Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics, and now Trump

•January 26, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Politicians lie.  Democrats, Republican, Independents, Tea Party, Libertarians, they ALL lie.  Everyone knows it. It’s been a running joke for as long as people have been governed.

Donald Trump and his gang take it to a whole new level.

That, in itself, is not such a big problem; most news outlets leap on every lie that dribbles out of these people and quickly expose the falsehood.  The problem is, Trump’s supporters choose to believe his lies, automatically label any dissent as bogus, and stare blindly at ‘facts’ which they claim have been manufactured by the media! Under other circumstances, I’d be perfectly willing to let these people stew in their fantasy worlds – but they’re running the country now, and their fantasies are intruding on our reality!

The thing is this:  Democracy depends on discussion – and there’s no discussion with these people!  When one side labels everything that comes out of the mouths of the other side as a lie, fake-news, or propaganda, discussion devolves into “I’m right, you’re wrong, and that’s that!”

We’ve been heading this way for a while now. The GOP leadership are all wealthy, but they cultivate followers who are poor, ill-educated, and disinclined to accept any opinion but their own.  They believe in religious freedom – for Christians.  They believe in the science that makes their TVs work, but not evolution, and, increasingly, not in vaccines. They believe in free-trade – which they define as “Other countries can buy our goods, but we won’t be buying theirs!”  They’d be outraged if anyone told them they couldn’t marry as they see fit – and refuse to tolerate same-sex marriage.  They raged against Obama-care, spent 8 years obstructing the government in protest of it – and now say they really just want to improve  it.  They think they can just ignore China, let Japan take care of themselves, ignore Russia’s intervention in Syria, and completely forget that they started a war (under false pretenses) and sixteen years later, Americans are still being killed, because they never bothered to say what constituted victory – and, obviously, America can never accept defeat!

That last bit is perhaps the most frightening.

I’m a former military officer. US Military doctrine is defined in Joint Publication 1: Doctrine for the Armed Forces of the United States. That document defines how we go about conducting war.  It says, among other things, that every military operation should have a clearly defined goal – a mission.  It’s what you tell the privates they’re fighting for. It defines how you know you’ve won. It defines when the fighting – and dying – should stop.

George W. Bush committed us to a war that had no mission. Americans were pissed about 9/11 and we all wanted revenge.  I’m sure he wanted revenge, too – but revenge is only a mission if you intend to totally annihilate the other side.  Annihilation can only be achieved if you can clearly define who your enemy is.

Viet Nam taught us what it was like when you couldn’t tell the enemy from the people you were defending.  Bush ignored that, and committed us to battle in a region where no one wears a uniform, and everyone carries a gun. That particular region was previously invaded by the full might of the Red Army – and a few CIA operatives taught the inhabitants how to defeat a modern army!  The Russians were there for ten years, before finally accepting that they couldn’t be successful.

Bush ignored that as well. We’ve been there sixteen years.

The pretext for invading Iraq was the claim that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.    UN weapons inspectors in Iraq had already reported that there were none. Bush ignored this and committed us to an invasion. They found no WMDs – but, “Hey, we found Saddam!”

4,424 of our soldiers died for that. 31,952 of our soldiers were wounded in action to achieve that.

Desert Storm, under Bush’s father, had totally destroyed the Iraqi military, and most of it’s infrastructure.  Storming’ Norman wisely stopped short of entering Baghdad, and Bush senior wisely refrained from ordering him to take the city, because both knew that what had been a largely bloodless campaign would become a bloody nightmare in that city. All our advantages would be nullified there. The enemy, dressed just like the inhabitants, could not be identified until they opened fire – and in an urban environment, it’s just plain suicide to concede the first shot to the enemy!  More importantly, there was no need to take the city – Desert Storm did have a well-defined mission:  drive the Iraqis out of Kuwait, and destroy their ability to wage war.  Both of those objectives had been met.

Bush senior had, at one time, been Director of Central Intelligence.  He knew the value of knowing the facts, the wisdom of learning the lessons of the past, the foolishness of wishful thinking, and the value of American lives. Bush junior, ignored all of that.

“But, hey, we got Saddam!”

Then Afghanistan. 2,386 US soldiers killed. 20,049 wounded in action. 1,173, US civilian contractors killed. Sixteen years of warfare. Widespread PTSD in returning vets. The VA, utterly unable to deal with the sheer numbers of vets who needed help.

