Politics and War

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Trying to stay upbeat, (however…)

Posted by on 12 Jul 2017 | Tagged as: citizenship, climate, economy, editorial, environment, Green Living, Politics and War, science, weather

Climate change.

I worry about the future, not that I would likely live to see the worst effects in my lifetime, but my children might — and if they have children, my grandchildren will.

Already, I believe that our climate has irrevocably altered. Things I enjoy like chocolate, coffee, vanilla… those may disappear in a couple decades, because the species that produce these treats are not likely to be able to adapt quickly enough to changing climate patterns. In our own part of the world, for several of the last ten years we have MISSED the “pre-spring” summer. When I was in college, we could count on getting a couple of weeks of near-summer weather in March before the rains returned. It would gradually warm up, and although we could expect rain as late as early July, we knew that mid-July to mid-September would be dry. So did the plants and animals, and growth cycles adapted to the peculiarities of our rainy season.

Here are two articles that I believe are based on science, that describe what has happened in the past when certain parameters are met.

NY Magazine 9 July 2017

CNN Sixth Mass Extinction 10 July 2017

I do necessarily think this will happen, but I think the possibility exists. What can I do about it? I am continuing to attempt to live lightly, with fewer purchases in general; trying to take fewer trips by cars with combustion engines; trying to eat locally when possible (with my allergies though I must supplement with additional food sources from far away…); using up and wearing out, recycling, upcycling, and other ways to prevent materials that have finished their first use from entering the waste stream.

I try to teach my children (my own children as well as my students) to be thoughtful, aware, and safe. I know that a worst-case scenario will be devastating world-wide; already such awful conditions exist in many nations near the equator, in areas that suffer drought, famine, and weather disasters on a regular basis. Cholera in Yemen. Fires in Europe and North America. Hurricanes on the East Coast and … this could be a long list. Long story short? Things are changing. They are changing quickly and the old ways of dealing with limited resources won’t work.

It’s not just the economic picture, which will definitely have to adjust; with many on the losing end finishing in poverty. It is the ecosystems that will suffer the most: animals in the wild, plants, the oceans. As each species adapts or, more likely succumbs, to the changes, our world will never be the same. Already, some changes are inalterable. They may not all be bad in the long run, but we will need to change to keep up with them.

For me, step one is to be aware. The second is to address in my own life that which I can without withdrawing from society and waiting to die. The third is to contact my elected officials, friends, others who may care; yes, I vote! But I am ill-equipped with my allergies to participate in demonstrations or sit-ins, my professional training and avocational interests do not equip me to invent a device or material that can restore our atmosphere and biosphere. For other steps, I must hope there are people who will fill in.

Am I worried? Yes. Do I lose sleep over this? Not often — Not sure what the benefit would be of that! But I am doing what I can, to the best of my ability. And I still hope, because my children and my students are worth it. I do what I can.

Do you?

NaPoWriMo Twenty-Seventh Post

Posted by on 27 Apr 2017 | Tagged as: NaPoWriMo, poetry, Poetry Month, Politics and War

The light
at the end of the tunnel
may be salvation
or an oncoming train
but
at least
it’s not dark any more.

Not all change is welcome
Not all change is kind
Not all change is
but
at least
it’s something different.

I don’t believe that one person’s hell is any better
or worse than another’s
but
at least I know
it’s an illusion to be challenged.

Don’t believe what you hear
or see
unless you can touch it with your own hands
it’s just a passing memory.

More NaPoWriMo

NaPoWriMo Eighth Post

Posted by on 08 Apr 2017 | Tagged as: Gardens and Life, NaPoWriMo, Peace Making, poetry, Poetry Month, Politics and War

It
came from the south
advancing in waves
crashing against the mountains,
retreating, and
moving on.

It
buffeted the trees
and the grasses
and the birds
flying high or low
could not escape
the crush of the moment.

It
moved alongside the traffic,
now pummeling against,
now swiping left
or right,
and the cars dodged within the lanes
driven on
into the darkness ahead.

It
pushed the waters into hills
leaving valleys in the lakes
gasping for time
the frogs and the fishes
at once hidden and exposed
waves on the riverbanks
reveal and destroy.

It
tore apart the peace of spring
rent the fabric of newborn fields
pierced that moment in the day
when quiet was about to fall
and fell
into the terror of the storm.

[This poem was inspired by a drive north in the middle of a windstorm that uprooted trees, caused multiple accidents, and damaged many areas. This coincided with the U.S. taking military action without approval of congress during a terrible upheaval in the nation.]

More poets can be found at NaPoWriMo.net

Where there is life, there is hope.

