citizenship

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Fifteen Years

Posted by on 11 Sep 2016 | Tagged as: citizenship, editorial, loss, Politics and War, Uncategorized

For fifteen years, we have talked about, and gone to war pretending it fixes, the events of September 11, 2001. On that day, I woke suddenly from deep sleep the instant the first plane hit.

I lost a college friend that day. Other people lost so much more.

We all lost a sort of innocence that day, I think — the idea that the United States was so big, and so prosperous, that no real damage would happen outside of a war.

And suddenly we were in a war. A war with a nebulous enemy. A war with no clear targets to strike.

But we had the good will of the world behind us, a world that (for the most part) was as shocked and appalled at the targeting of civilians during a time of relative peace in the world.

And then things got muddied up by “politics” and we lost the focus. And we are still engaged in wars in a now destabilized and volatile, and expanding, region. It got very messy, very fast.

I do not think we are safer, fifteen years later, despite giving up (and having stripped from us) some of our rights. I know that the more we objectify individuals and groups the less free we are.

I also know that, historically, when a society vilifies and dehumanizes a group, stripping them of equality, requiring people to conform to a narrow band of behavior, belief and speech, that society is on the downward slope. I know that it won’t stop with one creed, one race, one person — eventually more and more people are caught up and then no one is free.

Do we wonder why it is so dangerous to speak up in some countries? It is because when those governments first said “this person/group is a security risk” and instituted small restrictions, no one spoke up. When the first group was arrested, incarcerated, eliminated, the majority stood by silently. And by the time the majority realized they were ALL in danger… that anyone at any time could accuse anyone and that the machinery that had developed no longer cared about guilt or innocence, or intent, or outcomes… only about eliminating people who “might” be a threat to the government….

It is not yet too late in the United States to speak up, to fight for the traditions that underpin the constitution — no matter how unevenly applied in some times and places, no matter that it is imperfect — that ALL are created equal, and ALL are deserving of the same protections and opportunities.

Fifteen years ago, the United States’ population allowed a handful of angry, hate-filled people to start unravelling the core of our society. We gave up our freedoms in many ways out of fear and in a desire to be “safe” which we are never going to be. In so doing, the people who planned, carried out, supported, and approved of the murder of thousands — including my friend — were allowed to win. We allowed our freedoms and optimism, the very things that make us “Americans” to be undermined. It is not too late to reverse that trend.

Are you eligible and registered to vote? If so, do you vote? Even in local elections, perhaps especially in local elections, every vote counts. We shape our nation and our future by participating in our government. This is a right and privilege still denied to many around the world. WE CAN reclaim our rights and our national pride so that those who would deny us both do not win. We can elect people who keep military “answers” as a very last resort — not weakening our defenses but being more thoughtful and intentional about when to use force, and more intentional about when not to.

We CAN make this world better. It takes WILL. It takes time. it takes heart

Don’t let the terrorists win. Don’t let hate win.

Work for love. Work for peace.

What’s Wrong World-wise… Political content (another delayed post, from 4 October 2007)

Posted by on 28 Feb 2016 | Tagged as: citizenship, editorial, Gardens and Life, hope, politics, Politics and War, Uncategorized

or world-dumb, I suppose.

disclaimer: What follows is purely my opinion, based on personal experience and reflection, but hey! it seems to work for me and mine.

