Thursday, August 10, 2017

A New Thrill at 91 - Driving! And some thoughts on What constitutes THE GOOD LIFE (As I've seen it!)

At my families request, I gave up driving our 2006 Pontiac!  Oh, I still think I'm the best driver in the family, but it's hard to find anyone who agrees with me. Fearful that an unexpected accident might prove them right, I gave up my keys! I truly enjoy public transportation, can endure metro's flaws,  and may someday go against my prejudice and even take Uber.

When I realized that merely walking causes intense pain in my lower back, I found a marvelous teen thrill - being old/mature enough to get behind a steering wheel!  It happened amazingly in the most unlikely place - the shopping mecca, COSTCO! Without needing a drivers license or insurance, with 30 seconds of instruction, I found myself tooling around the wide aisles from the Hearing Center to the Pharmacy to the abundance of free samples and other retiree Shangri La's.

Once again being open to simple new experiences has enabled me to see how full and "rich" my life has been - for 61 pre-retirement years and almost 31 since.  And it causes me to ponder and puzzle:

How is this possible? What factors account for a good life for so many - like me - in my generation and is it going to be available for my kids and grandkids?

  • Surely good health is important!  But I know of some who feel as I do about their lives who have experienced great suffering.
  • I've had sufficient income. It seems especially important in these retirement years. How fortunate I am that Social Security and a good STATE pension system (from a career in education) make it possible for me to enjoy life during these 31 years of retirement. Yet I am very pessimistic with the direction of American society where a number of critical factors from impatience to have everything "right now" to poor distribution of wealth makes retirement opportunities like mine less likely. Surely I realize many other factors have been involved. However many in my generation have joined me in living the good life not because of our planning, but because the norms of society were structured to provide us with this benefit.
  • I continue to be impressed with the opportunities in other developed nations for middle-class folks to have retirement and vacation opportunities not available to most in our middle-class. Relatives of mine in Germany ranging from policeman to teachers appear to have sufficient middle class salaries that provide adequate health care and other benefits including lengthy vacation time for meaningful travel.
  • But this just scratches the surface of the things I marvel at from my youth that provided our lower middle class (especially income-wise) to have very satisfactory life experiences and doors opened for the further life I have experienced. 
  • "The fullness of my retirement living RIGHT NOW" prevents me from the many thoughts I'd like to share.  Thoughts about "the good old days" that cause some to think that America was once great!  Perhaps I'll enlarge on them in two weeks when I next Rant! 



Thursday, August 3, 2017

Why I keep Ranting and Raving at 91!

Perhaps there are some who wonder (just as I have) what impels me to compose and circulate these Rants and Raves as a nonagenarian. While some occasionally have been read by a fairly large audience, the great majority have not had many readers, and only one or two of them has stimulated thoughtful responses. This is especially true in my last Rant concerning my views on statehood for Washington DC. There was nary any talk-back regarding a topic that I thought would engender ridicule, if nothing else.  I've wondered sometimes if it were only my family who inflate my ego and reads these (ed. I'm sure most of them are even too busy to do so).

 Yet I feel almost compelled, yea driven to do so. In moments of self-analysis I find many explanations for this kind of "activism".
  • Ever since retiring from public school work, I felt I was free, for the first time as I moved to DC, to express myself on controversial, especially political, events.
  • And I have NEVER in my lifetime felt our nation so endanger - particularly by polarization - than I do at present,
  • From the use of Reddit's, "Ask Me Anything" I grew accustomed to having an audience of thousand asking me questions and seeking advice.
  • I've had a lifelong compulsion to be useful, and feel that I should continue to try to make a difference by helping and do my part to try to make the world better.
  • I've long felt that one of the greatest problems in society is a lack of inter-generational interaction and other failures of communication between segments of our society.. I particularly feel that the speed of change has  relegated the experience and insights of  "the older generation" to the sidelines and society has not benefited enough from their view of past mistakes and accomplishments.
  • And on a very intimate and personal level, I've marveled at the clarity of inspiration that has come to me on quite a regular basis about 3:30 AM "too frequently and thought-provokingly" for me to ignore. And though I am not a believer in the "god" I was exposed to  my entire  life in liberal churches, I feel that I join Samuel of biblical history in being given some inspiration, creative insight, whatever, that forces me to think more clearly and contemplate action.  I KNOW it is not "god"!  But there is something from the solitude of sleep or nature that provides inspiration and compunction for thought and action.
Thus I'll continue to "have my say" in my Rants..  Whether they are read or not is immaterial - it provides me satisfaction - yea relief - to express my feelings.  I may do it more (or even less) than every Thursday.  You can check periodically.  Remember you can always put the blogs on a header or app.(or whatever it is called).

