DIVIDED WE FALL – Rich Paschall

Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all, 
By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall; 
In so righteous a cause let us hope to succeed, 
For heaven approves of each generous deed.

-John Dickinson, The Liberty Song, 1768

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Throughout the history of this country, the concept that we stand together has been expressed in song, in writing, and at the podium in speech.  It was the rallying cry of the Revolution and the days following 9/11.  It was spoken during the Civil War and the armed conflicts since.  It was the thought of trade unions fighting for better working conditions.  We may never have all stood together, but we were never divided at critical times in history.  Until now, that is.

From the opening of his campaign until the present day, the leader of our country has worked hard to divide Americans with an “Us versus them” attitude.  He speaks it, he tweets it, he lies about it.

In the opening salvo, he started by trying to assert that many of our neighbors who came from other countries were the enemy.  Of Mexico he stated: “They are not our friend, believe me. But they’re killing us economically. The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems.”  You likely know the most egregious things he said about Mexico.  Let’s consider another statement.

Dividing us from other friends, 45 went on to say: “It’s coming from more than Mexico. It’s coming from all over South and Latin America, and it’s coming probably— probably— from the Middle East. But we don’t know. Because we have no protection and we have no competence, we don’t know what’s happening.”  This was stated despite a strict immigration policy under President Obama.  Ask anyone who entered (or was deported) at that time.

Also at the time of his announcement, China and Japan were particularly criticised, along with the leaders of our own country.  It is not unusual to criticize the other party during a campaign, but consider carefully the deals the country made during the Obama presidency and the comments made by Trump, the candidate.  There is campaign rhetoric, and then there are falsehoods and divisions.  The announcement of candidacy is filled with quotes that are not attributed to specific people and many statistics that raise questions of accuracy.  Did he portray us correctly?

After a campaign of insults and hateful comments, 45 has spent a great deal of time on his twitter account blasting out hateful and divisive comments among people here and abroad.  How do we feel about this?  Early in the year the Quinnipiac University National Poll found that the Tweeter in Chief is dividing the nation.  While polls results show that the majority of Republicans do not feel this way, Americans by 64 to 31 per cent feel that 45 is actually doing more to divide the country.

Worse yet, many are unsure if the man is actually stable. “President Donald Trump can’t seem to improve his approval rating, perhaps because of the troubling fact that half of the voters we spoke to think he is mentally unstable,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.  But apparently, some of those voters are willing to stand by him anyway.

He tried to change the narrative on the NFL anthem controversy, perhaps because he could not get an NFL franchise years ago.  The NFL commissioner and the NFL Players Association fired back. “Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players,” commissioner, Roger Goodell, said.  NFLPA executive director, DeMaurice Smith, indicated that they would not back down.

NFL QB Tom Brady, believed to be a Republican, responded “I believe in bringing people together and respect and love and trust. I just want to support my teammates.”

Last year in September, the New York Times’ Peter Baker provided this news analysis, “Never in modern times has an occupant of the Oval Office seemed to reject so thoroughly the nostrum that a president’s duty is to bring the country together.”  Isn’t it troubling that our leader has so many negative things to say?

Baker also noted, “In his brief career as president and a candidate for president, Mr. Trump has attacked virtually every major institution in American life: Congress, the courts, Democrats, Republicans, the news media, the Justice Department, Hollywood, the military, NATO, the intelligence agencies, the cast of “Hamilton,” the cast of “Saturday Night Live,” the pope and now professional sports. ”  Is this presidential?

While the tweeter is in a rage, outside forces are also trying to undermine American life.  Fake social media accounts have reportedly planted fake stories and memes meant to drive a wedge between parts of our society.  Apparently it has been working.  If you have been a regular user of facebook or twitter you know exactly what the problem is.  As these fake stories pop up, unwitting supporters retweet, reblog and share these items on their news feed.  Do you think foreign influences are behind this?

isys6621.com

Social media believes we are under cyber attack. Google, the parent of YouTube and other media platforms, deleted Iranian accounts.  Facebook and others have removed Russian accounts.  These accounts were there to influence opinion and perhaps even divide Americans through fake stories.  Was there collusion by 45 and/or his minions to help spread lies posted by Russians?  Time will reveal the answer.