  • The most important thing that may be wrong is impatience. People are impatient to grow up, to make money, to “get there” and forget to enjoy the process. My children have a relatively comfortable home, plenty to eat and lots of leisure time in between a couple of activities of their own choosing. Still, they are eager to grow up, to achieve the milestones… at their age, this youthful exuberance is appropriate. But in a parent, to be eager for them to grow faster, to finish school early, to get a high-paying job early devalues the things that make the rest important: the people, the time you spend with them, the memories you build. Gardening teaches that one cannot rush the plants — they grow and produce in their own time. Actually, parenting teaches the same thing!
  • The next problem is forgetting that what works for one person or family may not be the right thing for another. For example, whether or not we liked it, my inability to work for several years meant we survived on one income past the point we had intended. It may have been the better choice in the long run anyway, as it meant I was instantly available to the children all these years. But for another person whose career couldn’t be dropped or picked up again so easily (I am changing my focus anyway, so don’t have to worry about picking up again where I left off) that might have been devastating. Or, for a family without a spouse who was earning ‘just enough’ or who didn’t have doting grandparents to help supply a few extras, the loss of the second income (even if it had been part-time) could have meant losing the home. Gardening also teaches that the sunflowers next door will invariably bloom sooner than mine, despite my placing seeds in the best location and tending them daily. Is it my soil? The microclimate? But my blueberries are invariably sweeter than those next door…
  • A lack of charity really goes hand in hand with the above: I have heard, many times and from people in many walks of life, that anyone ought to be able to improve their lives, that other people shouldn’t have to take up the slack when people won’t “do” for themselves. But they forget, I think, that a) not everyone has the same health/strength levels; b) even in the most hard-working/successful lives sometimes things “just work out” or they are lucky… and sometimes they don’t; c) most successful people can point to someone in their past who supported them financially or otherwise to get them over rough spots; and d) it is no longer possible for many people to support themselves on their own land — most people now live in cities and hold title to neither their living spaces nor the means to be industrious. We do not all start out with the means and the ability to improve our lives without assistance. Gardening is nearly impossible without a bit of soil and the right exposure: a devoted adult in an apartment without a balcony cannot grow the same varieties and abundance as a child with muddy feet in the middle of half an acre.
  • Laughter. People take themselves too damn seriously. What is wrong with cracking a good-natured joke now and then? Laughing at a pun? Being silly in public? Our children don’t see us playing, joking around, enjoying life. Maybe they should. My garden plays its own tricks on me, sending up potatoes underneath the tomatoes though it was years since I grew taters there… and not producing potatoes at all in the proper bed! If we are too insistent on having everything “just so” and only doing things that are serious, we miss
  • The next two items are new, 28 February 2016
  • Responsibility. It is difficult to “adult” — a new concept that has been floating around the social media world. I go to school almost every day, even when I am ill — I have had only a couple of sick days in the two years I have been at my current assignment, one for my son’s emergency hand surgery, two this year for an asthma attack and the flu. Might need another one this week (tomorrow) for a virus that I seem to have acquired, but if it feels like “only” a cold of course I will go in! This is in contrast to people who don’t have sick leave and so must go in to work or lose their jobs (at best, they lose the pay for the days they don’t show up). This is in contrast to people who find ways to claim what is called “workmen’s comp” when they might otherwise be able to work. I have the option when I am ill to stay home, but out of responsibility for these precious children I teach I go in unless driving is unsafe or I am contagious! A cold virus… one that I caught at school? I go in!
  • Diversity. One could call this openness to the beauty of the differences between people and groups. As I write this, it is an election year. The outgoing president, Barack Obama, has been the first truly “minority” president of our nation. The son of an immigrant and a native-born American mother, born in what would become the state of Hawaii, he also lived outside the U.S. as a child when his mother married a new husband who came from Indonesia. He married a remarkable woman, the child of working-class parents. He and his wife both graduated from college, going on the recieve degrees in law. An amazing, wonderful example of what hard work (and some luck) can do for people in this amazing nation that is based on the rights of all to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” A land where a Bill of Rights further enumerates Freedom of Speech, of Religion and of the Press, among others. No test of faith/belief may be applied to candidates or those elected to public office (which includes teachers…). No natural born citizen may be denied their rights on the basis of anything other than a conviction. And so on.
       
    However, this year… several candidates for the presidency are doing solid imitations of Hitler in the decade or so preceeding Kristallnacht. Rhetoric is flowing freely about people who are adherents of Islam; people who come from specific nationalities; people who are different. And I ask myself: what ever happened to the idea that our nation is strong because of (rather than in spite of) the great diversity of experiences that leads to wide-ranging ideas that lead to innovations and a better world? A nation that begins to criminalize existence rather than actions is on the path to genocide. We need courage to embrace, rather than reject, our neighbors and their families. We have survived segregation, interning families in camps based on their ancestry, and hysterically denying employment to people based on (their constitutionally guaranteed right to) political opinions/affiliations and sexual history. We cannot forget these lessons.

