Essays of Penmite

by CatTigerLi

Koko is a female lowland gorilla. She was born in 1971, and at the age of one year she became part of Francine Patterson's Ph.D. work at Stanford University. Penny, as Dr. Patterson is called, wanted to try and teach sign language to Koko. She used American Sign Language (ASL), which is a form of sign language developed in the US for use by the deaf, consisting of over 4,000 signs. It includes hand signs, facial expressions, and fingerspelling. ASL was developed in the early 19th century by Thomas Gallaudet, based on French Sign Language. ASL is designated a foreign language, its grammar and syntax being different from English.
Koko began learning sign language quickly. The first words she learned were, "eat," "drink," and "more." "At first," Dr. Patterson remembered, "Koko learned that if I do this (makes sign for "eat"), I get stuff."(1) But then as her education continued, Koko began to show distinct indications that she truly understood the language she was using. She began forming compound words to meet new situations. When, for the first time, one of her meals included watermelon, Koko tried some and signed, "drink fruit."
After Penny got her Ph.D., she wanted to continue working with Koko, so she and her husband, Ron Cohn, formed the Gorilla Foundation which is dedicated to Project Koko as well as the welfare of all gorillas.
Koko understands spoken English, which is apparent at times when Penny's hands are full and she must ask Koko to do things without signing. There is a home video of Penny cutting up vegetables in the kitchen as Koko sits on the counter. Koko is filling a dixie cup with water from the faucet, the handle of the faucet being the kind that you lift to open and push down to close. Koko lets the water run as she fills the cup, drinks the water from it and fills it again. Without looking up or signing, Penny says to her, "Ok one more and then turn it off." Koko fills the cup once more and pushes down on the faucet handle, shutting off the water.
Gorillas are vegetarians, or herbivores, meaning they do not eat meat. Typically, a female lowland gorilla weighs between 150 and 250 pounds. In order to maintain this kind of weight on fruit and vegetables alone, they must eat almost constantly. Koko and a male lowland gorilla, Ndume, who live together at the Gorilla Foundation are served three meals a day, plus in-between-meal snacks consisting of lettuce and other leaves which are called "browse." In ASL there is no sign for "browse," but the word is spoken so much around the gorillas that they were familiar with it. One day Koko was repeatedly and pointedly touching her knuckles to her forehead, which is the sign for "eyebrow." For quite a while the researchers were trying to figure out what she was getting at, when finally they realized that she was using this sign when she was hungry between meals. She was taking the sound of the word "browse" and using the sign that stood for a word that sounded the same, "eyebrows." There is much documentation of her spontaneously signing "time for browse" at snack-time using this "eyebrows" sign.
Sign language work has also been done with chimps and benobos, but to me, Koko's story is the most compelling. On the Gorilla Foundation website they explain what exactly Koko has accomplished: "During the course of the study, Koko has advanced further with language than any other non-human. Koko has a working vocabulary of over 1000 signs. Koko understands approximately 2,000 words of spoken English. Koko initiates the majority of conversations with her human companions and typically constructs statements averaging three to six words. Koko has a tested IQ of between 70 and 95 on a human scale, where 100 is considered 'normal.' Michael, the male silverback gorilla who grew up with Koko, had a working vocabulary of over 600 signs."(2)
The Gorilla Foundation is now in the process of developing a gorilla preserve in Hawaii. They have been given 70 acres by the Maui Land and Pineapple Company and many other generous donations by private individuals which are enabling them to continue. The plan is to have many family groups of gorillas thriving, reproducing, and hopefully teaching sign language to each other and their children.

The website for Koko and the Gorilla Foundation is:
The Gorilla Foundation

1. Nature documentary, "A Conversation with Koko"
2. The Gorilla Foundation website

The Loss of Webring and Its Sci-Fi Proportions

Webring has been assimilated. I just take one look at that ugly block of uniform ring banners marring my website and I want to rebel. My beautiful ring graphic of a scarlet ibis wading in a thicket of tall grass has been reduced from 300 X 300 pixels to 50 X 50. Now all you can see is a little red thing in the middle of a tiny green square.

This isn't the first thing that the YahooBorg have assimilated. It was not long ago that Geocities succumbed. I had a home and a name on the old Geocities that I cherished and nurtured. The home was mercifully overlooked by the nanoprobes, but my wonderful Geocities screenname was fitted with a YahooBorg implant and went from "Mykene" to "Mykene.geo" amidst my feeble protests.