“But, hey, we got Bin Ladin!”

Obama recovered the economy that Bush junior wrecked.  Trump’s insistence on pulling out of our trade agreements threatens to reverse that. His insistence that he’ll build a wall on the Mexican border – and make Mexico finance it – has pissed off Mexico, and the Mexican President. His insistence of pulling out of NAFTA threatens to damage not just the American economy, but those of Canada and Mexico as well.

During interviews soon after the election, he was asked “how will Americans know their economy is better?”  his reply was “I’ll tell them!

 

Safe?

•January 4, 2017 • Leave a Comment

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I think I must have missed something.

At some point in the past couple of years – no doubt when I was so utterly self-absorbed that I stopped paying attention to the rest of the world – someone came up with the idea of a ‘Safe Space’.

Apparently this is a thing on university campuses (like the one where I work.)  A ‘Safe Space’ is supposedly a place where negative comments toward sexual identities are not tolerated. A place where no one’s ideas, opinions, beliefs, attitudes, or convictions should be challenged. In effect, a place where debate, education, and questioning are forbidden.

Look, I can understand declaring a place where taunting, uncivil, mocking, and bullying behaviors are considered unacceptable … but there are 3 big problems with this idea:

  1. Taunting, uncivil, mocking, and bullying behaviors should be considered unacceptable  everywhere! 
  2. In many cases, ‘Safe Places’ have begun to be declared as places where there’s no conversation, no disagreement, no questioning, allowed … in effect, it’s ok to have opinions, provided they’re substantially the same opinions as those held by the people whom the space has been declared ‘Safe’ for.
  3. While people should feel free to consider their sexuality as they see fit, declaring a place where no one disagrees ultimately does a disservice to the cause of achieving societal acceptance of all sexual identities.

In consideration of point 1), take a close look at what’s really being stated:  if this place is declared to be ‘Safe’ from incivility and bullying, the tacit assumption is that it’s considered normal and acceptable for everywhere else to be ‘Un-Safe’!

When it comes to point 2), the idea that other opinions – or at least the expression of other opinions – is outlawed, just claws at my soul! The First Amendment guarantees our Freedom of Expression – the very same Freedom of Expression which forms the basis of the argument that one person’s sexuality is no-one else’s damned business!  If you stand up for your right to express your sexuality, you are also standing up to someone else’s right to express opinions in opposition to that!  That’s entirely apart from the idea that it’s ok to determine what people are allowed to think, feel, or express in a given space – the term I’m trying hard to avoid is ‘Mind Control’!

Finally, let’s consider point 3) – and let’s use race relations as a comparison:  the idea of the Civil Rights Movement was that black people should have precisely the same rights as white people – not ‘Separate but Equal’:  the Supreme Court, in a series of major decisions, beginning with Brown v. Board of Education, basically ruled that Separation inherently prevented Equality!  When you declare this space as ‘safe’ for diverse sexual identities, you are, in effect, declaring that you don’t expect the same rights as people in all those other spaces.  Instead of insisting that your rights be honored identically to the rights of heterosexuals, you’re basically saying “well, we don’t like their attitudes – but as long as they respect this space, we’re ok with it …”

There’s a final point:  the implication that we aren’t equal to the debate – that we need to be able to cower behind the walls of a ‘Safe Space’, rather than forcing bullies, the ignorant, the intolerant, and the fanatics, to respect our rights.  I don’t identify with any of the sexual identities listed as ‘Safe in this Space’ – and I shouldn’t have to! My rights ought to be no different from the rights accorded to any of those other identities – and letting the intolerant get away with this bullshit cuts into my rights just as much as it cuts into yours! If they’re allowed to decide who gets rights, and who doesn’t, what’s to say they won’t, at some point, decide that I shouldn’t have the full rights of any citizen?

Instead of hemming yourselves up in ‘Safe Spaces’, maybe the idea ought to be to make the whole planet unfriendly to ignorant assholes!

Life as I see it

•December 5, 2016 • Leave a Comment

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I don’t really have a lot of subscribers – and the ones I do have don’t tend to comment, or post likes or dislikes.  It probably means I’m a lukewarm writer at best.  One person, though, seems to have read a lot of my posts and approved at least some of them … I’ve been to her site and she seems to be be dealing with a lot of the same issues that people around me are dealing with (my own issues are pretty weird, in comparison – probably because I’m a pretty weird person, while she seems to be a more normal, if very sensitive person.)