I would finish this post today as a call for renewed commitment to service, to understanding, to doing what is necessary to improve the world; to reject the calls for secularism, for isolationism; to protect the most vulnerable among us including children, isolated elders, people with disabling conditions that require extra support; and so on.

Rather than give in to fear (and there is a lot going on in the world that is out of our control!), we can instead remember the lessons of our past, and pull ourselves together. We need to stand together in opposition to those forces that would divide us. We need to be stronger and braver than the pundits who proclaim immigrants as enemies and other religions as subversive.

I cannot solve the problems of the world, but I am just enough of an optimist to think that we can solve the problems of our nation. We can solve them through understanding, optimism, and the same spirit of ingenuity that is a hallmark of “Americans.” True patriotism will not turn its back on the proud heritage of inclusiveness. True patriotism will admit that past actions that deprived individuals of their rights in the absence of criminal activity on their part was not just wrong, it was unconstitutional and should not be repeated. True patriotism in our country recognizes that together we are stronger, braver, smarter, and better than when we isolate and cut off those who are different in selfish and cowardly attempts to protect ourselves from imagined threats. We grow when we take risks, we diminish when we don’t. Pretty simple.

In charge of change (another delayed post)

Posted by on 21 Feb 2016 | Tagged as: children, citizenship, climate, economy, editorial, environment, hope, Making a Difference, musings, politics, Politics and War, Uncategorized

The orginal post was almost finished in January 2009. Here is the original, and how I would finish it now:

It seems to me that a lot of the time people expect government to step in and do clean-up, not matter what the troubles, whether big or small. And it seems to me that, sometimes, government just isn’t equipped to do things especially quickly, or in small doses that might be effective before things reach a crisis state.

Now, I believe we are facing a crisis. And I don’t believe that the crisis is “not as bad as” the one we faced in the Great Depression; or the Cold War; or any of a number of Capital-Letter Events this nation and the world have faced. I believe this crisis is unique and will have far-reaching, long-ranging effects. I don’t know that there is anything particularly special or noteworthy about the crisis other than:

  • millions of people around the world are losing their jobs with little hope or prospect of finding a new one with similar (presumably livable) conditions soon.
  • the climate is changing and there are other conditions making agriculture difficult over large areas, causing crop failure and famine for millions of people, with the predictable political upheaval and conflict.
  • posturing and saber-rattling by military and para-military forces around the world, not unlike that before world war one, and world war two, the cold war… and every war and conflict.

It isn’t any one particular scruffy-looking person on a street corner that indicates homelessness is increasing. It isn’t any one particular “For Sale” sign on a street the indicates the failure of banks. It isn’t any one bank failure that indicates economic melt-down.

It isn’t any one particular event that indicates wide-spread disaster, no more than any one particular monsoon or melting glacier doesn’t indicate global warming is occuring (I hope that I don’t need to explain that global warming is happening?).

The signs of increasing homelessness were my first clue that the economy was in bad shape — and getting worse. Naively, I thought government was keeping tabs on things and would somehow have things in place to avert total disaster. Just as I, naively, expected the military to be able to effect winning campaigns.

Of course, I thought the military would have sufficient support from the bureaucrats who ordered them into battle. And I supposed that the regulatory commissions in charge of finances had the resources and rules in hand to avert the kind of disaster that followed the greedy policies prior to the Wall Street crash of 1929.

Naive. Yes. Perhaps wishful thinking as well — wanting to not have to be responsible or reactive to things not immediately under my control. Going about my own business, doing what I was supposed to do. Noticing of course that there were more people on street corners, that food banks were running low, that more houses were for sale for longer… and I noticed these things before they were on the news. Did I stick my head in the sand? Did I expect too much of my elected government? Did I fail to meet my own obligations?

Like a peasant who expected the liege lord to be sure that enough of the tithes and rents and fees were put aside in case of disaster; I have found instead that those relief supplies were long-since consumed by the departing denizens of the manor-house as they hosted others of similar means. Regardless of the origin of the crisis, the peasant children starve, people die. Though good intentions may now take hold, the new lord lacks the resources to contribute in any meaningful way to alleviate the suffering.

