Archive for May, 2013

Allstate wins.

This simple yet profound advertising campaign transcends all that the marketplace usually tries to do – it goes right to the simplest, most honest, and most important aspects of life – and leaves it there. Good said and said well.

We are impressed.

(If you are having difficulty viewing the video, insert “s” into the URL: “https:” to ensure a secure link. If you receive a pop-up asking if you’d like to view only secure information, you may select “no”. This should do it. If not, try this link: http://youtu.be/kI1bKm22Up0)

Read Full Post »

. . . To Do my Duty… to try to control only myself, and no one else.

– – –

Where to begin?

I could begin with explaining that line: “You can only control yourself, no one else.”

I say this to my son all the time. Probably too much. In fact, I have preached it to him since (probably) long before he could grasp it. (Of course, it was long before. We could probably find evidence every day that even most adults do not yet understand the lesson.) The lesson being that we can really only control ourselves and no one else; or perhaps more accurately, we should try to control only ourselves and not try to control others.

Rovering to Success - cover, color

I could begin with the old traditions of Scouting, as written in some of the earliest literature; things that are explicit, things that seem to be implicit, for example, in one of my favorite books – a title by Lord Robert Baden-Powell himself, Rovering to Success. Explicit and implicit within the Boy Scout Handbook itself and the multitude of editions and iterations over the years of that sacred document – world-wide all-time best-seller, second only to the Bible.

I could begin with discussion of a changed world, an evolved society. This would necessarily delve into the beginnings of Scouting, at least in the United States, and written requirements for membership and how they have changed over the years. It would also consider the introduction of women and girls and what it means to develop manhood, to exercise chivalry and self-reliance and to develop an independent, confident and knowledgeable nature. We would also examine the parameters within which prospective Chartered Organizations are expected to operate, and so on.

I could likewise begin with a discussion of constitutional issues; that is, the United States Constitution. Scouting is a worldwide movement, but of course, here in the US it is our country’s Constitution that is intended to protect everyone and their organizations. This would then fall to the applicable Amendments and their proper application to the Boy Scouts of America as well as the basis of the charter granted the BSA by Congress in 1916.

– – –

The Boy Scouts of America made a historic and monumental decision public this past week with regard to their change in policy toward openly-gay youth membership.

When I heard this latest version of the national level discussion early this year, I thought I would write a piece about it. In fact, I felt a sort of duty, an obligation – compelled, yet confused and so, perhaps wisely – cautious.

I decided that if I were to write something I would begin by stating that although [at that time] the decision and subsequent announcement were still three months away, I figured that by the time the issue had arrived on the national scene in the way it had and on the scale it had, it was a done deal. I was right, though at the time I chose restraint, or hesitation, or avoidance, or all that, I suppose.

I remained fixed in that state of confusion between discouragement and uncertainty and self-testing and caution and temperance and emotions inflamed, and decided I must slow down and first read and think.

There would be the several books mentioned above and also other, unwritten but very valuable personal references and private considerations. I remained, as with many things I consider writing about, unsure of myself, to include my position and cause, my moral authority (or lack of it), my experiential perspective and authority, my ability to fairly and fully examine and articulate every important, relevant aspect, and so on. In short, I lacked confidence. I think to some extent, I still do.


Nevertheless, with the decision officially made and announced, I decided to go ahead.

My aim here, then, is to lay the road clear and unambiguous as to the proper separation, consideration and weighting of the several key aspects of the issue.

– – –

So I think I’ll begin where I began, and it really begins with the Scout Oath itself.

– – –

“On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”

– – –

It is deliberate and significant that I begin with this concept: that I control only myself, and no one else.

To intrude upon another is at best foolish, unwise and unfruitful and at worst, well…intrusive, and long lasting and destructive.

It is appropriate to try to persuade and influence others. This can be important and even virtuous, given the import of the issue. It is a valuable, admirable and useful attribute in one’s character to possess the confidence coupled with knowledge and understanding and wisdom to be able to go forward to persuade and influence others when something is important. By contrast, to try to control others in their thinking and behavior moves into problematic and oft times unproductive if not damaging territory.

