Saturday, May 14, 2011

Agnotology & The Liars Paradox

I'm (slightly) involved in a discussion at Crooked Timber on agnotology. It is a topic I have discussed here in the past. For the moment, I want to focus on part of what I see is the issue before us - how to deal effectively with those whose ideological position is different from one's own on a basis of mutual respect, even if the disagreement becomes heated.

I recently noted, in a comment at Dan's blog, the following list from Mark (the person who gave this blog its subtitle). It appears in the right-hand side-bar:
Truths About Liberals
1. Always expect the worst from a liberal and you will never be surprised.

2. Never try to reason with a liberal. They disregard any evidence that conflicts with their beliefs.

3. You can always tell what liberals are up to by what they accuse you of doing.

4. Liberals don't debate, they argue.

5. The only standards liberals have are double standards.

6. Liberals feel, conservatives think.

7. Whenever you don't understand a liberal's motives, just look for the money.

8. Liberals cannot be embarrassed. They lack the gene to blush.

9. The Liberal creed is, "Do as I say, not as I do.

10. Liberals get older, but they never get smarter.

11. There are no honest liberals. If they were honest -- especially to themselves -- they would not be liberal.

12. A liberal's business is nobody's business, but everyone's business is a liberal's business.

13. Liberals have an inflated sense of self-worth. They are like house flies that criticize the air-worthiness of a Stealth fighter. (Sarah, Palin, George W. Bush, ad infinitum are morons.)

14. Liberals lack a sixth sense that is standard equipment in conservatives -- common sense.

15. Liberals never stop hating.

16. There are only two types of liberals -- the deceivers and the deceived.

17. Every time liberals get on their high horse, they get bucked off.

18. Liberal programs are so wonderful that they have to be forced on people.

19. Liberals always choke on their own medicine.

20. When given a moral choice, liberals always come down on the wrong side of the fence.

21. The only way liberals can build themselves up is by tearing others down.

22. Liberals not only refuse to admit their mistakes, they refuse to learn from them.

23. Liberals can dish it out, but they can't take it.

24. Liberals are incapable of attacking the message, so they always attack the messenger.

25. Liberal diversity is only skin deep.
I noted in the above-linked comment, that it would be difficult to function even in an ordinary capacity if one truly held these convictions. The reason is simple enough. Taken as a whole, they represent the classic "Liar's Paradox". In its simplest form, it runs like this:
Everything I say is a lie.
I am lying to you.
Essentially, the above list can be boiled down to this logical nonsense. Indeed, if one took it even slightly differently, one could argue that the list claims that liberals are, in fact, conservatives.

All the same, let us assume it is possible to hold these things in one's head and function. What is the result? I get comments such as Edwin Drood's, "Stop pretending to care about the troops . . ." on a post in which I had expressed . . . concern for American forces in Afghanistan. How is it possible for Edwin to make such a claim? Why, he adheres to Mark's idea that our words actually mean the opposite of their literal presentation. A post in support of the troops is in fact an attack upon them. A post criticizing Pres. Obama on this or that or other point - and I have written many over the past couple years - is evidence of blind support for everything Pres. Obama does. The repeated statement that I am a Christian is evidence that I am not a Christian. The list is endless.

In other words, what counts for "evidence" is actually discounted not because of any inherent flaw in the evidence itself. Rather, because I am a self-confessed person of the left, for some at least on the right this is a priori proof that everything that follows is either (a) wrong, or (b) deceitful. Based upon little more than a prior commitment to the belief that liberals are a bunch of immoral, lying scumbags who hate America and want to screw your daughter then force an abortion on her.

Under different circumstances, we should be able to say, "Wow, this is really weird," have a laugh, and talk about something else. Instead, with the Liar's Paradox fully in force, we are faced with the reality that this is impossible.

I think, at this point, we should stop talking about agnotology, and start talking about crazy.

Friday, May 13, 2011

"[T]he scent of failure"

If wishes were horse, beggars would ride, as they said in the generation that learned its magic from Tom Swift and Jules Verne. To know that large numbers of Americans are concerned about getting adequate medical care is one thing; to give them the willies by talking about their "health chairs" is quite another, suggesting not the future but the past, the drone of the small-town autodidact, the garrulous bore in the courthouse square. There is about these dismal reductions something disarming and poignant, a solitary neediness, a dogged determination to shine in public that leads Mr. Gingrich to reveal to us, again and again, what his own interests dictate that we should not see.
Joan Didion, "The Teachings of Speaker Gingrich"
With the announcement that he will no longer wait for a movement to form around him, as he has in years past, but take the initiative and run for President of the United States, Newt Gingrich is bestowing upon political bloggers a great gift.


