Thursday, July 30, 2015

My Candidate for the Face of the $10

The Lady on the Ten: In the year 2020, Alexander Hamilton will step down from his place adorning the $10 bill, to be replaced by a woman. It will mark the first time that a lady has graced the face of one of our paper currency denominations. Of course, women have been used as models in the past for sculptors and artists to create the various images of our most iconic Lady Liberty on our coinage. That trend was fazed out during the middle of the 20th Century as coins bore famous American men starting with Lincoln on the penny in 1909, then Washington (quarter, 1932), Jefferson (nickel, 1938), FDR (dime, 1946) and JFK (half dollar, 1964). Dwight David Eisenhower was the first “real” person to adorn the one dollar coin in 1971, but he was replaced first by Susan B. Anthony and then Sakagewea, before the dollar program began its Presidents series. Accompanying the Presidential dollars were corresponding First ladies on the bullion $5 gold coin. But our paper money remained male, until now. Several candidates for the honor have been put forth, including Susan B. Anthony, Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, even Betsy Ross. Others I have not heard mentioned but equally deserving include Jane Addams, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Rosa Parks, and more. Each, except perhaps Ross, was a mover and a shaker for social change. With that criterion in mind, I suggest another name, very highly thought of up here in Montana: Jeannette Rankin. Jeannette Rankin has many distinguishing characteristics, as a social worker, reformer, and peace activist. But her greatest claim to fame comes from the fact that, in 1916, Rankin became the first female elected to Congress in the history of the United States. Women did not yet have universal suffrage in 1916, but Montana women did. Several states in the West had approved by referendum the right of women to vote. In 1916, Rankin won a hard fought campaign and went to the House of Representatives. The first vote of that newly assembled House turned out to be yay or nay on America’s entry into World War One. Rankin, and 49 others, said no. She did not win in 1918, largely because the mining interests in the State opposed her, and they had more clout. It did not stop Rankin from outspoken activism. In particular, she championed women’s and children’s rights and remained an outspoken pacifist throughout her life. In 1940 she was persuaded to run again, after over twenty years. This time the voters of Montana returned her to the House, just in time for the vote to declare war on Japan. Again, Rankin voted no, saying that she could not in good conscience send another woman’s son to his death. She was the only dissenting vote in 1941. Hard as the other representatives tried to get her to make the declaration unanimous, she stood her ground. She did not run again in 1942. She lived the remainder of her life stubbornly simply, coming out to speak on her chosen issues whenever the time was appropriate. During the Vietnam era, Jeannette Rankin became a symbol for opposition to the war and even marched in peace demonstrations well into her 80’s. Although pacifism is not always seen as a virtue in America, Rankin was so much more than a staunch opponent to war. She was a dynamo, a force in American politics, and the first lady Congressman as well as the only person to vote against entering both WWI and WWII. She demonstrated two key American traits: fierce independence of thought, and the courage to stand up for her convictions no matter the opposition. Honoring her by placing her image on the $10 would honor us all.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Resurrection: Something Light

The Acura is home. The Acura is safely seated like a sentinel in our driveway, about twenty feet from where I’m sitting. The Acura had major surgery, but fortunately less invasive than we feared. The heart transplant was not needed. Instead, the Acura got a valve overhaul, some bypass maneuvering, and a stent in one of the major arteries. The heart is beating at a regular clip and didn’t even need a pacemaker…Yet. But the Acura is old. Her shoes are still reasonably fit, and they are reasonable shoes. But her joints ache. She has arthritis. She groans when she turns, even a little bit. She has been resurrected from the probability of being traded for something younger (just like a man to think it, eh?), but joint surgery is not far off. Oh, well – I can relate. At least she’s clean. Really, really clean. It was the most expensive car wash I ever paid for, but I think it was worth it.

