Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My Country, ‘Tis of Thee I Sing
1.  Everybody talks about health care reform.  President Obama is doing something about it.  The Affordable Care Act, the actual name of a program detractors of the President’s work “Obama Care,” removes restrictions on pre-existing conditions, makes health care more affordable for small businesses, raises the age at which children can be on their parents’ policies, removes lifetime caps, and much more.  
The effort is consistent with the core teachings of the world’s major religions.  Who could possibly not want better, affordable health care for all citizens?  
2.  President Obama has had to find ways to end the war in Iraq,  war he did not start.  He is on target to bring America’s involvement in Afghanistan to an end. 
3.  President Obama is plain-spoken about his opinion that women should have access to free preventative health care.  Of the approximately six million women in the United States who get pregnant each year, thirteen percent lack health insurance according to the American Pregnancy Association.  President Obama is concerned about those women and is about their children.
4.  President Obama believes in equality for all people.  He signed the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to help women get equal pay for equal work.  He worked to repeal the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
5.  President Obama is promoting and investing in clean energy jobs.  Finally.
6.  President Obama supports education by giving more flexibility to No Child left Behind and by making college aid more available.
7.  President Obama thinks millionaires and billionaires should pay their fair share of taxes like the rest of us.  How can anybody object to such a proposal, especially those who are millionaires or billionaires and have or can get whatever in the world they want that money can buy?
8.  President Obama inherited one of the worst economic messes since the Great Depression, yet  2.6 million private sector jobs have been added in our economy since he was elected.  Indications are that the economy is slowly improving, a prospect that Republicans in Congress are resisting because their stated goal is to prevent the President’s reelection by blaming him for the economy disaster that he didn’t cause. They blatantly resist any programs that will speed economic recovery.
9.  I voted for president Obama and I will vote for him again.  In this election cycle I will work even harder than I did last time because the alternative to President Obama’s being in the Executive Office of the United States of America for another four years is unthinkable.  

Monday, July 30, 2012

A familiar strategy in contemporary American culture is to humiliate, demean,  and insult  the people with whom we cannot agree.  Whatever the issues, arguments must be composed around an idea that there are only two possibilities, one right and the other wrong.  In virtually all matters, Americans are taught early that there are two classes of people, the right ones and the wrong ones.  Among poorly educated citizens,  differences are understood to be matters of ethnicity, race, job description, religion, or political party. 
We are not a tolerant people.  We adopt easily anti-whatever-you-are-that-I-am-not posturing to define ourselves in relation to the people we believe are not like us.  Homes, schools and churches are the three primary institutions where young Americans discover who they are, and it is in those environments that Americans learn to define themselves.  Emphasis is on how we are different from “the other”...almost never on shared characteristics and ideologies. Typically, when two people in a marriage decide to split and go separate ways, they turn on each other and try not to say or do anything that enhances the image of “the other.” Whichever party in the petition for divorce can afford to hire the most expensive legal team has the clear advantage.  Candidates for election to public office are expected to portray their opponents, and all of those in the “other” party in terms as demeaning as possible. Money drives elections.  Whoever can spend the most money in a campaign for public office has the advantage... not the person with the most logical plan for doing the work the office demands.
The Republican majority in the House of Representatives has demonstrated unwillingness to work together with other members of Congress.  The latest and most blatant and shameless attempt to weaken the administrative branch of our government was a vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt.   For the first time in American history Congress imposed a sanction on a sitting member of a president’s cabinet.  The vote followed an acrimonious and politically charged series of accusations by Republicans that the president and his cabinet are determined to weaken American democracy.  Clearly the goal of Republicans in Congress since the election that gave them the majority is to circumvent in every way possible the work of the President and his cabinet.  

Sunday, July 29, 2012

When I was a boy
anything could become
I wanted it to be...
not just wanted 
but needed
the world to be
another thing
For a time...