Joan Didion's portrait-cum-review in the August 10, 1995 edition of NYRB is an important jumping-off point for any consideration of Newt. Lucky for us, the intervening sixteen years have not been Newtless. Blaming liberals for Columbine and the horrific murder of her two young children by Susan Smith, Newt opined on the character of Barack Hussein Obama:
"What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]?" Gingrich asked. "That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior."

"This is a person who is fundamentally out of touch with how the world works, who happened to have played a wonderful con, as a result of which he is now president," Gingrich added.

"I think he worked very hard at being a person who is normal, reasonable, moderate, bipartisan, transparent, accommodating -- none of which was true," Gingrich continues. "In the Alinksy tradition, he was being the person he needed to be in order to achieve the position he needed to achieve. ... He was authentically dishonest."
As happens so often with such pronouncements by those on the right, the most significant, negative character traits all too often redound upon the speaker, or in this case, disgraced former-Speaker.

As Maureen Dowd wrote of Newt last September:
Newt has always displayed an impressive grandiosity. Who can forget the time during his Congressional heyday when he declared himself a “defender of civilization, a teacher of the rules of civilization, arouser of those who form civilization ... and leader ‘possibly’ of the civilizing forces”?

And he who thinks Obama is too messianic said in 1994: “People like me are what stand between us and Auschwitz. I see evil all around me every day.”
I remember quite well, and will be reminding anyone who might be interested in hearing about it.

Somehow, Newt has received the sobriquet "the smartest man in the room", which, I think would refer to whatever room he may occupy alone. His long public record of saying outrageous, untrue, and just downright borderline crazy things reveals a lack of discipline and judgment, not tempered at all by any sense of humility. As Ms. Didion wrote, Newt's is a pose of intellectual depth, a persona used to defend against the slings and arrows of middle-class high school nonsense. It is one thing, for example, to be engaged by Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy as an adolescent. To use it as a touchstone for intellectual and political pursuits reveals someone still yearning for approval that approval of one's peers that all seek during adolescence, and most adults overcome.

That scent of failure, the big "L" on Newt's forehead, has not gone away. I look forward to the coming months as Newt destroys what little public credibility he has left.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Least Of These

I heard most of Terry Gross's interview with Canadian journalist Ian Brown the other night, and was moved by what I heard. It also led to some questions that, in the light of our usually quite stupid, and occasionally cruel, public discussions on matters of public policy, I think need to be confronted.

First, I want to make clear I am addressing this to those "Christians" who would insist that the kind of stuff Jesus was talking about, and the churches that bear his name occasionally teach, doesn't apply to our public life. You know, the kind of folks who think we should rely on charity to help out folks who are down and out because, really, most poor people are poor because it's their own fault; giving them public assistance only pays people to be lazy, right? Why should we create a health-care system that covers everything for everybody, when I'm not gonna use those services? I mean, come on, that's not taxation, that's theft, right? Besides which, all that stuff, even civil rights, it's all unconstitutional anyway, because I should be free to do with my stuff, my business, my time, and my energy and commitments what I want, not have it dictated to me by a bunch of pointy-headed, do-goody bureaucrats.

This is the attitude Walker Brown challenges simply by being alive. Lucky for him he was born in Canada. His father, Ian, says that so far, in his fifteen years of life, his care has cost the nation around $2 million. The home where he has resided for the past six years costs, Brown estimates, $50,000. And it is paid for thanks to Canada's generous social welfare and health care system.

Walker Brown would face a much harsher reality south of the border, as it were. His parents would be hard pressed to afford care. Walker would be uninsurable, so everything would have to be paid for out-of-pocket. There are certainly group homes here in the U.S. of high quality that cost, roughly speaking, the same as the one where Walker now lives. Obviously, one has to earn quite a bit of money in order to send one's child to such a facility. The alternatives are grim for all around.

What kind of society do we want? Do we want to live in a society where we close our ears and eyes to the sounds and sight of people like Walker? Do we insist that, while we certainly sympathize with the Brown family's dilemma, it isn't our problem, and shouldn't be dealt with using our money? There are currently no, or at best few, alternatives for families with children like Walker here in the United States, and an entire segment of the body politic who insist, over and over again, that the cries of the needy, the voices of the silenced, are of no concern to them, nor should they be to the rest of us.

