What If?

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  • What if I die tomorrow?
  • What if I lose all my money?
  • What if I never find true love?
  • What if I lose my health?
  • What if there is no god?
  • What if there is no meaning to life?
  • What if my writing really sucks?
  • What if my partner dies before I do?
  • What if I am a coward?
  • What if the sun does not come up tomorrow?

So many things to worry about and so little time to do it.  Just for fun I typed in Google “What if,”  I used the parentheses to ensure that it would look up the question as a whole rather than just what or if.  It returned 3,190,000,000 hits.  For perspective, I then typed in “I am sorry.”  This returned 40,000,000 hits.  Admittedly, these are very spurious results to draw any conclusions from, but I will anyway.  I conclude that more people are worried than they are sorry.  Either that or they spend more time worrying than they do sorrowing.  What do you think?

Is ”What if” the meanest phrase ever written?  We seem to think in the negative when we use these two words.  Choose any of the questions from the list above and see how you would answer them.  I would guess most of your answers will suggest some unhappiness, gloom, sadness, or even a loss of desire for life.  We can see “end of the world” scenarios in most of these “what ifs.”

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But what if the expectations and goals that are reflected in our responses were stripped out of our thoughts?  Would we be happier or more depressed?  Let me give you an example.  Some people would say that if there is no meaning to life, it is not worth living.  What would be the point of getting up each day, going to work, coming home, eating, making love, and going to bed?  On the other hand, if we rid ourselves of the expectation or need to have meaning in our lives, perhaps this “what if” would not bother us at all.  We would not care one iota if there was or was not any meaning.  The same could be said for all the questions I started this blog off with.  It is our expectations that give us a negative twist for each of these issues.

You might argue that I selected only issues that have a potentially negative response.  For instance, the sun not coming up is unlikely to have a positive outcome under any circumstances.  Then let us look at some positive “what ifs?”  Here are a few:

  • What if I won the lottery?
  • What if I found my true love?
  • What if my life does have meaning and purpose?

6f2b74dab966ae86c4beae966dded6eaBefore you go off on a binge of happiness and celebrations, think for a minute what a positive answer to these questions might mean.  There are still expectations and assumptions associated with any answer to the above questions.  You assume that if you won the lottery, that you would not have to worry about paying bills, buying things you want etc.  You assume that if you found true love, it would last forever and forever.  You assume that finding meaning and purpose would bring you happiness.  To all of these possibilities, I say maybe.  You still have many choices and outcomes to each of these scenarios.  These choices can leave us just as captive to our desires and wants as any of our responses to the “negative” “what ifs.”

Why is this so?  Are there any positive outcomes possible for us?  Why is easy to answer.  It is because nothing is permanent.  Nothing is guaranteed.  Nothing you or I can do will ensure that life will work out just as we wanted it to or just as we planned it to.  Whether we attach ourselves to happiness or misery, we are still attached.  Zen Buddhism gives us the concept of “non-attachment.”  But non-attachment is easier said than done.

“Every day as I wave to my children when I drop them off at school or let one of them have a new experience—like crossing the street without holding my hand—I experience the struggle between love and non-attachment.  It is hard to bear—the extreme love of one’s child and the thought that ultimately the child belongs to the world.  There is this horrible design flaw—children are supposed to grow up and away from you; and one of you will die first.”Sarah Ruhl, “The Oldest Boy: A Play in Three Ceremonies

Madison Avenue is the enemy of “non-attachment.”  The people who market for corporations want you to believe that unless you are attached to something, you will live a miserable life.  They would prefer that you were attached to things or services that money can buy.  The idea is for you to believe that you are no good unless you own things.  The bigger the things that you own or the more expensive the things that you own, the happier you will be.  Success is the pathway to happiness because it will allow you to buy and own more expensive things than your neighbors.

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However, it is not only things that you can buy that are attachments.  There are many intangibles that you can become attached to.  Some of these are for sale and some not.  Many people are attached to status and prestige.  For enough money you can buy prestigious memberships in exclusive country clubs, political positions by spending enormous amounts on advertising or expensive cruises.  Status is an intangible, but it can be bought.  Status in society circles can be achieved by spending and donating money to the right causes.  Have you ever gone to a concert and noticed how the list of donors are ranked on the concert handout. Platinum, gold, silver, bronze, and honorable mention is one scheme that I have seen.  There are other rankings, but they all point to the prestige and status that comes from being able to donate more money than anyone else.

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I have a good friend who always told me that “We need to let go of things.”  Ironically, years later and I would place him pretty low in my list of people who can let go of things.  He knew in his head that attachment and ego were barriers to fulfillment.  But knowing, feeling, and doing are as much alike as a snowstorm, tornado, and earthquake.  Controlling one does not necessarily mean that you can control the others.  There are men and women who are intellectual geniuses but incompetent when it comes to managing their emotions or doing something that they know should be done.

Stepping-into-riverMy conclusion is that “What ifs” are intellectually amusing as a past-time but as for practical value they are close to useless.  Seldom will you ever get to apply a solution to a “What if.”  The possibility of something in real life happening exactly like it did the first time is less than the chance of finding identical snowflakes or fingerprints.  Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher born in 544 B.C. said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”   Those who forget the past may be condemned to repeat it, but the past will never be the same again.  Living requires adaptability and resilience.

Non-attachment is the best way to keep an open mind as to the possibilities that we will face each day as the sun comes up yet once again.

“To use the more traditional term “non-attachment,” I like to think of non-attachment as meaning “not attaching stuff to your sense of self.”  It doesn’t mean not investing yourself in things and doesn’t mean you don’t do everything in your power to bring about the outcome you hope for.  It just means not getting too caught up in your stories.” — “What Zen “Acceptance” and “Non-Attachment” Really Are” by  Domyo, May 4, 2017, Dharma Talks

All About that Money

its all about the money

Because you know it’s all about that money

‘Bout that money, no people

It’s all ’bout that money, ’bout that money, no people

It’s all ’bout that money, ’bout that money, no people

It’s all ’bout that money, ’bout that money (money, money, money, money)

I want to thank Meghan Trainor for the inspiration for my blog this week.  Her song “All About That Bass” is one I have listened to many times.  If you have not heard it, it is a great tune.  But be sure to read the lyrics.  The lyrics tell you something about our current attitudes towards health and beauty.

My second inspiration for this blog came from a recent James Hightower article in his newsletter “The Lowdown, Volume 24, Number 2, February 22, 2022.”  The title of the article was “Gouge Consumers -> and Blame Joe Biden.”  A good friend of mine who I often discuss politics with sent me this article and wanted to know my opinion.  At first glance, I thought it resonated quite well with my series on corporate greed.  “It’s all ‘bout that money.”

Hightower argues that the Republicans want to do anything they can to pin the problems with the inflationary economy on poor Joe Biden.  Joe and the Democrats are (as usual) caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place.  According to Hightower, Joe is being unfairly blamed for an inflationary spiral that is actually caused by corporate greed.  This greed is aided and abetted by Republicans who wine and dine the fat cats so that they can get their coffers filled with campaign contributions come election time.  So far so good right?  “It’s all ‘bout that money.”

However, this scenario has several major flaws in it.  Let me list three erroneous assumptions that I will dissect in this blog.

  1. By rallying the American people, the Democrats can curtail the power of the corporations to control prices and win the votes of the adoring populace.
  2.  Inflation is the major enemy of America, and it must be returned to the Pandora’s box that it somehow escaped from.
  3.  The Democrats (If they control Congress) will be motivated to make systemic changes to the power structure that gird elections in America today. This means making major changes in corporate charters, anti-trust laws and the military industrial complex.

 Let us look at each of these assumptions to see how I think they really will or can play out.

  •  By rallying the American people, the Democrats can curtail the power of the corporations to control prices and win the votes of the adoring populace.

Americans have benefited for many years from an economic structure which traded off low prices for corporate power.  Corporations have since the 1950’s shucked off most of the power restraints that had been imposed during the era of the “Robber Barons.”  Little by little, inch by inch and year by year, corporations gained back more and more power.  At some point, they gained enough power to dictate the laws that they would play the capitalism game by.  Congress stood by as these powerful companies gained this power.  The Citizens United Decision is one manifestation of this situation.  “It’s all ‘bout that money.”

What did the American people get in return?  Simply the ability to shop nonstop.  To celebrate profligacy with the axiom that everything in America must be bigger and bigger.  From car engines to houses to burgers, the impelling religion in America is that more is better, bigger is better.  He or she who has the most toys wins.  It has become a cornerstone of American life to buy, buy and then buy some more.  The damage to the environment has been ignored.  Just as long as there is cheap gas, cheap energy and cheap food, the hell with the climate and the hell with any economic restraint.  “It’s all ‘bout that money.”

Biden will do everything he can to stop gas prices from rising.  But he is powerless to stop them from doing so.  The Republicans are like pigs wallowing in mud.  They can fling accusations everywhere and they will hit their target.  The Democrats are trying to tell people that the higher gas prices are the sacrifice we must make for Ukrainian Freedom.  This is laughable.  Since when have Americans been willing to sacrifice for anything these past fifty or so years?  For the environment?  For the poor?  For minorities?  For Immigrants.”  I should mention the unwillingness of millions of Americans to follow a mask mandate or vaccination requirements to help stem the Corona virus pandemic.  Our country has become so self-centered and narcissistic that the only thing that motivates us is our wallet and how much money we can spend on gas guzzling pick-up trucks.  “It’s all ‘bout that money.”

