Saturday, May 28, 2022

Stepping up to the plate

Two forceful and anguished statements in the wake of yet another mass shooting indicate that the stereotypical image of the American professional baseball player is seriously out of date or simply wrong. First, Nationals pitcher Sean Doolittle:
It just feels like we’ve reached a point where if not now, when? We should have done something after Sandy Hook; we should have done something after Vegas; we should have done something after Pittsburgh; I mean, you can go down the list. We should have done something after Virginia Tech. How far back do you want to go? And then the conversation inevitably always changes to mental health or bulletproof backpacks. We’re talking about ballistic blankets. We’re talking about renovating schools so there is only one entrance and one exit. We’re talking about arming teachers.

You’re describing a prison, and you’re bargaining and negotiating with people’s lives instead of just addressing the common denominator in every single one of these issues. It’s really frustrating, and I would like to think that in this country we’re capable of some common-sense reforms that a majority of Americans support that don’t infringe on your Second Amendment rights ... Who am I? I’m on the injured list. I’m a middle reliever on a team that unfortunately is in last place right now ... But we’re still members of societies and our communities, and there are people who look up to us as athletes, who listen to what we have to say as athletes.

And I think if you could start some of these conversations, or you can participate in some of these conversations and maybe get people to listen or put pressure on elected officials to do something, the reality is that you have a little bit more sway than the average person. And when it comes to making changes in your community, you can help move the needle on any number of issues that are important to you.

Perhaps even more remarkably, San Francisco Giants manager (and former player) Gabe Kapler, on why he won't be coming out of the dugout during the playing of the national anthem:
I’m often struck before our games by the lack of delivery of the promise of what our national anthem represents ... We stand in honor of a country where we elect representatives to serve us, to thoughtfully consider and enact legislation that protects the interests of all the people in this country and to move this country forward towards the vision of the "shining city on the hill." But instead, we thoughtlessly link our moment of silence and grief with the equally thoughtless display of celebration for a country that refuses to take up the concept of controlling the sale of weapons used nearly exclusively for the mass slaughter of human beings.

We have our moment (over and over), and then we move on without demanding real change from the people we empower to make these changes. We stand, we bow our heads, and the people in power leave on recess, celebrating their own patriotism at every turn.


Saturday, May 14, 2022

Turtle Diary

Two days, two eastern box turtles. This mostly terrestrial chelonian, considered a "species of special concern," is widespread in our area but probably not all that common numerically. I see maybe one a year, often in more or less the same spots. The empty shell above may be the remains of one I saw on two occasions a few years ago. It appears to have succumbed to a predator strong enough to pierce its armor. No such grim fate as yet for the red-eyed male below, which I observed when he was, improbably, in the process of climbing over a stone wall. I kept my distance and he held his ground.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Nobody's business

That the Supreme Court is poised to overturn settled law and reverse the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade should surprise no one, given the steady rightward drift of the court, but it should appall anyone who cares about fundamental human rights.

I'll state my bias: human beings don't procreate spiritually, we procreate as bodies. We are no different in this regard from other animals, and anyone who thinks differently has a lot of special pleading to do. There is, therefore, no more basic level of individual rights than that which pertains to the body and to reproduction. The recognition of those rights, in the face of determined opposition, has been one of the most important advances of modern society. It is, paradoxically, the defense of the fundamental dignity of the physical, of our nature as animals, that defines us as modern human beings.

To deny a woman the right to control her reproduction is as outrageous an affront to human dignity as can be imagined. We pride ourselves — rightly — on the declared principles of freedom of speech and the free exercise of religion, but what is more intrusive, forcing others to keep their thoughts and beliefs to themselves, or telling a woman that even her own body is not hers to control? Defenders of abortion rights often point out — rightly — that it would be unthinkable and cruel to force a rape victim to carry her rapist's child to term, but that argument, legitimate as it is, is ultimately superfluous. It is for women to decide under what circumstances they are willing to bear a child. And it's no one else's business.

Roe v. Wade established a reasoned balance, informed by medical science, between the interests of society and a woman's rights. That balance has been steadily undermined by legislation and previous court decisions, but the essential principle underlying it has been preserved — until now. There is little short-term prospect, given the nature and dire condition of or political system, that the overturning of Roe can itself be undone. The damage will be profound, both to women and to American democracy.

It has to be understood that those who would deny a women's right to decide when or whether to have a child, and who more generally reject the whole idea of a right to privacy, don't really believe that human beings have inherent, independent rights at all. They recognize only power and its privilege to compel those who are subject to it. The fact that the right to abortion has long been acknowledged and supported by a majority of Americans will count for little. I have no doubt that reversal will be robustly cheered in the states that will be lining up to enact restricive legislation and competing to see how extreme that legislation can be made.

This country has been morally problematic from its inception, but it's hard to see how it will survive in any real sense. Even before this decision, we have come as close to fascism as we have ever been, and the danger has in no way receded.

Thursday, May 05, 2022

Owl report

A few years ago I had a good run of luck with owl sightings, but last year there were none at all and I hadn't seen any this year until now. Two days ago when I was walking the dog I heard the telltale whistle-hiss of a barred owl in an area where I'd seem them many times in the past. I couldn't get a definite visual on it and didn't have my camera with me, but I made note of the place so I could return. Yesterday it rained but this morning I headed for the same spot, with camera this time but sans dog.

On my way out I thought I heard the same hissing sound but it was too faint for me to be sure; on the way back, though, there was no mistaking it. I walked off the trail a few yards in that direction until I located the owl high up in a very tall tulip poplar. I wasn't close enough to see it well, but since I didn't want to spook it I let my camera zoom in and do the looking. After a few minutes I moved to a slightly different angle, then started to walk away. A single distinct "hoot" from nearby stopped me in my tracks. I looked up: a large adult owl was perched, by itself, in another large tree about fifty yards from the first, keeping a wary eye on me. I took some pictures and headed home.

I thought there might have been a second owl in the first tree, but couldn't tell for sure. It was only when I downloaded the images that I realized that there were no less than four, probably all juveniles. (One is largely concealed behind a limb in the shot below.) Had I known they were there, I would have made a better job of getting them all in the frame.
The Norway maple and tulip poplar leaves are coming out this week; the other trees are a bit behind. I'll give the owls a week's worth of privacy before I check in on them again, but by then I suspect they'll be harder to spot. Still, it's good to know that this family is thriving.