With full-blown propaganda wars in play, some started by and perpetuated by our leader, our enemies must be rejoicing.  They see the unraveling of the American fabric, aided by our own leader, allowing them to advance to a stronger position in the world.  If they can divide us and turn American against American, with Trump’s help, then our foes will watch as we stumble and fall in the eyes of the world.

Sources: “The Liberty Song,”  en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Liberty_Song
“History of the Motto,” Smithsonian Museum of American History 
Here’s Donald Trump’s Presidential Announcement Speech,” Time, June 16, 2015
Quinnipiac University National Poll, January 17, 2018
“Roger Goodell, NFLPA angrily denounce Trump’s ‘divisive comments’,” NBCSPORTS.COM, September, 23, 2017
“Tom Brady: I Disagree With Trump’s ‘Divisive’ Comments,” thedailybeast.com
“A Divider, Not a Uniter, Trump Widens the Breach,” The New York Times, September 24, 2017
“Not just Russians: Google follows Facebook to remove
Iranian accounts,” Financial Times, http://www.ft.com
“President Trump has made 4,229 false or misleading claims in 558 days,” The Washington Post, August 1, 2018

Click on the source links above for further information on the above statements.

TRUTH THROUGH A PRISM – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Prism

Prism is a complicated word with a variety of meanings, mathematical, optical, and figuratively. I use the term figuratively — to see something through “the prism of a camera,” would be a common usage.

What is it?

In geometry, a prism is a solid geometric figure whose two end faces are similar, equal, and parallel rectilinear figures, and whose sides are parallelograms. (Got that? Really? Well, please explain it to me!)

In optics, it is a glass or other transparent object in prism form, especially one that is triangular with refracting surfaces at an acute angle with each other and that separates white light into a spectrum of colors. You can buy prismatic filters for a camera and many modern cameras come with some version of a prism built into them.

Prism is more commonly used in figurative speech. In this case, it is referring to the clarification or distortion of a viewpoint, as in “They were forced to imagine the disaster through the prism of television” — which would inherently change the natural viewpoint. I often think that is what people really mean when they say “reporters lie.”

Reporters don’t lie, but they force the truth through the prism of their format — television. This requires cutting down long commentaries to find the “nugget” without the longer speech. Although this is intended to sharpen the meaning of the comments, it doesn’t always do that. The personal point of view of the editor or reporter can affect the way the subject is presented.

But reporters don’t lie. They present information in a particular way which requires editing and shaping. Without this “shaping” of the news for presentation in a half-hour or hour news broadcast, there would be no television news at all.

For that matter, the same process is used in any form of print media. No one presents the full context of a speech in any form of news. Even in full book presentation, most commentaries are substantially cut. Why? Because you would fall profoundly asleep before you got to the main point of the discussion.

It’s all well and good to have long arguments which find you still haggling over details at dawn the following day, but reporting news in a format anyone can follow and understand takes a lot of understanding of the subject matter. Finding the “important nugget of information” in a cloud of context is a skillful occupation. It isn’t performed by people who get up in the morning planning on lying to the public — unless they work for Fox News, in which case reality bears little resemblance to their version of “news.”

So when you argue the prism of a format, remember it is done so you can make sense of it. If it isn’t a complete version of the whole truth, do your own research. Look for the truth. Find it. Read it. Search for more if that’s not enough.

ABC News

No one — least of all the people who report the news — suggests the versions they report are the uncut truth. That type of knowledge requires you.

Find the truth — then believe it after you discover it. If you start out with pre-conditions of “what truth should be,” you won’t find anything but your own opinion.


NOTE: The expression “through a prism darkly” refers to spying.

3.2.1 ME CHALLENGE: INSPIRATION, WITH HELP ALONG THE WAY – Marilyn Armstrong

INSPIRATION” VIA SUE VINCENT AT DAILY ECHO


I was invited to take part in the 3.2.1 Me Challenge the other day by Sue Vincent at the Daily Echo. The rules, she said, were simple:

1 – Thank the person who nominated you.