I don’t know if she’ll approve, but I wanted to recommend her blog, the content of which may be somewhat evident from its name:

https://beinghertheotherwoman.wordpress.com

I haven’t read it all, but the blog deals with the consequences of love in modern America – and how something as pure and simple as love can get tangled in the expectations of society, the realities of economics, and the absolute contrariness of human beings. In response to a “like” she posted reading one of my posts, I wrote her a letter, which I’d like to share with you all.

“I don’t really know what to call you … from time to time, WordPress tells me you like one article or another of my blog, https://dourscot.wordpress.com … I appreciate your appreciation, and wish there was some way I could ease your obvious pain!  I haven’t read through your whole blog, yet:  my own problems make it difficult for me to read through sad issues.  I’ve decided I NEED to read it though, because you seem like someone I’d like to know more about!

I hate that you’re in pain. Really. And I love that you’re in pain. Really.  The reason? Only the dead are without pain – and yours marks you as alive in ways that most people simply cannot comprehend!
Many, if not most, people go through their days like zombies … they just go through the motions. Their pains amount to “damn I got a traffic ticket!” “Here comes another fight with that bastard I married!”  Despite all this, they see no need to change … they see this as the normal fate of human beings! “That’s life.” they say, and shrug.
Ask them about true love, and they’ll claim, cynically, that either it’s a manufactured artifact of Hollywood, or is so rare you can go your whole life without meeting a couple like that.
So they don’t look.  They assume that everyone’s life is shit, so why even try for anything better? There is a certain practicality among men:  they assume that if something can’t be attained, there’s no point even considering it. Women, on the other hand, are creatures of hope:  they may not believe Prince Charming is coming for them, but somewhere, in the deepest recesses of their hearts, the hope he will!
Someone who understands. Someone who cares. Someone who can stand between you and the dark. Someone designed specifically to meet your needs, and make you happy …
My own outlook is very feminine. I believe somewhere deep in my heart that I have a soulmate!  She’s out there! Just waiting for that magic moment when we’ll recognize one another from across a room. My awkwardness with women will fall away, I’ll achieve a boldness I’ve never felt in my life. I’ll head straight for her, introduce myself, declare that I’ve never seen eyes like hers, that I felt an immediate attraction, and that she absolutely MUST let me have the next dance!
Later in the evening, I’ll probably demand to know where the hell she’s been all my life and doesn’t she have ANY idea what I’ve suffered waiting for her?!?!
Things will likely devolve from there.
There isn’t a perfect existence:  we aren’t born perfect, we don’t attain perfection, so how can there be? We can, however do two things:  notice the patterns around us, and choose paths that will lead us out of misery!  There are a few rules, that might help. You’re going to hate hearing them, but here they are:
*  Selfish, self-centered people DON’T CHANGE. NOT EVER. NO MATTER HOW MUCH LOVE YOU POUR INTO THEM!
People who are that convinced that they are at the center of the universe don’t see any REASON to change.  It’s the WORLD that owes them! The WORLD that ought to mold itself to make their lives better. Husband, wife, whatever – that person’s only love is himself (I use the male pronoun because this is almost always a man.) Such a person WILL NEVER return your love – and pouring your love into him is pouring it into a black hole!
*  Such people can seldom hold a job.
They have a sense of entitlement:  a feeling that they shouldn’t HAVE to work – their wants should be provided for them, gratis. They typically get married so as to soak off their wife.  Money that could go toward retirement, of improving your lifestyle, or caring for the kids, goes to taking care of him – because he won’t be bringing in much, and will often claim to have been fired (when he’s usually quit.)  If the wife leaves, they’ll move in with relatives, and soak off them, If the relative kicks them out, they’ll find a girlfriend (probably had one all along, just waiting for his use).
*  Such people – quite subconsciously – target and use sympathetic people.
If asked, they’d deny it vociferously. A single glimpse of their pattern reveals it, though:  they find generous, caring, loving, kind-hearted people. Over, and over, and over.  The flip side of the coin is there too:  there is something about such men that the women I just described find intensely appealing. Take a good look at their past boyfriends, or husbands:  they are all the same. All will be self-centered, selfish, usually possessive, and jealous.
I guess what I’m saying is that such men are utter bastards.  I guess I’m also saying the women they prey on are born victims.  The Bastards see no REASON to change who and what they are – the victims have AMPLE reason, but can’t seem to make that choice … can’t seem to recognize that the creature they’re involved with isn’t who they wanted him to be, and never will be.
And when they leave one, they go find another. Not another man who will treat them well, another of the exact SAME kind of man they just left!
I really don’t know why I’m writing to you, except I think maybe you’re beginning to see these same patterns – and the infinite misery these behaviors cause.
I hope you’ll be well. I hope you’ll choose to walk away from pain.  I hope you’ll find what it is you need, because I swear to God I believe there’s someone out there who’s decent, and kind-hearted, and suffering from loneliness. Someone you’d be perfect for – if only you’ll take the steps to make him perfect for you.  You can’t find a dolphin, if you’re chumming for sharks.
Best wishes!
dourscot
Scott Davis
Oxford, MS”
I hope ‘Being.Her’  won’t object to my sharing her letter … if she does, and writes to me, I’ll delete it.  I hope she won’t, though:  there are things in it that I believe some woman would be the better for reading!