And speaking of another venture; after one month – Reddit's policy requires a six month waiting period – I'll open myself to answering questions from those who care to ask a question of a 90+ years oldster.  I've had a great time answering over 2000 questions during several previous sessions.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

A strategy for DC progress more feasible than statehood.

Since I've been away from the "swamp that refuses to be drained," I was incensed to return to our nation's capital to find that once again Congress wants to interfere with local government and deny us of our right as citizens to "die with dignity," as well as other of other rights as citizens in the land of the free.

I know that for many committed activists the cause of statehood for DC has been a consuming goal and one we rightly deserve. Yet the realist within me sees it as an impossible dream. Years of protest have brought us no progress toward that goal and currently it is further from realization than ever. Yet the welfare of our citizens is in increased jeopardy from a government in disarray.  Thus I feel a new tact is necessary. It would be organized around two basic principles:
  • Putting pressure on Congress to provide adequate financing to truly make the District of Columbia a living example of what democracy can accomplish and be known as "The Shining City on a Hill for All Residents)."
  • Congress would not be permitted to unilaterally interfere with the lawmaking actions taken by local government action.
How exciting it would be for young and old, rich and poor, folks of all races and creeds and immigrant status to join together in a cause unifying us all.

I well know that many readers of my Rants will say something like, "He's finally lost it, he believes in miracles as an unreasonable idealist." And since I have my own definition of "Miracles" I plead guilty. Certainly the fact that a "supposedly" knowledgeable citizenry could elect a man as president so ignorant of what democracy is all about truly makes me believe in miracles.

All my life I have been proud to note the upward trajectory toward equality for all in our country. Through protests and proper procedures we have progressed to become the envy of the world as we have recognized past errors and failures.

Stay tuned for further "miraculous thoughts" that come to me in growing despair in the middle of the night as I see my beloved country plunging into a "state" I have not witnesses in my 91+ years. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A book I read this summer that totally fascinated me.



Review - about four pages in length
Timothy Egan's
Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher:
The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis

Certainly I do not consider myself to be an academic. And it was only in my retirement that I discovered the joy of reading. Most of my reading has been confined to history and biography – my belated attempt to come to a greater understanding of the world I live in and the role significant individuals have played in making it so. In doing this I made many new "friends". How fascinating to discover the contributions of people I had never heard of before. – particularly the photographer of Native Americans,Edward Curtis. (I like to blame my paucity of intellectual education that when I grew up in Texas we neither had kindergarten nor 12th grade.
Having grown up in Texas with many trips through the Indian country of the Southwest, I should have known of the work of Edward Curtis. I feel fortunate therefore that I chanced upon Egan's portrayal of Edward S. Curtis'' lifelong devotion to documenting the lifestyle of over 80 Native American tribes and respect for Curtis. With no academic training beyond the sixth grade, he toiled for some 54 years to produce the definitive 20 volume set of books entitled "The North American Indian". Working on this masterpiece from 1898 to 1929 he worked with luminaries including financier JP Morgan and President Theodore Roosevelt while enduring not only hardships but extreme poverty and jail in commitment to his cause.
Knowing that many (primarily in my own family) do not have the luxury of time to read the book, I want to share a bit of Egan's book from when Curtis began the project in 1898 until his death in 1952. I hope my writing conveys the fascination of his work and the exciting experiences he had.

1898
It was in '98 that Curtis joined the “climber of an impossible peak,” "Bird Grinnell. That Grinnell? Yes George Bird Grinnell founder of the Audubon Society, and considered the world's foremost expert on Plain Indians. He traced his ancestry to the Mayflower. He knew George Armstrong Custer. He had grown up with people like Cornelius Vanderbilt. He counted among his best friends an ambitious young politician, Theodore Roosevelt, just gearing up that summer to run for governor of New York. Ten years earlier Grinnell and Roosevelt had founded the Boone and Crockett Club devoted to preserving wildlife in order to have the opportunity to shoot it later. Oh. and it was "Dr. George Bird Grinnell, a PhD from Yale, though Curtis could call him Bird. Please."