Like Ebeneezer Scrooge who wishes the poor would die to decrease the surplus population, the notion that there exist human beings outside our sphere of concern is morally vicious. Walker Brown, whose life has been and continues to be hard, nevertheless also lives a life of wonder, filling those who love him with joy and awe at all the things they can experience because he is alive, challenges us to ask what kind of a society we wish to have. Do we want one in which people like Walker are of no value, cast aside? Do we turn a deaf ear to the Brown family and their needs, as an undue burden on an already over burdened populace?

Walker is the "least of these" about whom Jesus spoke. We need to remember that.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Seal Of Disapproval

I noted this story yesterday on Facebook.
After years of letting his congregation believe he'd once been a Navy SEAL, a Pennsylvania pastor's tale has come undone.

Last week, The Patriot-News newspaper, based in Harrisburg, reached out to former SEALs living in midstate Pennsylvania, hoping for some local perspective on the U.S. commando operation that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. Rev. Jim Moats, of Newville, obliged, and was featured in a story that ran in Saturday's edition. But it turns out Moats was never a SEAL, and the guilt-ridden pastor went to the paper's office on Sunday to fess up.

"I never was in a class, I never served as an actual SEAL. It was my dream," Moats, 59, who did serve in the Navy from 1970 to 1974, told the paper. "I don't even know if I would have met the qualifications. I never knew what the qualifications were."
My reaction was sympathy tinged with humor. For the better part of the past 24 hours, my initial response has been to laugh at someone stupid and short-sighted enough to believe that such a tall-tale could ever last.

Now, however, I am starting to sympathize with the guy. Not because I used to tell people I was a Navy SEAL, or anything else so ridiculous. I am sympathizing with him because here is a man who, for whatever reasons, was obviously unhappy with his life. Who of us is not? Which person does not have regrets, looks back and wishes this or that or the other thing could be done, or worse, undone? The Rev. Moats obviously desired to be a SEAL, managed to find a piece of SEALiana, and let others believe what they would without ever disabusing them of the idea. Because, apparently, it made him feel . . . what? Successful? Better?

I have to ask, though, what was missing in his life now that would lead him to this series of decisions and choices? He is a father, a pastor of a church, a Navy veteran honorably discharged after four years of service. These are all commendable, accomplishments to be celebrated. While he may feel like he "missed out" on something by not, at the very least, attempting to become a SEAL, why regret it?

Lisa will tell anyone who listens that my biggest gripe and complaint in life is that the stuff I do here on this blog isn't something I do for pay. The time I put in, the effort, the sense of accomplishment when I write something of which I am particularly proud is tinged with frustration at the fact that I am not remunerated, let alone recognized, for it. When I make these complaints, I also come around to the fact that I do this because I love it, because I want to, because I can, and not to do it would be a little like not being me. So what if I'm not on Meet the Press or published in The Washington Post? The guests the former show has on are usually really bad, and the latter publishes Charles Krauthammer. Enough said, I think.

So, I sympathize. All the same, one should take a certain amount of pride in the simple pleasures and daily accomplishments in life - raising a family, being a spouse, keeping a job. These are, by and large, not heroic activities but certainly important at keeping the fabric of our society from fraying.

If you have regrets, or wish to fulfill some cheap fantasies, don't make up stories about yourself. Write novels. Who knows, you might even make money at it.

Random Musical Notes

A friend on Facebook made a marvelous allusion to Rainbow's "Man on the Silver Mountain" as a possible theme song to the Second Coming.

This same FB friend also made me aware of some interesting covers of classic rock songs by a group doing Gregorian chant.


Useful Idiot - Tool
White Car - Yes
914 - Liquid Tension Experiment
Man Of Our Times - Enchant (Genesis Tribute)
Reise, Reise - Rammstein (Live)
Good News, The Chariot's Coming - Mahalia Jackson
Fess Up - Dr. John
Where I Belong - Steve Howe's Remedy
Seagull - Joe Bonamassa
Hopeless - Train

Because Monty Python Day was on FB this week, one of the most honest love songs ever written . . .