The government finds itself in a similar situation today. Though we have a new president, administration, and the legislative branch is also updated, there is little that remains for them to do.

So what are WE, whether peasants or higher-ranking vassals, going to do?

We can choose to //

I suspect that when I finish a post in mid-sentence that I was called away for kid-duty.

In the case of this post, perhaps it was also related to the hip issues I was having that year, or the class I was taking.

I would now alter the term “global warming” to the more accurate, and less-likely to be misinterpreted climate change. The rest pretty well represents my thinking, and, sadly, how prescient I was.

We are seeing the effects of governments’ lack of action in a world-wide, drawn-out recession that seems to stall each time some progress is made. Strange weather patterns of drought, extra precipitation, heat, cold, and winds are becoming more common. Low-lying nations are ravaged by combinations of higher tides and more violent storms. As I finish this post in February 2016 (seven years later), Fiji is recovering from a direct hit from a Category 5 cyclone. The overall U.S. Economy has recovered from the deep economic woes of the past decade, but by creating lower-wage and part-time jobs that keep the poor in their place and benefit the rich and powerful. Those of us who have been “middle class” are less and less likely to have extra for things like savings accounts, visiting relatives who live at a distance…

Politicians, this being a presidential election year, refer frequently to helping the “middle class” which increasingly, by their metrics, includes families who are barely scraping by. And families earning a quarter million dollars a year. They rarely talk about working class people, or those who live in poverty while working more than full-time hours at multiple jobs.

Finally teaching, I see the effects of twenty-plus years of misguided political directives on my students. In the failed refusal to support young families by means other than the barest minimums; by failures to fully fund education (Washington state legislators, I am pointing this finger at you); by ignoring overseas hostilities and human rights violations until the issues turn into full-fledged war; and by an increasing disregard for the realities of life on our planet, in part because of irrational fears over science (or is it self-serving economics that makes these politicians work to protect fuel sources that damage the planet and fail to promote measures that heal?).

I am angry about this. My sons, now grown into fine young adults, are starting out in a world that reeks of protectionism, isolationism, racism, and secularism. The founders of our nation would be shocked to see the petty tyrants mow fighting for supremacy in our land. They would be, I think, appalled at the careless disregard for human life, for dignity, and for giving all people a fair shot at pursuing happiness.

So here we are, seven years on from the original post, and I am still wondering if the people of the United States have the fortitude to do what is necessary to take back our nation. Do we have the wisdom to make changes in our personal lives in spending/purchasing, work/career, civic duties?

I purchased a used hybrid car to make my commute of over 30 miles each way to save on gasoline even though it is a big chunk of my take-home pay. We recycle, even though hauling it to the curb twice a month is inconvenient (our driveway is longer than most yards!). We eat mostly locally grown, mostly organic foods that are expensive, but have a lighter footprint for fuel and carbon production. My peculiar allergies mean we purchase many things that come from a great distance but, where we can, we do choose local! We vote…

What can you do? What will you do?

{edited several times for typos due to composing on an ipad… ]

Difficult Times

Posted by on 31 Aug 2013 | Tagged as: caring, citizenship, editorial, Making a Difference, musings, politics, Politics and War, Uncategorized

I generally try to avoid politics here.

I feel, however, it is important to express important things.

And right now, I want to express my sorrow at the escalation of wars in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. I am distressed and concerned about the possibility for a very serious and wide-ranging involvement.

What can we do?

What follows is “more of the same” concerning my focus on citizen participation in government and education.

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Today, not in the garden

Posted by on 22 May 2013 | Tagged as: citizenship, Family Matters, Gardens and Life, good things, hope, housefire, loss, Making a Difference, parenting, Peace Making, social justice, Uncategorized

It has been a while again since I posted, but last night I wanted to share something with friends on a social media site and browsed through the pictures I posted here last summer.

How things have changed.

Hope, sadness; light, shadows; growth, decline; laughter, sighs.

I have been waking earlier than my normal the last couple of weeks, though I finally now sleep through most nights. And then I spend the time until I wake up reading the news and email that has been filtered and partially digested overnight. Thus de-motivated, I finally emerge into the day wondering what I am supposed to accomplish, how I am supposed to maneuver myself to get things done.