1900
"Near the end of the Blackfeet summer, Curtis told Grinnell his mind was set. He would embark on a massive undertaking, even bigger than Bird's and suggested: a plan to photograph all intact Indian communities left in North America, to capture the essence of their lives before that essence disappeared 'the record to be of value to future generations must be ethno- logically accurate......What's more, after recording the song of the Sun Dance, Curtis further expanding the scope and ambition: he would try to be a keeper of secrets – not just as a a photographer but a stenographer of the Great Mystery. And did the Edward Curtis, with his six grade education, really expect to perform the multiple roles of ethnographer, anthropologist and historian? He did. What Curtis lacked in credentials, he made up for in confidence.– the personality trait that led him to Mount Rainier's summit. Bird loved the Big Idea.
The New York Herald stated "The most gigantic undertaking since the making of the King James edition of the Bible. The real Savage Indian is fast disappearing are becoming metamorphosed into a mirror ordinary uninteresting imitation of the white man is probably safe to say Mr. Curtis knows more about the really in than any other white man

1907-1908
SAYS CUTLER THROUGH MEN'S LIVES AWAY:
The headline was the least of it the story reported that Curtis had proof that Custer "had unnecessarily sacrificed the lives of the soldiers to further his personal end, and that he could've won the battle with little loss of life I know it is unpopular to criticize military, Curtis said but the Indians who were with him felt that tilted his judgment was flawed. When the wise old Indian warriors that were in this fight are ask what they think of Custer's course in the battle they point to their heads and say,' he must have been wrong up here'.
1908 - 1909
He was presenting "The Story of a Vanishing Race" a picture opera. This touring spectacle was a uniquely Curtis hybrid. The visuals were slides from the photographer's work over a 15 year span. He had painstakingly hand colored the slides, so that rock walls at sunset in Canyon de Chelly had an apricot glow, and the faces shot at the magic hour in New Mexico gave off a rugged blush. Using a stereoptican projector or magic lantern as it was called Curtis supplemented these stills with film and music .All of these images buttressed the story narrated by Curtis himself, about an epic tragedy: the slow fate of the people who had lived fascinating lives long before the grandparents of those in the Carnegie box seats sales from old Europe to seize their homeland. What made the entire experience more memorable was the music inspired by the recordings of Indian songs and chants to that Curtis had brought home on his wax cylinders. The whole of it was a visual feast of the aboriginal as the critics called it, created by a most American artist at the height of his fame.

1922 – 1927
The California of the 1920s was perhaps the most fertile place on earth to grow a life in a state the size of Italy with climate often compared to a soft caress, live barely 3 billion people. In the California of the 1920s it was easier to find fake Indians in Hollywood than real ones in the land of their ancestors. When the Spanish sent missionaries in the 1700s, Indians numbered about 300,000 in the state. They lived in extended clans, grouped into more than 100 distinct tribes none very big. They were sustained by acorns and game in the Napa Valley, salmon and berries around the Golden Gate, deer and roots in the Central Valley. They were as varied as the terrain. By 1848, when the American flag replaced those in Spain Russia Mexico and the Bear Flag Republic, the Indian population was about 100,000. Over the next 10 years the high of swift mortality wiped out 70,000 natives. What remained of the first residents in California scattered to isolated pockets of the state. The elimination – an indirect biological war – had been so systematic and complete that in 1911, newspapers around the world trumpeted a major discovery: an Indian named Ishi was found near the slopes of Mount Lassen. The last surviving member of the Yahi tribe was short, tangled – haired and middle-age, spoke a language no one could understand. His name meant “man”in the Yana dialect, and he was heralded as the last "primitive" Indian in the state.
From Montana they cross the Canadian border into Alberta seeking the last tribes in Canada. The tribes were spread over an enormous expanse of tableland at the foot of the Rockies. Reaching them, getting their stories and taking their pictures was akin to going into an area the size of Germany and looking for a handful of old ethnic – Polish families.
"The five civilized Tribes of Oklahoma are so much civilized, so white, they will be impossible while the wealthy Osage are not only becoming civilized but wealth gives them a haughtiness difficult to overcome." The Wichita were another kind of problem. It was a problem, this business of civilized Tribes and tribes grown rich from oil discoveries on tribal lands. The Wichita were another kind of problem. Mormon and Baptist missionaries had been all over them, and as a result, many tribal customs were now banned as pagan rituals. Their practice could mean a sentence to hell. "Couldn't even take a picture one of their grass houses.
No tribe in the country and fallen so far as the Comanche. Once as masters of an enormous swath of flatland, they forced Texans to retreat behind settlement lines and Mexicans to run at the sight of them. Indians from other tribes would slit their own throats before allowing themselves to be take prisoners by a Comanche.
The book on the Alaska natives, looked to be an easier production. There remained one chance for redemption: to finish on a high note in the far north. Alaska had held a special place in Curtis's heart ever since he sea journey there with the Harriman expedition of 1899. He was 31 that, still on the boyish side of manhood. The gimpy-legged graybeard of 1927 who made plans for the final field trip of the North American Indian was broken, divorced, he year shy of his 60th birthday. He had a lifelong nicotine addiction as well as assorted grumpy complaints about his bad fortune at this stage of life. The joy for Curtis was the first assistant, his daughter Beth who would finance the trip with money from the studio and from her husband Manford Magnuson. For much of her life she had dreamed of spending time in the wild with her father. Daughter Florence had gotten to experience him in action in California.

