HOW DID WE GET TO THIS PLACE? – Marilyn Armstrong

Like many other countries, we’ve hidden our ugliest history in the backs of closets. We have written phony history books and made sure our kids read them.  Now we wonder how come they don’t understand history.

A good start would be to teach them what actually happened. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Andrew Jackson President of the good old U.S.A. wiped out entire tribes of Natives. But that was only one part of the slaughter. They kidnapped children and beat them until they were “American.” More to the point, too terrified to be anything else.

Does that sound familiar?

Then, of course, there was slavery, over which we fought the bloodiest war ever in this country, followed by a never-ending cruel inequality that still remains and continues — with the help of our disgusting president — to grow.

And let’s not forget interning Japanese citizens — many of whom were born here — during World War 2.

We’ve always felt we were morally superior to Those Other Countries who slaughtered and mass murdered people for whatever idiotic reason they held. Yet here we are (and were) doing the same.

We haven’t started killing immigrants yet, but who knows? Trump is just being Trump, so if he thinks it’s a good idea, I’m sure his sycophants will step right up and follow his orders. Or maybe they’ll do it just for fun. Nothing would surprise me.

You can bet Sean Hannity will be explaining how it’s not even happening anyway. And 28-30% of all Americans will smile because mass murder sounds like a good idea to them. They will volunteer for jobs in “the camps.”  A job is a job.

With a president who has so little conscience that he thinks kidnapping foreign children is good politics, does murdering foreigners if he thinks it might help him get reelected sound too far out? Assuming he isn’t planning to bypass that whole annoying election process, that is.

A couple of weeks ago, he said (who knows what he is really saying?) we are returning to the old-fashioned method we’ve been using for the past 50 years. We’ll stop refugees at our border and say “Sorry, no room. Go home.” This is what we used to before you-know-who moved to the White House.

Someone asked me why we can’t make room for them. No idea. This country is built on the sweat of hungry immigrants, but we seem to have lost our way. As long as we have borders, we are obliged to keep track of who comes and goes across them.

I’m too far down the line of brilliant thinkers who have turned our world into whatever it currently is, but don’t you wonder ever what would happen if we didn’t have artificial lines around “countries” and lived in a single world? Then we could just hate each other for personal reasons.

WORDS ARE WEAPONS – Marilyn Armstrong

 


“Sticks and stones can break my bones,
but names can never hurt me.”


It’s an old childhood chant, a miserably inadequate defense against bullies and bigots when one is small and powerless. It was oft-repeated, not only by us, the little victims but by parents, teachers and other wise counselors. It was supposed to comfort us.

It didn’t because we all knew it was untrue.

Names can and do hurt. The hurt caused by a cruel name goes deeper than any mere cut or bruise to the body. Psyches heal, but slowly. Sometimes they never heal.

Horrible words. Can you still tell me — with a straight face — that names can’t hurt? Will you give me all your arguments that “political correctness” is stupid? That anything which makes it illegal or socially unacceptable to spew hate is too restrictive of free speech? Really? Your free speech? It’s not my free speech. I don’t talk that way and I don’t hang around anyone who does.

Do you actually believe it? Or did you read it as part of some rant on Facebook?

Of course, names hurt. They’re intended to hurt. Such words, hateful words have no other purpose but to cause pain. These words carry with them the ugliness of generations of haters.

It has been argued by otherwise respected bloggers that if a member of a minority (in your opinion) does you wrong, you have every right to strike back any way you can.

I disagree. Racial and ethnic name-calling epithets are never justified. By anything. Is it the word or its intent that hurts so much? I think both. Words have power.


“The pen is mightier than the sword.”


But wait a minute. I thought words could never hurt me? It’s a lie. Yes, words can hurt you, hurt me, hurt any of us.

Words bring with them the weight of history. A hated word carries the ugliness of everyone who has spoken it. Each time these words fly into the air, their potency is renewed and reinforced.

It’s time to stop forgiving bigots. We have to stop letting them off the hook. Those hate-filled monologues by drugged and drunken celebrities were not slips of the tongue. They were not the result of drugs or drink.

In vino veritas! Also written as in “uino ueritas,” is a Latin phrase that means “in wine lies the truth.” It suggests a person under the influence of alcohol (and in modern terms, also drugs) is more likely to speak his or her hidden thoughts and desires. (West German, Talmudic comment)

You could fill me with all the drugs and booze in the world and you’d never hear that from me. Because it’s not in me to say it. I don’t have a hidden pocket of hate waiting for drugs or booze to unlock it. But many do. And now, they seem to have been given permission to shout it to the world.



We are currently watching a Netflix production called “Five Came Back” about five internationally famous directors who went into World War II and created an amazing set of films. John Ford, William Wyler, John Capra, John Huston, and George Stevens created the war. Not a Hollywood war. The real war.

I look at it and I see tens of thousands of Germans shouting “Heil Hitler.” Trump may have his adherents, but they haven’t grown in number. They are not taking over our world. There are no brown shirts beating up minorities. They may want to, but most Americans draw that line. Whatever they believe, they do not believe it’s okay to form groups of bullies and beat down the rest of the population. It’s an important distinction.

People who talk hatred never do it by accident. It isn’t because of their environment, upbringing, or environment. It’s a choice they made. They know exactly what they are saying and why they are saying it.

It isn’t a joke. It isn’t funny. And most importantly, it isn’t okay.

Excuses are not enough. Phony repentance is not enough

Don’t give bigots and haters another chance.

EXTRA TOPICAL

What About Obama?  Huh? by Rich Paschall

You may have heard of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, aka the Great Debates of 1858.  Yes, this is history and there may be a quiz at the end so pay attention.

Abraham Lincoln and the incumbent Senator from Illinois, Stephen A. Douglas, held a series of debates around the state trying to sway voters on the important issues of the day.  Each hoped their party would control the state legislature, as US Senators were chosen by the legislature, not by popular vote.  Lincoln was well-received at the debates, but Douglas was elected Senator.

We know how it turned out for Lincoln two years later.

Abraham Lincoln, Stephen A . Douglas

Now Lincoln-Douglas debates are mostly a high school competition.  They are “values” debates where students often argue the greater good.