I guess I was just lucky that during the first wave I was not more seriously affected, but this time they have cut to the heart of my internet experience. Webring was my favorite cyber playground and I took great pains to develop my own ring. Webring had this sort of grassroots, underground style that connected people up through the particular look and feel of each ring. Each ring had a personality, and getting into a ring was really like finding a new group of friends. The artwork that went along with each ring filled your pages with beauty and adventure. The surfers would say to themselves, "ooh, that looks like a cool ring, I wonder what I'll find if I click on that!"

Now Webring is an assembly line. It takes much less time and effort to join a ring and to manage a ring, and that's great, but the YahooBorg aren't discerning enough to streamline a system without killing its individuality. Many ring masters have escaped to form new rings in the outlying reaches of uncharted cyberspace, and I greatly admire them for braving the wilderness. I, on the other hand, have decided to stay and look for weaknesses in the YahooBorg system that may be used to allow a little personality to leak through, hopefully making life better for all those who remain.

Now, my main concern is for the children. Will our future young YahooBorg ringmasters know the history of our struggle? Will they understand what a webring had been and could be again? I think it's up to us old-timers to keep the knowledge of our history alive. We must not allow assimilation to end our creative dream.

Autumn Visit to Gettysburg

We had finally come far enough north that the season of autumn was apparent. There was a hint of red and yellow in some of the trees, and the day was gray and cool with a drizzling rain. We left the two loaded down cars in the parking lot, left the cat in one of the cars, and walked into Gettysburg National Park on legs that had been doing nothing but driving for 2 days. Leaves that had fallen from some large trees were underfoot as we walked along the path to the cemetery where the Gettysburg Address is set in stone along side a small statue of the person who delivered it in 1863, Abraham Lincoln.

I had never read the address, that famous speech that Lincoln gave, and although I had heard it read aloud, I had not been old enough or worldly enough to understand it. This time, however, I stood and read the 200 or so words of the speech engraved there in stone, and not only did I understand it, but it meant something to me very personally.

Then we moved on to walk around the fields where the Battle of Gettysburg took place. They have been preserved exactly like they were during the war: if corn had been growing in one area at the time of the battle, it is growing there now; if there were stables and a horse pasture in one spot, then stables and pasture are there now. The "copse of trees" at which a pivotal moment in the battle occurred, still stands, fenced and protected. You could see, off in the distance, the tree line where the soldiers from the South had to leave the cover of the forest in order to charge.

" a larger sense we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it far beyond our poor power to add or detract," Lincoln stated in his address. "The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here."

Ironically, both the doing and the saying have been long remembered. By preserving those fields, trees and stables, and by setting Lincoln's words in stone, those words and the memory of the battle have been conveyed to someone who was born 104 years later. It has also increased my feeling of patriotism and awe at the beautiful idealism to be found in this country's early struggles. "...we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain...and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."

We drove away on the rainy road past the Kentucky Fried Chicken, which lies across the street from the park. In our hands, a small reprint of the cyclorama battle painting, and in our minds, a part of history.

On the Window Sill

Last night one of my spirit guides visited me in a dream. He is a cat I used to have who died years ago. His name was Alistair and he appeared in my dreams several times back when he was alive. In one of the dreams he showed me the way home across our whole city, so I knew he was my spirit guide. He showed me things I had never realized and showed me answers I had in me, but couldn't find.

I dreamed that he was living with me and six other cats. The cats were young and very energetic except for Alistair and some of them would try to steal each other's food, so I had to have a setup and a plan to feed them. In addition to this craziness, the rest of my life was in chaos. Then I realized I hadn't seen Alistair in a couple of days. I had forgotten about him because there was so much else going on. Instantly I thought, oh no, he must be dead. He was old and he must have died somewhere and that's why I haven't seen him. So I was looking around and I found him lying on the window sill. I thought he was dead and I went to pet him but he was alive - weak, but alive. I rushed to get him some water - it looked like he hadn't got down from the sill because he was too sick. I felt so horrible because I had forgotten about him for two days and hadn't been there to help him. Then I woke up.

