Aug 21

Men Crying—Personal or Cultural?

In Brief—The author looks at his own history and whether his tears represent just one man or whether the display of emotion is imposed by culture or environment.


Tears are the silent language of grief. (Voltaire)—

”Oh, God! That’s the last news I ever wanted to hear!”

As I write this, it’s been four months since I learned that my old friend, Lionel, is dead. Those are the words I wrote when I received the news of his untimely death. My initial tears are dry now and warm memories of times past have replaced the pain.

Gender InequalityWas I crying because of his pain? No. My tears were because he would no longer make me smile. We would no longer share our hopes and frustrations. We would no longer exchange messages and feelings. It was about me. Something has changed beyond the passage of time. There’s a wall blocking any tears. Is that me or is it the culture that shaped me?

In every loss there is an unexpected gift. The gift wrapped in this personal loss is the thoughts and questions that have surged through my head: When have I cried before? Are the feelings the same or different? Will they last or mellow with time? Is this just me or might it be part of America’s culture, of the world culture?

Tears of the Past—

We have all cried as children, but what about in adulthood? Memories whisper to me of a few occasions.

I have no recollections of love gone sour, but a clear memory of when John F. Kennedy was murdered in Dallas. ”Kennedy’s been shot.” Stunned, I drove to my office. Television sets blared the appalling news. Tears burst from my eyes then and later during the funeral cortege. Now, it’s tearless history. To many it is just words in a school book as distant as Abraham Lincoln.

Two airliners hit the New York Trade Towers. Fiery death, bodies plummeting to the plaza below. Thousands of people died. I wept as the tragedy unfolded. Today, it’s history that has resulted in perpetual war and thousands more deaths, grist for politicians. But no tears. Anger at the senseless waste, but no tears.

The old family dog was euthanized. No more walks in the forest. No more snowball chasing. Tears flowed. A dog. A loved family member. All that’s left today are fond memories and twinges of remorse at my occasional loss of patience, but no tears.

Åsne Seirestad’s searing book, ”One of Us” recounted Anders Breivik’s cold slaughter of innocents, of vacationing teenagers. I remained dry-eyed until the coroner zipped a youth into a body bag. Suddenly, sobs wracked my body and tears coursed down my cheeks.

I shed tears of frustration at my disability and the unfulfilled desire to die after nearly five years of this. Only the desire for eternal sleep. Lionel’s sleep. Nothingness. Tears, yes. But will time dull the sharp edges of the pain?

Cultural? Environmental?—

Why do we cry and when? Family or societal messages? Is it recognition of our own mortality? Will we miss the person or creature who will no longer warm our lives? The depravity of our fellow humans? Why not drowned refugees? Why not war victims? Why? The answers are as different as the humans inhabiting Earth.

My future wife cried quietly as the singer poured her heart into ”Send in the clowns.” Beside her sat the man she loved who was lost in the past. I suddenly realized what those tears meant, but my eyes were dry. A woman’s tears told me what I was missing.

Her tears met my heated wish for death. Her tears, not mine. The woman whose warm body next to mine would never be again. Her tears, not mine.

As I was growing up, I learned that men don’t cry, that I was expected to be strong, that only females cry. Despite this, leaders throughout history in all corners of the globe have shed tears, particularly when defeat has humbled them. Still, it is not considered manly to cry.

This may be changing. Researchers have shown that health and self-esteem improve with the freedom to shed tears when the occasion merits it. The old ways still exist and may in some respects be useful, but fortunately the stiff upper lip is giving way to a less judgmental mind-set and greater acceptance of shedding tears when the occasion warrants it. But it hangs on. I am proof of that.

I miss Lionel and mourn the loss. What will I do now that he isn’t there to make me laugh, to inspire me, to make me think? He has shown me the meaning of heartache.

I’m just one person, doubtless softer than many, but the old ways still live. They still cripple men, still cripple society…stiill live inside me. How do we end this harmful tradition? Will it ever end?

Aug 14

Chronicle from the Old Folks’ Home—Part 9

In Brief—Change comes to the warehouse where the author lives.


The One Unchanging Thing in the Universe is Change—

Sign (head-on)Bengt may never run away again. He looks shrunken. He sleeps a lot. The vigor and sense of humor seems to be gone. The man I saw as active and alert now sits sleeping while lunch is prepared. His children may have been right to put him in our warehouse. His plaintive “Is this where I’m expected to die?” echoes in my head.

This is a place of concern, of anxiety, these days. Another company will take control in October. Three experienced members from the next department will be leaving in July and nobody has come forward to replace them. Rumors abound. The pay is said to be lousy and people don’t want to work in elder care because of the responsibility and,,,well-l-l, old folks are hard to care for, particularly the demented.

After several days of weakness where nothingness beckoned, a bit of energy returned, so I took a walk through the next department. Once-friendly folks sat eating at new tables, none smiled and waved back, one even turned away from me. The only cheerful person—a short-timer, so to speak—was a staff member who happily reported she has only four weeks left before her departure. Change is in the wind.