To be honest, I also own a 2011 Ford F150 pick-up truck.  If gas goes up to twenty dollars a gallon, I will gladly junk the truck and either walk more or travel less.  I realize that for many people this may not be an option.  However, it is also a fact that many pick-up truck owners seldom use the “pick-up” capacity of their trucks or tow anything.  The main purpose for many owners of a pick-up truck is a status symbol.

“The high-spec, luxuriously equipped pickup truck has become a status symbol again, argues Chris Woodyard for USA Today. ‘Driven by cheap fuel, a surging economy and a rising stock market, more buyers are willing to pay as much for a richly appointed truck as they would a fancy Mercedes-Benz or Lexus sedan,’ he writes.”

  • Inflation is the major enemy of America and that it must be returned to the Pandora’s box that it somehow escaped from.

Maintaining a stable and consistent economy is not a one-time deal.  It is a process that involves a continuous juggling act with many different balls.  Some of the balls include, unemployment, interest rates, deficit spending, environmental regulations, wage, and price controls.  There are many other balls, but my point is that no single ball will keep the economy on an even keel.  “It’s all ‘bout that money.”

Economic spirals and economic adjustments are inevitable.  They have been since the beginning of the world.  Complicating the juggling act is that now more than ever we are in a global economy where the actions of many other actors can distort or influence the juggling act.  No one nation has the power to control the global influences that impact all of the world’s economies.  A misguided reliance on military power can to some extent be blamed for the many conflicts that disrupt the lives of average people who simply want to live a good life and have the freedom to choose how they live.  “It’s all ‘bout that money.” 

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Biden will be blamed for the economy since the “blame game” seems to be the major policy element used by both parties.  Their reliance on this blame game shows their contempt for the American people since they assume that most of us are either too stupid or too myopic to understand that the President has very little control over the economy in the short run and to some extent even in the long run.  More important are the influences of the various economic policies and economic philosophies guiding how the juggling will be done.  I can safely say that economists are continually wrong but also continually readjusting their models to better stabilize and adjust the economy.  Just as new variants of the Corona virus seem to be continually emerging, new economic theories are continually being developed to better explain economic realities.  “It’s all ‘bout that money.”

  • The Democrats (If they control congress) will be motivated to make systemic changes to the power structure that gird elections in America today. This means making major changes in corporate charters, anti-trust laws and the military industrial complex.

If past is prologue, I will bet that the Democrats will not do anything major to upset the corporate apple cart that they as much as the Republicans depend on to get elected.  I have not seen Democrats, progressive or not, supporting term limits, redoing corporate laws, corporate charters, monopolies, monopsonies or global trading powers.  For the past fifty years, the Democrats, well intentioned sometimes, have let themselves be out-thought, out-planned and out maneuvered by their slick cousins the Republicans.  The Republicans scream, threaten and berate the Democrats for the exact same behaviors that they exhibit when they are in power.  What do the Democrats do?  They maintain that they are “taking the high road” when their cousins are taking the low road.  “It’s all ‘bout that money.”

The new ten-year budget for the US military was passed after an increase from 2.8 trillion dollars to 3.2 trillion dollars by a bipartisan vote.

“The bill, which angered antiwar progressives who had hoped Democrats’ unified control of Washington would lead to significant cuts in military spending, passed overwhelmingly on an 89-to-10 vote.  The lopsided votes, both in the Senate and the House, which passed the legislation last week, underscored the bipartisan commitment in Congress to spend huge amounts of federal money on defense initiatives at a time when Republicans have balked at spending even a fraction as much on social programs.”

Over the past twenty or so years, every time we have gone to war whether in Iraq, Libya, Yemen or Syria, the Democrats have linked arms with the Republicans as we embark on yet another unsanctioned war to protect American interests.  The only interests I ever see us protecting are our oil interests.  American soldiers are fodder for American industry in the sense that it is their lives and bodies that are sacrificed so that Global corporations can make ever greater profits.  “It’s all ‘bout that money.”

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So pardon me please, if I am skeptical of the Democrats or if I see the Democans and Republicats as more or less Tweddle Dee and Tweddle Dum.  Many people have said that we need a third party.  In some ways, we did get a third party.  The Tea Party became the Republican Party and kicked out the old-time Republicans.  We still have two parties.  I think it is high time we start a Progressive Party and leave the lame Democrats to party with their Republican Cousins.  Perhaps there are enough people who want to see major changes in Government and will allow us to get rid of the ever running, ever campaigning, ever raising money, lifetime professional politicians.  “It’s all ‘bout that money.”

“Net worth data compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics for 2018, the most recent year available, shows that almost two-thirds of U.S. senators have a net worth exceeding $1 million. A few of them are exceptionally wealthy.”

Years ago, I voted for the best person regardless of party.  The past eight or so years facing Trump and an increasingly right-wing Republican party, I succumbed to the “Lesser Evil” concept.  I voted for the Democratic candidate regardless of whether or not I thought they would make much of a difference.  In the past, I seldom voted for a Democratic candidate.  I voted for people like Ross Perot and Ralph Nader and many others who were given little or no chance of getting elected.  I was told that “I threw my vote away.”  Sad to say, I used the same argument on many friends as I encouraged them to vote for Hillary or Biden.  I am back to the “old” John. 

It’s all ’bout that money, ’bout that money, no people

It’s all ’bout that money, ’bout that money, no people

It’s all ’bout that money, ’bout that money (money, money, money, money)

PS:

Why is it that Politicians keep screaming about tax cuts and the need to cut taxes but Tax Revenues by State (some exceptions) keep growing?

Real_Tax-Revenue_19-12_update_650px

The Ten Commandments of Capitalism

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People don’t go to church anymore.  They go shopping.  Capitalism is America’s new religion.  A religion is a set of profound beliefs that one hopes will lead to a better life.  The Christian religion has its Ten Commandments which embody some of these beliefs.  No one actually practices these beliefs anymore but that does not stop devout Christians from insisting that their commandments should be enshrined throughout America.  The only problem with this is that these are not the beliefs that people follow today.

I was laying in bed the other night and thinking about how Capitalism has become the real religion of Americans.  I suddenly realized that there was no explicit set of rules, precepts, or commandments that the faithful should follow.  There are many implicit or implied rules.  The implicit rules of Capitalism are somewhat obvious even if they are not etched on two tablets.

I have decided to take these implicit commandments believed by most Americans and make them more obvious.  I recommend that these be put up in bronze or stone or cement in every capital throughout the USA.  Following are my Ten Commandments for Capitalism.

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  1. You can never have enough

As they say, “He who has the most toys wins.”  You can never have enough.  Life is about getting what you deserve.  When you do get it, then you need to get more.  More money, more cars, more jewelry, more land, more clothes, the more you have, the more people will admire you and declare you a success.  Success in America means having more than anyone else.

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  1. Bigger is always better

From hamburgers to houses to car and even people, things in America are getting bigger.  People now own 5,000 square foot homes with three car garages, six bedrooms and four baths even though they only have 1.7 children and a spouse.  Hamburgers at Burger King weigh about ½ lb. and car engines put out in excess of 500 hp.  Americans are the most obese people in the world.  Capitalism makes everything bigger and fatter.  Hooray for Capitalism.

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  1. Greed is good

Ivan Boesky said it and Americans gave him a standing ovation.  Michael Douglas in the movie “Wall Street” paraphrased Boesky’s speech and exhorted his stockholders:

“The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good.  Greed is right, greed works.  Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.  Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.  And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.”  

I could not have said it any better.  The greedier we get, the more we get.  The more we get, the more we want.  The more we want the greedier we get.  It is the American way.  From politicians to business people to lobbyists, to car salespeople to real estate developers, the stated norm is to “maximize profits.”  To hell with the tree huggers and climate change advocates.  Success is predicted on greed.  Greed is human nature.  Greed is not good, it is great.

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  1. Shop till you drop

My half-sister every year gets up at 3 AM on the morning of Black Friday with a map, a schedule of stores, coupons, and snacks.  Like a general, she plots out her strategy, enlists her friends and relatives and launches a preemptive invasion.  Her goal is to get it before anyone else.  “It” does not really matter.  The process is what counts.  Shopping is the sacrament of Capitalism.  You must take your pennies and dollars and put them in the store where you can get the most for your money.  Saving is for fools.  Shop, shop, shop.  Superbowl Sunday is a prime time for shopping since many Americans are glued to their TV sets soaking up ads on what to buy the next time they go shopping.  Go to fashion stores, go to thrift stores, go to malls, go to Walmart, go to flea markets, go to garage sales.  But for heavens sake, shop until you drop.

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  1. Stuff will make you happy

There is only one reason for all that shopping.  It fulfills you.  It puts meaning and purpose in your life.  Without meaning and purpose, life is shallow.  We are all born with a hole in us that must be filled up.  You could fill it with religion, education, or philosophy but you can’t touch these things.  You can touch a new air fryer and you can soak in a new hot tub.  You can call all your Facebook friends on your new I-Phone 98. Nothing is quite as satisfying as stuff at filling the hole in our hearts.  Nothing until the next generation of I-Phones or Air Fryers come out.  But of course, then you can go shopping for the newest and latest and greatest.  You will never be so happy as when you have more stuff than you need.

What-Exactly-Is-the-Prosperity-Gospel

  1. Prosperity builds character

Those who believe in the Prosperity Gospel say that the richer you are the better, smarter, and more deserving you are.  God rewards good people with money and bad people get lumps of coal in their stockings not just at Christmas but throughout most of the year.  God wants everyone to be rich.