Posted by on 29 Jan 2017 | Tagged as: editorial, Politics and War

I do not know where this post’s title comes from — it’s so old that it has entered the public domain. According to some websites it is from Cicero, translated into English in the 1500s.

Is this true?

[small digression: I distinguish between “truth” which is a useful and generalizable sensibility that perhaps not everyone shares, and “fact” which is a repeatable phenomenon, readily observed by anyone.]

Right now, the republic that I was born into, the modern democratic processes that I grew up with, are endangered. However, there are still enough people who believe in the basic principles (“truths”) laid out in the Constitution; still enough people who are speaking out and showing up; still enough laws and lawmakers that are established and supportive of the conventional mechanisms that I believe this nation may yet be saved.

Unlike the last time tyrants and fascists began their march across a continent, there continues to be sufficient media and public discussion that groups can organize and respond in positive ways to an overreach of the government.

This is my belief: It is based on my experiences, my hopes and fears, my knowledge and training. It may or may not be factual! I do believe, however, that where there are enough adults who remember their civics lessons on the importance of public action and democratic participation that this nation can retrieve its reputation and become again a welcoming, forward-looking, progress-enabling home.

Back online.

Posted by on 25 Jan 2017 | Tagged as: Politics and War

Posts will continue to be sporadic, but I feel compelled to make them.

My first reaction to the last general election was to despair. To run. To hide.

But I have not only my own children to think of, as they start their adult journeys, but the lives of my students and their families.

Not everyone is a good person — and the election and first few days of a new administration has proved it.

However, I do believe that most people are kind at heart, that we want the same things for our families: sound shelter, enough food, an education that helps us get our jobs, and jobs that fulfill not merely a paycheck but let us live as our best selves.

I am struggling to find the right way to approach what I see coming. I am struggling to know how far to go, how much to say (or write), how much I should push myself on various things like seeking to maintain my teaching certification and political action. My health prevents me many times from being physically present, but I am increasingly upset by the lack of response to my letters and other written communications.

One thing I have chosen to do is to not read articles or watch TV that features or discusses the appallingly self-serving and vulgar administration. That feeds into the narcissism — these are people who confuse notoriety for fame, and bullying for power. I shall not mention their names on this website. If our systems works (as I continue to hope it will — I still hope that the Republican party will backtrack on many of their threats against the working poor and immigrants), then the Constitution will guide us toward removal of those who threaten our posterity.

Thus, I am fearful — and also hopeful. At some point, the hatred and mistrust that is being sown by politicians and their sycophants will result in either massive devastation to our nation and the world; or the resultant backlash in the next election cycle (unless they find a way to circumvent elections…) will allow more positive change again. Possibly – and increasingly likely – there will be world-wide chaos once again. We are already seeing so much.

But I am also seeing increasing contacts being made by people who are working for positive results. I know that the Constitution provides strong guidance, and expect that our local work will yield strength. There is hope, if people of good will band together and say, with a unified voice: NO to tyrants, YES to compassion. The world has survived tyrants, war-mongering, and protectionism before. We can still restore peace and prosperity.

Offline

Posted by on 09 Nov 2016 | Tagged as: citizenship, editorial, politics, Politics and War, poverty

[The site was restored later that month… we must not give in to fear, we must not be afraid to speak out against injustice, and we must not be cautious when going to the aid of others.]

I have taken this site offline for a while.

Pages are gone, posts are gone. Archived, but no longer available.

I have not been able to keep up a quality online presence since my eyes started to go bad, and they are not improving. With teaching, there is neither time nor interest in blogging.

Politics – a long view

Posted by on 01 Oct 2016 | Tagged as: editorial, Making a Difference, politics, Politics and War, Uncategorized

I would like to know why a man who has had multiple wives and mistresses isn’t called out for trying to shame a faithful wife for her husband’s infidelities? I would like to know why the Republican party decided to nominate a man with no plan, with no demonstrated ability to interpret or even follow the law? I would like to know why any person can assert that Trump is perfect because he says what he thinks, but then doesn’t make the obvious connection between his words against religious and racial minorities (and women, and people with disabilities) and increasing hate crimes as the groups who most identify with him feel validated?

He rails against the people in power, yet wields that power for his own gain unapologetically, benefitting from his ability to hire teams of expensive legal experts, and intimidating and trampling hard-working people with no qualms. Still, he seems to be attracting the very people he despises as his “base” in this election. There is some truth to the idea that the way to keep the masses down is to tell them a Cinderella story and imply that if they support the oppressors they will work harder and accept worse treatment on the hope they might someday themselves rise to the ranks of the oppressors.