So the application of the tenet in the Scout Oath, “to keep myself morally straight” must be considered first and foremost within an individual context – of each and every one of us – ourselves first. We must focus on what we ourselves choose to do.

When it comes to the question, perhaps even the choice, as to how we treat someone whom we know to be gay, we must choose to control our own attitudes, our own decisions, our own behavior, regardless of what that gay person chooses to do.

– – –

The first Boy Scout Handbook I owned is (I still have it) the seventh edition, printed in January of 1971. It is interesting to read now, and not very differently at all from the edition of Rovering to Success I have – the eleventh printing, dated 1930 – the discussion then presented on “Morally Straight” (page 436). It reads, in part:

“Your conscience speaks to you about your relationship to other people – respecting their rights, treating them justly, giving them a fair chance.”

– – –

This is the interpretation of the Scout Oath I believe is right: That our treatment of the gay person in our midst will execute the verdict as to our moral straightness. It is in this that you see I cannot, really, and must not try to control someone else – or someone else’s behavior or beliefs – but that I can and should choose to control myself. That would not be successful anyway. Focus on my task; not someone else’s.

– – –

This must define “morally straight.”

– – –

This baseline of rationale leads into the following aspect: the freedoms we enjoy in this country we inherit by virtue of our humanness. The freedoms addressed in the Bill of Rights (we would do well to always refer to them as Our Bill of Rights), and specifically the First Amendment to the Constitution – they are our birthright.

This is where clarifying chastisement is warranted.

The First Amendment protects freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press, as well as the right to assemble and to petition the government. Applicable to question of admission, or acceptance – or not – of gay persons to Scouting is dealt with in this Amendment; essentially the Freedom of Association.

This is the key point at which so many misguided individuals and groups have attempted to intrude not only upon the Boy Scouts’ corporate rights, but in effect, all American’s right to freely choose their associations. This now speaks to the Charter issued to the BSA by Congress. Even Congress recognized – and supported – Scouting’s right to determine their standards of membership. In short, it must be seen clearly that if this right – this freedom – were denied the BSA, it could in the same way, be denied anyone.


One must fairly recognize that forcing another to adopt their way of thinking, beliefs, behaviors, etc. removes the most basic and fundamental freedom of all.

We chose long ago in this country, through the careful development and adoption of our Constitution, that we would not live that way. We choose to be free and let be free; to live and let live. This is why the BSA has not and will not lose this challenge in the United States Supreme Court. I would argue the Court should never have heard such a case to begin with. Now that they have, and more than once, let the ruling – and the lesson – and the reminder – stand. We ALL must be free.

It is important to realize then, that the decision to change is a personal one. In the case of the Boy Scouts of America, theirs was a corporate choice, but as a private and free organization. The debate and controversy over motivation should stand as a distinct and separate discussion. It begins to enter the realm of persuasion and influence. But the fundamental freedom to choose must remain as distinct and inviolate. If it does not, then we all – every individual and every group – are under threat of tyranny.

If any of you believed the courts should rule against Scouting and force it to change their membership standards, then shame. You would do well to consider and understand the ramifications. You and yours would be next. Every protection you had spent your life being free to not think about would suddenly be removed. It would then only be the question of “who is next?”

Beyond this, shame on all those who wished to deny Scouting – and hence any group – the freedom to determine their own way.

To attempt to persuade and influence is good and right, if a belief is sincerely held. To deny freedom is heinous.

There are aspects of any organization that may be found disagreeable if not outright offensive to someone.

A story was once related to me of a seminary student who was removed from the school – in protest – because it was their belief that the Church must not be required to accept and approve of his open declaration of homosexuality. He wrote a long and detailed condemnation of the seminary’s position. In this, he wished to control the church, and in doing so, he would effectively deny them their freedom. Why instead did he not prefer to go on to a place where he found agreement?

Now apply this litmus test: what if they had been wrong, even hateful in their stance?