Trumped Up

Donald Trump is popular, and his popularity seems to be growing even as his words seem more abrasive. He represents a fairly large backlash, from those who have come to believe all the horror stories about what is happening to their country, afraid to lose what they have or think they have, and resistant to change. Change is coming. Good or bad, change is inevitable, and sensible people want to make it smooth and beneficial. They are willing to take the time, keeping an open mind for as long as possible, and dig deeper, whatever the issue or fear that confronts them. Donald Trump says “Bah, humbug” to all that. He says the American Dream is dead but he can revive it. He says he knows how to defeat ISIS but won’t tell us his plan. He says strange things about immigrants and war veterans that, judging from recent polls, must reflect the thoughts of many. He has tapped into a primal fear among those who see America slipping away into a socialist hotbed of liberal thinking. Not just slipping, plummeting. Hell, we elected a Black President, for Chrissakes. Even the supposedly conservative Supreme Court has turned bitterly liberal. The Donald speaks to that. He also speaks to the disillusionment we all have with the system that purports to be running our nation on our behalf. The system is broken, so many of us say, because the people we elected to hold office within that system cannot seem to find common ground for action. It is a complaint that has been registered frequently in the course of our history, but seems to be more steadfast, stubborn, and adversarial now than ever before. Donald Trump stands outside that system. When he opens his mouth the last thing he sounds is Presidential, yet his outrageous words express hidden sentiments many are afraid to express. He speaks for many about the dysfunctional family called American politics, like the crazy uncle who invited himself to dinner. The adults shudder while the children are amused.

Huckabee and the Holocaust

Huckabee and the Holocaust: Marching us to the ovens, Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has tried to steal the headlines for outrageous comments from the Donald. It worked, for a second or two. The Today Show invited him to their first half hour on Tuesday, and did little to challenge him as he stood by his comment that the Iran Nuclear Deal was akin to Chamberlain appeasing Hitler at Munich. I have used the Hitler comparison myself, many times, but have come of late to realize that all comparisons to Hitler are nothing less than an attempt to inflame ignorant minds (not stupid, there is a difference!), coming from someone with a certain lack of imagination himself. Like I said, I put myself there when I see historical similarities, but I try to back what I say with facts. When Mr. Huckabee talked about having seen the oven doors and made his comparison between Iran and Nazi Germany and Obama and Chamberlain, he missed several key facts. It is easy to look back 75 years and see our mistakes, but to impose what we know on the people who made their decisions before the facts is hubris. The Holocaust was well under way before World War Two began, and yet no one knew. Or, if they did, they blind-eyed it. To portray our involvement in beating Hitler as an effort to save the Jews of Europe is a lie. We did not know the extent of the horrors the Nazis unleashed until we began liberating death camps in 1945. Munich 1938 was a failed attempt to stave off another disastrous war, with the pain of the brutal War to End All Wars still fresh in everyone’s mind, particularly among the English and French. There were no sanctions in place and there were no large armies doing their maneuvers on Allied bases. Former ally Russia had turned Communist and was isolated from and feared by the West. The League of Nations was a wonderful concept that did not include Germany or Russia and had no authority to enforce any of its decisions on behalf of its members. Hitler’s Germany had pulled itself out of complete economic ruin and national embarrassment imposed by the Peace of Versailles. Then, on its own, Germany built the largest army in Europe and set forth to challenge the world. Jews were a scapegoat for German woes and ethnic cleansing became methodical policy. But none of the combatants, including the United States, entered World War Two over the Jewish Question. To say or imply that we did misses the truth as it was in 1933, 1936, 1938, 1939 or 1941. Those leaders at the time who knew or suspected what Hitler was up to either could not or chose not to do anything about it. Memory is convenient. Remember the parts we can use, forget the parts that are inconvenient. Retrofit new information to alter past reality. The leaders of Iran have used highly inflammatory rhetoric in verbal attacks on Israel and on the United States. The word war has gone both ways: Israel regularly threatens to bomb Iranian facilities if they prove to be producing material for a nuclear bomb, while American leaders constantly refer to Iran as a Rogue Nation and the Number One Sponsor of Terror worldwide. Neither side trusts the other, which is probably wise. But Mike Huckabee tells us not to trust ourselves or the other five nations who helped broker this deal, or the United Nations which supports the deal enthusiastically. We have huge armies and we have sanctions that can snap back into place instantly, as needed. Meanwhile we offer Iran the first step back into the family of nations. Isolated, like Russia in the 1930’s, or facing economic ruin, like Germany in the 1920’s, Iran is infinitely more dangerous to world peace. And, as a local newspaper editor wrote in his own editorial that was surprisingly favorable to the deal, there is always time to start a war. Lets try diplomacy. Memory is convenient, Mr. Huckabee. We ignore or forget all our alliances with terrible people who committed human rights violations, because it is convenient to do so. At this very moment we are working closely with Turkey in the fight against ISIS. The Turks are keen to deny and forget the Armenian Genocide of 1915 that they undertook with methodical efficiency. They also hate the Kurds in Syria, who are our allies, as much as or more than they hate ISIS. They are using the opportunity to bomb ISIS positions to attack Kurdish targets at the same time. Yet we call Turkey our ally and friend, because it is useful to do so and, honestly, how long should we hold a grudge? So, Mr. Huckabee, before you go making ludicrous comparisons to events long passed that you obviously do not fully understand, perhaps you should keep your stones to yourself.

