Thursday, May 18, 2006

Click it or Ticket?

I left the meeting in a fast hurry that afternoon, sliding into the drivers seat, turning the key and putting the car in drive all in one fluid motion. I needed to get home. Now. Was it food poisoning? A sudden stomach flu? Who knows. But it was not going to wait. I'd held on through the meeting, sweat breaking out on my forehead as wave after wave of colonic cramps shattered my focus. The contents of my nether regions were about to rebel, bursting forth from their intestinal confines in an explosive rush of liquid revolution. But I had made it to my car and I was on the move! "Bear down man," I groaned to myself, "You can make it home." The volatile plasma in my lower intestines screamed back their dissension. "Maybe not."

As my skin glistened with a sick sweaty film, I was sharply focused. My very being was dedicated to two inviolable commandments now.

1 - Thou shalt get home. Quickly.
2 - Thou shalt not relinquish control of your sphincter.

Time blurred. Somehow I managed to maintain a legal driving speed and soon, through sweat stung eyes, I found myself rounding the last corner and climbing the hill to my home. Relief was in site and I had not broken any laws getting here. Or so I thought.

Just as I was nearing the hilltop, within a stones throw of my glorious bathroom, some Pavlovian reaction caused my sphincter to spasm violently in anticipation. I had only seconds now. I was going to have to use "the maneuver."

In case your unfamiliar, the maneuver is a technique that is employed in just such a situation as my own, i.e. it's on its way and it won't be delayed. In one fluid motion, you rip your pants and underwear down to knee level as you quickly swing your ass around to a position approximately over the bowl and let go of your cares. When done properly, it can shave precious microseconds. And this was my dire situation, 100 yards from my door, visualizing the maneuver in my head to insure success, sweat literally dripping from my brow & running down my neck, intestines heaving like a cable bridge in an earthquake, when the lights and sirens came on behind me. Yes. I was being pulled over.

And thank god, too. As it became clear when the Police Officer began to speak, I had forgotten, in my rush, to wear my seatbelt. The horror.

Now. Normally, I'm an upright law abiding citizen with a healthy respect for law enforcement. My seatbelt is usually clipped nicely across my lap, like all good comrades. And sitting in my hot car waiting for the impending burst of diarrhea to change my relationship with my car forever, suddenly on the wrong side of the law, well, lets just say that my feelings for this particular sergeant in the Moses Lake, WA Police Department who drives an unmarked grey cruiser and who will remain un-named but for convenience sake will henceforth be referred to as Dick, well, lets just say my feelings for him went beyond words.

"Can you tell my why you are driving without a seatbelt sir?" he asked. Words escaped me. The gravity of the situation was apparent to both of us. I mean, there I was. Without a seatbelt. The humanity.

As I looked up at Dick though a haze of pain and sweat, I literally mumbled a dazed "I... I don't know officer." Now these guys, they are highly trained in human observation. They know how to discern if you've been drinking or are on drugs, etc., so with his heightened skills of perception and keen insight into human behavior, this wonderful intelligent law enforcement officer took the opportunity to fulfill his lifelong dream of protecting and serving. "Its illegal to drive without a seatbelt you know," Dick said dispassionately as I writhed in pain, "Can I see your license and registration?" At this point, I'm a white hot point of agony in a universe of shit. I'm sure there is leakage and if not, the seal is going to be permanently damaged. I mumbled something incoherent as I handed him my drivers license. Or my wallet. I'm not sure which.

As I turned to my glove box to retrieve my registration, I finally lost my humanity; the ability to over-ride the ape was gone. I was now reduced to basic primal needs; I had to shit. Parts of me were already practicing the moves. Prison would have been welcome if there was a toilet there.

With paperwork and cassette tapes dribbling from my shaking hands, I weakly turned back to my protector, Dick, and said, "Sir, I'm really feeling sick. If I don't get to my bathroom NOW, I'm going to shit myself." That's a quote. That's right, I said it. Right to Dicks face.

Dick, being an understanding and intelligent law enforcement officer, merely nodded. "Mmm-hmmm. And where is home, exactly?" he asked, always the care giver. "Right around the corner sir. I'm going there. Now," I stated as I put my car in drive. I didn't care that he had my drivers license. Nothing mattered now except that cool white porcelain. I could hear it calling in an angelic voice. "Come to me Jason," a seraphim singing, "Come shit in my cool white bowl. I'll give you comfort...." Or maybe I was delirious. Not sure.

Anyway, and here is the crux of the story, Dick replied' "Go ahead. I'll follow." And he did. My car was already rolling when he took his first step back to his BIG UNMARKED GREY CRUISER but he was soon again on my tail. Not a good place to be at this point, but I digress. To make a long story short, I made it home without any leakage, performed "the maneuver" successfully, and all was right with the universe once again.

