Saturday, May 20, 2017

The beauty of each day

I know, I know, it sounds rather Pollyannaish, or perhaps it's the "affliction" of old age, but hardly a day goes by that I don't see acts of love, charity or beautiful acts of kindness from strangers on the street. This came to me particularly last Wednesday as I was coming home from my volunteer job at the White House Visitors Center. My aching back was living up to its name in the 92° heat, and the "walk" sign said I had to wait 62 seconds before crossing the street. I could see that the other side of the street was in the blistering sun while I was in the shadow of a building. Consequently I leaned against a light post with my left arm while holding my cane in my right. I must've looked like Charlie Chaplin in the movie "City Lights". In a matter of seconds a young woman came to me to offer me a drink of water.

And it wasn't too long ago that I was riding the escalator, bent down and rested my arm on the rubber moving banister. How thoughtful of someone to ask if I were okay and offered to help me.  And each day people smile and say "hello".

So much of our lives are filled with anxiety with much of it induced by the national political scene and traumatic events around the world constantly on display. Yet with time to look around and not be fixated on a smart phone, I am impressed each day with the friendliness and greetings I receive from people as I walked down the street.

Louis Armstrong said it quite succinctly:

                                           "What A Wonderful World"

I see trees of green,
red roses too.
I see them bloom,
for me and you.
And I think to myself,
what a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue,
And clouds of white.
The bright blessed day,
The dark sacred night.
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.

The colors of the rainbow,
So pretty in the sky.
Are also on the faces,
Of people going by,
I see friends shaking hands.
Saying, "How do you do?"
They're really saying,
"I love you".

I hear babies cry,
I watch them grow,
They'll learn much more,
Than I'll ever know.
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.

Yes, I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.

Oh yeah.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

What do you consider to be the invention that has most changed American lifestyle in your 90 years?

"What do you consider to be the invention that has most changed American lifestyle in your 90 years?"

I vacillated a great deal as I answered this question many many times on Reddit's AMA. At first I felt it was the automobile which provided unimagined mobility and then, coupled with the interstate highway, made suburbs possible. Then it was the rapid development of aircraft which truly made our world the "One World" as predicted in Republican presidential candidate Wendell Wilkie in his book of 1936. And optimist that I am, I at one time thought it was the United Nations to assure lasting peace.  Of course television completely revolutionized our entertainment and along with yer-round team sports almost completely changed family structure. Further on the social scale,  I've personally felt that American family life was dramatically changed after World War II.  Before that time – even in the lower middle-class families like mine  – only (generally) fathers worked and mothers stayed at home.  

Now, after reading a pre-publication copy of Franklin Foer's "World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech," there is no question in my mind that the most dramatic change and one that is still growing is the Computer/Internet.  (Full disclosure – Frank is my partner Linda Greenfelder's son-in-law.)  I'd already begun to be influenced by young people to the marvels of the computer age. How convenient to be able to type letters by talking on my Dragon dictation device and send emails.  My suspicions of the magnitude of change wrought by computers/Internet increased with the election, Now Frank's book opened my eyes to the dangers that have accompanied this truly earthshaking, human behavior changing phenomenon.

Some of you may recall my last/last rant when I set aside ranting to work on a major thought trend of mine. It's listed below. And now Frank's book gives me another tangent to consider.

"But as I discontinue weekly rantings, I'll give my attention to preparing a major write-up on a topic of lifetime concern to me personally. It relates somewhat to the insightful book of Robert Putnam, "Bowling Alone". In it he calls attention to the fact that a great many of the social organizations that have unified our country have now been lost. And for me personally this includes the continuing decline of the effectiveness of the three institutions that have had the greatest impact on my life: the family, the public school and churches. Certainly the family and schools have received a great deal of attention. Yet while religion has increasingly played a predominant role in worldwide affairs, a major development in America has been a continuing decline in church attendance – particularly by young people. Indeed I have seen it in my own family and understand fully the rationale for this phenomenon. I hope that my personal observations will be of value to others in considering this topic: i believe that religion has played a major role in creating the problems of humankind, but i believe that it can provide a way to solve the problems.  I hope to enlarge on this by showing how my religious/philosophical concepts have changed in my 91 years so that religion can be seen in a new light as a place for adding meaning and purpose to ones life and increasing the opportunity for world peace.   