Must the courts or the pressures felt internally determine then that the church – ergo, any individual or group – must not be free to choose their way if another believes it to be wrong? Then what of anyone’s freedom? Instead, that individual maintains his freedom to change his association to another group, one that he finds himself to be in agreement with. Imagine if the courts instead took away the church’s freedom to choose and allowed another to impose their will by force. You must see that freedom of association, freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, then, would be a thing of the past.

The philosophical illustrations are myriad, pointed and obvious. Suffice it to say, if these freedoms are denied one, then are denied all. As it is, we are a nation of diverse and disparate groups, beliefs, and purposes. In my overly simplistic Hoosierness, I tend to say that in this country, we are free to be as stupid as we want to be. We are free to be as wrong as we want to be. We are free to be as offensive or as odd, or misunderstood, or misunderstanding, or fanatical or faithless or inclusive or exclusive or anything else – as we want to be. And we must be so. And we must remain so. This is why we came here in the first place.

So what to do now?

We are actually back at the beginning.

Any one of us will look around, seeking an association we prefer. Some of us see a group we like, and agree with everything, or perhaps most everything they subscribe to. We will see others we do not understand or do not appreciate, perhaps even do not like. We wisely look somewhere else. But we can also choose to force our way in and demand change.

– – –

In all you do, as you seek your own freedom, remember to permit the same to others, lest we all lose it.

– – –

It is my personal suspicion that the Boy Scouts of America caved to enormous pressure. Shame – and caution – if the BSA changed for impure motives.

I suspect theirs was not a purely internal reconsideration of their corporate moral straightness. It is my suspicion that the BSA was unduly pressured – a pressure that went beyond appropriate efforts to persuade and influence. It is my suspicion that persons and groups from both within and without sought – as they have openly for many years – to take away Scouting’s freedom to determine their own way, rather than create their own associations of like-mindedness.

They believed it was right and necessary – and possible – to take away a freedom because they disagreed with the result of that freedom – a freedom precious in this land. Perhaps even they will find the same threat at their doorstep someday, and they will understand –maybe too late – that this is not morally straight.

So what to do now?

Choose your associations freely – if you can – and allow others the same, based on your beliefs, desires, interests, hopes and plans for your future. Do not dismantle and destroy. Create. If along the way you do not find those that agree and believe with you, then make your own way, and invite others with whom you agree. Then maintain that belief, because it is vital to your freedom.

Then finally, as you go forward, let the Scout Law be your guide in your interactions with others. Remain focused on your own thoughts and your own attitude and your own treatment of others.

– – –

Michael Conner is a former professional Scouter, having served as a District Executive with the now defunct Wabash Valley Council once headquartered in west-central Indiana, now part of the Crossroads of America Council based in Indianapolis; and as a Senior District Executive with the Lincoln Trails Council in central Illinois.

Read Full Post »

It’s late May and as Spring comes on, I am longing again for home. Being at my folk’s farm, mushroom hunting, seeing the dogwoods, sugar maples, beeches and the sassafras come on and watching for the Jack-in-the-pulpit and the Dutchman’s Britches; generally the smell and feel of Spring in Indiana, and going to the track in Indianapolis. I thought I’d re-post this, one of my first pieces after beginning AAH. A kid’s view and memories of May in Indiana.

If I could say thanks to someone today, it would be all the friends I have mentioned in this piece. Gosh, my memories and joys are greater for them.

Finally, today, this piece is dedicated to Mr. Robert Phillips, my principal at Sugar Creek Consolidated Elementary School, who passed away last month. A good, good man.

– – –

swingWe know that smell is strongly linked to memory. Likewise, certain events or situations can trigger the recall of a significant memory.

For me fatherhood has provided the opportunity for a particular remembrance (among many) to be triggered, and like so many of these, it is one I really enjoy. It’s really pretty simple. Taking my son, Jace to the neighborhood playground and swinging on the swing set. He loves it, of course, and wants to go as high and as fast as he can.

