Can You Really See the World from Another Person’s Point of View?

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One of the most often quoted and pro-offered bits of advice is “walk a mile in their shoes.”  Another version of this wisdom is to try and see it from their “point of view.”  Jesus said “ “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” — Luke 6: 37-42

I submit that all of these bits of wisdom are more than admirable; they are essential to a life of wisdom and justice.  The problem is that all of them are impossible to follow.  You can’t walk a mile in another person’s shoes because their shoes won’t fit you.  You can’t see it from their point of view because you are not standing where they are.  You will always suffer from a plank in your own eye since this is nothing more than cognitive bias which we all suffer from.

Ergo, how do I see the world from another person’s point of view?  How do I reconcile the fact that there are often many other points of view?  Most of our lives we will live in an ocean of viewpoints.  They are like waves washing up on the shore.  One after another they roll in, break on the beach, and wash back into the ocean.  I couldn’t stop the waves from coming in if I wanted to and I could not stop for a second to deal with all the viewpoints that I am constantly bombarded with.

2c087c4a21acb3d800bbee0ce8d4df62The internet has made the problem even worse.  We are deluged with a tsunami of viewpoints every day.  From right, left, central, religious, agnostic, scientific, spiritual, communal, familial and hundreds of other perspectives our viewpoints of the world are bombarded by messages that challenge our thinking and our very reason for being.  Whose shoes should I stand in?  Whose perspective should I try to take?

Another problem with taking someone’s viewpoint is even more basic and problematic.  What if I don’t like or can not even imagine myself in their shoes?  I don’t sympathize much with pedophiles, racists, sexists, homophobes, and white supremacists.  How do I walk a mile in their shoes?  I would have to take a few years of character acting classes to even begin to imagine what a member of the KKK feels and thinks when he/she burns a cross on someone’s front yard.

Finally, the world may not like you for trying to understand the perspectives of the underdogs or those less fortunate in life.  You may lose friends and family for challenging viewpoints which are hardened by narrowmindedness and prejudice.  I doubt few people want to hear about the perspectives of a rapist or pedophile.  Taking their viewpoint will not help you to win friends and influence people.

Those of us who are unwilling to try to see things from another’s point of view will find ourselves in a deep pit of myopia.  The effects of not being able to comprehend things from the points of view of others is narrow mindedness, prejudice, and bias.  Solutions to problems become more difficult as we narrow our perspectives.  If we cannot see the world from the viewpoint of a pedophile (regardless of how abominable they may be), how can we ever understand their problems enough to create solutions that will eliminate this scourge from the earth.

What are some ways that we can actually walk a mile or maybe even just a ½ mile in the shoes of someone else?  Here are some recommendations.

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Experience It First Hand

This might fall in the category which I dismissed above to “walk a mile etc.”  This idea will work for some things.  You can experience what a canoeist experiences by going for a canoe ride.  You can experience what some writers feel by trying to write a short story.  However, if you are White, it will be impossible to feel what a Black person does when he/she is treated badly because of their color.  This is true for many other demographics besides race including age, gender, education level and intellectual capabilities.

You will not be able to experience what many people experience either because it is impossible to walk in their shoes or it might even be illegal.  For instance, you might not be able to experience the thrill or fear that a bank robber does when she/he walks in a bank to rob it.  You will also never be able to experience what somewhat with a mental disability feels as they navigate the world.  Thus, while some say that “experience is the best teacher” when it comes to understanding the perspectives of others, experience may not always be the best choice.

However, there are a great many things that we can experience first-hand if we are only willing to try them.  I know too many people who will not try things.  I am sure we all know people who will not do things even though they have never tried them before.  They might have tried them once and decided on the basis of one try that henceforth and forevermore they would never do it again.  It takes a certain amount of gumption, open-mindedness, and just plain courage to experience new things.  If you are glued to your couch watching the TV or if you are afraid to risk and dare you will find the opportunity of experience a closed door.

A few of the “I won’t try it” items that I hear and that irritate me include:

  • I don’t eat fish
  • I don’t like to travel
  • I don’t like Mexican food
  • I don’t like to read
  • I don’t like music or concerts

You can add some items that annoy you to hear in my comments section.

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Experience It Second Hand

Years ago, I wanted to try to understand sexism, racism, and prejudice.  I started out by reading about these subjects from the point of view of authors like James Baldwin, Malcolm X, Susan Brownmiller, Betty Freidan, Anne Frank, Hannah Arendt,  Ronald Takaki, Vine Deloria Jr., and many more.  I learned a great deal from the stories and experiences told by the people who experience discrimination first hand.

As I got older, I found more and more opportunities to attend lectures and discussions where I heard first hand people like Stokely Carmichael, Angela Davis, H. Rap Brown, Jesse Jackson, Audre Lorde, Rosa Parks, and Sarah Lew Miller.  I attended anti-racism seminars sponsored by several different groups. I have watched many documentaries dealing with prejudice and bigotry.

I went to important cultural sites that included Indian museums in Oklahoma, the Holocaust Museum in Israel, the Civil Rights Museum in Birmingham, Jewish Cemeteries in Paris with memorials to each concentration camp and Dachau outside Munich.

My first-hand experiences with people of color grew through my friendships.  I went to places that many White people would have put off limits in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, and New York.

Along the way to trying to understand the experiences of other people, I tried to help whenever possible fighting racism or bigotry.  I wrote a grievance for some fellow Black soldiers when I was in the service.  I supported organizations that fought racism like the Southern Poverty Law Center.  I conducted some seminars with a friend dealing with Gay rights.  I spoke out whenever I had the opportunity against racism and sexism.  My writings deal with many of these issues.

I note the above not to impress you.  If anything, I am unimpressed by my progress.  Somewhat like they say about Alcoholics, “Once an Alcoholic, always an Alcoholic.”  The best you can do is to become a recovering Alcoholic.  Growing up a White Christian male in a predominately White Christian Patriarchal society, it is very hard not to be a sexist racist anti-Semite.

When I was a kid, I was told it was a mortal sin to walk into a Jewish Synagogue.  That was because “Jews Killed Christ.”   There were no Black people in my neighborhood and a woman’s role was in the kitchen.  After our Italian family get togethers on Sunday and holidays, the men would all retire to the living room to smoke and watch sports while the women retired to the kitchen to clean the dishes that they had prepared dinner on.  Italian men loved boxing and would always root for the White boxer over the Black boxer. No amount of argument would ever convince my Italian relatives that Rocky Marciano was not the greatest boxer of all time.   How could he not be?  He was White and an Italian.  Case closed.

BedtimeNoozOne year at a Martin Luther King memorial service on the University of Minnesota campus at Northrup Auditorium, the keynote speaker was Dave Moore, a well-known news and television personality.  Karen and I attended many of the MLK day celebrations over the years.  I had never seen a White keynote speaker.  I was somewhat surprised and wondered what he could say about Martin Luther King or any other issue dealing with racism.  It turned out to be quite an interesting talk.

Dave Moore, spoke on growing up in an all-White Minneapolis neighborhood.  He noted that because there were no Black people in his childhood, he assumed when he was older that he could not be a racist.  He admitted how wrong he found this assumption to be.  He told the audience how many racist attitudes he found that he grew up with from simply assimilating the prejudices of his White culture.  It was a very moving talk coming from a man that was so admired by many people.  He essentially admitted that he grew up racist without ever knowing a single Black person.

Later in my life, I had a more diverse group of friends.  Many of my White friends would say that because they had a Black, Brown, Yellow, Red, or Gay friend that they were not prejudiced.  I have found that most colored friends of White people tend to be the “good” guys as opposed to their non-friends who are usually “They and Them people.”