The neighbor's TV was so loud (at 9:00am on a Sunday morning) that I could hear the actual words of the show, so I got up and decided not to go straight to the computer and log on to the internet as usual, but to clean the house while playing my own music very loudly to combat the neighbor's TV. After doing this for just a few minutes, I suddenly stopped. I was just standing there in the middle of the kitchen and I couldn't keep cleaning. I sat down and said to myself, "What's wrong with you?" The answer was "I don't know." I looked out the window and saw a fast-food cup rolling from side to side in the apartment parking lot. There wasn't any more noise from the neighbors, all was quiet and you could hear the wind blowing leaves around and blowing the cup. I started to cry. I sat down and cried for a long time not knowing why and then the dream about Alistair came to my mind. He was dying and I needed to bring him some water and I had forgotten about him.

Then it came to me.

The window sill in the dream was the computer, where I sit for hours everyday, where I'm too sick to get down from, and Alistair was the Earth. I'm living in an ant farm, a beehive, a cubicle in an upscale concrete ghetto where I can't change anything and nobody cares that the Earth is dying. It needs me to bring it some water, and I don't know how to get out of where I am and go to it. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in the everyday insanity of the lifestyle I'm stuck in that I forget for a couple of days, but the desperation always comes back. The only way I know how to get out of here is through my computer, through the internet - my window where I sit on the sill and watch the world. Where I can touch other people's lives for the better. Where I can click and save the rainforest.

The Leaf Blowers

Imagine autumn. There is an exciting crispness in the air and the wind begins to busy itself and stretch it's airy limbs in anticipation of the coming winter. The trees have sensed the lowering daily angle of the sun and decided it's time to give up their leaves, first turning them brown, red and gold. Walking to the bus, car, or mailbox becomes an adventure, a spirited, poetic awakening as nature messes up your hair, and everything else around you.

Then come the blowers. They start a 9:00am every morning. Roaring, whining, mechanical demons that belch engine exhaust which is not subject to emmissions testing. They swarm over the ocean of blacktop, blowing the leaves past the concrete shores, and onto the grassy islands where they are deemed "tidy." They blow across my threshold and under my door where the grime of civilization combines with the soil and leaf dust of nature in my fresh and recently cleaned entrance way. The wind may blow in a leaf from time to time, but to get the grime, you need the blowers.

I yell, but I am screaming into a black hole, because the machine is much louder than any voice could ever be. The fear of letting my soul be sucked into oblivion causes me to thrash and wave my arms, 'til at last they stop.

"Why can't you use a broom?" I ask in desperation.
"Because we've got to get these leaves up and it would never get done," says the man who tends the demon.
"Who is the genius that decided the leaves need to be gotten up anyway?" I call into the black hole.

After the demons are banished for the day, the wind blows the leaves back onto the pavement.

Guest Writer:

A European Summer
by Sebastian

"During September I flew from England to Pisa, Italy, and caught a slow
train to Levanto, a small town on the coast toward Genoa. The trip took me
past Carrera where the mountains have been severely mauled and robbed of
their marble over the centuries. The marble may have been used to create
objects of beauty, but the quarries mar the beauty of the mountains.

Levanto sits at the seaward end of a wide valley which stretches up toward
the old Etruscan trade route along the ridge. A tiny village sits on each
knoll above the valley. The church bells can be heard from one side to the
other, ringing in their own time. No-one has bothered to calibrate the
time-keeping in the region.

"The walk from Levanto to Portovenere was purely magical. The little villages which cling beside the sea below the mountains are more than just picturesque, they are quite
welcoming and add immeasurably to the experience. Some have a dark and
bloody history, but that's par for the course anywhere in Europe.
Portovenere and the surrounding areas were also the setting for dramatic
events in the lives (and in one case, death) of such romantic figures as
Byron and Shelley. Staying in tiny, ancient hotels and inns also has much
to reccomend it. Each and every village offers culinary delights. Fresh
seafood, lightly prepared, washed down with wine from the vineyards one
walked through during the day. Even the olive oil comes from the trees
which shade the walking tracks winding along the precipitous hillsides.
Glorious! I haven't felt so alive since trekking in Nepal three years ago.
There's a lot to be said for getting out and meeting the countryside on its
own terms. This is best done on foot - no doubt about it!"

