Extreme Thinkover Comments Require Civil Discourse

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To my dear readers:
From the beginning of Extreme Thinkover, I have set a standard for civil discourse on the blog.  I hold myself to that standard.  See the header for my statement on civil discourse.

In the past few days I received a comment from an individual that appears to fit the description of a “troll.” Trolls or trollers are persons who search the blogosphere for posts or blogsites that they disagree with for political or ideological reasons and then write comments that are usually tirades that often use profane, even lewd language attacking the individual they oppose.

In this case, the comment was a crude, ad hominem attack against the President of United States, as well as myself.

The individual who wrote the comment is a known troll who writes inflammatory comments, not just to individual blogs, but as a prolific far-right-wing spammer.  It is possible that the writer may actually be more than one person, but his style (a male’s name appears as the author of the comment) is quite consistent with other material I have read authored by the guy, so I assume that one person is responsible for the comment..

How do I know this?  WordPress provides its bloggers with a significant amount of information from those who submit comments and replies.  As a result I have access to some of this man’s track record on the Internet.

I have no problem with my readers disagreeing with me.  In fact, in my statement on civil discourse I specifically mention you are welcome to do just that.  I will not, however, approve comments or replies that violate that standard.

West Coast Universe

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The pursuit of life, liberty, and liberality…

Hello there from the West Coast Universe.*  This summer I’ve been blogging using the occasional series I’ve called “Hospital Food for the Mind,” which was based on the simple idea that I was writing short pieces during lunch from the dining room of the hospital where I work**.

It has long been recognized by all sorts of -ologists that regionalisms run deep in the cultural genetic structure of the country.  In the years since the National Media began using the Red State/Blue State concept for their political and election broadcasts, the visual impact of those disparities have been accentuated.  Added to that, the recent constant media chatter about “The Beltway” referring to the “alternate reality” of Congress and the Administration inside the Beltway highway ringing Washington, DC, the term kept popping into my mind. The more I thought about it the more I liked it and I decided to try it out in place of Hospital Food (admittedly, which still gets a bad rap even though my hospital has a classically trained chef running the kitchen).

I had to have a more evolved operational definition for WCU (see, it shortens nicely, too). After giving that some consideration I came up with the tag line: The pursuit of life, liberty, and liberality.

Yes, it’s a twist on the phrase from the Declaration of Independence: “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  I want to convey, however, a new twist, a XTO twist, so to speak, with a not so subtle reference to being liberal.  In many parts of the country, being labeled a Liberal is the equivalent of being labeled a dirty pinko commie (the fact dirty pinko commies no longer exist is largely irrelevant to those who do the labeling.  They know one when they see one).

I chose the term “liberality.” For one thing, it conveys a different sense of what being liberal is.  Those who find it necessary to sneer when they are forced to say the word out-loud will have to really work at extending that to liberality.  And for those who religious beliefs are welded to modern fundamentalist conservatism, they will be faced with the discomforting fact that the very concept of liberality is rooted deeply in biblical theology.

The Hebrew prophets, Jesus Christ, and the Apostles of his Gospel made it clear: liberality toward the care of our neighbors is the highest calling set out by God.  There is not, I assert, even one prohibition in scripture for the role of government—a government of, by, and for the people in particular—to care for those very people and for the taxes of those people to be used to provide that very care (in the sense of loving one’s neighbor as oneself).

To those who think they can challenge my knowledge of the Bible in this regard, let them try.

So, I’m offering my thoughts from here in the West Coast Universe, a place where those who are progressive and liberal in their politics live and thrive.  It is a land of patriots who are proud to be Americans without apology or compromise, unbowed by the radical Right.

We see our Inalienable Rights as the pursuit of life, liberty and liberality.  That’s the essence of the West Coast Universe, at least here at Extreme Thinkover.

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*I can’t take any credit for coining the term “West Coast Universe.”  A Google search came up with just over 260 hits of the phrase used in one form or another from a variety of sources around the world.  I can offer the disclaimer that my use is not affiliated with anyone else’s and is solely for the purpose of commentary on Extreme Thinkover and under fair use not intended as an infringement on any copyright or trademark.

**The SMS policy of my hospital prohibits naming it unless I provide a disclaimer on every single thing I write as being my opinion and not necessarily theirs.  Since I find this policy ludicrous and an infringement on my 1st Amendment Right to free speech, I refuse to list the organization by name in any of my online sites.  It’s their loss, really.  I like the organization otherwise, and would write all sorts of nice things about it.

Five Books +Plus One: What’s On Your List?

