2012/10/31 W – Latter-day Hallows

After waking at about 17:00 today and squeezing in some typing work, I thought I ought to try to get some more photographs of children in case they might be useful in Korea, but the light faded on me and I didn’t get many; my camera is also starting to age, and doesn’t always focus well.  My mom had me dress up instead of going civilian.  I chose the old woman mask, and added a shawl (while the skirt would have impeded my pedalling).  I took a fairly quick circuit around Lavar Drive, up Hillside Lane, and down 27th East to 39th, then home.

We only had four visits — actually about 2 to 4 more than usual.  The first was our cousin Melissa and her family, who came while I was working, so I didn’t see them.  The second was the Sorenson mother in the ward, coming to see my sister, whose birthday it just was.  The third was our only regular annual visitor (though Melissa has been good these years), Melissa’s younger brother, Brandon.  He brought a girl named Abbie whom I later found out that we had already met many months ago when they came to borrow some marine pet supplies.  (Brandon stayed to beat me soundly in chess, claiming that it was possibly the first time he’d ever beaten me).  Last came the Marshall parents (Jan and Stephen) in the ward, whom my brother has remained close to.  With them was the lad Thomas.  Jan was also here to drop something off for my sister.  I and my mom watched some ‘Twilight Zone’ episodes she’d just brought home.

I just read a post by a woman named Micha Boyett (don’t ask me how to say it) at Patheos, a place I found because it hosts a page by the creators of EFM, who have made a great effort these two years to heal religious factionalism among conversatives.  She mentioned Halloween, then pivoted to the topic of a departed loved one, upon the thesis that the loved one now enjoys the personal presence of the divine.

Nice thoughts.  I wrote my comment, but, considering again the bunch of head-bobbing, parrotlike respondents before me affirming how “beautiful” and “wise” Boyett’s good but fairly pedestrian and prosaic composition was, and offering very little else by way of commentary, I suddenly felt out of place, and refrained.

I had wanted to further discuss what the holiday was:

Perhaps it’s appropriate that Hallows’ Eve has multiple faces.  We can appreciate the artistry, imagination, and drama of the decorations, the carnival, or the masquerade, the chance to recharacterise oneself in both absurd and hopeful or heroic ways.  We can explore or resist the holiday’s grotesque aspect, its celebration of terror, which exposes our susceptibility to the unreal and urges us to confront it — and which may afford a cathartic but superficial and socially scripted “evil”.  We can rejoice in the bounty of harvest (which we thankfully share with another holiday), and magnify our generosity to all visitors and supplicants.  We can more acutely sense the natural tragedy of this particular change of seasons, by which the earth itself forms symbols of our own lives; we can ponder for a moment the merging of the opposites of life and death, envisioning our future, and recovering those who have gone.  Many don’t know any better than to exaggerate some appendage of the holiday and ignore its other potential… but if we keep it, it’s our opportunity to keep it to God.

I seem to remember not wanting to observe Halloween for several years due to its negativity and mindlessness.  As I explained, I still don’t accept the caricature it largely is, but I don’t blame the day now.

This reminds me of another comment I held back recently.  Some nights ago, I stayed up all night (making my typing work late) rebutting a guy on the LDSNATSEC mailing list from BYU who was preaching his revelation of pacifism and condemning his fellow church members.  The topic started with a certain new LDS bishop in Seattle or somewhere named Jessen whose profession had involved national security and interrogation.  Specifically, the guy on the list had decided that God had told him that interrogation of terrorists was among the ultimate human evils.  I’d written him an earlier rebuttal that I decided to keep private to him, but it didn’t seem to affect him at all.

After contradicting the main points of his later argument, I hesitated to post the comment to the list due to its poor quality, then realised that that dude was deaf to debate anyway, and everybody else there but one commiserator already knew the guy was tilted and running on the fumes of his depleted faith and ethical sense (now seemingly replaced by liberalism).  Beside, the debate had grown tired (though the two with the more offensive views still hadn’t really been answered).  I never posted it.

My main point was, of course, that torture for fun or power was very bad, but forcing out information to combat terroristic warfare and save innocents didn’t match the legal rationale (subjective and loose already) for prohibiting unpleasant methods thought to be tortuous, and wasn’t necessarily bad — and that dismissing murder, imagining away threats, and crippling security were more criminal than holding a guy underwater till he betrayed his accomplices.

Oh well.

In fact, yes, I think I’ll post it here after all.  It’s important to think about, when there’s so much slander nowadays by those whose god is themselves, and whose ideologies teach them bad is good.  Their claims are not all bad; opposing presumed sin is not bad.  The sin is in the extremity, in sinning to oppose sin, standing on cracked ice to crack the ice beneath a foe, blinding oneself to the fatal exceptions to one’s absolutism.

May this day, and all our days, be somehow holy.

-Steve Foster

Post-script:

Personally, my interest in this discussion has waned, but though neither a soldier nor a jurist, I feel like some of the central premises have remained underdeveloped or unstated (at least since the last time they may have been brought up on this list).

As I see it, the exchange here has fallen along these propositions:

1) A bishop was once engaged in wrong-doing, and if he is not disciplined by the Church, at least his past actions should be disavowed by Church members.

This seems to be a minor contention, in that it has been agreed by those here that Church discipline is an internal and inscrutable process potentially including much greater familiarity with detail and repentance of past wrongs, and any rebuke made here of his alleged wrong would consist of a general repudiation of the activity rather than a condemnation of him as a man, a sinner, or a church leader (though A. F. entertained a future hope that Mr. Jessen could no longer “hide in respectable company” behind a spiritual justification of his actions, and also would be “prosecuted for participation in a crime”).  At any rate, the actual “wrongness” within the first tangent hinges on the second:

2) Waterboarding is torture, and like other forms of torture, it is wrong, in a legal and moral aspect.

a) It is legally wrong.

-(Lawful “pain and suffering” exempted from forbidden torture)
M. T. has given a good deal of relevant background, and A.F. has concluded that “legally it isn’t a close call.”  It’s true that over the three iterations of international legality cited by M.T., increasing definition has been given to acts of torture and their inhumanity.  M.T. also mentioned several pieces of U.S. law from the same article he referenced, which serve as recapitulations of Geneva (as well as extending the U.S. Constitutional protections of due process and non-cruel and usual treatment to prisoners abroad).

As for the U.S. Code, it does indeed forbid torture within the U.S. (Title 18 Section 2340) in a civil context, and any “grave breach” of the Geneva Convention (Section 2441), which would be in a military context; but with the latter, it repeatedly and consistently invokes the disclaimer that the rules do not apply to “pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions”.  Essentially, a line is drawn between arbitrary inflictions of suffering, such as those made to intimidate or punish foes or exact confessions, and legally justified inflictions of suffering, such as those effected upon lawbreakers.  There’s a difference between “cruelty” toward the innocent (including, as a line of GPW commentary puts it, those who have “committed no crime except that of carrying arms and fighting loyally”) and “cruelty” toward the guilty or the still-dangerous (who of themselves would probably characterise any force exerted against them as “cruel”, including captivity, despite that the law requires it).

The international law statements are also not as absolute as has been suggested.  The 1984 CAT, Article 1, forbids an official from inflicting “severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental” for the purpose of “obtaining […] information”, but then states that the proscription “does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in, or incidental to lawful sanctions.”

The 1966 ICCPR is a statement of general human rights not connected with warfare.  For example, in Article 9, life and liberty are also protected, which rights are universally held to extend only so far as individuals are not engaging in the destruction of the rights of others.  Obviously, no legal statement would seek to protect the lives and liberties of enemy combatants, when doing so would mean that one’s own compatriots lost their lives instead.  Article 5 addresses this somewhat.

The 1949 Geneva Convention is specifically oriented toward treatment of those engaged in armed conflict.  While it decries “violence to life and person, in particular […] mutilation, cruel treatment and torture” and “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment” (Article 3), it also qualifies from the first instance that these protections are to descend upon “persons taking no active part in the hostilities”, who have been injured or captured, who have surrendered, and so on.  GPW Article 4 further delineates that prisoners of war must either be part of regular armed forces openly carrying arms and acting within the “laws and customs of war”, civilians accompanying or working with such forces, or sporadic fighters who nevertheless are openly armed and follow the “laws and customs of war”.

-(Obsolete assumption of cessation of threat)
The question of whether an infliction of pain or abrogation of rights is justified (or “incidental to legal sanctions”) during wartime seems to rely entirely on whether a person is presently engaged in hostilities or capable of inflicting harm; and the very simple reasoning here is, protection of victims or defense against attacks clearly takes priority over the protection of the rights of malefactors, who would otherwise, in a normal situation removed from their hostility, deserve their full dignity.  The assumptions of Geneva have held true and found consensus up till nearly the present time (arguably, up till 2001/9/11), that subduing an enemy automatically negates their threat, and therefore, there is no reason other than inhumanity to traumatise them after capture.