“Solvency” is not an issue.  A debater does not have to know how to implement a solution, just should be better for society.  Of course, he/she will attempt to bring into evidence material from authoritative sources to bolster his/her position.

One of the suggested topics for the coming year is Resolved: Civil disobedience in a democracy is morally justified.  There is no need to say how this should be applied, but that there are situations when it should or could be.  Historical examples would provide support.  Law and order arguments may be common on the negative.

These debates, like the Lincoln-Douglas debates, are one-on-one.  The first speaker has a set time. The second speaker a slightly longer period, then the first speaker gets a rebuttal interval.  Total speaking times end up the same.  The first speaker may have a plan. The second speaker may have a counter-plan or could argue that no plan is reasonable under the resolution.

Shouting, name calling, unsupported positions all result in a ballot for the opposition by the judge. Contestants must research, write, think, and propose.  Obviously, acting like modern-day politicians would not produce a winner.

So-called debate

Two man team debate, also known as Policy Debate, will propose a resolution where the tactic not only includes interpreting the resolution but also implementing a solution.  Some debaters may have so many points to make that they speak quickly.  The judge will usually take notes to be sure that the speakers arguments flow logically from point-to-point.  Both speakers on each side of the debate topic make a presentation, both are cross-examined.  Then each speaks in rebuttal.  In many leagues, constructives are 8 -minutes, cross-examinations are 3-minutes, and rebuttals are 5-minutes long.

You’d better come prepared!

A topic for next season’s two-man debate will be Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially reduce its restrictions on legal immigration to the United States

The topics for the debate season are often timely and include something prominently in the news.

Debaters must research both sides of the issue as they will be called upon to be on the affirmative or negative, depending on the debate or round within a debate.  In mid-summer, debaters are already starting to study the issues and gather evidence pro and con.  There will be no flippant remarks, insults of opponents, or made up evidence.  General and stereotypical comments mean nothing without support.  Judges will dismiss these comments. and opponents are wise to challenge them.

Because there are obvious “stock issues” implied with any current events topic, it is incumbent upon the debaters to deal with these intelligently.  Bombast and supposition will not do.  Instead, they must deal with the significance of the issue, solvency of the plan they present, the harms of the status quo or the affirmative plan, and the advantages of one side along with disadvantages of the other.

A key part of any debate is “Topicality.” With time to fill in rebuttals and possibly cross examinations too, it becomes important to stay on topic.  With an audience of debaters and judges taking notes, you can not stray into areas that are “Extra Topical.”  There are no random viewers waiting for a debater to pull out stock arguments on other topics or to launch into inane attacks on the opponent.  It’s just critical thinkers judging the merits of the debate.

Why do we bring you this small lesson in the fine art of debate? Perhaps you have noticed that debate is a lost art in the political arena, television news shows, and especially social media.  In the last election, you saw one party presenting something other than primary debates.  Even as an entertainment show, it was generally lacking in substance.  The other side had two candidates who actually seemed to study the topics, but they also found time to present “extra-topical” discussion points.

The presidential “debates” that followed frequently strayed off topic.  One candidate spent time talking about other administrations rather than what he would do as president.  The attempt to belittle your opponent through insults to family and associates may influence some viewers, but it would not work well with debate judges.

On my Facebook news feed, I see “discussions” of a social or political nature often degenerate into a series of personal attacks and Extra-Topical points.  One friend often posts news articles on current social issues.  A person I am acquainted with will usually make a comment on sanctuary cities.

If I point out the topic has nothing to do with these cities, he tells me to wake up!  For him, that is the only topic which really matters.

Another friend likes to engage me in a debate.  I try not to fall for it anymore.  If he says something about 45, I might respond (on topic), “As a former military man, how do you feel about Trump sharing military secrets with the North Koreans or Russians?”

The response is likely to be “What about Obama?  Huh?  You never said anything against him when he was president.”

“Yes, I did.”

“I don’t remember that.”

“You weren’t listening.”

“Well, what about Obama? Huh?”

There is no staying on topic sometimes.  It is particularly frustrating if you are a debate coach or judge.

WHO ARE WE? WHAT ARE WE? – Marilyn Armstrong

HOW DID WE GET TO THIS PLACE?

Just like other countries, we’ve hidden our ugliest history in the backs of closets. We wrote phony history books and made sure our kids read them.  Now we wonder how come they don’t understand history. We could start by teaching them what actually happened. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Andrew Jackson President of the good old U.S.A. wiped out entire tribes of Natives. But that was only one part of the slaughter. They kidnapped children and beat them until they were “American.” More to the point, too terrified to be anything else.

Does that sound familiar in some strange way?

Then, of course, there was slavery, over which we fought the bloodiest war ever in this country, followed by a never-ending cruel inequality that still remains and continues — with the help of our disgusting president — to grow.

In an image provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, immigrants taken into custody at the border sit in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas, on Sunday. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection / AP)

And let’s not forget interning Japanese citizens — many of whom were born here — during World War 2.

So yesterday, when it looked like at least 70% of surveyed Americans thought this was a terrible idea, Trump (theoretically), backed off. Note that 30% of Americans didn’t think it was a bad idea. I try not to think about that 30%. I hope they aren’t my neighbors.

He didn’t really back off. He said was that we are going to keep the kidnapped, interned kids and do who-knows-what with their parents. They probably didn’t keep proper records about which children belong to which parents. Reuniting the kids and adults may not be possible, especially if they already deported the parents.

So what are they going to do with all the kids they’ve locked up? Keep them interned forever? Secretly murder them? Is that entirely out of the question? It’s not like it hasn’t been done before.

We’ve always felt we were morally superior to Those Other Countries who slaughtered and mass murdered people for whatever idiotic reason they held. Here we are, doing the same thing. We haven’t started killing them yet, but hey, who knows? Trump is just being Trump, so if he thinks it’s a great idea, I’m sure his sycophants will step right up and follow his orders.

You can bet Sean Hannity will be explaining how it’s not even happening anyway. And 28-30% of all Americans will smile because mass murder sounds like a good idea to them. They will volunteer for jobs in “the camps.”  A job is a job.

