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WALL-E and the Gulf Oil Spill

What's not to like about WALL-E? A trash compactor robot, WALL-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-class) spends his days compacting trash (what else?) with an eye on making the earth fit for rehabilitation. See, centuries ago, humans polluted the earth to the point of ruin, so they evacuated in massive spaceships. There, they loll about in such ease that their limbs have atrophied; they've become pretty much helpless, though good-natured, blobs. But before departure, they left robots to tidy up things, so they might eventually return. Only WALL-E remains on the job, for reasons I forget, and as you might imagine, he's lonely. All that changes when a pretty girl robot (EVE) show up. Robot sparks fly, they save the planet, fight off the bad robots, and pave the way for humans' return.

So if I liked the film, and Mrs Sheepandgoats liked it, which we both did, everyone must have liked it – right? But when Mrs. Sheepandgoats mentioned it to a co-worker, the latter lamented how sad the movie was. Sad? “What we're doing to the earth, what we're leaving behind for our children, is an absolute tragedy,” she said. Well...yes, the film would have that effect on many, wouldn't it? Look, we're sickened by the degradation humans inflict upon the earth, make no mistake, but, it's also true that when considering each new nail in the coffin, there is a tiny asterisk in the back of our mind that says “God's Kingdom will solve human mismanagement once and for all.” His “bringing to ruin those ruining the earth” is even foretold. (Rev 11:18) So it's always there, that asterisk, cushioning every blow. If you didn't have it....wow...no wonder some are just crushed by what's happening


Now, this verbal exchange was well before the gulf oil-spill, that mother of all environmental catastrophes.  “How to clean up the mess? And who's at blame!” declared Time Magazine's cover of June 21, 2010,  against a backdrop of oil-soaked pelicans. (I was mildly surprised that the questions were not posed in reverse order) Time listed a “dirty dozen” which included the prior President, of course, and his Secretary of State, but also the current President and some of his underlings. A handful of oilmen, needless to say, and one or two indulgent regulators. Even the ubiquitous American driver, since he fuels demand for oil in the first place. Got it? We're all to blame. There are no good guys in white hats, only bad guys in black, oily ones.

And to think I was upbraided just a few weeks ago, along with all my people, for not picking up the roadside trash. “Enough Jehovah's Witness preaching, already!” scolded my interlocutor, “what good is that? Do something useful, instead,” said he, and then proceeded to wax poetic on how he and his entire family took part in a local park clean-up, picking up crud that other slobs had tossed here, there, and everywhere. Look, I'm not against cleanup days, but how silly to imagine that, by thus taking part, we're saving the planet, when, in one dastardly swoop, the entire gulf can be ruined by one big-industry blunder. In fact, reports have it that local picker-uppers are showing up on the coast only to be told to get lost – this is a job for pros!

No, I won't stand for it – to be told preaching is valueless and community cleanup days are the path to salvation. And don't mistake that statement as unconcern for the environment! When the kids were little and we hiked trails at Allegheny State Park, we'd take trash bags with us and make a treasure hunt out of it, collecting beer and pop cans along the way – some had been there for years. (there were even some of the ancient tin types, cans that had been opened, not with pop-tops, but with can openers such as I remember from when I was a kid – extra points awarded for such finds!) And heaven help you if you are the pig dumping fast food trash out the car window and Mrs. Sheepandgoats is driving behind you! Steam comes from her ears. She all but rams your bumper and slaps you in handcuffs, hauling you to the sheriff in citizens' arrest.