Being rich is a choice.  Poor people don’t really like money, so they choose to be poor.  They do not want to be  bothered with having to carry tons of cash and credit cards.  Rich people don’t mind carrying all this cash because they have chauffeurs, butlers, and nannies to help with the work.  Many people say that “money is the root of all evil.”  This is a lie spread maliciously by the Internet to deter people from going after the gold.  Jesus said that “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get to heaven.”  If Jesus was alive today, I think he might be preaching a different message.  Something like, “Forget what I said two thousand years ago, times have changed.  There are few camels left in life and you can always take a taxi if you have enough money.”

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  1. Don’t worry about tomorrow

There is a great song by Van Morrison which goes as follows:

Don’t worry about tomorrow

That ain’t gonna help you none

Don’t worry about tomorrow

That ain’t gonna help you none

You’ve gotta live and take each day as it comes.

A great deal of wisdom is centered around the idea of living one day at a time and not worrying about the future.  Too many people fail to live in the present because they are too worried about what will happen tomorrow.  Doris Day sang the famous song Que Sera Sera,

When I was just a little girl

I asked my mother, what will I be

Will I be pretty

Will I be rich

Here’s what she said to me

… Que sera, sera

Whatever will be, will be

The future’s not ours to see

Que sera, sera

What will be, will be

 Capitalism is a system that follows much the same line of reasoning.  Don’t worry about the climate.  Don’t worry about the weather.  Don’t worry about pollution.  Don’t worry about water.  Don’t worry about the environment.  Live for today.  Get whatever you can today.  You might not be alive tomorrow, so why worry?  Remember Alfred E. Neumann from Mad Magazine.  His motto was “What, me worry?”  We need to worry less.  Don’t worry about whether the world will still be there for your kids or grandchildren.  Let them worry about it.

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  1. Nothing is more important than money

If capitalism had a beating heart, instead of “thump, thump, thump,” it would go “money, money, money.”  Love may make the world go round, but money greases the wheels.  Remember the Beatles song “Money?”

Now give me money, (That’s what I want)

That’s what I want

(That’s what I want)

That’s what I want, (That’s what I want), oh, yeah

(That’s what I want)

Money don’t get everything, it’s true

What it don’t get, I can’t use

Now give me money, (That’s what I want)

That’s what I want.

 I propose that more people think about money than anything else in the world, including sex.  To test my theory, I typed in “Sex” on Google.  Then I typed in “Money.”  Following are my results:

Sex:  10,590,000,000         

Money:  11,920,000,000

Money received 1.33 billion more hits than sex.  This result shows what the real priorities of most people are.  First it is money, then it is sex.

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  1. Never let anyone get in your way

 Let’s be real.  Nice guys and good women finish last.  If you want to get ahead in business, you must be ruthless.  You must be cut throat.  You must play ethical roulette (a business version of Russian roulette).  Machiavelli and Sun Tzu were too soft.  Read the “Mafia’s Guide to Getting Ahead.”  You must have no morals or ethics or qualms about being the bad guy.  Never do anything illegal or at least get caught doing anything illegal.  There is plenty of room for amoral activities that skirt the line between legal and illegal.  If in doubt, call a lawyer.

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 10.  Put some money aside for a rainy day

By rainy day, I mean a time in your life when you no longer have any friends, loved ones or anyone who cares whether you live or die. You will be on your death bed waiting for Lucifer to take you to your just rewards.  Like Herod, the day will come when you must pay the piper.  It won’t matter how much you have in stocks or your bank account.

The devil won’t have a signed contract for your soul but he will not need it.  You will have bought and paid for your place in hell many times over.  Every dollar, every ruble, every peso, every euro, every yen you coveted will have helped you to earn your place in hell.  Your funeral marker on earth may say some nice things about you but down in hell, you will be one of many who sold their soul to the highest bidder.

Jesus wisely said “What doth it profit a man if he gains the whole world but suffer the loss of his own soul?”  Profoundly put, but alas seldom followed.

After Thoughts:

When I came home recently from a vacation to Europe, I had 5,865 spam messages in my promotions email folder on Gmail.  That equals 217 junk emails per day.  Never before in history, has so much been marketed and sold to people under the assumption that the marketplace is a dispenser of happiness.  I have written a five-part series on the evils of Corporate Capitalism, and I have written many posts about the dangers facing our civilization today from the excess of greed and profiteering which infest and assail too many cultures and societies all over the world.

My spouse Karen felt that many of the things that I was saying in this blog were too harsh.  If you felt this way when you read my blog, consider that 162 golf course owners in Phoenix did not want to accept a recent recommendation for a 3.1 percent cut in water usage.  (Some Arizona golf courses are pushing back against the state’s plan to reduce water use)  They proposed a counter recommendation for a 1.6 percent cut.  This on the heels of an unprecedented drop in the water feeding much of the Southwest from Lake Mead and a record drought with significant increases in heat.  What have we come to when water for golf courses is more important than water for crops and drinking?

In Wisconsin, where I live during the summer, the residents have been fighting the siting of a CAFO for the feeding of 26,000 hogs.  The operators of the “Concentrated Animal Feed Operation” do not care about the water, trees, odors, property values, soil, bacteria, or any other repercussions for their operation.  They are only concerned about the ability to make a profit.

The local residents have been fighting this potential development for nearly three years now.  It is big money against the little farmer and little land owner who object to the spoilage of their land, water, and lifestyle.  The property owners in Barron, Burnette and Polk County Wisconsin are fighting not only corporate money and greed but also elected politicians.  Politicians at both the local level and state level, many who support the development of “free enterprise” regardless of the externalities caused by the business operation.

Everywhere I turn, I see greed, waste, and short-term thinking based on profitability guiding human decisions.  The sad part is that Corporate Capitalism has become a religion.  And whereas faith in the old religions has waned dramatically in the past fifty years, faith in Capitalism to save us from hell has only grown.  Like some sort of communicable disease, the belief that Capitalism will provide a heaven on earth has become almost indisputable among a large majority of Americans.  I think the time is long past for soft pedaling the dangers of Capitalism.  I only hope that it is not too late.

 

The 1st of Gandhi’s Seven Social Sins: Wealth without Work.

Once upon a time in this great country, a model for attaining wealth and a set of rules to accomplish this objective stemmed from 3 basic beliefs.  These were:

  1. You worked hard, long and industriously.
  2. You attained as much education as you could absorb and afford.
  3. You treated all of your engagements with absolute honesty and scrupulousness.

Somewhere during the later 20th Century these 3 Cardinal beliefs (Above) about attaining great wealth were replaced by the following beliefs:

  1. Wealth can be attained at a gambling casino or by winning a lottery if you are lucky enough.
  2. Wealth can be attained by suing someone and with the help of a lawyer who will thereby gain a percentage of your lawsuit.
  3. Wealth can be attained by finding some means of acquiring a government handout for the remainder of your life.

Admittedly, not all Americans subscribe to the second set of beliefs and fortunately there are many who still subscribe to the first. Nevertheless, I think you would be hard pressed to argue that gambling, casinos, government handouts and lawsuits have not multiplied exponentially over the past fifty years.  The following are some charts which I think illustrate my points rather graphically.

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The nature of human beings is to want things fast and with a minimum of effort.  This is normal and not to be thought of as deviant or unusual.  However, as we age and develop more self-control and wisdom over our daily affairs, we learn to temper our desire for instant gratification with a more mature perspective.  Noted quality guru, Dr. W. E. Deming maintained that people wanted “Instant Pudding.”  For Deming this meant, change without effort, quality without work and cost improvements overnight.  Added together, “Instant Pudding” was Dr. Deming’s metaphor for the desire to obtain results with a minimum investment of time and energy.  Dr. Deming continually warned his clients that there was no “Instant Pudding” and change would take years of hard work and could not be accomplished without continued dedication and focus.

Unfortunately, our media and even schools today seem to emphasize the possibility of achieving success and wealth overnight.  Sports stars are depicted as suddenly being offered incredible contracts.  Movie stars are shown as going from unknown to overnight fame and fortune.  Singers and musicians seem to suddenly achieve fame despite being barely out of their teens and in many cases barely into their teens.  It would appear that everywhere we look fame, fortune and success happen overnight.  All it takes is to be discovered. This might happen if you can get on American Idol or be found by the right booking agent or obtain a guest appearance on a celebrity TV show.  In some cases, all it takes is the right YouTube video to accomplish overnight success.  One day PSI was an unknown Korean musician and in a few short weeks, he was celebrating success by a dinner in the White House and appearing at the Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration.  How can anyone dispute that all that is needed for fame and fortune is to be in the right place at the right time?

You may be asking “yes, but what exactly did Gandhi mean by this “sin?”  The M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence gives the following explanation:

“Wealth Without Work: This includes playing the stock market; gambling; sweat-shop slavery; over-estimating one’s worth, like some heads of corporations drawing exorbitant salaries which are not always commensurate with the work they do.  Gandhi’s idea originates from the ancient Indian practice of Tenant Farmers.  The poor were made to slog on the farms while the rich raked in the profits.  With capitalism and materialism spreading so rampantly around the world the grey area between an honest day’s hard work and sitting back and profiting from other people’s labor is growing wider.  To conserve the resources of the world and share these resources equitably with all so that everyone can aspire to a good standard of living, Gandhi believed people should take only as much as they honestly need.  The United States provides a typical example.  The country spends an estimated $200 billion a year on manufacturing cigarettes, alcohol and allied products which harm people’s health.  What the country spends in terms of providing medical and research facilities to provide and find cures for health hazards caused by over-indulgence in tobacco and alcohol is mind-blowing.” ‘There is enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed’, Gandhi said.