As I write this, it’s a gloomy day promising rain. I look out the window past the verdant greenery of spring to see men working on a home renovation nearby. Children scamper about at the day care center across the street. What kind of world will they grow up in?

Turning my attention to the computer, I scan the fading New York Times past ubiquitous commercials of Russian women who want to meet eligible men…only to find chaos: Gays out for a night of fun are shot down in cold blood by a hater; decent cops are executed by another hater; without bothering to express condolences, an inexperienced billionaire liar takes credit for predicting the carnage; war and destruction in the Middle East; the depredation of climate change; the death of a great fighter; England on an anti-immigrant bender votes for withdrawing from a Europe that has its own problems. What kind of world are we bequeathing to the children across the street?

My wife returns from Wales after enhancing her knowledge of art. The family dog adjusts to the city after a month of living in the country free of her leash. Friends and family in the U.S. deal with sick dogs, questionable marriages, dying mothers and graduations. And here I am in the warehouse scribbling a blog and wondering if tomorrow is my last day or if my genes doom me to years more of this.

I spit in my ever-present bucket, my back hurts like hell, showering and getting dressed is more difficult, every day is much like the one before it and I sleep more than I used to. Along with this is my concern as to whether this will be my last episode of the Chronicle. Then comes the memory of my wife’s admonition, “If you can’t change the situation, change your attitude.”

Should I change my attitude while the world goes crazy?

Change is the one unchanging thing in the universe.

Aug 07

Cannon Fodder: Draftee or Volunteer

In Brief—A discussion of the author’s experiences and views on whether a mandatory draft of men and women is preferable over an all-volunteer military.


Frying Pan or Fire—

I sat there in my suit and tie talking to a young man who had just received his draft notice. I might as well have been speaking Swahili because the young man was looking at me quizzically as if he had very little idea what I was talking about.

Selective Svc emblemUnlike the others, I was the only one dressed in the attire of the corporate office where I had worked until recently. I knew the Selective Service law backward and forward thanks to the education I had received from the professional draft lawyers at the Los Angeles Free Clinic, but now I was an associate in a law office devoted to the draft and talking to a young man who wanted me to save him from the killing fields of Vietnam.

Until recently, I had worked in the belly of the corporate beast for thirteen years. Rather than searching for a job I would hate, I was highly recommended by my mentors at the Free Clinic to a small law firm specializing in draft and military law. Right place, right time. Suddenly, I was sitting across from a young man who faced military service in Vietnam. I was entering the happiest period of my life, but my client was legitimately afraid for his.

After first speaking to my young clients in corporate-law-speak, I soon realized my approach was wasteful of his and my time, so from then on I spoke in terms clients could understand. Along with that change, bell bottomed trousers and flowered shirts replaced the suit and tie.

After considerable success in the courts and on the seething streets of America, the war ended with America’s defeat and the Selective Service System went out of business as we planned. The country transitioned to an all-volunteer military.

With that change, I weighed the wisdom of the draft versus the all-volunteer military. I began questioning whether the draft was better than the monster that began growing out of the ashes, conservative anger and recrimination that followed in the wake of the lost war.

My thoughts are more relevant than ever with the current move by the Senate to reinstate the draft now that the military has begun accepting women in combat roles. Got to feed that voracious hunger for warm bodies so America can fight its wars.

Middle-and-upper-class parents have or can get the money and possess the knowledge of the system. They will hire a draft lawyer to keep their child out of the military. Others rely on influential cronies who can pull strings to get their child into a safe reserve organization as was the case with George W. Bush. Some flee to other countries like Canada or Sweden rather than becoming cannon fodder for the U.S. military. A few would injure themselves in order to qualify as unacceptable for military service. The truly brave ones like David Harris burned their draft cards and went to prison for their beliefs.

Alternatively, the current all-volunteer military relies on two sources: 1) the patriotic dupes like Pat Tillman who are swayed by government propaganda that they must put their bodies on the line so the investor class will continue to profit from war; 2) the disadvantaged and poor, predominantly minorities, who see military service as a way to earn money. They never think—and are certainly not told by a recruiter— that a roadside bomb might blow them to pieces or rob them of limbs.

As a lawyer with experience in the area and as a realist who has looked at human nature, I have weighed the pros and cons of both sides. Meanwhile, America stands astride the world with a mighty military and the deluded belief that its society is the best of all possible worlds. It will not change. Even as it sinks into irrelevance, it clings to the ways that once worked but no longer do. For me, it comes down to picking the lesser of evils.

The Draft Wins—

In this case, my conclusion is that the lesser evil is the draft. If the draft resumes, the knowledgeable with money will still hire a draft lawyer. The powerful will still rely on influential cronies to keep their sons and daughters from becoming cannon fodder. Some will flee to safe havens…although that’s easier said than done these days. Some will use other means to render themselves unacceptable while the brave ones will go to prison for their beliefs.

