Photo by Edward F. Palm)

About Me

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Forest, Virginia, United States
A long time ago, my sophomore English teacher, Father William Campbell, saw something in my writing and predicted that I would someday become a newspaper columnist. He suggested the perfect title for my column--"Leaves of the Palm." Now that I have a little extra time on my hands I've decided to put Father Campbell's prediction to the test. I'm going to start using this blog site not just to reprint opinion pieces I've published elsewhere but to try to get more of my ideas and opinions out there. Feedback is welcome. To find out more about me, please check out my Web site: www.EdwardFPalm.com (Click on any of the photos below for an enlarged view.)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Old Mill Days

Last Saturday, Andrea and I took in Old Mill Days, an annual fair held at Port Gamble, Washington.  --EFP

Saturday, September 18, 2010

"Do the Puyallup!"

Today, we decided to "do the Puyallup," as they say around here.  We went to the annual Western Washington State Fair in Puyallup (pronounced "pew-yowl-up".)   --EFP

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Larry on Zero Tolerance in Lieu of Common Sense

My old friend and fellow Marine Larry Scroggs shared an interesting reflection on the tenor of our times:
Watching local news. Sixth grade boy was caught carrying a knife at school. Not threatening anyone just had it in his possession. Police were called. Boy was carried off then released to his parents. School says he will be suspended at least ten days and it could be as much as one year. Criminal charges are pending.
     Flashback to 1958-1959. I'm in sixth grade. Attending a combined elementary-junior high school on an Air Force base in northern Maine. Just about every boy in sixth grade carried a pocket knife. In fact, most boys from fifth grade on up carried knives daily. Usually a Boy Scout knife if you bought your own or maybe a Barlow or Schrade if your dad was an officer and bought one for you. On the far end of the playground at recess and lunch many of the boys would be playing Stretch or Mumblety Peg. We also had a "chicken" knife-throwing game, but we usually didn't play it at school because sometimes someone would get stuck and that could create problems. Isn't it great that those days are gone? I don't know how all us boys kept from stabbing each other or cutting ourselves. Maybe sometime I'll tell you all about the high school boys from the local small farming town who came to school with shotguns or deer rifles in their trucks during hunting season. I know it's hard to believe but no one called the SWAT team. In fact, the coach may even have walked out to your truck to check out your new .30-30 lever action.
     You wouldn't see that today. Things are so much better now that the government has written all their "zero tolerance" rules and laws to replace common sense. We don't have to get all confused with trying to think of the "right thing to do" or the "best course of action" or "what's in the best interest
of the child". The politicians have written all the rules for us and no thinking is required. Just enforce the rules. 

Larry reminded me of a comparable situation.  Not too long ago, a first-grader (I think it was) was charged with sexual harassment for kissing a little girl in his class.  His elementary school too had a zero-tolerance policy in lieu of common sense.  An old joke, a play on a Wordsworth title comes to mind:  that school was determined to stamp our imitations of immorality.  --EFP

Monday, September 6, 2010

Mt. Rainier Marmot

On Saturday, we went to Mt. Rainier, where we found this little marmot popping up to check out the hikers on his trail.  As always, please click on each photo for a better view.  --EFP

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Of Religion and Original Intent

[The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has taken this one too:  Of Religion and Original Intent.]
Back in the mid-nineties, when I was a professor at a small college in West Virginia, I had a telling encounter with a Muslim international student. We were going over a paper he had written for my class, and at one point in the paper, he had referred to America as a “Christian nation.” The context was innocent enough. He was not attacking America, and this was before 9/11 raised the national consciousness about the problem of Muslim extremism. So I saw this as merely the occasion for a teachable moment—an opportunity to give the student a more sophisticated understanding of our American government.
     I explained that, while the majority of Americans may consider themselves to be Christians, America has no official religion and that our Constitution mandates a separation of church and state. I could see the student becoming visibly upset as I tried to explain this concept to him. I had obviously shaken a deeply held core belief. I let the matter drop and went on to point out the rhetorical and grammatical problems with his paper. I realize now that religious identity must have been central to his concept of nationhood and that, as far as he was concerned, every nation had to fit into one of three categories: Muslim, Jewish, or Christian.
      I think of this encounter every time I hear one of the rightwing pundits calling America a “Christian nation,” or dating the doom from the demise of school prayer—or, worse yet in my view, asserting that our founding fathers never intended to build a wall between church and state. I also think of it whenever I hear these same pundits calling for a reaffirmation of America’s exceptionality.
     When I went to school, I was taught that one of our greatest marks of distinction as a nation was our decision to keep religion out of politics. I was told that our founding fathers--as men of the Enlightenment, the aptly named “Age of Reason”--had learned the lesson of hundreds of years of religious strife in Europe. They wisely wanted to set America apart from all that. Hence, they crafted the First Amendment forbidding the establishment of a state religion and guaranteeing freedom of worship.
     A close reading of the Declaration of Independence will reveal that the framers claimed their right to rebel not directly from God but from “the laws of nature and . . . nature’s God.” That is not a Christian formulation but rather a deist one, a philosophy that was much in vogue during the 18th century. Deism held God to be the “great clockmaker” who set the universe up according to natural laws and who is now leaving it up to us to take care of the secular realm. Hence, I am all for turning back to the original intent of our founding fathers. It is past time to usher in a new age of secular humanism, reaffirming that religion is a private affair.
     I don’t know how that young Muslim student felt about America, nor do I know whether he went on to become radicalized or not. But I do know that the so-called “narrative” that Muslim extremists are using to recruit and radicalize moderate Muslims holds that America is waging a new crusade against Islam in general. And I have to believe that all the neo-conservatives rallying and agitating to redefine America as Christian are reinforcing that narrative and playing into the hands of the extremists. --EFP

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Funny Story

The news that 12 Fort Lewis Stryker Brigade soldiers are being investigated for conspiracy to commit murder in Afghanistan reminded me, by some odd conjunction, of the funniest story I heard while serving in Vietnam.  The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has been kind enough to allow me to share that story.  --EFP