There is a visual problem here that perhaps underlies much of the current thinking about success.  The media loves to trumpet short success stories that will grab anyone’s attention. We are constantly bombarded with headlines such as:

Each of these sites (click on to hyperlink to the actual site) promises you overnight success or at least success in a much shorter time span than is realistic.  These ads are in the news, checkout stands, on TV and just about anywhere you turn around.  The constant daily bombardment of such ads creates a zeitgeist in which overnight success not only seems to be possible; but it actually seems to be the norm.  If you are not an overnight success, if you cannot become rich in days rather than years, if you contemplate a life of hard work to attain your fame and fortune, than something is wrong with you.  Anyone subscribing to the first 3 sets of beliefs I mentioned in the opening is a peculiar species today.  The most common belief about success in the new millennium can be summed up as:

I don’t have time to wait. I don’t have the patience to wait.  I don’t want to spend my life waiting.  I am entitled to success now.  Why should I have to wait?  I am as good as any of these rich successful people. If only everyone could see how good I really am, I would get the fame and fortune I deserve now.  If you expect me to shut up and work hard, I will leave and go elsewhere.  You need me more than I need you.

I believe that Gandhi and many of my generation would find such ideas very peculiar not to mention that they contradict certain universal principles.  Every time I hear of a new terrorist attack in this country or a new massacre at some workplace, I wonder how much the instigator was influenced by his or her desire for overnight fame and fortune.  In some bizarre out-of-this-world thinking, these maniacs equate their picture on page one of the news with a sort of glory that is accomplished by their bizarre and cruel rampage.  The more they kill or maim, the greater they think their glory will be.  We can look for all the “reasons” why but we will never find any “good” reasons for anyone to take such anti-social actions against others.  The paradox is that often the very people they hate are the ones they wanted attention or recognition from.

Ok, time for questions:

Have you raised your children to believe in hard work?  Are you one of the parents who want to make sure their kids have it easy?  How do you know how much hard work is enough?  Do you think you are entitled to success because you work hard?  What other factors play a role in success?  Is it fair that some people do not seem to have to work hard and yet still reap big rewards?  Do people today have it too easy compared to the immigrants that founded this country?

Life is just beginning.

Ingratitude:  How it destroys our minds and hearts and souls. 

One of the things that I think most of us try to do is make sense out of the senseless.  To do this, we apply various types of reasoning.  From economic to political to psychological explanations, we attempt to fashion a purpose or logic for the senseless that helps us to see some logic to seemingly random and violent actions.  Religious people use the term sin to cover many such acts.  Some say it is the work of the devil.  Psychologists use terms like paranoid schizophrenic or sociopath to convey some idea as to motive and underlying rationale.  More practical minded people look to motives like revenge, money, jealousy etc.

I have heard that Bertrand Russell said that fear was the main motive for all evil that is done.  This has a great deal of merit to it as an rally5underlying or foundation problem to explain many senseless acts of violence and mayhem.  We can see pictures today of people screaming at immigrants to go home and realize that many of these raging mobs are driven by fear.  Fear of job loss, fear of economic uncertainty, fear of being displaced and fear of strangers.

“Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.” — Bertrand Russell

Another explagreed1024x768nation I have heard deals with greed.  It has been said that “Greed is not the worst of all sins, but it is the gateway to all others.”    Reflecting on this comment provides some very interesting insights.  For instance, why does anyone steal?  They want more than they have, ergo greed.  Why does anyone kill?  Typical answers would include:  To get more land, ergo greed; to get more money, ergo greed; to get something they want, ergo greed.  The more I thought about greed as an explanation, the more I could see it being a key cornerstone to almost all acts of violence and terror.  I was content to accept this underlying explanation until a few weeks ago when I attended my annual retreat.

This year at my retreat, it was noted that Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits had said that “Ingratitude” was the basis of all sin.

“Ignatius thought that a particular type of ignorance was at the root of sin. The deadliest sin, he said, is ingratitude. It is “the cause, beginning, and origin of all evils and sins.” If you asked a hundred people to name the sin that’s the origin of all evils, I’ll bet none of them would say ingratitude. They would say pride or disobedience or greed or anger. The idea that we sin because we’re not sufficiently aware of God’s goodness probably wouldn’t occur to too many people.” —  Jim Manney

I have to agree with Mr. Manney.  I had never thought of ingratitude as being a sin never mind the root of all evil.  I decided that this would be a good thing to reflect on.  Thus, for several weeks now I have been turning this idea over in my mind.  The more I think about it, the more I can see the validity in its premise.  Even more basic than fear or greed is the underlying ingratitude that starts the whole ball rolling.

tv_online_advertisingWe wake up feeling inadequate because we don’t have enough.  We look at our neighbor’s house and we become dissatisfied with our house.  We look at clothes that are in the malls and are not satisfied with our own clothes.  We look at cars, other people, other things like position, attention, status, respect and we grow more and more dissatisfied with what we have.  The TV ads surround us with our worthlessness unless we get more and more and more stuff.  Wants become needs.  We are smitten with greed and lust for these other things that we need and now must have.  We think that somehow we will be the person we want to be if we can only have more.  Our ingratitude for what we have now becomes greediness.  We become consumed by a desire to get these things we think will complete our lives.

As time goes by, the greed turns to fear.  What if someone else gets them first?  What if these new immigrants get the job that I wanted?  What if there is not enough to go around?  The fear drives an endless series of what ifs that can and eventually does turn to hate and violence.  Look at the crowds on the border screaming “go home” to the refugees looking for asylum and sanctuary.  These are people for whom ingratitude has turned to greed and greed has turned to fear and now fear has become hate.

“Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones.” —Thich Nhat Hanh

I began to think about what I most wanted when I was a child.   It was mainly simple things.  I wanted freedom from fear.  I wanted to be liked and admired by others.  I wanted someone who cared about me.  I wanted to see hummingbirds in a garden each day.  I wanted to see Morning Glories blooming with their wonderful blue petals.  I left home at 18 to join the military.  Back then, I did not know what I wanted. I thought getting out of my house would help me find the freedom I needed to complete myself.  I felt inadequate but I did not know why or how or what would make me feel better.  Thus, began a lifelong search for myself.

Like many otherSuccess-is-liking-yourself-liking-what-you-do-and-liking-how-you-do-it.s before me, I thought getting success would be the key to feeling complete.  Success meant fame, fortune and admiration from the masses.  I would have money to roll in.  I would have girlfriends too numerous and beautiful to count.  I would have crowds thronging to hear my every utterance.   The path to success was uncertain but the laurels and rewards were  assured if only I could find the right stair way.  I looked everywhere.  I read everything.  I talked to everyone.  Success would come with hard work.  Success took risks.  Success was not an overnight phenomenon.  I needed to get an education first.  I needed to save my money.  I needed to invest.  Everything I did was still not enough.  I was not a success.

IMG_0745 (2)Yesterday morning, I walked outside and saw a beautiful blue Morning Glory on my back fence.  As I walked around the back of our house, I saw a small little hummingbird that was drinking at one of our feeders. I watched him for about five minutes and took the pictures you see here of the flower and small little hummingbird.  Inside my house, my wife Karen was still soundly asleep.  A better person and wife I could not want.  I have food in the refrigerator and a warm comfortable bed in a nice house to rest and sleep in.  My last medical report states that my cancer has been completely removed and there were no signs that it had spread.  Today, when I went out, I had two Morning Glories blooming.

I have disagreements with many people. I disagree with those who are prejudiced and racist. I disagree with those who think we cannot help others from other countries. I disagree with those who think that military action is the best response to world problems.  I disagree with those who think that we should not share and help others who are less fortunate in this country.  I disagree with those who are so certain that there is only one viewpoint and credo for existence.  I disagree with those who think that compromise is a sign of weakness.  I disagree with those who think that success is the secret to happiness.  (Please take a minute to listen to the Gratitude Song by Nichole Nordeman, it will bring joy to your heart)

I have finally realized that Loyola was right.  If I am not happy, if I am not successful, if I am not wealthy, it is because I am not grateful hummingbirdfor what I have.  I have what I need.  I may not have what I want, but what I want will never make me happy or give true meaning to my life.  Perhaps my life is best defined by the Morning Glories and hummingbirds.  It has only taken me 60 or so years to see that I am surrounded by the things and people that I truly need in my life.  I spent years looking everywhere for success and happiness and they were right in my own backyard.

One further confession I need to make. I backslide quite often.  I still have pangs of worthlessness and inadequacy.  If I were younger, I might succumb to these feelings and go skydiving, mountain climbing or some other form of glory seeking.  Maybe that is the good thing about age.  It no longer seems worth the effort to pursue glory.  Time to go visit the Morning Glories and maybe see a hummingbird.

If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there….then I never really lost it to begin with.  –– Dorothy Gale, The Wizard of Oz

Time for Questions:

What are you most grateful for today?  When was the last time you expressed your gratitude to someone you care about?  How often do you stop to think about how much you have to be grateful for?  Are you grateful for the things that really matter in your life?  What if you took time each day to be more grateful for your life?  What are you most ungrateful for?  How can you get rid of your ingratitude?

Life is just beginning. 