If I were to refuse to pay my taxes, declared bankruptcy to avoid paying financial obligations I had the means to meet, treated my spouse with disrespect, treated my co-workers and employees with contempt, and encouraged people to engage in violent acts against people who disagree with me I would be in jail. And rightly so. Here we are, with a person who (if not made wealthy by the labor of those he has taken advantage of) would be facing multiple prosecutions — who is potentially going to be elected president of my country.

Am I worried? Surprisingly, yes. I am a student of history. I can point to past and current events around the world and in the United States when people like Trump have held power — and the unimaginable suffering they create. I would like to know why anyone would support this man, and the party who supports him. I would appreciate insight into how a person can consider herself (or himself) a kind or thoughtful person when the candidate she or he supports demonstrates only the worst characteristics of humanity.

I used to vote almost a straight ticket from one party, but in the last 20 years have had fewer and fewer candidates I could support. This year, for the first time, I cannot find any candidate from that party, in local, state, or national elections, to support. On the national level, the party I used to support has become the party of obstructionist politics, with the legislative leaders of that party refusing to consider legislation or hold hearings on necessary appointments to keep the government operational. Meantime, the policies and politics of the “minor” parties at the local level are bizarre (which may not be true in all locations!), and the candidates those same parties are promoting on the national stage are neither articulate nor thoughtful about anything other than their few key issues. The president of the United States needs to be able to understand, make decisions about, and delegate authority to people with the intelligence and experience to help. The minor party candidates simply do not articulate coherent ideas on enough topics to make me confident in their training or intelligence.

For young people considering the minor party candidates as alternatives to the major candidates, please consider what happened when Al Gore and G.W. Bush were undermined by Ralph Nader. Because Nader took votes that might otherwise have gone to Al Gore, the election was close enough that a court decision threw the election to Bush — in the recounts later, it was determined that Gore actually had the votes to win, but by then the election had been certified. G.W. Bush and his cabinet participated in some of the more disastrous foreign policies; the world continues to reel and fall apart as the result of events set in motion by his leadership. Our world is slowly dying as a result of his party’s refusal to allow the U.S. to take a leadership role in alternatives to fossil fuels and the rape of landscapes in the pursuit of wealth.

For those who think that this is the year for a protest vote, that their vote doesn’t matter, please look toward Great Britain, where even the sponsors of “Brexit” admitted they didn’t really expect to win; where the long-term consequences of that vote will be affecting the lives of the young people, working people, for decades. They want to have a re-vote. Like people accustomed to video games, where the game can be restarted from a previously saved version and different choices made… But such opportunities, in the real world, do not exist.

I readily admit to being old — my life is on the downslope already. My bigger concern is for the world my children face, as they enter the world as adults. We have time to correct the course our nation and world are on. We can do this by being thoughtful about the actual experience and policies of the people who are running for office at all levels. There is no vote that is unimportant, there is no race or candidate that doesn’t deserve your thoughtful participation.

Yes, I will vote. I will read the voter’s pamphlets to see what the candidates took the time to write — a thoughtful, coherent articulation of important philosophies and policies, or self-aggrandizement and promotion? Or nothing at all (really — in local and state elections particularly candidates sometimes cannot figure out the deadline… do you want a person who cannot read a calendar in office?). I will look at candidate websites. I will, for races where I am unsure, look for the public record of past votes and actions (if they have held office before), or watch for publications that vetted them. I will consider what people who have worked for and with the candidates say about them.

Yes, it matters what the candidates say and do. It matters what kind of person they are.

Yes, I will vote.

Yes, it matters.

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.

Sermons and Interpretations (delayed post)

Posted by on 26 Feb 2016 | Tagged as: British Columbia, musings, Politics and War, social justice, Uncategorized

I do NOT know when I wrote this! Probably before 2008. Not before 2007. I think it was when the boys and I were visiting friends I had met online. Here is the unedited text:

The sermon was about the Martha and Mary story where Jesus tells Martha that Mary has chosen the better path… and the rector’s take on it was based in part on what society was like at THAT time (an approach that I know some people find odd) rather than on society as we know it.  At the time the story was written (and purportedly took place), women were definitely second-class citizens.  Like many arab societies today, women did not sit with men, nor speak with men who were not part of the immediate family.  Taken in that perspective, the meaning shifts slightly — not to belittle the people who do the necessary work, but to remind us all that there are some times that it is good to sit and listen and talk…  it was not a scold of Martha, but an affirmation that women also had the right to participate in the intellectual and spiritual life of the community.

This is how I have generally made sense of this passage and similar ones in the Christian New Testament.

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