Friday, July 24, 2015

DYI: The Lion of Waterloo

Did You Know? The Lion Mound of Waterloo: There is a hill near Waterloo, upon which stands a lion. It was built between 1826 and 1830, first the hill from the dirt that surrounded it, then the statue cast in nine bronze sections and assembled. There are 226 steps from the base to the top. From the top you can see what once was the battlefield called Waterloo, where nearly 150,000 men fought each other two hundred years ago.. But this is not a British monument to that battle. It is Dutch. Only a handful of events in human history have captured our imaginings for all time; so many among those are battles. Thermopylae. Hastings. Agincourt. Gettysburg. Normandy. At or near the top is Waterloo. Often portrayed as a British victory against heavy odds, the truth is that Wellington commanded an army of allies against a mostly French army of almost equal size. Reports vary, but Napoleon commanded around 77,000 men. Wellington’s force numbered 73,000, of which 20,000 were Dutch. The Dutch commander was the Prince of Orange, oldest son of the newly crowned King William I and destined to become King of the Netherlands upon his father’s voluntary abdication in 1840. Napoleon escaped his captivity in exile early in 1815, allegedly by inventing a palindrome to win a bet and his freedom: “Able was I, ere I saw Elba.” He immediately drew great support in France and launched a new campaign to regain all that he had lost three years before, and shatter the peace that had followed that exile. A strong force of allied forces amassed as quickly to oppose him, comprise mostly of British, Prussian and Dutch troops. The Princes of Orange time and again had proven to be formidable military leaders, and this young son of William I was no different. Two days before the critical battle, Dutch forces ignored a command from Wellington and engaged the French left flank at Quatre Bras while Wellington, shocked at the speed of Napoleon’s advance, quickly reinforced the Allies. But with defeat imminent, but before Napoleon’s main army could reach Quatre Bras, Wellington pulled all his forces into a strategic retreat to a defensible position just south of the village of Waterloo. On June 18, the two armies clashed head on, fighting a grave battle until the French were routed. Over 40,000 soldiers were killed or wounded on that single day. Among the wounded, young Prince William of Holland caught a musket ball with his left shoulder. He would never have full use of his left arm again. In 1826, his father ordered a monument built to honor both his son and the heroic Dutch troops both at Quatre Bras and Waterloo. Napoleon was finished. He later was exiled to an even more remote island, Saint Helena. He died there in 1821. To this day he is remembered as one of the greatest and most powerful men in human history, but Waterloo ended his final attempt at claiming dominance over Europe. It also stilled European lust for war, at least for a while.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Depression: The Blame Game

A lot of people don’t understand Depression. They say, “Look at your life, what do you have to be depressed about?” Depression doesn’t work like that. Depression is universal, democratic: it hits all stations in life, in good times and in bad, for specific reasons or none at all. It does not even need a reason to exist, it just does, sometimes for long and crippling periods. Not everyone gets depressed, but most of us do and some of us find Depression is a battlefield. On that field are many. You are not as alone as you might feel. It’s bad when the thing that matters most to do in the day is matching tiles in a Mahjong solitaire game on line. It’s bad when you start thinking to yourself, who’s gonna miss me when I’m gone? Writing a blog becomes a chore, let alone something longer or more intense. I laugh, I joke, I hide in plain sight (not very well, it seems). I could blame all sorts of circumstances, and some may contribute to timing. My grandson Chase turns one year old in two weeks and I can’t afford to travel to California to be there. My car is threatening suicide and I can’t afford to replace it. Death, my friend whom I never want to meet and of whom I am literally terrified, came knocking on my door last February, chuckling softly and whispering, barely audible, “Just visiting.” Donald Trump is popular. I have a loving family, a beautiful, intelligent and supportive wife, and I live in some of the most beautiful country in the world, yet I feel isolated and alone. I think I would feel that way in the middle of San Francisco right now. I have four children, all grown and two with families of their own, and still I worry. I haven’t sold a book in months, much less finished a new one, and I have more projects than I have time. Yet I don’t feel much like writing. A lot of people have it much worse than I do – I am overall very fortunate – but that’s irrelevant; it only means I feel guilty about being so blessed and yet depressed. But the Big D is its own self-contained and self-fulfilling Montser… and the closet door is open. Just saying it out loud, plus a good night’s sleep, helps. But the sadness is there. It cannot be ignored.


Insomnia: A man likes to practice the things at which he is talented, particularly the things he likes to do. Practice keeps him sharp, engaged, fresh, at the top of his game. I love to sleep. I’m good at it. I dream frequently and enjoy the world of my dreams. I seldom remember my dreams in any great detail but that does not matter. Dreams mean REM sleep, and that means 90 minutes of restful, mostly unconscious bliss. I just wish I were better at falling asleep and staying asleep. As a child and well into adulthood, I was horrible at getting to sleep. It would take me hours (I mean that literally), no matter what time I retired for the night. It wasn’t until marriage that I seemed to develop a rhythm that let sleep come within twenty minutes of placing my head on the pillow. That easier slippage into dreamworld lasted for years, with only occasional lapses. But now, over the past two years or so, dating back to the time my misdiagnosed chest pains made bedtime worrisome, insomnia returned with a vengeance. I have a hard, hard time. I rest. I know I rest. But sleep itself comes to me reluctantly and dances with me for short spells. Whether it’s an ache or a worry or a full bladder, I awaken and the struggle to return to sleep begins. Maybe that’s one reason people drink or take sleep aids – to relax and numb themselves. It’s especially bad when I know the alarm is set, as if I’m afraid to miss the awakening. I have learned one thing: you can’t force it. I’ve learned another: I hate being tired. And a third: I’m not so good at sleeping as I thought, although I try to set aside a third of every day for practice.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

What's Wrong with Summer TV?

What Happened to Summer TV? I just finished watching the eighth episode (of ten) of M. Night Shamayalan’s mini-series, Wayward Pines. I don’t know why. I stopped watching the summer series Aquarius after just four episodes. That one was set around the time of the Manson Murders about a fictional detective getting used to Black Power, the Vietnam War, new age hippies, and the Miranda Rule all at once. David Duchovny plays the cop, and I liked him – at first. But when Fox Mulder beat Charles Manson half to death I stopped caring even about him. The show was interesting whenever Manson was not part of the scene, but I saw Helter Skelter. I did not need a fictional recap without any character worth rooting for, someone who didn’t turn out to be a monster, too. Maybe if Duchovney had killed Manson before the horrible murders, that alternate history might have had some interest, but I gave up waiting. Wayward Pines started out strong and intriguing. People were disappearing after car accidents and reappearing in a hospital in a small town they could not leave. People who tried were executed. It sounded a bit like Harvest Home meets Shamayalan’s own The Village. But by Episode 5 and the Big Reveal, I didn’t care. The characters were flat, even the megalomaniac puppeteer running the show. He had been kidnapping people to populate a single town in the future to preserve the human race against what it had devolved into because of genetic mutation. Humanity had become a mass of cannibalistic Cro Mag’s, Man gone feral, in this – pardon the overused word – dystopian future. Why not just have Zombies? So he decided he had to kidnap them, lie to them, bully them and imprison them to keep them safe. His faith in the humanity he wants to preserve seems a bit jaded. Couldn’t he have found volunteers? Well, he did have some – experts to help run the town, the power grid, the supply lines, and the electric fence that keeps the others, our degenerate future, out. Couldn’t he show them the truth now, realizing that they would see their future rests with him? The villagers think the world has not changed, either in point of time or reality, and that they are nothing more than prisoners in some sort of diabolical experiment. Almost everyone, that is. Those in the know teach the children – the breeders of a future normal human race – the truth, and help them keep the secret from their clueless parents. Can’t ever let them know – I mean, really? And now we have apparently good people doing terrible things for what they think is the Common Good. All that deception and brutality would lead to rebellion, wouldn’t it? Which, of course, seems to be the point, but they did stuff like this with a much more deft hand on Sliders years and years ago. There are only two episodes left. I’ve invested this much time, I guess I’ll stick it through. I just fear the Great letdown, just as Dig brought me this past spring. That one gave us ten episodes leading to a great apocalyptic crisis, but when the crisis came it just fizzled into nothingness and a busted dam. If Joseph Stalin had only a village to run, it would be Wayward Pines, a dull and boring place from which there is no escape. I myself might prefer the Wild. I do admit that the plot sounds better on paper, or would if it were in any way original, but the presentation and the acting are bland and soulless. Take this future, please! The penultimate (thank God) episode was a bit more interesting, I admit, and the finale promises to be the Zombie Apocalypse redux. At least, Suits is back. And thank God for BBCAmerica. They gave us the fascinating and mysterious Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. This one presents a reinvented history of England at the time of the Napoleonic Wars, when magic is an accepted reality but only studied, not applied. Then one magician begins to practice again, and his apprentice learns how to apply his skills for the greater good. Meanwhile, other powers awaken. Seven episodes, no waiting (except for the DVR to kick in), and absolutely no boredom or, for that matter, cannibals. And Doctor Who is coming!

What's Wrong with the Iran Deal

What’s Wrong with the Iran Deal? Short answer: not much. The critics of the deal are blustering and posturing out of a deep seated need to oppose the President of the United States. Any real and genuine concerns about the deal were hammered out in negotiations. I admit I have not read the document, but what I understand from what I have read about it tells me that the deal is, as our President tells us, the best possible alternative. I see no one in Israel or our own Congress offering up something better. And I do not understand how an Iran no longer engaged upon or capable of producing a nuclear bomb is more dangerous to the world than the Iran we have now. I find it odd that the same politicians who clamored to support the latest trade bill (which the majority of Americans oppose) without debate, now wish to undermine a weapons-limiting deal (which the majority of Americans support) before fully understanding its ramifications. People like to compare the Iran deal with appeasing Hitler at Munich in 1938. The comparison does not stand up. Hitler had already taken several bits of foreign soil; the Allies weakly conceded those captures on the mere promise that Hitler would stop, without any method of monitoring him or real consequence in place. The threat of war was not real to him. Militarily, the Allies were weak and weary. The Iran deal is all about inspections and consequence. Sanctions lifted could easily and rapidly be put back in place at the first infraction. Bringing Iran back into the community of nations we call the World could lead to positive steps by their new regime down the line, but, regardless, keeping them from building a nuke has to be a good thing no matter the politics of the regime. I think the better comparison would be to Nixon going to China. China was seen (by us, at least) as a dangerous threat. Even after Nixon went and came back, we were cautious, but China gradually became both a major player on the world stage and a major trade partner of ours, and Asia is more stable than ever before. Iran is not Hitler’s Germany. Nor is it Nixon’s China. Iran is one powder keg in an incendiary region of the world. Instead of defusing it, our so-called patriots in Congress seem ready to light the fuse with American blood. If that is their viable alternative, if they truly believe that war with Iran is in the best interest of Corporate America’s bottom line, they ought to tell us so, and why. And if we elect one of those bozos to be our new President, then we are even more primitive than I thought. Remember, too, that the United States is only one of six nations involved in the negotiations with Iran. The others are Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. You would never have seen that sort of unity in 1938. Thank you, Richard Nixon.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

In The Pink

My heart is rehabilitated. My heart has completed its sentence for its crimes against humanity – my humanity. There is still a part of my heart that earnestly believes that I am actually to blame and my heart is an innocent victim of my own physio-syncracies, but, of course, my heart is wrong. Otherwise, why would they call it “cardio-rehab?” At any rate, thirty-six plus sessions, miles on the treadmill, thousands of steps on the Newstep, and a cross state journey on a bicycle that never actually took me anywhere, and I have finished the program. I finished stronger than I started, which was the goal. I finished strong enough to put two coats of fresh pink paint on our guest room walls, even standing on a stepladder and sometimes on my head. I also have a contract, signed and sealed, between myself and my heart: no murder-suicides, please. So I am in the pink, and so will be our guests. The only question now that I am a graduate from rehab, what about probation?