President TRUMP?!?!?!?!?

•November 9, 2016 • Leave a Comment

donald-trump

 

I live in a country where there are enough stupid, racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, gun-toting ASS-HOLES to elect Donald freaking Trump President.

I feel sick.

Impatience

•October 21, 2016 • Leave a Comment

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I ran out of cat food this morning.

I get up early enough that I can make a run to Walmart, if need be, and still arrive at work with time to spare.  I’ve foolishly started feeding the little family of cats that lives outside my house, and they’d gotten used to it enough that I could see their little eyes glowing from the bushes, as I walked by their bowl without filling it.

I actually explained to them that I’d be right back, just had to run to Walmart for their food.  Sheesh.

I got in the car, and headed out of my neighborhood via the road that would blend best with the morning rush. At the stop sign, was a HUGE expensive SUV.  I couldn’t tell who was driving it, but I’d been behind the damed thing before, and whoever the driver was seems TOTALLY incapable of judging when a gap in the traffic would allow him/her/it to turn right. I waited. And waited. And WAITED, as one gap after another came and went.

Eventually, when the road was entirely clear in both directions, the damned thing pulled out at a snail’s pace … like I said, I’d been stuck behind this person before, and I knew if I followed I’d be absolutely BOILING with road rage when it took us 15 minutes to drive the one mile to the University.  So I turned the other direction. I could get to the Highway that way. It might be a longer distance, but it would be quicker than driving behind pokey.

I hit the stop light.  Ordinarily, I’d always been lucky enough to avoid it, but not this time.

When it turned green, I had a whole blessed stretch of road to myself, clear to the entry to the highway.  I don’t speed – but I DO drive at the speed limit, so I got on the entry ramp fairly quickly, only to find myself behind yet ANOTHER person totally incapable of handling the decision of whether it’s safe to enter the highway.  The idiot had a clear lane, as all the drivers on the road had courteously shifted to the far lane, but THIS idiot came to a complete freaking stop at the YIELD sign!

I shouted “For God’s sake will you just GO!”

It didn’t do any good, because my windows were up and so were his. Eventually there was a long stretch of both lanes being empty, and the jerk timidly eased out into the highway – at 30 miles per hour.  I roared around him into the far lane, letting the screech of my tires express my frustration.

No more problems. Got to Walmart, got my cat food, used the self check -out, got back into my car, and was able to get back home without incident. The feral cats were out in the driveway and fled at the sight of me, but I got out of the car, filled their bowls, chucked the bag inside my house, and returned to the car.

At the stop sign, there was another, completely different, trendy, expensive SUV, with a driver who probably COULD make a decision – if she weren’t so busy texting.  She had her phone held against the upper rim of her steering wheel … would type something while a big gap in traffic went by, then look up and see that traffic was solid again, and would type something else.

I backed up, pulled into a neighbors driveway, turned around and headed for the OTHER way out of my neighborhood.  This time, my escape was clean, and I headed for the University, where I work. There were police at the intersections directing traffic, which was cool, because things always went smoothly when someone OTHER than timid, texting, assholes unable to make a decision, was directing things.  The direct path to my building has been built over, don’t ask me why, so I had the choice of going a long way around in one direction, or a shorter path in the other direction – that led through a parking lot. Without pausing to think of what this meant, I made for the latter path.