 

 

The Great Divide:  An America Torn Asunder by Divisions

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I published the following blog a few months ago.  I think it needs to be more visible.  If you agree with the ideas in this blog, would you please share it with other people or groups that it might help.  Democracy is in crisis today in America as never before.  It has not ended with Trump being defeated since his followers and minions are still out doing their best to overturn Democracy in America.  Only an informed and literate citizenship can defeat these efforts.  

The number one subject for bestselling non-fiction books in the USA today concerns the chasm that separates Republicans from Democrats.  Rural voters from urban voters.  College Educated people from non-college educated.  Conservatives from liberals.  Fox viewers from CNN viewers.  Your facts from my facts.  Your truths from my truths.  Your lies from my lies.  Your views of reality from my views of reality. 

This divide is decried by all the pundits and experts.  Not one of the writers on this subject has anything good to say about the divide.  Perhaps they harken back to the old saying, “United we stand and divided we fall.”  Or the adage that, “A house divided cannot stand.”  Whatever the reasoning, no one thinks that a USA as divided as it is with nearly 75 million people voting for Donald Trump and 80 million people voting for Joseph Biden is helpful for our nation.  Keep in mind, it is not just the sheer numbers that alarm people, it is the magnitude of the crevasse that scares people.

hate-spesechThe abyss It is so big that there is no bridging it.  None of the sides can see the other side.  None of the sides has any common ground with the other side.  None of the sides understands the language that the other side speaks.  We might as well be earthlings talking to Martians.  There is no lingua franca.  Many of the “well-meaning” experts exhort both sides to try harder to bridge the gap or to work more diligently to listen to the other side.  It seems to be assumed that all it will take to jump the gulf is good intentions.  I cry bullshit on this.  As the old aphorism goes, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  It will take more than good intentions to heal the wound that infests our country.

Before we can fix what ails America, we must clearly understand what brought this divide about.  What are the causes for this divide, and can they be healed?  I see three main causes for this chasm.  They are: 1. Greed, 2. Demonization, and 3. Media.  Let’s look at each of these three elements and see how they contribute to the divide and what if anything can be done about them. 

Greed:

Corporate greed and materialism have driven a wedge between the haves and the have nots in America.  A larger gap than ever before exists between the rich and the poor.  The number of people seeking free food and standing in line at food banks has only been higher during the Great Depression.  The requirements for a digital elite versus a computer illiterate fuels the growing income gap.  The Opioid Epidemic is only one symptom of this inequality in the USA.  Many people cannot afford medical care or adequate housing as well as food. 

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For years now, materialism has been touted as the backbone of American commerce by corporations and the media.  Inflammatory news events sell advertisements which drive people to the shopping malls, ball parks, restaurants, and performances.  Special events like “Black Friday” abound where people, “shop till they drop.”  There is a vicious spiral to these events since the final outcome is to keep people needy and wanting more.  The theologian Matthew Kelly says you can never satisfy wants only needs.  Pursuing wants will always leave you wanting more.  Eating, sleeping, exercise and love are needs that can be satisfied and will bring you happiness.  You can never be happy pursuing wants.

materialism and spendingThe wants advertised on the TV and in the media are never fulfilling.  We have a nation of brainwashed consumers who mistakenly think that more toys, bigger houses, more guns, and luxury cars will make them happy.  We are a nation on a never-ending treadmill of consumer materialism where like rats we keep spinning the wheel and hoping to find happiness, but happiness never comes, and drugs take its place. 

There is no sanity in our economic system.  It is a zero-sum game.  It is a great deal like the lottery.  Next week there will be 100 million losers, but one winner will get a billion dollars or more.  The value for the lottery keeps going up which entices more and more people to buy lottery tickets, but the number of losers also keeps going up.  Where do the profits for the lotteries go?  Not back to the people, regardless of what they tell you.  Our society is being sold hope where hope is the most elusive product in the marketplace. 

imagesAs the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, the tensions in society grow ever more divisive.  We see more road rage, more senseless shootings, more violence between men and women, less loyalty between employers and employees.  The underpinning of society that should be based on human integrity and morality is replaced with an opportunism based on an amoral value system.  Whatever we can get as long as we break no laws is considered to be moral.  We see most politicians that have no commitment to anything except to collect more money so that they can stay in office.   Their highest goal is to help the rich get richer, which of course includes themselves. 

Jesus said that money is not evil, it is the pursuit of money that is evil.  The evil in America comes from a frenzy for more that separates Americans from each other.  Like a horse race where there can only be one winner, there are only going to be a few rich Americans and many more poor people scrambling to be the “King of the Hill.” 

I do not believe that the divide in this country can be erased until we eliminate the gap between the rich and the poor.  It is not simply a matter of conversation or discussion.  It is a matter of inequality.  A poor person cannot talk to a rich person unless they can shout over gated walls and armed security guards.  The biggest divide in America is between the haves and the have nots.  It is between the will haves and the may never haves.  The haves in America expect to have more and probably will get more.  The have nots do not know where their next paycheck will come from or whether they will be able to buy food for tomorrow.  No amount of discussion or listening skills is going to solve this problem.  

Demonization:

Speech-Bubble-Montage_2-1 (1)I am not talking about the devil here or about spirituality.  I am talking about a kind of insidious propaganda that has been spread by many groups and individuals.  In this propaganda, one side of America is labeled as moral, ethical, righteous, and just.  The other side is the opposite.  The other side is everything negative.  The other side is a composite of all the demons and evils that Americans believe in.  The other side are communists, fascists, atheists, anti-democratic, anti-patriotic and un-American.  One side is good.  The other side is evil incarnate.  You cannot talk to evil.  You cannot discuss with the devil why he wants your soul.  You cannot debate with Satan over the values that he has.  Heaven and hell do not have weekly discussion groups.  The language heard today, and what the media publishes drips with hate, innuendo, and disdain.  The language fosters violence.  I doubt the Founding Fathers ever conceived that the First Amendment would protect such speech.  There are three elements that contribute to a hate speech culture that demonizes the other side: 

  1. Malicious Labeling:

freehatespeechMalicious labeling is the name calling that goes on between both sides today wherein each side is labeled.  You can hear it on almost every talk show program in America today.  Name calling and name labeling.  Commie pinko leftists!  Intellectual elites!  Radical socialists!  Racist rednecks!  Fascist dictators!  Politicians, commentators, newscasters, and radio talk show hosts all use malicious labels to insult and demean those they disagree with.  What have we let this country become when we allow such name calling?  This kind of hyperbole demonizes the other side and creates a divide that cannot be overcome by rational conversation.

“I think the political process has degenerated into name-calling and extremism, and I think that that’s unfortunate.” — Bill Bradley

  1. Anti-Government Diatribes:

extremismword_hp111319.1200x0I do not think that the Founding Fathers of our nation believed that Government was evil.  Certainly, they felt that there could be too much government intrusion on the rights of the populace.  They invoked certain safeguards to protect both human rights and states rights.  Nevertheless, they did not demonize government and not a single one of the Fathers ever referred to government as evil.  Edmund Burke, the famous English conservative said, “The government that governs best is the government that governs least.”  He never said, “government was evil.”  It has become common place to hear refrains denigrating the role and necessity of government.  This steady drumbeat of antigovernmental rhetoric has created a group of people that have no value for government and who support the idea that government should be abolished.

“A primary object should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic, what species of knowledge can be equally important? And what duty more pressing than communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?”  — George Washington

  1. Legal Advocates of Violence

loyal white knights and aryan nations in texas july 2016 from vkdotcom_0A few years ago I began to wonder why groups like the KKK, Aryan Brotherhood, Antifa, The Proud Boys and many other such groups advocating violence against the government were not labeled as Terrorist Organizations.  I asked a lawyer this question and he replied, “it is all politics.”  I found that almost all the groups listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “hate groups” were designated as “extremist groups.”  This means that they are not illegal, and they have the right to organize, march, rally and basically spread their hate across America.  In 2019, The SPLC listed 940 hate groups across the USA.  If any of these groups was labeled as a “Terrorist Group,” they would be on the same list as the Taliban, Boko Haram, The Mafia, Mexican Cartels and Al Qaeda.  What is the difference between an extremist group and a terrorist group?  It might surprise you to learn that a terrorist organization is defined as follows:

In the United States of America, terrorism is defined in Title 22 Chapter 38 U.S. Code § 2656f as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents”.

In general, terrorism is classified as:

  • The use of violence or of the threat of violence in the pursuit of political, religious, ideological, or social objectives
  • Acts committed by non-state actors (or by undercover personnel serving on the behalf of their respective governments)
  • Acts reaching more than the immediate target victims and also directed at targets consisting of a larger spectrum of society.

15963If this definition does not apply to the groups that tried to storm the US Capital on January 6th, 2021, I do not know what does.  Just yesterday the Canadian government labeled the Proud Boys as a Terrorist Organization.  This delegitimizes the group and takes their rights away.  For Canada, it is a start.  I am wondering when we are going to get started in the USA on such an effort.  The First Amendment was never construed to allow hate speech and the advocating of violent actions to overthrow the government.  Why do we not have the political will to outlaw these groups?  We seem to have little compunction in penalizing Black groups like the Black Lives Matter Movement or the Black Panthers.  We have a different standard when it comes to White Supremacy groups. 