With a president who has so little conscience that he thinks kidnapping foreign children is good politics, does killing foreigners if it seems that might help him get reelected sound too far out? If it really might help get him re-elected — assuming he isn’t planning to bypass that whole annoying election process — why not?

What are you planning to do about it? Has it come to a point where evil is our inability to do anything about a world spun completely out of our control?

This morning, he said (who knows what he is really saying?) we are returning to the old-fashioned method we’ve been using for the past 50 years. We’ll stop refugees at our border and say “Sorry, no room. Go home.” This is what we used to before you-know-who moved to the White House. It may not be very nice, especially when you consider how desperately many of these women and children need someplace safe, but it’s nominally better than locking them up and kidnapping their children.

Someone — Tom? — asked me why we can’t make room for them. I don’t know. This country is built on the sweat of hungry immigrants, but we’ve lost our way. As long as we have borders, we seem to feel we are obliged to keep track of who comes and goes across them.

I’m too far down the line of brilliant thinkers who have turned our world into whatever it currently is, but don’t you wonder ever what would happen if we didn’t have artificial lines around “countries” and lived in a single world? Then we could just hate each other for personal reasons.

The authorities released this image of illegal migrants inside a large cage – reporters said they saw unaccompanied children in similar conditions.

If we accept this living nightmare of “Trump being Trump,” then we’re as bad as any other mass murderers. It’s easy to be morally superior when no one is testing your fiber

Now that our fiber is indeed being tested, where and how do we stand? Do we refuse to cross that line after our consciences scream NO? Do we refuse, even if we are threatened?

At what point is it too much? When is enough really enough for us?

IN STARK CONTRAST – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC

IN STARK CONTRAST TO EVERYTHING WE CLAIM TO STAND FOR, AMERICA ISN’T AMERICAN. NOT ANYMORE.


Watching our “officials” deny the undeniable — with the head of Homeland Security saying she hadn’t seen or heard anything about snatching children from their parents while on the split screen you could see it happening — America isn’t American.

Like most countries, we have plenty of dirty laundry. Slaughters of our Native Americans which was for many long years the actual policy of the U.S. government and its armed forces. Homemade concentration camps for Japanese citizens in World War II.

Then, there was slavery, the huge, bloody war we fought to (supposedly) end it. The neverending inequality and hatred that still remains and is still growing.

In an image provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, immigrants taken into custody at the border sit in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas, on Sunday. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection / AP)

But what we are doing today, tearing kids away from their families and locking them in cages — especially after having fought our way through World War 2 to end such monstrous behavior — this is as evil as anything else we’ve ever done and I am ashamed to be American.

Someone else asked it this morning in a post: “So when do we start loading parents and kids on trains to those final camps?”

Because that’s what’s left. If we accept this as “Just Trump being Trump and it’s all a media lie,” then we are as bad as they are, as evil as they come.

The authorities released this image of illegal migrants inside a large cage – reporters said they saw unaccompanied children in similar conditions.

If you have a line in the sand, some kind of conscience that screams “this is the line I cannot cross,” now would be a good time to look down at your feet and stop.

I don’t know how to live in this country anymore. I’m not sure I even want to — and I was born here as was my mother and father.

NAMES HURT


“Sticks and stones can break my bones,
but names can never hurt me.”


It’s an old childhood chant, a miserably inadequate defense against bullies and bigots when one is small and powerless. It was oft-repeated, not only by we, the little victims, but by parents, teachers and other wise counselors. It was supposed to comfort us.

It didn’t because we all knew for a certainty it was untrue.

Names can and do hurt. The hurt caused by a cruel name goes deeper than any mere cut or bruise to the body. Psyches heal but slowly. Sometimes they never heal.

Horrible words. Can you still tell me — with a straight face — that names can’t hurt? Will you give me all your arguments that “political correctness” is stupid? That anything which makes it illegal or socially unacceptable to spew hate is too restrictive of free speech? Really? Your free speech? It’s not my free speech. I don’t talk that way and I don’t hang around anyone who does.

Do you actually believe it? Or did you read it as part of some rant on Facebook?

Of course names hurt. They’re intended to hurt. They have no other purpose on earth but to cause pain. These words carry with them the ugliness of generations of haters. It has been argued by otherwise respected bloggers that if a member of a minority (in your opinion) does you wrong, you have every right to strike back any way you can.

I disagree. Racial and ethnic name-calling epithets are never justified. By anything. Is it the word or its intent that hurts so much? I think both. Words have power.


“The pen is mightier than the sword.”


But wait a minute. I thought words could never hurt me? Yes, they can.

Words bring with them the weight of history. A hate word carries the ugliness of everyone who has spoken it. Each time these words fly into the air, their potency is renewed and reinforced.

It’s time to stop forgiving bigots, stop letting them off the hook. Those hate-filled monologues by drugged and drunken celebrities were no mere slips of the tongue. They were not caused by drugs or drink. You could fill me with all the drugs and booze in the world and you’d never hear that from me. Because it’s not in me.

People who talk hate never do so by accident. It isn’t because of their environment, upbringing, or environment. It’s a choice they made. They know exactly what they are saying and why. It isn’t a joke. It isn’t funny. It isn’t okay.

Excuses are not repentance. Don’t give bigots a second chance. Be politically correct. It’s not merely political correctness. It’s also the moral, righteous, decent, civil, and humane way to behave.

IMAGINE, IF YOU WILL …

It’s only a paper moon …

Imagine, if you will, living in your native land. It’s a country where one terrible president can somehow undo the work of all forty-four presidents who preceded him! Where suddenly, you and your nation are not the “good guys.” The world has a darker hue … and it’s only 124 days (or something close to that).

Is this some kind of record?Imagine seeing years of vigilance in combating racism and discrimination vanish like smoke before your eyes.

Decades of fighting to reach any accord to deal with the frightening effects of climate change, then seeing them tossed overboard for no  reason. Imagine a president who not only encourages a foreign power to hack our elections, but is subsequently subject to blackmail by the same Russian. In public. On television.

