It has been quite a while since my last blog. A great deal has happened in the meantime, and I'm not talking about the world of politics. I don't even intend to use the word “politics” in this blog, even though I realize I have said “politics” twice already, and now three times. I also do not intend to dwell on some negative energies thrown my way by some of the people around me, by doing un-Christian things to people I love. I realize saying that may peak your interest, and now you want to hear more, but that is not going to happen in this blog. What I intend to do instead is brag a bit and self-promote.
First, almost seven weeks ago I underwent surgery to replace my left knee. The recovery from that surgery is much more intensive than the recovery from the right hip replacement I had last December, though actually less painful. I am making solid progress in recovering range of motion, with the help of our local physical therapy team. I have a goal solidly in mind: to be ready to travel. On January 18 Diane and I are flying back to Holland for a short visit thanks to the generosity of my brother and sister-in-law. It will be so good to see our friends “on the flat,” as I like to say. Given that winter in Montana has not yet provided much snow (one good storm at the beginning of November, and not much since), I suspect that we may miss the worst of a short winter here by being over there for eighteen days. Ultimately, however, it is the gezeligheit of being with dear friends (many of whom are also family) enjoying hot coffee and cold beer, sometimes at the same sitting.
Second, and the real reason I am writing today, is that I just published my ninth book and sixth volume of poetry. It is called Rhymes and Reasons. The first section of the book contains six prose pieces that casually talk about “light verse,” as opposed to what I am still not certain, and other thoughts about creativity and, even, oops, politics. The rest of the book is filled with shorter poems, all of which rhyme, and an occassional photograph either from the public domain or from my own personal collection. I think the book is a fun read, a good exploration and a worthy effort. I do have one caveat: light verse does not mean funny or frivolous. It can be and often is very serious in tone and theme. My book contains a solid mixture, sort of like life itself.
Rhymes and Reasons, like all my books, is available through Amazon, Amazon Kindle, and CreateSpace, as well as through most other booksellers online. Pick up a copy and enjoy!
A Passing Thought (10-10-17) On Fire and Brimstone
I have heard people like “Judge” Roy Moore declare that the afflictions hitting America are the direct consequence of the changing values in our country. Pistol-packing Moore won his Party's nomination to run for Senator. Meanwhile, Bob Corker, who said at the outset of his first campaign for the seat that he would serve two terms only and is true to his word, gets criticized for honest opinion as being disloyal. To whom? Certainly not his own conscience, or the people of America. At the same time, the entire NFL falls under attack from the POTUS. Trump objects to those players who exercise free speech in a peaceful and respectful way, genuflecting toward the flag as if to pray for a better America, while the reason for their protest is ignored or minimized by the West Wing. The Trump Reality TV Show continually calls attention to itself with ever more outrageous comments and actions, continually pushing the envelope to see how far they can go. Trump once said he could kill a man in broad daylight on a city street and not lose a vote.
Not to put too fine a point on it, I have to ask my religious friends: The fires, the floods, the hurricanes, the mass shootings, the threat of thermonuclear war-----could these be God's punishment for us permitting Donald Trump to move into the White House?
Last Sunday, Mike Pence went to see the game between his hometown Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco Forty-Niners. In terms of the post-season the game was all but meaningless, but the half time break was dedicated to honoring Peyton Manning. Presumably, former Indiana governor Pence was there to tip his own hat to the football legend. But when players from the Niners took a knee—which everyone knew was going to happen—Pence waited until the end of the National Anthem and then walked out. No other fan followed him. The Vice-President's limo was outside the gate waiting for him; the driver had been told this might be a short stop. This means that, in the middle of scandal and controversy over other cabinet members using private and government aircraft for personal reasons, Pence flew Air Force 2 on the public dime from Las Vegas to Indianapolis just to exercise his right to free speech. In the process he attacked that very right as exercised by others. It was a gesture, a stunt, a calculated move designed for effect.