"Walking in England also has its charms. Fortunately my command of English
is a bit better than my command of Italian. The B & Bs along the Cotswolds
Way, Wardens Way and Heart of England Way were uniformly captivating. Most
were hundreds of years old and the hosts and hostesses were very generous
with their time in explaining their histories. Perhaps the food was not of
the same high standard as that offered in Italy, but really, when all's
said and done, it was good of its type. Also, when walking in hot weather
it's better to wash down one's meals with beer rather than wine during the
day - fewer headaches. Speaking of which, despite all the walking I have
come home as fat as mud. I blame the beer!"

"Home again, I handle the photographs taken along the Cinque terre coast and
vow to return to Italy just as soon as the opportunity arises."

Freedom: Can You Handle It?

Freedom of speech may become redefined as "freedom of speech as long it's not morally unacceptable". The consequence will be that freedom is taken away.

Even though hate speech is hurtful emotionally, people have the right to say what they please. If you do not like what you are reading then you can quit reading it. The ability to decide that for yourself is what freedom means. However, isn't it valuable to know that whatever it was you chose not to read exists, and that some sicko out there actually thinks that way? Yes. The more you know about the world around you, the better equipped you are to handle it successfully. Instead of denying ourselves an understanding of what's out in the real world, we should be teaching ourselves how to think critically so that we can determine whether the things we hear are valuable, or invaluable, right or wrong, fun or no fun. Those who try to obstruct the freedom of speech want to make those decisions for you.

If you want the government to choose what you are allowed to hear, read and say, then you are assuming the government has your best interests in mind. Please be aware - the government has only it's own interests in mind. The ability to say what you want to say is a form of power. Those who seek power over others know that the easiest way to get more power for themselves is to take someone else's away. The less power you have, the more power they have.

Today those in power may be saying that your next door neighbor's web site is not OK to publish because it includes "offensive "material. Currently in our country "offensive" is usually defined as sexually explicit or excessively violent. Tomorrow they will be saying that your website is not ok to publish because it includes "offensive material": that essay you wrote against cutting down the Giant Redwoods could be considered treason against the government if the government is cutting them down.

That sounds ridiculous, right? But every government action that is taken sets a precedent for future actions. It's the "give 'em and inch and they'll take a mile" syndrome. We don't need the government to spoon-feed us whatever information they decide is in our best interest. We can think for ourselves.

When Senators Pray
an essay in response to the prayer
at the Kansas Senate

I received this report of the incident through e-mail:
>When minister Joe Wright was asked to open the new session of the Kansas
>Senate, everyone was expecting the usual politically correct
>generalities, but what they heard instead was a stirring prayer,
>passionately calling our country to repentance and righteousness. The
>response was immediate. A number of legislators walked out during the
>prayer in protest. In six short weeks, the Central Christian Church had
l>ogged more than 5,000 phone calls with only 47 of those calls responding
>negatively. The church is now receiving international requests for
>copies of the prayer from India, Africa and Korea.
>Commentator PAUL HARVEY aired the prayer on The Rest of the Story on the
>radio and received a larger response to this program than any other he
>has ever aired!!

>Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask Your forgiveness and to
>seek Your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, "Woe on
>those who call evil good," but that's exactly what we have done. We have
>lost our spiritual Equilibrium and reversed our values.
>We confess that:
>We have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it
>We have worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism.
>We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.
>We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.
>We have neglected the needy and called it self-preservation.
>We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.
>We have neglected to discipline our children and called it Building
>We have abused power and called it political savvy.
>We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it ambition.
>We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it
>freedom of expression.
>We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called
>it enlightenment.
>Search us, O God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin
>and set us free. Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent
>to direct us to the center of Your will. I ask it in the name of Your
>Son, the living Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

This prayer, which I will refer to as a speech, is one of the clearest examples of bigotry and ego-centric religious fanaticism I have ever seen. The ignorant, isolated corner of the world which Joe Wright comes from does not hold the key to truth and goodness. It is an intensely childish notion that his God and his upbringing are correct and every other society in the entire world is evil and non-viable. I seriously doubt that this man knows very much about any cultures or philosophies other than his own.

If you were to agree to what is said in his speech, here's what you would be agreeing to:

"We have ridiculed the absolute truth of [God's] Word and called it
#1 You must follow the Bible without question, and that includes the New Testament (he dedicates this speech to Jesus Christ, the son of God) which means that it's not OK to be Jewish. You certainly can't be Buddhist or Wiccan or any other religion you could name for which the Bible is not the religious text.