As we all know, that assumption is no longer true.  There are enemies who no longer openly carry arms, and who make not even the slightest pretense of according with the customs and laws of war.  There are enemies whose modes of attacks are not frontal or even militaristic per se, defense against whom can no longer be achieved by traditional military means.  Their attacks involve secrecy, plots, disguises, information networks, and — most importantly and most innovatively — sneaking hidden explosives into the midst of large groups of civilians.  The danger arises not from “carrying arms and fighting loyally”, which behaviour could be met in battle.  The danger is from the duplicity in both the manner and the targets of the warfare.  Terrorists do not brandish arms, but conceal them, conducting themselves as assassins — and their victims are rarely a tangible military or government entity, but are almost always non-combatants who cannot possibly be defended unless a planned attack is uncovered.  The danger of these hostiles is their secrecy.  Information itself has thus become a weapon or means of defense.  This argument was pursued by the Bush administration:

“[T]he war against terrorism is a new kind of war. It is not the traditional clash between nations adhering to the laws of war that formed the backdrop for GPW.  The nature of the new war places a high premium on other factors, such as the ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists and their sponsors in order to avoid further atrocities against American civilians, and the need to try terrorists for war crimes such as wantonly killing civilians. In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva’s strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions requiring that captured enemy be afforded such things as commissary privileges, scrip (i.e., advances of monthly pay), athletic uniforms, and scientific instruments” (http://www.hereinreality.com/alberto_gonzales_torture_memo.html).

Though M.T.’s article speaks quite derogatorily about the Gonzales memo, and while a few of its arguments, such as the illegitimacy of the enemy governments, seem to already be precluded by the GPW, his central point remains forceful to me.  Against this backdrop of an evolving disagreement over whether the hostility or threat of civilian-targetting secret enemy networks is nullified by the capture of any of their members, we find a new confusion at least in U.S. law, exemplified in U.S. Code Title 42 Section 2000dd, which affords legal protection to agents of this government who have interrogated captives oblivious to whether doing so was legal or not — and who did so, tellingly, between 2001/9/11 and 2005/12/30, which amounts to an admission of legal ambiguity at least during that time.  It’s easy to predict what will happen to the legal debate if another major terror attack occurs against the US.  I doubt it will be a shift in favour of the human dignity of terrorists.

-(Bolstering illegality as a partisan attack)
I would also point out that A.F. suggested that justification of torture or interrogation may have been due to a desire to shield political leaders from blame.  It’s not difficult at all to see that the reverse is equally likely as a motivation.  This may or may not be true in A.F.’s particular case, but it’s easy to see that the opposition effort to discredit Bush included a severe emphasis on criminalising (or “demonising”, as K. K. offered) interrogation techniques.  If partisanship has obfuscated the debate over the practice itself on one side, it most certainly has on the other as well.

b) It is morally wrong.

-(Pleasantness or inexchangeability with Christ not always determinative of morality)
As K.K. and J.O. analogised, we have clear prohibitions against “taking life” in general, but they are not absolute in all times and places — the same action (taking a life) can toward one person be murderous and depraved, and toward a second person be justified, or even legally or morally demanded.  The same can be said about depriving criminals of their liberty, with due process.  A.F. and M.T. both called on intuition to make their moral cases.  A.F. specifically appealed to the intuition of children, denying that they would ever interrogate or torture another person, and also argued that love for our enemies should prevent us from causing them pain or suffering.  M.T. put forward a very tragic case of a suicidal woman (whose judgment in that action he questioned) whose intuition prevented her from interrogating prisoners.  M.T. also argued that since we wouldn’t interrogate or torture Jesus, we shouldn’t do so to anybody else.

The logic quickly frays in other settings.  What about depriving someone’s liberty?  Children can actually be surprisingly naughty, but an idealised child wouldn’t restrict the liberty of offending peers; Jesus apparently was never a jailor on this earth, though he restricted the liberty of his enemy demons; and we ought to “love” criminals as much as any other foe.  But we can’t assume either A.F. or M.T. would advocate up-ending our entire penal system on the same logic as they used to reject EIT — because it may feel wrong to put somebody in jail, it is wrong.  And what about taking a life?  What about war?  No healthy, normal child would kill another person, and there’s no hint that mortal Jesus ever directly took human life; plus, we ought to find a way to love our enemies in war; but we still have exceptionally clear ethical dictates that we must defend the innocent even to the point of killing killers.  We don’t place this burden on children, of course.  But even though we have no child police officers or child soldiers, we don’t condemn policemen or soldiers for doing what children cannot, or even what tender-hearted adults cannot.  Also, the tragedy or the ugliness of killing doesn’t detract from its necessity — but on the other hand, it does suggest that those who neglect duty, or cause others to neglect their duties, of committing a “necessary evil” are potentially making themselves an accessory to the greater evil they self-righteously decline to prevent.

-(Motive and utility)
If intent differentiates murder, manslaughter, and self-defense or heroism, we oughn’t discard it from ethical judgments of interrogation tactics.  It might be said that killing is to murder as enhanced interrogation is to torture.  There is perhaps never an excuse for the latter acts, and only the barest sliver of excuse for the former — but within that sliver is the power to save life.  A.F. gave some weight to motives when he opined that we are “a Church and a culture that glories in war and revels in battle and has no qualms in killing or torturing our enemies”, and that Mr. Jessen had been proud to invent ways to torture people.  Despite A.F.’s disclaiming a desire to judge, this, frankly, is not only against the tremendous brunt of scripture, it takes liberties to declare the evil intents of Jessen and the LDS community at large the existence of which A.F. may choose to suspect, but which I’m not sure he has sufficient evidence to demonstrate.

He then took another track, that a primary motive of interrogating terrorists was to respond to a “fear of attack”.  He probably would agree that there’s every reason for a government and a people to have such an anxiety, particularly given the attacks that have already occurred, and against which there is no defense with traditional military tactics.  He is likely only concerned that fear might become irrational and disrupt our priorities, leading us to want to interrogate terrorists when otherwise, guided by our Christian love and great regard for their human dignity, we would never choose to forcibly extract intelligence from them, or as he put it, to force an unwilling prisoner “to act against their conscience” (as contradictory as it might seem to hold sacred the preferences of a person’s conscience that apparently condones their participation in mass, indiscriminate civilian deaths).  M.T. also granted that a “ticking time bomb” (and the motive of its prevention) might justify EIT, but he denied the likelihood of such a situation — apparently convinced that secret plans to co-ordinate terror attacks are “bizarre and rare” and have “no place in defining a policy”.  The position that fear of an imminent attack is not a valid factor for policy-making does seem increasingly acceptable the further we get from 9/11.

But the debate here becomes speculative.  If the danger of hidden attacks actually has subsided, it would certainly be proper to re-enshrine humane treatment of enemy captives whose dignity may have been impinged upon because of their use of “dignity” to shield their inhumane waging of war.  But is the danger gone, and can M.T. or A.F. prove this?  Are people no longer conspiring to explode large groups of civilians?  If we cease extracting the details of these secret plans by painful methods, and if clever terrorists are able to achieve another catastrophe, and if we can connect the security breach to a laxity toward our own intelligence-gathering, are A.F., M.T., or any of those who share their aversion to EIT really ready to accept culpability for the blood of American civilians?  Those are big “ifs”, and the price is too great to test them, but at the very least, we should all admit that proponents of EIT are not collectively motivated by “cruelty”, but by protecting people from cruelty.

Of two scriptures citing torture, only one comments specifically on the justification, or lack thereof, of its infliction (to my knowledge, though Alma 44:6-7 and the following events could also fit M.T.’s definition of torture).  Moroni 9:9-13 describes a very different activity from EIT, in two ways: the intentional result was death, and the motives were hard-heartedness, a gruesome show of bravery, and a delight in abomination.  EIT such as waterboarding neither intend to kill nor maim the captive, nor are motivated by cruelty or depravity.  Even so, it’s still entirely appropriate to define, systematise, and control interrogation techniques to the point where the interrogator is not left to their own judgment in the process.  We expect the same strictness and accountability with those who are authorised to take away people’s rights in any other setting, for the very purpose that those lawful sanctions don’t become arbitrary, cruel, abusive, or extortive.

To summarise, it’s a reasonable ethical position, not something to “hide in respectable company”, that, as with taking life, a vicious or self-serving intent may render a certain interrogatory action an exercise of unusual cruelty or inhumanity, while a benevolent patriotic intent may make the same act an unfortunate but commendable discharge of public guardianship.  This view does not require that its proponents revel in torture or glory in war, that they are are at odds with the gospel of Jesus, or that they lack ethical clarity.  On the contrary, it invites scrutiny into the opposite position, as verbalised by A.F. in a statement that honestly startles me:

“Even if the path is harder, even if the path is longer, even if the path is more expansive [expensive?], even if the path costs more suffering to the innocent there is always a way that won’t necessitate enhanced interrogation/torture.”