And all of this in fewer than five months since election! Hard to imagine? So now, just imagine how we feel about it!

SEEING THINGS DIFFERENTLY – BY RICH PASCHALL

A Marriage Equality Story, by Rich Paschall


All through senior year of high school, Eddie was telling everyone that he would be going on to college.  He had applied to a four-year university and to a “junior college” just in case he was not accepted or could not afford the university.  He received acceptance from both, a bit to his surprise, actually. While his parents, Edgar and Marge, were naturally quite pleased at Eddie’s acceptance, they advised him almost immediately that there was little they could do to help with the costs of college.  The best they could do was to allow him to continue to live at home for free and could not do much more.

Eddie got a part-time job in the last semester of high school and a full-time job after graduation.  His parents would not co-sign on a loan for the university and showed great reluctance to do so for the junior college.  Even though Eddie thought he could talk his father into signing for his student loan, he had heard all the nightmare stories about student debt and decided to pass on his dreams. When the decision to skip school was made final, his parents advised that an 18-year-old with a full-time job was expected to pay rent.  They did not ask a lot of Eddie, but since he was making little over minimum wage, it was impossible for him to save money for school.

Over the following two years, he kept in touch with some friends from high school, made new friends at work and enjoyed the life of a young man without commitments.

One day Eddie expressed his frustration to his good friend Carlos.  They were best buddies since senior of high school started.  Even though they were very close, he had never introduced Carlos to his parents.  He was not sure how they would treat him and he did not want any problems at home or with his buddy.  His friendship with Carlos was too important to risk any disrespect.

“This sucks,” Eddie said choking back tears, “this absolutely sucks.”

“I know,” Carlos replied, “but it won’t suck forever, you’ll see.  We’ll both have better jobs someday and it will all be good.”  Eddie did not appear to be buying it.  “Come on, man, smile a little.” Carlos made a funny face at Eddie who immediately broke into a big smile.  Eddie was not convinced, but at least Carlos knew how to make him smile.

As the first year after high school turned into the second, Eddie’s fortunes were no better off.  Older adults kept telling him he should join the army.  It was the place for young men trying to make their way.  He would be “whipped into shape.”  His father even chimed in that it would “make a man out of you.”  None of them seemed to realize that Eddie did not need to “find his way.” He needed money for school.

As the second post high school year wore on, Eddie figured out how to get money for school.  One day he told Carlos, “I am going to join the army.”  Carlos was stunned.  He could not believe Eddie would go away.  They discussed it for hours until Eddie convinced Carlos it was the only solution.

“Then I will save money the entire time you are gone,” Carlos announced, “and we will go to school together.  I swear I won’t spend a penny I don’t need to spend until you get back.”

Eddie joined the army.  His parents were proud.  Carlos worked hard.  All thought things were finally moving forward for all, although they did not all know one another.

After boot camp, Eddie returned home before being deployed to the middle east.  He lied about his return so he could spend the first day with Carlos.  When he left he promised to write and post pictures on-line and keep everyone up to date.  He worried how he was going to do that and keep his different circles separate.

After his parents moved to Arizona, Eddie’s mom became active on Facebook and encouraged Eddie to post pictures of his service.  Although there was much he could not show, he did post some barbecue pictures on Facebook that his mother immediately reposted all around and commented on each picture.  Eddie was embarrassed and decided never to do that again.  When anyone took pictures with Eddie in the group, he asked that no one tag him in the picture so no one at home could see them.

When he was on leave he would always fly to Chicago first to visit friends, especially Carlos.  Then he would go on to Phoenix and visit his parents who had finally moved there for a change of weather.  Eddie spoke little about the service and less about Chicago.  He had come to realize through his mother’s Facebook postings and occasional comments to him, that his best course of action to keep peace in the family was to say nothing.

After the service Eddie returned to Chicago, got a job, enrolled in school and became roommates with Carlos.  After saving his money carefully and working as hard as possible, Carlos also enrolled at the junior college, but not in all the same classes as Eddie.  They were chasing different dreams.

On spring break Eddie and Carlos, along with a few other friends, went to New Orleans by train.  One of the boys rented a car upon arrival and they all hung out for a few days.  It was there that Carlos made his move.

“Let’s get married when we go back home,” he said to Eddie.

“What?” his surprised mate responded.

“You are living in sin, you know, if you will not marry me.  I demanded a proper marriage.”  Carlos looked at Eddie with the most serious look he could give him.  Then they both laughed.

“Do you love me?”  Carlos inquired.

“Of course.”

“Then why not?”

City Hall, credit: Chicago architecture.info

City Hall, credit: Chicagoarchitecture.info

When they returned home, they got the license and made their plans.  On a Thursday afternoon, with Carlos’ two sisters joining them, the boys went to city hall.  They were married and the girls took pictures.

Neither Eddie or Carlos had ever been happier.  The sisters had some great pictures and one could not wait to share with friends and family.  She even posted some on Facebook and tagged the boys.

Eddie, however, could not think of anyone else he should tell about his happy day.

DESCENDING TO THE CENTER OF DISSENSION

In Hebrew, one is always said to be “going up to Jerusalem.” Not only because Jerusalem sits on a mountain — not one of the Rockies or the Himalayas, but a mountain — something you’d know if you tried to drive there in a small car up the roads to the city from the coast, but because it is closer to heaven than other parts of earth.

For Donaldo MacCheesehead, it is definitely descending.

MacCheesehead’s trip to the middle east terrifies me on one hand, but on the other makes me laugh uncontrollably — to the point of falling down. If I had another hand, I’m not sure what I would do. Maybe weep?

Jerusalem – the star in the middle was where I lived, an area called “Baka.”

I remember when I went up to live in Jerusalem. I had read Exodus (Leon Uris) probably 100 times the year I was 14. I had been exhorted by my mother and many other family members on the importance of Israel to Our People. For the life of me, I couldn’t see why everyone couldn’t reach a sensible settlement. I’m a lot smarter than Chief Orange Blossom, but it turns out, you really need to live there for a while to “get” it. When I finally got it, I knew it was time to go home. I was not going to settle the problems. Not mine or anyone else’s.