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Debt Ceilings, Budget Battles, And Mr. Y

Michael Tomasky's article in the latest edition of the New York Review of Books, on the various budget, tax, and debt issues that surround Washington like a cloud of crap threatening a shit storm makes it clear that, playing the Washington game by the rules as currently set forth creates a no-win situation for anyone, least of all the American people. Going forward in a way that manages all that needs to be managed, not least getting the economy moving again so jobs will be created - a really interesting yet unstated way to bring down the deficit! - requires not only political courage, which is always in short supply, but creative, imaginative thinking, which one might find in a fossil bed at the Smithsonian, but that's about it.

All the same, were President Obama only slightly different in character, only slightly less averse to calling the Republican's bluff, in particular on matters where he has the general if diffuse support of the American people on his side, using the general outlines given in "A National Strategic Narrative" as a guideline would be a good way, in essence, to rip it up and start again, "it" being the entire budget negotiation process with Congress.
Perhaps the most important first step we can take, as part of a National Strategy, is to identity which . . . resources are renewable and sustainable, and which are finite and diminishing. Without doubt, our greatest resource is American's young people, who will shape and execuite the vision needed to take this nation forward into an uncertain future. . . .

Inherent in our children is the innovation, drive, and imagination that have made, and will continue to make, this country great. By investing energy, talent, and dollars now in the education and training of young American - the scientist,s statesmen, industrialists, farmers, investors, educators, clergy, artists, service members, and parents, of tomorrow - we are truly investing in our ability to successfully compete in, and influence, the strategic environment of the future. Our first investment priority, then, is intellectual capital and a sustainable infrastructure of education, health and social service to provide for the continuing development and growth of America's youth.

Our second investment priority is ensuring the nation's sustainable security - on our own soil and wherever Americans and ther interests take them. As has been stated already, Americans view security in the broader context of freedom and peace of mind. Rather than focusing primarily on defense, the security we seek can only be sustained through a whole of nation appraoch to our domestic and foreign policies. This requires a diffeent approach to prblem solving that we have pursued previously and a hard look at the distrubiton of our national treasure For too long, we have underutilized sectors of our government and our citizenry write large, focusing intesnely on defense and proctectionis rather than on development and ciplomomacy. This has been tru ein our approach to domestic and foreign trace, agrictulre and energy, science and techomology, immigration and education, public health and crisis response, Homeland Security and military force posture. Security touches each of these and must be addressed by legeraging all the strengths of our nation, not simply those intended to keep perveived threat a safe arm's length away.

. . . Our third investment priority is to develop a plan for the sustainable access to, cultivation and use of, the natural resources we need to our continued wellbeing, prosperity and economic growth in the world marketplace.
Rather than shred what little remains of the fabric of the social safety net, support for quality education, and defunding the ACA, the first thing that should be done is revisioning education policy and social welfare policy as linked together creating a stable, and one hopes eventually thriving, social infrastructure.

By calling on the service chiefs to draw up white papers on how they see the force structure best responding to the evolving threats over the next fifteen to twenty years (and the death of Osama bin Laden certainly changes the equation of much of our security thinking), it seems to me we might well have a basis for reconsidering the entire way we fund defense. Seeing terrorism as a legal, rather than military, matter would direct resources where they are needed, in particular tracking the flow of money to various groups. Bringing the Department of Justice in to reconsider the whole definition of "terrorist group" in order to direct law-enforcement resources toward those groups that truly pose a threat to the American people (rather than harassing groups that are merely funnels for money that goes overseas) would also be helpful. As would treating political parties such as Fatah, Hamas, Hezbollah, and others as political parties, rather than terrorist organizations.

Finally, by seeing our environment, and our productive, resources as existing on the same continuum, we can make better investment and regulatory choices; rather than, say, give billions of dollars in tax breaks and direct incentives to various corporations - oil and gas, the auto industry, sugar, - incentives should exist for sustainable industries for the future; environmental-friendly agricultural practices, rather than factory farming that damages the land, introduces abundant, dangerous chemicals in to the land, water, and food supply, and distorts the eco-system by demanding we reroute whole rivers, creating potential horrific flood conditions.