-(Horrible ends at least as indefensible as horrible means)
If the flaw with ends-based means is that they may justify using ostensibly horrible methods to achieve a purportedly positive outcome (which is an impossible scenario to those who believe that God’s ends and means are equally good, as epitomised in D&C 10:25-28, James 1:13-17), Nephi 26:33, and Moses 1:38-39), then the exact same flaw is found in reverse with means-based ends: allegedly good methods will be employed despite leading to a nominally horrible end.  This horrible end is the one A.F., for all his apparent good intention, just allowed in saying he opposes EIT even if it “costs more suffering to the innocent”.  I’m not entirely sure he’s thought it through, especially since his hypothesis that EIT proponents are trying to “justify an already determined position to support torture” comes equally against his pre-determination to oppose torture, no matter the human cost — and no matter the form of torture.  As “M.J.” reminded us, there are differences within torture and interrogation.  Waterboarding is not the same thing as slowly pulling a person limb from limb, nor is it the same thing as a bullet in the head.  There’s a curious moral hypocrisy in a philosophy that allows one to dispatch an enemy aggressor to save lives, but that doesn’t allow the inflicting of non-lethal or impermanent suffering on that aggressor to save lives.  But for all I know, A.F. is an entire pacificist who decries any and all harm against everybody everywhere, which at least would leave his view of righteous methods internally consistent.

-(Source of ethics)
A.F. (joined by M.T. to some extent) framed his legal and intuitive positions as the result of “a process of morality and ethical consideration”  while painting his opponents as believers in a God (rather, a devil) who only ever commands insanity and butchery and never restraint or mercy, and equated the morals and ethics of Mitt Romney and most other LDS members with susceptibility to fanciful spiritual conclusions and even outright sadism.  I think he should rather admit that his own ethical deliberations, and the collective ethical conclusions he leans upon, arise from the very same internal moral sensibility, “light of Christ”, or “voice of God” as do those of people who admit interrogation as a necessary evil in the face of enemies whose unconscionable tactics reveal the utter joke that has always been the notion of a “humane conduct of war”.  His opponents have the same sense he does, telling a person that A is beautiful and right, B is ugly and wrong, and C is tragic but necessary; and if they’re in danger of shadowy inspiration inverting their priorities, so is he.

-Steve Foster

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2012/10/25 Th – The Elect

I filled out my early, mail-in ballot some hours ago.  It came in the mail sometime around the start of October.  I’d put it off because of wanting to study the races a little more, but in the end, I realised I’d already made my decisions on the ones that I thought mattered.

I live in Utah, East Mill Creek (east of Mill Creek proper).  (It seems there are several other communities sharing some form of this name in the country.)

Our ballots are made of light card-stock paper and consist of bubbles to be filled in with an ink pen (I assume they’re read by a computer; we use computers at our polls, although they print out paper ballots like receipts in turn).

Our first option was an optional “straight-party” selection which I forewent (Constitution, Libertarian, Democratic, Republican, Justice [which I don’t know at all], and Green).  The philosophy exists that the candidates themselves are often not the important variables in the election; we’re vote for parties anyway.  Still, I had one dissenting choice.

Next was the federal presidency.  We could choose between Jill Stein (Green), Gloria La Riva (Socialist – marked with an asterisk as “Not a registered party in the state of Utah”), Mitt Romney (Republican), Barack Obama (Democrat), Gary Johnson (Libertarian), Virgil Goode (Constitution), and Ross C. “Rocky” Anderson (aha, Justice – this guy is a former Salt Lake mayor, elected by the insular liberal majority there, but the rest of us view him as severely imbalanced and unfit for office).

My choice was Romney, due to the pervasive immorality in general and corruption in particular of the opposing party and candidate.  This is not to say that I don’t admit that some of Romney’s policy expectations are more hypotheses than certainties — only that I can’t support a political movement that wars against religious faith and seeks to enshrine and mandate a secular bureaucracy as a state religion as well as a final arbiter of wealth and property, that distorts and replaces equality with a discriminatory false equality, that has commandeered the partisan sympathies of most traditional news outlets and destroyed a free press (or driven it on-line), that is guilty of social engineering and eugenics, that aligns with satirists, rioters, and malcontents and thrives on the incivility, greed, disunity, and re-education of society, and so on.

Nor could I support such a habitual cover-upper, blame-deflector, and ridiculer as Obama.  He has enjoyed some large and many small successes amidst his very many struggles and failures, and has not exactly “destroyed the country” except in an abstract cultural sense, behind which he was not the prime instigator anyway, but rather a reflection or outgrowth; but his brightest spot by far is that he has given us a “black” president (though we still wait for a blacker one).  This goal having been accomplished, I feel it’s time for him to explore other career options.  Romney will get his chance to be voted out when things don’t go well for him either.

Still, if he doesn’t win, that’s fine.  I trust in God.

My other selections were not all so intentional.  Our next choice was for the U.S. Senate; we could pick Shaun Lynn McCausland (Constitution), Scott Howell (Democrat), Orrin Hatch (Republican), Daniel Geery (Justice), or Bill Barron (Socialist).  I recently got an advertisement from Scott Howell, and he seems fairly decent, but I decided to back Hatch way back in the primaries due to being favourable to his record, beliefs, and manner.  So far, I have sympathies to the Constitution Party, and to a lesser extent, the Libertarian Party.  Had there been a Libertarian candidate, I would have had to think hard about whether he or Howell would get my support for third place.

Next was our House representative.  I’m in District 4, and had the opportunity to support the Haitian woman, Mia Love (Republican).  Our other choices were Jim Vein (Libertarian) and Jim Matheson (Democrat).  This would have been another tough choice for second place.  My family is among those who tried to tolerate Matheson; although I didn’t vote for him before, I know my conservative mother did.  Of course, he’s fallen into disfavour in Utah this last term for descending into unrepresentative partisanship (as well as apparently being redistricted), and neither I nor she could imagine retaining him in the present climate or with the possibility of Obama remaining in office.

For Utah governor, we could choose between Peter Cooke (Democrat), Ken Larsen (Libertarian), Kirk Pearson (Constitution), and our incumbent leader, Gary Herbert (Republican).  On account of his quick surrender to the misinformation campaign of state hedonists and perverted academicians with the reproductive education bill earlier this year (a fairly major issue to me), I had warned him in a disappionted e-mail that he had lost my support… and so it was.  I sided with the Constitution candidate.  Still, I once admired Herbert.  Given a tighter race with Cooke, I would have considered voting strategically for the Republican, whom I agree with more often than I would with the Democrat, despite my offense over Herbert’s perceived cowardice and betrayal.

For state attorney general, we could choose between Dee Smith (Democrat), John Swallow (Republican), and W. Andrew McCullough (Libertarian).  I had preferred Swallow’s opponent, Sean Reyes, in the primaries, but not strongly, and I defaulted without concern to Swallow.

For state auditor, our choices were Mark Sage (Democrat), John Dougall (Republican), and Richard Proctor (Constitution).  I think party matters a little less to this office, but I still voted for my choice in the primaries, John Dougall, whose campaign I liked.

For state treasurer, it was Christopher Stout (Democrat), Vincent Marcus (Libertarian), and Richard Ellis (Republican).  I hadn’t studied these candidates very much and had nothing against any of them, but was more familiar with the Republican, and chose him.

I’m in Utah House district 36.  Our choice for representative was either Dana Dickson (Republican) or Patrice Arent (Democrat).  Ms. Arent has enjoyed her responsibilities of office for an exceptionally long time, testifying to the troubling leftward lean of the semi-local wealthy people living up the mountain from me.  I have never liked Ms. Arent from the first time I saw her unusual name on a sign, and since I noticed her hiding her party affiliation.  She was more open about it in this campaign, but still restricted her policy promotion to non-controversial issues (unfortunately including opposition to the same effort that Herbert lost my support by opposing), and still shows a probably wise, yet annoying, tendency to mask her partisan feelings.

Also unfortunately, Mr. Dickson, as far as I can tell, has spent very little effort campaigning until quite recently, notwithstanding a small, hopeful contribution I’d made to him.  Arent has also not been very committed, I think, but at least has capitalised on her established presence and recycled her earlier efforts.  Dickson did show his reassuring intellectual side in a Republican election-awareness magazine last week, and has mailed a few things and started being more visible, and it was still my privilege to cast him my vote.

For county mayor (Salt Lake County), we could select either Mark Crockett (Republican) or Ben McAdams (Democrat).  I’d sided with Crockett in an extremely close primary race, but would have liked his opponent, too.