1006OPEDnegley-superJumboNow we get back to the difficult if not impossible people to understand.  How do we put ourselves in the shoes of a rapist or pedophile?  There are many that would think I am crazy for asking this question.  I believe we will never eliminate these problems if we do not understand the causes.  We cannot cure the problem simply by locking up all the pedophiles and rapists in the world.  I do not believe that these are inherited characteristics.  There have been times and places in the world where practices bordering on rape and pedophilia have actually been legal and condoned.

Marital rape is criminalized in many countries. Throughout history until the 1970s, most states granted a husband the right to have sex with his wife whenever he so desired, as part of the marriage contract.”Wikipedia

Although there is substantial evidence in the historical and anthropological record of the sexual use of children by adults, surprisingly little is known about the etiology of pedophilia or its relation to other forms of sexual aggression.”  —

Thankfully, attitudes have changed about many behaviors and while cannibalism may still be a practice in some obscure parts of the world, it has largely been eradicated.  Unfortunately, rape and pedophilia although largely recognized as crimes  throughout most of the world have not seen a similar level of diminishment.

But if we cannot and would not walk a mile in the shoes of a rapist or pedophile, it still behooves us to understand their motivations.  What are the kicks they get out of these anti-social behaviors?  Why do they do it?  What can we do besides lock them up to effect permanent cures?

The second-best way (through second-hand experiences) would no doubt help us answer some of these questions.  The problem is that no one wants to read about what a rapist or pedophile thinks.  I remember years ago reading “Soul on Ice” by Eldridge Cleaver and “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.”

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In Soledad state prison, I fell in with a group of young blacks who, like myself, were in vociferous rebellion against what we perceived as a continuation of slavery on a higher plane. We cursed everything American—including baseball and hot dogs. All respect we may have had for politicians, preachers, lawyers, governors, Presidents, congressmen was utterly destroyed as we watched them temporizing and compromising over right and wrong, over legality and illegality, over constitutionality and unconstitutionality. We knew that in the end what they were clashing over was us, what to do with the blacks, and whether or not to start treating us as human beings. I despised all of them.” — Eldridge Cleaver, “Soul on Ice

Both of these books gave me some insights into the prison experiences of a Black man.  Both Malcolm X and Cleaver were once engaged in criminal and violent behavior and both men turned their lives around.  Their stories are profound and moving.  They also give the world some insights into the pros and cons of a prison experience.

Perhaps more insights provided by rapists and pedophiles might help us to better understand how to deal with these behaviors.  I cannot say with any certainty that it would help.  The one thing that I am certain of is that nothing we have done in the past seems to be making a difference today.  The statistics for child sexual abuse are horrifying.

  • There are more than 42 million survivors of sexual abuse in America. (National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse)
  • 1 in 3 girls are sexually abused before the age of 18. (The Advocacy Center)
  • 1 in 5 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18. (The Advocacy Center)
  • 1 in 5 children are solicited sexually while on the Internet before the age of 18. (National Children’s Alliance: Nationwide Child Abuse Statistics)

The statistics for rape and sexual violence in the USA are equally horrifying.

  • In 2019, over 652,676 women were raped.
  • Over 40% of women in the US have encountered sexual violence.
  • Nearly 80% of female sexual assault victims experience their first assault before the age of 25.
  • Around 20% of American males have been the victim of sexual violence.
  • Rape Statistics show that less than 20% of rapes are reported.
  • Women and men with disabilities face twice the risk of sexual assault than able-bodied individuals.
  • Sexual violence incidents, preceded by stalking, increased by 1.9% in 2019.

These statistics are from “32 Shocking Sexual Assault Statistics for 2022” by Jennifer Kuadli at Legaljobs.

In Conclusion:

  • First-hand experience can help us understand the minds and hearts of others, but we are sometimes limited in the experiences that we can actually undertake.
  • Second-hand experiences have pros and cons. Not all Blacks, Asians, Latinos, Indians, women, or any other group that you can think of will have the same experiences.  No one on this earth can speak for all people for all time. 
  • We need to try and try and try again. If the bell really does toll for all people, then we have a responsibility to understand what makes other people happy and what makes them feel miserable. 
  • We share this planet with other human beings and other species. The more we understand others, the more we can make the world a beautiful peaceful and happy place to live.

 

John’s Top Ten Sleepless Night Questions  – This Past Week 😊

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I woke up last night wondering and wondering and wondering.  A series of recent events had caused confusion and chaos in my sleepy mind.  I realize that I am no genius, but I could not stop thinking and pondering a number of questions which were continuing to nag me during the past week or so.  Maybe, in fact very likely, a number of my readers are much wiser than I am and can help me with my questions.  I would appreciate any thoughts that some of you might have on any of the following questions.  Your answers would help me to sleep better in the upcoming nights.

  1. How is rioting and destroying lives and property “Legitimate Political Discourse?”
  1. Why do peaceful civil rights protestors get beaten and arrested and scorned but Neo-Nazi groups are free to march and stage violent protests?
  1. How come we can use the RICO act to arrest and convict gamblers and drug dealers, but we can’t use it to arrest politicians who advocate or support the violent overthrow of the United States?
  1. Why can we send hit squads to take out terrorists in Syria and other parts of the Mideast, but we can’t send hit squads to Florida, Texas, and other parts of the USA to take out domestic terrorists?
  1. How come ISIS is an “official” terrorist group but the KKK, Proud Boys and Neo-Nazi groups are not terrorist groups?
  1. How come all the USA TV news on the Ukrainian Crisis constantly use military weapons, troops firing, howitzers blasting, tanks rumbling and other pictures of war as a backdrop to their news updates on the Ukrainian Crisis?

A video has been viewed tens of thousands of times in multiple social media posts in January 2022 alongside a claim it shows Ukrainian troops “preparing for potential combat” at the border with Russia. However, the video has circulated online since at least 2020 in a post by a Ukrainian military command about its troops conducting a military exercise.

7. How do we have time for a political discussion with Putin when the “analysts” say he is simply using the time to strengthen his military position?

8. Why has not one US politician from either party or end of the political spectrum commented on the beautiful moving opening ceremony and the spectacular technology displayed to date at the Chinese Winter Olympics?

9. Why are all the headlines in today’s news featuring negative comments about China and/or its role in the Olympics?  Some examples below from this mornings headlines:

  • Criticism of Zhu Yi, a US born skater, show harsh scrutiny of naturalized athletes in China – The New York Times
  • Teenage Olympic sensation Eileen Gu wins gold and crashes the Chinese Internet -CNN
  • Olympics put Chinese authorities’ press intimidation on full display – Axios
  • China’s holiday box office plunges by 23% as theaters push prices to record highs – CNBC
  • Beijing 2022: Winter Olympics hit by deluge of complaints from athletes -BBC
  • China stirs controversy with Uyghur torchbearer – The New Arab
  • Olympians accuse refs of bias after controversial penalties help China -Insider
  1. Why are US politicians more concerned about the rights of Uyghurs than they are about the rights of Blacks and minorities in America?

Does anyone in the USA know who or what a Uyghur is? Here this might help.

Who are the Uyghurs? — From the BBC World News

“There are about 12 million Uyghurs, mostly Muslim, living in Xinjiang, which is officially known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

The Uyghurs speak their own language, which is similar to Turkish, and see themselves as culturally and ethnically close to Central Asian nations. They make up less than half of the Xinjiang population.

Recent decades have seen a mass migration of Han Chinese (China’s ethnic majority) into Xinjiang, allegedly orchestrated by the state to dilute the minority population there.

China has also been accused of targeting Muslim religious figures and banning religious practices in the region, as well as destroying mosques and tombs.

Uyghur activists say they fear that the group’s culture is under threat of erasure.”

