Monday, March 18, 2013

Politics Long and Short

Since I last wrote, we had a brief snowfall that blanketed the ground for a few hours before giving way once again to the warmer air. I received my replacement wedding ring in the mail, a beautiful tungsten ring with a Celtic knotted dragon design. It fits my left hand, while my recovered band of gold rests comfortably on my right. I have become very careful when flinging fruit peels onto the lawn from my porch. And the Cardinals elected a new Pope. In other words, the world chugs along. That means it is time once again to move away from personal matters – which, admittedly, are more fun for all of us – and wander back into the path of the moving semi that is world affairs. Sorry ‘bout tha’. Me and my causes; I burden you with them often enough. The truth is, I have very little power except to scream, to repeat, to speak up. I look at our government in the face of the problems facing our country and the world, and I shudder. Have the Republicans become totally irrelevant? Have the Democrats become completely redundant? Do any of them even realize how out of touch with the real world they are? Do any of them really care, as long as their expenses are paid, their campaigns financed, and their salaries and health care assured? There are three conditions of Man that keep us from greatness. They are slavery, poverty and war. It is within our grasp to eliminate all three. It is not only vital, it is possible. Every day we let those three conditions dictate to the world of men our true nature and our utter fallibility, the other issues that we and our planet face will not be solved, cannot even be properly addressed. Slavery, poverty, war. I repeat the statistics: 26 million people, most of them women and no small number of children, are held as slaves TODAY worldwide. In his childhood, one out of every two American children will experience at least one night going to be hungry and not certain where the next meal will come from, while one in four American children go to bed hungry EVERY NIGHT. It is still true that EVERY THREE SECONDS a child dies of hunger or hunger-related issues somewhere on the planet. Yet one United States dollar can provide seven people with a meal. Meanwhile, the United States spends over 700 BILLION dollars a year on its war machine and Congress argues about a balanced budget and “responsible cuts.” I, too, want balance. I just define it differently. I would approach the issue differently if it were mine to approach. But it does not matter. Those in power are well fed, well served and well armed. Those in power aren’t listening. UPDATE: It is now a week later. Saint Patrick’s Day, or as we call it in our house, “Coming To America Day,” came and went, with just a trace of snow to decorate the ground for a few brief hours. By the time I swept the white from the back porch, the rest of it began to melt in all seriousness. The week has been filled with a great deal of non-action on Capitol Hill. The biggest story in politics in America was speculation as to who might run on the Republican ticket in 2016. Please! I figure the Democrats have the ideal candidate waiting in the wings who will be hard to beat, depending on what her husband can get done in the meantime. I mean, let’s have a homemaker with great credentials who already knows the floor plan take the top spot. Of course I mean Michelle Obama for 2016! Unless we can go grass roots and start over, dump everybody and re-establish true Americanism (whatever that is), I think we should go for a minority woman who happens to have more experience dealing with the Presidency than anyone else except the President himself. As to the Republicans – if they are not careful, if they don’t stop lying to the American public that they really care about us, if they steadfastly refuse to balance not the budget but the playing field, and if they continue to put money ahead of people, there may not be a Republican Party left to run ANYONE in 2016.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Miracles and Bands of Gold

Today is Sunday, March 10, 2013. It is an amazing day. The sun is shining brightly here in Lakeside, Montana. The temperature is supposed to reach 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Yesterday morning I heard geese calling as they flew overhead. While some large parts of the United States are experiencing a last gust of winter, spring has come to the west side of the Rockies. It is a time of miracles. I know that the concept of miracles is a difficult one to grasp, or accept, especially in our techno-world. But a miracle is what you make of it; if someone calls something a miracle, it is one for them. It doesn’t have to be for anyone else. Just allow the one that comfort, and the world will not suffer in the bargain. Diane and I have been in Montana now for two years and three days. Every single one of those days we wake up glad to be here. We do not miss California, although we do miss family and friends. We do not miss the pace of living or the pressure to make ends meet. We still are pressed to make ends meet here, and likely always will be, like most human beings in one way or another. But the gaps are smaller here, and between the people – conservative as most of them are – and the countryside, the process of filling those gaps is so much more rewarding. We have both reached our weight-loss goals, although the work continues. This major level of success has emboldened each of us. There is a downside to weight loss, however. Our wedding rings no longer fit our left ring fingers, and we each had to switch them to the right hand. During the cold winter months even my right hand shrank, and one morning I realized my wedding ring was gone, vanished, disappeared off my hand. I had no idea where or when. I rushed back to my workplace, checked the huge trash can in hopes I pulled it off while removing my protective gloves. No ring. I searched the car, all my clothes, three or four times. I thought maybe it pulled off when I reached into my jeans pocket and fell somewhere. I even imagined it might have flown off while I was shoveling snow, and perhaps would turn up along the walkway when the snow began to melt. Spring has brought great snow melt. Only a few places on our property have stubbornly held onto the snow, like just in front of the front porch from where I or Diane would throw apple and pear skins for the deer. The path to the car, however, began to melt weeks ago, retreating and widening daily just where I would heave excess snow. So I watched and hoped and scoured the snow-free zone as it widened. I cursed when light snowfalls temporarily blanketed the ground again. I knew it was a long shot, but it was a shot. Last week I gave up hope. I knew I had lost the ring for good in a parking lot or a store, reaching into my pants pocket for my keys or a pen. Some lucky person found it and probably sold it for smelt. Unable to afford a gold replacement, and of course heartbroken to have lost this specific symbol of our 38 and counting years of marriage, I ordered a tungsten replacement with a dragon design. It would not replace the ring, but it would be a suitable replacement for the symbolism. It is on its way. By yesterday almost all the snow was gone. Our grandson Xander wanted to go outside to play kick-ball, so he and I ran around for a good half hour chasing and kicking and tossing the ball around the snow-free portion of the lawn. Only a very small patch of snow remained. Xander decided to stomp on it, and I decided it would be fun to toss the last of the snow in chunks into the tree line. This brought us near the spot where I liked to toss the fruit peels. There this small, round, shiny thing caught my eye in the sunlight. I slipped my ring back on my finger. It fit more snugly. Xander and I ran back into the house. He rushed to Diane, saying, “Oma! Oma! Opa found his wedding ring!” Funny how much a band of gold can mean. Funny, that miracles do happen.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Business of War