I actually met Crockett on the night of the caucus votes, where he’d come to campaign.  He was rather short and normal-looking, and I mistook him for a late, lost voter, since I’d taken it on myself to help direct other lost voters.  We exchanged some kind of greeting and a handshake, but when I asked if he was looking for his precinct, I seemed to have lost his interest in communicating; he grew listless and didn’t answer, looking instead toward our director person.  Though a bit perturbed by his sudden lack of attention, I soon understood why he was there when he made a statement to the group, and I appreciated his presence.  It was a tough call to side with him over Mike Winder, but I think he was just a slightly stronger candidate and ran a tighter campaign.

McAdams, on the other hand, is a left-wing liberal supported by other liberals.  His impish grin doesn’t endear him to me, though I’m sure he’s an earnest enough fellow.  I’m sure he’ll keep running for stuff if he loses.

Next were two county council votes, an “at-large” seat vied for by Joseph Demma (Republican) and long-timer Jim Bradley (Democrat), and our district 4 seat contended over by Missy Larsen (Republican) and Sam Granato (Democrat).  Like Patrice Arent, Bradley sells himself as a centrist, which in a Republican state either makes you a closet leftist or a moderate Republican.  Still, I have nothing against him for my own lack of research… but Demma got my vote all the same.

The fourth district vote was the closest to home of them all.  My dear elder brother, corrupted early by the wrong crowd in high school and vulgar, conservative-bashing late-night comedy outlets on t.v., and solidified by a long tutelage under our flaming, militant, left-wing news organ, the Salt Lake Tribune, has been a fan of Granato since the man ran for the U.S. Senate in 2010.  Granato is obviously from here (like Larsen); his family was in our stake, I think.  I know of him because of his delicatessen or import grocery store on 27th East and about 40th South.  Back when I was spending time with our local missionaries on exchanges before my own calling, I joined them on one or two of their regular visits to Granato’s, since it was right next to their apartments, and since Sam or whoever offered the missionaries free sandwiches.

I also knew of him because, as an importer and a food services advocate, he came to be a strong proponent of flooding our communities with liquor, in the name of conforming with the drooling intoxicants of our fallen society who might give him a dollar in exchange for help with their long-term assisted suicide.  Me, I think liquor chains mankind to the animal kingdom.  I think in the super-advanced future, it won’t exist except as an embarrassing memory, a relic of barbarism, as it were.  I also don’t agree with liberals; so I refrained from supporting Granato during his senate race, earning my dear, brainwashed brother’s progressive rebuke.

For this election, I’d given a very small amount to Missy Larsen’s campaign, and she had written an e-mail asking if our yard was available (she’d also sent a cute thank-you note).  I could find no reason to not support her except for suspicions over her family’s mixed political background, and our conservative step-father agreed, so we now have a Missy Larsen sign at the edge of our property.  (My brother, Shane, confronted me over it later; his latest cause is opposing the “Ski Link” development plan, which Granato is also against, and which Larsen has seemed to neither support nor oppose, but which Shane assumes she supports.  Maybe he’s right to be against that; I’m on the fence, though in principle, I don’t admire the extreme environmentalist paranoia surrounding it.)

Like other candidates, I think if Granato really wants to parlay his religiosity or bipartisan sensibilities into elected office, he should do it from the majority party, or else independently, if he claims to reject both extremes.  To me, to my culture and views, liberal Democrats are radicals (the Christian right is also radical to my particular culture, but it’s from their own personality defects rather than being a structural component of their platform).  Fiercely retaining membership in a party while disavowing that party’s radicalism sends conflicting messages about where one’s priorities are.  For me, it’s moral questions, and candidates of a party officially opposing, ridiculing, and even conducting psychological warfare against my moral stances have a tremendous lot of ground to make up for with me.

So, obviously, I have again declined to back Granato and have voted for Larsen.

Next, we had some school board positions, little discussed.  I chose Jennifer Johnson over Chris Williams for the state, and Dan Lofgren over Wagner Jones for our local district, on account of their respective backgrounds.

Next was a series of judicial retentions.  Unlike last time, when I cast a shock vote against them all, this time I went ahead and sided with them all.  If it had been Christine Johnson, the hyper-feminist and antagonist of my former roommate, Stetson Hallam, and others (for very different reasons), I probably would have given her a thumbs-down.

Next was a constitutional amendment (“A”) forcing Utah to invest mineral proceeds in its own interest-bearing trust fund.  My mom had rejected it casually, lacking information, and I would have too, except that I read about it on a state voting site.  I couldn’t imagine a better idea, even during a recession, and I support it fully.  This is the exact same mechanism and rationale as for personal savings, but on a larger scale.  The contrary argument, to give lawmakers more flexibility to spend from year to year, is utterly wrong-tracked to me and will amount to a huge opportunity cost compared with mandatory investment in an “emergency” fund that hopefully is left alone.

Then we had another amendment (“B”) to force citizens to pay property taxes of deployed soldiers.  I’d thought it a romantic idea at first, but after some discussion with my mom, I found that I accepted her arguments: soldiering, while noble and thankworthy to many, is both voluntary and fairly compensated, just like the high- and low-risk jobs of every other taxpayer; and soldiers already enjoy multitudinous benefits without creating a new entitlement for them, at the burden of the rest.

This is essentially a tax raise on everybody else, in the name of sympathy for those who may die for our country — that is, those who may die (or live) in uniform, not those who may live or die for the country as civilians.  If this were some benefit for wounded or fallen soldiers, or for forced conscripts, there might be another dimension to the argument, but it’s not.  I personally don’t think it’s a good idea to take steps towards creating a professional military class.  Let a man serve or not serve freely; let him get fairly paid if he does.  Help him if he loses an appendage in battle.  Shower him with free education if you really have such a surplus.  Protect his equal vote.  Tax him equally.  Leave him as an American, like the rest of us; if he is a hero, don’t monetarise and tarnish his heroism by hiking everybody else’s taxes as some gift to him.  Don’t turn him into a dependent of the state by feigning gratitude, or swaying the military vote towards dependency.  Don’t sow that resentment towards their fellow citizens in those who want to enjoy the fruits of their own labour.  What if we suddenly wanted to tax ourselves to free doctors, heroic doctors who save all of our lives, from property taxes, or policemen, or teachers, or job-makers, or heroic politicians, or whatever special-interest group of the day?  We stratify ourselves into many Americas, if we do.  The flatter our taxes, the more equal we feel; but once severed from an equal tax, all manner of jealousies erupt, and we start accusing everybody else of not paying their share — we’ve destroyed the definition of what a “fair share” is, when everybody pays differently.  We need to reject proposals of special benefits, whether they’re to people we like, or to us ourselves.  But if any of us wants to support a military family in need, we know where our wallets are.  Many have shown such willingness.  Don’t make charity into a tax; it neither sanctifies the giver nor strengthens the receiver.

So, yeah, I rejected B.

Next, we had a county bond proposal for open spaces and what-have-you.  It’s a nice idea, but this is essentially another tax hike to back up spending of money the county doesn’t have.  If the county wants to do something, don’t hand a bill 20 years into the future.  Cut your budget, get a surplus, save some money, and do what you think needs doing.  That’s the right way.  Every budget can be cut, though it might take some tooth-gritting.  On the other hand, debt is a key in the locked doorway to insolvency; the evidence is abundant.  My mother recalled supporting a much smaller zoo tax hike some years ago, which I think I also supported, but I refused this measure.

Finally, we had the question of incorporating our township into a city.  I was once more of a proponent of this action, but at this point, I can’t see how it will necessarily improve anything, but I can see how it will necessarily cost more.  I don’t worry any more about annexation; if people want to go pay more taxes to a neighbouring city, go ahead.  There’s really nothing that needs fixing that can’t be fixed as part of the county, and, as I mentioned in a previous comment, I’m wary of a glut of city development.  I voted ‘no’.

For form of government if incorporated, my mother’s reasoning interested me: an equally divided council would be a check against itself that a forced majority wouldn’t be.  I chose “six-member council” instead of five-member, five-member-with-mayor, or seven-member-with-mayor.

Well, I’ll try to get my ballot in sooner or later.  It’s sitting here stuffed in an envelope now.  I thought I’d be in Korea by now and might not have this chance, but I thank heaven for it.  May God’s will supersede our own and guide our minds and hands, and may we forgive each other for our inevitable wrongness.  May God bless America, this bloody land.  The land remembers its blood; may the blood America spills be from patriotism and self-sacrifice, and not murder nor oppression.  May God bless Utah, and my East Mill Creek, that our tiny lives will have been for something good in this world.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

-Steve Foster

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2012/07/29 Su – Incorporating Mill Creek

I was going to post this comment on one of the newspapers before remembering the word limit on Deseret News and the general disrepute of the sickeningly leftist Salt Lake Tribune.

Both sides are spreading fear — and both sides’ fears have some legitimacy.