The Xinjiang Conflict – Wikipedia

“Since the incorporation of Xinjiang into the People’s Republic of China, factors such as the mass state-sponsored migration of Han Chinese from the 1950s to the 1970s, government policies promoting Chinese cultural unity and punishing certain expressions of Uyghur identity, and harsh responses to separatism have contributed to tension between the Uyghurs, and state police and Han Chinese.  This has taken the form of both terrorist attacks and wider public unrest such as the Baren Township riot, 1997 Ürümqi bus bombings, protests in Ghuljia, June 2009 Shaoguan Incident and the resulting July 2009 Ürümqi riots, 2011 Hotan attack, April 2014 Ürümqi attack, May 2014 Ürümqi attack, 2014 Kunming attack as well as the 2015 Aksu colliery attack.  Other Uyghur organizations such as the World Uyghur Congress denounce totalitarianism, religious intolerance, and terrorism as an instrument of policy.”  — Wikipedia

Concluding Thoughts:

John Donne’s famous line, “Ask not for whom the bell tolls” strikes me as a good reason to pursue justice everywhere in the globe.  We should never be so comfortable that we tolerate injustice in any country whether friend or foe.  Nevertheless, we should be careful about waving a flag of righteous indignation as to the houses of other countries when our own house is far from being in order.  To do so, presents a ludicrous form of hypocrisy that is evident to the rest of the world.

We need to walk a fine line between advocating for the rights of others and stepping into a conflict that we have no legitimate right to be involved in.  There are 12 million Uyghurs who may be being persecuted because of their perceived separateness.  I wonder how many LGBTQ people, how many Indigenous People, how many Black people, how many women in the USA are being persecuted every day because of their differences?  The following charts depict some statistics in respect to my question.  The numbers seem to be going up each year rather than down.

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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:

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. 

old men drinking coffee

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

Reconstructing the Great Speeches – Lucy Parsons: “I am an Anarchist”

Lucy Parsons had three strikes against her.  Who will remember a woman who fought for the rights of women to vote and to be equal to men in 1900?  Who will remember an African American who fought against White Supremacy and lynchings of Blacks in 1900?  Who will remember an Anarchist who fought for the rights of workers against the giant corporations in 1900?  Now tell me how many people will remember and even admire a Black woman Anarchist who dedicated her life to fighting all three battles? 

Today, you would have to look carefully to find her name in any history book.  She is often little more than a footnote despite being one of the bravest Americans who ever lived.  I know of no statues for Lucy.  I know of no stamps ever issued with Lucy’s picture on them.  I know of no coins that were ever struck with a facsimile of Lucy.  You can find several books written on the life of Lucy Parsons which prove her courage and determination in the face of more adversity than most people will ever know, but you will find no streets or buildings named after her either. 

Context:

Lucy Eldine Gonzalez Parsons (born Lucia Carter, 1851 – March 7, 1942) was born in Virginia.   Her mother was an African American slave.  Her father may have been her mother’s slave owner.  Of the three strikes against Lucy in 1900, by far the most egregious was her advocacy of Anarchism.  Bad enough being a former slave in Texas.  Bad enough being a woman who does not know her place in society.  But when you add to this mix, the fact that she was an avowed, dedicated, and passionate Anarchist, you now have a recipe for a hate that to this day has not subsided in the country.

There is still racism in America, yes.  There is still sexism in America, yes.  However, these are becoming increasingly unacceptable in America.  The #MeToo Movement and the Black Lives Matter Movement have emerged as new armies to lead a rising tide of protests directed against these two evils.  But where is the movement against giant corporations that relegates workers to second class citizens?  Corporations where senior managers make 400 times what the average worker makes.  Corporations where unions are denigrated and ever so much care is made to prevent workers from forming or joining a union.  Corporations that on a whim will close a factory and take their plants to another country.  Corporations that pay less taxes than a worker in those corporations. 

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“Never be deceived that the rich will allow you to vote away their wealth.”  ― Lucy Parsons: Freedom, Equality & Solidarity – Writings & Speeches, 1878-1937

Lucy was a feminist and a woman who fought against white supremacy and corporate greed in a time when either position would make her an outcast.  However, nothing in 1900 or in 2020 America could be a worse stigma than to be labeled as an Anarchist.  Americans have been brainwashed to hate Socialists, Communists and Anarchists.  Among the three, Anarchists are easily the most reviled, hated and despised in this country.  When the average person thinks of an Anarchist, they conjure up a picture of a wild unkempt unshaven dirty man in a large overcoat.  The man has hidden a bomb somewhere in the middle of a capitalist icon like the NY Stock Exchange or the World Trade Center and he has timed it to explode in the middle of a busy business day.  His purpose is to kill as many capitalists as he can.    

“Strike not for a few cents more an hour, because the price of living will be raised faster still, but strike for all you earn, be content with nothing less.”  — Lucy Parsons

Do you know what Anarchists want?  Do you know what Anarchists Believe?  Wikipedia gives the following summary for the theory of Anarchism:

“Anarchism is a political philosophy and movement that rejects all involuntary, coercive forms of hierarchy. It calls for the abolition of the state which it holds to be undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful. It is usually described alongside libertarian Marxism as the libertarian wing (libertarian socialism) of the socialist movement and as having a historical association with anti-capitalism and socialism.”  — Wikipedia

I will not deny that there have been examples of extremism among Anarchists.  There have certainly been bombings and attacks against symbols of capitalism.  Lucy herself at one time said:

“Let every dirty, lousy tramp arm himself with a revolver or a knife and lay in wait on the steps of the palaces of the rich and stab or shoot the owners as they come out. Let us kill them without mercy, and let it be a war of extermination.” — Lucy Parsons

But when you measure the violence perpetrated by the rich against the poor in this country, the scales would surely tip against the “dirty lousy tramps.”  Measure the instances of violence by Anarchists versus the instances of violence by Corporations trying to prevent workers from organizing.  Measure the instances of violence by Corporations against workers speaking out against racism and sexism in those same companies.  Measure the number of times, Corporation leaders have gone to jail for white collar crimes versus the number of people who have gone to jail for trying to rob a bank.  Without listing each of these, I can assure you the scales tip well in the favor of large Corporations against the average citizen.  Is it any wonder, that activists sometimes lose their cool and resort to violence when violence is continually directed against them? 

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In 1886, Lucy’s husband, who had been heavily involved in campaigning for the eight-hour workday, was arrested, tried, and sentenced to death.  He was hung on November 11, 1887, by the state of Illinois.  He was found guilty of conspiracy in the Haymarket Affair, sometimes called the Haymarket Riot. 

“It began as a peaceful rally in support of workers striking for an eight-hour work day, the day after police killed one and injured several workers.  An unknown person threw a dynamite bomb at the police as they acted to disperse the meeting, and the bomb blast and ensuing gunfire resulted in the deaths of seven police officers and at least four civilians; dozens of others were wounded.”Wikipedia

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Mark the words above.  It began as a peaceful really EVEN after the day before police had killed one and injured several other workers.  These words should resonate today as not unusual behavior on the part of police everywhere in this country.  Even today, we see peaceful protesters dispersed by police using violent tactics which are uncalled for.  The police are called to “protect and serve” but many Americans today want to know who it is they protect and who it is that they serve.  It certainly does not seem that they serve the poor or even the middle class.  With few exceptions, it would seem that they exist to “protect and serve” the assets of the rich and wealthy. 

I am an Anarchist Speech:

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This particular speech was given by Lucy to help raise funds for her husband’s defense.  Albert R. Parsons was a white Republican who had once served as a Confederate soldier but was now an organizer and labor leader. 