Thursday, April 20, 2017

I thought things might be better!

With two weeks away on vacation from the "swamp" without a computer and television, I thought I might stop ranting and raving! But I see things haven't changed and I find myself somewhat depressed about my country that appears to be so rudderless for the next four years. Never in my 91 years have I felt so concerned for the welfare of our country. And so I must still occasionally speak my piece. 

Earlier I had thought that we had elected a clown.  But now I realize that it is so much worse.  The man is a charlatan, a con man.  And my fellow Americans have fallen for him.  And should a likely impeachment occur, I fear as much a man who follows him like a puppet and espouses Christian virtues that I do not recognize.  

And I can only wonder what the reaction of those concerned about the welfare of children on the playground of the Trinity Lutheran School in Missouri would have been had it been a playground for Muslim children?



Thursday, March 30, 2017

A few things that come to mind as I take time off to focus on what's REALLY IMPORTANT TO ME

MY FINAL TWO ARTICLES!

     I've spent two weeks alone while Linda has been in California where her 98-year-old mother died. Being alone I became absorbed in current issues as never before as I spent too much time with CNN, MSNBC and - for balance - even a bit of Fox News.
     While one had to be pleased with the defeat of the "alleged" money-saving healthcare proposal of the Republican Party, the fiasco totally exposed the paucity of Trump's leadership style. It was obvious he knew nothing about healthcare, he is only a wheeler/dealer making deals. He has no plans for anything other than building a wall.
     The further tragedy is that his bravado postings and his lies distract us from important issues regarding our nation's welfare. He is indeed THE MASTER DISTRACTOR!  Certainly one of the first of these concerns the environment: an area where we had made so much progress during the Obama administration.
     So that's one of my two articles - briefly relating to the the environment. While of course there are national and worldwide projects underway, I continue to believe there are many things that individual citizens are overlooking in their daily lives where we can both show our concern and have an impact. Thus I was quite disappointed that in my (mostly youthful) audience I received but one response to my request for practical thoughts and ideas about how we might have an impact:

WHAT ARE THE TEN MOST IMPORTANT THINGS THE AVERAGE CITIZEN CAN DO EACH DAY TO HELP PRESERVE THE ENVIRONMENT?:

That person's response included:

1) Go vegan/vegetarian.
2) Donate to organizations which work in this field (https://www.outsideonline.com/2144781/6-best-environmental-groups-donate-better-world) (as frequently as possible)
3) Buy less. Not necessarily local, because that does not necessitate the product being greener. 
4) Fix what is broken.
5) Take public transport, if feasible. Saves you money too.
5) Spread the word - as you are!

While I realized that folks are busy, I had hopes that some might be challenged to think about this and make suggestions or have access to an environmental organization that has such a list. Indeed I began mine with these simple things:

1. Turn off all lights and appliances when not needed
2, Take showers rather than baths and then limit the time and number per week
3. Don't use more than one plastic bottle a week.
4. Walk to anything less than a mile away.
6. Flush the toilet only "when really necessary".
7. Use public transportation as much as possible,
8. Use both sides of paper whenever possible
9. And my pet peeve, that EVERYONE should work on: why is it that for over 40 years not a single state has been added to the list of states that have enacted a bottle deposit bill.  Coming from Michigan, I know how well it can work.  But it only works in the ten states that have it.  Having studied it for many years I know it is defeated only through lies of bottling companies.   Here is a topic that youth (high school debate societies) could engage in for study and meaningful dialogue.  Most enlightened countries have VERY strict and effective laws.  We have had a Container Recycling Institute advocating the passage of such laws since 1991 and only one state has been added (and one dropped).  It almost makes one think that they are there only to make us THINK we are doing something about it.  Surely here is a topic we can all do more about.  My concern is that we have become so enamored with protests and demonstrations that we fail to do the sustaining work that can make a difference.