There’s the historically supported fear of annexation, with Mill Creek already having shrunken away over the decades as jittery voters, perhaps sold on the “if it isn’t broken” argument, sat on their hands amidst more ambitious neighbours; and today, some underinformed areas are again minded to split off (most immediately, to Holladay), partly due to the socially and economically centralising effect of incorporation.  City opponents press a truly uninspired argument that because of a slightly lengthier, bilateral procedure for annexation, annexation therefore will not occur.  This strange confidence in township preservation stands in the face of modern urbanisation pressures, and the malleability of procedure under such pressures.

Then there’s the equally demonstrable fear of rising taxes or fees subsequent to incorporation.  Expenses will certainly rise with “duplicate government”, but that duplication is limited to executive and judicial administration, not doubled city services; and those expenses are rather insignificant in the total budget.  Also, that very administrative duplication accounts for the greater responsiveness hoped for with closer government.  Still, the risk of public employment bloat remains, whether here or (especially) in the larger county.

Taxes and fees will rise over time — how much, and what for, are the real points.  Rates will not somehow be locked at present levels by incorporating.  Neither will they magically remain static by staying with the overspending county (with its hefty recent budget shortfall draining reserves and flabbergasting Ms. Iwamoto).  The county is well rated, but fond of bonding (though Mill Creek City may also bond).  The county openly admits an upward drift in employment expenses will -someday- threaten the budget.  If a few pro-incorporators see a potential job opportunity, still, the most strident voices against incorporation appear aligned with the county leaders who feel most threatened by revenue loss.  Even in this article, that side compounds its legitimate fears with such ridiculous claims as a shadowy “unknown agenda” lurking behind city formation, a mischaracterisation of annexation plans as unilateral and thus imaginary, and a greatly exaggerated threat of duplication leading to spending hikes.  Pro-incorporators have the feasibility plan showing only a slight projected cost increase, stabilising over the next few years, to which they add the plausible arguments that re-contracting may possibly save money, and that the feasibility revenue was underestimated according to a later audit.

64,000 people, what would make one of the largest cities in the state, cannot remain an anonymous island forever.  If we pass it up this time, we’ll just look back in embarrassment when the next vote comes, maybe larger in number from natural growth, maybe smaller from boundary attrition, stupidly admitting that the county too has raised our costs, and perhaps still waiting on overdue road upgrades and other projects, but still scaring each other with ghost stories of the horrors of other cities.  We’ll be no better off, and the question of incorporation will not go away.  Or, if we can manage to remain amorphous for long enough, we’ll look back at how our island was eventually engulfed anyway by neighbours.  It may take a decade or even several, but one way or another, we’ll belong to a city in the end.  It might as well be Mill Creek instead of a focally distant one.

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2012/07/19 Th – The Road Goes Ever On and On

Image 

On Sunday, Janet Calvert smiled at me, perhaps inadvertently, as I walked past the primary class hallway where she was, on my way home.  She has a nice smile — unsurprisingly.  She and hers were the custodians of that smile I loved.

Outside, Vivian Smith called a greeting as I passed the vehicle she was helping her clan into.

These are my blessings, and I’m glad for them.

I’ve drifted into a bit of apathy these days, having recognised my own idolatry in loving that girl, and the others… and the morbid futility of those hopes.  Even the blooming flowers lose their cheer, when one considers their great, fleeting deception.

I loved that girl for her beauty.  I don’t deny the love, but it was blind, anyway.

Myeong-Seon reminded me of my obligations in a recent chat, and I saw my folly.

I’m still not clear on Myeong-Seon… but I draw daily nearer to her country.  The familial and amicable debt I’ve come to owe her cannot, I think, be fully repaid.  She will be a part of me forever; whether in matrimony or fraternity, it mattereth not.

I was arranged by my recruiters, AST, to have an interview on Skype with a Korean middle school in Osan, not far from Seoul.  I thought I heard their name as 매홀, but I can’t be sure.  The meeting took place on Tuesday.  I’m not sure how it went.  There is a lot of advice to be “enthusiastic”, “outgoing”, and so forth, but it disgusts me to imagine first conformity (apparently so common to that culture — but only superficially), and second, insincerity.  Whoever hires me will know who I am, and will receive the service that I can give.  Teachers couldn’t be the same even if they tried.  Variety is a principle of life, and of heaven.

Later on Tuesday night, I talked on Yahoo Messenger with Erica Sit, the Hong Kong girl transplanted with her family to Salt Lake, who once knocked on my door whilst advertising her realty services.  I met her a few times subsequently and talked with her by phone for a period, but we’d had only a virtual connection for years.  As we chatted, the chance arose, and I pressed it: we made a plan to meet.  Today, I think, was her birthday, but I’ll receive her on Saturday afternoon — for the last time, as she believes, presuming me to intend to marry and settle in Korea.

Today was softball.  I hurried over just after 7:30 in my mom’s car, joined by my sister, who’d expected to go for a bike ride together.  I told her I’d just make sure the 9th ward had enough players.  It turns out they were short, so I played for the first time.

We faced the 4th ward.  Rob Truax was our star again, popping them over the fence with nearly every swing.  The others all played quite well; we had a Joe and a Nate, familiar faces Ben and Brian, and Todd Calvert (who might’ve been our #2, and whose nice wife also came), along with a final guy I can’t remember.  Our coach, Chris Barrie, was there as always.  I found out what a weak swinger I was, managing only three singles (out of three pitches) in our four innings.  I was second to last to bat, and due to some rule I wasn’t clear on, we had to forfeit every inning at the end due to an insufficient line-up.  So, I got to second twice, and suddenly the inning was called.  In the third inning, we didn’t make it to my turn.

I played catcher, a first for me.  Well, the softball itself was a first, maybe.  I can’t quite reconstruct the memories of my childhood games.  I was on a tee-ball team for a while when small, as well as a baseball team.  Anyway, I managed the position, but I dropped several bounced pitches off my toes, and so on.  I think I even gave up a base once when I mis-returned to the pitcher.  But at least I didn’t get smacked in the head with a bat.  I also caught an extremely fast throw from Rob in the outfield to tag a guy out, I think to end either the third or fourth inning.

We were last to bat in the fourth; I guess it was tied.  I think I led out, having been just short of a turn the last time.  Another weak single got me on base, though I was tagged almost simultaneously.  (I’d forgotten that I could just run through the base, and had slowed down to stop at it.)  I knew I was in, but deferred to the call of the fill-in referee from the 4th ward.  He didn’t want to say otherwise, so I stayed.

I’m not sure on the rest.  I think the nameless guy got to first and put me on second, but he may’ve been thrown out.  I tried heading to third a little hesitatingly, but returned to second right as the baseman caught the ball.  It was behind my head, so I wasn’t quite sure on timing, but I was left on base.  Then I think it was Todd up again.  He drove a fine one out over my head, and I ran home, apparently putting us into the lead and immediately finishing the game (the next teams, the 7th/11th and my 2nd, were ready to start theirs).  Shanna and I left, then took our bike ride over to Rick Coyle’s and then up to Upland Terrace to see the fading sunset.  She went home from there, while I continued on to Skyline for more jogging.  I’ve been getting back up there for a week, or maybe just this week.

On Tuesday night (before talking with Erica), I met Brandon, my cousin, and Bradley Fagg, a neighbourhood friend a year younger than I, up at that track.  We talked a bit about our exporting idea, inspired by Shane, that I shared with Brandon back on the 4th, at his family’s cabin, and that since then I have sort of abdicated to him.  After some research, I don’t think I see the easy returns from it that he does.  He seems confident in supply questions that trip me up.  I don’t really have the drive for it, and I have English-teaching to lean on right now.  But if he’s got the energy, I’ll see what I can do to help.

I met Brandon there again on Wednesday night.  Our cousin-in-law, Bryan Archibald, also appeared.  But tonight, I saw no faces I knew.

It’s been tricky to keep up with my typing job.  I’ve been late a few times.  My problems are my own delaying, and that some of the files are of a troublingly low quality, cutting into my productivity.  It seems the workload, which was supposed to be governed by duration of files but which still allows for a good deal of variation in production based on the contents of those files, has been creeping upward.  This week, I’ve tried to start going to bed earlier.  When my temporary teaching job starts next week, I’ll have to do all my files in the afternoon or night of the day assigned.

Romney’s getting ready to win the election.  Partisanship still grips the other side tightly, and they flee to their mean refuges of campaign propaganda, distracting from policies, holding up the president in polls despite that his natural approval is on the unfavourable side.  But I’m confident.  It’s in God’s hands, anyway, whatever reward he’ll give us.  And ultimately, a nation is fixed or ruined from the bottom up, not from the top down.

What bothers me is the deepening of the phenomenon I started to notice some years ago, of religious persecution of Muslims by the party that boasts religious freedom.  Of course, this behaviour was abundantly plain in the 2008 election, when I almost considered not voting with my fellow Republicans due to their depraved religious attacks.  They’ve repented of that error now by selecting their former target as their candidate — but their hypocrisy against Islam remains.  Their phobia spreads, its terror and alarm justifying a dissolution of the Constitutional safeguards and moral restraints so fiercely clung to to in other contexts.