“I am an anarchist. I suppose you came here, the most of you, to see what I a real, live anarchist looked like. I suppose some of you expected to see me with a bomb in one hand and a flaming torch in the other but are disappointed in seeing neither. If such has been your ideas regarding an anarchist, you deserved to be disappointed. Anarchists are peaceable, law abiding people.” 

Lucy went directly to the issue.  Haymarket had created an image of radical bomb throwing fanatics bent on destroying democracy.  She started her speech by attacking this image and challenging assumptions regarding what an Anarchist was.  She noted they were peaceful law-abiding citizens.  Not an easy concept to accept when you understand that every force in a capitalistic society is aimed at protecting the greed and avarice that the government allows to reign in the marketplace.

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“Do you wonder why there are Anarchists in this country, in this great land of liberty, as you love to call it? Go to New York. Go through the byways and alleys of that great city. Count the myriads starving; count the multiplied thousands who are homeless; number those who work harder than slaves and live on less and have fewer comforts than the meanest slaves. You will be dumbfounded by your discoveries, you who have paid no attention to these poor, save as objects of charity and commiseration.”

Lucy succinctly but powerfully lays out the reason that she and so many others are Anarchists.  Look at the poverty that exists in our country today.   

  • In 2018, the highest earning 20% of families made more than half of all U.S. Income
  • S. has the highest level of income inequality among the G7 countries
  • The income gap between Blacks and Whites has not changed since 1970
  • The richest U.S. families are the only group to have gained wealth since the Great Recession

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Data from the Pew Research Center.

If it is still bad today, can you imagine what it was like in the early 1900’s when there was no social security, no unemployment benefits, no pensions or retirement programs, no welfare programs and no workmen’s compensation.  People were little more than wage slaves to an industrial system that had displaced small family farms and was hell bent on creating the greatest profits they could for the owners.  It did not matter who was hurt on the job or who had a family to support.  The early 20th Century production system was well depicted by Charlie Chaplin in his famous movie “Modern Times.” 

 

“Well, the bomb exploded, the arrests were made and then came that great judicial farce, beginning on June 21. The jury was impaneled. Is there a Knight of Labor here? Then know that a Knight of Labor was not considered competent enough to serve on that jury. ‘Are you a Knight of Labor?’ ‘Have you any sympathy with labor organizations?’ were the questions asked each talisman. If an affirmative answer was given, the talisman was bounced.”

The jury to try the men accused of conspiracy in the Haymarket bombing was not impartially selected.   The judge at the time intervened to ensure that a jury prejudicial to the defendants would be selected.  Ms. Parsons destroyed the alleged fairness and impartiality of the jury process in her speech, but it would do little good.  More than one hundred years have passed since this trial and I would bet that it would be almost impossible today to find a jury that would not convict an avowed anarchist even before his/her trial had started. 

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“Liberty has been named anarchy. If this verdict is carried out it will be the death knell of America’s liberty. You and your children will be slaves. You will have liberty if you can pay for it. If this verdict is carried out, place the flag of our country at half-mast and write on every fold ‘shame.’”

anarchists1The thought that “you will have liberty if you can pay for it” rings true 100 years after Lucy spoke these sad and forlorn words.  Today we say “politics and courts are ruled by the Golden Rule.  He who has the money makes the rules.”  We all know that it takes money to get a law passed or else why are there so many lobbyists in the halls of congress.  We also know that rich people get a better break in court because their money buys them better lawyers.  We also know that poor people fare less well with our law enforcement agencies than do rich people.  When was the last time you heard of a police officer stopping someone in Palms Springs or La Jolla for a broken taillight? 

People who enter the criminal justice system are overwhelmingly poor. Two-thirds detained in jails report annual incomes under $12,000 prior to arrest.  Incarceration contributes to poverty by creating employment barriers; reducing earnings and decreasing economic security through criminal debt, fees and fines; making access to public benefits difficult or impossible; and disrupting communities where formerly incarcerated people reside.”The Relationship between Poverty & Mass Incarceration

The last line in Lucy Parson’s speech was “Bread is freedom and freedom is bread.”  This line was taken from a poem called “Freedom” written by her husband Albert Parsons.  The last four lines in his poem speak to the thought underlying this phrase:

When thou speak’st: Enough is done!

Break this two-fold yoke in twain;

Break thy want’s enslaving chain;

Break thy slavery’s want and dread;

Bread is freedom, freedom bread.

Those who work for others have no freedom.  The wage earner depends for his bread on the beneficence of his capitalistic benefactor.  To toil for himself and to earn his own bread is to achieve freedom for the wage earner.  The attitude of an Anarchist is that all goods produced belong to the man or woman who produces them.  In a corporation, all the work and labor are divided equally and thus the profits and outputs should be divided equally.  The manager works forty hours per week.  The secretary works forty hours per week. The production employee works forty hours per week.  The Anarchist believes that since each works the same amount of time, each should get nearly the same amount of pay.  An Anarchist would be horrified at the fact than in the USA, CEO compensation has grown 940% since 1978 while typical worker compensation has risen only 12% during that time.  (See Report by Mishel and Wolfe, 2019)

It is not a case of “treat everyone the same.”  No one wants a system where everyone is treated the same.  It is a case of treating everyone to equal measures of equity and equality.  We have a long way to go in this country before we understand how applying these ideas would make for a happier and more just society.  We are still a country that believes in the idea that the more money and wealth a person has, the better that person is and the happier their lives are.  Nothing could be further from the truth.    

“Happiness comes from spiritual wealth, not material wealth… Happiness comes from giving, not getting. If we try hard to bring happiness to others, we cannot stop it from coming to us also. To get joy, we must give it, and to keep joy, we must scatter it.”  — John Templeton

Notes from a Trump Hater and That Includes Trump Supporters.

free-speech-churchillOnce upon a time I had more friends on Facebook.  I had both Democratic friends, Republican Friends and friends who cared not one whit about politics.  Many of all political persuasions were friends who simply wanted to ignore politics.  During the run-up to Trump’s election, I discussed, debated, argued, reasoned and fought with many friends who wanted to support Trump.  The results were not pretty.  Zero changed their minds.  I was angry and frustrated.

I unfriended many Republican friends.  Many unfriended me.  There seemed to be no middle ground.  It was like the Civil War.  You had to choose a side and the outcome was hatred and disdain for people I formerly called friends.  The loss of many former friends (Or were they simply just acquaintances?) has caused a great deal of soul searching on my part.  I realize that I am not alone in this.

I doubt if anyone wants to be labeled as narrow minded and unwilling to listen to the other side of things.  For years, I accepted Republican politics as a counterbalance to some of the extremism of the Democratic party, particularly when it came to social spending.

Of course, the same extravagant spending by the Republicans was always accepted by my Republican friends since it generally went to building a “strong” military.  A military that it was taken for granted would protect us from the evil doers out there that hate democracy.  It was a party that would create a huge monster that was a glutton for military spending and ever more wars to be fought in the name of democracy and free enterprise.

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I believe that choosing sides is not just a matter of politics but a matter of integrity.  It is easier when someone is only a “friend”, but it becomes much more difficult when it is your mother, sister or brother.  I realize that many people think I speak out too much.  I am too opinioned.  I voice my ideas and ideology too much, etc., etc.

“We must take sides.  Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.  Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” –  Elie Wiesel

Furthermore, there is a certain hypocrisy coming from those who condemn people like me.  It goes like this.

Republican Friend to Me: 

“Why do you have to revile, criticize and make such pejorative remarks about Trump?  About Republican politics etc.  Why do you have to have such a negative attitude?  Do you realize that I am a life long Republican and you ‘hurt’ my feelings?”

Republican Hidden Message: 

Keep your mouth shut and do not speak out.  However, it is okay for people in my party to be racists, bigots, xenophobes, greedy and against policies to help the poor and needy.  We are very polite about this, while you are very obnoxious and impolite.  Hatred is ok if it is polite.

