“I Pledge Allegiance…”

I recently thought of a little anecdote from my childhood that made me think about myself today.  I’m not sure why I thought of this instance recently, perhaps it is because I suddenly seem to have quite a few friends in the military (as a matter of fact, I’m leaving soon to go see one on home for leave!) or perhaps it is because of a heated discussion about equal rights that I just saw on Facebook, or perhaps it’s because it’s almost the Fourth of July.  Either way, I realized something interesting.  When I was little (three or four, I suppose) I got kicked out of preschool.  Yes, sweet little me, teacher’s pet, got told not to come back.  Why you ask?  It is because I refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance.  I refused, because they would not give me a logical explanation as to why I should.  Even toddler me had authority issues.

Adult me still has those issues as well.  People have told me if you want to travel and get paid for school, join the military.  The only problem is that I would not survive one week in the military.  Physical requirements aside (need I list my many disqualifying ailments?), my lack of ability to follow senseless orders would become a problem.  It’s not necessarily that I lack respect for authority, it’s just that I believe authority should be earned.  The people who do the best at their assigned tasks should be the ones who are promoted, not because of who they know, but because they are good enough at doing something to direct others in how to do it.  I take issues as well with people trying to boss me around when I’ve been doing my job longer than they have.  If I trained you in your job, who are you to turn around and tell me how to do said job?  Most importantly, I take issue with things that are illogical.  Damn intelligence won’t let me blindly follow people.  “Because I said so” is not an acceptable answer in my book.

All of that being said, I still do not say the Pledge of Allegiance, to this day.  Now before you start accusing me of being unpatriotic, or treacherous, or a terrorist- hear my logic against saying it.  At the same age when they teach you the Pledge, they also teach you things like not to lie.  I would be lying if I said I could always and forever provide my unwavering loyalty to a country I can’t necessarily predict the future of.  Think of all the little German children in the 1920s and 1930s pledging allegiance to their country- then being asked as adults to systematically murder millions of people.  What if I pledge allegiance now, and 20 years down the road some crazy president comes in and tells us we need to finish off all the Native Americans?  Would you hold true to your “pledge”?  Or would you turn your back on it, and fight against your country or simply flee to another one?  Either you hold true to your pledge and break your own morals, or you break your pledge to keep to your morals- which would then make the entire point of saying said pledge moot anyways.

At the end of the day, saying of few words makes you neither patriotic nor unpatriotic, it’s what’s in your heart that matters.  I still don’t see what the point of reciting it is.  Perhaps we need to spend those extra two minutes teaching kids math and reading so we do not breed a nation of imbeciles.  If someone can tell me a logical reason for how saying the Pledge of Allegiance makes you more productive/intelligent/etc.  then I will be willing to re-examine my opinion.  Until such a time, however, I choose to stick to my morals.  And I will love my country as long as it does not conflict with said morals.  And more importantly, I love all of you who continue to fight for our country so that I may continue to stick to my own morals and not those of some creepy guy thousands of miles away.

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Rosh Chodesh/ L’Shana Tovah!

I actually got this little tidbit from a facebook post by a film company (Nationlight Productions).

The hebrew word “shana”/year is related to “shoneh”/repeat, as well as “sheina”/sleep. This teaches that the repetitiveness of the years renders us unconscious to the miraculous nature of our lives. The relationship of the words “chodesh”/month and “chadash”/new teaches us that each new moon is an opportunity to awaken and realize there is constant renewal and miracles all around. Yesterday was the new moon [and year].

I’ve studied a lot of languages and always loved the way words are interconnected.  I thought this is a great positive little message to remind us to, essentially, count our blessings, even when things seem like they can’t get much worse (I have also learned that they always can!)

The Eccentric Me For All To See

When I first bought my car four years ago, it was newer and different from any of my other previous vehicles.  It had round vents and edges, and a center control panel instead of the usual behind the steering wheel kind.  It reminded me of a spaceship. Or rather, the old but futuristic notion in my head of what a cartoon spaceship might look like.  This association was furthered by the fact that it is blue, like the sky, which connects to space, which spaceships fly through.  It makes sense in my head (as, often, strange things do).  Ever since this time I have referred to my car as a spaceship, an assertion that often brings ridicule, however playfully it may be intended.

