Sunday, December 30, 2012
Saturday, December 29, 2012
Taking up where I left off yesterday...
Loaves and Fishes
The apparent ease with which some people act vigorously against their own self interest and well being is a major conundrum for critical thinkers. Self preservation is assumed to be high on the list of priorities for living creatures... right up there with getting enough nourishment and nurture to make going on living from day to day worth the effort. Daughter Nancy's cats avoid other animals that could hurt them. When it's time to eat, they always go to the place at her house where she feeds them. They come close to people they trust when they want to be petted, and they avoid people who have demonstrated a dislike for cats. The way I see it, they get along with each other while almost always acting in their own self interest.
Why is it, I wonder, that some people who don't, as as my dad would say, have a pot to piss in, get on board with a political organization that acts against the interests of poor people? While I like to see altruism demonstrated among people who have resources enough to meet their own needs, it doesn't much surprise me when some of them clutch to themselves their excess bounty; but when someone in the state of Texas, for instance, who can't afford basic medical care for themselves and their family seem not to mind that Governor Rick Perry acts deliberately to block a plan by the federal government to make wellness possible for all citizens, I'm puzzled. It's a puzzle, too, when someone in need of good educational facilities and programs for their own children vote and even Campaign against efforts to make public schools better for everybody... or, for that matter, why a person who is gay would feel drawn to the Log Cabin Republican organization. Why would any woman support a legislator who insists that she is incapable of making decisions about what should and what shouldn't be done with her body.
I am perplexed most of all by the alignment of Christian groups with efforts to deny basic health care and access to food and shelter to anybody, but especially to children, to the elderly, and to the infirm. Have they not noticed that the focus of the Christian Gospel is on service to the needy... to marginalized individuals and groups? What part of the Golden Rule do they not understand?
Aynn Rand's doctrine of objectivism may be attractive to upwardly mobile seekers of personal riches at all cost; but objectivism's raw,selfishness leaves out and tramples on people who cannot help themselves. I know someone who's favorite reason for stopping all welfare programs is a hypothetical story about the flagrantly lazy woman who brings into her rent-free home and her bed shiftless Romeos who get her pregnant so she can increase her take at the welfare office. O. K., I get the point. There's obviously something wrong with that scene, and I'm sure there are men and women and the children they beget out there somewhere in my city; but for most of the people I know, that scenario is remote from their own lives. It is remote from my life. What is not hypothetical is that all over America there are thousands of children inadequately housed and fed suffering from treatable but untreated illnesses. They are often the children who don't go to school regularly so they might gain education and basic skills that would enable them to get meaningful employment.
Until someone of the Tea Party persuasion presents a solution that clearly seeks to remedy the conditions that result in abject poverty for any of my fellow citizens, I don't want hear their demeaning stories. Let's hear it for citizens who recognize problems in America's social fabric and try to find solutions that empower and enable those who are incapable or heretofore unwilling to take care of themselves. Let's encourage and support those who choose to search for light rather than curse the darkness. We should drum out of office those elected officials whose salaries and benefits are paid by taxpayers if they don’t demonstrate enthusiasm for providing a comparable level of support for all citizens who are willing and eager to work. Let's withhold our support from members of Congress who are unwilling to work with other legislators to provide the same level of healthcare that we citizens provide for them.
Friday, December 28, 2012
The American System of Government is a very good one. The design is good. The intention of the authors of the documents that describe the design and the rationale for it was good. An assumption by the founders of the American nation was that a system of government for the new nation had to be one that allowed for disagreements which could be addressed and resolved by compromise. They saw compromise as a good thing, not as a sign of flaw or weakness in the framework of the system. They even anticipated times when a few ignoramuses might be elected to serve as representative of the people. The government had to be able to correct itself without dissolving into the chaos of war. Once, over the matter of slavery and states rights, the system failed... mainly because of obdurate postures assumed by pseudo patriots who would rather see the country destroy itself than to continue to seek compromise. In the course of that war 625,000 Americans died in combat... 599 for every day of the war. That kind of thing won’t happen again in America.
In the Twenty-First Century we are better than that. The majority of the American voting population declared in the 2012 election that they want a government that works, a government that regulates reasonably and fairly the affairs of its citizens, all its citizens. The majority of voters declared their confidence in the American system of government. A small group of citizens actually say they would rather see the country collapse than to compromise their religious or social ideologies. There was some rather insincere and foolish talk about withdrawing altogether from the American union of states, but even those people foolish enough to say out loud that they would rather go it alone than to go with the majority of the people of the United States obviously didn’t really mean what they said. Some people are so upset by the reelection of President Barack Obama that they talk treason, which I sincerely hope they don’t mean. A person I know, a man past the age of sixty who was once a student in an English class I taught when he was in high school, likes to refer to the President as “President Bo Jangles.” He says he wants the President dead. I assume his racism and basic ignorance of the implications of such writing and speaking are shared by a few others; but I believe the percentage of such people in the total population is small. I believe the great majority of Americans are at least uncomfortable with such disrespect for American government, even those who would have liked a different result in the November election.
We speak of our system of government as having branches. I like that. Anybody who reads my Blog/journal writing even occasionally knows that I like trees. In this week that I’ve spend in Washington, all but a few of the trees in the Mid-Atlantic region have lost all their leaves. They stand with branches exposed. They look dead, but we all know they are getting ready to explode with new leaves in a few months that will affirm their strength and their value. I expect the same kind of thing to happen to the branches of American government. If the nay-sayers and obstructionists in government don’t wise-up, they will be removed from office. As the President said in a short address to the nation today, Americans want a government that works. He expects members of congress to do their jobs, to work together.