"We have worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism."
#2 You can't be FROM or PART OF any culture other than his culture, which I can only assume is Fundamentalist Christian.

"We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle."
#3 You can't be homosexual (I'm assuming that's what he's referring to) and possibly he means that couples can't live together without being married. He might be referring to other things as well, but unless he defines "perversion" for me I won't know for sure what he's saying.

"We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery."
We have neglected the needy and called it self-preservation.
We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare."
#4 Now this part's a bit confusing, because at first he seems to be saying you should help poor people, and then in the third statement he seems to be saying that poor people are just lazy and you shouldn't help them.

"We have neglected to discipline our children and called it Building
#5 You can't let your kid get a nose ring.

"We have abused power and called it political savvy."
#6 (I hate it when ignorant, obnoxious people have a good point.)

"We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it ambition."
#7 You can't try for a raise at work.

"We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it
freedom of expression."
#8 You can't say anything about sex and you can't cuss.

"We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called
it enlightenment."
#9 Which values are those? The First Amendment?

It's very important for us to think carefully about what speeches and prayers are actually saying, rather than to let ourselves be swayed and hypnotized by the powerful charm of the speaker. Of course with this particular "prayer", anyone who doesn't happen to think exactly like Joe Wright from Kansas will hopefully be put on their guard.

My Mood Ring

Out the window I can see that it's cloudy but not raining. Every few minutes I turn my head away from my computer and look out at the greyness and the pale-greenness that the outside world has become. It gives me the most impish serge of energy. Oh, all the things that are possible under this soft, cool blanket of sky! Just like when you were a kid in your secret hiding place, everything you did there was somehow more exciting and more significant. Even the lady who pulls up to the curb in her little sports car and honks furiously for her friend to come out and meet her cannot break the spell, for it is a spell woven by nature itself. "Please last all day," I beg the sky, because I want everything I do today to be sprinkled with this magic. How long will it last? You never know. "I will stay until the wind changes," said Mary Poppins.

"the seasons change and so do I..."

~U2, from The Unforgettable Fire

Every season brings this magic. My favourite seasonal times are: the bright, open, windy days, when the cold has let up enough that you can unzip your coat while you're chasing the kite; the moist, dripping days when the leaves sprout up green alongside bugs hatching everywhere, making a feast for the birds; the hot days, when you can soak up the heat like you were a sponge until it starts to come out your pores; the days when the hot air suddenly has something sharp and focused about it, like something is going to happen; the shortening days and the changing leaves that beg for long, contemplative walks; the dark and the cold that makes home and hearth so cozy and food so joyful.

Growing up with these seasons, I believed, without thinking, that they were some sort of birthright. Subconciously, I thought that these seasons were the essence of nature and that they were guaranteed. I was taught that there were places where the year was not like this, but those places didn't seem real to me. You learn in elementary school that it's always hot at the equator, and always cold at the North and South Poles. Birds fly south for the winter, right? So there must be a place where it's not cold in the winter. Did I wonder what it would be like to live in a place that didn't have the same seasons I grew up with? Did I even come close to grasping the affect this might have on me?

No. The immensity of ignorance I was living in is now a great shock to me. I now live where there are no seasons. I now live where I wake up every morning to the same weather all year (sunny and hot). Of course during the three month "rainy season" you wake up to sunny and hot and then starting at about 1:00pm it becomes rainy and hot. The "hot" part remaining constant. Of course some might say that it gets a little cooler during the months between November and May, but the ones who say this have to sit on a warm rock for an hour to get their blood moving. I happen to be more of the polar bear type. I keep wishing I could take off my fur coat until I remember that I don't have one on.

"...they came unto a land in which it seemed always afternoon. All round the coast the languid air did swoon, breathing like one that hath a weary dream."
~Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Well, now I know. It's amazing how travel can expand your mind, and how much it can teach you about yourself. I now realize that nature has been my mood ring, my battery recharger, my fashion designer, my inspiration, and my constant companion all my life. When nature is stuck in a rut, so am I. How can I live where they don't have spring, summer, fall, and winter? I don't think I can for long. They say "love it or leave it." I think that's pretty good advice.

