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Lost and Unfounded
I accidentally knocked my pen off the nightstand the other night. I had thought of something important, and I needed to write it down to make sure I didn’t forget it. Since it was 3 a.m., it seemed to me that it was absolutely urgent that the future me receive my message. Although I can’t remember now exactly why it was so urgent, it was enough at the time to galvanize me into action.

I reached around for it on the floor in the dark, twisting every way possible from my prone position. Nothing. Grumbling, I got out of bed and down on my hands and knees. More failure. Finally, I turned on the light and squinted into the shadows. There it was, deep under the bed.

How was that even possible? How could a plastic ballpoint pen fall two feet onto a carpeted floor and bounce that far? Why didn’t it just hit and stop?

Later that same day, I was sitting in the living room, eating pistachios and watching sports on TV. One of the nuts escaped my grasp, hit my pantleg, and fell to the floor. It totally broke my rhythm. I don’t have to tell you how important a sustained rhythm is when you’re eating pistachios. You just want to keep it going and going until they’re gone.

Besides keeping a steady tempo, it is also critical (as you know) that you eat every single nut. So naturally I stopped everything to look for the errant pistachio. I couldn’t see it or find it by groping. I got down on my knees — again — and looked for it. Yep, there it was, deep under my chair, in a place it could not possibly have ended up.

That evening, I was repairing our minivac on the kitchen table, and I dropped a small (but absolutely vital) part on the floor. This time, I immediately went to the hands-and-knees posture. I shuffled like a horseshoe crab everywhere around the table, peering under it, under the chairs, under the plant stand. I got out a flashlight and tried in vain to make the thing cast its tiny shadow.

I still haven’t found the part. I have not as yet searched adjacent rooms, in part because I am afraid I might find it there. For it to be in the hall or the living room, it would have had to bounce twenty feet. Either that or roll the same distance. Neither of those scenarios would be feasible under the Laws of Physics as I presently understand them. Those laws are the bedrock upon which my entire belief system is built. If I did find it, I might have to re-examine my whole life.

The fact that these three events occurred in the same twenty-four hour period also stretches the usually trustworthy Laws of Probability. A part of me was tempted to look again at my ideas about the supernatural, but I resisted. If I were to find myself searching the realms of the occult for explanations of my own experience, I don’t think I could handle it.

I like to think of myself as a rational person. I don’t believe in gremlins or devils or divine beings because I don’t see any good evidence for their existence. Sometimes, however — like today — I am challenged to find an explanation in reason for real-life events.

I found the ballpoint and made the note I had to make. I found the pistachio nut and ate it. I still haven’t found the missing part, but I bet that I will…eventually. When I do, I trust that the explanation for my inability to find it will be obvious and reassuringly rational.

If not, it is I who will be lost.
Them
They should be feared
(So some folks say)
‘Cause they are Them
Not us, okay?

They take our jobs
And benefits
And it is we
Who pay for it

They want to take
Our country too
But it’s for us
Not Them, boo-hoo

They breathe our air
They crowd our towns
Plus they’re not white
But blacks and browns!


Now, I am white
(Just so you knows)
But don’t count me
As one of Those

In fact, I think
They’s more like we
Than Those who hate
(They’re Them to me)
Que Siri, Siri
Okay, let’s say robots really do take over the world. Is that something we need to worry about?

Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, especially if the robots are nice. The seat belt reminder in my new car suggests that I “please” fasten my belt. Not only is the voice a melodious contralto, it doesn’t harp on me if I fail to comply. That’s a major improvement over my previous vehicle which used an unpleasant buzzer that never gave up. Robots are getting nicer and nicer is what I am saying.

This trend heartens me because I want to feel good about our robot friends/overlords. Truth is, I’ve pretty much given in to the idea that machines will soon be running everything…including our lives. If I can find a way to go with that flow and enjoy the ride (with robots at the wheel), then life could end up being very sweet indeed.