The Media:

000f25f2-6bf0-11e9-994e-1d1e521ccbf6_image_hires_015902The newspapers, TV and the Internet are today the major carriers for the hate and vituperation that has spread across America.  On one side of the divide, we find the NY Times, the Washington Post and CNN News.  On the other side, we find the NY Post, the Washington Examiner and Fox News.  There are countless other purveyors of extreme and fanatical views.  Each side reeks of headlines supporting nonobjective views and biased reporting.  If objective reporting ever existed in the USA, it has been murdered and buried by the most pervasive media to ever exist.  The media carries the hate and violence that is created by politicians, pundits, radio commentators and hate groups and ensures that it gets widely disseminated.  Without the media, much of the divide would never have occurred.  Hate needs a platform to be spread and the media is more than happy to host anything that it believes will sell itself and its advertising. 

Conclusions:

We are not going to overcome the divide that separates Americans today by platitudes and wishful thinking.  No amount of holding hands or singing kumbaya together is going to unite Americans.  We have a systemic rot in our system that is caused by the extremism in politics and media that has created this divide.  We need to enact reasonable laws to stamp out this rot while also protecting free speech but not hate speech.  There is a difference between hate speech and free speech.  If we cannot figure this difference out, we will never close the divide that exists in America today.  You can defend the First Amendment all you want, but there are limits to everything and that includes so-called Free Speech. 

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Then-CIA director Gina Haspel said the US was ‘on the way to a right-wing coup’ after Trump lost the election: book

 

The Legitimization of Greed

 

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Let me start off with some major caveats.  First, greed has always been with us.  Second, among certain people, there has always been excessive greed.  Third, we will never eradicate greed in the human species.  Why then you may well ask, another screed against the excesses of greed? The answer is that we have entered a new era of greed.  Never before has greed been so widely accepted and so widely admired. 

Throughout history, prophets and religious leaders have warned us about the pursuit of wants that never satisfy the soul nor do anything to enrich humanity.  In the past, greed was the mindless pursuit of more.  Jesus said that “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” – 1 Timothy 6:10.  The Bible says more about the dangers of money and possessions than any other subject.

Ignatius of Loyola gave this message to his followers:

Lord, teach me to be generous;

Teach me to serve you as you deserve;

To give and not to count the cost”

Gautama Buddha made the following comment concerning greed:

“Inflamed by greed, incensed by hate, confused by delusion, overcome by them, obsessed by mind, a man chooses for his own affliction, for others’ affliction, for the affliction of both and experiences pain and grief.”

Islam has many comments about the evil of greed and the pursuit of more and more:

“Three Habits Destroy

a Man Or Woman:

Greed, Envy

and Pride.”  ― Hamid al Ghazali

“Greed is permanent slavery.”  — Ali ibn Abi Talib

If greed has always been with us, then what is different today?  The difference is that in the past, greed was recognized as evil and as an element that would distort human nature.  Today greed has become legitimate.   

The definition of legitimate is: 

To give legal force or status to; make lawful.

To sanction formally or officially; authorize.

To demonstrate or declare to be justified.

5451174-1020-PXWe shop till we drop.  We invoke our privilege to use our money as we want to.  We make holidays out of holy days where we spend our time hunting for bargains and sales.  Greed has now become a sacrament.  Greed is no longer evil.  Greed is holy.  Greed is the American Way of Life.  Millions of Americans adore the wealthy.  The story of Lazarus holds no credibility – Luke 16:19-21.  Nor does the story of the Rich Fool – Luke 12:13-21.  Money is sacred and those who have more are worshipped by Americans and exalted as better people and better leaders.  We elect millionaires and billionaires to Congress and even the Presidency on the sole basis of their acumen at having stored up wealth.

Wealth Trumps compassion.  Money Trumps kindness.  Possessions Trump love.  No one would argue today that leaders should have compassion, kindness, and love for others.  These are sentiments that hold no currency.  The values that Americans believe in today are bitcoins, stocks, bonds, gold, and credit ratings.  Wise people are not listened to.  Instead, rich people are sought out and worshipped because they are smart enough to game the system and attain more than the rest of us.  A 3,400-foot home with four bathrooms for people with no children is a sign of success and not wretched excess.  A Porsche, BMW or Mercedes is proof that you are an important person.  Living in a neighborhood with walls and private security guards helps you to feel safe because wealth is envied by those who do not have it and they might take it away from you. 

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Living the good life today means having more than your neighbors, friends, or relatives.  According to Merriam-Webster, success is “the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame.”  Success is not measured in America by kindness, compassion, or love for others.  Millions of people watch reality shows where fame equals success.  A new breed of celebrities exists solely on the basis of being famous and not for any achievements. 

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Movie stars are the aristocracy of America and are adored because of the illusions that they present and not because of reality.  John Wayne is the Icon of American Manhood.  He was a man that personified heroism and masculinity.  In reality, he was a racist who denigrated Black people, Gay people, and Native Americans.  He received a 3-A (family deferment) after Pearl Harbor and never had to fight except in his many heroic movie roles where he extolled American militarism.  Movie stars are idolized because they are rich and famous and have more of these attributes than the general population. 

So where do we go from here?  There are many good people in America.  There are many generous people who give freely and share their wealth with others.  Attributes such as generosity and empathy for the needy still exist in America.  However, what I have called the “legitimization” of greed has infected too many of our people.  It has become acceptable.  Americans have failed to grasp the insidious nature of greed.  It is not something that takes over your life suddenly.   Greed creeps up slowly and silently until one day, you are consumed by it.  Our nation has made greed an attribute to be admired.  No school in American dares to mention the perils of greediness. 

Can we reverse the trend that has led us down this path to self-centeredness and narcissism?  What can be done to turn the trend back towards valuing compassion and kindness?  Not just compassion and kindness for those who look like us but compassion and kindness for all people.

I will try to answer these questions in my next blog.  We will need a change of mindset that will lead to a new Zeitgeist.  The present paradigm we are living in is destroying humanity.  Trump and his supporters are not an aberration but a reflection of how far we have gone down the wrong road.   If we keep going down this road, we will have a world where there is no humanity left in people.  We will continue to destroy our environment as greed dictates taking all that we can get and not leaving anything for others.     

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The Seven Greatest Appreciations of Life: Peace

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“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful.” — John 14:27

Peace is perhaps the second most spoken word in the English language as well as the second most misunderstood. 

546ad58cbe260aa3bb2946b2a7c566acA Rabbi, Iman, Pastor and Buddhist Priest were all discussing the issue of peace in the world and in particular peace in the Mideast.  The Rabbi said there could only be peace in the Mideast if all the Muslims left.  The Iman said that there could only be peace if all the Jews left.  The Pastor jumped into the argument and said there would only be peace if all the non-Christians left.  The Buddhist cleared his throat to interrupt the argument and said, “There will never be peace anywhere as long as there are Muslims, Jews, Protestants, Catholics and even Buddhists in the world.” 

Peace is the nexus that links politicians and religious leaders.  Peace drips from the lips of religious leaders and politicians so often that I would be a billionaire if I had a quarter for each time one of them uttered the word peace.  There is a symbiotic relationship between religious leaders and politicians.  We have hundreds of years of racism, greed, sexism, discrimination, and militarism pursued by political leaders and blessed by religious leaders all over the world.  Politicians need religious leaders to sanction their immoral behaviors.  Religious leaders need politicians to foster behaviors that are not endorsed in their official religious teachings.

We have a world that needs peace.  Peace is to the soul as food is to the body.  Peace sustains us spiritually and mentally.  When we think of peace, we think of such phrases as “Peace in the valley.”  “A life of inner peace.”  “Go in peace.”  “Let there be peace between our people.”  “It was a peaceful day.”  “Peace begins with a smile.”  Racism, sexism, greed, discrimination, and militarism all destroy peace.

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Happiness and joy are two of the sought-after states in the world, but neither state can exist without a foundation of peace.  Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God,”: Matthew 5:9.  You would think that those who say they are called to be Priests, Ministers and Pastors in the Christian religion would understand that Jesus expected them to be peacemakers.  Sadly, that seldom seems to be the case.  It is even sadder that the idea of peace is blasphemed by these same people whose vocation is to foster peace.  The concepts of spirituality and peace go hand in hand.  One cannot be a spiritual person and sanction the wanton and needless destruction of life.  Peace is meaningless if it is just a word.  If we really want peace it must be a way of life for all of us.  You cannot preach peace in the pulpit on Sunday and then support racism, sexism, discrimination, greed, and militarism the rest of the week.     

Mens-Peace-guins-Long-Sleeve-Crusher-Tee_70962_1_lgThe peaceful person does not use violence against others.  The peaceful person is a diplomat who solves problems with his/her brain and not with tools of aggression.  The peaceful person is confident because they have integrity.  The peaceful person has serenity because they have no fear.  Fear is the enemy of peace.  When the world is on red-alert, people live in fear.   People become fearful of others and fearful of living.  Racism, sexism, discrimination, greed, and militarism create fear.  With fear, no one can be at peace. 

We can only appreciate peace if we are carriers and messengers of peace.  The person who endorses violence, abuse or discrimination against others can never be at peace because they have no peace in their heart.  Such people live on violence and thrive on aggression.  They reap what they sow.  By sowing death and destruction, they ensure that they will never know peace. 

51qBtOmrIgL._SS500_We should all be grateful for peace.  This means we need to appreciate peace and understand that it cannot be taken for granted.  Peace is up to us to create.  It is too important to leave to religious leaders and politicians.  If we want peace in our lives and peace in the world, we must create it.  There can never be peace for anyone if there is not peace for everyone. 