All of this could be done, offering an entirely different vision of who we are as a people, where we as a country wish to be in five, ten, twenty years. It would be a direct rebuke to the entire stale, tired, and dead-end back-and-forth over ideas and policies that sound the same today as they did 25 years ago. By starting fresh, at the very least, we have the opportunity to change the entire conversation in directions that are productive and positive.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Among my guilty pleasures is my addiction to the SyFy shows Ghost Hunters and Ghost Hunters International. I really don't want to get in to a discussion over how fake or not-fake the show is or may be. I certainly watch each episode with a grain of salt, and make my own conclusions based upon what I see and hear. I have my doubts about the whole phenomenon of EVPs, which most of the time can be chalked up to matrixing. All the same, I really like Grant and Jason, and ever since they got rid of the losers from the first couple seasons, at the very least they have a professional group, not to mention better looking.

I have a general interest in what could be termed the "paranormal", although I find the term misleading, because it implies that certain events are only partly normal. In any event, I have had some interesting stuff happen to me (and others around me) on a few occasions, both at the house in which I grew up and at my oldest sister's house - the latter being far more interesting than scary - and I am far more intrigued by such things than I am scared. Which doesn't mean I go looking for them, or invite the possibility of such things in to my own house. Far from it.

Yesterday, Lisa and the girls spent Mother's Day at her mother's house, and I was left to my own devices, by and large. I spent some time on YouTube and discovered a channel by someone named Sunshine Girl, which purports to be a video chronicle of the hauntings at the house in which she and her mother live in Oregon. I found some of the stuff interesting, right up until the "creepy lady" from down the street popped up, and the obviously very badly faked ghost images showed up. Then I realized this was a first-attempt by an aspiring young film-maker. I am a little disconcerted by the fact that so many of her viewers continue to believe her insistence that the events she chronicles are "real". Even more am I surprised - although by now I really shouldn't be - at all the chatter about "demons".

It seems to me that demons, whatever else they may be, have far more important things to do than bother pubescent young women. Furthermore, while certainly startling - all that banging on doors and opening and closing doors and such - I have always maintained that should demons exist and spend their time and energy bothering human beings, they could be far more creative. I am quite sure there are earnest and honest believers in such things, and such matters as demonic possession and demonic hauntings and such, but I just can't get behind such nonsense.

How, one can ask, is it possible that I can hold out the possibility of human hauntings but not demonic, each being equally implausible. For me, I guess, the answer is simple enough. Human hauntings make a certain amount of sense. Demonic, not so much. Since I'm not really sold on the existence of such creatures anyway - and please don't even get me started on angels - the whole thing begs all sorts of questions, the answers to which usually make me figure that demons really are quite stupid. Or perhaps bored. Or even both.

In any event, while certainly entertaining on a level with The Blair Witch Project (and slightly better done), the whole Sunshine Girl phenomenon is no more real than A Haunting in Connecticut or Casper. There may well be interesting hauntings going on out there, documented by folks on YouTube, but this just isn't one of them. The number of folks who buy in to her insistence that the events in question are real only proves that there are really dumb, gullible folks out there in the world who are willing to discount all sorts of evidence that is quite plain.

So, I continue to enjoy my guilty pleasures, salt-shaker always close by for those grains. Encountering Sunshine Girl, at least, has convinced me my powers of discernment are not completely shriveled.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Random Momness

Was it March or May, 1974? I can't remember the month, but I had Asian flu. My temperature was above 102 from early on a Tuesday until sometime on Friday when it finally broke. The worst day of all was that Thursday afternoon and evening. How do I know it was a Thursday? It was the night of the music department performance at the high school, and my sisters and brother were all performing. My older sister was a senior and I was really sad that I was going to miss her concert (she played saxophone). My temperature had been climbing all day. By the time the afternoon rolled around and my family was home from school, it was over 105, and even edged to 106 at one point. I kind of remember that odd time, because it was so odd. Being delirious with fever leaves and impression. Aspirin - about all that was around at the time - wasn't bringing the fever down, so my mother did a couple things. She filled the tub with cold water, even adding ice. I was unable to walk, so my father carried me upstairs and lowered me in to the tub. I remember the moment so clearly, even though I was only eight. It was one of sweet relief. I lay there, my mother using a washcloth to rinse cold water over my head. I wasn't in the tub very long, and my mother quickly dried me off and put clean pajamas on me. Dad carried me back downstairs, and my mother sat next to me and spoon fed me ice cream. Instead of water, I had ice chips to suck on.