But as I discontinue weekly rantings, I'll give my attention to preparing a major write-up on a topic of lifetime concern to me personally. It relates somewhat to the insightful book of Robert Putnam, "Bowling Alone". In it he calls attention to the fact that a great many of the social organizations that have unified our country have now been lost. And for me personally this includes the continuing decline of the effectiveness of the three institutions that have had the greatest impact on my life: the family, the public school and churches. Certainly the family and schools have received a great deal of attention. Yet while religion has increasingly played a predominant role in worldwide affairs, a major development in America has been a continuing decline in church attendance – particularly by young people. Indeed I have seen it in my own family and understand fully the rationale for this phenomenon. I hope that my personal observations will be of value to others in considering this topic: i believe that religion has played a major role in creating the problems of humankind, but i believe that it can provide a way to solve the problems.  I hope to enlarge on this by showing how my religious/philosophical concepts have changed in my 91 years so that religion can be seen in a new light as a place for adding meaning and purpose to ones life and increasing the opportunity for world peace.   

I'll continue my weekly DC culture blog except when I am on vacation. I'll use it and other media to tell when my last ranting/rave is completed.




Thursday, March 23, 2017

Coping with distractions and frustrations

This week I've been distracted by the feeling that I am living in an Orwellian world. That a dictatorial force has taken over my life/the nation/the world. I/we've allowed this force – through its lies and distractions - to create mayhem and distrust.

Or perhaps that's just an excuse for my not having had time to compile and prepare the responses from last week's questionnaire about THE TEN MOST IMPORTANT THINGS THE AVERAGE CITIZEN CAN DO DAILY TO PRESERVE THE ENVIRONMENT.  I'm still working to compile them

Thus the best thing I can do is to refer you to last week's topic as I sincerely feel our nation is in the most perilous state I seen it in my 91 years. And encourage you to join me in seeking out valid/reputable news sources, express our views appropriately and find time from patience and wisdom through meditation (or whatever) can provide balance for our lives.

And if you haven't done so, I encourage you to check out the last posstings

SOME ADVISE FOR THE PRESIDENT THAT COULD ALSO CHANGE THE PUBLIC'S VIEW OF MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES

I'M DAMNED MAD! THE COUNTRY I KNOW IS BEING HIJACKED:



Thursday, March 16, 2017

Some advice for the president! - That could also change the public's view of mental health service!

Once again I've had to change the major focus of my rant this week. I made the mistake of intensely watching the various television news outlets including Fox all week. And I feel compelled to offer the advice that I was reluctant to give a previous president who I feel caused us Democrats to lose three elections because of his dalliance with an intern.

President Trump needs to see a psychiatrist in my opinion!  Certainly from his behavior during the campaign and recent tweets from the White House, this should be obvious to any astute mental health observer. For me it was underscored as I listened to his recent Nashville "campaign" speech and appalled by the similarity it had with two European dictators I personally heard on the radio some 75 years, Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler. The same folksy, caustic prancing before adoring followers.  And I have also read about the wild exploits of Napoleon Bonaparte who also barged ahead without thoughtful reliance on knowledgeable advisers.  .

Think of the positive effect it would have on a society that still looks down upon anyone with a mental illness – especially an illness now so easily treated with proper counseling and medication. Indeed I felt this way during the presidency of Bill Clinton. What an example he might've set for seeking treatment for his very obvious reprehensible behavior in his relationship with a White House intern. It was however rather common knowledge to anyone, particularly those of us in the Beltway, that he at least was receiving counseling from spiritual and other advisers. Oh that I could see evidence that President Trump is following a similar course.