Memory. That moment in our mind when we travel back to a place and time that cannot be recreated anywhere except in our thoughts – the perfect, indestructible memory. Almost perfect, and almost indestructible. But in our mind’s eye, we can recreate that time and place just as we want. And we are happy to make it perfect and clear. And why shouldn’t we? It is the wonderful and mysterious capability of our mind.

We can see it, feel it, right there. So real in the mind, it’s almost hard to believe – hard to accept – we can’t go any further and actually have it – make it be so – because it’s that real in our memory. We can even find a way to smell it, maybe even taste the air of that moment past. And perhaps the strangest of all, the one thing that lends such realism to the memory is the “feeling” – the sensation (for lack of a more adequate description) we have from that time; we remember what it felt like. Strange. Strange but wonderful. Not always wonderful, understandably, but hopefully, wonderful more often than not. I’m not sure how much it really matters that our memories are faulty, and more so as the years pass. No, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t really matter much at all.

So often the bricks and mortar are gone. The people have changed – like ourselves – to the point where we don’t quite recognize them anymore. Certainly not compared to the memory we hold. Some of those dear people have even gone.

Scale also changes. When I was six, seven, eight years old, everything was bigger, of course. The time was 1967, 1968 and 1969.

A cool early morning outside often takes me in my memory to two places: our cabin in Canada, and the playground at my elementary school in West Terre Haute.

The playground at Consolidated Elementary was huge – it went on forever. I’m pretty sure it was big enough that I never went all the way to the far, south end. First, as I remember, that’s where the big kids – 5th and 6th graders – played; I wasn’t about to go out there. This was not a place for amateurs. Maybe the really good athletes like Jace Hargis, Jim Thornton, Dennis Morgan, or Steve Haywood, but not me. But beyond that, it was just too far, and I was afraid to go out there.

So my “world” there went as far as the kickball diamond and where we played Red Rover. Inside that sphere was the best of everything anyway: the “huge” sand box (again, there’s that little kid scale thing…) lined with the concrete edge where we played marbles, and the monkey bars. These were the ones that Paula Bramble fell thru – top to bottom – in her plaid skirt, landing on the hard ground inside the middle of the contraption. She cried, understandably, and Greg Aff, whom I was playing with at the time, climbed inside, picked her up and lifted her out, then carried her… I think… to the nurse’s office. Wow. What a hero. By the way, that event set my image of Greg for life. And of course, he reconfirmed it by being a football star in high school; big, muscular, tough… and friendly – and now a nice guy on a Harley. There were also the teeter-totters and the merry-go-round with thick, wood planks for seats. And the swings.

The swings – in my memory – were about three, maybe four stories high. Huge, towering things; very imposing. Two or three sets, facing directly east, into the morning sun. They were located on the Northeast corner of the playground near the corner of the school and facing the road that eventually led to Susan Phillips’ Grandparent’s farm.

I loved the swings. I would rush to the swings right off the bus, before school started. Now in my mind, I picture the immense height of the structure above my head, and remember the thought that if I were to swing too high, I could be killed. I would accidently swing out into space, flying off the seat and be launched high into the sky and across the road, tumbling end over end high over the houses and yards, on the way to Becky Kasemeyer’s house, all the way down her road, and far beyond where it actually ended. In my mind, West Terre Haute or even Terre Haute across the river several miles away did not exist in the threat of stratospheric flight skyward and eastward. Instead it was oblivion. Space. Remember, we had just lost three astronauts a couple of years before (including Gus Grissom from Indiana), and were headed off to land on the moon that summer of 1969, so I knew what could happen. I would be killed in the flight into the nothingness that is left when my butt leaves that rubberized sling of a seat.

This was real danger.

So of course I – we all – pushed it. Swinging hard and high, to that point where you could feel the chains slack, just ever so slightly. If I wasn’t launched out of the seat, then either the force of my forward momentum would be lost and I would come falling straight down, no more “swing” left – and crash, or more likely, thud into the ground. All my bones would be crushed into dust and goo wadded up inside a floppy bag of skin. Dead. OR, even worse, I’d have so much forward Umph that I’d go all the way over – around and over the top – which of course would allow me time to see what was coming and to think about it just long enough to know it was going to hurt real bad, and that I couldn’t do anything about it.