Today, once I got up I started soaking some doll clothes that were only slightly impacted (these are things that were inside plastic bags and are for dolls that survived!), got a load of laundry in, spent an hour cleaning jewelry with cotton swabs and makeup pads. I just sat down to eat a little something, and read more news…

There was a tornado in Oklahoma a couple days ago. Two that were particularly devastating. One that was in the most dangerous category. I look at the devastation on the television and it’s past my comprehension.

Until, that is, I think about what we are dealing with.

Compassion is the natural result of empathy, I think — understanding what other people are going through, if not the exact situation then being able to extrapolate from what is personally experienced to imagine a similar situation.

And what is similar is people leaving their homes in the morning, thinking they could play with (fill in the blank) when they got home. Then no home. Or, the remains of a home, but not much on first, second or third glance to salvage.

I know what that is like. I know how strange the landscape seems when landmarks are gone. I know what it is like to think there is nothing left and then return the next day and on subsequent days to find little hints of what was, and some of it good enough to keep.

I know what it is like to wake up and not know where you are for a few minutes, the light is wrong, the dog isn’t leaning against the bed, there aren’t any birds…

I know what it is like several weeks later to realize there were things that were supposed to be taken care of already and we haven’t started yet. So you start when you start, and the rest will fall into place as it can.

I know that in the weeks and months to come these families, like our family, will still be wondering what happened to (fill in the blank) and not sure if it was lost in the original upheaval or misplaced later on. And wishing…

I know they, like we are doing, will be wishing that things could just be normal. They don’t want new houses and new furniture and their “dream kitchen” — they want their HOME, and their treasured paintings drawn by loving toddler hands, and that wonderful teapot from the grandmother who is long gone.

And I know that in the midst of all of this, there will be good moments, too. Times that they smile, and times that they laugh. And they will feel strange, that in the middle of grieving and feeling lost, they also are “okay.”

I hope they will understand that it is normal to have alternating times of laughter and tears. It is normal to not always be looking around trying to figure out what to do next because soon — though never soon enough, it seems — things will start making sense again and they can get back to living.

It won’t ever be the same, and the losses will keep piling up for a while. But eventually, and sooner than they expect, it will be okay again. Not the same, but okay.

Parents, hug your children close, or call them to say you love them. Friends stay connected, even if just a phone call or facebook note. In difficult times, what saves us are the relationships.

To help the people in Oklahoma and other places devastated by tragedies and disasters, consider contributing to the Red Cross or Red Crescent.

Children and high-tech safety issues

Posted by on 17 Dec 2012 | Tagged as: children, citizenship, education, Family Matters, parenting, teaching, technology in education, Uncategorized

Note to readers: I began this 16 days ago, and then was so busy this month it languished. Hopefully it’s still somewhat relevant.

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November Notes

Posted by on 05 Nov 2012 | Tagged as: children, citizenship, Gardens and Life, good things, NaNoWriMo, poverty, social justice, teaching, Uncategorized

I don’t have a lot of energy to write at the moment. I taught six consecutive school days in a high school classroom, which was a lot of fun, but tiring. Different type of environment, and I spent a lot of energy helping the kids stay on task. And then, of course, I caught the virus they were sharing… and spent the weekend feeling pretty miserable. Better enough last night to get to Grant’s first SOGO concert of the year, and enjoyed myself.

Feeling good enough to get a start on the NaNo novel, not a good start, I had to spend a rather large chunk of writing and time wandering around before a good story began to gel. But now I am thinking it isn’t really meeting my need as an author. Second-guessing! Not a good trait…

What follows becomes a bit political in tone, fair warning that I am not advocating for any party or person, just expressing my concerns that people who could vote, don’t!

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Dads and other real heros

Posted by on 17 Jun 2012 | Tagged as: citizenship, Gardens and Life, good things, Making a Difference, parenting, social justice, Tom, Uncategorized

I get tired of the hyperbole so common in the media today, particularly when it comes to their descriptions of sports stars, actors and others in popular news. I have heard too often a high-scoring player referred to as a “hero.” And then they need to up the ante when they are faced with someone who actually does good in the world, who takes risks to help others, who is true to their values, who dies in order to protect others from harm.