Republican Friend to Me:

“I don’t see why you are so negative.  All you do is complain about the way things are in this country.”

Republican Hidden Message:

I don’t see any problems.  All I see are needs.  We need more prisons.  We need more police.  We need a stronger military.  We need more guns.  We need more walls.  We need more free enterprise.  We need less government.  We need less taxes.

Republican Friend to Me:

“Why can’t you be ‘for’ something rather than against everything.  No one likes anyone who is continually criticizing and complaining about things.”

Republican Hidden Message:

It is okay to screw people, to take things away from people, to make life harder for people, to create a bigger gap between the rich and the poor if you do it without “complaining.”

The way many people speak out against anyone who is willing to stand up for their beliefs reminds me of the song in the play 1776.  In the play, John Adams is continually haranguing his colleagues to get them to agree to rebel against the British.  His efforts are often met with disdain by his erstwhile colleagues.

ADAMS –  Vote yes!

CONGRESS – Oh, for God’s sake, John, sit down!

ADAMS – Good God! Consider yourself fortunate that you have John Adams to abuse, for no sane man would tolerate it!

CONGRESS – John, you’re a bore; we’ve heard this before, now for God’s sake, John, sit down!

ADAMS – I say vote yes!

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If one is polite about it and not too obnoxious, then racism, sexism and bigotry are tolerable.  Those who protest, those who march and those who speak up are labeled by our polite quiet society as trouble makers, hippies and know nothings.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”  – Martin Luther King

There is a challenge implicit here in being a human.  It is a challenge I offer to all my “Friends” to speak out.  Do not ask why I insult and use derogatory remarks against racists and bigots.  We condone evil with our silence and inaction.   Ask why you are not speaking out against the racists and bigot groups that sow hate and discord in our nation.  When have you spoke out against the KKK?  When have you spoken out against the Neo-Nazi groups?  When have you spoken out against those so greedy that they begrudge a dime spent to help the poor and sick?  Do not come to me and tell me to be quiet and to tone down my rhetoric.

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“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

Jesus had this to say about his beliefs:

“Then his mother and his brothers came but were unable to join him because of the crowd.  He was told, ‘Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, and they wish to see you.’ He said to them in reply, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.” — Luke 8:19-21.

Maybe, Jesus was trying to tell us that right actions and right thoughts are more important than relationships.

Time for Questions:

Who would be the man/woman with enough courage to give up a friend who was a racist, sexist or bigot?

Life is just beginning.

  1. “The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.”
  2. “Every human must decide whether they will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”
  3. “If a person has not discovered something that they will die for, they are not fit to live.”
  4. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
  5. “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'”
  6. “The ultimate measure of a human is not where he/she stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he/she stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
  7. “An individual has not started living until they can rise above the narrow confines of his/her individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”
  8. “Anyone who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as those who help to perpetrate it. Those who accept evil without protesting against it is are really cooperating with it.”
  9. “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Above quotes are all from the speeches or writings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

 

Requiem for America:  Our Battle with Fate

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Many of you have no doubt heard the tone poem by Carl Orff titled Carmina Burana.  One of the famous parts of this musical piece is taken from a poem called “O Fortuna.”  It is a Medieval Latin poem written early in the 13th century.  I started thinking about it today as Trump became the 45th President of the United States of America.  I have never much believed in fate, preferring to think that we are masters of our own destiny and fate be dammed.  But as the inexorable reality of the inauguration kept intruding on my existence, I was forced back to the conclusion that perhaps fortune does rule the world.  (To listen click here O Fortuna)

Like the moon you are changeable,
ever waxing and waning;
hateful life first oppresses and then soothes as fancy takes it;
poverty and power it melts them like ice.

I loathe this Son of a Bitch.  I loathe his values.  I loathe his words.  He represents everything I hate in myself and in humanity.  We keep trying to destroy the racism and fear and prejudice that we are brought up with but fate impels us to confront a world that seems to thrive on such iniquities.  My relatives, my friends, my co-workers —- they voted for this reprobate and now exult in his coronation.  I stand impotently on the sidelines questioning (as many Jews in the Holocaust questioned) why God has deserted us.  Have we committed some grave sin worthy of the future that fate now seems to have assigned us?

Trying against
Fate – monstrous and empty,
you whirling wheel,
you are malevolent,
well-being is vain and always fades to nothing,
shadowed and veiled you plague me too;
now through the game I bring my bare back to your villainy.

My good intentions.  My desire to be tolerant and virtuous.  My goal to treat others with compassion and kindness all seem to melt in the face of a Fate that decries a monster who will now rule over us.  I hear the voices that say “give him a chance.”  I wonder what chance they want.  A chance to create more greed.  A chance to create more racism.  A chance to create more sexism.  Have we not enough bigotry in this country?  Have we not enough inhumanity towards others?  We created the Atom bomb.  We created the Hydrogen Bomb.  We created weapons of biological and chemical warfare that can destroy millions.  We take no heed whether they kill children or innocents.  We are now all guilty in our incessant warfare.  The only thing that counts is creating more efficient means of murdering people.

Fate is against me in health and virtue,
driven on and weighted down,
always enslaved.
So at this hour without delay pluck the vibrating strings;
since Fate strikes down the strong man,
everyone weep with me!

I wake up disbelieving that I live in this reality.  I joke that I am in Wonderland and whatever one believes is the reality that exists.  But I did not believe in this reality.  I have done everything that I thought I could to help make the world a better place.  I thought my friends and family and neighbors wanted the same world that I wanted.  It seems clear now that we did not share the same reality.

I curse the fate that has brought our nation to this point.  I curse the people that voted for this Frankenstein.  I curse the party that nominated this abomination.  Deep inside, I wonder what I did to contribute to this horror.  Does my own hate somehow create the fate that I seek to escape from?

Abraham, John, Robert and Martin all dead — killed by that coward called fate.  But let us not forget Jimmie Lee Jackson and Clyde Kennard and Juliette Hampton Morgan and James Reeb and Jonathan Myrick Daniels and Viola Gregg Liuzzo and Vernon Dahmer and Oneal Moore and George Lee and Harriet and Harry Moore.  They also were martyrs.  They also died fighting fate.

Do not believe that the good die young.  The good die pregnant with a dream for a better world.

Time for Questions:

So what is left?  Nihilism?  Apathy?  Hate?  Bitterness?  Resistance?  Fight?  Hope?  Will a dream for a better America arise from the ashes of despair?

Life is just beginning.

“I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.”  —   Booker T. Washington

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I Never Thought

A German who voted for Hitler in 1932 said this after the war:

“I never thought things would turn out this way.  He said he would make our country GREAT again.  I never thought over 60,000,000 people would die in a war.  I never thought that he would torture and murder six million Jews.  I never thought that he would kill over 3 million Slavs and murder 15,000 homosexuals.  I never thought he would euthanize 270,000 disabled people and more than 220,000 Gypsies.  He said he would make our country GREAT again.”

“We were coming out of a great economic crisis.  Jobs were scarce and money was very tight.  He said he would get rid of all the people who were taking our jobs.  He would eliminate the ruling class and get the crooks out of politics.  Jobs for Germans is what he said.  I thought he would make our country GREAT again so I voted for him.”

If I only knew. 

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Time For Questions:

Are you going to support Fascism in America?  Will you fight to protect the rights of minorities, gays, women and immigrants? If not, why do you think you are an American?

Life is Just Beginning. 

Hard to imagine life beginning under a Trump presidency.  But the race is not always to the swiftest.