With the military owning America and getting billions of dollars from the sychophantic politicians in congress, they will get their warm bodies. Draft boards will be run by individuals who will do everything short of gang-pressing youths to fill the quotas for the month. The military wins whether there’s a draft or not, but at least there’s a chance that a draft will moderate the militarization of America. And the U.S. will still continue to fade into history.

My experience in the military and as a draft lawyer make me a realist and a cynic on this issue. I’ve barely scratched the surface of the subject, but I have given you my conclusion to consider. Let me know your views. I’ll elaborate in my responses.

Jul 31

Books, Movies and More—Part 3

In Brief— A further continuation of the author’s lists of some of the books, movies and even music that have helped shape the person he is. Has this series put your mind into high gear and kept you awake at night yet? It might.


You Are the Sum Total of All Your Experiences—

Film & NotesI have said that a film is able to shape the viewer’s character in the same way as a book, but whereas a reader can picture the characters and environment, a film takes away that ability and substitutes the director’s vision. Sometimes that’s better, sometimes not. Moreover, music can make or break a film. In any case, here are some additional films and even music that have shaped me. Others may follow as my sleepless nights bring them to mind.

MOVIES—

Groundhog Day directed by Harold Ramis. The film’s theme of repetition until you get it right stuck with me. My friend Lionel’s favorite line was, “I’m only going to show you this one more time.”

Seven directed by David Fincher. Two cops, one an old timer and the other an arrogant newcomer, match wits with a mass murderer who kills his victims based on the seven deadly sins. I believed this film to be filled with violence only to find that that the violence was in my head. The film raises the question of what you would do.

Patton directed by Franklin Schaffner. George C. Scott, masterfully portraying Gen. George Patton, is at his best in front of a huge American flag. A monumental figure made bigger by the performance. The echoing trumpets behind Patton’s musing over past lives shows how music can make a film.

Amadeus directed Miloš Forman. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, his incomparable music and his death. If music makes a film, as it does here, then this is the film for you. Powerful images. Powerful music. Which brings me to my next subject.

MUSIC—

Playwright William Congreve said that music has charms to soothe a savage breast. I don’t know about the savage breast, but certainly music can make or break a film. The last two of the films above use music in different ways. Patton uses music to create a mood while Amadeus is built around the music of Mozart.

I’ve chosen here to include music that reaches me and is illustrative of not only the eclecticism of my interests but the times and phases of my life. Your comments can tell us of the music that appeals to you.

Gregorian Chants—Unaccompanied sacred male choral singing found in the Catholic Church. Emotionally moving and powerful.

Joan Baez—Folk and protest songs sung by Ms. Baez playing the guitar. Beautiful voice. Committed person.

Luciano Pavarotti—Probably the best tenor in opera. He filled the hall with his incomparable voice. He made opera live.

Janis Joplin—The raw, uninhibited voice of my hippie days. She made the blues live for me. Her Cheap Thrills is on my iPod.

Ella Fitzgerald—A voice like silk. With an ability to improvise, she blew me away me as I listened entranced in the wings.

Eva Cassidy—Gone too early, she sang blues, gospel and more. Play her “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” at my funeral.

Andrés Segovia, Julian Bream, Manitas de Plata—Show me a talented guitar player, whether classical or flamenco, and I’ll show you an aficionado.

Jaqueline du Pré—a classical cellist, her ability to make that cello talk was celebrated worldwide. It’s on my iPod.

The Bagpipes—The skirl of the pipes lives inside me. Must be my Scottish heritage showing.

Hair—The song “Hair” and that stage play got me through law school. I saw it seven times during my transition to hippiedom.

Riverdance—It was a stage show, I know, but that staccato, precise stepdancing set to Irish music gets my toes to tapping.

Swan Lake—Sublime music. Lovely ballet.  Nureyev and Fonteyn. Watching them was like watching art in motion.

This is just a sampling of my wide-ranging musical interests. It’s a good way to close this series about the influences that helped shape me. I could go on with stage plays, dancers, artists, teachers and more, but I’ll stick with this as a way to tell you a bit about me.

Although this is just a partial list of my interests, it is important to always remember that everything a person experiences from those final days in the womb to our death adds to the person we are…to the person we are becoming.

You are invited to share your interests. You will not only reveal some of what you are, but your revelations can inspire the rest of us.

Jul 24

Books, Movies and More—Part 2

In Brief— A continuation of the author’s listing of some of the books, movies and more that have helped shape the person s/he is. This is guaranteed to put your mind into high gear and keep you awake at night.


You Are the Sum Total of All Your Experiences—

Books wrapped in filmIt is said that that a reader lives a thousand lives before dying while the non-reader lives but one. I believe it’s necessary to add “what you have viewed” to that saying.

In Part 1, I listed several books that have helped shape the person I am today, but I suddenly remembered a few others that cry out to be added to that list. However, I must warn you that still others may follow. Right now, the books. Films will follow.