But, is the fear not justified?

No.  Fear is never justified, to a Christian.  Fear is not their idol; Christ is their God.  Understanding and repressing all fears is the true Christian hallmark.  Not all Republicans claim Christianity, but enough do that they’re damning themselves afresh, like they did over 150 years ago, when they martyred and drove out LDS, and then turned on each other.  Some of my fathers were spared from that ultimate relic of barbarism, civil war.  Others were caught in it.  It was caused by the mutual fears and hatreds of Americans toward each other.  God’s hand was in it, as always, and it was not a divine caress, though one side was granted supremacy.

Now they want more blood.

If they want it badly enough, they may have it.

There’s no justification for it.  Our great testimony, our prophecy of America, the Book of Mormon, showed the doom awaiting blame, hatred, vengeance, and aggression, regardless of whether their motives were presumed pure.  It’s not human justifications that secure God’s favour, or allay his disfavour.

Criminality, we may always oppose — security, we may pursue — but we may not hate our own flesh, unto violence.  The emotional violence grows into the physical.

Islam is nobody’s enemy.  A man’s heart is his greatest enemy.  God is faithful to defend the faithful; in him lies all our safety that we, in our mortal idiocy, would rather impute to every false source.

Yes, the headline saddened me — but the wrathfulness in the comment section flabbergasted me, in the following article.  My comment was:

(Islamic Clerics Call on Egypt to Destroy Great Pyramids)

Agkcrbs commented:

Wow.  Too bad we’re wasting ourselves on so much reciprocal racism, hatred, and murderousness, or we might have still been able to influence them to better choices as their brothers, instead of what we prefer to make ourselves after provocations great and small: their bitter, sworn enemies.

Little do we know, God raises up conquerors and destroyers as divine guillotines, lifting up scourges on his own, inciting the wicked to rage against the less wicked as chastisement, to show us our nothingness, to entice us civilised to cleanse our own blackened hearts and open our minds to a greater reality than self-worship.  But we miss the cue, cursing God along with his scourges, wishing only death right back upon them.  We create our own destruction by listening to the devils in our minds encouraging such violence.

In the long run, this planet and its pyramids are toast anyway.  In our short lives here, the key we hold into eternity is called…

…Forgiveness.  Hear, if you have ears.

Well, if any happen across this journal entry, know that hatred will not save you from misery, and neither will merely calling other people “hateful” save you.

Faith in God saves us.

There is a living faith that saves, and another false faith that breeds arrogance and contempt.

At a funeral, we can plainly tell the difference between the living people and the dead body.

With equal facility, we can discriminate between the faith of obedience, and the faith of prideful hostility.  Look at their fruits.  Don’t try to cast “Jesus” spells on yourself, to thrust you into a heaven you never knew, and could never love.

The command of Jesus?  To love our enemies; to do good to those that hate us.  To bear the shame of a sacrificial Lamb, who did justify his God, but didn’t seek his own life.  We may lose the battle and the war, but such defeats and victories are only dreams that old men finally close their eyes and wake up from.

My political vote has been decided for years.  But may the vote of my life be cast for our common party — for God and his children.  I have a long way to go.

-Steve

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2012/07/09 M – Storage Room

My sister put in a video earlier tonight, “Alpine Adventures”, a VHS documentary of some places in the Alps.  We both fell asleep to it, but wavering between awakeness and sleep while catching moments of that beautiful scenery and music was quite heavenly.  When it ended, I finally woke up perfectly refreshed… a welcome change.

We celebrated and ate cake with Shane for his birthday.  To his temporary consternation, I’d double-booked the evening, since Ito Dan had invited me to his place for a kid Braden’s birthday, a former Hong Kong missionary under Van Dam (he missed the subsequent President Chan and the newly installed President Hawks).  I took my mom’s car, staying for about 30 minutes.  I met Dan’s friends there, as well as a Mongolian sister, ‘Tugludur’ (Batdorj) (Mongolia just had its first ‘pioneer trek‘).  It seems Shane and they either walked or drove his car to Subway for his dinner.

On Friday, the Linguistics department (who first referred me to AST, my Korean recruiters) sent another referral (intended for interns) for a two-week teaching job for some high-school exchange groups from China.  There were a few positions in Utah Valley and two here, in Sandy.  Although an alumnus of the program, I finally sent a re’sume’ and introduction late on Sunday night.  On Monday (today), the co-ordinator wrote back immediately offering one of the Sandy jobs; she must have seen only lukewarm interest.  My typing job has not provided any real difficulties yet, but it might be a challenge to balance it with the teaching job.  It will be good for me.

On the fourth, we went to Donna’s and Jim’s cabin up by Oakley.  Only our grandma and their family members came.  I told Brandon about Shane’s and my idea for antler exporting, and he latched right on.  Since then we’ve both been studying it.  My optimism has already faded as I’ve run my analysis; too much competition, too labour intensive, and not lucrative enough.  Brandon is still interested, though, and so is Shane, though they have different takes on the idea.

I finished my document submission to AST’s Seoul office just over a week ago.  I guess I’m waiting for a visa issuance confirmation number; after that, I’ll mail my thing to San Francisco and get a visa, and then I can go at any time.  The Ito mother will be in Japan for the middle two weeks of August, and Dan has asked me to visit with them (Satoshi would also be there primarily).  So, I’m expecting to go on or around the 25th of August.

Myeong-Seon is still muddling through her over-worked teaching job at her ‘Won (Round) Buddhist’ school.  I tried to split with her some time ago, but we effectually made up during the cool-down afterward.  I had claimed uncertainty over our rightness…  Since then, I’ve had a quite long religious chat with her, mostly one-sided, and we’ve gotten along very well otherwise during our week-end talks.  Her age and restraint toward family size may be issues, as well as our same, old religious question.  Amidst the business of her work, she seems to have forgotten her earlier decision in that regard.

Two Vietnamese tried adding me on Facebook; one was already a friend from who-knows-where on Yahoo Messenger.  The first girl was surrounded by half-full glass bottles in most of her Facebook pictures; I could barely stand to look at her vacant expression, though I did pity her.  The second, my ‘friend’, whose looks I once admired, had gotten sufficient attention in her life that she had decided to misapprehend her purpose in the world and unlearn how to fully cover herself, at least by my standards.  Her too I regretfully had to decline connection with.

I started feeling very disappointed in myself after that, thinking about Claire.  She’s more or less gone from my waking and sleeping thoughts now; but I started to consider how empty my interest in her, defining though it was, had been.  Had I really only liked her for her excellent but utterly unimportant face?

…It seemed so.  Or, anyway, that’s the only part that has stayed in mind, whatever else I may have once appreciated about her.  I felt disgusted by the absurdity of it, how willing I was to commit my interest to something that doesn’t even exist, some optical illusion.  I realized then how good my sister, Myeong-Seon, was.  New to the name, she had called Claire my “Cleopatra”.  Myeong-Seon has not enjoyed so many smiles, I guess, and was also a farm girl, resulting in a humility unsurpassed by those in my experience.  I don’t say Claire was proud — she just had a very proud look, as all outwardly beautiful people do, in my eyes.  Anyway, we had nothing.  I had a “something”, but that something itself was nothing — an addiction to a false beauty.  I’m sure she has some beauty, but, again, I missed it — I only caught the mask.

Nevertheless, that false appreciation was a great motivator.

I say so because it’s gone now.  As quickly as my interest in the 9th ward had renewed several weeks ago, it has vanished away again.  Church is a chore, and I have to focus hard on my reasons for being there.  It was so much easier to get light and warmth from it when my heart was still open to notions of love.  Now I barely want to help with anything, or participate in any activities.  I’ve little energy to talk to anybody, and especially no more use for that sealed-off, airtight Calvert family, a couple of blocks away but a universe apart.  Seclusion feels better, again…  I know it’s all tied to her, having relinquished my memory and undefined hope, having accepted her non-relatedness and her nothingness in my life…  Those beautiful dreams of false friendship roused and mustered me, so, good for them.  I don’t regret that impetus, although it’s gone now.  I’ll do what I can, anyway.  A person can expect to do no more than that.

It seems that their purpose has been fulfilled, those dreams — to show me that I had trusted in a worldly vision; that I could love Myeong-Seon; that she was at least as good as Claire ever was, whom I adored for so long.

My heart’s not quite in it… but, oh well.  It’s not about me.  I’ll wait for higher direction.  As far as I can predict, it will be Myeong-Seon, and we will have our tiny family, one or two children, cut short by old age.  I’ll do whatever I can trust is right…

Claire Brown wasn’t right, and neither were any of her placeholders…  Or, anyway, whether or not they “were” or “weren’t” right, they “aren’t” right any more.

