Maybe His Words Do Have Meaning

•December 5, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Anyone who has paid even slightest bit of attention to our national political nightmare will acknowledge that the person in the White House currently lies.  A lot.  As a result, his words have come to hold very little meaning, and on nearly any topic.  But I have growing suspicions that this may not be true.

This week, the current resident of the White House started things off by proclaiming that he and Chin’a President Xi had agreed to a truce on their tariff war.    Not surprisingly, the U.S. and world stock exchanges skyrocketed at such good news.

Shortly thereafter, the White House administration spoke out in an effort to clarify what the liar had said.  It seems as though what he meant to say was that there was going to be some work done to ease the tariff tensions.  Not surprisingly, the stock market indexes receded at the growing uncertainty about tariffs and what to expect.

On Tuesday, following the White House clarifications, the clown tweeted (he does not know how to structure a meaningful sentence verbally) that he was still the “tariff man,” thus emphasizing his love for the tariff tool, and thus sending stocks precipitously lower.  As of this writing, apparently we don’t have any idea where the future of tariffs might be.

But it strikes me that there may be some method in the moron’s madness.  If single statements, such as the ones uttered or tweeted at various times over the past few days, can impact the markets with such force, maybe it would be good to know how those gyrations have affected the pretender’s personal portfolio.  It might be good for us to remember that this charlatan has never given up control of his financial empire, which means that he can that speak and act in ways that directly impact its growth and success.  It might also be good to recall that this is the only modern-day officeholder to refuse the release of his income tax history, meaning that the public has very few means of knowing exactly what the results of his actions may be.

I know this: there are penalties for most people who artificially manipulate markets or who trade based on insider information.  The presidency represents an ultimate insider, and the guy who sits in that office appears to be using his words in ways that accomplish the only objective this man has: to enrich himself at the expense of everyone else.

The definition of narcissist….

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Boys Will Be Boys

•July 19, 2018 • Leave a Comment

We didn’t know their names.  We hadn’t seen their faces.  We really didn’t know much of anything about them, except that there were twelve soccer players altogether, accompanied by their coach.  They had crawled up into the inner reaches of a cave, exploring with the excitement and energy that 12-year old boys seem to have, when outside rains created rising waters inside the cave, submerging the very passages that the boys had used hours before.  They became trapped.

We all know the story by now, as it became a topic of international attention.  News sources from around the world featured daily updates about the fate of the boys; indeed, nine days elapsed before rescuers even discovered the boys still alive, but each and every day we received updates about rescuers’ progress.  It was no less than a miracle that the team survived so long underground.  And then we waited and watched as rescue teams- made up of Thai, U.S. and other international support- completed the meticulous planning and execution of the rescue itself.  In the end, there was a universal sigh of relief from all corners of the globe that these young lives had been saved.  Maybe the world needed a unified success in something, anything, at this time of extreme nationalism and name-calling.

The international interest and support puzzles me.  I readily understand the empathy and emotional attachment that we feel: imagining one’s own children in such dire circumstances is a nightmare that most parents have, and to which even non-parents can relate.  The anguish and outrage expressed in the U.S. on behalf of children separated from their parents at the border with Mexico demonstrated our ability to activate on behalf of kids.  But the capture of the entire international conscience over the fate of 12 boys astounds me.  There have been and continue to be almost daily events which threaten the lives of children, in many cases far more than a dozen young lives, and for which we show almost casual interest at best.  Sometimes the young lives are lost, and the world takes little note.  Middle East violence has destroyed young lives as a matter of policy.  Syrian war has made no distinctions between use of nerve gas on adults or children.  In Nicaragua, young people are being killed or “disappeared” each day during the current political turmoil, and the world barely knows of it.  What made the Thai soccer team so different for us?