Thank you Sue, not only for the invitation, but also for always writing unique and beautiful posts that make me think and remind me of all the things I usually forget.

2 – Provide two three (but you can use two — I just found three I liked) quotes on the subject you are set by that person.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover. –Mark Twain

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. –Plato

When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life.  When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I wrote down ‘happy’.  They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life. –John Lennon

3 – Invite three other bloggers to take part (if they so wish) in the challenge.
The subject Sue gave me was ‘inspiration’ and I really need to thank her for making me take the time to think about it. Because oddly enough, I had been thinking about it anyway, so this was remarkably timely.

I always have trouble with this part of any challenge. I don’t like to ask because they may feel obliged to say yes, even if they don’t really want to. So please, if this sounds interesting to you, I offer you the subject:


TRUTH

Given the way life has changed, how do you feel about it? What’s your version of it? How important is it?


Inspiration: On your own but not alone

We all start college — or at least most of us do — pretty young. In our teens, generally. Some of us start even sooner. I was just barely 16, but I thought I was terribly sophisticated and mature.

I was sophisticated and mature for someone my age. Which was 16. I had zero vision of what I would be on this earth. I was socially inexperienced and emotionally volatile. My knowledge went exactly as far as the books I read.

Working in California from Boston – Dawn of a new age in telecommuting

I had read a lot of books (for my age). I had also not read a lot more books. It isn’t, as my father said, what you don’t know that gets you. It’s what you do know that’s wrong.

I knew a lot of wrong things. They weren’t wrong because I thought them wrongly, but because much of what I read was inaccurate, closer to guesses and opinions than facts. Possibly much of what I know now is still wrong, but I think most historians and scientists are working more closely with original sources today. That may be one of the best things to come from the Internet and sharing of information across the world, that you don’t necessarily have to travel the world to find original sources (though it certainly doesn’t hurt, either).

I had only the fuzziest idea what I was going to do with myself. After I gave up my dreams of playing the grand piano with an orchestra at Carnegie Hall, then deleted my “great American author” fantasy where I lived on a cliff in Maine overlooking the ocean while writing unforgettable novels,  I had no idea what I would do.

It turned out I was not a novelist. I had great ideas, but no ability to turn them into books. I could write dialogue easily and still do, but I had no talent for “action.” Even the most chatty novel requires that characters sometimes get off the sofa and do something. Anything. My characters never did anything — except talk and think.

Not unlike me, come to think of it.

I needed help along the way and I got it.

Dr. Herb Deutsch needed to point out while I loved music, I was not sufficiently involved with it to make it my life’s work.

Mr. Wekerle (pronounced Weh-ker-lee with the emphasis on the first syllable) was the head of the Philosophy Department at Hofstra University. I adored him. Not because he was “hot,” but because he was so incredibly smart. He was the only professor could always tell when I was bullshitting and hadn’t really read the books. He was also the only teacher to give me D-/A+ as a grade for a 50-page paper.

The A+ was for style, the D- for content. I treasured the A+ because somehow, I was sure that style was going to be more “me” than content. I was wrong. It was both.

He taught me that even if you know it, you can’t assume your audience does. You have to write it all out, Alpha to Zed. I had an editor in Israel who reinforced this by making me rewrite all the sections of a book I was working on — the parts I didn’t want to write.

Garry was deeply influential too at a time when he was figuring out where he stood in terms of work and his future. He came to realize that for a variety of reasons, he had gone as far as he was going to go. He didn’t want to move to a different city and that alone was some degree of a “game ender.” He knew he didn’t want to move into management and he didn’t want to be an assignment editor, producer, or director. He liked what he was doing. He liked doing it in Boston. He had found his place — and his walls.

I was finding my walls, too.  I knew I wasn’t cut out for management. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do it, but I hated it. I didn’t want to edit other people’s work. I wanted to write it. I was not sufficiently ambitious to “go corporate” and try to head a department. I knew my personal life had always been more important to me than my professional life. I knew this was unlikely to change. Effectively, I had reached my limits.

