Monday, November 21, 2016

Here are some thoughts I "just had to get off my mind" from a week ago!

DON'T JUST DEMONSTRATE EDUCATE and COMMUNICATE I have nothing against demonstrations! There's a time and place for them and they have resulted in a great deal of progress in improving the world's and particularly the American social structure. But to put it crassly and crudely, we are dealing with a different "animal" than we have confronted before. Here is an individual whose egotistical, perverse and illogical thinking has found a response in a frustrated segment of American society. An individual whose nihilistic quest for power divided the American populace and was expressed through lies and falsehoods that were reminiscent of dictators of the past. But the people have spoken. He is our president and we must not follow recent precedence and do everything in our power to have him fail. So what is my plan? Here's a man who thinks only of power and that any means justify his ends. Here is a man who has little understanding of the nuances of the American democracy and the subtleties and tradition of government. Just consider two of his first pronouncements as President-elect as he confronts two of the most "hot button" issues that have faced the electorate over the past half-century: abortion and marriage equality! An alert electorate should know how much he has waffled on both these issues in the recent past. And now in trying to satisfy a greater audience he shows his ignorance by passing one issue off as established law and the other as something to be decided by the individual states. How limited is his knowledge not only of the law but also of the injustice and unfairness to individuals. What is his belief? Legal in Oregon and criminal in Texas? How can a woman in Texas with limited funds make the trip? How can she follow her conscience and not bring a severely dis-formed fetus into the world and create unspeakable misery for herself and society? So what possibly can be done? Rather than succumb to power, there are other vehicles for bringing change. 1. Here is a man who believes in communication who has used social media to his advantage and has adroitly manipulated the free press to get his message across. Let's inundate him with truth and a greater understanding of the complexities of society for those who have not been blessed with life's advantages as he has. Let's so overwhelm the postal system with conventional mail that it will no longer be in the red – thus helping the economy – and getting his attention in this one way. At the same time let's use the social media so thoroughly that it might even cause his twittering to cease. 2. Here is a man who is the epitome of the elite American who has no knowledge of the real essence of America. He needs to be educated. Indeed I feel sorry for a man who thinks only of control, manipulation and is so self-centered that he thinks only of his own welfare – who flaunts the conventions of American society by doing everything he can to keep from paying federal income tax and not even being honest with America by failing to disclose his financial status. A man who in business dealings thinks only of himself and the privileged few who are investment partners with him. The essence of America is change. The power of the protest was extremely valuable at one time. It's time for the moral fiber of America to step forward and take a stand bringing enlightenment and opportunity for all through the moral force spoken of by recent leaders and the founders of the great religions of the world. But I must take leave for Thanksgiving. But I feel compelled to again bring you the 20 minutes of thoughts from my Unitarian minister who compares Trummp's WALL with a TABLE - the traditional THANKSGIVING TABLE where all are welcome. It can be heard at http://www.all-souls.org/past-sermons

Friday, November 11, 2016

Putting the election in perspective through a remarkable experiene

How dramatic to see some 250 Muslim men and 25 Muslim women giving their rapt attention to their Imam for Friday noontime prayers in the basement of our Christian church. It was striking to see the beauty of their rugs, the prone, prayerful position of the participants, the rapt attention to their Arabic prayers (indecipherable to the three non-Muslims in the room) and the inspiring spiritual words delivered by the Imam that we could all appreciate.

I attended because I felt that I (and two others of our church members) could provide succor and support as we had done previously when the initial outbreaks of Islamophobia "broke out" in our land. At that time we provided welcome signs before and coffee after their service. It was gratifying to make friends and have our welcoming attempts so warmly appreciated. This time we felt the need to do more – to help them and show our support in joint worship.

While old friendships were renewed and appreciation expressed for our support, the most amazing aspect of the experience for me was the emotional spiritual impact I received during worship. How striking that it was I who was comforted by an "immigrant from Sudan" reminded me that "our countries system of checks and balances provides protection"!  How moving were the words of the Imam in one service as he spoke of the need for understanding that justice and love would prevail. In the second service a different Imam stressed that while we cannot control what others do we can only continue to show patience and understanding within ourselves.