Trump and Pence continue to ratchet up the debate over “taking a knee.” Why? Because we are more likely to get excited about what happens at an NFL game than what Trump might be doing. It is classic misdirection. It distracts us from the Russian investigation into possible collusion and obstruction. It takes the spotlight off the small tweaks Trump is doing to undermine the Affordable Care Act. It hides Trump's terrible performance in providing needed leadership and aid to Puerto Rico. It obscures Trump's dangerous rhetoric about thermonuclear war. It deflects from the growing debate over Trump's very competency and just how dangerous he is to world peace. It also shifts the debate on race in America to a debate on respect. In true jingoistic rhetoric,Trump is pushing patriotism without clearly understanding what patriotism is. The flag is not America, but merely a symbol, The “Star Spangled Banner” is a difficult but beautiful song that also represents America, in particular, the America we wish America to be. Trump demands we stand for the anthem and salute the flag, as if both representations were America herself, and as if everyone MUST conform to a single meaning. But the flag does not mean the same to everyone. It represents an ideal, perhaps, to an immigrant, a work in progress to the descendant of a slave. It is the flag that flew over the camps liberated from Nazi barbarity in World War Two. It is also the flag that flew over the corpses at Wounded Knee. When someone takes a knee, he or she is saying, “Hey, we're not perfect. We've come a long way but your reaction shows that we still have a long way to go.” Attacking the gesture, Trump hopes to diminish it. What he is diminishing is the First Amendment itself, perhaps the most important 46 words ever penned and certainly the cornerstone of American democracy.
Let us repeat the reason for the gesture: young Black men in America are more likely to be killed by police than young white men even when they are guilty of no crime or transgression. This is a fact. Look it up. Young Black males are more often stopped by police and harrassed without cause, because of their skin color. Although Colin Kaepernick was the first to offer this peaceful and respectful exercise of his First Amendment rights (he did not incite a riot or even turn his back on the flag), this right has come under attack by the President. Trump misses the point. He misses it on purpose. Rights mean nothing to him, nor do the people across this great nation who continually use free speech and peaceful assembly to be heard.
Donald Trump disrespects the First Amendment. He disrespects the United States of America. One-third of the country stubbornly supports him. Most of this “base” seem to be white males reacting to the fear that their power is slipping away. Perhaps they are terrified of the possible repercussions to a group as cruel as they and their ancestors. But two-thirds do not. In a democracy, majority rules, if it does not, what do we have? Tyranny of the minority? Does that make Trump a tyrant? He seems to think it does. Just this morning I heard that he now wants to gag NBC News. The first sign of tyranny is making the Press the enemy. The second is limiting free speech.
//Thomas Jefferson did not like banks.
//To Alexander Hamilton do bankers give thanks.
//Generals and pacifists together close ranks
//Campaigning for President on behalf of Tom Hanks.
//Lincoln saw to it the Republic still stood,
//House divided, united, o'er expanded lands,
//Then TR, ol' Bully, watered the sands
//So we could go out selling the Tom Hanks brand.
//He'll have to be drafted, we all know it's true:
//Political ambition, the kind Kennedy knew,
//Is not something Tom Hanks would ever do,
//So getting him to accept is up to me and you.
//And if, like Bill Sherman, Tom Hanks tells us no,
//Says the cost to his family would be too steep,
//Crying and desperate, we must let it go
//And ask Meryl Streep.
//And if he says yes, we too will give thanks
//And ask Meryl please to run for Veep.
Great words, not mine:
1)Man is by nature a political animal.-----Aristotle.
2)The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy, that is, the search for a moral justification for selfishness.-----John Kenneth Galbraith.
3)In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.-----Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
4)The secret of politics? Make a treaty with Russia.-----Otto von Bismark.
5)Politics is not a bad profession. If you succeed there are many rewards, if you disgrace yourself you can walways write a book.-----Ronald Reagan.
6)A typical vice of American politics is the avoidance of saying anything real on real issues.-----Theodore Roosevelt.
7)If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all.-----Noam Chomsky.
8)A fool and his money are soon elected.-----Will Rogers.
9)If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there'd be a shortage of sand.-----Milton Freeman.