To say that it’s “not as easy as it appears” doesn’t come near the heart of the problem. There isn’t a heart to the problem. So much of what happened in the region took place long enough ago that its remembrance is wildly twisted. The shape of the past bears little resemblance to anything that really happened. It has been buried by myth, opinion, counter-opinion, hopes, dreams … and far too much money spent on guns and hate.

Israel now

Who did what, when, and why? There is some truth to everything, but there is no absolute Truth in the craziness. No final, resonating Grand Truth against which no argument will stand except this single one.

The Jewish people deserve a place on earth where they can live and not be slaughtered because they are Jews. You can’t extract that position from the equation and come up with any answer.

The return of lands to Egypt and Syria

Since that is what “the Arab States” have consistently demanded, there has been no significant progress … collectively. Yet there has been quite a lot of progress between individual countries. Even before Jordan and Israel had an “official” peace, they had a good, working, informal agreement. And a lot of traffic between the two countries.

The peace with Egypt has had its ups and downs, but it still is hanging in there, on some level, and maybe if that nation’s own craziness were to fade, things would probably improve elsewhere, too.

Syria? Well, that’s not happening anytime soon. Lebanon? I don’t know what’s going  on up there, these days, so I have no current opinion. If I had one, I’m sure it would be complex, confusing, and involve hashish.

Israel in context with neighboring countries

America’s Orange King is going to discover — soon — that nothing in this part of the world is simple. He has not risen to Jerusalem, but rather fallen into the mire. In many ways, it should remind the man of his own issues with truth. Because in the middle east, there is no truth. Just fights, disagreement, disputes, arguments, confusion, dismay, ancient hatreds, and grudges which will never die.

“Simple” in not a word to use when talking of Israel and her neighbors.

If not for the future of human life and death on Planet Earth were not part of this conversation, it really would be funny.

So. For a man whose ability to focus on a problem is shorter than two minutes, getting him to “think” about making peace in the middle east really does make me choke with laughter … and tears. I’m sure his vision for the region is … HUGE!

THE MAZE OF AGE

Growing up and getting old are not the same thing. You’ve probably noticed.

We went to the eye doctor yesterday. Eye exams for both of us and amazingly, neither of us needed new glasses. What a relief! I did need new computer glasses and Lenscrafters was having a fabulous sale — a complete pair in an hour for $99. The ones I’ve been wearing have gotten scratched, which after three years was probably inevitable.

While I was talking about eyes and glasses, the eye doctor wanted to know what Garry does to stay so young. He was very impressed. “Does he have a workout routine or something,” he asked.

“He was a Marine,” I said, “And he has always taken good care of his body. Better these days now that he doesn’t drink or eat junk food.”

“Well, I get a lot of people his age in here and they are old. He looks great.”

Garry does look great, even if he doesn’t always feel as good as he looks. This weather is hard on his arthritis, as it is on mine. Garry told me he doesn’t feel old. Yes, of course, he complains about aches and pains, but he doesn’t “feel old.” Whatever that means. I said neither do I. My body has its own agenda and I have to deal with it, but it’s not something I’d choose. The body is separate and it has issues, but my mind isn’t old. A little forgetful, but otherwise, pretty good. Mostly.

What does “old” feel like? Not whether or not you get Social Security or have grand children. How does it feel? How do you know you’ve made it? I was first told it would be when I had children, but my son is heading towards his own lack of maturity. Does this stuff run in families?

Thus we got to talking about the people we know. Who is “old.” Who isn’t.

In our age group, we know some old people, including a few who seem to have been caught in a generational time warp. They aren’t old exactly, but they aren’t living in today’s world, either and no it isn’t dementia. They just loved the sixties so much, they never emerged. I sometimes think I should have done the same, but I digress.

Other people we know have always been old. They were born with an “old” gene. And the rest of us don’t feel like we’ve made it into adulthood. Are “adulthood” and “adultery” variations on one bizarre word?

Personally, I was sure by the time my granddaughter was breaching 21 and Garry and I were getting Social Security, this was as mature as we will get — and I suspect I was right. Apparently feeling grown up is not a “calendar” factor. More like a maze in which you wander twisting hallways. Some roam down “old” halls, others not.

It is interesting, this “getting old” thing. Your body goes its own way. Your mind travels differently. Even when my physical self feels like road kill, my brain is ready to go. That my body won’t do what I want presents me with a conflict I cannot resolve. I’m sure this is something every one of every age deals with if they are disabled. You deal with it. Learn to recognize what you can and cannot do, but you never get used to it.

I have rebellious days, even now, though fewer as time goes on. Is that maturity? Thank God for computers! At least here, I can fly.

DOOMED TO DIE

With the EPA down for the count and hunting of wolves and bears back on the table, it’s hard not to despair about the survival of those two species. The horror of what we do to our beasts makes me ill. All evidence to the contrary, I hope we will come to our senses and save our wild creatures but I have serious doubts that anything larger than a squirrel will survive in the wild. Not here or anywhere.

I believe that pretty much all Earth’s large animals are doomed in their natural habitats. Some  will be gone soon. The remaining species will succumb eventually. Tigers, wolves, lions, jaguars — all the big cats — as well as other large land animals, like elephants, rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses, apes and most monkeys and many more will no longer have a home on this planet.

There will be no wild places.

Humans will, for a while, maintain controlled populations of various species in zoos and special habitats, as if that could make up for their disappearance. As if warehousing is the same as having a wild kingdom. Want to know why? Really? It isn’t the long complicated explanation you will get from environmentalists or public talking heads. Let’s skip past statistical analyses.

It’s simpler than that.

The animals will disappear because they are in our way. Animals don’t fit with human civilization. They are untidy. They eat cattle, goats, chickens, sheep. They trample fields, demolish gardens. Take up space that could be more profitably used for shopping malls and suburban subdivisions. They are more valuable dead than alive.


Predators and large animals are inconvenient.


When humans finds something — anything — inconvenient, we eliminate it. Kill it. Demolish it. Whether it’s a species, a river, or a mountain. If it’s in our way, we make it disappear.