But, I believe, that it is such thoughts that make us unique.  For if everyone made the same connections and saw everything the exact same way, where would new ideas and inventions come from?

I mourn the death of relationships more than I mourn the death of people.  In my mind, when a person dies, your relationship with them is frozen forever in that state (which was hopefully a favourable one).  But when both parties to continue to live on, the relationship has more opportunity to fizzle and often does.  ‘Tis a much greater loss to lose all connection with a person who may still very well be right in front of you.

Sometimes reading the Bible makes me want to play Age of Empires.  An association which, again, makes sense in my head but may seem superficial or sacrilegious to others.

I have studied languages all my life but have never been able to imitate accents.  I speak every language with a horrible American accent.  But, after spending one semester in Georgia, I soon began to speak in a much more “Southern” dialect which has stuck with me to this day.  And after mere weeks of watching movies and reading Jane Austen books, I find myself writing notes as if I were writing in Victorian England (though this present post has not had much opportunity to show that).

I have been known, on more than one occasion, to dance backwards, or, more correctly, opposite the general face of the dance.  My fellow dancers may recognize this simply as a way to spice up and otherwise monotonous and over done dance.  The unknowing observer may see it as me not knowing what I’m doing, or perhaps not taking the dance seriously enough.  It is much more than either of those.  It is representative.  Dance is representative of life and all its sensibilities.  In every form of dance, as in life, there are leaders, there are followers, and there are those who stand up and proclaim that they shall be neither.  They will be neither sheep, nor shepherds, nor goats, but they will be horses – mares and stallions – who you may choose to ride beside, or stand behind in their dust.  Regardless, they will do what they must.

It’s things like this that make us unique.  Those idiosyncrasies or eccentric ideas that seem uncouth and sometimes get blurted out at inappropriate times.  Thoughts that society dictates should remain in your head and perhaps not even there.  It is for these things (unlike just about everything else) that I will NOT apologize.  For these things make me me.  And if you do not like them I suggest you take them up with my creator.  For it is they which define me.  My thoughts, my eccentricities and the way I treat the people around me.  These are the things that matter, not my job, or my possessions, or even the amount of knowledge I gain.  For what use is any of that?  The best I can ever hope to be is, well, me.

Religion and Holidays: Live and Let Live, I Say!

A good, Christian friend of mine shared a link to a blog about Halloween with me…

Should Christians Observe Halloween? Boo Humbug!

Now while I appreciate that it is a pretty well written argument, it still brings a certain tone of intolerance and slight ignorance that has always bothered me with any religion.  I suppose it is hard to do unbiased research and really it all comes down to wording.

One thing I’ve never liked when it comes to these types of arguments is people equating that paganism=witchcraft.  I actually got into an argument with an old youth pastor about this and it is why I left my old church.  Paganism is simply the worship of multiple gods and is generally followed by celebrating many different feasts honoring and attempting to placate the many gods much in the way we honor and attempt to please God.  There are as many and as varied pagan religions as there are Christian religions.  Where do you think the Catholic saints came from?!?  There are also many forms of witchcraft.  There is white magic (things done in what is an attempt to do good) and black magic, which is the evil many people speak of.  And while it may be considered “un-Godly”, wicca is not inherently evil.  It is actually very in tune with nature and this world that we currently live in.  One could say that some of these ancient religions are less concerned with the world here-after but are more in tune with the one in which we currently live.   Two of my best friends are wiccan, and they have treated me with nothing but loving kindness since i have known them.  They have never forced any of their beliefs on me and they have always been welcome and understanding of mine.  They have been there for me when other, so-called “Christian” friends have not.  And really all their religion is is a different set of holidays.  They do not “cast magic spells” or put hexes on people.  They make herbal remedies and use what God has created rather than the things man has created.  So I suppose good vs. evil really comes down to individual people.  Every religion thinks theirs is correct and all the others are wrong.  Paganism would be the least of my worries, because it has more or less been a welcoming religion.  There are always room for more gods in most of their eyes.  There are very few “pagan crusades” mentioned throughout history.  But, there are countless tales of Christians and Muslims slaughtering hundreds in the name of God.  If you truly believe paganism is evil, then take comfort that by your beliefs they will suffer for all of eternity.  However, it is not our place to inflict suffering upon people in this world.  Live and let live I say.  If your beliefs are strong enough, no one could sway you regardless of your associations with them.  People complain about our so-called “pagan holidays”.  They are not really pagan any longer.  We do not celebrate “pagan” holidays, we celebrate “corporate” holidays.  So condemn them all you want, but by shopping at Wal-Mart at any time you are still participating in their “religion”.