At the parking lot, I found two cars just crawling along, looking for parking places that were manifestly not there.  When they, at length, came to a space with LOTS of open parking places, one slowly and carefully parked, leaving two spaces clear on either side of him, then IMMEDIATELY popped his door open.  The car behind him, had already started to crawl toward the space to his left, but stopped when she saw the open door.  A long moment passed as the parked idiot fished around in his back seat for a brief case, and the OTHER idiot patiently awaited him.  Eventually, as the first guy showed no signs of ending his back-seat quest, the second person decided “Hey, maybe I could park in one of the many spaces on the OTHER side of him!”

As she began to edge forward, the person behind me, with a roar of the engine made to pull around us both, only to stop with a screech as she began her turn to the left. The screech rattled her, and she stared at him for a long second before resuming her slow, stately turn to park. I looked at the impatient kid to my left, and he glanced at me, then took a longer glance, and apparently my face reflected something of the morning’s frustrations, because he gestured for me to precede him.

I left quite a bit of rubber behind me to testify to my utter lack of appreciation for all three of the freaking idiots.

I feel at this time, that I should point out, gentle reader, that it took me HALF A FUCKING HOUR TO DRIVE THE ONE MILE TO MY OFFICE!!!!!!!

I’m not an impatient man. I’m not. I am, however, someone who has no patience with drivers who are too timid to operate their vehicles, drivers who can’t make a simple go/no-go decision, drivers who’d rather text than operate their vehicle, drivers who can’t distinguish between a YIELD sign and a STOP sign, or drivers who look at a wealth of empty parking spots and need time to decide, “which one will I park in???”

Sadly, such drivers, even if they are a minority, seem to cause a majority of problems, not to mention triggering my migraines.  Thanks a lot.

Repost re-read, it’s still relevant!

•October 10, 2016 • Leave a Comment

https://dourscot.wordpress.com/2013/10/04/an-open-letter-to-humanity/

Monotheism

•August 4, 2016 • Leave a Comment

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(Excerpt from my up-coming book Messed-up! Enjoy!)

 

Monotheism

Judaism was founded around 3500 years ago, give or take a few centuries. In other words, within a couple of centuries, give or take, of Akhenaten’s rule. There has been quiet speculation, ever since the discovery of Akhenaten’s religious revolution, that the Jews got the idea of a single God in Egypt, where the descendants of Jacob were said to have been slaves. When this question is put to Jewish scholars, they are quick to claim that there were Israelite slaves in Egypt before Akhenaten, and that he probably got his idea of a single God from imperfectly overheard slave gossip. It seems unlikely that the answer will ever be known with any certainty – but, if it turns out to be the latter, it’s a good bet that history will be sued for Libel by a massive coalition of Jewish Law-Firms.

 

Anyway, according to the Scriptures, the Pharaoh of Egypt, during the time of Israelite servitude (he’s never named in scripture, just called ‘Pharaoh’), decided that there were too many of them, and they were beginning to pose a threat. Still, Egypt had always had a need for slave-labor, and he couldn’t afford to kill them all, so he hit upon a solution that he felt was a ‘win-win’:  he ordered the slaughter of all newborn male infants.  This was a ‘win’ for him, because he wouldn’t have to worry about a ton of rebellious, moody, teenagers showing up in a few years – and he considered it a ‘win’ for the Israelites, because some of them would go on living, albeit in miserable bondage. What’s not to like?

Accordingly, as the word of the impending slaughter leaked out, an Israelite woman named Jochebed, who’d just given birth, decided her brand new baby boy stood a better chance floating in a basket on the river with the crocodiles, than he did against Pharaoh’s Newborn Massacre Squad. She took a basket, sealed it up with pitch, put the baby in it, and, completely ignoring his threats of legal action, dropped him in the river to fend for himself – the correct phrasing for which, at the time, was “put him in the hands of the Lord!”

The Lord apparently took the hand-off without a hitch, sprinted downstream, and lateraled to the daughter of Pharaoh, who was out having a refreshing bath.