Was it the uniforms?  Was there something about the context of a boys’ athletic team?  Perhaps the difference was due to the nature of the threat: not imposed by politics or other man-made conventions, but rather from Nature herself.  Maybe it’s easier to root for people confronting the forces of natural calamity than to be forced to choose sides in a conflict.  Someone suggested to me that we have a limited capacity for empathy in crises, and that we are more capable of emotion for smaller numbers of victims: we can handle our fears and grief for 12, but it’s much more difficult for, say, 1,000.  For whatever the reason, we seem to pick and choose the victims who we will care about.  It baffles me.  And I feel badly for those other victims who wait for the caress of human accompaniment, prayers and support, even when it never comes.

My reflections over this brought to mind a scene from the movie, “Schindler’s List,” where Schindler is in despair over Jews he could not ultimately help away from Nazi danger, despite his urgent desire to save them:

“I could have got more out.  I could have got more.  I don’t know.  If I’d just…  I could have got more….  If I’d made more money.  I threw away so much money.  You have no idea.  If I’d just….

I didn’t do enough!  This car.  Someone would have bought this car.  Why did I keep the car?  Ten people right there.  Ten people.  Ten more people.  This pin.  Two people.  This is gold.  Two more people.  He would have given me two for it, at least one.  One more person.  I could have gotten one more person… and I didn’t.  And I… didn’t.” 

Sometimes conscience is too slow, or too selective, and becomes numbed by the happy drama of boys being boys….

 

No News Today

•February 19, 2018 • Leave a Comment

I didn’t turn on the news this morning as I performed my usual stretches and lifts.  Actually, I didn’t see much of the news last night nor yesterday morning.  There is not much new on the news these days.  Another school shooting.  Another body count.  More offers of thoughts and prayers.  Stories of heroism in the face of grave danger.  More heartbroken and distraught parents.  Candlelight vigils.  Solemn thoughts offered by a president.  No, there is not much new on the news, so I have turned it off.

In a couple of days it will all be behind us.  Most of us will have very little recollection of the episode, because there will be a new one.  At least one each week, in fact.  That’s our pace for school shootings in the U.S. thus far in 2018.  This has become, indeed, the new norm in our country.  Because we have chosen so.

I turn off the news stories because I cannot listen to one more political figure decry the violence and the shock.  The level of hypocrisy embodied by such modeled outrage is an affront that has forced me to back away from its coverage as news.  The reality is that such acts of violence are neither shocking nor outrageous anymore.  They are simply the way we have chosen to live.

The mass shootings of our recent history are not aberrations.  Nor are they surprising.  Collectively, the leaders of our country have made a decision that the incidents of carnage are more acceptable to our way of life than are any changes in the laws of the land concerning either acquisition of firearms or providing essential funding for mental health care.  We speak, as a nation, in the form of the laws that we create.  And at this moment in our history, regardless of the reasons and the outcomes, we are more accepting of the violence than of the changes.  This doesn’t mean that the circumstances are acceptable to everyone, but to enough of the country to maintain status quo.

In all due respect and empathy to the bereaved families, there is no point in wondering how this can happen in our communities.  Albert Einstein‘s quote rings especially true here: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  There will be no different results as long as we continue to choose status quo over change.  Monied interests in our nation’s capitol have greater sway than any degree of outrage, grief or activism.  If one doubts that, take a quick look at changes following events like those at Sandy Hook Elementary School or at the Las Vegas strip.  There have been none in either case.  Despite the pain, we continue to choose it over reforms.

If the analysis is correct- that we have chosen this way of life over alternatives- then it begs a broader question.  If this state of affairs is what we in the U.S. collectively accept, then to what extent does the nation embody virtues and character in keeping with one’s own morality?  If slaughter in schools and other public venues is an acceptable by-product of our nation’s choices, then the nation is not one compatible with values which many embrace as their own.  In short, despite the fact that this is our country, we may want nothing to do with it.  We can name a dozen countries more civilized, more responsible, and moral.