Our children take what the media says seriously, and begin to emulate the non-heros. They feel as if they can never measure up to the unrealistic expectations, and they miss out on forming strong relationships in the rush to be “better than.”

True heros are not “better than” other people, they are just people. People who do amazing things in big ways or small. From the spectacularly visible work of women like Fawzia Koofi to the quiet work of people who go into dangerous neighborhoods to locate and protect children in danger, to the reluctant hero who in the moment makes a decision to do something dangerous to help another, heros take advantage of opportunities to make a difference. Many people in the public eye are doing difficult work, and good work, but are not heros. Many people who work daily at simple tasks are.

Sports “heros?” Not usually. Just highly visible people who make a lot of money until they use up their bodies.

Actor “heros?” Rarely. Recognizable, and often involved in a high-profile cause or another, but only as long as it gets them attention.

Daily heros? Many — from the parents and grandparents and other relatives who work long hours and come home tired but still have time for the kids. Teachers, firefighters, police, nurses, doctors and others who have complicated jobs and do them faithfully, year after year, never knowing how far their reach extends. They show us how to live good lives, no mean feat today.

Other heroes, like war heros and people who save others from drowning or fire, those show us all how to face our fears, face death and come out triumphant.

What is a hero? Heros are not perfect — and do not need to be. A hero is someone who demonstrates the best that humans can be at some point. A person who can, with one action, remind us all of our potential.

It’s father’s day. In the United States, people are having barbecues, parties and celebrations in honor of their fathers — and those who stand in for absent fathers. The dads who have been there for their families… daily heros. Celebrate the loving caregivers in your lives today.

Poem a Day April 7, 2012

Posted by on 07 Apr 2012 | Tagged as: citizenship, editorial, NaPoWriMo, poetry, Poetry Month, science, social justice, Uncategorized

Mitochondria (suggested by Krista)

subtle organelles
power-generators
of true
nuclear
energy

L’Engle wrote
long ago
in time
a wrinkle:
the difference between

what-is-known
and
what-is-not-yet-known
compared to
what-is-no-longer-known

the greatest danger
in science
is unknowing
and not caring
when knowledge is lost

meanwhile
minute
mitochondria
make
music

and we whistle while we work

I first heard the term mitochondria when I was about ten, I think, reading A Wrinkle in Time. What stuck with me was the amazing intricacies of science, how little “ordinary” people know and how easy it would be to forget it all.

I know I read a little about them when I was in high school, when I was studying for a biology test (I never took biology, this was an extra-curricular competition), and then not again until microbiology (see yesterday’s post). Their purpose is simple: take the materials that the phospholipids let through and use them to make power. I like the Cells Alive page about them, it is short and easy to follow. Biology for Kids also has a great explanation. I am always astonished and excited at the infinite possibilities and the rare and wonderful coincidences that create life as we know it.

For me, what popped into my head today was the effort of the bad guys in the Wrinkle in Time series to erase the work and knowledge of science. Science threatens abuses of power. Knowledge threatens despotic regimes. It is true that, generally, life goes on in the wake of serious abuses, but at what cost? Knowing how the world works, the mechanisms that drive life, allows us to enhance, to make choices that can save lives. Yes, knowledge can also be used for evil. But at the risk of getting too far onto my soapbox, I believe that the greater the number of people who understand, who know, the less likely it is that knowledge and science can be used for negative purposes.

I see, today, a rapid and relentless attack on the progress that was made during my own lifetime — a rejection of so many positive things; an attempt to create a new generation of people who know so little they cannot discern fact from fiction and who therefore readily follow any leader who makes pretty promises. As a teacher, my biggest goal in life is to share what I know (admittedly a drop in the bucket) with others, to help them retain excitement and to contribute in their own way to the lives of those around them. In remembering the past, in preserving and promoting knowledge, we can create a future that is ever better.

Saturday Fun

Posted by on 10 Mar 2012 | Tagged as: citizenship, education, fun, good things, hope, Making a Difference, parenting, Uncategorized

I suppose I have a strange idea of fun…

Looked forward to this all week, actually – woke up at 6, in Tacoma by 7:30, judged four flights in three rounds of individual events at the State Speech Tournament.

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