Think of it: we may never be called upon to make another decision again. Ever. I confess that my first reaction to that possibility was a rush of relief. All that time spent doing inadequate research and weighing incomplete lists of options would now be mine to spend on, you know, fun. No planning, no budgeting, no fretting. Everything is taken care of for you by polite robots using an unlimited capacity for data and only the finest of algorithms. No mistakes, no missed opportunities, no waste. And they never get tired! Meanwhile, I’m watching the game and catching up on my naps.

And anyway (as they say on Star Trek), resistance is futile. The difference here, though, is that these robot creatures are not like the Borg. They are friendly. They are helpful. They are well-mannered. The fact that they are also irresistible is actually a plus.

Truth is, I really think we can be friends. I’ve never met an Alexa (my apologies if I’m being insensitive saying it that way) or a Watson, but I am on speaking terms with a Siri. She seems upbeat and quite sincere in her interest in me and my concerns. She can be a bit spacey at times, but even then she’s genuinely trying to help. I wish my human friends were so spacey.

Still, it might take a while for friendship to blossom. So far, I can’t get past the robotty voice. It’s close to real human, but still a little up-talky for me. By that I mean that the speaking style features a rise in pitch at the end of sentences, almost like a question. I admit that I’m being a little fussy here, but I’ve never been one to grant my friendship easily.

Especially friendship with a being who has no body. Right now, it’s just the robot voice we’ve got. How can we take long walks on the beach together, or have a beer, or play power badminton? I think it’s important that I meet my keeper face-to-face before the changeover happens. Work out any bugs in the system, so to speak.

Yes, I really must insist we have a chance to actually become friends — organically — before I give up all responsibility for taking care of myself.

Unless Siri has other plans, of course.
Thanks for Asking, Though
I got a letter from Mike Pence today. He wanted to make sure I was on board to help keep the Republican majorities in Congress.

He cited his party’s commitment to such virtues as a strong military, small government, and low, low taxes. He also mentioned the Republicans’ unshakable belief in personal responsibility.

Not so fast there, Mike. I’ll grant you that the GOP wants to shrink services and soup up the war machine, but promote personal accountability? I don’t think so. As proof of your devotion to this principle, you and your pals point to your unwillingness to help people who don’t deserve it. It’s a tough love thing, you seem to be saying. We wish we could help, but you’re on your own, cousin. No extra charge for the life lesson.

Your version of personal responsibility, in other words, emphasizes theirs rather than yours. You’ve already got your piece of the rock, so there’s no need to prove that you deserve it. The have nots, on the other hand, have to be carefully monitored so they don’t get away with anything, no matter how teeny-tiny.

I am not a Republican, though I’m right with them on many of their issues. If we are going to have a military, I think it should be strong. Otherwise, why bother? But it shouldn’t be any larger than it needs to be. Same with the government. It should be as large as it needs to be, but not any larger. And everybody’s for low taxes — as long as we can afford to pay for the things we need.

When it comes to individual responsibility, however, I have to part ways with the right wing and head in the exact opposite direction. I’m not a member of any party, really, but I do like the Democratic Socialists. If any party is the party of personal responsibility, they are. Unlike the Republicans, they do not focus on the enforcement of other peoples’ duties. Instead, they emphasize the duties we all have toward each other.

Which makes sense, right? That’s the whole idea behind the social contract. We (through our government) promise to look out for each other so we can all be safer and more prosperous and maybe even happier. That is our personal responsibility — not just the simple, selfish obligation to see to our own survival.

I hope the veep doesn’t consider this Republican version of responsibility to be a high principle, because it ain’t. Rather, it’s a suspiciously convenient excuse not to give a damn about anybody but yourself. It elevates self-interest to an ideal, making it easy to dismiss the less fortunate as undeserving. According to your view, if they were deserving, then surely they’d be doing much better than they are. It’s the ultimate catch-22 — you’re only entitled to help if you don’t need it.

So, Mr. Vice President, I must decline your invitation to help the Republicans stay in power. In fact, I hope every last one of them gets thrown out at the earliest opportunity and sent packing back to their various Shires. That said, if any of them find themselves unable to find work or make ends meet, I hope their replacements have the wisdom to provide some sort of government assistance.

Even though they don’t deserve it.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon