Archive for August, 2019

Melting no more

Author: admin

Growing up in the Northwest, I was taught this nation was a “melting pot.” A country of many ethnic backgrounds all smooshed together to form a nation of variety, invention, assimilation and being better off for the mixture.

“Melting pot.” It had a nice ring to it. Colorful words meaning this nation was founded, then improved by the diversity each new face brought to our shores. Something entirely different from other countries of more singular ethnicities. And it seemed to work for a long time.

But, sadly, somewhere along the way, we lost the idea of mixing and replaced it with exclusion, separateness and division. People of a common language, a common color, a common religion or any of a dozen differences stopped mingling and, instead, most formed separate communities of near isolation.

We have Black communities and Hebrew communities. Hispanic communities. We have Irish, Polish, Russian, Norwegian, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and many other singularly exclusive areas.

We have Black radio and television. When’s the last time you watch Black TV? Hispanic, Chinese, Korean and other broadcasters and print media targeting specific groups. We have areas of the nation that don’t welcome people of other races or religious beliefs. People talk of not going into parts of their own city of residence. I was once held against my will for 24 hours largely because I was a White man in a Black neighborhood of rioters.

A lot of this was brought to mind when the shooter in the El Paso killings told police he drove nine hours from the Dalles-Forth Worth area to kill Hispanics because “that’s where most of them lived in Texas” and he didn’t want to kill in his hometown. But, he wanted to kill people gathered in a particular location. Crazy? Yes. Twisted thinking? Certainly. But, that’s what he said and the blood was real.

Our dangerous President is not to blame for all this. We’ve been a divided nation for many years. But, he’s become a master at using our “separateness” against us to drive divisions and hatred. He’s wielded racism as a club against those of differing skin colors. He’s used his own destructive brand of politics in attempts to disable our government and let loose conditions – often ruinous conditions – to violate laws of both man and nature.

There’s an old story about two brothers engaged in a fight. Pounding each other. But, when someone else attacked one of the brothers, they jointly battled the intruder.

It used to be much the same with America. We tangled and tussled among ourselves. We had our disagreements and our differences. But, when outsiders – other nations – provoked us or fomented wars against us, we turned as one to deal with the outsider. We fought wars in which Americans of differing skin colors, differing religions, differing ethnicities, differing sexual orientation acted together. Bound by a single purpose regardless of our differences.

In many ways, we’ve lost that uniformity of acting as one. Maybe the terrible division wrought by the war in Viet Nam was a turning point when national purpose was so openly and so fiercely divided. For many Americans, those divisions are still there. Maybe when we lost the comity and respect for relationships in our political affairs was another. No more working for the good of the whole. Now, it’s trench warfare with good ideas and “what’s-best-for-the-country” becoming victims of yet more division and disrespect for our institutions. And, in many cases, for each other.

The melting pot was a good idea. And it’s still a good idea. Our homeland never prospered as much as when we worked together, ignoring differences to reach common purpose. Whether in war or striving to send astronauts to the moon or defeating dictators or developing mind-bending technologies and great advances in medicine for our national benefit. Individuals of many backgrounds dedicated to achievements of universal purpose.

Curmudgeon that I am, I doubt we will ever again see a true national melting pot. Still, some say the young among us aren’t as devoted to divisions as we older folk. We’re told they don’t get so tangled up on sexuality or race or national origin as many of us do. Some believe they’re better able to look past differences to concentrate on more important things. That they’re more pliable of thought and better able to work together for common purpose.

I pray that is so. Because, 14 months from now, we and they are going to have to be united “as one” to beat a common foe. We who love this country, and the diversity that’s made it work, will be called to look past our differences and unite to expunge our government of those who have tried so hard to separate us.

We’ll need the best of that old melting pot to join in singleness of national purpose.

What now

Author: admin

Saturday, we watched the news of the mass shooting in El Paso. We went to bed angry.

Sunday, we awoke to the news of another mass shooting in Dayton. We went to church. We went angry.

We went to church to ask God, “What the Hell can we do? What can we say? Why is this happening? What are you going to do?”

The prayers were silent. Across the country, in thousands of other churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, cathedrals and even in living rooms, I’m sure we were joined by literally millions of Americans collectively asking God, “What the Hell can we do?”

Some, I suppose, were asking God to intervene. Asking God to do something. Take action. Come up with some sort of new holy law rendering future shooters incapable. Anything to stop the murder.

In two massacres, 29 people dead and at least 46 wounded or otherwise injured as a result. Within 16 hours of each other. From the bodies on the ground, concentric circles of grief, anger and shock were sent out to hundreds – maybe thousands – of homes and families across the country. Grief. Anger. Shock.

So, what do we do to effectively keep some of us from killing others of us in fits of anger, desperation, frustration or mindless, suicidal acts of cold blooded murder? I’ve not found an answer.

Yes, we can pile on gutless and NRA-bought-and-paid-for politicians of every stripe. Yes, they’ve done nothing. But, really, will the next shooter stop before the planned bloody deed to read new laws and decide he’s not going to do it because murder is against the law? Really?

Some say more mental health care is needed. O.K. How do we find the pre-shooter? How do we find them all? How do we get them into treatment? What if we miss a few? Will we get mental treatment to everyone that needs it? Really?

Some say get rid of the guns. The FBI estimates there are more than 300-million guns in private hands. Are we going to go after them? Take them away? Really? How many more killings will result from such efforts?

Some say destroy the NRA. Just attack it, legally or financially or morally until it’s dead. And the several million responsible gun owners who make up the bulk of the NRA? Destroy the NRA? Really?

More background checks and tougher security checks for those who want to buy guns? Both of the weekend shooters bought theirs legally. What more can be done? How many more hurdles? Really?

There is no one answer. And I can’t come up with even a handful that would be effective. That would end the bloodshed. That would stop the killing.

We are cursed by our own technology. The Internet has become an international “party line” for terrorists, wannabe terrorists, nutballs, delusional misfits and maniacs. Individuals who used to be angry, alone and afraid to act can now “talk” to thousands of other individuals similarly angry, afraid and alone. But, with the “party line,” they can strike common cause – boost the egos of each other – create an electronic world where crazy fantasies become their “realities.”

The FBI and others can track ISIS or other terrorists online. But they can’t act on what nasty deeds are planned within our borders because of privacy laws. Got an answer for that?

We’ve got a president who speaks of Nazi sympathizers and terrorists as “good people” and who will not – WILL NOT – disavow them or their acts. He gives verbal “cues” of approval to rough up protestors, vows to pay their legal costs, pumps up their zealotry by recognizing them at rallies and other public events. Both of last week’s shooters were admirers of Trump. One even had a picture on his website of 17 guns arranged to spell “T-R-U-M-P.” Really!

On the I-Net, there are the terrorist websites deliberately aimed at teens around the world. Filled with glossy videos and music. Telling the young they can achieve martyrdom by killing – and being killed – for such-and-such a cause. Pick one. Load your AK-47 and go!

When we were young, nearly all of us wondered how long we’d live, how many years were ahead of us. Millions of young people today don’t see themselves growing older. Many see themselves dying young. Some assume they will. School shootings, mass killings in stores, theaters, churches and concerts where they go feed into that. Video games and violent fantasy movies, too. There are more teen suicides per capita now than just a decade ago.

Yes, I’m venting. I’d bet you have, too. Because, when you look at these mass murders with a sense of reality, there seem to be no answers. A little bit here. A little bit there. Oh, we can do this. Or, we can do that. O,r even a whole bunch of things.

But, how do we reach – and stop – the thousands of twisted, sick minds out there conditioned by anger, by shame, by addiction, by encouragement from terrorists, by racism, by loneliness, by drugs, by harassment from their peers, by disappointment?

New laws won’t do it. Fears of punishment won’t do it. Making guns harder to buy won’t. Medical treatment won’t. When a semi-automatic can shoot 700 rounds a minute, nothing will do it.

Some say climate change is today’s most urgent problem. To me, it’s the lone, unidentified, suicidal white guy with an A-K. And I don’t have the answers.
 

Fallacy of ‘debates’

Author: admin

Many decades ago, I got my first horse racing introduction with a friend who said he was “experienced” in horse racing. I knew nothing about it so figured this would be an education.

An “education” it was.

We walked to the paddock area where horses for the next race were on display. I watched and listened to my “experienced” friend and those around us as they sized up the animals. It wasn’t long until my “education” expectations died.

“Look at the color of that Chestnut,” someone said. “He’ll win.” “Oh, that brown horse – I’ll bet on him,” was heard. Another “expert” liked the green and gold jockey’s outfit. Another “winner.”

That racing experience of long ago came to mind after watching the last Democrat presidential “debate.” And the ensuing “expert” commentaries. There were many parallels.

“This one’s up, that one’s down.” “For an unknown, she made some good points.” “Not much experience but handled himself well.”
Sounded like the “experienced” racing crowd.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say these crowded “horse shows” mean nothing. But, they don’t mean much. The minority of Americans who care to watch and listen can see their favorites in action and watch the rest of the crowd. Others at least learn the names of the previously unknowns. And who will be unknown again before the 2020 election. But, if you’re watching for substance or decision-making, well, good luck.

Debates don’t win presidential elections. Oh, there was that Nixon-Kennedy debacle in 1959. Kennedy cool and articulate. Nixon with five o’clock shadow and sweating like an NFL down lineman in an August exhibition game. Might have been some significance in that. But, debates 18 months ahead of elections, don’t count for much. Remember Clinton-Trump debates? She got three-million more votes than he did but he won in the Electoral College. Winning is not done in debates.

Several things have been disappointing in these free-for-all’s. For me, it’s the things that haven’t been said. What must be done quickly – and massively – about climate change? How to undo the immigration shame wrought by Trump. What about homelessness and housing people can’t afford? What about the VA health care mess? How to stop or at least clean up gerrymandering which is a proven cancer in many of our elections? What can be done effectively to stop foreign governments from screwing with our elections. None of these – none – have been addressed. As the old gal said, “Where’s the beef?”

We’ve been “treated” to attacks, prepared ad libs, snarky comments about him or her and lots of meaningless chatter about this and that.
Even criticism of Barrack Obama – a guy the finalist is going to need big time before November.

Most of those faces now peering out from the crowd on stage will be gone in a few weeks. They won’t be able to raise the necessary money, create a large enough staff, be able to get thousands of volunteers “on the ground” in 50 states, compile the massive data base necessary for communications with voters and more. And those are the things – the absolutely necessary things – needed to survive. Warren, Biden and Sanders either have those things or can get them in short order. None of the other 17 has or can.

One bit of mystery getting my attention has nothing to do with debating. Obama and Eric Holder are deeply involved with something called the National Redistricting Committee – a vehicle they created to deal with gerrymandering congressional and legislative districts and to undertake such other “related political affairs that may be of interest.” They’ve got reps in most states and I’d guess turning the organization to a candidate-backer would be just a short step.

Both gentlemen are keeping low profiles at the moment. Except Holder’s well-publicized warning to Democratic “debaters” last week not to keep attacking Obama. Given Obama’s well-known 50-state grassroots history, and Holder’s proven abilities of effective organizing, those two may be the secret weapon necessary for a Democrat victory in 2020. I’m keeping an eye on them.

As for “debates” over the next 16 months or so, well, if there’s little “beef” and more personal attacks, they won’t mean much. If the subjects listed above – and a few others – aren’t addressed with some creative thinking and solid plans, it’ll just be talk, talk, talk. We – the voters – won’t have what we need to make intelligent choices.

And, don’t forget, the changes necessary in our elected federal government won’t mean a damned thing if Democrats win the White House but don’t take the Senate. If “Moscow Mitch” or some other Republican is Majority Leader in 2021, we’ll have four more years of nothing. Just more stalemate and division.

We’re not seeing real debates. We’re watching those old horse displays with people instead of nags. We’re watching a beauty contest. The real issue isn’t who “won” or “lost” the last gab fest. It’s who among them has the savvy and the ability to quickly mount a successful winning campaign with all the absolutely necessary tools.

Warren, Biden and Sanders are in for the long haul. It really doesn’t matter who you “like” now or who looks good. The real issue is can we all get together behind the name on the ballot in November, 2020? Can we turn away from our favorite of the moment to cast a ballot for someone else when it counts? Anyone else.