News From The Woods - December 10, 2007


By Bob Ketchum

Originally Published December 10, 2007

"Lots Of Questions I Don't Have Answers For"

I know I have missed several months and I apologize for the lapse in writing, but I have been occupied with many things lately… my health…. family matters… decisions…..home improvements and other factors that have prevented me from fulfilling my self-imposed timetable of one article a month. So sue me! I am writing this article in lieu of my usual year-end "Letter to Robert". This article applies to him as well as the rest of humanity.

It seems like almost every day now, whenever I get up and turn on CNN first thing in the morning, there's been another shooting. At a mall, a school, or even in a church. Or maybe there's some new atrocity on the other side of the globe. Perhaps it's a famine, or an earthquake, or a flood, or a fire. Or another war.

It's been said for thousands of years……nobody likes war. If that were really true, then why have we had wars since the dawn of man? It's also been said that peace brings prosperity, but there are many people who make a living out of war. Weapons dealers, opportunists, even politicians.

I'm not heading off to my soapbox with another broadside of religious diatribe. But as the end of another year draws to a close I can't help but wonder where we're all headed. I remember an old cartoon I saw in a New Yorker Magazine years ago with a disheveled and bearded guy in a rag of a robe who was walking on a downtown street in rope sandals carrying a sign that read "the end is near". We modern Homo Sapiens have always thought that image of the kindly old crackpot was funny. It popped up again in 2003 in the movie "Bruce Almighty". Throughout the movie that "doomsday" character pops up carrying a sign, and at the very last scene of the film he morphs into Morgan Freedman and the sign reads: "Armageddon outta' here". Funny. However, in real life, a lot of folks aren't laughing these days. The headlines seem to proclaim what those bible-thumpers have been saying for decades. Or do they?

Could it be that these awful things have been going on for thousands of years, but only recently have we had the technology at hand to bring worldwide grief right into our homes instantly and on a daily basis? Reading a news item in print just the day after a horrific event insulates us somewhat from the reality of the situation. A wider time window equals apparent distance in the mind of the individual. But watching the human drama unfold in real time is another matter. The first time I felt impacted by world events in real time was in 1964 with the assassination of JFK. I was in English class when the announcement speaker came to life with the live radio feed of the aftermath of those events in Dallas. I still remember the scene in my mind's eye. The next time I had reality slap me in the face was during the Desert Storm campaign. I was in the studio doing a recording session with the Cate Brothers. CNN was on the TV in the corner of the office with the sound muted. Someone noticed that something big was going on and we halted the session long enough to watch the scene unfold on live television. The military had placed a camera in the nose of a "smart bomb" and we were flying through the air toward a target. Within five seconds we spotted a very large bunker in the sand. In an amazingly short amount of time our view zoomed right into the loading doors of the building and then just as the camera went dead, the viewpoint changed to show us an aerial view of the impact and resulting explosion taken from a chase plane. We all just stood there, mesmerized. As we returned to our recording session, someone muttered "Well boys, there is the future of warfare. We can all now be Armchair Generals and bring the action right into our living rooms. All we need now is some popcorn." I'll never forget that, and it made me very sad and I wondered if we weren't following the same historic footsteps of the Roman Empire.

Now here we are…. Still involved in a war. Back in the 60's my Grandfather used to end each watched TV newscast with the comment: "NEVER get into a Holy War!" I know what he means now. You can't win in a Holy War because BOTH sides think they are right and have their very own hand-picked savior(s) behind them. The promise of Heaven, Nirvana, or 13 virgins looms large in your mind when your life is about to be snuffed. Religion… more than anything else, empowers the individual to such an extent that they feel invincible. There have been religious zealots throughout the ages. Modern technology has amplified that today through instant media exposure. And today, thanks to "the spin", many of us doubt the integrity and truthfulness of our own appointed leaders. We are told it's not about religion, it's not about oil. It's about freedom spreading its wings. Well, what if the "offending country" doesn't want wings!? It's easy enough to say "We're Enlightened and they are Ignorant".

In truth I have never been abroad and have never fought in battle for my country. For me, this isn't about the military. The military plan was created to enforce the will of the people. To protect the people. One side of the great argument says that we must use the military to assist those in other "oppressed" countries so that they might also have a taste of Freedom, and in the process thus insuring that Democracy endures. In addition, of course, and by asserting a free government, the fear of the US being the target of Evil is somewhat lessened. On the other side we have those that say we shouldn't be meddling in the affairs of others and that Oil consumption and the Balance of Power is the real reason we're over there "spreading the wings of freedom".

I honestly don't know the answer to that question or the other questions that follow it. I know I support our troops wherever they are because they are only doing the bidding of our country's leaders. Those brave souls are our friends and loved ones out there who are fighting and killing and dying in the name of Freedom. They're not asking heady questions about the right or wrong of such motivations. It certainly would be a shameful act and a total waste of our young if this war and others were being fought simply at the whim of a handful of people who will prosper from such actions.