1927
Curtis had last plied these northern waters 28 years earlier. That ship was stocked with liquor, cigars and a canteen of costly preserved foods . Rail barron Edwsard H. Harriman had spared no expense for the passengers. By contrast the Victoria carried working stiffs – fisherman, bound for seasonal job with the salmon fleet, Argonauts still chasing a strike in goldfields that had played out years earlier. Nome was a dump. What it been in 1910 the largest city in Alaska territory with a population of nearly 15,000, was now a few hundred slope-shouldered souls in a hand-me-down town.
Frustrated that he could find it no one to take him to native villages, Curtis purchased a boat of his own, the Jewel Guard, 40 feet long, 12 at the be with sails and an an engine for windless days. It came with the skipper, a Swede called Harry the Fish. On June 28 they sailed for Nunivak Island a distance of about 300 miles – the four of them. On the island more than any other time other in the field, his pictures showed smiles! Native children, native women native elders exuding a deep beauty. Their nose rings and chin piercings were dazzling little orbs of jewelry sparkling in the sunlight. Think of it, he wrote, at last, and for the first time in all my 30 years of work with the natives, I have found a place where no missionary's work."
.But a day later they found the scene of squalor and grim faced toil among 300 and so Yuk'ip Eskimos. What struck the Curtis party was the filth of the people. They smelled as bad as they looked, reeking of rotten seal meat, smoked fish and sea detritus. I have not seen all the world's dirty natives but I can't say that no human can carry more sales than those here. Living as they do in mud and damp, it is estimated that 75% have tuberculosis.
Arriving in Seattle he was approached by two uniform Sheriff's deputies and several operatives of the Burns Detective Agency. "We have a warrant for your arrest." He was thrown in a cell with other unfortunate. His divorced wife Claire Curtis had gotten wind of her ex-husband's pending arrival and stated she was owed $4400 in unpaid alimony since 1920.

1927 – 1932
The judge summarized the Curtis defense. "Do I understand that you will receive no money for this lengthy project?" Curtis nodded, his eyes misted. "I work for nothing". Flabbergasted, the judge said. "Then why are you doing it?" "Your Honor, it was my job… The only thing I could do that was worth doing. I was duty-bound to finish.
He had two volumes to go. The book on the Indians of Oklahoma would be most difficult to write. In my lifetime, I've seen no group of Indians not influenced by Christianity.
Curtis felt he had done a fair job of making something from nothing. He printed alphabets, pronunciation guides, many full pages of sheet music of native songs and he tried, once again to correct misconceptions, about spiritual life with several pages devoted to a forceful defense of the Peyote society. The missionaries who describe the Peyote ceremony as "devil worship" and "drug–eating debauchery" had completely missed the point. In fact many Christian converts took Peyote in a ritual that lasted from dust till dawn, a mind altering way to connect to the creator. As Quanah Parker, the last chief of the wild Comanche had said in defense of the hallucinatory experience of Indian worship: “The white man goes into his church and talks about Jesus but the Indian goes into his tipi and talks to Jesus."