Maybe Nothing's Wrong With The Kids These Days

Intro: I am a 32 yr. old from various big cities in America. This is my response to an 18 yr. old from a small town in Wisconsin who wrote an essay about the recent highschool shooting in Colorado.
(for the full text of her essay, see just below mine)
Essay: There is one point on which I agree with her. The media is a reflection of our society. People are shown what they want to see. You personally may not want to see violence and general depravity in the media, but a whole lot of other people do - I know some of them, although I don't want to see it myself. However, this 18yr old's naive viewpoint about the "lack of rules and morals" ruining our culture is seriously uninformed. She was lamenting the old times when women and children were not killed in wars. Wouldn't it be nice if there had ever been a time like that? She was wishing the feminists didn't push women out of their homes and into careers. Frankly, if somebody told me I had to quit my job and start having babies, there'd be some shooting. Furthermore when I do have babies, I will continue to be a dance teacher and my kids will come with me to class as part of their home-schooling curriculum. This would follow in the ancient tradition of passing on a family trade. Would it be better if I had to sit home watching soap-operas while my children were sent away to an institution for 8 hours where there are 35 children to one adult per classroom? That's not what I would call parental guidance.

Gee, I miss the old days when my boyfriend and I would not be allowed to associate with each other because we are from different ethnic backgrounds; when I would be forced to belong to whatever religion was popular in my area; when the length of my skirt would be a mandatory 41 inches; when politicians, cops, doctors, and preachers were not questioned; and when women and blacks were not allowed in universities. Or should we go back even further to when some women were burned at the stake for being witches?

People seem to need to find a reason for the Colorado shooting. There are plenty of reasons, so many complicated reasons that I don't believe anyone could fully understand them. People try to come up with simple reasons (like the 18 yr. old from Wisconsin), but simple reasons don't cover it. Simple reasons are doubly bad because they imply simple solutions. There aren't any simple solutions. No society is perfect. One problem is traded for another and you have to ask yourself which problems you'd rather have. Eliminating freedom will not turn the world into a paradise.

This was a response to:

From Where I Stand:
A Teenager's Voice from Inside the Culture of Death

On April 20, 1999, there was yet another gruesome shooting in Littleton,Colorado. Kids killing kids. And again, the entire nation in its uproar is trying to figure out why. I am eighteen years old. I live in a small town near Madison, Wisconsin. A small town just like the ones where these horrifying shootings always seem to take place. Every time those stories come on the television, I can't help but notice how easily it could be my small town next. And I want to know why this is happening just as badly as any parent or police chief or anchorman. The thing is, I am right in the middle of it. I am in the same age group as all of these high school kids. So I may have some insight for the world that has been otherwise unattainable since these shootings started some years ago.The night of the Littleton shooting, as I was flipping through the various news channels that were covering the story in Littleton,Colorado, I heard something that struck a chord in me. An anchorman was interviewing the mother of a victim in the Jonesboro shooting. His question was: "If
you look at America in the 1950's, you will find that this kind of thing never happened; whereas if you look at America today, this kind of thing is becoming more and more frequent. Why do you think this is happening?"
The woman, of course, could not answer the question. In fact, she didn't really even try. But I did. I thought about it for a long time that night. And again the next morning, when my favorite morning radio talk show
asked its listeners why they thought this has been happening. Many people said it's the parents of the kids. Many people suggested television and video games. Many people even turned to popular musicians, looking to put the
blame somewhere. But I will tell you what I think it is. What I, a regular teenager riding on the coattails of Generation X, blame it on. It is not the parents or the movies or the rock stars. It is AMERICA. It is this culture of death, this culture in which liberals and feminists and activists are so anxious to let anything be "OK" that the once tightened, knotted rope
of society is unraveling right beneath us.
Don't you see? There can be no order without discipline. All of those things people think are causing children to run into a school and shoot their teachers and peers and even kids they don't know-the movies, the video games, the parents, the rap artists-they are only REFLECTIONS of our society. Society breaks down, from one big metaphoric "family" into 50 metaphoric "families" and so on and so on, until you have the actual FAMILY, the one with the parents and the kids and the dog. It is not one thing or two things; it is the attitude of an entire "familiar" nation being reflected back at us in the kids. Just as that anchorman suggested, something was different about the 1950's. WE WERE CONSERVATIVE. We had boundaries; we had a definite knowledge of right and wrong throughout the entire nation. We didn't have feminists pushing women so hard to go get a job that a woman who didn't have a job was somehow "bad," thereby leaving kids at home with inadequate parental guidance and often times with parents who were truly unhappy. We didn't have liberals fighting so avidly to legalize everything that it was at the point of completely blurring the line between good and bad.
We didn't have a nationwide media surge dedicated to sex and violence so intense that if you weren't playing killing video games at age 14, then you were trying to choose between contraceptives beforehand or abortion afterwards.
We didn't have disputes over whether or not we should help someone who is dying - die sooner - over whether or not we should ASSIST them in committing SUICIDE. And we certainly didn't have a President who was in favor of
NATO bombing and killing children in Serbia come on the television to grieve the loss for the families of children killed in America. We live in a loosely tied society, a culture dedicated to death. If you don't want the kid, kill it. If you don't want to live out the rest of your God-given days, kill yourself. Or better yet, have someone else come help you do it. I guess, no matter how horrible or gruesome or gut-wrenching it may be, it was just a matter of time before someone got
that "killing-as-a-means-to-an-end" idea stuck in their head for the part between birth and death as well. Everything that happens in families and cities and states and countries is the mirror image of the big picture. We are falling apart as a society. Am I-some random normal teenager in Farmertown, U.S.A.-the only one who sees that? It's sad and it's hard to
believe, but what's worse is that it's scary. I think it's time for our--America's--Mom and Dad to ground us--to say,
"If you don't shape up by the time I count to three..." And then really count to three. Because we are running wild and pretty soon we're going to be too far from home to ever get back.