There’s a moral to the story. We should all take care because someday soon, we might eliminate ourselves.

Bye bye.

INCONVENIENTLY DOOMED TO DIE

Siberian Tiger Français : Tigre de sibérie Ita...

Despite all evidence to the contrary, I continue to hope that we will come to our senses and save our wild creatures. That being said, I have serious doubts that anything larger than a squirrel will survive in the wild.

I believe that all Earth’s large animals are doomed in their native habitats. Some  will be gone soon. We will see the last of them in our lifetime.  The remaining species will succumb eventually. Tigers, wolves, lions, jaguars — all the big cats — as well as other large land animals, like elephants, rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses, apes and most monkeys and many more will no longer have a home on this planet.

There will be no wild places.

Humans will, for a while, maintain controlled populations of various species in zoos and special habitats, as if that could make up for their disappearance. As if warehousing is the same as having a wild kingdom. We’ll see the end of tigers and elephants in less than a decade. It’s possible the rhinoceroses are already gone. If wolves are removed from endangered species status, they will be hunted to extinction in no time flat.

elephants-in-the-serengeti

Want to know why? Really? It isn’t the long complicated explanation you will get from environmentalists or public talking heads. Let’s skip past statistical analyses and the convoluted nonsense spouted by government officials and corporate stooges.

It’s simpler than that.

The animals will disappear because they are in our way. Animals don’t fit with human civilization. They are untidy. They eat cattle, goats, chickens, sheep. They trample fields, demolish gardens. They take up space that could be more profitably used for shopping malls and suburban subdivisions. They are more valuable dead than alive — and ever so much fun to kill.


Predators and large animals are inconvenient.


When humans finds something — anything — inconvenient, we eliminate it. Kill it. Demolish it. Whether it’s a species, a river, or a mountain. If it’s in our way, we make it disappear.

There’s a moral to the story. We should all take care because we can be eliminated too. If we don’t watch our step, we will eliminate ourselves.

Lions and tigers and bears? Bye bye.

P.S. If you think I’m exaggerating, please check out the Durell Wildlife Foundation, which is one of many organizations desperately trying to save what is left of our wild creatures. Durrell is my favorite, probably because Gerald Durrell who founded it was the writer whose work first got me interested in wildlife and saving it.

NO FLY? NO BUY!

Vis-a-vis the horror in Orlando, I’ve listened to all the explanations by the FBI. How it isn’t their fault, there was nothing they could do. It was too difficult to keep track of this guy.

orlando-flag

I don’t believe it. Sorry, just don’t. Between the FBI, Homeland, and ATF … and I’m sure there are more agencies I’m forgetting … there should be more than sufficient resources to keep track of obviously suspicious and potentially dangerous people. They seem eager to harass completely harmless citizens, so maybe they need to redirect their attention to actual threats. Just saying.

Moving to the endlessly debated yet never implemented subject of gun control: I understand making sensible gun laws is far too complex for our elected representatives (that is to say, politicians), to address. All the money they get from gun lobbies is muddling their brains.

So … how about this?

no fly no buy shooting


No fly? No buy.

Every registered gun dealer, and any other place licensed to sell guns in this country, gets the list and timely updates. Just like the airlines.

If your name is on the list, you cannot legally buy a gun. Period.


If you are too dangerous to be a passenger on an airplane, you are too dangerous to buy guns.

Surely we have sufficient technology to make this work? All you need is the mailing list and some kind of computer. A printer would help, too.

It won’t solve every gun-related problem, but it could prevent a few tragedies here and there. That’s better than the nothing we seem intent on doing.

BEHIND THE SCENES OF OBAMA’S HISTORIC 2008 CAMPAIGN

AN INTERVIEW WITH

CONNIE CORCORAN WILSON

Author of “OBAMA’S ODYSSEY: The 2008 Race for the Whitehouse”

QUESTION – What do you think accounts for the degree of anger in the electorate? It seems to me and my husband (who was also a 40-year on the air professional reporter) that the “anger” is way out of proportion to anything going on in this country.

ANSWER –  A lot of it comes from the collective reside of the unwise wars in which we’ve become involved and the near-collapse of our economy in 2007-2008. That’s covered very well by the movie “The Big Short” (adapted from the book). If you haven’t seen it, absolutely do. Take notes.

Connie Corcoran Wilson

Connie Corcoran Wilson

We bailed out the big banks, but who on Wall Street paid for their near-lethal greed? No one. It’s intrinsically unfair — as Bernie Sanders keeps pointing out.

People are pretty P.O.-ed at Wall Street banks. Those voters should think carefully about the mess Obama inherited from his Republican predecessor; how he literally had to “save” our nation. Fortunately, he was a smart, highly educated guy who knew what needed to be done to rescue the economy from the brink. Find and kill Bin Laden. Pass the Affordable Care act. He’s been trying hard to get rid of Guantanamo, but has been stymied by the GOP. He also tried to get Republicans to meet in good faith with his nominee for the Supreme Court, but you know how well that’s going. It’s disgraceful to treat a sitting President with so little respect.

Wall Street’s greedy dishonesty plays to Bernie Sanders’ appeal to young voters, especially when he calls for free college and universal health care. My 28-year-0ld daughter has a far less bright future than I had on graduating college.

Bernie’s eventual fortunes, (should he become the Democratic nominee), are murky. Republicans have taken it easy on Bernie so far, preferring to focus on Hillary who they see as the logical nominee. If Bernie is nominated, he’ll be crucified. The opposition will have him branded a Commie in no time, even though it’s Donald Trump whose in-laws are actual card-carrying Communists.

I’m not sure Sanders has the international expertise Hillary Rodham Clinton possesses from years as Secretary of State. Nonetheless, I find it encouraging that young people are getting involved in the election and supporting a 74-year-old candidate with such enthusiasm.

Voters are sick of the stagnation in Washington. When a Republican like Mitch McConnell openly announces as his main goal to prevent President Obama from achieving any of his programs, designed to help Americans (that is, you and me), I think we could perceive it as racism, partisan politics (at the expense of the country), or just plain stubbornness. The Grand Old Party in days of yore believed in compromise. In getting things done. Sadly, there are no more Bob Doles or Tip O’Neill’s in Congress.