“I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the strong, and neither is bread to the wise nor riches to those of intelligence and understanding nor favor to men of ability; but time and chance overtake them all.” — ECCLESIASTES 9:11

Republicans: Why They Were Once a Great Party but are Now the Party of Hate, Bigotry and Greed – AKA Donald Trump– Part 2

Last week, I started this blog about the degeneration of the Republican Party into a squabble of groups who do little justice to the values that made this country great.  I characterized these groups as follows:

  • Uneducated White Male Voters
  • Bigoted Voters
  • Greedy Voters
  • Fearful Voters
  • Religious fundamentalist Voters

These groups are relatively new to Republicanism and many of them albeit attracted to the messages of the Traditional Republicans actually have little understanding of the Traditional Republican values.   You may well ask:  “What attracted them to the Republican Party?”  I will attempt to answer this question.  I will also describe the above five groups in more detail.

There were forces both pushing and pulling these voters towards the Republican Party that started as far back as 1950.  The pulling forces included the attractive messages that they would hear from the Traditional Republicans.  “You too can be rich.”  “Trickle-down economics.”  “Say no to Big Government.”  “No new taxes.”  “Pro-Life.”  “Keep America safe.”  “We protect your rights.”  These messages were very compelling and attracted voters for a variety of reasons.  First of all, these messages built on the core Republican Values that I described in Part 1.  Second, they were taken to extremes by the new marketing techniques that infused politics in the latter half of the twentieth century.  Thus, the “Golden Mean” that I noted in Part 1 was sacrificed on the altar of marketing and political expediency to reflect messages that seemed “too good to be true and suspiciously unambiguous.”

Vote Republican and you too can live like the rich!

Pushing Forces:

The Pushing Forces include the following changes taking place in US society:

  • Demographic changes
  • Ethnographic changes
  • Economic changes
  • Religious changes

Each of these forces contributed in many ways to the movement of a large contingent of voters away from the Democratic Party and into the Republican Party.  We will take each one of these forces individually and see how it has contributed to the popularity of the Republican Party.

Demographic Changes include the aging of the USA population.  It is a well-known fact that as people get older they get more conservative.  The values of conservatism, safety, law enforcement, traditional roles for marriage, relationships and the role of women in society are all powerful forces that have propelled voters to the core value of Conservatism that is well established in the Republican Party.  Liberals (who fell in favor) were seen as wanting to change too many of the “normal” institutions in the USA.  Traditional Religious voters as well as older voters are generally inclined to support the status quo.  The problem  for many was:  “how do we hold onto a status quo that is changing right before our eyes?”

“The population is also expected to become much older.  By 2030, more than 20 percent of U.S. residents are projected to be aged 65 and over, compared with 13 percent in 2010 and 9.8 percent in 1970.”   —  Census.gov

Ethnographic Changes in the USA population include the influx of many groups into the country who hold values that are seen as “foreign” to traditional USA values.  It is one thing for new groups who are Christian to enter the country, but over the past fifty years or so, we have had a much more diverse array of ethnic groups from countries where Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism are the dominant religions.  Many of these religions are poorly understood in the US and the practitioners are sometimes seen as promoting anti-US values.  One example is the fear that many people in this country have for Sharia Law and the belief that Muslims want to overthrow the US Justice System and replace it with Sharia Law.

Partly responsible for a growing intolerance in the USA has been the fact that projections show that “White” people will become a minority in the USA in thirty years.  This gradual erosion of the White majority means that White people must accept a more diverse society in which White morals and values will be one among several other sets of morality and not always the dominant one.  This is hard for many people to take as Whites have always been in the power seat in this country.

“The nation’s demographics are on a clear trajectory: White people are dying faster than they are being born, which means they are on target to become a minority in the United States in 30 years.”  —  Whites projected to become a US minority

Economic Changes in the US economy started to noticeably impact the standard of living for many voters following WW II.  At first it was imperceptible.  There had always been changes in the economy with ups and downs, recessions and the Great Depression following WW I.  However, after WW II, we had a respite from anything that could be called “Global Economics.”  With the demise of Germany and Japan and the economic hardships facing Great Britain, France and several other European countries, we had the economic ball field to ourselves.  The USA economic boom was reflected in a period of rising incomes and relative prosperity.

1280px-US_productivity_and_real_wagesThe attached chart shows that while USA productivity has continued to increase since 1945, real earnings have been either static or on the decline since the mid nineteen seventies.  Whereas, we once had the playing field to ourselves, by the early 70’s the competition from other countries, particularly Japan, was beginning to erode the economic advantage we once had.  By the late 80’s, wages in the USA were being impacted by the growth of industry in countries where wage rates were much lower.  Foreign competition and increased levels of quality goods from other countries helped to erode the market dominance of traditional USA companies.

These economic changes have fallen particularly hard on voters in the USA who worked in what might be called “transitional” industries.  Agriculture transitioned to manufacturing during the mid-twentieth century.  Manufacturing transitioned to service beginning in the seventies.  Finally, service jobs have become increasingly high tech requiring computer skills and often advanced education and training.  People in the “Blue Collar” industries cannot be trained fast enough to fill the jobs needed in the new industries.

The recession in 2008 saw a loss of nearly 9,000, 000 jobs in the USA.  Economists like to refer to these job losses as “creative destruction” or as an “economic correction.”  The problem is that if you are the worker who does not have the skills to transition to a new job and you have a family to support, terms such as “Correction” do not help you to feed your family.

displaced-workers-3Recent statistics show that most of the jobs lost in the “Great Recession” have been regained. However, many of these new jobs are in lower paying industries or have gone to new workers with new skills in the labor force.  The number of underemployed or unemployed people in the USA remains high and a source of major discontent.  Our US system of reeducating workers is poor and in need of major overall.

The Republican Party and its messages have attracted many of these economically struggling voters to their party.  The Republican values of hard work, individual responsibility and economic self-sufficiency resonate well with a group bitter over their economic hardships and who view too many others as getting a free ride.

Religious Changes may just be the single most powerful force pushing many voters and citizens into the Republican Party.  Since 1900, the country has become increasingly secular and to some extent even non-religious.  The following comment is from “Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore:”

“According to the Hartford Institute of Religion Research, more than 40 percent of Americans “say” they go to church weekly.  As it turns out, however, less than 20 percent are actually in church.  In other words, more than 80 percent of Americans are finding more fulfilling things to do on weekends.”

Many of the more conservative religions and branches of religions that may have splintered off from their mainstream congregations have migrated towards the Republican Party.  Again, the conservative family oriented values of the Republican Party have attracted many religious fundamentalists who oppose gay marriage, women clergy, abortion and creating a pluralistic culture where non-Christian religions are free to worship and practice their faiths.  These religious fundamentalists see the secular changes coming to our country as evil and anti-scripture.  They have organized many groups in efforts to resist these changes.  This is from the mission statement of one of these groups:

“The Christian Coalition is committed to representing the pro-family agenda and educating Americans on the critical issues facing our society. Whether it is the fight to end Partial Birth Abortion or efforts to improve education or lower the family’s tax burden, the Christian Coalition stands ready and able to work for you.”

Pulling Forces:

The Pulling Forces are the messages that voters hear from the Republican Party and which reflect its traditional core values.  However, as they play out in the media, these messages are largely nuances and alterations of the traditional core Republican values.  The messages have now gone through a process of “Madison avenue marketing” to make them more alluring and seductive to their intended audience.  It should come as no surprise that various voters are attracted to various messages.  Some of course may be attracted to all of the Republican messages.  Let us now look at each of the individual voting groups that I labeled above to see how the Pulling Forces (Traditional Republican Values) and the resulting messages have attracted each group.