One fellow is griping here about Jehovah's Witnesses: "They don’t even need to recycle if they don’t want to." What kind of an accusation is that? Are there groups that maintain their people MUST recycle, whether they want to or not? Where recycling is the law of the land/community, JW compliance is higher than most, I've no doubt, since they are well-known to be law-abiding. Where it is not the law of the land, likely JW compliance is still higher than most, out of respect for the planet. Look, when financially secure, trendy neighborhoods take up recycling as their special cause, I admit, they may outdo the average Witness. But we surely shine when compared to the population in general. I attended a wine festival over the weekend. Each vendor offered samples of wine, cheese, candy, sauce, whatever, in one-use plastic cups, or plates, or skewering toothpicks. Were they recycled? I doubt it. All trash was mixed together. In the medical field, everything is one-use only, disposable, in the interests of sanitation. Nothing is washed. Nothing is reused. Again, all trash is mixed together. I once worked part-time for a retail inventory firm, reputed to be the country's largest consumer of AAA batteries. Do you imagine those batteries were recycled? When I asked about it, they laughed at me. In the trash they'd go....each and every one of them. 

Look, I'm all for local clean-up-the-park days. Same with clean-up-the-roadside days. None of Jehovah's Witnesses will ever speak against such things, unless you count observations that such are, at best, a stop-gap measure, and that the lasting solution will come only when God carries out his promise to “bring to ruin those ruining the earth.” We tend to use our free time to highlight this latter solution, the one that, in the end, counts. My experience is that it's only the tiniest sliver of the population who take part in such cleanups, anyway – it's not as if JWs are thwarting the whole effort. And surely it must count for something that Jehovah's Witnesses aren't among those who caused the mess in the first place.

“This [JW belief that God's Kingdom only can permanently solve earth's environmental woes] leads to the undeniable fact that Witnesses take almost no initiative towards making the world we live in a better place in any way:” someone tries to sell me that line. Hogwash! Not to oversimplify, but if the entire population were Witnesses, there would be no need for efforts to make the world we live in a better place. This, because of the traits which are instilled into each Witness. Law-abiding to the core, honest, working, not abusing government services, not contributing to the criminal element freely operating in most lands, promoting stable, monogamous families – all this by virtue of making Bible principles a way of life. Thus, merely propagating Witness beliefs is a step toward making the world a better place.

Meanwhile, I had to go to Canada (the Globe and Mail, June 19th) to discover that at least half of the leaked gulf oil is being recovered through various means, such as salvage ships that corral surface oil and burn it. It really is true that the U.S. media ignores even qualified good news, preferring to focus only the overwhelming devastation itself, along with who is to blame, and delighting in the President's declaration that he's looking for “asses to kick,” even while insinuating that his own “ass” might be among them, that the oil spill is his Katrina, and so forth. Sigh....that's what we're good at here: kicking asses.

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Tom Irregardless and Me              No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Celeste

Know who made that tub? My sons did,” Mama says. “Know who made that picture?” pointing to a wall hanging. “I made it, I did.” See these walls? My sons made them. See that curtain? Know who made that? I made it, I did.” “Didn't your sons make that television, Mama?” I ask. “No, they didn't. I bought that television at Macy's in New York City.” 

Of course, Celeste's not really my mama, though she thought she was. But then, she thought she was the mama of ever so many people. Yes....here is another story from days at the group home.
 
Celeste had no end of sons. Oddly, she tended to arrange them in groups of fifty, as in the Bible.  Lots of daughters, too, but she emphasized sons. She had fifty sons who were policemen, she'd declare. They carry big guns with them, this long (a gesture about a foot and a half) Mess with them, and they'll crack you right in the jaw! She had another fifty sons who were priests, also sons who were bishops, and a son who was a Pope. Others were firemen. Ah....it's good to have so many sons, she must feel really blessed. “Nah....they're all bastards,” she'd say. “They all have their own wives. They don't come to see their mother. They just think of themselves, they do.”
 
It must be stated at this point that “bastard” was Celeste's word of choice. Everything was a bastard. She'd use the word when angry. She'd use the word when not angry. Her room was filled with objects both animate and inanimate....they're all bastards, she'd chuckle. “That elephant, that there, he keeps looking at me, he does, the bastard,” she'd mutter, and thumb her nose at it. Easing herself into the sit-down tub, she'd curse her own leg. “Get in there, you bastard!” and then “Hah! Called my own leg a bastard!” followed up by a  laugh at the witticism. “Shut up, you bastard!” she'd tell the toilet, and then: “How can it talk? It don't have a mouth.”
 