10)Unity in faith is theocracy; unity in politics is fascism.-----Maajid Nawaz
11)Liberalism is trust of the people tempered in prudence. Conservatism is distruct of the people tempered by fear.-----Dwight Gavid Eisenhower.
12)In a democracy, dissent is an act of faith.-----J. William Fulbright.
13)Politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.-----Charles de Gaulle.
14)One of the key problems today is that politics is such a disgrace, good people don't go into government.-----Donald J. Trump.
15)Suppose you were an idiot and suppose you were are member of Congress, but I repeat myself.-----Mark Twain.
16)Democracy is when the indigent, and not the men of property, are the rulers.-----Aristotle.
17)I love America more than any other country in the world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.-----James Baldwin.
I wonder if Colin Kaepernick had any idea how important he has become, via a gesture. By finding a peaceful and respectful way to lodge his protest—taking a knee during the playing of the National Anthem—he has brought holy hell down upon himself but, because of his celebrity, has opened a dialog across the nation that has reached the current White House a full year later. Donald Trump disapproves. He said so. He calls it disrespectful, a cause for termination. Kaepernick did not turn his back on the flag, he did not walk off the field. He took a position of supplication, in total silence, to draw attention to his concerns. To my mind it was an act of patriotism because a true patriot, when confronted with a failing in his country, finds a way to speak out. But our president does not seem to understand the First Amendment, or if he does, he does not seem to buy in. His disapproval has opened the door further, and entrenched Kaepernick's point. A new poll shows that three of four Americans now admit that race relations are still terrible in America. Taking a knee is almost a prayer to make things better, to notice. The practice has not stopped, but spread, all the way to Congress. Since football is more popular than Trump, I fear he has kicked the hornet's nest.
The trouble is, Trump likes kicking hornet's nests. He thinks it is fun and he thinks it entrenches him with his base. More, he thinks he can distract us from North Korea, Puerto Rico, health care, tax reform and the Russian investigation by going on tirades about what athletes do before the game begins. True, a slight majority of Americans agree that taking a knee is disrespectful, and some are fairly militant about it. I heard a great deal of vitriol about Kaepernick when he did it. I defended his action then, and I would kneel beside him today is I were in that position. Respect is not a given. Trump thinks it should be. But more, Trump thinks that he can get away with anything as long as he keeps firing salvos broadside against whatever his tweeting thumbs think of on a given day. I personally see Lady Liberty, the great symbol of our country, taking the field of a stadium with Trump watching in the stands, and she takes a knee.
They don't care if you die. Any member of Congress who votes for this newest anti-ACA bill is telling you this. The ACA, or Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has witrhstood various serious attacks designed to overthrow it at the cost of coverage for millions of Americans. This klatest proposal is as bad as or worse than those which came before, but they don't care what you think. Only 12% of Americans approved of the previous plan. Over 60% expressed relief when it failed—by one vote. This one is so bad that its sponsors are trying to sneak it through without proper debate and before its actual costs can be calculated. They are so anxious to undo something former President Obama accomplished that they have designed a bill that essentially returns American health care to a luxury for the rich instead of affordable for all. It is not a fix, or a repair; it replaces a system that needs work but is functioning better than they would have us believe, with a system that denies coverage or hikes premiums once again, or goes back to high deductibles for people who are betting they will only need coverage for a catastrophe.
These people have great insurance themselves. They don't need to care about you. They want to free up funds to pay for their tax cut for the rich. And the rich don't care if you die. For every job in America there are plenty in line waiting to take it. That means you, your parents, your children—there are plenty more where you came from. The pool is endless; so what if a few of us die? Please note how many people and organizations do care about you, among them the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, AARP, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, and the American Hospital Association. Also note, win or lose, how your representatives voted-----and remember it come the next election.
I was born in Holland in 1950. My parents immigrated to the US when I was two. I have many close friends and family on both continents. My wife Diane and I have been happily married since 1974. I have four children and one grandchild (two more are on the way). I love writing and sharing what I wrote most of all..