The flags around town are flying at half-staff.  I suppose that it is in recognition of the killings in Florida this week.  But the flag display carries less and less meaning in recent years as the incidence and acceptance of mass murder has grown.  Our current reality is that the flags might as well remain in their lowered posture, because we have chosen to accept insanity over reason….

 

 

 

America Is Back

•January 29, 2018 • Leave a Comment

The theme of our current president’s State of the Union address is that “America Is Back.¨ I think the man’s assessment is right on the money (literally).  During the course of our president’s first year in office, there have been few things with which I have agreed.  But if I have been a naysayer on those issues, I feel I must be fair and acknowledge the man when I think he is right.

America is back.  The administration has truly managed to bring the U.S. back to a time and place reminiscent of the “good old days” of the past.  For starters, the administration has magnificently replicated a time in our history, circa 1970, when the members of the press were regarded as the enemy.  We have not experienced such enmity toward the press and its obligation to report since the days of Richard Nixon.  Nixon was paranoid about the press discovering all kinds of things about him and he enlisted the top echelon of his administration to aid in covering up the lies and deceits that Nixon employed to protect his paranoia.  In all, his efforts resulted in one presidential resignation, one vice-presidential resignation, and 40 government officials indicted or jailed- including the attorney general and at least seven White House staff members.  Most of the criminal damage done by the guilty had to do with trying to keep the press, and the public, in the dark.  The current president has resurrected just such an environment with his responses to the Russia investigation.  His posture constitutes a major “return”  for the presidency.  As he has said, “The press is not my enemy; it’s the enemy of the people.”  Nixon would be proud.

America is back in another way.  It is notable how openly many Americans now voice their previously-private disdain for members of other ethnicities and the blame which they ascribe to such people.  The president has cultivated the political correctness of disparaging Mexicans (i.e., U.S.-born District Judge Gonzalo Curiel), defending KKK and Nazi groups (i.e., Charlottesville), denigrating African-American heritage (i.e., immigrants from “s***hole countries”) or stating his preference for white immigrants (i.e., “We should have more people from places like Norway.“)  Decades of effort with regard to tearing down barriers based upon racial or ethnic factors were summarily destroyed in a few terse statements, and it has opened the doors for racist and fascist commentary which had been driven underground.  Now, the hatred can be displayed with confidence, as in David Duke’s applause for the president: “Trump spoke Blunt, hard truth that makes PERFECT TRUTH!”

And it is true that America is back on another front: expanding favoritism for the wealthy.  As the president himself has observed, the recent tax changes constitute a windfall for corporations and the wealthy: “Corporations are literally going wild over this.”  The shift in support of even greater economic disparities than already exist in the U.S. hearkens back to a time when other real estate moguls and captains of industry-  so-called robber barons– heavily controlled the economic policies of this country to the detriment of the democratic republic.  America is back, indeed, accelerating the widening gap between those who do not have enough and those who have it all.

There’s also the return to the apparently preferential days when health insurance was a reality for only a portion of the U.S. population.  The administration made clear from its earliest campaign promises that it would repeal and replace  the Affordable Care Act.  Despite its many flaws and needs for address, the plan provided health insurance coverage for more than 13 million uninsured citizens, bringing our nation close to parity with other modern, developed economies.  While the president has been unable to repeal or replace the program (“I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject.  Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated”), the rhetoric to do so continues.  Perhaps it has to do with the idea that the plan’s nickname, Obamacare, bears the name of the president’s predecessor, the first African-American president.

America is back in other ways, too.  The administration has returned us to the brink of nuclear war with sophomoric taunts traded between the leaders of North Korea and the U.S.    It has dismantled many environmental regulations by denying the accepted science of climate change, taking us back to the days of corporate self-regulation with regard to the environment.  It has re-opened the nation’s shorelines to oil exploration (except in the case of the president’s get-away state of Florida) to support the philosophy of “drill, baby, drill.” It has seemingly normalized boorish and abusive treatment of others, including women, as he observed, “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em…. You can do anything.”  It has slowed the growth of the renewable energy industry by applying tariffs to certain foreign products.  The list is quite remarkable.