How remarkable that in trying to reach out to others I was helped and finally able to put the events in a broader perspective.

And how confirmed I feel in a view I have been attempting to express ever since I began "Ranting and Raving": that religion has been a major culprit in separating people and causing heinous division and conflict, but that it is only through an fuller understanding of religion that we will achieve world peace and understanding.

I look forward to increased discussion and dialogue in the few years I have left to try to continue the arc of justice and equality for all.

Ron

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The only way I know to vent my frustration about election 2016!

What can I possibly say after an election that results in having elected as my president a man who has constantly lied and used language and techniques that offend me? Certainly I'm tempted to follow the pattern set by Republicans recently when Barack Obama was elected president – to hope that he fails.

But how counterproductive that would be! The past eight years of heroic leadership by Obama has shown how difficult it is to make progress when obstructionism is the major focus of the opposition party.  How bleak it is when one realizes that this new "leadership" will be the face of America for the next four and possibly eight years.  How sad that the progress of the last eight years of more inclusiveness is vulnerable and can be overturned by the union of a conservative party led by an egotistic showman.

But the historic leadership of the United States as a bastion of freedom and opportunity for all has been built on a democratic foundation that enables constructive change to be made. While the results of the election have been extremely disappointing, I find a "path to the future" in the recent Democratic primaries and the pronouncements of the party platform. THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR MAKING CHANGE IN THE TRULY DEMOCRATIC WAY CALLS FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION!
We do not have to put up with four years.  With a "know nothing" preside we do not have to put up with four years (using words that sink to HIS level).  It is in Congress* that the action can (AND SHOULD) take place,  And it calls for ALL OF US who were so energized by the Bernie supporters and all who were so repulsed by the candidacy of Donald (including responsible Republicans) to
BEGIN NOW TO START CHANGING CONGRESS IN TWO YEARS.  It is the nitty gritty work of democracy and something we must all commit to.

To me, the lessons of this election are myriad and begin with the need for all who want true justice and opportunity for all and the progress of the last eight years to ignore petty differences and unite to CHANGE THE MAKEUP OF CONGRESS IN 2020!

Indeed in my almost 91 years I have never seen such a disappointing election.  I'll have much more to say in the next few weeks.  I hope you will stay tuned.

Ron

*See Franklin Foer's article

 http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2016/11/what_donald_trump_might_do_with_the_powers_of_the_presidency.html

Sunday, October 30, 2016

A final look at the election of 2016


90 year oldster considers the three most critical elections of his lifetime!

This is a rant I had planned to send several weeks ago, however I felt that it missed the mark! After a most enjoyable two weeks away from election news while on a cruise of the Mediterranean Sea and reading (most of) the book, The Age of Genius: The Seventeenth Century & The Birth of the Modern Mind, by A.C. Grayling, I've now recalled two other elections which cause me see the election from a different perspective – one VERY pertinent for the current election. I ENCOURAGE YOU TO READ THE FOLLOWING BRIEF CHANGE IN MY PERSPECTIVE. And, of course, if you find it interesting and would like more of my thoughts – KEEP going and read the rest!

MONEY, POWER AND (MOSTLY) MEN
1968
I truly regret that in 1968 I was too involved with my family and working in a racially divided and tense school to pay much attention to the election. For those non-historians and/or those too young to remember, it was the election most noted for the contentiousness and hostility between Chicago's Mayor Richard J. Daley's police force and the idealistic young people – and others – opposing the war in Vietnam. Of course the stage was set earlier by the assassination of Dr. King and frustration was already at the boiling point when favored candidate for change Robert Kennedy was murdered in California shortly before the convention. Neither of the other candidates favored by those seeking dramatic change, Eugene McCarthy or George McGovern, had a chance against the establishments preferred candidate Hubert Humphrey.

Result: A lack of enthusiasm in the Democratic Party to unite behind the one candidate (other than the South's George Wallace) who had a chance against Richard M. Nixon, the Republican "law and order" nominee.