Like most women, she was all “Oooo, a baby!”  and, despite the objections of her attendants, she filed for adoption, giving the child the name “Moses”, which some have interpreted as “Gift of the River”. (Incidentally, there are no records regarding Pharaoh’s feelings about a child of unknown parentage being raised as a prince of Egypt – but unless he’s the most inattentive parent ever, he had to have known that his daughter hadn’t given birth herself!  In view of this, I wish to register my objections that the scriptures contain no account of what happened when the Pharaoh asked “where the hell did that come from????” )

Scripture pretty much skips everything after that, until young Moses comes across an Egyptian smiting an Israelite, takes exception, and does some smiting of his own. Sadly, he smote rather harder than he intended and the Egyptian croaked. With cunning born of need, Moses dragged the body away and hid it in sand, smugly assuming no one had noticed. Not long after, he came on some Israelites fighting and demanded to know why. One of them sneered at him and asked “What are you going to do? Kill us like you did that Egyptian?”

Oh. Shit.

Since it was apparent that EVERYONE knew about the whole smiting of the suspiciously-missing-Egyptian, Moses decided maybe it might be a really good time to tour the Sinai Desert.

He eventually ended up in a place called Midian, where a dude named Jethro managed the biggest sheep ranch in the region. At dinner, Jethro explained that he had loads of daughters, no sons, and – hey, Moses wouldn’t happen to be into sheep would he???

Moses settled down when Jethro hastily explained that he hadn’t meant it that way. Soon thereafter he married one of Jethro’s daughters, and settled in to learn the sheep-ranching trade.

At some point later, while rounding up some strays, he noticed a bush, high up on the slopes of the nearby haunted, er, Holy mountain.  Ordinarily, he wouldn’t have paid much attention:  there were bushes all over the place. This one, though, he noticed, was on fire – again nothing all that out of the ordinary, since the mountain was prone to Lightning-strikes – except that this burning bush wasn’t being reduced to ashes as had been his experience with other burning bushes, so he decided a closer look was called for.

Upon nearing the bush, he heard a voice come out from it, ordering him to halt, and remove his shoes, for he was standing on Holy Ground. A somewhat protracted conversation ensued, the bush, er, sorry, the Bush, explaining that it was actually the God of the Israelites, and that he had heard the wailing of his people that were in Egypt, and that Moses was to head on back there and convince Pharaoh to let them go.

One would think that, having received the commands of God, Moses would have saluted smartly, replied “Yes, sir!” and gotten right to it.  Moses, however had some … concerns.

According to scripture, Moses asked who he was, that he should approach Pharaoh?  It’s hard to fault him, really:  he WAS, after all, wanted for murder, there.  The Bush crackled in irritation, while most likely the Lord counted to ten Billion, then he assured Moses that he would be with him, and it would all work out. Moses then pointed out that he wasn’t much at public speaking, so maybe God should find someone else. The Bush fumed for a moment in silence, while presumably the Lord counted to ten trillion, then he told Moses that the job was his, he wasn’t getting out of it – but, yeah, ok, he could get his brother, Aaron, to be his mouthpiece.

Moses, having gotten his way – at least partially – may have been getting a little cocky. He had yet another issue:  if he was going to demand that Pharaoh release the Israelites in the name of their God, it was a good bet that Pharaoh would want to know just exactly what that name was. (Moses was assuming ‘Bush’ wouldn’t be very convincing.)

The Bush blazed ominously for several seconds, while presumably the Lord counted to ten quadrillion, then explained, loftily, “I AM.”

Moses’ brow furrowed, “Excuse me?”

“I AM WHO I AM.”

Moses stared at the bush for a bit, “er, yes, well …”

“YOU SHALL SAY THAT I AM HAS SENT YOU.”

“Ah. Yes, well, that should do it, I expect.”

Scripture doesn’t say, but it seems likely, at this point, that the Lord may have thought “This is going to be a LONG exodus!”

In any case, Moses returned to Egypt, found the Pharaoh not particularly interested in releasing his slave-labor force, coerced him with a variety of nasty plagues, and even after all that drama still couldn’t make any headway – whereupon God sent the Angel of Death to join the negotiations. The people of Egypt woke up and discovered all their first-born had croaked.

That did the trick.

The Israelites departed from Egypt – taking a short-cut across the Red Sea – and began wandering Sinai, Jordan, and northern Arabia.  The Talmud claims they were being punished for refusing to attack Jericho the first time they got there. It’s hard to blame them, really:  slaves aren’t taught to use weaponry, nor are they versed in storming a heavily fortified city.  Nevertheless, it would appear that God was miffed at them for their lack of faith, and sent them to wander the Sinai till that entire generation had died out.

