Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Así es la vida, triste y...

In our back yard, December 21, 2013
1. Immigration reform.  I have mixed feelings about the proposals in Congress for "immigration reform."  On one hand, the United States has always been a refuge, and a land of opportunity, where the "huddled masses" of other countries could come to make a better life.  But on the other hand, rewarding the millions of aliens who have come here illegally, or who have over-stayed temporary visas, by effectively granting them amnesty -- not to mention the public benefits they already consume -- can't help but encourage millions more to jump the line. No country worth living in can afford to have open borders (or the functional equivalent thereof).  I'm not against an amnesty bill, per se, but it's insanity to put such a law into effect without also providing for more-effective border enforcement.  It's like paying a huge ransom to kidnappers without taking any measures whatsoever to prevent future abductions.  (And, meanwhile, the legal immigration process is fraught with bureaucratic nonsense, even for those who clearly bring valuable skills and trades.)  The weirdest thing about the whole "immigration reform" concept is the alliance it forms between Democrats, who love all the new constituents that illegal immigration brings, and the rich, who love the resulting cheap, abundant source of labor.  As usual, the middle class loses coming and going.

2. Homosexuality and the LDS Church.  I wrote several years back on the effect, over time, that massive socio-legal pressure might have on the LDS Church as regards homosexuality.  Notwithstanding my testimony of the church and the eternal nature of Gospel principles, I even speculated that the church might someday fully encompass homosexuality -- the tendency and the practice -- doctrinally.  Most members would still regard that notion as unthinkable, but a couple of glaring-if-subtle changes have taken place already.  One, whereas church leaders traditionally taught that "no one is born that way," it now seems to be commonly accepted in the church that same-sex attraction is, or at least can be, an innate characteristic.  The church still teaches that it's a sin to act on homosexual feelings, but the simple acknowledgement that a same-sex orientation may be beyond a person's control was itself a leap.  And, two, the Boy Scouts of America, with which the church has been strongly affiliated for over 100 years, recently modified its policies somewhat concerning openly gay boys (if not leaders), and the church has stated it will abide by the new policy, at least insofar as such boys aren't sexually active.  (It's certainly understandable not to have gay scout leaders, in the church or elsewhere -- for the same reason one wouldn't expect to see heterosexual men called to leadership positions in young women's organizations.)  It isn't quite clear how practicable it will be to integrate a kid with a confessedly gay orientation into an LDS scout troop -- especially in light of how our troops closely align with Aaronic Priesthood quorums in the sponsoring wards -- but it says a lot that the church didn't immediately jettison scouting as an integral part of its young men's program, as it probably would have done ten years ago.  It could be that the church is merely trying to make certain concessions now so as not to be perceived as complete bigots later -- good luck with that -- but I'm not totally convinced that the recent "movement" doesn't portend further changes...we'll see.  Despite my rapidly disappearing "homophobia" (a term I still don't particularly like, in the same way I don't care for "anti-choice" as a made-up pejorative for "pro-life"), I still think the LDS Church would create great disillusionment, and render itself almost completely irrelevant, with a major doctrinal shift on homosexuality.  (I read somewhere one time that the Community of Christ [the ex-Reorganized LDS Church], lost fully one-third of its active membership in one fell swoop when it started ordaining women to the priesthood.  I doubt the mass exodus bespoke gender bias in any real sense; at some point any religious society loses its claim to authority that changes its doctrine, or its practices arising therefrom, to suit changing times.)  

Is there a logical disconnect between my full support of (and great relief at) the 1978 policy change that extended the priesthood and temple ordinances to persons of black African descent, on one hand, and my feeling that the church would engender an overwhelming level of disillusionment in its membership if it made a similar move to encompass same-gender relationships, on the other?  From a purely "civil rights" perspective, perhaps there is such a disconnect, although a clear scriptural basis exists for the belief that homosexual practices are sinful (whereas there was no such basis for the church's erstwhile color bar).  At least for the time being, the acceptance of homosexual relationships remains all but inconceivable in any sort of Mormon context.