LESSON TO BE LEARNED FROM 1968 – How different the world might be today had there been a willingness to get behind the best choice available and THEN CONTINUE TO WORK FOR THE BELIEFS AND PRINCIPLES ONE HOLDS DEAR.

2000
Occasionally one is tempted to become cynical about elections and ask "Does it really matter?" From my perspective I would point to the contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore. There's little doubt in my mind that an administration with people more knowledgeable about the complexity of the problems of the Middle East would have used better judgment before again initiating war against Iraq.

How different our world might be today.

Putting aside all of the questions about emails and judgment in the separation of personal and public positions or gathering money for the benefit of (mostly) humankind, I have little doubt that my 90 years of experience shows this to be – given the choices we have – the most critical election of my lifetime. The choice must be Hillary over Donald!

And if you still want further thoughts:

NINETY YEAR OLDSTER CONSIDERS THE THREE MOST CRITICAL ELECTIONS OF HIS LIFETIME
Since 1925 when "Silent Cal" was president, I have seen 14 men elected since Mr. Coolidge. Without a doubt I consider the present election to be the most critical of my lifetime. But first a brief look at the other two.

The first one I remember distinctly was in 1936 when first-term president Franklin Delano Roosevelt ran against Alfred M. Landon, the governor of Kansas. Although the pork-pie hat I wore was festooned with sunflowers from the Sunflower State, I quickly learned that my campaigning efforts were in vain. Landon carried but two states, Maine and Vermont. Despite my biases, I've since realized that we not only needed Roosevelt to see us through the depression and WWII, but Roosevelt's “New Deal” set the tone for having the government play a much greater role in making society better for the more of the citizenry.

Fast-forward to 1964 and the campaign pitting Sen. Barry Goldwater against Pres. Lyndon Baines Johnson. What a classic struggle between conservative principles and a liberal president. Although Johnson was fettered by the morass of Vietnam, he both furthered civil rights and raised our consciousness to work toward a "Great Society".

But nothing for me has matched the vitriol and the divisiveness (but yet the promise) of the current campaign. It could have hardly started on a worse note with the personal attacks by fellow Republicans in a party that I was once a member of through the election of Richard Nixon. (Yes, I admit it, I favored Nixon over Kennedy.) And while many in the Republican Party felt proud of having 14 “outstanding” candidates, the debate and events surrounding the nominating process soon became a national embarrassment. Not only did members of the Republican Party express shock at the final selection of the party, but most of the entire world was dismayed by the pronouncements, divisiveness and repudiation of American values and actions of the past by Trump's ranting as a candidate.
Meanwhile the Democrats limited its conflict to just two major contenders. One was a neophyte to the party, had as his major constituency many young people who had never before been actively involved in party politics and had the "dreaded" word to many Americans "socialist" in his pedigree. The other candidate has had so much exposure in the political arena, had taken a number of questionable actions of either poor judgment or legal misfeasance that a majority of Americans seem to have no confidence in her judgment. And, of course, the fact that her spouse had been involved in behavior that caused him to be impeached by Congress was held against her.

Thus the country seems to be faced not with selecting a preferred candidate, but the one least disliked by a majority of the voters. How then can one feel that this is an election with great promise? For me it rests in a personal look at the appeal and foibles of the three most viable candidates.

Trump – there's hardly anything negative I can say about the man than has already stated even more strongly than I might utter by his fellow Republicans. To me he represents everything that can go awry in an egalitarian democratic society from his inherited head start in life to a lifestyle centered on himself and the use of any technique to push his agenda – gaining notoriety and wealth. It has been seen most clearly in the divisive campaign he has run and the staff he has chosen to assist him. I see his candidacy as a total embarrassment to a country I love. Looking for silver linings, however, I can cite 2 benefits from his campaign:
  1. He has spotlighted the travail of so many Americans who have been left behind in a country where wage inequality has grown at a furious pace, and
  2. he provides an opportunity for the voters to show that they cannot be duped by a Huey Long or Father Coughlin type figure, a fascist, who proclaims he has all the answers and pits one group of citizens against the another.

