Nightmare Revisited

What can I say that hasn’t already been said?

What can anyone say that hasn’t already been said?

We can send our thoughts and prayers to Las Vegas as we sent them to Orlando.  While ignoring the smaller tragedies in San Francisco, CA ( 3 dead, 2 injured); Tunkhannock, PA (3 dead); Orlando, Florida (5 dead); Kirkersville, Ohio, (3 dead); Fresno, California, (3 dead); Fort Lauderdale, Florida (5 dead, 6 injured); Burlington, WA (5 dead); Baton Rouge, LA (3 dead, 3 injured); and Dallas, Texas (5 dead and 11 injured) all of which happened in between those two events.  All of which are only the incidents that meet the strictest definition of what makes a ‘mass shooting’ event.  A looser definition based on the number of casualties rather than the number of fatalities brings the number of mass shootings between the two record setting events up to over 500.  What else can we say?

It is obvious that we don’t care.  Our lawmakers don’t want things to change.  The NRA doesn’t want things to change.  The gun manufacturers obviously don’t want things to change they are the only real winners in this ongoing scenario.  Despite our thoughts and prayers and tears we do nothing to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.  So in another 15 months or less we will be here again.

We will be told it’s not about guns.  Except it is.  Semi-automatic weapons are not guns for hunters they are guns for killing people.  Without the weapons available to him, the Las Vegas shooter would not have been able to do as much damage.

We will be told now is not the time for the conversation.  Except it is.  If we cannot talk about what caused a tragedy to occur when it is fresh in our minds we never will.

We will be told that gun control violates our second amendments rights.  Except it doesn’t.  The second amendment doesn’t promise us the right to own arsenals of machine guns for ‘home protection’.  It promises that no matter who we are or our station in life we are allowed to bear arms in protection of the country in an organized militia.  Want access to a machine gun?  Join the National Guard.

The sad thing is we know ALL of this.  We have heard it time and again.  The evidence suggests that we don’t care.  We let this absurdity go on week after week, month after month, death after death.  If we cared, it would stop.  We and our legislators would do everything in our power to make it stop.  We seem to be happy repeating the same cycle over and over, ad nauseum while the list of causalities continues to grow.

Don’t worry.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.  I’m sure that will help.


When the Magic is Missing

If you are a regular reader of the blog, you will have noticed that 1) there hasn’t been a blog for a while and 2) the last couple were fairly somber.  I have been trying to find my usual enthusiasm for this project, but it has been hard to find.  You see, my grandmother has died and I have lost some of my own magic.

I have written a couple of times about my first trip to Disneyland.  We took a family road trip across the country and went many places.  The place that was most vivid  to my five-year-old self and remained with me the most was, of course, Disneyland.  I have clear memories of that day in the park.  Some of our stories from that day became family canon, told over and over again.  So much so, when I returned to Disneyland as an adult I mailed home postcards of the Haunted Mansion that simply said, “I kept my eyes open,” As of ten days ago, I am the only person on that trip still living.

My Grandma took me to Disneyland the first time.  She also took me to Disney World the first time.  She loved the Tiki Room, but absolutely refused to ride the tea cups.  She was patient when I wanted to see characters.  For years we had Polaroid photos of me with Goofy, Capt. Hook, and other random characters that used to be out in the park.

Her favorite Disney song was ‘Bella Notte’.  I would bring my record player into the living room and we would listen to the music sides of my Disney story records together.   We saw more Disney movies together than I can count.  In fact we moved in our relationship from her taking me to the movies to me taking her.  In fact, the first movie I ever took Grandma to see in a theater was the animated “Beauty and the Beast”.  I paid for tickets and snacks.  She fussed about that but I insisted.  One of the last conversations we had in the days before she died she asked me, “How did you get to be such a Disney fan?”  I didn’t have the heart to tell her it was at least partially her fault.

Losing her has meant losing a little bit of the joy I always found in Disney.  She was such an integral part of all my early Disney memories.  A piece of the magic is missing.  I know I will heal.  I know it will get better.  But right now I’m a little lost and trying to find my way back.