Not forever.
Change is

all the time
Squash was just squash
to my Mother...
nothing more than

Saturday, July 28, 2012

I’ve tried getting along without a newspaper... We stopped the San Diego Union-Tribune a couple of months ago when it became clear that the new owner, Douglas Manchester, is determined to make an already conservative newspaper into a Tea Party rag.  I couldn’t stomach the hymns of praise for the NRA, DOMA, and Grover Norquist by the paper’s editorial staff, so Margaret and I stopped our subscription.  For the first time since we were married we didn’t have daily newspaper delivery.  Even when we lived in Singapore we subscribed to the Straits Times local English language newspaper. The newspaper was delivered to our home daily. When we lived in Washington, of course, we subscribed to the Washington Post.  In New York it was the NY Times.  We’ve lived in San Diego for twenty-five years, and even though the Copley family was decidedly conservative, the newspaper occasionally strived for some balance until Manchester came along. 
I maintain on-line subscriptions to The New York times and The Washington Post.  First thing in the morning I take a quick look at the first pages of both newspapers. I get little alert messages through the day, and those are a good cyber-space innovation.  But there’s nothing quite like the feel and smell of newsprint... on paper.  I’ve missed the clutter of the morning paper on the dining room table.  I’ll admit to feeling a bit guilty not subscribing to a daily local paper.  You’ve probably participated in those surveys that include the question that asks if your family subscribes to a daily newspaper.  I’ve dreaded being asked and having to say no.  If someone asked me to participate I’d launch into an excuse, an apology, and I’d insist that I’ve always had a newspaper delivered daily... Now that I think about it, that’s exactly what I’ve done with this journal writing. 
So there it is.  I couldn’t take it.  I couldn’t hold out.  Reading the Times and the Post on the computer and the iPad isn’t enough.  So this morning, for the first time, we got the Los Angeles Times delivered to our door.  It will come every day.  I can begin again the little satisfying ritual of going to the front door first thing and finding the paper on the mat.  It’s wonderful to start again a ritual that was interrupted for awhile.  The paper strewn around on the table with a section on a chair and another somewhere else in the house.  I left the sports section in the bathroom this morning, and it was comforting to see it there later.  Even the rubber band was a comfort today.  I don’t remember having to buy rubber bands.  They’ve always been left in a drawer in the kitchen every day.  I missed the little ritual of going to the drawer and leaving the rubber band there and then going to the drawer and reaching into the tangle and getting one when I needed it.  And you know how when you’ve husked the corn before you put it in the microwave (or maybe you’re one of those who take the husk off after the microwave stint)... whatever... There’s nothing else that works as well as the double spread pages of newspaper for wrapping corn husks for disposal.  It’s been years since I’ve taken the scales off fish and filleted them; but if I should ever do it again, I’ll have day-old newspapers to wrap the throw-away stuff in... Whoa.  It’s a good feeling to have a newspaper again.
Oh, one more thing.  The L.A. Times today began an opinion piece, “Curtain up on Inequity, Creativity” right there on the front page... lower left corner... The beginning of the “Critic’s Notebook” by Charles McNulty... started on the front page and continued on past A11.  I don’t think writers at the Union-Tribune are allowed to use the word inequity.  
Wow!  I feel whole again in my own house.

