The Beav according to Beav

Still crazy after all these years.

Friday, November 09, 2018

My Vision in Blues

    Sometimes, love grows patiently from familiar friendship. Sometimes it searches and hunts: in bars, churches, and on websites. Sometimes, love comes down the stairs, stuns you silly, and sweeps you off your feet.

    I enlisted in the Air Force in April of 1994. In late May, I graduated from Basic Training and was transferred to the Defense Language Institute (DLI) in Monterey for “tech school.” This was where the Air Force was going to teach me to do the job it wanted me to do. In order to ease the transition to the regimented environment of life in the “regular” Air Force from the highly regimented environment of Basic Training, tech schools have implemented a four-phase program with progressively fewer restrictions. The most significant change comes between second phase, in which a person is required to wear a uniform every time he leaves the building and has a curfew seven days a week, and third phase, in which he is only required to wear a uniform during duty hours and has no curfew over the weekend.

    This is where I was on Saturday, July 23rd: on the cusp of third phase. Sunday morning, at midnight, I would get to taste freedom for the first time in months. But there was no need to wait for midnight for the fun to begin. My roommate, Andy, and I had a plan: get into our blues uniforms and head down to the Enlisted Club for a few hours, head back to the room by 11 (our curfew), have an hour to change, then head out at midnight looking for fun and excitement in our real-people clothes.

    On our way out, we swung by the main stairwell to sign out with the Dorm Guard — we were still on phase, after all. I was delighted to see Joan, one of my first friends at DLI — she had fed me freshly baked cookies during my first lonely weekend when most folks had fled the base to do whatever it is they did.

    “Going to the E-Club?”

    I was so excited, I could barely contain my response. “Yeah. Then, we’ll phase up at midnight, and who knows after that!”

    “Would you mind escorting a friend of mine?” She asked. “She’s a bit nervous walking through the woods in the dark.”

    Of course I agreed, and Joan called up the stairs “Saundra? I have some friends that will walk with you,” and she descended. A vision in blues, she was wearing tight jeans and a two-tone, curve-hugging body suit with laces that half-hid and half-accentuated her cleavage. Her face glowed. I was acutely aware of her strong cheekbones and the most adorable gap between her front teeth. Dumbstruck, I was barely able to introduce myself.

    Nevertheless, on Joan’s recommendation, she joined us, walking down the hill in the darkness of insufficient lighting in the woods, a princess flanked by her military escort. We came to a section where the hill is so steep, irregular cement steps had been embedded into the hillside. Saundra didn’t see well in low light and was wearing heels, so she requested an arm to steady herself. My excitement for approaching freedom had soared to giddiness at approaching freedom next to a beautiful woman, so rather than offer her my arm, I simply scooped her up and carried her down the stairs, as if over a threshold.

    If you ask her today, Saundra will tell you that I said, “Never fear, Milady. I shall carry you.” I don’t remember saying anything like that, but my memories have been a bit hazy since she came down the stairs in the barracks. In any case, that is the moment that she says she knew. I didn’t even realize the next night, when we sat on a park bench looking out at Monterey Bay for three hours; I’m a bit slow. But we’ve been married for twenty-one years now. Sometimes, when you least expect it, love comes downstairs, stuns you silly, and sweeps you off your feet.


Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Frederick Douglass and the Harms of Slavery

    Frederick Douglass was very firm in his belief that the institution of slavery harmed the slaveholder in addition to the slave. This damage affected not just the individuals involved, but their communities and society as a whole as well. In his Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Douglass provides many examples that support those beliefs and illustrate these effects for the reader.

