Jan 302017
 

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 29: Demonstrators march down Pennsylvania Avenue during a protest on January 29, 2017 in Washington, DC. Protestors in Washington and around the country gathered to protest President Donald Trump's executive order barring the citizens of Muslim-majority countries Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen from traveling to the United States.

He is banning members of the Muslim religion from our country, but I am not of that religion.

He is building a wall to keep out Mexicans, but I am not a Mexican.

He will not allow us to shelter the suffering, homeless, and dying refugees of war, but I am not a refugee.

He intends to torture prisoners, but I will not be one of those tortured.

He may cancel the health insurance of 20 million people, but I have other health insurance.

He will do away with protections for the environment, but I do not have so many years left to live, and future generations will pay for this, not me.

He is moving to further restrict the voting rights of minorities and others who oppose him, but I am a white man from Tennessee and I will still be able to vote.

He will degrade public education, on which most families depend, while funding private education for the well-off. But I already have my education.

He intends to deport some 12 million immigrants, including many who were born and grew up here. But I am not one of those to be deported.

He will reverse the civil rights gains made by lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgendered persons, but I am not one of these persons.

He wants to make abortions illegal and even criminal, but I will not be needing an abortion.

He will reduce government benefits for the poor and vulnerable to benefit the wealthy and powerful, like himself. But I am not among the poor and vulnerable.

He wants more people in more places armed with more guns, so the “good guys” can kill the “bad guys.” This will increase our national murder rate even more than it already is. But I live a quiet life and am not likely to be among those murdered.

So, other than a terrible sadness for the plight of others, will he do me no harm?

Well, no harm unless . . .

Unless he is able to take away our freedom of speech, and of the press, and of religion, or from religion if we choose. Unless he can take our rights of travel and free association with others, and of voting and debating public issues, and of equal treatment under just laws. Unless we are left sold out and oppressed, with no truthful information on what is happening, to us and others in the world.

Unless he so divides and abuses and insults and provokes others who are not me, that some equivalent of a second American Civil War occurs. A conflict in which the military forces he now commands will be unleashed against citizens who oppose him, as in Assad’s Syria and Saddam’s Iraq and Franco’s Spain and Amin’s Uganda and Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany.

Unless his constant and unpredictable anger, and belligerence toward other peoples and nations, leads us into nuclear destruction. Which now does not seem all that unlikely.

His view of our America is a dark and gloomy one, a view that sees threats on every side and emergencies he must address where none exist. And now that he has gained this power he sought, my own view has turned dark and gloomy as well. 

If I were a man of power and prominence in the country, and he read these words, I would doubtless be marked for suppression or retribution.

But I am not a man of power or prominence. Just a very worried citizen.


Listen to a reading of this story:


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Evolved Thinking

 Posted by at 2:13 am  1 Response »
Oct 242015
 

On Tuesday, November 8th, 1960 I cast my first vote in a U.S. presidential election, at the age of 23.  I voted for Richard Nixon against John F. Kennedy. I was a Southern Baptist ministerial student at the time, and although I did not openly admit it, I was influenced by the fervent anti-Catholic sentiments I heard around me in Tennessee. Preachers said that a vote for Kennedy was a vote to have the Pope running things in America. My voiced rationale for the Nixon vote was that he was "more experienced." 

kennedy nixonI did learn better. In the 1964 election I voted for Lyndon Johnson against Barry Goldwater, then for Hubert Humphrey against Nixon in 1968, then for George McGovern against Nixon (who seemed never to go away) in 1972. My thinking on Nixon and what he represented had clearly "evolved." 

I grew up in rural Tennessee, and although he had a Ph.D, my father was still a mountain man from North Carolina. He gave me a rifle at an early age and taught me to shoot and hunt. I developed a love for guns and hunting and marksmanship.

I joined the National Rifle Association and benefitted from its connection with the U.S. military that allowed NRA members to purchase surplus weapons for almost nothing. I obtained and refinished guns such as the classic M1903 Springfield .30-06, the army M1 .30 Carbine, and the .45 caliber pistol. I learned to re-finish and re-blue weapons, and to fit and furnish them with new and beautiful wooden stocks. In those days you might have called me a "gun nut" and been pretty accurate.

I also was a hunter. I have aimed at, shot, and killed squirrels, rabbits, dogs, ducks, deer, crows, groundhogs, doves, hawks, pheasants, rats, snakes, quail, frogs, large fish in a river, racoons, and possums, to name those I can recall. I once shot at a wild boar but missed. In those days I would probably have hunted and killed an African lion named Cecil if I posessed the money to do so.