Ever since our country has positioned itself as the Defender of All Peoples, our resources have been exploited away from our own interior problems. America is one of the worst offenders of how we treat our elderly. It's mostly our own fault. We have become obsessed with youth. Yes, I am a card carrying member of the "baby boomer" generation and I realize my generation probably started all this "me, me, me", but each successive generation after the boomers have enforced and even accelerated this "program" of turning our backs on our own elderly. In Europe it would be considered a travesty to ship off old grandpa to a nursing home. They'd rather keep him at home and care for him because he earned that right when he spent his entire life working for his family. Many Americans these days are too self-centered to consider what the right thing to do is. This sort of goes hand in hand with the current trend of just letting the schools raise the children in addition to educating them. Folks say they don't have the time because now both parents have to work to make ends meet. Others just don't take the time to raise their own kids. They are too lazy or ignorant to get in there and do the dirty work of making sure their kids know the difference between right and wrong. I always thought an individual was born with that ability. Perhaps I am wrong. For me, it's instinct when I am posed with a dilemma of morals or manners. I know in my heart immediately if it's a potential wrong or right decision. I guess I was just raised that way. And by the way, my father never had to lay a hand on me. Just the THOUGHT of that scared the hell out of me. I guess times have changed. Now, schools are forced to impose a set of rules by which student must conduct themselves, partly because the kids don't know any better themselves. We get letters from school concerning our son's weight, social skills, disposition, deportment, and then… finally… his grades.

Is THIS a factor to be considered whenever a school shooting occurs? Why would a young man be SO depressed that he would even consider taking his own life - which really hasn't even begun in earnest yet? And even more importantly why would he take a gun to school and unload it on his classmates before turning it on himself? Why would anyone take out someone they don't even know? Are they SO bitter at the world in general that they want to drag others down in their own hell? Perhaps. But what started it? Parents of students who have acted out horrific deeds say their kid "seemed normal" to them……. How is that possible? How could someone be SO FAR GONE that the people who see them every day don't even notice a change? Are they in denial? Can they not admit it to the public- and themselves - that their own actions (or inactions) may have allowed their child to drift off into oblivion? I'm sure that one of the more difficult situations in life would be to know that you not only lost your child but that child also took others with them. They have to live with that for the rest of their lives. Is that payment received for not taking a stronger hand in your child's upbringing? Only God knows these answers, and He's not telling us.

As a matter of fact He doesn't tell us much these days anyway. People say that's what church is for… spreading the Word of God to the masses through ordained ministers and priests. But those ministers and priests don't actually get a phone call from the Almighty specifying who does what and who's to blame for that and what to do if this occurs. No, my own personal philosophy is that God doesn't necessarily meddle with things down here in the physical existence. He created us (in His own image) and then - after doing some nifty miracles (parting of the waters, feeding the multitudes, pillars of salt and all that) he basically went back up to the clouds and ponders Other Matters while we down here on earth (hell?) are left to make or break our own species.

It's not that we aren't trying to live up to His word. We've conquered many of the human illnesses that previously shortened our lives. We build magnificent structures and monuments to man's greatness (in His image of course). We have reached to the stars and set foot on the moon. We have dissected the atom. We have set about to enlighten those in darkness. There are so many ways we have strived to better ourselves. And yet, we continue to backslide in many respects concerning the way we treat each other and ourselves. We continue to squander our resources and push the inevitable into our own children's futures. We can be selfish, petty, hateful, and dishonest. With each passing day it seems we get more and more numb to our own needs. Are we slowly withdrawing from interactive human compassion and communication? Is it a defense mechanism because as individuals we cannot seem to make any difference?

I submit that the only way we can actually make headway on these issues and circumstances is in an individual capacity. Sure, Bob Geldorf organized Live Aid, Al Gore produced "An Invonvenient Truth", Bill Gates is handing out computers to school kids, and Brad Pitt is doing his part to rebuild New Orleans, but what can WE do? Keep in mind that the "WE" is the majority of regular folk out there. WE are the other 99% of the world. (Insert "We Are The World" soundtrack here)

Some of us are busy organizing groups, lobbying organizations, petitioning world governments, and networking vast lists of supporters to use as ammunition in this War against Humanity. But I am suggesting more of a Micro Management policy. We can start by being a little bit nicer to our neighbors. Start small. Like Richard Dreyfuss' book in "What About Bob?"….. We can take "baby steps" towards turning our world around.

Investigate alternative forms of energy in all facets of your life.
Be fair in business dealings.
Be honest in sales techniques. (now THERE'S a novel approach)
Take the necessary time and patience to raise your children.
ENJOY your children.
Make family first in your life.
Respect your elders.
Just say "no" to EVERYTHING that is BAD for you.
Eat less.
Read more.
Laugh. Out loud. In front of others.
Take care of your possessions.
Treat your pets right.
Use the parental lockout feature on your TV.
Make the glass half full instead of half empty.
If life hands you lemons…well, you know the rest.

These are all so obvious that it would be funny if it were any other planet. But the real truth is (and God didn't have to call me up to impart this information) that this is the only planet we have. If we destroy either it or ourselves in the process of searching for the Path of Enlightenment, then EVERY GOOD THING that has gone on before us will have been for naught. Evil wins and Good loses.

Whoops, There it is! The bottom line. The Last Word.

"Armageddon outta' here".

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