(I'm reminded of something I read on the Internet one time.  Reportedly, during the "Nauvoo" period of church history, there was some kind of "sealing" ordinance in which men in the LDS Church could have themselves "sealed" to another man, typically Joseph Smith.  Assuming the ordinance really did exist -- it certainly isn't performed now -- one assumes it wasn't meant to establish a "marital" relationship, but rather to create some kind of "noble" lineage or pact of fellowship.  Nonetheless, I can imagine...vaguely...a situation in which that ordinance is dusted off and presented as a historical precedent for same-gender temple sealings [i.e., marriages].)

[Update 2/18/14: I've sought more information about the "sealing" ordinance described above, and this Wikipedia entry provides a lot of detail, including the fact that it apparently continued well into the 1890s.  The practice arose from what was known as "the Law of Adoption," which seems truly bizarre in a modern-Mormon context, although my great-great-grandfather William Decatur Kartchner mentioned it in his memoirs upon describing Brigham Young's recounting a vision or dream he had of Joseph Smith after the latter's death.  (Note that many think Brigham had more to do with the "adoption" ordinance than did Joseph.  Note also that Affirmation, an organization of dissident gay Mormons, has reportedly been citing the old "adoption" ordinance for forty-plus years as justification for same-gender temple sealings.)]

3. Aliexpress.  I've recently been buying a few things on Aliexpress.com, which is sort of like the Chinese Amazon.com.  So far, I've only bought soccer shirts/shorts and electronic parts, but the items I've purchased have been bargains.  I've even found Adidas shorts -- or, more likely, knock-off Adidas shorts -- in sky-blue (Olympique de Marseilles) and brown (Bayern Munich), the two colors I could never seem to find on eBay or elsewhere.  (The downside is that "extra large" in China, generally the largest size available on Aliexpress, seems to be equivalent to something between "medium" and "large" in the U.S.)  For a time, I was sorely tempted to buy on Aliexpress what I knew would be a counterfeit Paul Reed Smith (PRS) electric guitar; however, after watching a number of Youtube videos on the subject of knock-off Chinese guitars, it became clear that any such guitar would, at the very least, be a "project" for which I didn't have the necessary knowledge or skills.  (I'd like to be able to say I had qualms about the morality of buying a fake "brand-name" guitar, but unfortunately that was only a secondary consideration.)  I do own a Chinese Epiphone Les Paul, which is a nice guitar; however, one cannot be assured of any real quality control in cheap counterfeit guitars -- the operative words in that phrase being "cheap" and "counterfeit."

4. Sports.  I look back on my youth and young-adulthood and wonder at how much playing sports meant to me then, and how little it means to me now.  Of course, age and illness would eventually have ended my participation in softball, basketball, and volleyball, anyway, but, past a certain point in time, I not only didn't miss playing but came to be indifferent to ever having played.  I sort of pushed Heidi, and especially Devery, to play soccer when they were young, but when Darren and Kiley decided early on that they didn't like sports (instead becoming more immersed in music), I couldn't really have cared less.  I still like physical exertion -- hence my running a lot at the gym on treadmills -- and I think athletic competition isn't a bad thing in most instances, but in the end sports (especially church sports) left me with very little even in the way of good memories.

5. Pre-Christmas family photo.  Our son-in-law Sam took the attached photograph of our entire family on December 21, 2014 in our back yard.  (He later used Photoshop to take out some of the background [i.e., my old basketball hoop] and to fix a couple of faces, but everyone was pleased with the result.)  It turned out there was approximately a two-hour window that morning in which we could get all our kids, their spouses, and the grandkids together for a photo shoot.  Darren, Cait, and Nicole were down from Utah, but Devery, Easton, and their kids were headed out later that day for Tucson to spend Christmas with Easton's family.  (Darren and Cait left for Taiwan on December 24th, so they weren't here for Christmas, either.)  Boy, has our family grown!

[Update 2/12/14: Here's a clip from the Cheech Marin film Born in East LA that's both funny and tragically ironic. What it doesn't underscore is the conditions in the home countries of "undocumented workers" that would cause them to go to almost any length to leave.]