As Garry talked about how he felt about his own work and I talked about mine, we both recognized because you’ve gone as far as you are going to go professionally, you are not facing defeat.

Success does not mean you need to reach the top, the pinnacle, the ultimate level of success for your field. Not everyone needs or wants to climb to the top. We don’t all want to be the most ambitious to be exceptional at what we do.

It was a realistic assessment of what we were able and willing to do. I could have fought my way into corporate life and probably made more money. So could Garry. We didn’t want to.

I think my point is a twofer.

On one level, we make it on our own, but we don’t make it alone. We get all kinds of help along the way, often from unexpected people in unusual places. The help might be a simple question, or a mentorship. Or, maybe someone who knows you and recognizes when you need the right words to work through whatever is going on.

Inspiration usually comes with help. A little help can go a long way.

GROWING UP WITH McCARTHY – Garry Armstrong

This is one I never intended to share. It had been buried in the deepest part of the memory chest I never planned to revisit.

I was branded a “pinko” as a kid.

I grew up in an era when the name McCarthy was first associated with Edgar Bergen’s puppet pal,  Charlie McCarthy. We followed Bergen and McCarthy on their radio show, religiously, along with Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Bob Hope and the other funny people of a more innocent era.

All of that changed when “Tail Gunner Joe” McCarthy unleashed his witch hunt of everyone in the guise of ferreting out Communist sympathizers. It was part of a bleak period when Cold War angst followed World War 2.

McCarthy is news again because of the current White House occupant and his apparent fondness for McCarthy’s tactics.

I didn’t understand why people shied away from talking about something called “The Black List.”  I was still in grade school but a voracious reader of newspapers, magazines and the gold mine of books in our home library.

One of those books was “Not So Wild A Dream.” It was written by Eric Sevareid, a news commentator I listened to every evening on CBS Radio News. I loved Sevareid’s gritty voice talking about the evil in far-off places like Russia.

I was puzzled when Sevareid talked about how “we” were endangered by a politician named Joe McCarthy. I had seen the newspaper stories and headlines – famous actors and writers ‘outed’ as “Commies.”  I asked my parents about it but they told me “no worries,”  it didn’t involve people like us.

What did that mean? People like us?

I was fond of taking some of my grown-up books to school. I liked to show off the books I was reading. I was on first-hand terms with Sevareid, John Steinbeck, and the guy who wrote about “Crime and Punishment” in Russia.

While other kids bragged about their new cars, summer homes, and vacations in Florida, I only had books with which to earn bragging points. I didn’t always fully understand the books, but I liked how the words were put together. I enjoyed reading them aloud.

It was the beginning of a lifelong passion for words. The sound and feel of words.  Words that you can sometimes stroke because they touch your heart in a special way.

All of this was the prologue to a nasty wake-up call for my youthful innocence.

Garry receiving his Broadcasting Hall of Fame award – September 2013

We had an assignment in Composition Class. Probably the 4th or 5th grade. My heart was beating at double speed as I searched my treasure trove of books. I skipped past kid stuff like “Treasure Island,” “The Last of the Mohicans,” and my whole collection of baseball related material.

“Not So Wild A Dream” was the winner. I was just getting into some heady stuff by people named Odets, Miller, and Lardner. I liked what they said. I used to memorize sections to impress my Mom who was always proud of my ability to sound like a proper young man. I figured everyone would respect that ability.

I remember it was a warm spring day.  I was wearing my new spring outfit — LONG pants, crisp white shirt, and shiny new shoes. I was brimming with confidence in Composition Class. When volunteers were asked to read their homework,  my hand shot up faster than Big Don Newcombe’s fabled right arm.

My throat was dry but I plunged right in when I was selected. I read some passages from “Not So Wild A Dream” and a quote from Clifford Odets who was talking about social ills.  I didn’t understand much of what I said but it sounded and felt good to me.  I looked around.

Silence and a few nervous giggles. My teacher had a strange look on her face and stammered as she praised my work. She told me I probably would see the Principal later to discuss my impressive homework. I was beaming with pride!