MORE BOOKS—

Beyond Words by Carl Safina. After you read this book, you will never again think of them as “dumb animals.” Elephants, wolves, dolphins, orcas, chimps, dogs and others not only think differently (and in some cases, better) than humans, but they have talents never before realized. Scientist Safina relates his studies of these amazing species in non-scientific language. Frans De Waal’s “Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?” is a good follow-up.

Sweet Swan of Avon by Robin P. Williams. The subtitle says it all: “Did a Woman Write Shakespeare?” Mary Sidney Herbert, the Countess of Pembroke, was an extraordinarily educated and talented woman in the court of Elizabeth. Williams presents facts that can depose Shakespeare, about whom we know very little, as being the author. Check out the Mary Sidney Society site on the internet and see if you, too, are convinced.

Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne. This may be a story that you read to your children, but it’s not only entertaining to children, it is charming for an adult reader. Winnie, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo and the other characters will capture everybody’s hearts.

The Presidents Club by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy. Based on extensive documentation, you will learn how retiring presidents guide incoming presidents, for good or ill, to take on the task of running America. You may discover that the past and incoming men are not what you have thought. Political junkies will find a feast, but all readers will learn more than expected…some of it unpleasant.

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. A children’s book that tells the fantastic adventure of lonely James and his unconventional friends. You and the kids will love it. “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” is a winner, too.

Shōgun by James Clavell. This novel of feudal Japan relates the story of a British sailor who navigates an alien society to serve a feudal lord. Fascinating albeit romanticized look at early Japan.

Illusions by Richard Bach. This slim book has provided me with thought-provoking quotations and continues to do so. I highly recommend reading it. Seemingly simple, it’s anything but…and you can’t put it down.

MOVIES—

Images on film and performances admittedly don’t allow you to create the characters and scenes in your head as books can, but they can nevertheless move you emotionally and will inevitably lodge themselves in your brain to help build the person you are. These are some of the many films that have added to the person writing these lines.

A Man for All Seasons directed by Fred Zinneman. Every frame of the film is so beautiful that all qualify as art. Superb cinematography. Paul Scofield plays Thomas More and Robert Shaw plays Henry VIII. Extraordinary performances. I was so impressed by this film that it wasn’t until recent years that I learned Thomas More was a religious fanatic responsible for numerous deaths. That said, it’s a fabulous film.

2001 directed by Stanley Kubrick. A tour de force of evolution from distant past to future. A cinematic masterpiece. Kier Dullea and Gary Lockwood travel the blackness of space bound for Jupiter. Only HAL, the computer running the ship, stands in the way. Guaranteed to make you think: What is its message? What do the images convey?

The Godfather directed by Francis Ford Coppola. One of the few films (a trilogy) that was better than the book. Marlon Brando played the godfather, Vito Corleone, with Al Pacino as the son and heir. Widely recognized as one of the best films ever made, it captured the somber tone of the genre. Powerful films that transfixed me.

Lawrence of Arabia directed by David Lean. The burning sun and barrenness of the desert provide the omnipresent background for Peter O’Toole’s performance as T. E. Lawrence in this historical recreation of the man who led the British forces to victory over the Turks but was politically betrayed. Abandoned by his allies, Lawrence returned to England where he died in an accident years later. Powerful images that will live in memory.

Remains of the Day directed by James Ivory. One of the most memorable performances I’ve ever seen. The scene between Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson regarding a book Hopkins is reading is one of the most breathtaking moments in cinema history. The electricity was palpable. This scene alone will stick in my head as long as I live. A superb film with superb performances by Hopkins and Thompson.

Being John Malkovich directed by Spike Jonze. This weird comedy written by Charley Kaufman, a comedian I don’t normally care for, gives you a glimpse of the zany part of my sense of humor. A nerdy puppeteer discovers a hidden portal into the head of actor John Malkovich. This is one of those films I recommended that was rejected as not at all funny. You can’t win ‘em all.

As noted above, these books and movies are just a few of those that captivated me. Don’t be intimidated by my selections. Remember, they’re mine and reflect my peculiarity. Your list should present those that have influenced you. Now’s your chance to share yours with us. It’s also a gold mine of tips for the rest of us. If you’re not a film-goer, no sweat, some of these may tempt you to subscribe to Netflix.

Tune in next week to see what might be featured. After that, who knows what awaits?

Jul 17

Books, Movies and More—Part 1

In Brief—The author lists some of the books, movies, music and more that have helped shape the person he is today. If this doesn’t put your mind into high gear and disturb your sleep, nothing will.


We Are the Sum Total of All Our Experiences—

Books wrapped in film“Wait a minute,” you say. “I hated that movie when I saw it.” Or, “That book was so bad I couldn’t finish it.” How many times have I heard that when I’ve told somebody they just have to see a particular film or read a book that grabbed me? This piece is about the films, books or whatever that spoke to me. You have your own list.