I am remiss not to mention the continuing rise in the stock market, which has not only matched past achievements but exceeded them.  Employment has continued to grow under this administration.  Corporations have confidence in an unfettered future.

But at what cost?  The economic advances that the U.S. has continued to experience as this administration came into power are likely achieved at the expense of tomorrow’s economic realities; we are taking away from the opportunities of our children and our grandchildren.

Meanwhile, there should be general agreement that “America is back,” in some cases, all the way back to a time we once hoped was distant history….

Who Would Want Them, Indeed

•January 12, 2018 • Leave a Comment

The man who is at the front of the reality show called the American presidency raised a salient question yesterday, concurrent with his degrading, insulting and profane comments about people of Haitian or African descent.  In a moment which demonstrated his most deep-seated feelings about race, the pretend president asked why he would want “all these people from shithole countries,” adding that the U.S. should admit more people from places like Norway.  In other words, we don’t want any people with brown skin or black skin, but we’d be happy to have as many as possible of the white ethnicity.

It’s a good question, one for which there are more answers than time or space to reply.  Why would we want people like astronauts Ronald McNair or Guion Bluford?  Why did we allow George Washington Carver in?  What did Neil de Grasse Tyson or Dorothy Vaughn ever do for us?  Hank Aaron should never have been here.  Nor Willie Mays.  Why would we ever have wanted the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr.?  Or any of the millions of African-American citizens of this country who were either born in one of these “shithole countries” or descended from immigrants who came from them.  The course of our country’s independence, wealth and freedoms would have been dramatically different without the countless individuals who came here, involuntarily or by choice, and dedicated their lives to the character of our country.

Certainly, we don’t want any more immigrants from a place like Haiti.  What would we do with another Sidney Poitier?  The artist John Jay Audubon was one more Haitian than we probably needed. The likes of Danielle Laraque-Arena, first woman president of The State University of New York Upstate Medical University, surely aren’t needed here.  We have plenty of orchestrators, so no more Lee Holdridges, please.  In fact, Haiti is the poorest country in the entire Western Hemisphere and we have plenty of “those types” in our nation already.

The President of the United States (not my president) has now been crystal clear with his racist and elitist beliefs.  That a sitting president of any party would make such insulting and inaccurate statements about entire ethnicities is a desecration of leadership perhaps matched only in history by a man named Hitler.

Once again for the record, I write this response to his slander today not from the perspective of either Democrat or Republican, but as a citizen of the U.S. and a human being.  One does not have to be a member of a political party to be so totally repulsed by the ignorance of a so-called leader….

Post-Father’s Day

•June 25, 2017 • Leave a Comment

There were many columns and articles written in advance of Father’s Day, as usual.  I have not seen many (any) written after the fact, so I decided to fill that void with some thoughts that have rattled around in my head over the past week or so.  It may be that they resonate with few others, but it will be good for me to write them down for myself, if for no one else.

Father’s Day 2017 was a fine and beautiful day where I live.  The weather was moderate, I worked out and worked around the house, and best of all, I received calls from each of my four children.  I love hearing from my kids and hearing what is new in their daily lives; in fact, we speak frequently and sometimes for extended conversations.  They each wished me a happy day and told me how great a dad I am, and with each new word of gratitude I winced.  Father’s Day is mostly a day for celebration, but there’s a dark side for me.

Father’s Day is also a reminder of all the things I have not been as a dad.  It’s not that I think I’ve been a bad dad, but that there’s so much more that I could have done for my kids as they were growing up.