On a side note, I like the part comparing Halloween to Purim.  I know that some Jews celebrate Purim much in the same way we celebrate Halloween- dress up and party.

What’s in A Name? (Not Israel!)

I went to Torah Study last night and like many times before, the Twelve Tribes of Israel came up.  People were mentioning which tribe they were descended from and I was wondering how one would determine this? So I started to do some research….

It seems that the simplest was to claim a tribe is based on where you are from. The United States/North American is mostly descendants of Manasseh. Which works fine for the part of me that is Native American, but the rest only came to the United States in the past century or so.

So I tried to see who came from Italy. But there really is no tribe associated to Italy or any of southern Europe really. Perhaps this is because it was the home of the biggest Pagan empires: The Greeks and Romans.  The closest I could find was Reuben, whose descendants are from Northern France.  So they suggested that by looking into the heraldry of your name and coat of arms (this is much easier to do if you are from England, Ireland, Scotland, or Wales, by the way) that you could associate the symbols of your family heraldry to that of one of the tribes. So I started researching my name, which I’ve never really done. I’ve tried to research my direct ancestors, but never my name in general.

One article I came across said how much of the the area my family comes from (Reggio di Calabria) was actually destroyed by Mt. Etna on my birthday in 1908! Which is funny because this is shortly before my great grandparents were born and would have moved to the states!  I also learned that before that our descendants came from nearby Krotonas, Greece and settled Crotone and Cotronei, Italy (notice the similarity in the spelling!).  Cotronei would be the plural of Cotroneo, meaning everyone in that city is a Cotroneo!

But I digress.  I failed to find a picture of the Cotroneo or any similar name coat of arms anywhere online for free. So I decided to look up the Calabrese flag.  It’s a knight on horseback  killing a dragon next to a person praying.  Not very useful in relating to the tribes.  Another flag shows a crown over a sheild with four poles and two equilateral crosses all surrounded by an olive wreath.  Olive wreath shows promise.  Still another flag shows a tree, two equilateral crosses and a stone pillar- perhaps slightly more useful.  What about Napoli?  A black mustang on a yellow background- useful still.  Finally there’s the Sicilian flag featuring the trinacria (which funnily enough looks like a three legged swastika) and the head of medusa.  Fairly certain none of the tribes of Israel used a swastika.  One thing these flags all had in common is that they were on red and yellow backgrounds.

Still none of this helps. I’m pretty sure my family was straight up pagan.  Further research shows that while their are some Levite descendants in Northern Italy, most Italians are not of Israelite descent and are in fact descendants of Greeks, Canaanite and Edomites (the arch-enemy of Israel).  It is possible that through migrations and mixes of Greeks, French and Arabs that all occupied Sicily at one point I could be descended from any one of these lost tribes or none.  I could go through my mother’s genealogy, but it is such a mix (Irish, German, Native American and Bohemian) that I could still belong to any one of the tribes.  Alas, this brings us to the second option- associating oneself with whichever tribe whose characteristics you share.  This is the Israeli personality test!

So, upon some semi-extensive research and the creation of a rough little chart of positive and negative qualities, I can most relate to Reuben (emotional, empathetic, independent perfectionists), Nephtali (faithful, modest, reliable, musical, and needing a partner), or Issachar (intellectual, hard-working, lacking common sense, down to earth, pleasure seeking, know-it-alls with dominant women-folk).

So at the end of the day I really didn’t find the answer to the question I originally sought.  But I did learn that you can’t define yourself just by your name.  And I did learn some interesting things about the dispersions of ancient peoples, the migrations of peoples and the development of cultures and languages. And I also found interesting links between things like the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 signs of the zodiac or the 12 birthstones and the 12 stones of the breastplate.  I suppose anything throughout history can be tied to anything else in history or in religion or culture.  It’s all about symbolism and at the end of the day a picture is worth a thousand words.  If I knew what to do with it, I would go back to school and study symbolism, just because it is so deep and fascinating.

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