Think about peace today.  Do you live in a land of peace?  When you get up or go to bed today, do you feel peaceful?  Are you at ease with life or are you anxious, nervous, and fearful?  Do you appreciate what or how peace in your life would feel?  What would it take for your life to be more peaceful?  Do you think the world deserves peace?  If peace is everyone’s responsibility, what will you do to sow peace today? 

Peace starts with living peacefully. 

Mark Twain wrote a short story called the War Prayer.  It has been made into a ten minute video.  It is very moving and something everyone should see.  The link is below:

Lawyers, Lawyers Everywhere, but Not a Shred of Justice Anywhere

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I am going to make a case here.  My claim is that there are too many lawyers running things in the United States of America.  I will present the facts and arguments.  You be the judge and jury.  If I make a good case, then I will settle for fifty million dollars. 

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury.  This may sound like an extreme case.  I know most of you will have some friends who are lawyers.  Some of you may be thinking “Well, there are good lawyers and there are bad lawyers.”  Some of you may be thinking “Well, how would we run this country without lawyers.”  Please listen to what I have to say.  Then you may render your verdict. 

I will repeat my claim.  We have too many lawyers.  They have created a litigious society that is being run by fear and not by logic or reason.  Lawyers use lawsuits to run things and the number and frivolity of these lawsuits has reached epidemic even pandemic proportions.  We have lawyers running our government.  We have lawyers running our school boards.  We have lawyers running our city, county, state, and federal governments.  Everywhere you look in business, there are lawyers prosecuting lawsuits, making claims for reparations, litigation, and countersuits.  Civil courts have begun to take over justice from legal courts.  Law has replaced justice in America.  Laws are not made of the people, by the people and for the people, but laws made of lawyers, by lawyers and for lawyers.

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For the past two months we have witnessed lawyers running all over the USA with frivolous lawsuits and craftily plied arguments to usurp the will of the people.  Nay, not just to usurp the will of the people but to overthrow the government of the people of the United States of America.  Even as I write these lines, there are still pending threats to the legally elected President and Vice-President Elects of the USA.  These lawsuits and claims are made by men and women without a shred of decency, integrity, or ethics.  The only thing these lawyers care about is power and winning and money.  The destruction of American Democracy means nothing to these vultures.

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Ladies and Gentlemen.  Allow me to present some statistics on lawyers in the USA.

Lawyer Statistics & Facts – 2020 –  https://goremotely.net/blog/lawyer-statistics/

  • The US legal business sector has an estimated $160 billion market share.
  • More than 100 million cases are filed each year in state trial courts, while roughly 400,000 cases are filed in federal trial courts.
  • Only 14.4% of all US lawyers are certified members of ABA. (American Bar Association)
  • Some high-profile attorneys can earn as much as $2,400 hourly ($5 million annually).
  • There are more than 1.35 million lawyers in the US.
  • The number of active lawyers in the United States increased 14.5% over the last decade
  • In China, there is 1 lawyer for every 4,620 inhabitants.
  • In the USA there is 1 lawyer for every 300 inhabitants
  • The percentage of lawyers who are men and women of color (Hispanic, African American, Asian, Native American, and mixed race) grew by a mere 3% over the past decade, increasing from 11.4% in 2010 to 14.1% in 2020.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury.  Please believe me when I say that I am not the only one who thinks that we have too many lawyers in the USA.  Numerous experts can witness and provide testimony that America is one of the most litigious nations in the world.  The amount of litigation has nothing to do with justice.  Lawyers seek out and design strategies to create lawsuits strictly aimed at making money.  How many of you have been notified that you are eligible for some class action lawsuit?  Lawyers actually buy and sell such lawsuits in the hopes of extorting money from organizations that prefer not to have their reputations smeared or waste time in court challenges.  Many organizations simply settle rather than undergo a long and tedious legal process.

Ladies and Gentlemen.  Let me tell you what happens in many of these class action lawsuits.  A company is found with either a potential or tenuous wrongdoing.  Litigants who may have been remotely connected to this perceived wrongdoing are sought out who are offered a monetary reward for their participation.  They may be former customers, clients, or employees.  The case goes to court.  Millions of dollars are sought from the accused.  The lawyers may win or settle out of court.  An award is made.  Let us say that the settlement is made for 50 million dollars.  The lawyers take twenty percent of that for the claimants.  Thus, ten million dollars may be paid out to other people.  The rest of the money, the other 40 million dollars goes to the law firm. 

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Ladies and Gentlemen.  I will give you a personal case that I was witness to firsthand and that I will swear to.  A number of years ago, I received three envelopes in the mail.  Upon opening each envelope, I discovered that they were all from eBay.  One had a check for .47 cents.  One had a check for .97 cents.  One had a check for .25 cents.  The postage on the last envelope did not even cover the cost of the check.  Apparently, eBay had lost a class action lawsuit for some overcharging that they were alleged to have done.  I had never, I repeat never signed any documents alleging any wrongdoing or agreeing to any lawsuits against eBay.

Curious, I went online to find out what this was all about.  As I expected, some law firm had brought the lawsuit and won in court.  eBay agreed to pay.  Thousands of people received small checks like I did based on the volume of business they had done with eBay.  The people connected to this alleged crime received pennies while the law firm copped multi-millions for their efforts on our behalf.  I would gladly have refunded my money to eBay since I still do business with them and have never had a problem with their business practices. 

“In April 2018, The New York Times chronicled an even more troubling (albeit related) consequence of TPLF: litigation funders were pushing plaintiff law firms to encourage women to undergo unnecessary surgeries in order to drive up the value of their claims.” — Third Party Litigation Funding

Ladies and Gentlemen.  Did you know that law firms buy and sell lawsuits like you go to the store to buy and sell clothes or merchandise?  (See How To Sell Your Lawsuit)  If a law firm does not think it has the resources or time to prosecute a potentially lucrative lawsuit, it will simply list such suits in a legal newspaper classified ads offering to “sell” the lawsuit to another firm that has the resources to manage the lawsuit. 

“Mighty lends money to plaintiffs in personal injury lawsuits. You collect only if they do. Plus, the head of this online electronic investment platform recommends that only personal-injury lawyers, or investors who have such lawyers helping them evaluate cases, plunk down their money at this early stage.”

Does anyone here think that this is about justice or fairness or equity?  The legal profession has become about power and money.  Do you think the lawsuits brought by Trump and his cadre of legal experts had anything to do with justice or democracy?

“President Donald Trump and his allies have filed dozens of lawsuits across the country in an attempt to contest the election results.  Most of them have been shot down or withdrawn, and no court has found even a single instance of fraud.  Of at least 57 cases to have been filed, including some not directly involving Trump but which could nonetheless affect his standing, at least 50 have been denied, dismissed, settled or withdrawn.”

Ladies and Gentlemen.  Please consider that the cases on behalf of Trump were brought by men and women with legal degrees.  These are educated people many of whom went to first class legal colleges.  These are people intelligent enough to get an advanced degree and pass tests that would be impossible for the average person.   Nevertheless, the cupidity of these lawsuits in terms of the damage they have done to our country can only point to a failure of the legal profession to inculcate a sense of ethics and morality in their practitioners.  These lawyers have no interest in supporting the very democratic foundations of a country that allows them to practice their profession.

Ladies and Gentlemen.  Let us look now at the damage that this profession has done to our government.  In no country in the world are there as many lawyers in the Federal government as in the United States of America.  Look at the following statistics:

  • The EPA employs 1,020 lawyers with payroll exceeding $1.1 billion
  • The IRS employs over 1,400 lawyers.
  • There are 10,000 lawyers who are employed by the US Department of Justice.
  • In total, there are 25,060 Lawyers in the Federal government costing taxpayers $26.2 Billion per year.
  • 25 of the 45 presidents of the USA have been lawyers
  • In the 116th Congress of the USA, there are a total of 192 lawyers out of a total congressional body of 537 individuals (Membership of the 116th Congress)

Ladies and Gentlemen.  You may well ask, “Well, what harm can all these lawyers do.”  Let me tell you. Having been around lawyers in many different organizations, I can testify to the limited perspective that the legal profession often has in terms of viewing the reality that confronts the average person.  Many of these “legal” experts have never done a day of hard work in their lives.  Often the sons and daughters of privileged and wealthy parents, they go from school to school until they achieve their legal degrees and then go right into some law firm that snatches them up as soon as they graduate.  Their experience of working people and the rest of the world is narrow, limited, and biased.  Once, in their field they are motivated by money, power, and greed. 

downloadLadies and Gentlemen.   How can you have a government of the people, by the people and for the people when it is a government of the rich by the rich and for the rich?  A government of lawyers, political science majors and corporate people.  An interlocking network of proponents who have a self-interest that nowhere matches the nature and interests of the general public of America. 

In the current Senate, only 19 of the 100 office holders served in the US military.  There is one engineer, four farmers, one rancher, one computer programmer, one accountant, about twenty teachers and the rest are either lawyers or businesspeople.  There are no plumbers, no architects, no scientists, no physicists, no chemists, no carpenters, no brick layers in the Senate.  Three percent of the Senate are African American, Five percent are Hispanic, or Latino and three percent are Asian/Pacific Islanders. Twenty five percent of the Senate are women.  — Congressional Statistics

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In the USA as a whole, the numbers are quite different from the Senate in terms of representation.  (See Census Government)

  • African Americans are 13.4 percent in population versus 3 percent in the Senate
  • Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders are 6.1 percent in population versus 3 percent in the Senate
  • Hispanic or Latino are 18.5 percent in population versus 5 percent in the Senate
  • Women are 50.8 percent in population versus 25 percent in the Senate
  • Veterans are 6 percent in population versus 19 percent in the Senate

Ladies and Gentlemen.  The facts speak for themselves.  But one last fact, if you please, before I do my summation. 