There was once a great saying by a famous man that has rung true throughout the history of mankind-in every family and in every society and in every social group and in every religion-it was a frighteningly true statement that cannot be disputed. I am reminded of it now, in the wake of yet another indescribably tormenting result of a nation gone haywire...

"By their fruits you shall know them."

by Sarah Roney
April 21, 1999

Hungering for the good-old-days is kind of an insitinctive reaction, I think. It's similar to the "grass is always greener on the other side of the fence" syndrome. The fallacy being that it's either not really greener, or its greener because of some lurking evil. I have had my moments, too. (see below)

What Is Really Scary?

I woke up at 4:00am a couple of days ago contemplating existence.

There's this song by Don Henley called "The End Of the Innocence." Some people say it's about losing your virginity, but I say it's about humanity. Ok, maybe humans have never been innocent. We're the only animal that massively and consistently murders and tortures members of it's own species...and sells them insurance. Even so, I think there have been some significant changes in the nature of the horrors we have learned to create for ourselves.

Look at the type of fears they used to have in the old days. The main ones were: intense poverty (lack of the resources necessary to live everyday and raise a family); loss of freedom and/or "way of life" (loss of the culture you were accustomed to); and loss of life (your own or your family members). The fear of personal discomfort: illness and pain, I will count as a constant, but different type of fear which often times seems more terrible to the individual than any sort of death or destruction.

Ahh, the good old days. I will now contrast those worries with some of the ones that began just a few years before I was born.

The end of the world. No, I mean really.

I will give credit to Noah for surviving the flood with hope intact, but he did have two of every kind of animal all ready to repopulate the earth. And what state was the Earth in? Freshly watered. Rip-roarin' and ready to support life. I grew up thinking that any minute the Earth and all life on it was going to be destroyed by nuclear bombs - and that the ensuing radiation poisoning would make repopulation ( by anything recognizable) impossible.

At least in the past you could think that some member of your family might survive to carry on the family line; or that your side might win the war; or that some day those who came after you would again rise up and reclaim what was "rightfully" theirs. My generation could not find comfort in any of these thoughts. I used to say that I was glad my family lived in a strategic military location because I knew we would be ground zero for part of the attack: we would die instantly and not have to suffer.

"A generation without name...nothing to lose, nothing to gain, nothing left." ~U2

The specific threat of nuclear holocaust that I grew up with seems to have been eliminated, although it's very possible that it could resume at some time in the future. The world is still ending, however, just more slowly. The environment is being destroyed along side the creeping population growth. Guess what kiddies? This threat doesn't offer a quick and easy exit. Everybody's going to suffer over a period of generations. Isn't life fun?

"Who knows how long this will last, now we've come so far, so fast.
Somewhere back there in the dust, that same small town in each of us." ~Don Henley

What is really scary? Nuclear holocaust. Depletion of the ozone layer. Loss of the rainforests. Overpopulation. Mass extinction.

Just don't think about it and try to get through the day.

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