By the time everyone came home from the concert, my temperature was down to a manageable 102, and I actually felt better. I remember nothing from the next day, because I slept; my fever broke, probably early in the morning, and the wear on my body had been such that I slept until some time on Saturday. My mother tells me she got me up, changed my pajamas again, and the sheets upon which I was sleeping - breaking a fever causes you to flop-sweat, and as high as my temperature had been, there was quite a lot of it, soaking everything - but I really wasn't very conscious through it.

My mother had five children she nursed through various illnesses and wounds, heartaches and troubles, got impatient with over silly little things like how we mopped the kitchen floor, and stood by us when we really goofed up. My mother raised all five of us to be open and accepting of the differences among all kinds of people. One never heard disparaging words in our house about any individual or group (well, except for the Irish, for some reason). We are all, despite all the differences among us as adults, at the very least open and accepting people in large part because we were raised that way.

She attended the University of Dayton during the Second World War. The men who attended this Catholic University (Society of St. Mary) were a hodge-podge of 4Fs, returning vets some wounded, and young Cubans on student visas (Cuba wasn't in the war; the Society had schools in Cuba at the time, and their best students came to UD). She studied chemical engineering, an odd choice indeed for a woman in the early 1940's. She was top in her class. One year, just for the heck of it, she went out for the University archery team, made it, and wound up not just first for her school, but nationally ranked. She said the next year she could barely hit the target and gave it up.

She had a variety of jobs in and around Dayton. She worked for "National Cash", as she called it, which is now known as NCR. She worked for the Huffman Bicycle Company making the fold-up bikes used by troops in the invasion of Italy.

Her most interesting summer job those years, however, was one she couldn't talk about to anyone. I learned details of it many years later, in 1981. My family had decided to go to a Johnston/Roberts family reunion (my mother's side of the family), in part because my mother's Aunt Lydia was going to be there. Also, her oldest brother was flying out from Seattle. On one particular night, we gathered in my Uncle David's house, which was the family homestead on McLean Street in Dayton, OH. The Johnston's are a large brood, noisy, argumentative, and no one beat my Uncle David in these departments. The combination of noise and the crush of people led me to move away from the crowds around the cake to the front sitting room. The light was off in there, but my mother's two oldest brothers, Eugene (known as Junior, the only one in the family with a nickname) and Rowland, were in there talking. I started to leave when Junior insisted I come in and sit down. He and Rowland then spent about ten minutes praising my mother's various virtues. It was a treat, a moment I'll not forget.

Then Junior asked me a question. "Did you know your mother worked on the Manhattan Project?"

Well, I did know, in fact. I told him that she had run a Geiger counter over the clothing the workers discarded at the end of the day. Junior smiled. "That's what she told you, huh?"

I said yes.

"Did she tell you she received a personal citation from President Roosevelt for her work?"


He smiled again.

To this day, my mother insists that was all she did, but that conversation with Junior has always intrigued me. Considering it was classified, and everyone involved was told they could say nothing about the work they did, and were not told what it was about; considering Junior himself as well as David were involved in various military intelligence stuff and from them I've learned that one does not talk about stuff one is ordered to forget, I wonder - what did my mother do for the Manhattan Project that she did so well she got a Presidential citation for it?

Over Christmas, 1991, I was visiting my parents with my then-lady friend. Mom and Dad were sitting in the kitchen, and my lady friend and I were standing there, and Mom told me that a childhood friend of my older sister, a young woman whose name was the first word I ever uttered (says a lot about me, I think), had visited them out of the blue earlier that autumn. This woman was estranged from her parents, had been for nearly two decades by that point in time, but had spent quite a lot of time around us growing up. Mom said that this woman had told her, Mom, that she was always grateful to have the Saffords to come and visit and stay at, eat a meal with or just hang out. She told my mother that she considered her a second mother and was and would be always grateful for all she had done. She told my mother that Mom was a great Mom, always there, always available, willing to admonish any child in her orbit, as a sign of love and affection. Mom teared up while she told us this, and confessed that she had always felt like a terrible mother.

As a parent now, I can say I sympathize with Mom's sentiments. I think most parents feel inadequate, hold their failures before them, wish they had done this, that, or the other differently if at all. All the same, I will write now what I told my mother. Mom, you were more than a great mother. You were a good mother. You weren't perfect, but maybe that's what made you so good. You raised a vibrant, large, difficult brood of children to become productive, successful members of society, encouraging us to be ourselves without ever once insisting we be just like you.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom. For all you've done, for all of us. Thank you for being the kind of Mom you were and continue to be. I love you.

Virtual Tin Cup

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