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I recently discovered The Browser, a literary website with the tag line, “Writing Worth Reading,” which has a feature called “FiveBooks.”  I found it a brilliant and straightforward idea.  They invite experts from a wide variety of fields to be interviewed on the five books that influenced them most in their professional development.  What I found particularly engaging is that the books listed by those individuals are by no means limited to their profession or field of study. Often, the person being interviewed would place a book read during adolescence as seminal in his or her direction in life.

While I was reading the interview that led me to “FiveBooks” to begin with, I kept thinking that we who are not world renown experts would have lists that are just as interesting, because the stories coming out of the impact of the books in our lives is just as compelling.

Here’s my idea, then:  I invite you, my readers, to submit your list of books that had a profound influence on your life and the reasons for that, not solely professionally, but from a much broader perspective of the development of who you are as an individual.  How to do that?  I explain below.

Giving The Browser full credit for their “FiveBooks” idea, I came up with a twist to make it distinctive: Five Books +Plus One.  Don’t think this, though, is just a play for a list of six books.  The twist is to choose the book for the “+Plus One” that far outweighs the influence of the others, a magnum opus, so to speak, from which you have essentially and existentially organized your life.  Makes it not quite so simple, doesn’t it?

I’m working on my list.  I can tell you already, it isn’t as easy as it sounds.  But I also think we need to have some basic rules.

Update 28 June: I’ve got the first draft of my list.  I’ve got to think about it for another couple of days before I finalize it and write up my post.

Although I wish I could extend an invitation to anyone who might read this post to send me her or his list and have it published as a guest author on Extreme Thinkover, the nature of the blogosphere today requires a more prudent approach.  So, I’ve decided to set up eligibility criteria and some easy to follow ground rules:

Eligibility:

  1. Any reader can submit a list as a Comment (see the Rules below, please).  Those comments will be approved using the same criteria for civil discourse that I use for all Extreme Thinkover comments.  But: See #3!
  2. Extreme Thinkover subscribers, and my Facebook and “The Intersection” friends can submit their list as a comment, or email me at Extreme Thinkover (click on the “Contact me” link just under the header) if you would like to be featured as a guest author–Which I really hope that you’ll do!
  3. If you fit into #1 above, and you’d like me to consider posting your list as a guest author, write me at Extreme Thinkover (click on the “Contact Me” link above) and we can talk about it.  I’m always interested in meeting new folks.

The Rules–So We Have Apples-to-Apples Lists:

  1. Each book on your list has to be one that you’ve actually read.  The whole thing.  Kindle and other electronic reader versions are permitted.
  2. Works from any historical period are allowed, as are works of poetry, and religious texts.  Excerpts from historical works are not acceptable.  And for the sake of continuity, the Christian Bible or Jewish Bible are both considered one book in their entirety, though they are compilations of individual “books” and letters. The same standard will apply to other religious texts, as well.
  3. One book from a published trilogy or series is allowed.
  4. Graphic novels that are original works are allowed.  Graphic novels that are taken from a published print work are not; again, the idea is to have read the book.
  5. Musicals, opera, masses, and other musical pieces are not allowed.  It’s a great idea, but for this invitation the focus is on the printed word.
  6. “Cliff Notes” or “I saw the movie” rationalizations are not allowed.  This goes especially for those who might put Star Wars or the Lord of the Rings Trilogy (and the like) on their list.  If you haven’t read the published book, you can’t put it on your list.  I will, however, make the smallest exception for Star Wars Episodes 4-6.  It was difficult to find the novelization of those movies in the early years, but the screen plays were published.  So, if you’ve read the screen play for any of those specific episodes, I’ll allow that.

How we’ll get your list ready to publish:

  1. Reading is one thing, but part of the fun of blogging is doing some writing yourself.  For each of your five books, write between 100 and 300 words about the influence of that work on your life.  For your “plus one” book, feel free to write up to 500 words on its singular impact on who you are.  I put the word limits on for two reasons.  One, you’ll have a clear idea what length to make your comments, and two, it requires you to be disciplined in your writing (a most important skill to learn for effective writing) and not ramble on for page after page.
  2. If you don’t feel confident in your writing skills, I will be more than happy to help you edit and fine-tune the commentary for your list of books.
  3. No deadline.  I see “Five Books Plus One” as a continuing series over the coming months.  And you may have yours ready before I do, so I’m not going to hold off publishing someone else’s list before mine.

Come On! Take a Risk and Send Me Your List!

It will give you something unique to do rather than watching the summer reruns on TV.  But more importantly, as I said above, the books on your list and the story of how those books influenced you as a person is a compelling narrative.  No life is really ordinary because every life is unique.  That’s what I think makes your “Five Books +Plus One” list as important as any “expert’s.”

One caveat.  I have to reserve the right to decline to publish a given list and/or comments that do not meet the standards for civil discourse on Extreme Thinkover, or does not meet the rules as outlined above.