    On no level can the deleterious effects be seen so dramatically as on the personal one. One has an ingrained understanding of individual behavior and interpersonal relations that is in direct opposition to what Douglass describes. Most of the slave owners and overseers he labors under are cruel, vicious, sometimes vile men. Mr. Covey was “devoted to planning and perpetrating the grossest deceptions.” (p. 61) He implies that Capt. Anthony punished Hester, one of his slaves, in a fit of jealousy. (p. 7) Mr. Severe, apart from being cruel, swore “enough to chill the blood and stiffen the hair of an ordinary man”. (p. 11) In fact, Mr. Severe was so deserving of his name that the slaves considered his death “the result of a merciful providence.” (p. 12) Douglass considered Capt. Anthony to be “hardened by a long life of slaveholding. He would at times seem to take great pleasure in whipping a slave.” (p. 6) The traits of none of these men illustrate Douglass’s contention near so well as the example of Mrs. Sophia Auld, however. Sophia Auld is Douglass’s quintessential example of the deleterious effects of slavery upon the slaveholder. He meets her having never had a slave. “A woman of the kindest heart and finest feelings” having “been in a good degree preserved from the blighting and dehumanizing effects of slavery.” (p. 32) He describes her as “a pious, warm, and tender-hearted woman. There was no sorrow or suffering for which she had not shed a tear. She had bread for the hungry, clothes for the naked, and comfort for every mourner that came within her reach.” (p. 37) She did not expect servility from him. Quite the contrary, she disliked it. Her treatment of him at the outset was “as she supposed one human being ought to treat another.” (p. 37) “Under [slavery’s] influence, the tender heart became stone, and the lamblike disposition gave way to one of tiger-like fierceness.” After being dissuaded from the reading lessons she had begun giving him, she “became even more violent in her opposition than her husband himself.” (p. 37) Slavery had so deteriorated her character that when he is finally shipped from Baltimore to St. Michaels to serve Master Thomas, he felt that as far as masters were concerned he “had little to lose by the change.” (p. 50)

    Change in individuals percolate out and feed change in the communities of which they are a part. He takes the community to task specifically for its lack of concern when Mr. Gore shoots and kills Demby, one of Col Lloyd’s slaves, for disobedience. More generally, “killing a slave, or any colored person, in Talbot county, Maryland, is not treated as a crime, either by the courts or the community.” (pp. 23-24) The whole of the community is compelled to lie (whether affirmatively or by omission) or be decried as an abolitionist. (p. 98) In a slaveholding community, even non-slaveholders are diminished by slavery’s effect. The close exposure to slavery motivated the shipbuilders in Baltimore - carpenters and apprentices - to abandon all feelings of equality or solidarity even with the free black carpenters working there. They refused to work with the black carpenters, and violently attacked Douglass. (pp. 95-96)

    As individual change affects the community, so does community change affect society at large. Free New Bedford seems more wealthy and prosperous on the whole than the slaveholding South: “I saw few or no dilapidated houses, with poverty-stricken inmates; no half-naked children and barefooted women”. (p. 114) Prior to seeing a free city, Douglass considered wealth impossible there - “I had been accustomed to regard their poverty as the necessary consequence of their being non-slaveholders.” (p. 113) When slavery is the means of procuring and displaying wealth, the slave society soon begins to consider it the only means of procuring it. “…In the absence of slaves there could be no wealth, and very little refinement.” (p. 113) More striking than monetary concerns, however, is the difference in psyche. When labor is purchased rather than compelled, it is not emotionally crushing. The wharves in New Bedford, where there is no slavery, are starkly contrasted to those of Baltimore, where there is. “There were no loud songs heard from those engaged in loading and unloading ships. I heard no deep oaths or horrid curses on the laborer….Every man appeared to understand his work, and went at it with a sober, yet cheerful earnestness”. (p. 114) He subtly hints at the damage to society at large, even in the North, in that white people don’t realize the profound sorrow and suffering inherent in slave singing. He compares those songs to tears relieving, but not purging, an aching heart. (pp. 14-15) Douglass feels very strongly about the corrupting influence of slavery on Christianity. So much so that he considers calling the Southern religion Christian “the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels.” (p. 118) His love for Christianity proper - “the Christianity of Christ” stands in firm opposition to his loathing of “the slaveholding religion of this land”. (p. 118)

    In his narrative, Douglass paints a very clear picture of the horrors that the institution of slavery delivers onto its victims. But equally clear, if not equally horrific, is the damage - sometimes subtle and insidious, sometimes obvious and undeniable - done to slaveholders, their communities, and the society in which they exist.


Here's Some Little Things I Wrote

I've been back in school for over a year now. Of course, with school comes essays. Since I have written some essays, it occurs to me that I can post them on here and share them with anyone who wanders by.