Before I launch into my lists, a bit of background is in order. As a child I was an asthmatic kid. Looking at my friends playing outside got old so I started reading books to pass the time. I hasten to add that it was a time before TV came along. Grade school, high school, university and post-grad each had their own list of books to keep me busy.

Then there were movies, teachers and music adding to the mix. They all helped shape the person I am today. Unfortunately, those Saturday matinees up the street are gone and the films with werewolves and vampires no longer haunt my dreams, but “Fantasia” and “Pinocchio” live in my memories yet.

Although this is just a partial list of the books, movies and more that have helped shape me, it is important, nay, essential, to remember that everything—EVERYTHING—a person experiences from late pregnancy to death adds to that person. The genes, environment, thoughts, pains, pleasures, people, travels and much more are part of the accretion.

Now, on with the show. No preference is implied.

BOOKS—

A People’s History of the United States by historian and activist Howard Zinn. Everybody in America should read this book! It’s about the average people who built America rather than politicians and generals. Definitely not boring, it’s history as it should be taught.

Why I Am Not a Christian by Nobel Prize winner Bertrand Russell. This group of essays lifted the burden of belief from my shoulders. Solid, logical, humane and worthy of thought. Good follow-ups are Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” and Christopher Hitchens’ “God is Not Great.”

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. This beautifully written fantasy creates a world of Hobbits, wizards, dragons, good and evil into a tale that will entrance young and old. It’s a trip into a realm of magic.

West With the Night by Beryl Markham. Extraordinarily well written by an extraordinary woman who describes her life in early 20th century Kenya as well as her record-breaking flight from Europe to North America. Ernst Hemingway wished he could write as well. So do I.

One of Us by journalist Åsne Seierstad. Possibly the most powerful book I’ve ever read, it details the life of Anders Breivik from disturbed youth to his coldblooded murder of seventy-seven people—most of them vacationing teenagers—including his trial in Oslo. If this book doesn’t have tears coursing down your cheeks, you are more jaded than I.

The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov. A brilliant exploration of the distant future by a brilliant man who has also written of the evolution of robots. It’s science fiction at its best.

The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert. The author travels the world to awaken us to the threat of man-made extinction. Instead of the dinosaurs, it’s humanity that’s at risk. It’s the ”Silent Spring” of our generation. Add anthropogenic climate change, and extinction is just around the corner.

Dune by Frank Herbert. In the first of several Dune-related science fiction novels, the author creates an arid world ruled by a tyrant and peopled by the desert-dwelling Fremen. Into this mileu comes a man who takes the drug secreted by the dangerous sandworms that dwell beneath the planet’s sands. A complex society with unfamiliar customs promises an exciting adventure. A great book but a rotten film.

A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Unwelcome for her views, Atwood spins a cautionary tale about what can happen if fundamentalist Christians take over America. A dystopian novel by a master storyteller. One that warns of what could come to pass.

Andersonville by MacKinlay Kantor. The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about the Confederate prisoner-of-war camp during the Civil War. It is based on actual memoirs of the men who were imprisoned there. Death and man’s inhumanity to one’s fellow humans illustrate the horrors of war. This novel will shock even the hardest reader.

As an iceberg shows just a small amount above the surface, these are just a few of the hundreds of books I’ve read that have added to the person I am.

Your list presents some of the books that have influenced you. This is your chance to share those books. You also provide tips for the rest of us. If you’re not a reader, don’t worry, some of these may tempt you to try them.

Oh, and be sure to check out next week’s list of movies and overlooked books that have influenced me. After that, who knows what lists await? The Shadow knows.

Jul 10

Enter Stage Right: the Clintons

In Brief—Put on your Wellingtons and join the author for a walk through the muck of small-time politics in Arkansas to the knee-deep muck of ego-driven ugliness of Washington D.C.


Tell a Bigger Lie and It’s Politics—

“Why in the world did you move to Sweden?”

I’ve been asked this question many times, and the answer has always been that I saw the United States moving steadily to the right years ago and didn’t want to live in a rightist state. There were other reasons as well, but this one led the list.

Bill:Hill in bgAs I write this, former president Bill Clinton’s wife, Hillary Clinton, a purported “liberal,” is striving mightily but clumsily to become the first woman president in the history of the country. However, before we take a closer look at her, Bill Clinton—or as he is known among those who have endured him, “Slick Willy”—comes under my microscope.

Bill Clinton changed his name to Clinton to honor his remarried mother. Impressed by John Kennedy and Martin Luther King and blessed by intelligence and oratorical skills, he entered into public life. Though he never finished, he was a Rhodes Scholar. He dodged the military draft by manipulation foreshadowing his later reputation as “Slick Willy.”

Overcoming defeat in his run for Congress, he shifted gears to become the Attorney General and then twice the Governor of Arkansas. It was there he learned the dark side of politics and embraced the death penalty.

As President, Clinton donned the mantle of fiscal conservatism a la Margaret Thatcher of England thereby producing three years of budget surpluses capped by his sponsorship of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that resulted in the loss of many American jobs. Please remember that only congress can pass laws even if the president wants them.