‘Man is in the Forest’

****************************SPOILER ALERT*********************************

This blog contains major plot points in the film, “Bambi”.  If you have never seen Bambi and do not know what happens you will want to stop reading now.  I have difficulty imagining that there is anyone out there reading a Disney blog that doesn’t already know this stuff, but just in case, you have been warned.

****************************SPOILER ALERT ENDS*********************************

The film, “Bambi” has been credited for raising awareness of the natural world in generations of children.  Between the traumatic death of Bambi’s mother by an illegal poacher and the catastrophic fire at the end of the film, audiences were challenged to evaluate how they interacted with wilderness areas.  We have come a long way in the three quarters of a century since the movie was released.  Not all of our progress can be credited to “Bambi”, but it was a start.  I bring this up not to talk about how far we’ve come, but how far we still have to go.

Regular readers know that I have recently moved.  You may not know that I have moved to a small town in the Columbia Gorge Natural Scenic Area.  Unless you live in the Northwest, you probably don’t know that it is on fire.  We don’t get a lot of press out here.  Wildfires have become a fact of life in the Northwest as rising temperatures and less rainfall have turned our great forests into tinder.  This fire, called the Eagle Creek fire, is a little different.  It was not started by a lightning strike, a car, or even by a stray spark from a campfire.  It was started Saturday by a 15-year old boy and his friends throwing fireworks off a cliff into the Gorge.  They were spotted by other hikers who reported that the group was laughing as they walked off, unconcerned with the consequences of their actions.  By Wednesday the fire had grown to 50 acres and multiple communities were being evacuated.  The teenagers filmed themselves having fun.

It honestly astounds me that anyone would be this foolish.  Accidents happen, but throwing fireworks into an area with a burn ban where fireworks are illegal is not an accident.  It is at best thoughtless and self-centered.  It is at worst malicious.  People in the area are calling for these young people to be punished in the most appalling of ways.  I believe they should be held accountable, but jail time will not get the point across.  I believe that they should have to help the people who have lost their home.  They should be part of the clean-up and rebuilding process.  They should have to rebuild trails and plant trees.  They should be part of the groups that track the wild animals who have lost their homes and food sources.  They should see first hand what they did to the wider community just to post a funny video.  They should learn the lessons of “Bambi” and have to tell other young people why what they did was wrong.

My home is on fire because Man was in the forest.  It’s beauty is scarred.  It’s animals have fled.  It’s people are traumatized.

By now, we should all know better.

gorge firephoto credit: Mark Graves | The Oregonian/OregonLive

Stories from the park: Saying Goodbye

All good things must come to and end and it is a fact that one cannot live at the Walt Disney World Resort (though in fairness I would be willing to give it a try).  There comes a point when we must pack up, say good-bye and head home.  This trip the good-bye seemed a little harder than usual.  Mostly because it wasn’t the only good-bye I needed to say.  When next I go back to a Disney Park, life will be different.  The Princess may not be with me and if she is she will be an adult with her own plans and priorities.  My years of visiting Disney Parks with my child are over.  It is a hard reality to come to grips with.

I have said a lot of goodbyes recently.  After getting back from WDW, I packed up Disney Dog and the Aristocat and moved to a new community.  I said goodbye to the people and places that made up my life for the last four years.  I also left The Princess behind so she could continue her summer job.  It was hard but I was busy enough with unpacking a new house and settling into a new church that I got through it.  Then last week happened.

Last week, The Princess moved to college.  She is settled into her new dorm, making new friends, and figuring out her classes.  She is also beginning to create the bones of a new life that for the first time does not involve me.  I am on the edges of her life.  I will see her for holidays, exchange texts and phone calls, but her life is now primarily hers.  Which means who I am in my life has changed.  My life is also primarily mine for the first time in more than 18 years.  In addition to saying goodbye to her, I am also having to say goodbye to that part of me and it is hard.

Also last week, the 16 year old Aristocat had to be put to sleep.  He was sick.  It was the right choice.  But it was one goodbye too many for me.  I find that the death of my grumpy, old cat is hitting me hard.  I wasn’t ready for another goodbye.  I need my life to stop changing for just a little bit.  I need some stability.