Sanders - was a populist addition to the campaign who obviously struck a major chord in youth along with their idealism. Knowing something of the powerful organization of political parties, I felt he had little chance as the campaign began. But I underestimated the zeal of youth and the commitment of elders seeking a better opportunity for all Americans. One could feel the shock of his supporters as they reluctantly realized that party elders and lifelong volunteers prevailed by nominating a candidate long associated with what they perceived as the status quo. It is however exciting to think of the possible lasting results from the involvement of the Bernies:
  1. That since their enthusiasm almost achieved its desired effect, it is imperative that they learn from their experience and become a continuing strong voice on the American scene, and
  2. that since their cries for greater equality and opportunity for all had resonance throughout the country, they can join forces with the establishment and with continuing involvement, they can convert many who too easily fell prey to a fascist type leader.

Clinton – throughout her life she has brought to the national scene the liberal causes espoused by her opponent. What a remarkable story of the American dream has been hers! Coming from a conservative middle-class Midwest home, she followed tradition throughout her youth yet by dint of effort and intelligence, found her own voice for liberal causes from civil rights to advocacy for children and healthcare. Along the way she of course made mistakes from being a zealot for certain causes to errors of judgment shared by virtually all the men who preceded her. History is replete with honored males whose missteps have been forgotten as they made contributions to society – and for themselves. And what other presidential candidate has borne the same prejudice against them because of negative publicity given to their spouse. Just as the presidency of our first African American president has shown the continued racism of society, a large segment of our nation refuses to acknowledge the ability of women.

From the the two candidates who have a chance to be elected for president, there is but one who can continue to uphold that office with dignity and respect. There is only one candidate whose life shows a commitment to the causes I believe in. One candidate who works as a team member supported by a party platform that endorses the American values that I believe in. One candidate who feels that American exceptionalism is built upon the values espoused in our political documents and symbolisms of freedom and justice and a welcoming for all who come to our shores. One candidate who continues the equal opportunity for all as evidenced by the election of the current incumbent Barack Obama.
It was a thrill for me to see the election of our first African-American president. I feel he has nobly led us through difficult times. I will be equally thrilled to see a woman elected president in her own right who, if given a chance, will work to unite our nation.

I have too long been silent and basked in the accolades of being a part of the "Greatest Generation". That "greatness" stems primarily from our unity in facing three malignant dictatorial powers as we were joined by an almost unified world. However I find it impossible to accept generalized greatness for a generation that perpetuated bigotry, did little to stem lynchings, failed to open its doors to refugees even as they languished on ships within sight of our shores who were persecuted by demons and we placed our own patriotic citizens in concentration (that is what they were called) camps because of their ethnicity. Yet the sons of many of those patriotic parents died defending the freedom of the rest of us.


We now have a generation who because of their zeal and support of the true American dream can become an even greater generation by continuing to be involved in making better FOR ALL the best governmental system devised by humans.

Friday, October 14, 2016

A frequently asked question among the thousand or so I've had on Reddit's AMA

"You seem to have lived a remarkable life. I'm 20 years old and I'd appreciate any advice you could give me, and others like me, for the future."

It should be obvious that it is from statements like this that I get a great deal of pleasure in conversing with the young people of Reddit. Often there are qualifiers regarding the individual's situation and we often engage in a two-way conversation.

Unfortunately since I am hastily preparing to take leave for three weeks, I'm not able to give an in-depth deeply thought expose. But I did want to share a reaction to a bit of research I've seen recently that verifies a recent concern of mine - a rather mundane topic that I've yearned to talk about with young people.

Last year, the U.S. had the highest one-year percentage increase in traffic deaths in half a century, according to 2015 data released Wednesday by the National Safety Council (NSC). Initial estimates, which may be revised when more information becomes available, indicate that 38,300 people were killed on U.S. roads in 2015, and roughly 4.4 million sustained injuries that resulted in medical consultations. The number of deaths rose 8 percent from 2014, compared with a less than 0.5 percent increase between 2013 and 2014 and a 3 percent drop the previous year.  

While I am well aware that oldsters like me may well often be the culprit, and therer are multiple causes, here's my simple bit of advise:(unsolicited I know) for young people:

WHY BE IN SUCH A HURRY?  A 70 MPH SPEED LIMIT DOESN'T MEAN YOU MUST GO 70! WHEN DRIVING A FEW MILES ON THE HIGHWAY, TAKE IT EASY!  YOU'D SAVE GAS AND NOT LOSE MORE THAN A MINUTE OF TIME.  AND DON'T FOLLOW SO CLOSELY BEHIND THE CAR IN FRONT!

So that's my prejjudice/advise for all whether you asked for it or not.  I primarily wanted to have a final say before being away for 3 weeks.  I've been more than gratified to see the great increase in "hits" on my RANT BLOG.

But even more important, I feel, is making sure as many as possible read the Rant (and listen to the lecture) of two weeks ago.  If you haven't seen it, may I strongly suggest you continue for 20 minutes or so to consider the following quote and the speech it inspired?

Allowables
-Nikki Giovanni
I killed a spider
Not a murderous brown recluse
Nor even a black widow
And if the truth were told this
Was only a small
Sort of papery spider
Who should have run
When I picked up the book
But she didn't
And she scared me
And I smashed her
I don't think
I'm allowed
To kill something
Because I am
Frightened
Giovanni's simple poem served as the focus of a very powerful lecture that gave an implicit, yet veiled, insight into present national and world-wide conditions..
But I'm compelled to be up front and tell you that it was delivered as a sermon in the church I attend and feel very comfortable in although I consider myself to be an agnostic atheist – truly, I guess, a humanist.

And regardless of what your view of "church/mosque/synagogue" going might be, I hope you'll follow the leads below, take 20 minutes to give the talk a listen.  It's the sermon for Sunday, October 2.

I'm sorry it does not include the very moving and nontraditional "songs".
Pete Seeger's, "If I Had A Hammer" 
Elvis Costello's "(What's So Funny ''Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding"
"Bright Morning Star" with Cantor and choir and
The traditional Afro-American spiritual, "There Is More Love Somewhere"

Here's the link ;

http://www.all-souls.org/past-sermons

I'll welcome any thoughts and reactions.

See you in a month.

Ron

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Transcription of a very moving lecture I attended this week.



Allowables
-Nikki Giovanni
I killed a spider
Not a murderous brown recluse
Nor even a black widow
And if the truth were told this
Was only a small
Sort of papery spider
Who should have run
When I picked up the book
But she didn't
And she scared me
And I smashed her
I don't think
I'm allowed
To kill something
Because I am
Frightened
Giovanni's simple poem served as the focus of a very powerful lecture that gave an implicit, yet veiled, insight into present national and world-wide conditions..
But I'm compelled to be right up front and tell you that it was delivered as a sermon in the church I attend and feel very comfortable in although I consider myself to be an agnostic atheist – truly I guess a humanist.

And regardless of what your view of "church/mosque/synagogue" going might be, I hope you'll follow the leads below, take 20 minutes to give the talk a listen.  It's the sermon for Sunday, October 2.

I'm sorry it does not include the very moving and nontraditional "songs".
Pete Seeger's, "If I Had A Hammer" 
Elvis Costello's "(What's So Funny ''Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding"
"Bright Morning Star" with Cantor and choir and
The traditional Afro-American spiritual, "There Is More Love Somewhere"

Here's the link ;


http://www.all-souls.org/past-sermons

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Uber and the free enterprise system

Last Saturday when there was a light, misty rain we needed transportation from Cleveland Park to Washington's National Airport. Turning first to Uber, we were dismayed to learn that the cost would be $42. Thus we turned to our "old-fashioned" but government regulated taxi system, and were quoted a $21 charge.

Thus I'm forced to continuing to assess the merits of free enterprise vis-à-vis carefully considered governmental regulations. And it further confirms for me an innate hostility toward systems that tend to encourage wage earners to seek added employment to support family needs in contrast with a living wage for all workers.