Clinton’s advocacy of the Omnibus Crime Bill led to many people of color being sent to prison, yet he is worshipped by many who simply don’t understand how injurious the law has been.

It is revealing that the well-received book “The Presidents Club” reveals that Bill Clinton was a good friend and admirer of Richard Nixon (aka “Tricky Dick”), who is better known as the only president to resign the presidency in disgrace.

This is an accurate albeit brief summation of the husband of Hillary Clinton who has said that “Slick Willy” will be put in charge of the economy in her presidency. Could this be the fox in the henhouse?

Enter Hillary Clinton—

Hillary Clinton comes from a conservative Republican family and was a supporter of failed presidential nominee Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater. This suggests a bone-deep belief in conservative principles despite what she has averred on the campaign trail.

Wall Street—It’s established knowledge that Hillary Clinton is fastened at the hip with Wall Street. Not only do the oligarchs support her but they lavish money on her for speaking to their members. Despite claims of transparency, she refuses to reveal what she said in those $200,000 speeches.

WarHillary Clinton supported Bush’s famously duplicitous war in Iraq. Contrary to President Obama, she supports more American “boots on the ground” in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. She is equivocal on Ukraine in Russia’s backyard. To say she is a hawk is to understate it.

Hillary and Kissinger—Hillary Clinton is not only a good friend of Henry Kissinger but he is a valued advisor. Lest you forget, Kissinger is an accused war criminal who allegedly dares not travel abroad for fear of being arrested for his past war crimes. Despite his reputation, Clinton calls on him for advice.

Edward Snowden and Clinton—Eric Holder, President Obama’s former Attorney General, recently said the whistleblower Edward Snowden did a “public service” by releasing evidence of the United States government’s unconstitutional law-breaking.

In sharp contrast, Hillary Clinton has asserted that Snowden is “a traitor” who must return, be tried and put in prison. She undoubtedly knows that under the World War I era Espionage Act, with which Snowden has been charged, Snowden will not be permitted to assert the defense of his actions being in the “public interest.”

This is a glimpse into the mind and beliefs of the woman who may be the next president. While it’s possible that this woman is qualified to serve the people, we’d better think long and hard about where this may lead us. The good news is that Hillary Clinton is reported to be teachable… a learning experiment, so to speak.

America’s move to the right confirms my belief that although the Republican Party races to the right, both parties are complicit. Those who live in the United States must decide if what has come to pass will continue or if this is a turning point toward progressivism.

Jul 03

Chronicle from the Old Folks’ Home—Part 8

In Brief—The author describes another ripple in the usually calm waters of the Old Folks’ Home.


An Old Woman Helpless on the Ground—

“Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”

It sounds like a hackneyed line from an old television commercial. We used to laugh at the line. It became a joke. But this was no laughing matter, no joke.

Sign (head-on)I was stepping through the outer door in the expectation of taking a quiet walk in the back yard and sitting in the warm sunshine that was often absent in early June. This was an unusually warm day. Time to take advantage of the warmth. Unfortunately, my plans were derailed.

She was a small, normally cheerful white-haired woman I had seen and greeted before as we passed one another on the paved walkway. Now, she was sprawled on the flagstones behind her walker and I was the only person in sight. She appealed to me for help. I rushed to her. Even this close to the incident, I don’t recall how I made it to the woman from my walker, but there I was.

I’m no longer as strong as I once was and she weighed more than I ever would have guessed. I remembered to set the brakes on her walker, grasped her under the arms and struggled to lift her. It didn’t work. She was dead weight and her arms were not strong enough to keep her from slipping through my hands. It was almost as if she was glued to the ground and had no joints. I just couldn’t lift her.

I had no sooner paused to assess the situation than another old woman, more mobile than most, appeared and tried to help me lift the fallen woman. No go. As we paused, five alert personnel members rushed from the building and took over. In a matter of seconds they had the woman on her feet and immediately whisked her into the building. Feeling inadequate, useless as tits on a boar and somewhat shaken, I watched until they disappeared into the building. The other old woman disappeared with them. Sitting calmly was impossible now, so I finished my exercise walk, returned to my room and began to write.

Reality Intrudes—

From time to time I have said that the Old Folks’ Home is a warehouse for the aged and demented. That’s my honest opinion. At the same time, I have learned to understand Alzheimer’s, other forms of dementia and old age. But today something different taught me a little more about the warehouse we live in. It’s not just demented old folks, sameness and Bengt, but old women who fall and show me that I’m not the man I thought I was. It was a spectral finger from the future tapping me on the shoulder to remind me that I’m mortal with a looming expiration date.

I remember patched jeans, a strong, muscular body and young women bowing to my ego. I recall heaving heavy logs into a roaring kiln fire, emerging from the surf, tanned and glistening. Now, I look in the mirror and see an old man looking back at me. But today an old woman showed me that the memories of times past are just memories now.