QUESTION – How much of the “anger” is really thinly disguised racism (in YOUR opinion … I’m not looking for evidence, just opinion)?

ANSWER – Your words, not mine, Marilyn; I cannot disagree with you. As Bernie Sanders said on Seth Meyer’s show on April 7, 2016: “The Republican obstructionism towards Obama over the past 7 and ½ years is unprecedented in American history.” Is there a way to explain this deplorable behavior beyond merely Obama’s policies?

You’ve suggested one. Because, as Bernie said, Obama tried to negotiate with the Republicans at first but their mindset was obstruct, obstruct, obstruct. I’m ashamed at how our President has been treated by Congress.

As of the last CNN Poll I read, Bernie would beat Trump by 20 points, [says Bernie], which ignores the fact that the Republicans will do everything in their power to deny Trump the Arrogant the nomination (successfully, I feel). “The truth is there is nothing radical about our agenda,” said Bernie on the April 8th Seth Meyers program.

Bernie also added graciously, “On Hillary Clinton’s worst day she’d be 100 times better than any of the Republicans.”

QUESTION – I still see a lot of that residual “not liking” of Hillary. I’ve met Hillary a couple of times (back in the 90s when Bill was Prez) and I liked her. She’s not warm or cuddly, but she’s smart, and professional. How much of the “not liking Hillary” is because she’s a tough woman and how much because she isn’t “one of the gang”? Again, I’m looking for what you think, not statistics or evidence.

ANSWER – In 2008, I reported what voters told me about their feelings and impressions of Hillary Clinton, especially in Iowa. Not necessarily my views. I was trying to be an impartial reporter — until McCain selected Sarah Palin. After which all bets were off.

Iowans didn’t like Hillary’s laugh, her screechy voice, or her vote for the Iraq war. Some felt she exuded a sense of entitlement. Others — especially Hispanic voters — thought she was great. It was interesting that those who should have been her biggest supporters (that is, mature white women) were her biggest detractors.

I think she is one of the most qualified candidates to come down the pike in years and it’s time we elected a woman as President. Despite one person’s claim (a Canadian) that I am, somehow, trying to “derail” Hillary’s campaign, nothing could be further from the truth.

I followed the presidential campaigns of ’04, ’08 and ’12, but there’s no way I could follow the campaigns of Trump and Cruz, let alone vote for either one. I think Kasich is the most reasonable of the GOP lot, but he vetoed funds for Planned Parenthood in Ohio– while campaigning. He may be reasonable onstage, but offstage Kasich mentions wanting to take Christianity to the Muslim world. Which smacks of the medieval Crusades — not something I can support.

It’s a sad commentary on politics in America today and the status of the G.O.P. in general ( not to mention a terrible example to set for the rest of the world) when Trump talks about using nuclear weapons in Europe. His hateful, bigoted remarks are being used as a recruitment video for ISIS. His rallies are egotistical, non-events for people who would vote for a Kardashian because they’ve seen them on television.

QUESTION – Give me four things you want people to know about Obama’s Odyssey?

ANSWER – That these books lay out the behind-the-scenes adventures, complete with entertaining, often funny stories.

Another thing. It’s very unusual for someone my age who’s just a “regular citizen” to be granted access to the future president of the US. To rub shoulders with the power brokers at the caucuses and conventions of 2008. I also covered 2004 and 2012, but not inside the Big Show of the conventions.

Everyone should recognize — acknowledge — the power of the word on the Internet, if that word is widely distributed. I’ve written about the campaign on my little WeeklyWilson.com blog. My “Associated Content” writing let me be inside in Denver, St. Paul, and elsewhere. Which was not on my “to do” list when I began.

I did my best to make my book lighthearted. If you can’t have fun while doing something, what’s the point? I wanted to get at the truth in 2008, have fun, and be part of what I consider one of the most historical election cycles of this century and my lifetime. If you’re looking for an expert? Look elsewhere.

If you’re looking for a person with Iowa roots who could follow the campaigns in Iowa? I’m your girl! I live across the I-74 bridge from Davenport, Iowa (the Quad Cities). My Sylvan Learning Center #3301 is in Bettendorf, Iowa. I grew up in Independence, Iowa. I graduated from the University of Iowa. Like most Americans, I’ve become skeptical about getting the truth when we watch Fox News or, for that matter, MSNBC. I wanted to find out for myself. I had no idea my articles on would become so popular and well-read. That I’d get so many hits and so many comments. That I’d be invited to Denver and St. Paul. It just happened. It wasn’t my goal or my assignment.

I’m tired of “the tail wagging the dog” with election results announced prematurely which then influence the outcome of the actual election. I still believe Al Gore won in Florida. I think The Donald has repeatedly referenced the dirty trick played on Ben Carson in Iowa by the Cruz campaign in which Cruz’ people announced Carson had suspended his Iowa race — just before voters went to the polls to caucus — and it was not true. You learn this stuff in far greater detail if you’re actually there.

Off I went, Nikon in hand, navigating the Iowa caucuses all over the state and writing about it for “Associated Content” blog. I interviewed real voters and tramped around in bitterly cold weather.

I learned how to get to 3 rallies in separate locations on the same night (Hillary, Edwards and Obama). I was on a first-name basis with the Bidens. They sent me e-mails telling me where to be and when. I include amusing articles such as “Alternative Titles for the Sarah Palin Documentary”and recount some of the better “jabs” on late-night television shows.

The books contain 88 new, never-published photos. The information in the books should be preserved for future historians. It’s the only way anyone will get a true taste of what 2008 was like.

I was there and I work hard to make sure that you, my readers, are part of it too.

SEEING THINGS DIFFERENTLY

A Marriage Equality Story, by Rich Paschall

All through senior year of high school, Eddie was telling everyone that he would be going on to college.  He had applied to a four-year university and to a “junior college” just in case he was not accepted or could not afford the university.  He received acceptance from both, a bit to his surprise, actually.