All were bad options. So, I pushed the envelope anyway. I’d swing as high as I could, as high as I dared, and for good reason. I was an Indy 500 driver.

The great drivers of that time were Mario Andretti, AJ Foyt, Al and Bobby Unser. (Come to think of it, they still are. There were many more, of course, but this is my memory). There I was, on the swing, facing the rising blaze of orange, morning sun, getting up more speed with every lunge of my legs, and on the forward, down swing, I would yell out the name of my favorite drivers. “MmmArio Andretti!”… I am now as far up and forward as possible, and starting to come back down, backward…. Legs back, heels hitting my rear-end, as high as I am going to go on the backswing, then, forward: “AJ Foyt!” all the way through the next high-speed forward swing. And back again, then it would be “Al Unser!” at the top of my voice, then on the next one, “Bobby Unser!” and on, and on again, passing cars one after another, faster and faster, Turn 1, into the Short Chute, the Back Straight, faster than ever, then the Short Chute again out of Turn 3 into Turn 4, then the Front Straight. I can see the white flag now; one more lap and I do it all again, all the names I can think of, all the speed I can muster, all the height I can possibly get out the this thing – flooring it all the way around the track… then… the bell rings. I’ll finish the race at recess.

And I have lived to race – and swing – another day.

Read Full Post »

The Unwanted

Americans have a history of being fair and oft times perhaps too fair, too sensitive to foreign concerns.

Like everyone else, we also have a history of making mistakes.

General George Washington warned against making the mistake of forming detrimental international bonds and the dangers of foreign alliances. The same could be argued for going too far in respecting another’s beliefs or culture.

In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent death of murderer Tamerlan Tsarnaev, somehow, perhaps because of religious sensitivity, perhaps because of in-the-box thinking, or perhaps because of other unknown or unspoken issues, authorities determined he must be buried, and buried in the United States. This decision was flawed and doomed from the beginning.


It surely must have been obvious to all involved that a “domestic burial” would be disastrous. We do not know the inside details, but what is surprising to us is that we have heard no mention in the broader news media of cremation and / or burial at sea.

So we continue in various ways to be bound by others, even dare we say – foreigners. The controversy and frustrations for “us” and the authorities were inevitable.

Understanding that Islam forbids it – it is against the law and custom of Islam to cremate a body – most essentially, because it desecrates and disrespects the physical body, there are three issues to consider:

First, it should be a universally understood fact that in carrying out the heinous act he and his brother did, he (they) effectively violated their religion and discarded the tenets that some argue prove Islam to be a religion of tolerance and peace.

In the betrayal of his own religion and adopted home and the people and communities he supposedly became a part of, he desecrated and disrespected everything. He desecrated and disrespected his neighbors, his community, his body, his life, his family, his religion, his culture, his rights, and so – his burial and so-called resting place – his eternal peace, if such a thing can be done, if such a thing is real.

The second is radical: to cremate Tsarnaev’s body anyway. It would most-decidedly resolve the issue for any community in the United States, which is – or at least, should be – the first concern. He is certainly due no respect or safety from desecration from anyone. But while this could be seen as a practical necessity it could also backfire tremendously and with lasting affect.

(At this point, no rational, sober person should attempt a reference to the alleged handling of Islamic Moro warriors by General ‘Black Jack’ Pershing – it is simply not true and not worthy of any further treatment here. Anyone with such curiosity can find plenty of trash on the Internet to read all day.)

Third, and most realistic and more practical is burial at sea. It should have been done in the first place. US Special Forces buried Osama Bin Laden at sea. (And recall it was done with all due deference to and respect for Islam.) If it was done in that case, it can certainly be done in this one. This is clearly the best option. If any of his family really wanted the body, they could find a way to get it done, but they have not.

Literally, no one wants it. This alone makes it our option.

Tsarnaev’s body should be surreptitiously disinterred and buried at sea by law enforcement authorities, either state or federal. It should have been the obvious answer from the beginning. They should do it immediately.