A Brag, a Tear and a Whine

Black Heart Magazine just published a new piece by yours truly, “A Letter to Siegfried Sassoon.” You can see it on Black Heart’s Facebook page, and I wish you would please take a look! While you’re at it, Like my piece and feel free to peruse the other exciting pieces on the page. It’s been a while since I’ve been in print, mainly because I have been fairly quiet since the heart attack in February, so it’s particularly gratifying to be “back in the saddle again.” That’s my brag. My tear falls for James Horner. If you have never heard of him, I am sure you have heard him. Horner was one of the most prolific movie score composers in history, with over 120 films to his credit. Among them are Field of Dreams, Avatar, Troy, A Beautiful Mind, Titanic, An American Tail, and Glory, just to mention a handful. James Horner was killed when his single engine plane crashed in the Los Padres National Forest on June 22. He was 61. Finally, my whine. I have to report that my 1999 Acura is in catastrophic organ failure. I did not know that a car could suddenly have so many things go wrong. I also did not know how expensive automobile surgeons could be. And I wonder, after its Catalitic Conversion, will my car be born again? As I write, I am consulting a second surgeon to garner another opinion, but am still waiting. I will keep you posted. Meanwhile, that stupid lottery hasn’t fallen my way. What’s up with that? I mean, I’m old enough now, and I know I could responsibly buy a brand new car the minute the money funded – and, like, I could afford all that cheese.

Flags of Our Great Great Grandfathers

Flags of Our Great Great Grandfathers: Let us be clear. The controversy over the Confederate Battle Flag sparked by the tragedy in Charleston has galvanized a nation. But let us be clear as well that the flag is a symbol of the real issues, and I can’t help but wonder if the focus on the flag’s removal comes as something we can fix in the face of so much that we cannot. The irony is that the Battle Flag belonged to Robert E, Lee’s army and was never a representation of the Confederate States of America. That flag lives mostly in museums. As a matter of heritage, the battle flag serves as a reminder of brave soldiers fighting a lost cause, as well as of the primary hateful element of that cause, the maintenance of slavery. It is as offensive as the Nazi Swastika would be to anyone impacted by the brutality of that regime. Our great great grandfathers who bled in the Civil War need no flag to remember them by, certainly not at the expense of the sensibilities of descendants of those who were freed. The battle flag was not even an issue until the Civil Rights Movement erupted in the deep South. When African-Americans began working toward equality, the Jim Crow South began flying the flag in protest. It was never about heritage, it was always about hate, and although the ardor of that hate cooled as more and more people accepted each other on both sides of the issue and worked for change, the symbol remained. Much progress has come, but much work remains to be done. Every positive step, every show of mutual understanding, every conversation is a step in the right direction.

The Rising Count

On September 11, 2001, forever to be remembered as 9-11, just under three thousand people were killed in the terror attacks by Al Qaeda on American soil. Since 9-11, 26 people have been killed by acts of terror by foreign agents. In that same span, 48 people have been killed by acts of domestic terror. Since 9-11, however, over 400,000 people have been killed in the United States with guns, 215,000 of them by murder. 4,491 US Service personnel died in combat in Iraq, and another 2,259 in Afghanistan, meaning that thirty times as many Americans died on their home soil than in both long wars since the Twin Towers went down. It comes to about 32,000 violent deaths by gun per year. That comes out to 89 every single day. A citizen of this country is 2000 times more likely to be killed with a gun than by a lightening strike. Yet who and what do we fear? We run around panic-stricken that ISIS will launch an attack at any given moment, and we seem convinced that the way to stop gun violence is to arm everyone. It has been suggested that the tragedy in Charleston could have been prevented if the people in the prayer group had been armed, bringing their own firearms into their house of worship…Are we insane? I know the saying: it’s not guns that kill people, it’s people with guns that kill people. I also remember what a Black Belt expert in Karate once told me, “You can’t block a bullet.” I keep thinking about this in particular: why does a hunter need a handgun? 90 percent of our country sees a problem that has gotten out of control, yet no one with the ability to effect change has done anything as we encounter tragedy after tragedy. It looks like a civil war out there, but I was taught we already have been there, done that, and gotten the T-shirt, a handgun encircled by the International No. Two years ago, Henry Porter of the Guardian wondered how long the world could stand by watching us kill each other because the nation is at a loss.