Now, being wholesome such as I am, I gave serious thought as to whether I should really sprinkle this post with “bastards.” In the end, I decided I would. First, it was Celeste's word, not mine. Second, I can't imagine conveying a feel for the woman without using her vocabulary. Third – trust me on this -  I'm sparing the reader (so far) 90% of what she'd routinely say. Fourth, aren't the real swear words ones like “kill,” “rape,” “war,” as Brother Wease told our brother? “The words I use (a lot....he's the closest Rochester comes to “shock jock”) are just silly words,” he says. To which our guy replied that since they are silly, we try to avoid them, but he didn't disagree with Wease's premise. Fifth, I sometimes wonder if strict avoidance of all course words isn't more a Victorian relic than a biblical one. Read through the Old Testament, and you'll find some earthy accounts. Somehow, I can't picture those OT characters using the sanitized words modern translators ascribe to them. When Elijah taunted no-show Baal, for example, in front of  his worshipers: “And it came about at noon that Elijah began to mock them and say: “Call at the top of your voice, for he is a god; for he must be concerned with a matter, and he has excrement and has to go to the privy,” I somehow can't picture him using that word. Celeste refers to the same substance frequently, and, believe me, she does not say “excrement.” Therefore, for this post only, I am relaxing my normally impeccable standards of fine language. [let the reader be warned]
 
When Celeste was but a young woman, her father gave her in to the latest medical craze – that of lobotomies. For about 15 years, that operation was all the rage in America. Group house lore was somewhat vague on dad's reason, obscured by many decades, but it seems Celeste had borne a couple of children out of wedlock. That didn't sit well with the family, and the operation was deemed a good way to control her behavior.
 
Lobotomies were first performed on humans by Dr. Antonio Egaz Moniz. He won a 1949 Nobel prize for his work. Dr Moniz' technique was to drill two holes on either side of the forehead, through each of which he would insert a special surgical knife to sever the brain's frontal cortex from its thalamus. As might be imagined, the operation was none too precise. However, it was thought to aid psychotic patients afflicted with repetitive thought, and a number of them did find relief. But there were also some who got worse, and others who showed no change, in fact, the results were in just about the same proportions one might obtain by doing nothing.  In time, Dr Moniz would advocate his procedure for only the most extreme and incurable of cases. He retired from medicine after one of his patients shot him, leaving him paralyzed. It's tempting to say it was one of his lobotomized patients, but no...it wasn't. It was a non-lobotomized one. (but did the fellow fear he might be next on the "to-do" list?)
 
 
 
Once you attuned yourself to Celeste's frequency, she was quite enjoyable to talk to. You'd play along, of course, try to enter her world. What was real and what was delusion? Sometimes, she'd claim to have made this knicknack or that contraption, like that wall hanging, other times she might say she'd bought them at Macy's in Baltimore, a store owned by one of her sons. Life had apparently been harsh for Celeste. Any number of people in the past had hit her, even her own sons. They'd hit her hard for no reason at all, but she'd always managed to get them back, one time, for example, by knocking them “down the stairs and breaking both their f**king legs, the big bastards.”
 
Yet in public she could be surprisingly gracious, uninhibitedly complimenting this or that person on their dress or shoes or general appearance, going from person to person, then back to a favorite or two. People loved her. At first I braced myself for the type of invective that she would hurl in a heartbeat back home (“My God! Look at that ass! No wonder - she eats like a hog!”) but there was none of it, as if she was a different person. And if you led her in song ("I wonder if we can get away with singing a song for these people, Mama") such as Unforgettable, you'd find she would join in with perfect pitch, though she'd manage only a line or two undistracted. She used to sing, so she said, on a stage in New York City when she was seven years old. Several people at the last doctor's office waiting room said she'd made their day.
 