Today I walked past this little house in Rockville, Maryland. I like it. It's an honest house. It's not pretentious. It's home to somebody. I don't know the people who live here, but they deserve the enabling protection that the American government is capable of providing for them. Let's make it happen.
Thursday, December 27, 2012
I shouldn’t have expected to find the damned fiscal cliff where I wandered in Washington today. Margaret, Nancy and I went to the National Gallery specifically to see Michelangelo’s David-Apollo. I saw it once in Florence. I didn’t see it the first time it was here. That was during the Truman Administration.
I couldn’t help but wonder today if any of those highly paid (with taxpayer money) legislators up on The Hill take time away from their busy schedules to come down every now and then to see the Michelangelos and Leonardos and Lichtensteins hanging or standing in what may be the best museums in the world. If they don’t, the problem can’t be that they’re struggling with personal health problems that aren’t covered by their absolutely complete and wonderful health care programs (also paid for by taxpayers).
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Monday, December 24, 2012
Before the snow began, the ornamental cactus was a perfect
harbinger of a delightful Christmas.
Nancy's house is on the right near the bottom of this image.
...the second from the right in this one.
I made this panorama from her front porch.
Rockville Center after the snow began and later turned to rain.
Brrrrrr. It's cold here!
Sunday, December 23, 2012
Looked everywhere today for the fiscal cliff...
Thought maybe the earthquake opened it here at
the Washington Monument...
I don't think the family living here is covering it up...
and the Speaker at that other House has gone home.
Maybe he's taken it with him.
Checked with Alexander Hamilton over at Treasury...
No sign of it.
Not much going on here on Pennsylvania Avenue...
Not hiding in the museums...
Nor in the old buildings farther up on Pennsylvania Avenue...
Daniel Webster had no suggestions... and you know how he is. If anything
is hidden, he's sure to find out...
Even over at Dupont Circle at my favorite coffee shop
nobody seems concerned.
I'll keep looking...
Friday, December 21, 2012
I’m not at all sure I’ll stick with the plan... er...er... not a plan exactly... yet... I’ll call it an idea I got while walking in the cold, windy Washington afternoon. The sky is gray, gloomy, overcast and feels like the end of something. It’s winter, after all, and that’s the way winter is supposed to be. It’s just that where I live in San Diego, winter doesn’t feel like an ending.
I stopped to take pictures of brilliant seed pods dangling from bare branches, and it occurred to me that the end of one season is always the beginning of another. These shiny pods hold the seeds that will soon break open and scatter in the winter wind to begin new life next spring when the earth warms again in this part of the northern hemisphere. Life is good.
Oh, about that idea which could perhaps become a plan... I almost got sidetracked in my thinking and writing, which happens often now that I’m well into what’s called “the senior years.” I got word from my friend Cliff Dunn, a classmate who still lives in the town where we grew up, Wayne Sue, another member of our graduating class of 1953, Live Oak High School, had “passed away.” Euphemisms like “senior years” and “passed away” are especially useful in the communications between people “of a certain age,” another handy euphemistic phrase when talking about old people. The plan, if it develops, will be to journal a series of BLOG writings around the general title of “Growing Old Responsibly.”
Senator Daniel Inouye, President Pro Tempore of the United States Senate, died this week. In many ways he has been a role model for all of us. He was born on December 17, 1924, eleven years before I was born. I was still too young to be drafted in World War II, but young Dan Inouye enlisted in the U.S. Army as soon as it lifted the enlistment ban on Japanese Americans. He stepped out of his premedical studies at the University of Hawaii to become part of the all-Nisei 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the army unit was mostly made up of second-generation Japanese Americans from Hawaii and the mainland. He was promoted through the ranks to sergeant and then second lieutenant. He was awarded the Metal of Honor for action so heroic that it seems more the stuff of fiction than factual reality. I won’t recount here all that happened to him that led to the Metal of Honor award. After serving valiantly in other battles in Italy, he and his platoon were working their way along a heavily fortified ridge in Tuscany when he was shot in the stomach. Ignoring the grievous wound he moved to attack a German machine gun nest. He rallied enough to crawl still forward toward the enemy and was shot in the arm. There is much more to this story than I am telling here; but you can read elsewhere about how, with one arm blown almost off at the elbow, he shot and destroyed the machine gun nest with his gun in his other hand before he collapsed unconscious. His arm was amputated at a field hospital.
Daniel Inouye could have gone back to civilian life to move as a war hero through what was left of his youth into middle age and on to old age. He could have been cowed by the awareness that heroism by “people of color,” especially by someone from a territory not yet a state didn’t get as much attention as heroic action by a “white” soldier from the U.S. mainland. But he didn’t hold back and hide himself in dependency on others. The rest is history: He served in the Hawaiian Territorial House and Senate, was the first Hawaiian to serve in the United States House of Representatives after Hawaii became a state, and then finally was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1962 where he served until his death this week. He was awarded the Medal of honor by President Clinton in 2000. As President Pro Tempore of the senate he was third in the presidential line of succession after the Vice President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. He was a Democrat. His best friend in the Senate was Republican Senator Bob Dole, another genuine hero from World War II. These two heroes demonstrated that bipartisanship is still possible in American politics.
Closer to home my neighbor and friend Jim Fudge, a distinguished navy veteran of World War II who participated in the Normandy Invasion, is another role model and mentor for me. Remembering J.D. Salinger’s Esme wishing Seymore could come back from the war with “all faculties intact,” I report what all his friends and family know about Jim, that he came back from the war whole. He is alive and well and a perfect example of how one can grow old responsibly.