Friday, July 27, 2012

As I grow older, speaking Truth seems easier.  Yep, I considered what you’re thinking as you read that first sentence... that Truth, unless it begins a sentence, is not capitalized.  That was before.  Now it is... when I’m writing it.  Once I fretted about how my children, my wife, my colleagues, my neighbors, and just about anybody might react if I confessed my honest doubts about all kinds of sacrosanct ideas.  I was an English teacher, and you know what sticklers they are for rules.  When I was thirty or forty or fifty looking forward to the age I am now, a time I would have called “the twilight of my life,” I thought a lot about what I said before I said it.  Now I am inclined to say, or write, what’s on my mind... and let, as they say in the gambling world, the chips fall where they may.  It’s not just rhetorical or grammatical or syntactical issues, like beginning a sentence with and or ending a sentence with a preposition.  And I confess that now I don’t much care where criticism comes from.  And I insist that when I turn seventy-seven in a few weeks, I won’t think of myself as being in the twilight of my life. I will still be reborn (not still-born) every morning when I wake up.  This writing isn’t about hurrying to get "it" out, getting “it” said and done before some mystical curtain falls. What it’s about is boldness... and boldness isn’t the same thing as aggression or combativeness or competition with Whatever holds power.  Maybe fearlessness is the word I want.  
My wife and some close friends may think blogging has made me bolder.  That’s not it at all.  It’s true that a blog releases ideas and dreams and opinions out into the blogosphere where anybody can find them; but looking back on years of journaling before the Internet came along and introduced and defined cyber space, I hesitated to express some of my doubts even in my most private writing... maybe even in my most personal, private thoughts.  I have discovered that doubt is a good thing.  Now don’t get me wrong.  Doubting gravity when I’m standing on the edge of a cliff, a real cliff and not just a rhetorical one, isn’t a good idea.  Doubting Margaret’s love for me would be stupid and would fly in the face of sixty years of experience with her. But although I often talk as if I am absolutely certain when I speak about matters of politics and religion, I doubt; but I am not paralyzed or anxious because of doubt. It is doubt that keeps me pressing forward with questions.  I want to know Truth. I want to speak Truth. I want not to be afraid of Truth.  But I want also not to be afraid to question and to doubt what is held to be true absolutely. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Most days... I take several pictures... sometime many; but today I took only this one.  Thursday is my day to volunteer at the Museum of Photograph Arts in Balboa Park. The museum is just across the main pedestrian throughway from the reflecting pool in front of the Botanic building.   As I was aiming my bike in the direction of home, I noticed that one of the lotus buds rising out of the reflecting pool has bloomed fully.  I rode my bike as close as I could to the pool, maybe fifteen to twenty feet from the lotus plant, and aimed my little point-and-shoot Sony at the blossom.  I took one picture and this is what I got. 
I’ve been reading the teachings of The Buddha.  He liked lotus blossoms and the seed pods the blossoms leave when the petals have dropped.  So do I. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

With my camera and with Photoshop I played around again today with the melaleuca trees at our place.  Like all our trees whose ancestry can be traced back to Australia, the melaleuca changes daily... hourly, actually, because its skin changes from one mood/tone/color to the next as light plays with it throughout the day.  The eucalyptus trees in our back yard shed their skin over a period of several weeks, and it falls around the yard making a huge mess.  The melaleuca is much less messy, but no less fascinating to watch from day to day.  I never get tired of looking at them.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Over by San Diego Bay this morning I was standing on the deck at Jimmy’s Restaurant (known as JFAT... because of the “famous” classic cheeseburger, which I had today for lunch) waiting for my friend Joe when I got a great surprise.  As I chained my bicycle to a fence at the edge of the water, I was stunned to see a big jelly fish, very much alive and active, gliding slowly a few feet away from me, seeming to be checking out the big rocks.  I’d never seen a jelly fish quite as big as this one, and I hadn’t seen one that wasn’t the usual light, almost white in color.   This one was dark, with a burgundy tail.  The bell was ringed with distinctive ruffles.  When I got back home, Google helped me determine that it is definitely a giant black jellyfish. I was directed to Mike Lee’s piece in this morning’s Union-Tribune.
I had an early generation digital camera in my bike bag, so I got a picture.  I didn't have a polarizing filter, and the jelly wasn’t on the surface, so the image is not very clear; but it’s definitely a rare black jellyfish.  Wow!  Seeing it was like winning the lottery.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Curb ourside Awash Ethiopian restaurant at 4979 El Cajon Boulevard...
a flourish of patriotism.