Uneducated White Male Voters:

stupid republicanThis group is largely but not exclusively White Male and under educated.  They are generally blue collar workers and many of them had their jobs displaced by the rise of Global Economics with offshoring and outsourcing of their work.  New technologies and robotics have also taken many of the jobs that these group once did.  They have been attracted by several Republican messages.  From gun control to the value of free enterprise, these low educated voters have bought into the idea that a Liberal Government is out to take their rights away and make it harder for them to earn a living.  Many of them can rightfully blame the government (both Republicans and Democrats) for using their jobs to stoke the fires of Globalization.

This group is attracted to the rhetoric common among Republicans for restraints on immigration and decreased government regulations.  This group believes that if the USA government was not so big they would be much better off. They blame liberals for the laws promoting a Global economy and do not understand that education can help them.  They often are willing to vote against any kind of education bill.  Many of them were marginal students who were ill served by the education establishment in the past.  They are no supporters of teachers, universities or increased funding for education.   The Republican messages have amplified this anti-education theme to the point that Republicans are now deemed anti-science and anti-education and anti-immigration.  It is also very easy for this group to buy into the myth that immigrants have stolen their jobs.  They are lured by the type of messages that Trump has sent out castigating immigrants and particularly Muslims and Mexicans.

Bigoted Voters:

ignoranceThis group is not only uninformed but they are also misinformed.  They have already made up their minds on the basis of limited and misleading information.  They are biased, prejudiced and xenophobic.  The Republicans have had a bag of dirty tricks which probably grew out of Nixon’s escapades in the 70’s and have continued through such political shenanigans as the Swift Boat attacks against John Kerry, the manipulations in Florida with the voting ballots and the Karl Rove fiasco in Ohio.  This group is ready prey for the type of propaganda tricks that the Republican Party now use to lie, distort the truth and defame their opponents.

The Republicans seem to have thrown away any concept of ethics or morality when it comes to political elections.  A squadron of Republican Talk show hosts from Mike Savage to Ann Coulter keep spewing out lies, misinformation, innuendos and calumnies against opponents whom they have no qualms about personally attacking.  I would guess that many if not most of the “urban myths” that often dot the Internet have their genesis in some Republican think tank.

Some other recent examples include the “Birther” movement in which President Obama was alleged to have been born in another country and the messages sent out decrying his support of Islamic terrorists because Obama himself is alleged to be a Muslim.  Those Ignorant Voters who subscribe to these lies and innuendos come to believe so strongly in them that there is no changing their minds.

Greedy Voters:

greedy republicansThe USA has become increasingly materialistic.  Evidence of this can be seen in new traditions like Black Friday, Designer Lifestyles, Reality Shows and the narcissistic values that seem to be replacing traditional moral and ethical values in the USA.  A large contingent of students today are not concerned about how their chosen careers will help their country.  They are more concerned with how much money they can make when they graduate.  Greed has been on the increase in this country for many years now.  Republicans (always the party of the rich) were well positioned to capitalize on a bloc of voters who do not want to share their wealth.  Oaths for no new taxes.  Oaths to roll back taxes.  Oaths to block reforms in Welfare and oaths to block the creation of a more equitable health care system for citizens have become ubiquitous in the Republican Party.

“We were fed this lie that hard work and dedication will payoff.  That’s not true.  There are millions of Americans who bust their asses working tons of overtime or two or more jobs just to get by – just to survive.”  — Trickle-Down Economics, Greed and the Republican Party are Destroying American Values

Fearful Voters:

gated community with watch signA large number of US citizens today are afraid.  They are afraid of crime.  They are afraid of immigrants.  They are afraid of minorities and they are basically afraid of change.  The Republican messages have helped to drive this fear even further into the psyche of people in this country.  Everywhere you go today there are gated communities, security systems, concealed carry permits and people afraid to leave the perceived safety of their feudal like communities.

Part of this fear has come from the aging of the population.  As people get older, they get more concerned for safety and security.  Part of the fear has come from constantly reading about “crime in the streets.”  The news over reports and over emphasizes instances of crime and violence on a 24/7 daily basis.  Finally, a large part of this fear comes from constantly hearing messages about the imminent attack of terrorists and others who are supposedly jealous of our lifestyle and want to destroy our country.

“In a Pew Research Center poll conducted in September, 75 percent of registered voters surveyed said that “terrorism” was “very important” for their vote in the congressional elections. Also last month, a CBS News/New York Times poll found that 57 percent of Americans surveyed thought Obama has been too soft on ISIL.”  — Republican ISIL fearmongering amplifies extremists’ message, experts say.

Religious Fundamentalist Voters:

911 Never Forget the Dangers of Religous ExtremismpsdThese religious extremists are attracted to the family and religious values messages constantly being sent by the Republican Party.  Anti-gay, pro-family, pro-god in the schools, anti-abortion, anti-women’s liberation messages are a theme of most Republican politicians today.  The dramatic changes facing religion in the USA since 1900 has seen a decline in the traditional role of church and pulpit in family life.  The increased number of working women, gay couples, divorces and abortions have fueled a desire on many conservatives to return to what they saw as the “good old days.”  This actually means the good old days for white middle or white upper class heterosexual males.  Not so good for women, minorities, disabled and poor people.

This group of voters believes less in a strict separation between church and state than that which was proscribed by our Founding Fathers.  They would put GOD back in the schools and in some cases declare the USA a “Christian Nation.”  There are many of these voters who have little or no tolerance for anyone outside their own religions.  These so called Christians are characterized by a strong proclivity to support capital punishment, war as a first resort for political persuasion and the Ten Commandments as a foundation for a morality for all citizens.  They seldom think of peace or diplomacy as a means of resolving disputes between nations.  They do not see the hypocrisy between their contradictory messages of pro-life and pro-capital punishment.   Furthermore, they are generally extremely literal and particularly narrow in their selection of Bible verses to support.

See the following short video for further evidence of what I mean.

Martin Sheen Burns a Hypo-Christian

Whither Goes the Republican Party?

trump-building-a-wallWhere should the Republican Party go?  A party that has endorsed the immoral in its political campaigning.  A party that fosters fear and war mongering.  A party that is against immigrants.  A party that is intolerant towards minorities.  A party that minimizes the role of women in society.  A party that discriminates against gay people.  A party that will not treat disabled people as respectable members of society.  A party that does not believe in the value of science or education.   A party that fosters a contradictory and out of date set of moral codes (The Ten Commandments) as a foundation for our nation’s morality (My spouse disagrees with me on this, but there is ample evidence of the hypocrisy inherent in the Ten Commandments. Who observes the Sabbath and foregoes work on Sundays?).  A party that has no compassion for the poor and underprivileged who may not have the ability to “pick themselves up by their bootstraps.”

Time for Questions: 

Where should the Republican Party Go?  You tell me please.

Life is just beginning.

“But my revulsion at the Republicans doesn’t begin and end with Iraq and Benghazi. It’s spread to many other issues over the years. Frankly, the GOP increasingly looks like a party in the grip of some form of hyper-partisan madness that takes self-destructive delight in alienating everyone who isn’t a far-right ideologue. What else can explain the up-is-down, black-is-white, counterintuitive perversity of the stances Republicans increasingly take in response to national news and trends?”  — I’m not a Democrat. I’m an anti-Republican.

Consider:

 

 

Happy Days Are Here Again?

happy-days-logo-1I like to think that my writing falls in the category of political and social satire.  I suppose I am giving myself more credit than I deserve since it is not easy to be a good satirist.  My spouse is always saying that my satire often misses the mark.  Nevertheless, I aspire that at least someday my writing can be compared to Mark Twain or perhaps Kurt Vonnegut.  I will have to leave it to my readers or at least posterity to find out if I ever achieve this lofty aspiration.  Who can judge the quality of their own writing without a large degree of prejudice?  (To hear the “Happy Days Are Here Again” song, click here.)