BUT LAST WEEK I PROMISED TO DO SOMETHING WE COULD ALL DO NOW!

And it's even more important now that we have seen the president's proposal to slash funding for the Environmental Protection Agency! How often we overlook, or don't know of the simple things that we as individual citizens could do. We've gotten extremely good at rallies and protests but it is also time for us to take our care and love of the earth to heart and do what we can to overcome the failings of our government. So often we think only in terms of grandiose projects that must be done to save our fragile world. We have little specific knowledge of daily steps that we could do to conserve energy and preserve the environment. I know that in the Washington area particularly there are many Think Tanks devoted to the environment.  Have they advise to me/us?  Perhaps a check list with which we could remind ourselves each day?

I'D LIKE TO RECEIVE SUGGESTIONS TO PASS ON TO OTHERS RELATING TO THE TOPIC:

WHAT ARE THE TEN MOST IMPORTANT THINGS THE AVERAGE CITIZEN CAN DO EACH DAY TO HELP PRESERVE THE ENVIRONMENT?:

Monday, March 13, 2017

I'm damned mad! The country I know is being hijacked.

And it's all because of the simple quote on the front page of today's Washington Post by House Speaker Paul Ryan, "People are going to do what they want to do with their lives because we believe in individual freedom in this country." 


I too believe in freedom, but I don't believe it "trumps" all the other American values that have been meaningful to me for 91 years. In Ryan's statement I hear the crescendo of the selfishness and greed that permeates American leadership today that rejects the true spirit of America that I have seen growing through my lifetime. I experienced it first in the spirit of volunteer sharing that saw us through the Great Depression. It was extended by a "New Deal" that sought to share "privilege" for more citizens. It was that spirit – sometimes "encouraged" through rationing - but it was also manifest by sacrificing not only comfort but ultimately the supreme sacrifice of lives to win a war not just for our country but for a future One World advocated in a book by a Republican. And then our eyes and hearts and minds were challenged by various minorities helping us see how myopic we had been and we envisioned a "Great Society" espousing justice and freedom for all.  And now I see that spirit led by women and a youthful generation that has taught us old folks about inclusiveness, respect and SUPPORT for immigrants and civil rights and protection for people of all races, creed and sexual orientation.

Perhaps the most important personal knowledge I have learned in my 91 years is how fortunate I am as a result of my privileged birth status - being born at home with the help of a midwife in a lower middle class family .  And yet one of the seven factors I recognize that has made my life so full and rich has been a caring government. When, in an earlier Rant, I listed a few of the many things a caring government provided for me (from my education under the GI Bill to kidney transplants for three of my immediate family - and so much more) I received this reaction from a reader:

"I appreciate your perspective re:a 'caring, supportive government ;...provided at federal government expense';  I ask that you recognize that everything the government gives to you, it takes from someone else. Please reserve some of your gratitude for the taxpayers, particularly future taxpayers. Also, I hope that your children are giving you lots of grand- and great-grandchildren, because someone has to pay for those transplants, and it won't be the 'government."

Eureka! Here's the gist of the problem today.  What do we see as  the role and function of government in an American society that prides itself in exceptionalism! Is it one that is competitive, taking a nd bestowing?  Is life a zero sum game of some sort?  

Personally I prefer to see America as a place where we have had a unique opportunity to learn lessons from the past.  We are still youthfully learning from some horrible mistakes.  We have an opportunity to blend people from the world who bring their unique cultural contribution -including their basic values and beliefs (often known as religions) to benefit one another. How wonderful to live in a country that is concerned with the common good - that is - or at least has been - working toward equalizing opportunity for all and continues to have a prominently displayed landmark stating:
                                            

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these.......................Send these...............


P. S. Once again I've said more than I intended, but the true facts I hear each day almost compel me to have one more say.  Next week I hope to share something about the environment that calls for OUR involvement - not something to take to the streets in protest or have the government do for us.