1. How can anybody but a politician needing the money and power of the NRA for election not speak out and vote in favor gun control legislation?
2. Why does anybody need to own and keep an assault weapon?
3. How can a Christian or a person of any faith vote disapprove of the Affordable Care Act.?
4. How can a person of faith favor the execution of an other person instead of a lifetime prison sentence?
5. Why would anyone believe that allowing a couple of the same sex to marry threatens the marriages of couples of opposite sex?
6. Why would people in the top one percent of income earners, who can buy anything in the world that is for sale, not be in favor of a tax structure that requires them to pay a larger percentage of income in taxes than people with less income? 
7. And why would some of the people who live in poverty agree that the very wealthy should not pay more?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The eucalyptus trees in our backyard shed their bark once each year.  At this season of the year I am reminded of a familiar teaching of The Buddha which says, “Just as a snake sheds its skin, we must shed our past over and over again.  Other great thinkers and teachers have made the same observation.  Jesus said something that speaks to the same human possibility that far too many people never discover: “You must be born again.”  The writer of the Gospel of Mark has Jesus saying it another way... that it’s not a good idea to put new wine into old wineskins. The implication is the same.   We humans are creatures with what seems to be an ability unique among primates; we can reinvent ourselves.  From the “now” we can decide to move forward into the future out of the past and out of the now, refusing to be impaired by remorse. We are not required to crawfish always backward into the past.  We can learn from the past without being tied to it.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Times... they are a changing.
The Pride Parade in San Diego has become an occasion for family outings. It’s a refreshing change.  The only people who seem not to have got the word that the world is beginning to acknowledge the legitimate right to full citizenship and acceptance of LGBT persons are the half-dozen guys in front of the fire station every year whose attention is focused on sex and sin.  Actually, they don’t much matter because most of the children and families are well away from them.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Everybody knows about the troubles in Syria, Yemen, Egypt, Libya, Iran, Somalia... and other member states of the Arab League... and Iran, which is not part of the League... All together, there is a world of hurt for people in those nations; and horrible suffering in other African nations where famine hangs like a plague over whole regions... and now today comes news that a young fellow who graduated from high school just a few years ago just up the road from where I live is the mass murderer in a Colorado theater massacre. The suffering seems unending. The violence is inextricable. Solutions are elusive.  We are left to wonder what is the common thread running through conflicts in all of the world’s troubled places.
I’ve tried to talk myself out of a conclusion that I really would like to avoid... one that  I don’t like; but it’s unavoidable that among all the causes of conflict in communities, from the smallest local cultural group all the way out to the whole world community including all of the almost seven billion of us, religion tops the list of reasons people don’t get along.  It’s difficult to avoid seeing that religion is the obvious common aggravation, the most common cause of dissent, the most common fulcrum on which community loathing and anger become unbalanced and erupt in violence.  How can I forget hearing one of my uncles, now long dead, say that “Niggers are just like mules... They don’t have souls.”  He was someone whose memory I am supposed to honor.   More recently a member of my extended family when asked whether she would rather have a child of hers be gay or dead answered quickly and firmly, “dead.”  My uncle was a deacon in his church.  My relative who would rather see her child dead than gay is active in her church.  I could go on with examples, but that’s not the point of this writing. 
I’ve been wondering, as have most other people of good faith (no reference this time to any organized religion), what might be a logical first step toward a saner, safer world... for everybody.  Outlawing religion was tried by Marxists, and clearly the ideology formed around an idea that “religion is the opiate of the people” was not the answer.  We all know the decades-long soviet disaster that resulted from that idea.  Anti-religion became a religion just as the new atheism for some people has become a religion to be defended. The atheist, like the Hardshell Baptist or fundamentalist Muslim, becomes entrenched in arguments and in defense of an idea to the extent that the denial of ideology becomes ideology.  My blog writing today isn’t a plea for somebody to “gimme that ole-time religion.”  It’s definitely not good enough for me. It is a plea for people who identify themselves as people of faith who are members of an identifiable religious group to ask some serious questions why they cannot get along with other people of faith.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Click on these images to see them larger.  

San Diego after Dark