1024px-National_Rifle_Association.svgBut today I would not even consider shooting an animal. I still own some of my old guns but I haven't fired one in years. I love watching wildlife films and doing wildlife photography. My thinking has evolved on the subject of killing animals. It has also evolved on the subject of the National Rifle Association, whose politics I now detest.

When I was a young man, the smoking of tobacco was stylish and popular. I had a professor I greatly admired, and he wore a vest and smoked a pipe. I got a vest and bought a pipe and tried my best to learn to use it. The pipe and my mouth and nose never took to each other, and I finally gave up on the effort, which I am grateful for today. Over time, the truth about smoking tobacco came out, despite the efforts of tobacco companies and the politicians whose votes they owned. Today, public sentiment is totally reversed on the subject of tobacco. Our national thinking has evolved on this subject.

When a person changes her mind on a matter, friends will give her credit for evolved thinking. The unsympathetic will call it "flip flopping." You might assume that flip flopping and evolved thinking are the same. You might believe that the only difference is in how they are being described, whether in supportive or derisive terms. Actually I think there's a difference between the two.

When a person changes his mind on a subject of importance, the decision may or may not be based on conviction and sincerity. An open and reasoning mind may not have been involved at all, just convenience or expediency or practical self interest. In this case, the term "flip flopping" fits well and is not inappropriate. But if a person begins to see things in a new and different light, finds and accepts new evidence, struggles with and overcomes old prejudice–when that happens things are totally different.

Thus, it seems to me, there are two kinds of change: one based on sincere reason, and the other based on following external influences. And, to make a judgement on the matter, one of these is admirable and the other is not. One is to be admired and the other is to be suspected. One can be trusted and the other cannot. 

We trust and admire those who live by the advice of Shakespeare's Polonius to his son Laertes:

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Evolved thinking, if it is that, must arise from within a self that is true to itself.

The outcome may not be the most expedient, or the most profitable, or the most popular.

But you can live with it.

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Mouse Trap

 Posted by at 9:15 am  No Responses »
Nov 272013
 

Being the last of November, the weather is thinking ahead to winter here in the DC area. That sometimes means an appearance of mice into our homes. So the other evening, while peacefully watching a movie in the family room, I saw one run around the corner of a sofa. It was startling and somewhat embarrassing. Something had to be done. mouse trap

When I think of catching mice, I think of the wooden Victor brand mouse trap that you bait with cheese. You bait it carefully, especially after you’ve attached the cheese to the small bait holder and you bend the wire frame back over and secure it with the flopping metal pin. If you’ve done this before and had a trap spring on you and scare you half to death, you be sure you hold the trap from the harmless end and not the end that catches the mouse. To have a finger caught in a snapping mouse trap would not be fatal, but would hurt like hell. Which is considerably more than you would want something to hurt.

Our local supermarket did not have any wooden Victor brand mouse traps. They had a strange round plastic thing I bought two of because there was nothing else. The plastic things have caught no mice. It is unclear to me how they would ever do so. If someone thought this was a better mouse trap, then this is a case where better isn’t better and is actually silly.

The local hardware chain store did not have wooden Victor brand mouse traps either. ¬†Instead they had “catch and release” mouse traps. You are supposed to trap your mice, transport them somewhere, and release them unharmed. The instructions do not suggest where this might be: a neighbor’s yard, the school playground, hardware store where you bought these traps, the desk drawer of a co-worker–use your imagination.

I love most animals and am opposed to the cruel treatment of animals. But the idea of catch and release as applied to mice that take up residence in my private home raises issues. Am I also obligated to catch and release termites, roaches, stinging wasps, bed bugs, and poisonous snakes? Yes, in theory these are all god’s creatures, along with the mice. But I don’t want them in my home. My neighbors don’t want them in their homes, either. Catch and release makes no sense. I will not attempt to bother these creatures in other locations, but if they invade my living space I will do away with them if I can.

I’m sure that whoever believes we should catch and release mice is a good and well-intentioned person. I would actually love to speak with such a person and suggest a future project. The project I have in mind relates to the killing of fellow human beings.

We now have laws in an increasing number of states that permit you to kill someone who feels threatening to you, someone in your yard perhaps, or passing by, or even walking in your neighborhood. These are known as “stand your ground” laws and they can allow people to get away with murder.

My plainspoken Tennessee friend put it this way: “If you ever need to get rid of a black guy, just take him to Florida and shoot him.”

That should be more troubling than the use of traps that kill mice in the home. It should trouble us that we would treat animals like people while treating people like animals.

By the way, you can still find the original wooden mouse traps. ¬†Just Google on the words “victor,” “mouse,” “trap,”and “wood.”

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