Read Full Post »

Fox News spent all week, virtually all day every day reporting on Benghazi. By contrast, CNN’s attention to it this week is virtually immeasurable.


Why is that?

– – –

It’s Friday and so now it is safe to say that CNN has placed absolutely no import on Benghazi, whether the hearings on Capitol Hill on Wednesday and Thursday, or any other discussion all week. As we have monitored the present Big Two: Fox News and CNN, we have observed nothing from CNN throughout the week. By incredibly stark contrast, Fox has kept it front and center daily; most notably their exclusive broadcast of the Capitol Hill hearings of Wednesday and Thursday.

Of course, we know the murder case in Arizona really is more… well…everything, and that is clearly why CNN has focused on it almost exclusively throughout 09 and 10 May. No question: supporters of either forum would say it is typical and predictable.

This week Rush Limbaugh had some pretty ugly commentary as to why most of the media doesn’t care. Ugly, but he made a solid point: sex is what sells. By comparison to so many other issues in the news today, Benghazi is not sexy. Fox promotes their news coverage as “Fair and Balanced”. If they have been unfair and out of balance covering Benghazi so intensively, then what of CNN?

AP Photo/Cliff Owen

Oh, sorry. CNN did devote other non-Jodi Arias time to the Michael Jackson death case resurgence. Fox covered that too, but much less so. Negligence, in a word. And slackers, too.

But viewed in a serious perspective – and in all seriousness – CNN appears to believe Benghazi is not worthy of serious treatment, having neglected even a one-minute update – any minute – during any prime viewing hour any day this week. It did not happen, as best we can find. It is a stunning and alarming journalistic violation. This was Charles Krauthammer’s accusation last October. Scandalous is just the right word.

Turns out CNN did cover it – off-prime and only briefly, once, maybe twice this week. Off-prime, and other major media outlets such as CBS and ABC gave Benghazi plus-or-minus four minutes or so each occasionally over the course of the week.

Hillary Rodham Clinton - photo AP-Pablo Martinez Monsivais

So an interesting and revealing phenomenon has occurred: One cannot report on lack of journalistic integrity – as any and all of the national outlets ought to subscribe to doing as part of their charter to serve the public good – when one is, by the sin of omission, the very one who has violated the rule of integrity. Seems that this is telling, the declarations we can make by our silence.

We’ve got one word for you: It’s ugly and it’s going to get uglier.

So that’s the question: Why?

– – –

Internet and/or print references in support of these observations:

The Christian Science Monitor, Hicks testimony, 08 May, 2013

The Media Research Center, 09 May 2013

National Review Online, Ted Cruz, eight months later, 08 May 2013

WBUR-Boston, Clinton testimony, 23 Jan 2013

Mediaite, Limbaugh, media don’t care, 09 May 2013

FoxNews Insider, Megyn Kelly, 09 May 2013

FoxNews Insider, story ranks third, 10 May 2013

Business Insider.com, Jon Stewart criticism of FoxNews, 08 May 2013

New York Times, editorial, 09 May 2013

FoxNews Insider, O’Reilly responds to Stewart, 10 May 2013

Red Alert Politics.com, US Rep Stockman criticism, 09 May 2013

The Daily Caller, Krauthammer criticism, 25 Oct 2012

Read Full Post »

Audrey Williams

Humanitarian. Pianist. Cellist. Teacher. Music Creator. Engineer


Notes from a Global Nomad


The Rise and Decline of a Small Town

Art Out The Wazoo

"There is no art without contemplation." - Robert Henri

Southern Indiana Agitator

Jeffersonville's Kelley Curran on politics, the media and more

Featherheart's Weblog

a place of poetry and photography

The Deep Friar

Digging a hole. And filling it up again.

Shannon A Thompson

Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy Author

Prego and the Loon

Pregnant and Dealing With Domestic Violence

Double Agent

The website of Steve Robert Simmons offering selected writings and personal essays. [Painting: "The Winding Road" by T. C. Steele (1907)]

%d bloggers like this: