jay Leno was the host of the Tonight Show, he went out on a city street from time to time and asked people simple questions such as who’s the governor of your state and the kinds of questions that appear on a basic citizenship test. The studio audience laughed at the stupid answers.

My response to such things is why don’t people know this stuff?

Some say the schools are at fault. Some say we’re in the middle of the entitlement culture where folks think “it’s all about me” and don’t see any point in knowing what isn’t about them.

I don’t suppose high schools and middle schools have civics courses any more, but they must have some course that teaches students how the federal government is structured. If history is still being taught, it’s hard to see how students got through school without knowing about World War II and the Holocaust.

But when it comes down to it, it’s a shame studio audiences think ignorance about basic stuff is funny. Surprising, yes. Sad, yes. But hardly funny.

The latest incarnation of the “Weakest Link” is is currenlty airing on NBC. I’m surprised by the questions people miss. Some of the answers should be known by people in elementary or middle school. Okay, let’s stipulate that in a quiz show studio, things are a bit chaotic. But still, why don’t people know this stuff?

Some of my college professors thought it was more important to know how to find information when we needed it rather than having an encyclopedic memory of facts. Perhaps people today think they have no need to know stuff when all they have to do is go to Google or WikiPedia for the answer. Okay, that does make some sense.

Yes, I think we need a certain amount of knowedge just to function. Some basic facts and ideals. Enough stuff to make intelligent decisions about life, politics, career choices, &c.

I guess many people think “this stuff” doesn’t matter. If they think that, then I worry that one day we’ll all be governerned by the weakest link.

Malcolm

How many crutches do we need?

Aeon Trump Card. Thoth Deck

Some say that Tarot cards, I Ching hexagrams, thrown bones, and other methods of uncovering the future only tell us what we already know, showing us that we do not trust what we know or that it’s buried deep in our minds and needs to be remembered. So we have these crutches, then.

In general, I think many of us know what we should be doing, but put it off by leaning on various other crutches while we decide whether or not to do it. It’s as though the thing we know we should do seems risky and we need to make sure one way or another that it’s not as dangerous as it appears.

I Ching Hexagram 1

So we do research–books, websites, experts, college courses, etc.–all of which are good to a point but then, as we delay moving ahead, become more crutches. Spouses can become crutches, so too, siblings and parents and our next-door neighbors and colleagues and best friends. They don’t want us to change, leave town, become involved in a cause they’re less sure of, or even miss bowling night.

Most people who employ the usual crutches to “see” the future agree that the future is not fixed, but that it represents what will probably happen if nothing is done to alter it. I think that’s probably true, but add that I also think we’re creating that future knowingly or unknowingly. It’s better I think to realize we’re doing that rather than blundering ahead and then being “surprised” at what happens. Pretending that we don’t know we did it–created that future–is another crutch or, perhaps, a civilized form of plausible deniability.

Sometimes people who have been drunk wake up and can’t believe they did the things sober people claim they did while they were drunk. Since they don’t remember it, they can claim in the middle of their hangovers that they’re not responsible for whatever happened. Do you suppose we might do this even when we’re not drunk?

I suspect so. Being drunk is a crutch, I think, as is going through life acting like we’re drunk even when we’re sober. I wonder: are we afraid to make commitments, to take this job rather than that job, adopt viewpoint ABC rather than viewpoint XZY? As long as we don’t commit, we probably feel free to make another choice later. Some people like keeping their options open, often until “outside forces” start eliminating those options.

A belief in fate is, perhaps, a large crutch. We say the cruel hand of fate caused whatever it caused or that life got in the way, believing that’s absolution. A comforting thought, but I don’t buy it. Who caused this “fate,” I want to ask?

We don’t need Tarot cards or coins/yarrow stalks and an I Ching book to tell us the answer because we already know.

–Malcolm

“Fate’s Arrows,” the latest novel in the Folk Magic Series, is on sale on Kindle today for only 99₵.

Everybody knows everybody here, so a drowning brings out all the neighbors

A steady line of cars has come and gone at the house across the road where the parents of the 34-year-old man who drowned in a nearby lake yesterday live. The son died on his father’s birthday and his daughter-in-law’s child’s birthday.

Lake Allatoona, GA.

We don’t know them well, but well enough to know the news and that the family gathered at the son’s house last night and told stories into the night.

Now, nothing will never be the same. Those who remain seem to bear the brunt of a family member’s death, for they are still here and have to cope with it, settle all that needs to be settled–his house, his company, his will, all he left behind.

I cannot imagine a parent celebrating his/her own birthday again with this tragedy inscribed on the date. My brother and his wife lost their son to suicide and they make sure they are never home on that sad anniversary. Our neighbors might end up doing the same thing, avoiding everything that reminds them of yesterday afternoon.

As weekends go, the Labor Day weekend holds its share of accidents and other tragedies. For the most part, we don’t know those whom we lost. Today, I know his name and his parents’ names. He was a great guy, folks are saying, and I don’t doubt them. I didn’t know him but I think it’s sad that he’s gone. I worry about his family most of all and how they will move forward. I hope they can.