It was surely nice to have hope for something again, however briefly.  It was nice to feel warm again, even in a dream.  Maybe I’ll feel it again later, somehow.

There was a 9th-ward softball game two Thursdays ago; I attended but sat it out, since it was against the 2nd ward, my technical home ward.  (The 9th won.)  After the memorial day, there was another game last Thursday, but I forgot about it till it was about to start, then gave up going.  We lost that one…

I had started biking up and jogging laps at the Skyline track for the “Fitness Frolick”, the 9th ward’s athletic activity later in July, but I’ve hardly physically exercised at all since the fourth.  My energy for it is gone.

Vivian Smith smiled and greeted me two weeks ago when we passed by chance, though without slowing her pace, as usual.  I spied her down the hallway after church last Sunday, but didn’t feel like getting passed by again, so I just… went home.

…I need a long, long rest…

…Well, to be honest, I need somebody.  I don’t know where my heart is, but it’s not in this world…

Is it Myeong-seon?  Is she the one?

It would be nice, as perfect as she is…

…She’s getting stronger, maybe; less reliant.  But I still shudder to think of breaking her wonderful heart, if I have any ability instead to make her any gladder in this world, even just by existing, or by sharing my time, and treating her kindly…

How much I would have given up, if the one my heart chose could have given me such consideration.  Then how could I withhold it from somebody myself?

…But, if it is her…

…I really don’t know it yet…

-Steve Foster

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2012/06/21 Th – Estivation

Since the resolution of the last post, angelic Claire Brown has faded from gold back to grey…  I think the event is passed.  It leaves me with less nostalgic melancholy for her, but with nothing to take its place, and no sense of purpose…  I only wonder what’s ahead until the end comes.

My parents didn’t come home on Monday.  Dave’s dad had fallen in the bathroom from hypotension or something; his nutrition had flagged, and he had some kind of infection.  They escorted him to a hospital, finally returning at about 1:00 a.m..

Shane and my grandmother had eaten out that evening (“Wingers”) and brought some home for me; Shane had me call her to thank her.  We spent at least an hour or two on the phone.  She’s a marvelous person whom I would be lucky to be able to emulate.  She inquired after Myeong-Seon.

I think I finally filled out my mail-in ballot for our Utah Republican primaries that day, leaving it in the mailbox.  Obviously, I selected Romney, seeing as how his competitors had gone extinct.  Of course, I’ve been pulling for him since, when… 2006?  2007?  And ’08, and ’10, as far as that went, and all of last year, too, and this year.  And finally, here at the end, I’ve cast this last (early) vote for him, the last of the party that has already selected him…  I guess the circle’s closed.  There’s still November; I’m not sure how to arrange an overseas vote, and if that proves difficult, I have the rest of Utah to carry me, anyway.

I’m not the only one to have noticed the many providential signs that have littered Romney’s path this entire cycle; it’s been… maybe over half a year since I stopped doubting that he was destined for the nomination and office.  Obama, having saved some of his worst moves for last, is all but deflated, and can barely tell center from left any more, or discern political suicide from survival.  It seems like our man is going to have a comfortable win, if we can only stick it through for another four months… and then, the actual job, of course.  But Providence has certainly surprised us before…

Otherwise, I picked… Mark Crockett over Mike Winder.  There was a variety of reasons, including that I actually met Crockett at the caucuses (though he wasn’t exactly cheerful), but I mostly was glad his on-line person corrected a language error on his page after a complaint I sent in, and I didn’t like that Winder served in Taiwan and touted his dang Mandarin so much.  I wouldn’t mind him, anyway.

I chose, uh… let’s see.  John Dougall over Auston Johnson for auditor (though I don’t think he’ll win), because Johnson employed what I consider profanity in one of his overly cerebral adverts.

I was going to choose Mel Nimer or whatever his name is over, uh… Joseph Demma, because Demma decided to send out a single line (an endorsement or quotation or who knows what) in one of his ads, which was tremendously unhelpful to whatever case he was trying to make.  Then I saw Melvin was a business guy, and I wondered if he knew what he was talking about.  Then I noticed he was “engaged” but not married, and I foresaw scandal from personality defects.  Finally, I noticed he was openly homosexual, a former advocacy leader; and even though I seem to tolerate the Church’s employment/housing non-discrimination approach, and even if he and his foe decide to keep it out of the campaign, that doesn’t stop a guy who’s promoted a cause I decry from continuing to promote it in office.  I couldn’t very honestly choose somebody so unrepresentative of me as my representative.

Is that all?  Oh, yeah… I chose Sean Reyes over John Swallow.  That was a tougher call for me…  From the start, I was at worst neutral to Swallow, and expected to vote for him anyway; I think my biggest problem was with his big, Joker smile.  I spent some effort convincing myself not to vote on people over their genetics.  There was just one point when I read something from Reyes that I agreed with, and that kind of tipped me toward him.  I think Swallow had the advantage in the race, though.

Finally, I obviously supported Orrin Hatch over Dan Liljenquist, just since he’s done such an admirable job over his long career.  I liked him when he came and spoke at BYU with Mark Zuckerberg Chan some years ago… and there was another time he spoke by himself.  He had a quick mind for policy and was highly respectful of public offices, even when held by his ideological foes.

Let’s see… the very first time I admired him was when I saw him in committee on C-SPAN or whatever haggling over ObamaCare.  I sat there and watched him make several very thoughtful, cogent objections and deferential calls for co-operation, sort of naively expecting reciprocation from a majority party that had long ago abandoned bipartisanship as a default, and that was in no mood for any level of compromise.  He was like some concerned kid sticking his finger in a leaky dike, along with his committee fellows.  Though the dike in question collapsed on him, I thought he’d made perfectly feasible suggestions and put up a fine resistance.  He might just have rescued Obama, if they’d listened to him.

Anyway, he’s a bit… uh, ingrained with politics, but I don’t think I could’ve done any better than he’s done.  Being old is no reason to throw a guy into the street.

The clerk for some stupid reason sent me an extra mail ballot after the first, which I didn’t open.

I think my FBI criminal background check arrived on Monday, too, authenticated by the U.S. State Department and ready to send off to Korea.  All I have to do now is print off about fifty pages of stuff and mail it out… if only I can find the time.  I’ll do it on Saturday at the latest.  My recruiters, AST, advised me to have the stuff there 8 weeks in advance of the school term, so I don’t have long.

My training for Hometech Incorporated finished on Tuesday, and my workload went up from 1 transcription per day to 4-5 per day.  Each one can easily take up an hour, with review.  It will be a bit more money.  I thought about asking for even more, but now find myself already bogged down.  A lot of the files are twice as long as before…

Today, I tried confirming a guy’s unusual name on Google (not required for the type-up, but I give it a shot anyway if I can’t hear it) and found… his obituary.

He was 36.  His insurance statement was a little old, taken about 25 months ago; his obituary was 12 months ago.  He sounded completely harmless and unassuming, with a nice, thick West Virginian accent.  He said stuff like, “We was…”, “ain’t nothing”.  He’d gone to nursing school…

The statement wasn’t for his claim, but for a friend whose car he’d been in…  He hadn’t been injured from that.  It wasn’t clear how he died.

I felt bad for him.  I was transcribing the voice of a dead man…  I bet his family would want it.

…But, no, he’s not dead.  He’s finally alive, now.

…And I felt bad for all the other people I type.  They get in these pointless, minor accidents… their fault, or the other guy’s fault; it’s never 100% clear.  Mistakes compound, and magnify each other.  Anyway, they need their insurance to pay for it.  They’ll mostly lose money on the deal, no matter what.  But they’re all hoping to get help somehow, by giving their reports…  Most are still a little shaken up from the crash; some are witnesses.  Some are a bit frustrated with the bad faith of their counterparts, or with the unhelpful process…

…And then, suddenly, they’re dead the next year.  It didn’t matter at all…

…But the least anybody could have done would have been to help them out with their little, bent up cars…  They’re like these hapless children who are just trying to go about their lives while they still have them.

Such nice, good people.  I always laugh at their weird manners of speech, but, ah…

…How I hope they can just be happy.  My heart goes out to them…

I shouldn’t be so lazy typing up their statements…

I remember Masami hitting Tanner Mullen’s car while practicing in my Camry…  A tiny accident, but we sure paid for it.  I hope she finally has her license by now.

I remember, uh… spinning my mom’s truck on the freeway and hitting the wall, denting up the back corner.  I spun her Jeep Cherokee once too, and sort of backed into a heavy fence, but it caused no harm.

I hit that poor Hispanic lady once, who stopped to turn at a temporarily no-left-turn intersection, down the road.  Bent in her van’s back doors very slightly, but did nothing to my vehicle… that same Cherokee.  We walked away from it.  I think she just didn’t fully understand the weight of that sign…  I could have avoided her if I’d been more cautious.