Though this should not need saying, I will say it anyway:

Do not use my essays (or any part of them) as your own.
Not only would that be personally irritating to me,
it would be bad for your grade -- I am easily Google-able.

Anyway, I hope you all enjoy the things I have written.

(P.S. - You can quote me if you like -- attribution is key.)


Saturday, August 04, 2018

Thank you Critical Role

I just finished watching a live D&D session, played for a live audience of thousands, and many thousands more that watched it happen, real-time, on the internet. I was going to say that it was a dream come true, but it wasn't. You can't dream what you can't conceive.

I learned to play D&D (well under the "10&up" recommendation), in the late '70s while my parents learned to play. "It needs imagination and he's got it in spades," they reasoned. I played when you could be an elf or a fighter. I continued to play as it morphed into AD&D, and 2nd Edition. I played through the '80s when my friend had to keep his books at my house because his mother would destroy them if she knew - keeping the devil at bay. I played full theatre-of-the-mind style, walking from class to class during Junior High; and on weekends all through High School. I played after I joined the Air Force in the mid '90s. Even introduced the game to my now-wife.

Through all that time, whether actively demonized (literally), or merely dismissed as a pastime for basement-dwelling nerds, I never expected it to ever be accepted by the populace at large. I never imagined it could ever be a spectator-event.

To the cast and crew of Critical Role; to the thousands of fans literally around the globe:

Thank you.

Thank you for making the dreams I couldn't conceive of dreaming come true.

I love you all.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Meisner-fed Revelations

On the stage, I am my authentic self; it's in real life that I do all my acting.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Found My Limit

I. Condemn. Nazis. Full stop.

There are those that formed a reply in their heads "but..." If that was you, stop. Think about what just happened for a moment. You were about to defend Nazis. Actual Nazis.

Our country was founded around one central truth: that all men are created equal. The basis of every American ideal rests on the foundation that all Americans be treated equally - no matter their skin color, their religion, their gender, their sexuality; no matter ANY innate attribute. The beliefs of Nazis and white supremacists are antithetical to everything this country stands for. The fact that this needs explaining in 2017 frankly amazes, saddens, and enrages me.

Nazis are clearly enemies of the Constitution. Their current activities represent a clear and present danger to the United States and her citizens. I wish my President agreed.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Sad, Hopeful Thinking

A sad thought occurred to me the other day: if I had to judge from the people I know, I would have to conclude that Islam is a good religion and Christianity is an evil one occasionally misused for good.

I am well aware that neither is evil - I mean, they're essentially the same religion to begin with. But, of all the Christians I know, very few of them display their religion for good. It manifests in hating others, judging others, and occasionally trying to keep others from living their lives. On the other hand, I know a few Muslims. They are, without exception, among the best people I know. None of them have ever judged (out loud, anyway) someone for not following the tenets of Islam. None have ever declared that the nation should adhere to Islamic rules. None have ever interfered with the lives of the people around them because their faith disagrees with the way those other people live their lives.

I wish I could convince more people of all (and no) faiths to just live and let live. The Golden Rule exists in all religions:

"And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise."
"Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful."
"Blessed is he who preferreth his brother before himself."
"Try your best to treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself"
"None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself."
 "...thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."
"Respect for all life is the foundation."
"The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo your own."
"Don't be a dick." of those might have been Wil Wheaton.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Judge Actions, Not People

People are people, with all that entails. They are amazing, and beautiful, and flawed. They are capable of astounding achievements and unspeakable evils.

It isn’t helpful to say that “he is a racist.” It can advance the conversation to note that “that comment was racist.” It obscures the truth to say “she was a great woman.” It is inspirational to say that “she performed a great deed.”

I understand that the difference is largely just a matter of tone, and that there may be ample (and more than ample) justification to put this label or that on one person or another. But, to what end? To me, the only end is to improve - for us all to be better. We cannot learn or move forward if we are just calling each other names. No matter how well-earned, that leads to defensiveness and digging in and no movement. If we can focus on the actions, we may be able to teach and learn and get better.

And maybe we can get past the idea that someone is a “great person” or an “evil person.” We just might be able to get to the truth that everyone is great; everyone is evil; everyone is everyone. A person is much too complex to boil down into one word, unless that word is human.

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