In my mind, I know everything is fine.  I know that my life is moving in ways that are natural, normal, and good.  But my heart is breaking a little bit and it feels like it will never be whole.  It feels like the world has shifted under me and I don’t know what to do to put it back on track.

My brain keeps trying to help.  It reminds me that I’m not alone, that all will be well, that there is a plan.  I know all this.  But saying goodbye is hard and sometimes I need a reminder.

“The Lord is my solid rock,

my fortress, my rescuer.

My God is my rock —

I take refuge in him!–

he’s my shield,

my salvation’s strength,

my place of safety.”

Psalm 18: 2

Stories from the Park: The Jungle Cruise Mystery

Now before you Google this and check it out on Snopes, let me just clarify that this mystery only applies to me.  To my knowledge this doesn’t happen to anyone else, just me.  I seem unable to ride Jungle Cruise.  For many and varied reasons over the years I haven’t been on the ride: the line was too long, no one else wanted to ride it, it was closed, The Princess (in her younger years) had hit a wall and we needed to leave.  The list goes on.  It doesn’t help that I am the only person in the family who truly likes the ride.  Though, in fairness, I don’t think The Princess has ever been on it.  But the fact remains I have not been able to get one the ride since 1992.  But I was going to change all that.  This year I had a plan.

On our most recent trip we had The Duchess with us and one of our touring priorities was getting her onto as many classic Disney rides as possible.  We wanted her to have a good solid experience of the Disney Parks basics.  I leveraged that priority into a willingness to use one of our FastPass selections on Jungle Cruise.  It was also a nice calm ride we could do after our graduation celebration dinner.  It was a win-win.

So there we were on Day One after dinner, Fastpasses in hand, heading to the Jungle Cruise.  We walked up to the line and the sky opened.  Undeterred we whipped out our rain gear and entered the FastPass line.  We were under cover, waiting for the worst to pass when the first lightning hit.  After more lightning and a safety announcement the ride was closed.  We got universal FastPasses that we could use on any ride or attraction but we could not ride Jungle Cruise.  It was at this point I realized that I was cursed.

I have no great lesson in this today.  There is no underlying issue to expose.  I am simply banned by the universe from riding Jungle Cruise.  I don’t know why.  I may never know why.  I have heard rumors of a Jungle Cruise movie.  I am nervous.


Stories from the Park: I am an expert

For those of you who have never noticed, celebration buttons are a big deal in the Disney Parks.  There are buttons for birthdays, 1st visits, getting engaged, and getting married.  In Disneyland there are buttons for graduations, 1st haircuts, and anniversaries.  It should be no surprise then to realize that one of the first stops we made at the Magic Kingdom was City Hall to get the Princess and the Duchess their graduation buttons.  Sadly, they did not have specifically graduation buttons, but the cast member wrote ‘Graduation 2017’ on a generic Celebration button and we were on our way.  The down side of the sharpie edit it that it would rub off every day and have to be refreshed.

During one such refreshing, we go to talking with the cast member.  The Princess asked if he could add a layer of tape over the top of the button to keep the writing from rubbing off.  He was impressed with her problem solving skills and wanted to know what other tips and tricks we knew.  The conversation eventually got around to trip planning.  He was very impressed with my dining reservation skills, but what impressed him the most was the fact I got us FastPasses for Flights of Passage in Avatar land.  When I booked them, Pandora hadn’t even opened yet.  I explained that after reading the description of the two rides I guessed that (1) the line would be longer for the thrill ride, (2) it would be more fun, and (3) it would be the ride we wanted to experience more than once.  It happened to turn out that I was right on all three points.  The cast member thought I was brilliant and presented me the button above when he gave the girls theirs.  I was delighted.