There’s the fog creeping in silently to strangle synapses. It’s getting more frequent lately. Is this what it’s like? Billions before me have passed this way, but this is my first time. I don’t know what comes next. Time marches on—sounds like an old newsreel…but it’s reality. Falling is a reality. Weakness is reality.

Have I said that nothing ever happened here? Today, something happened.

Shocking Update—Cecil, the Lion, isn’t the only animal in Africa in critical danger of extinction, every animal on the continent may soon be lost. Readers may recall my blog piece “The Lion, the Hunter and Human Nature” that can be found in the August 2015 Archives. Click here to read this important update. Is humanity next?

 

Jun 26

Anti-Semitism, BDS and the First Amendment

In Brief—This is a discussion of unacceptable anti-Jewish prejudice but also efforts by pro-Israeli government supporters to tar legitimate groups urging boycotts (BDS) to oppose Israeli policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians.


Policies Not People—

“Kike,” “Heeb,” and “Christ Killer” are just a few of the offensive racial slurs relating to Jews. Such slurs are not as commonly found today as they were a century ago, but they are appearing again as ignorant people feel free to express their prejudices openly.

Such slurs are not only offensive, they are indicative of the ignorance of the sources using them. But while such slurs are evidence of the persistence of myths and prejudices, this piece is not only about obvious anti-Semitism but about how anti-Semitism is expanding into realms not originally intended. Now “anti-Semitism” is being used to attack any person or group deemed in opposition to Israeli government policies. Such attacks also threaten the First Amendment.

Semitic and Anti-Semitic—

israel:Palestinian on IsraelWhat is Semitic? Originally it referred to a family of Middle Eastern languages. It later came to refer to the people speaking those languages, especially to the Jews and Arabs. More recently, the word came to refer to the Jewish people. Expansion was taking place.

When did the term ”anti-Semitic” originate? If you are interested in the history of the term ”anti-Semitism,” I invite you to read what I wrote in 2014 regarding Israel and Palestine. Suffice it to say, ”anti-Semitism” is a relatively recent concept, originating just over a century ago. Unfortunately, the term is now being used to denigrate any person or group opposing Israeli government policies toward the Palestinians.

The Origin of Israel—

How did Israel come about? After centuries of Jewish persecution and the 20th century Nazi Holocaust, the Europeans, British and Americans saw a way to salve their consciences for doing nothing to help the fleeing Jews and simultaneously solve their own ”Jewish problem.” In 1948, they created the state of Israel as a homeland for the Jews on land the British declared was ”empty land.”

What about the the terroristic Zionists? Zion refers to the hill on which the city of Jerusalem stands. Secondarily, the word refers to the ancient Israelites and more recently to the modern Jewish nation. Significantly, it has a religious basis as the place chosen by God for the Jewish people and under his special protection. It is this last reference that drives the Zionists. It must be noted that many Jews are anti-Zionists and are considered by some to be anti-Semitic though they are supportive of Israel.

The Palestinians—

Although the forebears of Jews, Palestinians and others had inhabited the area for millennia, what about the Palestinians who had the ”empty land” they inhabited given to the Jews? They were understandably angry, particularly when the Israeli government expelled masses of Palestinians from their own land.

Israel grew through war and and deliberate expansionist policies that continue. At best, Palestinians are repressed and treated as second-class citizens. Any retaliatory efforts on their part have resulted in arrests, killings and collective punishment by the Israeli military. ”Apartheid” is often used to describe Israel’s Palestinian policy.

Supported by many citizens, the hard-line Israeli government uses any excuse to send in the military to ”mow the grass” (kill) Palestinians by the hundreds. Contrary to the evidence, the Israeli government asserts that this will bring peace. What it accomplishes instead is increasing the anger Palestinians feel toward Israel.

The Boycott, Divest and Sanctions Movement—

Now that we have seen the background to today’s Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement, let’s take a look at how the label ”anti-Semitic” has expanded to tar the movement and threatens the First Amendment.

BDS is a global movement focused on applying economic and political pressure on Israel to end Israel’s occupation and colonization of Palestinian land. The BDS movement demands total equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel and acceptance of the right of expelled Palestinian refugees to return.

The campaign is coordinated by the Palestinian BDS National Committee. Additionally, groups both within and outside of Israel support the effort despite Israeli government efforts to ban the organization. In the United States, a number of university student organizations, performing artists, academics and renowned individuals support the BDS goals.

Predictably, both the Israeli government, the American political establishment and pro-Israeli organizations like the Anti-Defamation League and AIPAC are attacking the movement. Their cry is—you guessed it—BDS is ”anti-Semitic.” As a result, laws against BDS are popping up like poison mushrooms.

Examples of the Israeli government’s high-pressure tactics are Sen. Diane Feinstein’s extortionate threats to the California university regents, and New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent pandering to hard-line American Jewish organizations. Dangerously, these efforts are trampling on the American constitution’s First Amendment. This does not bode well for America.