Perhaps coincidentally, the Jews began to build an army during those 40 years.  They learned the craft of making weapons and armor, learned how to attack fortifications, and, when they got back to Jericho, they had a badass army, a terrific general, and the Ark of the Covenant – also known as the Big Golden Box of Whoop-Ass.

God had ordered the construction of the Ark while the Hebrews were encamped at mount Sinai.  The two tablets of the Ten Commandments (written by God’s own finger) were stored within it, along with Aaron’s Rod, and a pot of Mana. The latter was the special divine bread with which God showered the Israelites, who were starving because, let’s face it, you can’t really grow food in Sinai, and certainly not while wandering in penance.

The story goes that a couple of months after leaving Egypt, the provisions they’d taken with them ran out, and the people began to bitch that they ought to have stayed in Egypt, where at least they had enough to eat!

God heard about it, counted to thirty-gazillion, then told Moses that he’d feed the people himself.  Every evening, the camp would be covered with quail, which could be caught and killed without skill. Every morning there would be a dew of Mana, which could be gathered and eaten like bread. Moses instructed the people they were to gather as many quail as they needed, and one pot of mana for each person, and that they weren’t to save ANY of it till the next day.

Naturally some tried to – only to find it rancid and crawling with maggots.

This supposedly went on for 40 years.

Anyway, at the end of all that time, they had an army, weapons, armor, Joshua, and the aforementioned Big Golden Box of Whoop-Ass, and they were at last ready to take the promised land.

Everywhere they went, the Ark went first:  carried by Levites, some 800 yards in advance of the Jewish host, carefully veiled by skins and blue cloth, because the Ark was not for the eyes of ordinary Joes, or even ordinary Jews. When they came to the Jordan River, the river went dry as soon as the feet of the priests with the Ark touched the water.  Since they were pretty sure the water would be back as soon as the Ark left the river-bed, the priests hung out where they were while the host crossed, over. When the last of the people were across, the priests carried the Ark over, and, sure enough, as soon as they left the river-bed, it became a river again.

For their next trick, the Levites bore the Ark around the City of Jericho once a day for seven days, preceded by seven priests honking on ram’s horns . On the seventh day, they made seven laps around Jericho, then the whole army shouted, and the walls fell flat, much to the consternation of the Jerichans … Jerichites? Who knows – it doesn’t matter much, because none of them were left alive afterward anyway, since the Lord, in his mercy, had ordered heren – the ritual slaughter of every man, woman, and child in the city.  Scripture says they spared only one person: a prostitute who had sheltered the spies Joshua sent to check the place out. Joshua’s spies had apparently endorsed her as “really good!”

And so it went. Wherever the Big Box of Whoop-Ass went, bad things happened to the enemies of Israel – right up to the point where the Philistines (likely descendants of those Bastards from Nineveh) captured the thing, and began to experience SERIOUS bad things, themselves.

Of course, some fairly bad things happened in the Israeli camp when they got the news:  the Priest, Eli, dropped dead upon hearing of it, and his daughter who was in the throes of delivering a child when the news got there, made up her mind to call the kid ‘Ichabod’ – meaning The Glory Has Departed Israel – despite the fact that A) the kid had done not a damned thing to deserve it, and B) it would doom him to a lifetime of explaining how one brief word could contain that whole dolorous phrase!

Anyway, as I said, the Philistines, having carried off the Ark, were having problems.

They had originally born it to Ashdod, where it was placed in the temple of Dagon. The next morning, the statue of Dagon was found prostrate before it.  They somehow put the statue back in it’s place, only to find, the next morning, the statue had been prostrated and broken before the Ark. There was more to come. Ever creative, the Lord smote the people of Ashdod with inoperable hemorrhoids. Then there was a plague of mice, over all the land. It’s likely that at this point, the Philistine leaders were approached  by the city fathers of Ashdod, who asked that they take the freaking thing out on tour!

They took the Ark to Gath, where the people were smitten with boils. The same thing happened when it arrived at Ekron.

After seven months of this, the Philistines, on the advice of their seers, decided maybe it’d be a good idea to give the damned thing back – accompanied by a peace-offering in the form of golden images of the mice, tumors, boils, and hemorrhoids.

Word got around that it was a really bad idea to mess with the God of the Israelites.