Originally I planned on addressing a few key issues in the local news (specifically the issue of same-sex couples where one is a state employee, receiving the same benefits as heterosexual couples, a movement I strongly agree with) in today's entry, but changed my mind this morning after watching the CBS Sunday morning news program. There was a segment on the sad disappearance of the thank-you note amid today's paperless communication mediums. And in light of the fact that recently I have done some things for some people that at least merited a verbal "thank you," and coming a month after the biggest gift-giving time of the year, I was moved to address this and tie it into religion, as the multitude of world religions purport to tell us what the "right thing to do" is.

Although traditionally attributed to Catholism, the golden rule that we should treat one another as one would like to be treated is an axiom found in the majority of religious philosophies. It has bee my experience that most people--at least the friends I've made over the last 44 years--adhere to this theme in their personal dealings with other people. However, I find that the people who espouse the kindest philosophies, the truest motives, are the overly religious. And I don't mean those who openly preach and announce their religion at every opportunity.

I'm talking about the people who attribute particular decisions they make to their religion. "I did this because of such-and-such tenet." I have problems with this because many times these people come across as hypocritical in that they do let certain tenets of their faith inspire a decision, but only in selective circumstances. I say this because of the aforementioned experiences I've recently had where a "thank you" was clearly the obvious expression certain acquaintances should have offered, but were not, yet their daily philosophyappears to be that we should all treat others well. Part of that, in my mind, is expressing gratitude when that seems the normal response.

Many people adhere to their religion's tenets because they anticipate the big payoff, salvation in some form or other. It may be heaven everlasting, reincarnation into a better form or a better life, etc. Agnostics don't have this problem. We believe there's a superior being, we just are humble enough in our human ignorance to not boast of knowing he/she/it's name. So we don't treat others with dignity, decency and respect because we believe good behavior's a ticket to a happy eternity; we do it either because it's the right thing to do, or we know tha this life is it and we have only one chance to treat other human beings the right way. For us, unlike those who follow most of the eastern religions, there are no do-overs. And unlike Christians and Jews and Muslims, fuck this one up and there's no extra innings.

   "Ah, but I was so much older then/ I'm younger than that now."  My Back Pages, Bob Dylan 1964

For college seniors, spring brings our last times together, and though none of us would care to admit it, some of us are enjoying our "last call," with people and friends we may never see again except during Alumni Weekend. And this year's class of____is a special class, for those of us graduating hold a special responsibility in the world. We entered high school--the breeding ground of those who will make the world work, who will bear the torch of ideals and ideas, for the end of the century--in the beginning of this decade, and now we have come full circle and leave college at the climax of the ____.

Our generation is weighted with greater burdens and more straining responsibilities than any generation of this century. And we must make those decisions that will confront us in the next thirty years based on our experiences in the 19__. It is we who will shape and set the tone of the ______ century through the decisions we make in business and on Wall Street, through the way our future lawyers choose their cases and interpret the law, in the literature we write, in the presidents we elect, and in the music we compose.

Never before has a generation faced a new century with as much responsibility as ours. The beginning of the ____ century brought the industrial age and automobile. We are faced with the task of harnessing nuclear energy so it may be put to work efficiently. We are faced with the challenge of finding alternative ways of disposing our refuse, both toxic and non-toxic. We must make progress in space, using the new, difficult technologies to our advantage in this area. And, we must face the reality that America is not as strong and influential as it was when our parents grew up, or when our grandparents emigrated here.

Though the tmes have changed, and the environment has changed, I hope that our ethics and ideals have not. The burden of hope is always placed on the shoulders of graduating college students, and for us, that burden is a great and tangible one. And just as we pulled together as a community and provided each other with friendship, caring and understanding these past four years, we must pull together in the larger community of adulthood and do the same.

And the Grateful Dead will still be touring!

I hope that sounds prophetic. I eliminated key dates, because I want you to read it with this in mind: I wrote that for the Providence College student newspaper on April 19, 1989.

A week's gone by since Jared Loughner fired 30 rounds into a Safeway supermarket crowd gathered to hear Gabby Giffords, Congresswoman from Tuscon, AZ, and we've all been exposed to various political pundits' takes on what can be done to prevent another senseless gun attack on innocent people. Many voices have placed blame on the Tea Party for inspiring the 22 year-old lunatic to commit the act he did last Saturday morning. I'm not going to do that, although I'll say one thing about Sarah Palin's speach about the issues concerning Arizona that's been broadcast all week on the nightly news: She's not responsible for this in any way whatsoever. However, placing a bullseye on a state on a map to make a point during a political speech is careless at best, unwise at worst, and misleading somewhere in the middle of it all. A foolish, third-grade "show-and-tell" type action and a strategy unbecoming of someone seemingly preparing to run for the nation's highest office in 2012.

President Obama is enjoying a surge in his approval ratings after a flourish of activity at the end of December (53%, NBC Nightly News, 1/14/11). But I want to backtrack to a tme before he took office. The Assault Rifle ban expired in 2004; Senator Obama supported renewing the ban. During the primaries, however, both Obama and chief rival Hillary Clinton avoided tackling gun control issues like the Bubonic Plague and Black Death wrapped all in one. The only legislation on the issue he has proposed and approved of as president allows people to transport guns on Amtrak rails, and you can carry a firearm into a national park. The Brady Gun Control Coalition gives him all "Fs" on the topic.

Currently 33 states allow citizens to purchase firearms (from handguns to assault rifles) from private owners, whether it be at a gun show or in someone's living room, without any sort of background check or license. You do the math. The Second Amendment states that a citizen has the right to bear arms when involved in a "well-regulated militia," in other words, when enlisted in the National Guard as regards to our times.

The President doesen't want to piss off the NRA before the 2012 election. He did advocate change during his history-making campaign, yet, regarding the disarming of our nation, he's maintaining a safe stadstill.



    I'm a former Detroit/East Lansing-based music critic, interested in the eclectic, esoteric and independent slant on art, music, film, politics, and literature. Contact: bobtoole1967@yahoo.com.


    January 2011



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