Reflections on the Charleston Tragedy

Reflections on Charleston, or, Family Tragedy: The tragedy of the mass shooting at Charleston last week lingers in our hearts and minds, another in a long series of brutal events involving multiple victims. Good men and women at prayer should have been safe within the walls of a house of God, no matter what religious preference or ethnic background they might have been, but hatred is an invasive parasite. And we are left to ask, how many galvanizing moments are we as a nation going to squander? There is much beauty to come out of this tragedy – in the power, the grace, and the forgiveness of those who knew the victims as friends and family. There is beauty, too, in the outrage, the galvanizing outrage that has seen an entire nation seem to pull together to demand that the Confederate Battle Flag be removed from the South Carolina capital grounds. The flag is not the issue, it is a symbol of the issue that underlines the tragedy: hatred. All arguments aside, the symbol is an affront to the memory of the dead. As our President so eloquently said in his eulogy for Reverend Pinckney on Friday, the flag represents not the courage of Confederate soldiers, but the wrongness of the cause for which they fought – slavery. If we examine the history of that flag’s placement on modern sites, we realize the flag was resurrected primarily in protest against the Civil Rights Movement fifty or so years ago, and not as a reminder of the valor of soldiers who died in battles a century before that. Conversations have begun, earnestly and openly, again. They focus on words and phrases familiar to us all: love, hate, race, racism, guns, violence, gun control, the nature of symbols, domestic terrorism, faith, forgiveness. But one word pops into my head: family. We are family, the song goes, but so many of us ignore that fact. It is a mindset that must evolve if we are to survive and function. No men are strangers, not really, not if their spirits are open. In that vein, I add that there is only one race, the human race; the rest is geography. And until that is accepted by all as true, when we love, share and celebrate the things that make us different and unique under a banner of unity, then we will truly be the Family of Man. Families have squabbles, dysfunction, estrangements, even violence. But, mostly, families have love, patience, inclusion, and the warmth of peace. In the aftermath of the losses suffered in Charleston, that is what I see.

A Blitz of Blogs and a Bunny Tale

A Bunch of Blogs Blitz and a Bunny Tale: It has been a while since I have written a blog – actually, I have been writing them but have not had the time to edit and post them. this incredible two week stretch on the American social and political scene has kept my attention, and each day has been more remarkable than the one before it, from Supreme Court decisions that have rocked the complacency of our culture and ensured insurance for so many who need it (including several near and dear to me), to the brave and emotional response of the families of Charleston to the tragedy there, to the ever growing, ever more comical yet ever more frightening Republican Presidential circus. No wonder I haven’t had time to write and rewrite! I’m too busy watching. The end result is that now I have a stockpile of blogs to share, and rather than lumping them into one long, disconnected piece, I have elected to bombard you with a bunch in a row, a blitz of blogs. Pick and choose and please read them all! I start off by noting that we have a new member of our foraging family that seems to find our front yard ideal for snacks, cool shade and safe haven. Some time ago someone in the neighborhood let loose a handful of market bunnies. The people left the area and the bunnies were left to find for themselves. Each year of the past three, a pair of them has adopted Chez Blokk’er as a home away from home, to disappear one day and be replaced by a new generation. This year we have two huge rabbits, mostly white with black markings. The one with the smaller markings is the bold one of the pair. But a third bunny showed up a few days ago, on the hottest day of the year. He is mostly white and much smaller than the other two, though not nearly as small as the native cotton tails. Di thinks he’s a Dutch bunny, which of course suits us fine. I thought he was dying, he looked so haggard. But a little rest, a shady spot by the Pokey Field, and a few carrots and grapes, and he has recovered fully. He now lives in the Pokey field and slips up onto the lawn in hopes of treats and to graze on the green. The other two have accepted his presence, although they are not yet frolicking together. I call all the bunnies him, because I hope none is a female. I guess I’ll know soon enough. I haven’t named them, and do not intend to – they are outside guests, runny babbits who merely share our space.