While his parents, Edgar and Marge, were naturally quite pleased at Eddie’s acceptance, they advised him almost immediately that there was little they could do to help with the costs of college.  The best they could do was to allow him to continue to live at home for free and could not do much more.

Eddie got a part-time job in the last semester of high school and a full-time job after graduation.  His parents would not co-sign on a loan for the university and showed great reluctance to do so for the junior college.  Even though Eddie thought he could talk his father into signing for his student loan, he had heard all the nightmare stories about student debt and decided to pass on his dreams.

When the decision to skip school was made final, his parents advised that an 18-year-old with a full-time job was expected to pay rent.  They did not ask a lot of Eddie, but since he was making little over minimum wage, it was impossible for him to save money for school.

Over the next two years, he kept in touch with some friends from high school, made new friends at work and enjoyed the life of a young man without commitments.

One day Eddie expressed his frustration to his good friend Carlos.  They were best buddies since senior of high school started.  Even though they were very close, he had never introduced Carlos to his parents.  He was not sure how they would treat him and he did not want any problems at home or with his buddy.  His friendship with Carlos was too important to risk any disrespect.

“This sucks,” Eddie said choking back tears, “this absolutely sucks.”

“I know,” Carlos replied, “but it won’t suck forever, you’ll see.  We’ll both have better jobs someday and it will all be good.”  Eddie did not appear to be buying it.  “Come on, man, smile a little.”

Carlos made a funny face at Eddie who immediately broke into a big smile.  Eddie was not convinced but at least Carlos knew how to make him smile.

As the first year after high school turned into the second, Eddie’s fortunes were no better off.  Older adults kept telling him he should join the army.  It was the place for young men trying to make their way.  He would be “whipped into shape.”  His father even chimed in that it would “make a man out of you.”  None of them seemed to realize that Eddie did not need to “find his way.” He needed money for school.

As the second post high school year wore on, Eddie figured out how to get money for school.  One day he told Carlos, “I am going to join the army.”  Carlos was stunned.  He could not believe Eddie would go away.  They discussed it for hours until Eddie convinced Carlos it was the only solution.

“Then I will save money the entire time you are gone,” Carlos announced, “and we will go to school together.  I swear I won’t spend a penny I don’t need to spend until you get back.”

Eddie joined the army.  His parents were proud.  Carlos worked hard.  All thought things were finally moving forward for all, although they did not all know one another.

After boot camp, Eddie returned home before being deployed to the middle east.  He lied about his return so he could spend the first day with Carlos.  When he left he promised to write and post pictures on-line and keep everyone up to date.  He worried how he was going to do that and keep his different circles separate.

After his parents moved to Arizona, Eddie’s mom became active on facebook and encouraged Eddie to post pictures of his service.  Although there was much he could not show, he did post some barbecue pictures on facebook that his mother immediately reported all around and commented on each picture.  Eddie was embarrassed and decided never to do that again.  When anyone took pictures with Eddie in the group, he asked that no one tag him in the picture so no one at home could see them.

When he was on leave he would always fly to Chicago first to visit friends, especially Carlos.  Then he would go on to Phoenix and visit his parents who had finally move there for a change of weather.  Eddie spoke little about the service and less about Chicago.  He had come to realize through his mother’s facebook postings and occasional comments to him, that his best course of action to keep peace in the family was to say nothing.

After the service Eddie returned to Chicago, got a job, enrolled in school and became roommates with Carlos.  After saving his money carefully and working as hard as possible, Carlos also enrolled at the junior college, but not in all the same classes as Eddie.  They were chasing different dreams.

On spring break Eddie and Carlos, along with a few other friends, went to New Orleans by train.  One of the boys rented a car upon arrival and they all hung out for a few days.  It was there that Carlos made his move.

“Let’s get married when we go back home,” he said to Eddie.

“What?” his surprised mate responded.

“You are living in sin, you know, if you will not marry me.  I demanded a proper marriage.”  Carlos looked at Eddie with the most serious look he could give him.  Then they both laughed.

“Do you love me?”  Carlos inquired.

“Of course.”

“Then why not?”

City Hall, credit: Chicago architecture.info

City Hall, credit: Chicagoarchitecture.info

When they returned home, they got the license and made their plans.  On a Thursday afternoon, with Carlos’ two sisters joining them, the boys went to city hall.  They were married and the girls took pictures.

Neither Eddie or Carlos had ever been happier.  The sisters had some great pictures and one could not wait to share with friends and family.  She even posted some on facebook and tagged the boys.  Eddie, however, could not think of anyone else he should tell about his happy day who did not already know it.

Related story:  Did You See The Picture?

IMMORTALITY AND THE DAILY PROMPT

And here is my original entry on this prompt. Which, as it turns out, is still pretty funny and as obnoxious as the first time I wrote it.

I am not sure I ever thought I was immortal — probably because I didn’t think about it at all. Until sometime in college, I did not ponder the nature of life and death.

College was a peak time for that kind of mental muck-raking. Was it the drugs? No, I’m inclined to think it was going to classes. You see, college presents no danger unless you actually attend lectures and stuff. If you just hang out on the quad, it’ll be okay. But I took courses like  “The Philosophy of Religion” and went to lectures on Phenomenology. And, I had a steady assignment of existential novels to read by Sartre, Camus, et al. Deep stuff. The kind of books I totally won’t look at any more.

96-Me Young in Maine

That this hyper-intellectual phase of my life coincided nicely with my first actual near-death experience was pure chance. It didn’t improve my personality, that’s for sure. There is nothing more aggravating than a teenage college student contemplating the philosophical meaning of life. And death. Had I not already been me, I would have had to expel myself as a punishment for being so annoying.

I’m pretty sure all of us thought we were very smart and had a solid grip on the life and death stuff. Even adding on my botched spine surgery — which nearly killed me for real and all — I was still an obnoxious wise-ass with an inflated sense of my intellectual prowess.

Things have really improved. Now I’m an aging senior citizen wise-ass. Oh, and I am pretty sure — not 100%, but maybe 90% — I am not immortal. Eventually, I’ll know for 100% certain.

I’ll get back to you on that.