They used to come in through the eye sockets, just above the eyeball; American doctors had learned to streamline Moniz's time-consuming European process. And, surely reserving the process for only the most desperate and incurable was too conservative! Insert an ice-pick instrument behind the eye, a light smack of a mallet would pierce thin tissue and bone underneath, and then a quick rotation of the pick end. The knife end would swish like a windshield wiper, severing all in its path. Some experienced doctors, it's said, would faint at the sight. Electroshock sufficed for anesthesia. The entire process could be done in ten minutes. Largely through the near-evangelistic promotion of one American physician, Walter Freeman, (who trained scores of others) lobotomies became accepted therapy for convicted criminals, for discipline cases, for difficult relatives, for those exhibiting otherwise undesirable behavior. Eighteen thousand were performed between 1939 and 1951 in the United States. President John F. Kennedy's sister Rosemary received the operation as a young girl. The mildly retarded girl was going a little “boy-crazy,” much to the well-connected family's embarrassment, so dad took her to Dr Freeman. After the procedure, Rosemary spent the rest of her life institutionalized. Her father never told the rest of the family what he had done. (The case sounds remarkably like that of Celeste, though be assured, they were not the same person; there were many such cases.)
 
The media couldn't get enough of Dr Freeman. When he rolled into town, in his Loboto-Mobile – yes, newspapers actually called it that! - his exploits would make front page headlines. Curing mental distress was as easy, they wrote, as curing a toothache! Magazines such as Time and Life sang his praises, exaggerating his successes, sweeping aside his failures. A showman, he would sometimes do both eyes at once, two-handed lobotomies! He'd line patients up as in an assembly line, once doing 25 women in a single day.
 
 
 
I'd somehow assumed a lobotomized person wouldn't recall the procedure. I was mistaken. “I got a son who's a doctor,” Celeste confided once, “a brain doctor! He did an operation on me, he did, he hurt me real bad, he did. I saw stars from heaven! See....I got two holes in my head. (I leaned forward to feel them....no, mama, I can't feel them anymore. They must have healed up) I was out cold for a week! It hurt like hell, it did. He didn't give a goddamn. It didn't hurt him any!” I asked why he would do something like that. “Well, I did some things when I was a girl,” she muttered sheepishly, “and he didn't like that.”

She had a lot of anger; that was apparent to all. She took it out on her housemates  - “get away from me, you bastard, I'll cut your throat!” - though they'd done nothing to her. (in time, one of them learned to make preemptive strikes) Yet she could unexpectedly change her tune: “Oh, that dress looks very nice on you, Connie.” And her sorrow at learning of someone's death was genuine. Lots of things frightened her, even things she'd made. She feared death, too. “What do you think happens when you die?” the psychologist probed. “Oh, I'll probably go to hell,” she responded. So the psychologist thought she might do well to see a priest, an idea that gained some traction and I went to a nearby church to see what could be arranged, till Celeste herself slammed the door with: “I don't wanna see no f**king priest!” So I told her later, when she likewise expressed concern over hell, that I didn't think there was any such place. "You know what hell is?" she said to me, dead serious. "This is hell, right here." I swear I don't think there was anything wrong with the woman mentally before the lobotomy. Strong-welled, likely. Rebellious, perhaps. But mentally, I bet she was okay. She isn't now, though.
 
You couldn't really pin down details, but there was a theme to her early life. It wasn't a nurturing one. Housemates will shed few tears when she dies, I fear, and one or two will positively rejoice. Was she “born mean,” as she herself would tell you? Was she raised mean? Or did she become mean pondering what  had been done to her. For, at a young age, those she trusted most were duped by the latest medical craze. She was put into their clutches, and they lobotomized her, they did.
 
The bastards.

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)