My children got the opportunity to stand in my front door and watch police lights flash in my drive while I did my business. So did my neighbors. Thanks Dick, that was awesome. In fact, Dick is such a kind and understanding human, not to mention dedicated protector of our streets, that after I managed to stumble weakly past my wide eyed children and back out to my car to finally locate my registration, Dick was there for me. "Feeling any better?" he asked as he handed me a $101.00 traffic ticket. For failure to wear a seatbelt.

Ha ha, very funny Dick. I'll feel better when everyone reads this and learns what your really made of. What an honor & blessing it must be to protect and serve your community, to grow up and fulfill your dream of one day handing out tickets to obviously sick people for not buckling up, even in emergent situations, people who are so obviously ill that you agree to follow them home, sit in their driveway with lights flashing and wait to give them that ticket while they are inside heaving their guts inside-out. Yeah, because the screaming flaming diarrhea wasn't enough, so thanks again Dick. There's one more ticket for your quota. Plus, you've taken the opportunity to make at least one law abiding citizen feel more safe and welcome on the streets of Moses Lake. As I'm sure was the goal.

Anyway, since that day, I've been wearing my seat belt religiously. No one seems to care, but at least I'm saving lives. Right? I'll be taking this one to court. Perhaps the judge will be even more understanding than Dick, if that's even possible. I'd be more than happy to provide stool samples if necessary. You know. Whatever it takes to keep the streets safe. I mean, this couldn't be just about money. Could it?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Moral Clarity vs. Moral Certainty: A Foreign Policy Dialogue - Pt.1

Lately, I've wondered if our country, even our entire species, is adrift. As we fight a war of theoretical "good vs. evil" in Iraq, we find ourselves in a mire of uncertain values and questionable tradition. Although our leaders assure us of the inviolability of our fight, we as a nation relentlessly question our own priorities and motivations, as we should. In the next couple of posts, I will explore the concepts of good and evil and in doing so I will attempt to find some tools that can help us discover some meaning in a world inundated by conflicting ideas of right and wrong.

As science and technology have pushed back the veil of ignorance, our concepts of "sacred" "good" and "truth" are constantly challenged. It is easy to wonder if our daily efforts, as individuals or as a nation, are attached to any meaningful goal. Am I, are you, are "we" moving in the right direction, and what does that mean anyway? Do we live in a universe of absolute good & evil that we choose to ignore at our peril? Or are good and evil oversimplified, man-made concepts for which we waste our time & energy? Is there an adequate measure to inform our choices and decisions? This elusive yard stick has been sought ever since humanity discerned that it could discern. We call this concept Morality.

Morality can be defined as an ethical motive, or a motivation based on ideas of right and wrong. But really, this definition just confuses the issue even more. Who's idea of right or wrong? Is morality an individual choice, or is it a universal constant that we as individuals choose to adhere to in a greater or lesser extent than those around us? From what source do our ideas of right or wrong derive?

The traditional answer has been of course religion. The idea that a deity hands down cosmic edicts to his creation by which we must rule ourselves is common to nearly every culture throughout the history of mankind. Although this view is still held by many, as is their right, my discussion, which will span at least a few posts, regards the moral direction of our nation & world within the sphere of foreign policy. Therefore, as America is not a Theocracy, this religious "yard stick" is, by definition, a poor tool to employ when determining our nations moral focus. Additionally, the use of religious dogma as a moral compass was anathema to the founders of our nation. I'll touch on this more in a later post.

What about "Common Sense"? Can we trust our instincts, our conscience, our innate sense of right and wrong to lead us in the right direction? For centuries, entire cultures have killed each other in wars fought by intelligent people, and in which each side was thoroughly convinced of their moral authority. In our country today, we cannot come to a consensus regarding the comparative values of a human fetus or a spotted owl. So tell me, how common is common sense. I have to believe that there is a better guide for moral judgment.

Biological necessity is another "system" that has been employed when determining right from wrong. Consider the idea that our universe rewards "right" choices and punishes "wrong". Although this is peripherally related to the concept of evolution, evolution is not what I refer to here. Rather, I am talking about the simple idea of cause and effect on a historic scale. If culture X develops, over time, the moral concept that random murder is a noble action, they would not survive; instead, they would simply kill each other off. If culture Y declares that incest is "sinful", and culture Z does not, then Y has a better chance of producing genetically viable offspring, and therefore of survival. It is interesting to look at the many sins defined by the the various religions of the world, and to then determine the biological basis for each.

So what is the ultimate foundation for our morality? Is it a constant or is it a cultural variable? Do absolute good and evil even exist in any meaningful way? Unfortunately there is no clear demonstrable answer. However, if we analyze the many available methods of determining right from wrong, from faith to logic, or even that small voice in our heads called conscience, we may reasonably conclude that the principals good and evil are similar to if not synonymous with the eternal concepts of order and chaos. "Good" things make our lives & societies more orderly and allow us to thrive. "Evil" things breed disorder and make our lives & societies more difficult to manage. Perhaps we understand this on a primal level. Perhaps we can use this "yard stick" of order vs. chaos to find some answers.

To be continued ...

Related Posts: The Values Devide - Authoritarianism, Morality Is Subjective -Origins