I wish that they could truly understand how deeply important they have been to my life. They know that I love them, but I’m not sure they comprehend how they reside at the core of who I am.  Maybe that’s only possible once your child has children of her own, as is true for one of my daughters.  But they are adults now and able to understand how their presence in my life has greatly shaped how I think and act.  It’s still vitally important to me to act as selflessly and ethically as I know how, as difficult as that can be at times. It was a posture adopted from my own mom and dad, and eventually amplified by the arrival of my children.  I wanted to be a good man, if not for its own sake, then for the sake of these four people who watched and listened to me every day of our lives together.  I owe them.

I wish that I had been better able to convey to them the importance of faith as the foundation for peace of mind.  We always attended church and the kids were active in the church activities, but by the time they moved on from high school, there seemed to be little room for spiritual practice.  They are each at slightly different places in that particular life-journey, some more thoughtful about it than others, but the opportunities for me to encourage personal faith practices are fewer for me now.  I look for open doors, but often it feels like a subject to be avoided.

I wish that I could have loved myself more.  I think I was and still am a loving dad toward my kids.  But the truth is that the ill-tempers and frustrations in my life were usually self-directed and led to self-deprecation that always made my children uncomfortable, and rightfully so.  In those instances, I was teaching them that imperfections are not acceptable, and that berating oneself is a healthy way to come to terms with it.  I was really very wrong.  It’s one of the lessons that I hope they did not learn well.

I wish that I could claim that my generation had brought about at least some of the dreams that we held in the 1960’s.  The talk was anti-war, universal love, global peace, living with Nature and rejection of corporatism.  But in time, my generation failed in bringing these ideas to life.  We became caught up in the rigors of making a living and “getting ahead,” and in the process actually fell behind.  The society that my children have inherited is not all corrupt, but I could have done so much more.  I am embarrassed by the mess their generation has inherited.  Is today’s political, social, moral and empathetic landscape the best I/we could do?  I blush.

My list could and does go on much longer; there is much that I regret with regard to my children’s inheritance.  It does not diminish my joy for at the immense and loving blessings that Molly, Megan, Ian and Nikki have been.  I have loved them from the moments in which they entered our lives.  Father’s Day is not a celebration of what a great dad I am, but of what great people they are.  They have much to give the rest of the world.  I wish that I could have given them more for the journey….

 

 

 

Moccasins

•May 29, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Pray, don’t find fault with the man that limps,
Or stumbles along the road.
Unless you have worn the moccasins he wears,
Or stumbled beneath the same load.

There may be tears in his soles that hurt
Though hidden away from view.
The burden he bears placed on your back
May cause you to stumble and fall, too.

Don’t sneer at the man who is down today
Unless you have felt the same blow
That caused his fall or felt the shame
That only the fallen know.

You may be strong, but still the blows
That were his, unknown to you in the same way,
May cause you to stagger and fall, too.

Don’t be too harsh with the man that sins.
Or pelt him with words, or stone, or disdain.
Unless you are sure you have no sins of your own,
And it’s only wisdom and love that your heart contains.

For you know if the tempter’s voice
Should whisper as soft to you,
As it did to him when he went astray,
It might cause you to falter, too.

Just walk a mile in his moccasins
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse.
If just for one hour, you could find a way
To see through his eyes, instead of your own muse.

I believe  you’d be surprised to see
That you’ve been blind and narrow minded, even unkind.
There are people on reservations and in the ghettos
Who have so little hope, and too much worry on their minds.

Brother, there but for the grace of God go you and I.
Just for a moment, slip into his mind and traditions
And see the world through his spirit and eyes
Before you cast a stone or falsely judge his conditions.

Remember to walk a mile in his moccasins
And remember the lessons of humanity taught to you by your elders.
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave
In other people’s lives, our kindnesses and generosity.

Take the time to walk a mile in his moccasins.

Read more: Walk a Mile in His Moccasins – Native American Poetry – AAA Native Artshttp://www.aaanativearts.com/native-american-poetry/walk-a-mile-in-his-moccasins#ixzz4iU1Es7O5