One element that seems typical of good satire (be it Mark Twain or Jon Stewart) is the ability to evoke humor in ones writings and ideas.  To make people laugh at the same time that you are getting them to see the absurdity of their viewpoints or society’s viewpoints.  You can have “dark” satire or “light” satire and in my opinion they form a continuum.  I think of Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut as falling on the darker side of this continuum and Mark Twain and Jon Stewart as falling on the lighter side.

pollyanna-glad-game-quote One of my goals is to keep a balance on my perspectives that helps me to fall more in the middle of this continuum.  I see being repeatedly on the light side as too comical or humorous.  I do not want to be thought of as a comic or entertainer.  I concede that these people can make a difference in the world as one of my early heroes was Lenny Bruce.  I think Lenny was a great comic and a great social satirist.  However, I do not see my nature as capable of embracing a very high degree of humor in some of the evil and stupidity I see in the world.  I have never been very Pollyannish.  I want to stay away from embracing a view of the world that resembles the “Happy Days” syndrome.  All is good, nothing is wrong, everything will be all right.  Just sit back and watch TV.  This attitude can lead to the pitfalls of complacency and neutrality.

6836-do-you-look-at-life-through-rose-coloured-glasses-i-crushedGetting repeatedly too close to the position of “dark” humor on this continuum also has its pitfalls. I think I have lost many friends along the path of life because I have sometimes become too critical and carping on the evils and stupidity of the world.  You start condemning evil and stupidity and before you know it, you are attacking people.  It is easy to start associating individuals with policies, ideas and positions that you loath.  Soon, you are surrounded by former friends who are all stupid and evil.  The final stage in this process is to see nothing but a world that is evil and stupid populated by evil stupid people.  Everyone in the world becomes your enemy.  The exact opposite of Pollyanna becomes your gestalt.

happiness in moderationI do not choose to follow either extreme.  I want to follow the Greek “Golden Mean.”  In ancient Greece the Golden Mean meant to pursue moderation in all things.  I don’t really want to hate all Republicans despite the fact that today I can see little good in the Republican Party.  Nor do I want to love all things associated with the Democratic Party.  In some ways, the Democrats have helped to create the Tea Party and Right-Wing extremists in the Republican Party. Though I doubt many Democrats would either see or confess to their culpability in this matter.  There has always been and there always will be excesses and vices in both parties.  Politicians of either stripe have more in common with each other than they do with the average middle class worker in this country or any country.

death of socrates bookI was really too honest a man to be a politician and live.” —  Socrates (Ancient Greek Philosopher, 470 BC-399 BC)

Things do not seem to have changed much in respect to politics since Socrates was executed for his anti-political beliefs.  Socrates openly expected the youth of Athens to challenge and question authority.  This stance was no more valued in ancient Greece then it is in 21st Century America.

Apocalypse revelationsThe title of my blog this week was meant to be somewhat humorous and somewhat satirical.  Hence the question mark on the end of the title is not an accident.  I know many people who think that the world has never been in a worse state.  One of my ex-friends kept reading Revelations to me and telling me that the world was going to end about a year or so ago.  Our friendship ended but the world did not.  I have other friends who say “Obama has ruined this country.”  Many Americans say that the USA is in decline and that the end days are near.  I don’t understand this negativity.  I understand that much of the world economy is coming out of a bad recession.  I truly see that the world has more problems than anyone can count on two hands.  We have poverty, war, famine, drought, global warming, disease, inequality, injustice, tyranny, evil of all sorts and a great deal of stupidity and ignorance.  Is there a silver lining in this maelstrom of disasters?

good_old_days_specials_magazineSome people believe that if we can only go back to the “good old days” that everything will be all right.  I don’t want to say too much about this option since I think it is a fantasy.  Only in the movies, can you go back in time.  Time marches forward and waits for no one.  Either get on the train or they will bury you where you stand.  We are not going to go back to pre-cellphone days, pre-internet days, pre-abortion days, pre-global warming days, pre-nuclear power days or pre-any other days.  We can only go forward.  We can embrace many of the old values that made our countries great but we must pay them forward.  We must embrace new values and blend the old and the new together in a modern version of the Golden Mean.  This is not an easy task.

I published a book about fifteen years ago that I called “The New Business Values for the 21st Century.”  The book did not become a best seller but it had several good chapters which IMHO have stood the test of time.  The basic idea for this book was based on a model that I called the “Five I Model.”  My mentor Dr. Gary N. McLean told me to always work from a model.  I tempered his advice with the advice of Dr. George Box that “All models are wrong but some are useful.”  My Five I’s included the following:

  1. Informationnew business values
  2. Improvement
  3. Innovation
  4. Inclusion
  5. Incentives

The premise of my book was that new organizations must revolve around these five key elements which I had elevated to the status of values.  I think these same five elements or values also pertain to building a great nation or great country.  I do not want to repeat what was in my book; you may still be able to find it on Amazon or E-Bay if you are interested.  However, one element that I think has significant relevance to this blog today is the 4th Value of Inclusion.

Inclusion is a value that embraces diversity and working together in a win-win fashion rather than working in opposition.  Inclusion abhors a culture or position of divisiveness such as we see in politics today.  In fact, many of the conflicts in the world today are caused by the divisiveness that is the enemy of inclusiveness.  Inclusion is a friend of immigration and not an enemy of immigration.  I have a T-shirt that reads “We need a fair immigration policy and not an anti-immigration policy.”  Too many of our politicians today are preaching a divisiveness that borders on hatred and bigotry.  I do not need to mention names here.  All you have to do is read the newspapers or listen to the TV to see the politicians that are preaching exclusion rather than inclusion.

We cannot go backwards into “happy days.”  We can only go forward.  To do so we must practice the old values that made our nations great alongside of the new values that have become critical to success in the new millennium.  My book addresses at least five of these new values.  Do doubt there are others.  I am not certain of what they are, but I am certain of what they are not.  They are not values that foster:

  • Exclusivity
  • Divisiveness
  • Inequality
  • Anti-intellectualism
  • Anti-immigration
  • Bigotry, racism, sexism or discrimination of any kind

There is a major US election coming up in the next fourteen months.  No doubt the news will be full of “trending” stories concerning the pros and cons of various candidates.  It will be easy for many of us to take sides.  He is a Democrat.  She is a Republican.  They are independents.  He belongs to the Tea Party.  She belongs to the Coffee Party.  Such identification can and will only lead to more divisiveness, more intolerance and a greater inability to understand the arguments that are often critical to a comprehensive solution that can result in a win-win.  There is an antidote to this problem.

I suggest we look at all of the candidates running for office and ask ourselves “Will they bring our country together?”  “How do they rank in terms of the new values?”  “How do they compare in terms of the negativity values in my list above?”   I offer that we need to care less about party affiliations and more about the values that we see our candidates espousing.  We are no longer a “New nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”  The USA is nearly 250 years old now.  We can remain true to the values of our founding fathers only by realizing that it is now the 21st century and that there are new values that must be added to the old values that made our nation great. This truth applies to every country in the world.  The path forward can be to a future that will be a happier world for all of us to live in.  As Jesus said:

“No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”  — Luke 9:62

Time for Questions:

What can we do to help create a better world for everyone, not just those in our country?  Which of the USA candidates for president do you think will most care about people?  Are you picking your candidate out of fear or distrust of the future?  What candidates will do the best to be inclusive, ethical and moral?  Are you supporting these candidates?  Why or why not?

Life is just beginning.

“Nothing brings me more happiness than trying to help the most vulnerable people in society. It is a goal and an essential part of my life – a kind of destiny. Whoever is in distress can call on me. I will come running wherever they are.”   — Princess Diana

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