I did not wear my button around the parks after that day.  I had to explain it to people frequently.  Interestingly, it was cast members who would ask me about it most often.  I felt like I had to tell the whole story to justify why I was wearing the button.  I couldn’t just smile and say, “It was a gift.  Isn’t it cool?”  I needed to explain that I wasn’t bragging or somehow putting myself above others.  I didn’t want people to get the wrong impression.  In retrospect though, I am a kind of Disney expert.  I am the person friends contact when they want to plan a trip.  I am person people ask when they have a question about Disney movies.  I have a new acquaintance who has a little girl and who wants to sit down with me to discuss how he can raise her to be strong and independent while still able to watch the Disney Princesses with all their historical flaws.  I write this blog.  By many standards, I am indeed a Disney expert but wearing that explicit label made me uncomfortable.

We are taught to be humble and unassuming.  But why?  Why shouldn’t we embrace our gifts and display them for everyone to see?  Why should recognizing our talents make us uncomfortable?    In fact how can people know that we have knowledge and skills that they can avail themselves of if we do not broadcast that fact?

“Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket.  Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before people so they can see the good things you do.” Matthew 5: 15-16

Claim your awesomeness!  Be an expert or an authority.  Be the smartest or most skilled person in a room.  Be the person that others know they can go to, rely on, and ask questions of.  Don’t be ashamed.  Be proud and use your knowledge and skills to benefit those around you.  Celebrate you.

No place for hate

I wrote last week about the value of diverse opinions and world views.  This weekend we saw in Charlottesville a manifestation of what happens in society when people do not believe that.  We saw a group of people who progressed from not believing that people’s view are valid to not believing that those people themselves are of worth.  Sadly, it is a short journey between those two opinions.

I do not understand the people who marched in Charlottesville.  The Southern Confederacy and the Nazis were wrong.  Full stop.  There is no debate here.  Both regimes were fundamentally based on the idea that there is a kind of person that doesn’t count as a person.  Both believe that white people have a genetic advantage that makes them better than others.  This is absurd and is based on nothing more than hate, fear, and control.

They are wrong.  I cannot begin to count the numbers of ways that they are wrong.  No matter what objective standard you want to use to evaluate their claims, they are wrong.  They are only right in their own minds so they falsely create the evidence that prove them right.  They justify, excuse, and outright lie to under gird their own position.  They create a narrative where they are the brave heroes fighting for truth and justice.  They are wrong.  They are, in fact, the villains of this piece.  The simple fact that Hollywood can still use Nazis as a storytelling crutch to easily identify villains should be a very large hint that THEY ARE WRONG!  How a white man can look at the society we live in and think, “I’m getting a raw deal here.” is beyond me.

Our society was created by white men, for white men.  Over the decades we have tried to break through those barriers and include women, people of colors, non-Christians, LGBTQ folks, and anyone else who isn’t a WASP man.  And when we compare where we are now to where were we a century ago it is better, it’s still not good.  The simple fact that we have to be reminded that Black Lives Matter shows how far we still have to go.  The fact that a college student caught with three joints gets a stricter prison sentence than one who rapes an unconscious woman shows how far we still have to go.
The fact that people are more concerned about who sits in the bathroom stall next to them than who sits in the White House shows us how far we still have to go.

These angry white men want to go back to the days when they were the undisputed rulers of the universe.  Not because they are the best qualified, most educated, and highest skilled but because they deserve it because of their gender and the color of their skin.  The deck is already stacked in their favor, but that isn’t good enough.  They want everyone else out of the game entirely.  They, like the historic groups they take their names from, are the losers of history.  They will not win.  We will not let them.

Hate has no place here.  I am not afraid of people who are different.  I do not think that someone else receiving privilege takes away from mine.  I do not fear being replaced.  I believe that understanding and inclusion make us stronger not weaker.

Jesus told us to love our neighbor.  When asked to clarify who our neighbor was, he held up a person who was reviled and despised as the example of a good neighbor.  Our neighbor is the person least like us, the person we don’t want to love, the person who is hard to love.  Jesus calls us to love anyway.  Any time we act against that commandment we are acting against the gospel.  White supremacy is more than wrong, it is deeply sinful and goes against what Jesus said was the second greatest commandment in all the law.

No matter what these terrorists claim, they are wrong.  In the long story of history they will fail and the world will be better for it.