  • The median net worth of an American family is $52,700. The median net worth of members of Congress who filed disclosures last year is just over $1 million. — open secrets

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury.  Let me conclude.  As you can see from the evidence, there is no way that the U.S. Congress represents the American people.  The sad part is that we vote these people in time and time again.  We continue to elect the same people over and over again with the same disastrous results.  We have a so-called democracy which does not represent the American people.  But I have not even touched on perhaps what is the worst of the dangers that lawyers are doing to this country.

In a land where I live called Wisconsin, we have been involved in an ongoing dispute over the siting of what is called a CAFO, or Concentrated Animal Feed Operation.  I have been to many county government meetings and board meetings where arguments have taken place over the jurisprudence and legality of such operations.  In every meeting, there is always a lawyer sitting rather obtrusively near the board members. 

services-featured-civil-litigationMany of the board members in the rural counties are farmers or laborers or educators who have little or no training in the laws that they are sworn to protect.  Thus, they rely heavily on the lawyers that they hire to provide advice and perceived protection from lawsuits.  This renders the board members subject to the legal opinion of the lawyer which is quite often at odds to what the public wants.  The boards are frequently fearful of a lawsuit (often offered by the lawyer as a possibility) and will forego making an informed decision based on evidence that is presented at the hearings. 

I have witnessed this happen at county government meetings over other issues besides the one noted above.  I have also seen business organizations, when I was a management consultant, that relied too heavily on the advice of a lawyer.  This advice, based as it was on the fear of a lawsuit, and not a more probable positive outcome often led to missed business opportunities.  I knew when I had an opinion that differed from the legal opinion that I was going to have an uphill battle to have any positive changes made.  Lawyers thrive on fear and angst. 

download (2)We need less lawyers.  Lawyers and lawsuits are destroying America and Democracy.  We need leaders with more diversity in education.  We need leaders with more ethnic diversity.  We need leaders with more gender diversity.  We need greater representation that reflects the demographics of America.  We need less lawyers.  We need more justice and we need more fairness. 

The Prosecution rests it’s case.

 

A Tale of Two Men

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It is a time of overwhelming greed.  It is a time of underwhelming altruism.  The hoards of poor and destitute and abused are still at the gates but the gates have been replaced by a wall.  The few that have managed to get over the wall or under the wall have found that their dreams of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness have been replaced by barbed wire fences and security police intent on finding and locking them up in cages.  In truth, there are no streets paved with gold.  The gold has long since been stripped by billionaires and the American dream has been supplanted by a Trickle-Down theory which the billionaires are cynically prophesizing.

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Through the country stride two men.  One man driven by money laden with stocks, bonds, and coupons for a cheap cup of coffee.  The other man driven by compassion with a calendar always full of dates to help someone else out.  One man has plenty of gold, the other man has plenty of time.  No two men could be more different.  One man represents the America that was.  The other man represents the America that could be.  The two men frequently cross paths and to some extent even like each other.  There is no hatred between the two but a mutual inability to understand the other’s motives has always existed.  Each thinks that the other is of unsound mind or to put it another way is “out to lunch.”  This is their story then.  I tell it from a neutral objective.  Strangely, I like both men.

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Tom is a white middle class male in his mid-seventies.  Tom is driven by the almighty dollar.  Hardly a day goes by that Tom is not trading or looking at his stock portfolio.  Tom (everyone agrees) is “all about the money.”  Tom is a Trump supporter.  In many respects, he does not fit the typical demographic for a Trumpist.  Tom has gone to college.  He worked at a white-collar job and he has one of the largest houses in the town.  Tom always dresses well, speaks well and never utters a vernacular word.  Tom has never owned a motorcycle and I doubt he has ever shot anything in his life.  He is the epitome of decorum and propriety.  He has kept himself in good shape and looks physically fit.  Indeed, he looks several years younger than his age.  Tom is soft-spoken and is the last person you could think of who would ever get in an actual fight with anyone.  

Tom prides himself on his frugalness, some would say cheapness.  He will buy a coffee at the local coffee shop and when it is time to pay, he will search the internet with his smart phone to find a coupon that will allow him to get 50 percent or so off the cost of an already low-priced cup of coffee.  But greed cannot be measured by cheap cups of coffee.  In some respects, it is difficult to separate greed from fear.  Many a conversation with Tom, I walked away thinking that it is not so much greed that drives Tom as fear.  Fear that the immigrants might take his house away.  Fear that women will take his job.  Fear that minorities will get his share of the America pie.  Fear that LGBTQ people will gain access to his bathroom.

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If it is true that Trump supporters are driven by fear and greed, then Tom (regardless of demographics) is the quintessential Trump supporter.  Tom defies the category of “Trump Deplorable.”  You can have an intelligent and civil conversation with Tom on many a subject.  Nevertheless, he defends Trump no matter what the issue.  Trump is his God and can do no wrong.  Despite Tom’s penny pinching, he is proud enough of his Trump affiliation that he has spent the money to purchase some Trump paraphernalia.  He proudly wears both a Trump hat and a Trump t-shirt.  This always puzzles me. 

Tom has never suffered poverty.  He lives well and has a beautiful lake front home with a mortgage long paid off.  He drives a luxury car with a brand image.  I am sure that neither NAFTA nor Globalism has ever been of undue stress to his finances.   Quite to the contrary, Tom has undoubtedly benefitted from the good that has come out of these policies.  Unlike the white rural blue-collar worker who saw his job and company go overseas, Tom has prospered in the 21st Century economy. 

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Ron is also a white male in his mid-seventies.  Ron did not go to college.  Ron was a blue-collar electrician until his retirement.  Ron grew up on the wrong side of the tracks.  Ron rides a Harley Davidson and when he was younger went on many a deer and elk hunting trip.  He still proudly has an array of rifles that he seldom now uses.  Ron has even won some rifles and given them away.  Ron can be difficult to talk to.  He is passionate about his position and not always willing to listen to others.  You cannot always describe his discussions with others as civil and polite.  Some people would describe Ron as uncouth.  He cares little about fashion or image.  He usually looks like he needs a good haircut.  If you did not know Ron, you would have no difficulty in putting him down as a Trump supporter.  You would be dead wrong.

Ron is a generous man.  He is one of the most generous persons I know.  Ron is not rich.  He has never purchased a brand-new car and he does not live on a lake.  Ron does not have a great deal of money, but he will often pay for my coffee and the coffee of others at our table.  Ron is most generous with his time.  Never a day goes by that he is not doing a favor for someone.  His generosity extends well beyond his immediate family.  Three years ago. Ron and his wife were given an award as Volunteers of the Year.  If anyone needs something or help with anything, they will call Ron.  I do not think of myself as “ungenerous”, but I am loath to admit that I sometimes think Ron is too generous with his time. 

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Politically, I would describe Ron as an independent thinker.  Ron gets a good pension from his former IBEW union and if there is anything he is proud of and will defend to the nth degree, it is unions.  He despises Trump and the Republican politics of greed and Trickle Down.  However, he does not defend the Democratic party either.  He has said that the Democrats sold too many Americans down the drain with NAFTA and Globalism.  It would have been one thing to pursue these policies if there had been some type of life jacket or safety net for the American workers displaced but the Democrats as well as the Republicans simply ignored the side effects of these policies. 

Ron is no racist, no sexist, no hater of immigrants.  If you talk to Ron about these subjects, you will find a man that is not fearful or belligerent towards others.  Whereas Tom would lock America down, Ron would tear the walls down.  Tom will deplore violent protestors.  Ron will deplore the violence that lead to the protests in the first place.  Ron loves to travel and meet new people.  Tom spends most of his days in the same town that he has always been and traveling the same safe pathways that he has always traveled.  Ron has taken several foreign students into his home on an exchange program and is always eager to hear stories about other people and other places.  Tom has a child who is developmentally disabled that he is a loving and kind father to. 

A tale of two men.  Both men married.  Both with families and children.  Neither man a criminal or drug addict or law breaker.  Both men admired by others in the community.  Both men loved by their families.  Both men with friends who speak and think well of them.  Men who are on opposite sides of any imaginable political spectrum. 

A time in America when the divisions seen to outweigh any points of commonality.  When the divisiveness and polemics drive everyone either right or left.  When disagreement is called evil and rudeness and bullying substitute for politeness and civility.  When you are my enemy if your politics disagree with mine.  When truth is now called a lie and facts are now called fake. 

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Ron and Tom still sit down mornings at the coffee shop and talk to each other.  There is often passionate disagreement.  Ron will storm and foam at the mouth.  Tom will quietly state his position and seem somewhat amused at Ron’s vehemence.  I am not sure who has the most difficulty understanding the other but watching Tom and Ron interact is something like watching a TV sitcom.  Are Tom and Ron following a script that the rest of us do not know about?  Perhaps there is a script written somewhere that we are all following.  

“Aspire to decency. Practice civility toward one another. Admire and emulate ethical behavior wherever you find it. Apply a rigid standard of morality to your lives; and if, periodically, you fail ­ as you surely will ­ adjust your lives, not the standards.” ― Ted Koppel

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