–Malcolm

 

Images of chaos or images of protest

The autopsy is not yet clear about what killed 46-year-old George Floyd when he was apprehended by police. What is also not clear is why officer Derek Chauvin and his men kept Floyd pinned down on the street for eight minutes rather than putting him in the back of a squad and transporting him to HQ for an arraignment.

We do know that police departments generally have banned/discouraged various kinds of chokeholds since they often become lethal force when such force is not warranted.

Wikipedia photo

I tend to respect the motives of the legal protesters in the 30 cities across the country where there have been folks marching in the streets or congregating in parks. I worry, though, that the protesters’ valid anger and a valid message is, in some cities, being stolen by outside agitators who appear and set cars and buildings on fire while looting stores.

The public’s impression from the multitude of images on late-night news stations is probably not positive because the protesters are being blamed for the violence caused by those who showed up to create a mess.

The mess has become more tangled as police fire pepper-spray and rubber bullets at reporters who have credentials and are obviously not part of the rioting.

I do see signs of home. Protests that don’t become violent, and stories such as this one: “A sheriff put down his baton to listen to protesters. They chanted ‘walk with us,’ so he did.”

Violence tends to beget violence as more agitators appear or as overwhelmed police and national guard troops try to avoid the bricks and Molotov cocktails thrown at them without harming innocent protestors of using “excessive force” against those who are rioting.

As the Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said after a night of unrest, “this isn’t protest, this is chaos.” I had to agree with her. I also think she might be right when she says Trump needs to stop talking. TV viewers leave with the impression that protestors think looting, burning buildings, and destroying police cars helps their cause. In most cases, it appears to me that bad apples appear once the protest starts and play out their own criminal agendas.

I hope most police officers are not guilty of racial profiling and so-called “street justice.” The trouble is, there are more than enough incidents every year that show everyone, especially African Americans, that our police departments need more training and a fresh agenda. We can start by getting rid of the trend of militarizing our police, and we can follow that up by firing officers who are guilty of racial profiling. This anger we see on our streets didn’t come out of nowhere.

–Malcolm

 

 

 

As an introvert, I’ve found it easy to stay at home

Johnny Carson

If you’ve been around a long time and used to watch the Tonight Show With Johnny Carson, you may remember that one of his recurring bits, when others were talking about going out on the town for an upscale night of partying or dining, was to sit at his desk with a woebegone expression and say he’d probably just go home alone and eat a cracker.

As for me, I’d rather stay at home than go to a party or (hell) a rock concert or any event with 1000000000 people and eat a cracker. My wife of almost 33 years (our anniversary is tomorrow) feels the same way. We have shelves full of books and old movies and know how to prepare comfort food that we usually prefer to a $100 meal.

Biltmore Estate

Now, had we known our favorite vacation spot (Biltmore) was going to announce today that it’s reopening its 8,000-acre estate in Asheville, NC, we might have bought a three-day pass. We’ve been going to Asheville regularly since we were married (if not before). So, we do come outside our house from time to time and go back to places we’ve come to know as comfort places. I did send off to Biltmore for Cardinal’s Crest, our favorite wine from their winery. Fortunately, it arrived today.

We have steak, pork chops, and ribs in the freezer, but seriously during our rainy days, getting out and cleaning up the old Weber grill isn’t very tempting. Don’t laugh: we’ll probably have a squash casserole or beef stew instead. (“Isn’t that just typical of old people,” our Facebook friends are saying.” My response is, “Hell, we ate like this 33 years ago.”)

History Channel

If the space launch doesn’t get scrubbed due to bad weather, we’ll be watching that. Neither of us misses space shots, a habit we started before we knew each other. Since our regular TV shows are on hiatus, we’ve turned to the History Channel. We’ll finish up “Grant” this evening, but if they’re not lying to us, the previews have shown snippets of more cool stuff coming up. (“Yawn,” you say? My response is “Pshaw!)

I saw a link on Facebook today to an article that predicts kids are going to have a real depressing summer. My only response to that was if so, it’s due to a lack of imagination. Yeah, we went on family vacations and such things might now be possible this year, but even without them, we were seldom bored. Of course, my brothers and I played outside from dawn until dusk, and that was a lot more infinite in scope than the Internet or, God forbid, screaming in a swimming pool so filled with kids all you could do was, um, just stand there. Yawn.

Florida Panhandle (still not ruined)

Luckily, we grew up in the Florida Panhandle where are beaches weren’t screwed over by developers like the Peninsula part of the state. Our beaches were free and clear so we could enjoy them rather than share them with 10000000 other people who, when it comes down to it, are needless clutter.

But, I digress. As an introvert, I enjoy being quiet and going to quiet places. So staying at home and (figuratively!) eating a cracker is the cat’s pajamas. (Google that phrase if you’re too young to know what it means.)

Or, as Johnny Carson said, “Happiness is having a rare steak, a bottle of whiskey, and a dog to eat the rare steak.” Okay, we’re not quite that bad because we have cats and my wife doesn’t like Scotch. So, maybe happiness is a night at home with somebody you care for a whole lot.

–Malcolm