It must be said that a few reported anti-Semitic slurs from individuals within the BDS movement contribute to the charge of anti-Semitism. If true, then such individuals are damaging a worthwhile movement.

Nelson Mandela, revered South African hero, credited the international boycott effort with helping bring down South African apartheid. The Israeli government’s barbaric treatment of the Palestinians in contravention of United Nations’ resolutions as well as Israel’s brutal actions are similarly deserving of international boycotts and condemnation.

BDS is deserving of widespread support, but they must eliminate any genuine anti-Semitic behavior in their midst. The BDS is a movement that deserves to exist and spread its message.

Don’t be deceived by the Israeli goverment and its allies’ well-coordinated false charge of anti-Semitism. Don’t be a party to destroying the First Amendment, Free Expression and political activism in the West. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath.

Help BDS succeed against the repressive Israeli government and its allies.

 

 

 

 

Jun 19

Holy Baloney! The Ten Commandments Dissected

In Brief—Many believers who have little idea what the Judeo-Christian Ten Commandments actually say want them to be enshrined as the law of the land. This piece describes the rules by which those fundamentalists would have all of us live. Be careful what you wish for…you might get it.

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The Ten Commandments Myth—

”…[The] Ten Commandments was clearly a marketing decision…”

George Carlin

This quotation is part of a Carlin routine on the Ten Commandments. Carlin was a smart guy and his observations on The Decalogue, as well as religion generally, are not only funny but perceptive as well.

The Fable—

According to Exodus in the Judeo-Christian Bible, Moses climbed the mountain where God presented him with ten rules, or commandments. There is a total lack of evidence that Moses ever existed and there’s no sign of the fragments of the stone tablets on which the commandments were supposedly written. These alleged rules portray a jealous and insecure deity and include rules that had been around for centuries before Judaism or Christianity ever existed.

Can you list the Ten Commandments? It’s a good bet that vanishingly few who claim that those rules are the word of God—even that they should be the law of the land—are able to name the Ten Commandments. For those who are uncertain, here are the generally understood Ten Commandments, though they may vary according to sect.

  • 1) I am the Lord thy God.
  • 2) Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.
  • 3) Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
  • 4) Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
  • 5) Honor thy father and thy mother.
  • 6) Thou shalt not kill.
  • 7) Thou shalt not commit adultery.
  • 8) Thou shalt not steal.
  • 9)Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
  • 10) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s (house, wife, servants, animals or anything else).

Notice anything unusual? The first three show a God that is insecure, as if credulous men rather than God came up with these rules. You’d think that a perfect deity would not be concerned with rules as picayune as these, that there were more important matters to deal with than declaiming he was Da Boss, that other gods not be allowed to outclass him, that you shouldn’t possess any statues or pictures of unapproved gods, and that you shouldn’t offend him by uttering his name as a swear word. But this is God, remember? As the all-good, all-knowing and all-powerful creator of the whole universe, he doesn’t want his creations belittling him.

Take a look at number four (4). Which day is the Sabbath? Different groups of believers have different days they designate as the “Sabbath” or day of rest. The God of the Ten Commandments is said to have created the universe and everything in it in six days and was so pooped that he had to rest on the seventh day. Believing Jews say that Friday is the Sabbath, but most Christians say Sunday is the Sabbath…although some say Saturday is the Sabbath. Which believers are right? Rest? Millions of Christian believers work on their Sabbath. Seems that putting bread on the table takes precedence over worship.

What about number five (5)? More than a few humans are put up for adoption as a baby, so they have no idea who their biological parents might be. What if mom or dad or both are monsters who abuse their kids? Both mothers and fathers abandon their children. Should the kids honor these parents? Seems logical there are reasons why many moms and dads need not be honored. Face facts, some parents just don’t warrant honoring.

Numbers six (6), seven (7) and eight (8) are common sense rules that have been around for centuries before Judaism and Christianity were even dreamed up. We’ll overlook the fact that God himself has had a hand in quite a number of unjust killings. Stealing? Aren’t we still seeing the results of grand scale thievery by Wall Street and the banks that has taken place? And these folks are thriving today.

Number 9, perjury, happens every day in politics and the courtrooms of America. I have personally seen numerous instances take place while the judges know it is perjury. Newspapers make millions on falsehoods and national leaders deliberately lie. Wars are fought and innocents die because of lies. Lying is a way of life throughout the world.

Finally, we get to number ten (10), “Thou shalt not covet…” What’s to say? Coveting is a common human pastime whether it’s the neighbor’s bigger house, the fancy car, his/her significant other or whatever. What human hasn’t envied and wanted something belonging to or associated with someone else? People around the world covet America’s perceived wealth and want that. Coveting is the very foundation of capitalism.

These are the Ten Commandments that some insist we must place in our public buildings, our schools, our halls of justice and even enshrined as the law of the land. No sooner are the Ten Commandments forced on us than America will become a theocracy like those in the Middle East. Do you really want this?

Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.

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