The Principal seemed nervous as he talked to me. He hemmed and hawed. He even stammered. Where had I found the books I read? Who gave them to me?  I proudly told him about our home library and the magazines we got every week. I remember the Principal’s eyes arching in surprise.

What was the big deal,  I wondered.

All the joy of that morning came crashing down on me during lunch recess. The warm day meant we could open our lunch boxes outside in the play area.  I was munching on my sandwich when I saw kids staring at me.

I began to pick up the words.

“He’s a pinko.”

“His parents are pinkos.  I’m gonna tell my Mom. All his people are Commies, my Dad told me.”

The whispers grew louder. Finally, I was approached by a couple of the guys who used to pick on me because of the way I dressed, my glasses, and my stupid hearing aids which made me look a space villain.  Oh, yeah, they also picked on me because I was the shortest kid in the class.

What now? Were they jealous of my composition?  What the heck?

The biggest kid came right up to my face.  He had bad breath and smelled worse.  I don’t think he bathed often. I could see the red pimples sticking out on his face. “Hey, you four-eyed deaf midget nigg_r,  so you’re a pinko too, huh?”

Pimple face leered at me,  obviously daring me to get up and fight. I gulped hard.

His pal, beady-eyed, and sweating, taunted me, “I hear all you people are Commies. You don’t go to Church — you go to Commie meetings! All of YOU people. I’m gonna tell my Dad. You’re in big trouble, you lousy little pinko.”

My throat was dry and I was very scared. I couldn’t think. Then, the bell rang.  Lunch was over. I was (literally) saved by the bell.

That evening,  I recounted everything to my Mom and Dad. They listened without saying a word. Usually, they’d interrupt me, correct my language, diction or choice of words.  When I’d finished,  they looked at each other for a long time before speaking to me.

Mom and Dad were unusually patient in explaining things to me. I think I was a little put off by their civility. I tried to absorb what they said. It was hard.

I remember Mom telling me I’d have become more mature than my age. I was going to deal with more of these “things” as I grew up. She smiled wistfully as she tousled my hair.

And that’s how I started on the road to journalism. Suddenly, I understood something about the grown-up version of the truth.

THE “MODERN” WAY? – Marilyn Armstrong

#FOWC — Modern Tyranny for Modern Times


Today is the press’ day to publish editorials supporting freedom of the press, but not every newspaper is doing it. Their reasons are varied. Some simply don’t have the financial structure to take on a major issue anymore.

Those papers have already lost the war. Like New York’s Daily News, taken over by the Trump mouthpiece of Sinclair to be the “nothing much” somewhere on the internet.

Illustration: Bangor Daily Tribune

As editorials show up in my inbox, I’ll reblog or post them, as I can. Some of them are “Pay to Read” and this is one of those days when that policy is downright foolish, so modern or not, I think press editorials need to be seen and read by as many people as possible, whether or not they are subscribers.

If trampling truth and publishing only what “our leader” (not my leader, but maybe yours) wants to hear is “the modern way,” then heaven help us all.

That is tyranny and our freedom will be, as they say, toast.

EFFERVESCENT INGREDIENTS – Marilyn Armstrong

I should be peppy and lively. I should be able to find the ingredients to get the laundry done, to go take a few pictures. Something.

I’m too beat up to find anything remotely effervescent in me right now. It has been a grueling few months. Not always in a bad way, but still exhausting and the crazy humid heat has not helped. I also suspect that my tolerance for extremes of weather is diminishing with the years because I’m far less energetic now than I was even a few months ago.

The combination of personal crises, national calamities, climate change, and a general sense that everything I worked for and cared about is being undone in such a short time, my head is spinning. The best part of the summer has been our winning baseball team. You know life has gotten awfully rough when you cling to sports as the only positive thing happening in your world.

I sense that I am not alone in feeling this way, either.

I read a piece on Facebook the other day where some Millennial was pointing out that we — the Boomer Generation — should stop blaming them and start accepting responsibility for handing them such a crappy world.

It suddenly crossed my mind that the world into which I was born was not exactly perfection, either. These kids have no idea how it was to grow up in a world where jobs were listed under Male and Female only … and if you weren’t white, there were no jobs listed at all. To live in a world where the only birth control was “not doing it” or a condom — and you couldn’t even buy a condom if you were under 18.