Let’s see… I hit that wooden electrical post with Tugsuu down at the Great Salt Lake.  I don’t think it did anything…  Oh yeah, it took out my Camry’s headlight, only.  That was stupid; one of the very few times I’ve taken my eyes and mind off the road.

No rental car crashes yet…

I cracked in some car’s flimsy bumper with the trailer hitch of my mom’s truck once, up at the stake center as I was leaving.  I could ill afford the aggregate expense that stupid little thing would amount to, so I just left, then brought back whatever money I could scrape up to leave anonymously on the windshield…  I wonder what happened with them.  I guess I could afford it now, if they even bothered with it.  Too late.

What else?  I remember thinking that I nicked something with my mom’s truck or van or something once, its mirror… but I couldn’t figure out what, if anything, I’d brushed against.  And this year, I touched a big metal fixture on the parking street just north of the Conference Centre while backing up in my mom’s truck, but it didn’t seem to leave any mark.

I guess that’s everything.  Nothing heinous… and now I’m carless again.

Lately I’ve taken to night biking.  I go up and see the sunset at the school if I can, like tonight… so beautiful, for the solstice; bright and penetrating but simple, with a short, thin row of clouds dusting the top.  Otherwise, I go after midnight, when the entire neighbourhood is empty.  Then I ride down… pretty much Craig Drive, over there, feeling almost like flying, and wondering whether I’ll hit any small animals or road debris and go flying for real.

Hm.  That’s all…

I’ve talked to dear Myeong-Seon, and also to Erica Sit, who has recently friendlied back up.  Irene Xiang-Vei Lim chatted again; she’s trying to get into Monash University, an Australian school with a branch in her Malaysia.

…I guess that’s what her husband does, Claire’s…: helps people.  That page says he does disability law, civil cases, and bankruptcy.  He could be very useful to people… but who knows?

By chance, last Sunday I raised my hand to read a scripture in Jay Anderson’s lesson.  It was a big flame of corrupt laywers…  Todd Calvert had just walked in and sat down (he rarely attends that class), and although I read it with conviction, I hoped he wouldn’t take it as a personal comment on his dang, perfect son-in-law.  He’s surely in the dark about me having liked that girl, but it was a cute coincidence to me.

Anyway, if laywers have sufficient command of legalism to pervert the truth, it stands to reason that they can also straighten it if they choose to.  For her sake and all of their sakes, I hope Adam C. Brown, Esquire follows that higher road that he was born to and married to.  I’ll assume the best.

-Steve

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2012/06/17 Su – Lost in Dreams

Wow… I just woke up from a nice and very long dream, as hoped for in yesterday’s entry.  It started in school with some strange professors, and ended in the forest as spies, with some dramatic political intrigue against China, involving some kind of technology schematic… but in between were a series of perfect road trips or camping excursions into the mountains with Claire Brown and her old Calvert family (what a pretty name, ‘Claire Calvert’; her face defined beauty and her name defined euphony).  There were also somebody’s small kids (not mine) to baby-sit.  They were all very welcoming.

What a marvelous simulation…  I couldn’t have been happier.  If this is all I get — if she’s impossible in the glaring reality of daytime but possible in nocturnal virtual reality, then it will have to suffice.  …Like old Captain Kirk in Star Trek: Generations, trapped forever in a completely happy illusion, inside that spatial fissure…

I confessed my sadness to Myeong-Seon late last night, hoping she would understand, and asking if it would really make her so happy to be together even if my heart were occupied or absent.  It seems like it would…  She’s stuck alone too, after all.  She’s very good, and the only one who will have me, so I think I might as well.  Her smile rivals Claire’s for sweetness, and outdoes it for sincerity.  If only I could transpose their identities in my heart… I would seize my moment as the world’s happiest person.

We have mutual respect.  We get along.  We could have a tremendous lot of fun, as already demonstrated; I think we can feed into each other’s creativity.  We already have two years of good memories between us.  And she needs to hurry if she’s going to be a mother.

I wouldn’t want to mistreat or short-change her, but if it’s really either a long, slow death alone or a ‘simulated’ happy family to distract me… then I know which one is worse, and it’s not the fake one.  I would care for them too somehow, in spite of my old, recurring, but broken dream of Claire; and there’s no more loyalty to be had to that dream, when she’s already gone and happy with another.  There barely ever was any loyalty, when she hadn’t ever thought of me from the beginning.

They’re my true… my truest feelings… a lifetime of feelings.  But they exist now only in fantasy, in the ether of slumber.

It’s an easy choice, right…?  A half-hearted something instead of a devoted nothing?  But we’ll try not to be rash, anyway.  She thinks I may meet someone I’d really like in Korea or something.  I have also tried to imagine so… but having already been there, I doubt it.

-Steve

[At church, there was a man from Wales (now ‘Jersey’, whichever one he meant) named Peter (or “Pe-tuh”), here visiting the Smiths.  “Aw…” I thought.  “Must be Vivian…”  She’d served a mission over there, long ago…  He seemed o.k., and I was glad she had a plan to be following, anyway.  I thought it was shallow of me to assume she didn’t have a full social complement around her.  I started hoping for the same with Allison, who is now attending church wherever.  She probably knows tons of guys…

Peter participated in our elders’ class, taught by Jeremy Clegg.  Jeremy seemed to make a joke out of everything, but by the end, the lesson had gotten fairly informative and well tuned, to me…  After class, I talked with the visiting young man a bit.  Surprise; he was actually here with his wife, Alex, who had been a missionary companion of Vivian.  They were here to help put on a “Nauvoo Pageant”.

…Hm.

Well, I’m sure cute Vivian has plenty of others.  But as I left the building, I felt better that I could still have her as a possibility, to hover around in my mind and make me feel important.  It’s good to have those…

I didn’t interact with the Calverts at all; I don’t really see the need anymore, since finding out Claire’s happiness.  They have their own lives and loved ones to be caught up in.  I’ll stay out of their way…

By coincidence, I came home to find my mother preparing to doze off to a movie, Avatar — the consummate dream-world experience.

At one point, Jake Sully sadly declared of his inverted realities, “Sooner or later […] you always have to wake up.”  …But in the end, he traded up.

Ours here is not such a world.

…Is it?

Well…

The likelihood in scripture seems to be that this ‘real life’ we’re stuck in is the true dream after all… a sort of living death for our immortal spirits — and a total deception by our senses, a blindness through our false, mortal sight.

…And it seems that this life is a forgetting of the real world.

We sang #292, ‘Oh, My Father’, in sacrament meeting.

…Maybe those we love here are really our forgotten friends…

Maybe not…

Maybe we were all friends there, being family.

But this world, it seems, is the fantasy we must wake up from in the end.

Out of the abundance of our thoughts, our minds dream.

But then again, out of the abundance of our lives flows our heavenly recompense — we are blamed upon Christ, but rewarded unto ourselves (1, 2, 34).  So, perhaps that greater reality will still be very much like a dream after all, harvesting a bounty from the seeds of our best efforts and purest hopes.

These dreams of association with her whom I loved, Claire — not desires of possession, by any means, but of mutual sociality —  and this… glassy pane that I sometimes glimpse images in, deep in the night…

…May yet prove to be a window to a truer future, and not just a mirror reflecting the yearning of past and present.

I will hope for it, as I hope for life itself, in that wider world above us… that super-consciousness waiting after this present sub-conscious.

She would “see me” there, and I could “see her”… to lean on Avatar parlance.

I could see them all.

That’s the place I want to be in, though it must be called a ‘dream’ now, whilst waiting in this… deluded lifetime.

This is more like a prison sentence…

My friend Stetson has his so-called imprisonment.  But truly, we’re both imprisoned alike on this world; all men are.  There’s only the faintest taste or scent of freedom here…

That’s the point we’ve reached in our progress, though.  I’ll wait out my term.

My dream will be true in the end.  So many sad prayers to a seemingly deaf heaven will be answered there, that could not be answered here in this simulacrum of life.  This isn’t ‘life’ we’re living; this is just a death that we’re dying.

I’m content.  For a prison, it’s not really so bad.  Yes, there are still walls all around me… rising up like the mountains encircling this valley.  No matter where I go, there are walls and fences.  Even the poor astronaut, thinking he has escaped the whole world, remains boxed in, a prisoner like all of us.

But within my limits, I can still live, and move, and think, and do according to my will and means.  I can still run hard and sleep soundly.  I can still eat delicious food, and quench my thirst.  I can still ponder life and meaning in my journal.  I can still stretch out my limbs to the sky, stretch out my gaze into the sunset, and stretch out my thoughts…

…into love.

Even my long dreams seem short when their time is up.  So this dream of life will seem to have been short.  Old people say it is.

I’ll do my best to burn out this short life in service, thought it’s just a blind man leading other blind down a common road.

I’ll walk patiently toward my dream.

…There’s really no other choice… except a fool’s choice, that I once considered so carefully.]

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