Jeannette Rankin put it in the simplest terms: “War is a crime.” The League of Nations agreed. The Kellogg-Briand Pact declared war was illegal in 1928. There were no ifs, ands, or buts. The League did not add, “except on Tuesdays.” Several millennia ago a holy man came down from a mountain with some words engraved on a couple of stone tablets. It was a set of rules. These were not guidelines or mere suggestions, “for your consideration.” They were Commandments. There were 10. Number 5 said, “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” Someone realized how hard that would be for us, that we needed an absolute or ten to follow, to point the way. Another man came along to make it simpler still. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Ten Commandments down to one golden rule. How much simpler can it get? “War is a crime.” There is no gray area here. There are no extenuating circumstances. In human law, perhaps, there are; in societal configurations, perhaps, there are ways to equivocate, excuse, allow, even promote breaking the higher rule. “Render unto Caesar” can be seen to mean a man has to serve his earthly masters while preparing for his heavenly one. I don’t think so, not when the earthly master demands actions contrary to one’s heart-felt beliefs. But that’s just me. And that me is disappointed in how little we have progressed from the time Moses came down Mount Sinai. I look at America and I see a warrior nation. Militarism is rampant, far beyond a sense of honor to our soldiers. I look at our history and I see that militarism looks back at me from every corner of our past. I just finished a study of the Plains Indian Wars, where Manifest Destiny dictated – or excused – the destruction of a culture that stood in the way of what we wanted. Manifest Destiny still exists in our hearts. We still think it is our burden and duty to make the world safe for democracy. In the bargain we are exporting our military around the world, and somehow we feel righteous in doing so. We spend seven hundred billion dollars a year on our military. The second highest military budget (2008 figures) belongs to China, at 122 Billion. I keep asking myself, why do we need so much hardware? I know it isn’t to protect our borders. I also know that standing armies are next to useless against insurgencies and terrorists. War is a crime. It is also big business. It is America’s business, make no mistake.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Scrapping Congress

Scrapping Congress It has been a long time since I wrote a blog. Time gets away from you sometimes. Sometimes a busy man doesn’t have time for everything, despite what my mother always said. Still, I do miss writing blogs, and I do miss throwing my opinion around like it was of very important weight. Indeed, there are times when I think I am carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. Most of the time, not so much. So what stirs me to write a blog today? I have been watching the politicians dance with and sling mud at each other at the same time. I have been watching this for days. Weeks. Months. I am getting tired of the bull, as I know 99 percent of Americans are. I long for the alternative that the British have – a vote of no-confidence. Throw them all out and force the President to form a new coalition. Congress is a joke. Worse, Congress is not a joke. And yet, that’s not why I write this blog. After the sequester budget cuts seem to be trickling down into our everyday lives, I am reminded of issues that seem totally unrelated to budget crises. I heard today that Yellowstone National Park is postponing the annual plowing of the West Yellowstone entrance for two weeks to save half a million dollars and cutting the summer help by 35. They’re doing their bit. At the same time our Secretary of State says emphatically that we will not supply weapons to the rebels in Syria. Totally unrelated news bytes, except that to my brain I feel a sudden admiration knowing the US government will trim services in a National Park and resist the temptation to turn a profit on weapons sales. There is a profound irony here. The deficit we face will be one trillion plus dollars. The tax increase from the last crisis vote will be about 650 billion. The net difference is a negative 350 billion. In a sense, that brings us back to the Ronald Reagan days, when the deficit increased annually by about 350 billion dollars. We are still in the hole here and we have 533 human beings holding the rest of us hostage. Most of those senators and representatives are wealthy or close to it. They all have the best health care available, for life. There is not one economist, housewife, scientist or real diplomat in the bunch. Like I said, I wish we could vote them all out. At the very least, it seems that a single representative, voted into office by a small small small percentage of the national voting public, can dictate national policy, or at least stonewall the wishes of the majority. This is the true meaning of Tyranny of the Minority. It certainly is not democracy.