The voting age was 21, but the drinking age was 18. Great combination, wasn’t it?

The rivers and air were horribly polluted. We invented Earth Day, got the Civil Rights Bill passed. Cleaned up the air. You know the air over New York and Los Angeles used to be orange? Not just at sunset but all the time from the massive amounts of pollution. The river which runs through our Valley was one of the most polluted rivers in North America. We cleaned it up, along with the Hudson, Boston Harbor, and many other places.

We didn’t do all this because the earth was a perfect place, but because we saw how bad it was becoming and fought to fix it. I don’t blame Millennials for feeling they got the short end of some stick, but that stick has been pretty damned short for a really long time. Before I was born and for that matter before my mother was born too.

Garry grew up in a Jim Crow world. I grew up in a world where most of the people “like me” had been butchered or gassed to death. I had friends die of putrid abortions performed with a wire hanger. You really don’t need to tell me that we left you an evil world. It wasn’t wonderful when we got it, either.

Pogo – Walt Kelly – 1971

Welcome to the real world. There’s been more than enough evil in the human world for a very long time. Whoever you are, whatever generation you come from, it’s time you stopped whining about whose fault it is or was. 

It doesn’t matter who caused what. Get your act together, put your shoulder to the wheel, and start pushing to make it a better place. The big bad boomer bunch did that. I’m terribly sorry it has come unglued so quickly and I don’t feel really happy watching all the things I worked for fall apart. It is shocking, horrifying, and deeply depressing.  But on the other hand, I didn’t vote for that asshole.

Regardless, I’m too old to go out and fix it. I would if I could, but me and my generation — we’ve done our part. Our effervescence is gone. The ingredients you need to fix this bad old world are yours now.

Get up and do something. Vote. Run for office. Get a decent education. Learn some history.

It doesn’t matter who made it this way. It has been working on becoming this way for hundreds of years and if you don’t get yourselves moving, it will simply get worse and your children will blame it on you.

Except you know what? If you don’t start to work on making it better, your kids’ worlds will be a whole lot worse than yours.

Are you registered to vote? Will you vote?

FOWC with Fandango — Ingredients
RDP #71: EFFERVESCENT

AMERICA’S OBSESSION WITH SEXUALITY – BY ELLIN CURLEY

There is a vocal segment in America that seems to spend most of their time and energy preoccupied with other people’s sex lives and reproductive practices. The issues that make their blood boil have to do with sex education in schools (a no-no except for abstinence), contraceptives and abortion, gay rights and now transgender bathroom use. This last one is a horrifying mixture of anatomical, sexual and scatological prurience!

I’m not the first to find this disturbing. Sex and reproduction (and going to the bathroom) should be the most private parts of our lives. My question is why is this a predominantly American obsession?

Western Europe (and Japan ) seem to have a much more relaxed approach to all things sexual. I remember my shock at watching TV in England and Europe for the first time, as long as 30 years ago. Nudity is common in prime time and on mainstream networks. Graphic depictions of sex (with the concomitant nudity) are also common. So are open discussions of sex, sex toys, sexual preferences, etc. on talk shows and news shows.

Sex is considered a normal part of everyday life and sexual preferences are considered to be varied and generally acceptable. In Poland, all public bathrooms are unisex, shared comfortably by men and women, just like bathrooms in private homes.

So what separates us from the rest of the civilized world on this issue? I believe it’s the Puritans. England considered the strict anti-sex and anti-pleasure platform of the Puritans to be totally whackadoodle! They were marginalized and discriminated against, even by English Catholics. (Remember from the series “The Borgias”, in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, even Popes were married, had mistresses and openly had children out-of-wedlock).

The discrimination of the Puritans in England caused them to leave in droves and start a new society in a new world, in their image. I don’t think America has ever shaken these rigid and repressive beginnings.

Maybe after another generation or two of naked selfies and crotch shots, Americans will stop preaching repression, shame, and judgment regarding any form of sexual expression. Or are we heading way too far into the TMI zone? Time will tell.