1932 – 1952
In October 1932, Clara Curtis climbed into a rowboat near her sister's home in Puget Sound. In the chop of the sudden breeze fell overboard into the 42° waters and drown.
In 1936 Curtis stated, "Yes I am certainly broke. Other than that, I am not down and out." He had two daughters and a son nearby in Southern California and a fourth child in Oregon. He kicked around many a gold seal, scraping high mountain ground in the Sierra Nevada until dark. In the trough of the depression, Curtis was living and to mouse but good luck struck when Cecil D DeMille began filming a variety of Westerners in 1936 he asked if Curtis could help with photographic stills, camerawork and logistics.
E. S. CURTIS, INDIAN-LIFE HISTORIAN, DIES
on October 19, 1932, Curtis died of a heart attack. He was 84. It was a national curse, it seemed once again, to take as a life task the challenge of trying to capture in illustrated form a significant part of the American story. The Indian painter George Catlin had died broke and forgotten. Matthew Brady, the Civil War photographer who gave up his prosperous portrait business to become a pioneer of photojournalism, spent his last days in a dingy rooming house, alone and penniless. Curtis took his final breath in a home not much larger than the tent he used to set up on the floor of Canyon de Chelly.





Monday, July 3, 2017

I just can't stop ranting!

I am so fed up with the direction our country is going!  And it is all the result of one man's impact on a gullible segment of our population, many of whom have frustrations of their own and have fallen prey to a charismatic dictator.  THE MOST IMPORT THING FOR THOSE OF US WHO WANT TO BRING BACK CIVILITY AND RESTORE THE DREAM THAT ALL MEN AND WOMEN ARE CREATED EQUAL AND HAVE VALUE is for each of us to speak out and join  together in following constructive ways to combat the evil that has overtaken the executive branch of government.

Here are two suggestions that come to mind.
  1. Take a lesson from the master of the use of the media, Donald J Trump. He has effectively used provocative monikers to describe his opponent – lyin', little, low-energy, crooked, crazy and goofy. I know it can be perceived as taking the low road with him, but I think we should find the ONE best adjective that describes him?  I've got lots to offer including windbag, blowhard, big mouth, know-it-all, showboat and motor mouth. What's yours?
  2. While Trump continues to bash all the traditional media, we must unite in supporting journalists and the true Free Press! I marvel each day at the miracle of having a newspaper at my doorstep early each morning. I know many, including friends, who in the past have felt the media have worked to maintain the status quo. But I find most mainstream of media to at least attempt to purvey the truth with some balance. The paper I read, while perhaps having a well-known bias, at least attempts to include editorials and reports from various points of view. In-depth articles of critical events are not subject to the rantings of one individual generally, but are the studied report of trained group of investigative reporters. They even respond to criticism and admit mistakes.
    • While many of us are fascinated by the information we can receive instantly via the Internet, I sincerely believe that all who value a Free Press, should subscribe and actually participate in the local newspaper through support and criticism including letters to the editor
    • And once again I am eager to share with readers an article in yesterday's Washington Post (7/2).
"Love Thy Neighbor" is another dramatic story I wish EVERYONE could read. It's in today's Washington Post (7/2) and tells the story of a doctor coming to a small town in southwest Minnesota. He is warmly received and welcomed as a leader - until Trump is elected president. The only thing that hasn't changed is that he continues to worship Allah! Now his and his whole families' world changes.
What a price our country is paying for electing Trump as our president. He has shown us how much PREJUDICED OUR CITIZENS ARE AGAINST THE PERCEIVED "OTHER."
Of course minorities have known that for a long, long time.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

How blind we are to the racism around us

I don't know when I've been madder!

Of course I've come pretty close with the trauma brought to our country by the campaign and election of a person totally ill equipped to be our president. But an article that has gotten me so riled up in today's Washington Post is just another clear indication of the long-standing problem we have faced in our country - racism and the belief that we Eurocentric whites are superior to everyone else in the world. It was of course first manifest when our forebears stole a vast portion of a continent from an indigenous population which we saw as inferior. And then African-Americans were enslaved not only to build the first edifices of our our capital that "express freedom" and also built the rich economy of the South. Yet for the past eight years we were misled as we felt that the election of a black president had overcoming all of that. And now, a simple story, fortunately not as traumatic as "police murders," shows us how far we have yet to go in realizing that Black Lives Matter

My horror was all occasioned by today's article by Petula Dvorak's in today's issue of The Washington Post, June 27, 2017, entitled:
"On the mall selling cold drinks can get a black youth into hot water"
with the subtitle
"On the mall, fear of young black men armed with bottles of water"

Having lost out on other summer jobs, three young African-Americans, ages 16 and 17, thought they could make some money and be of help to people by selling water on the National Mall on an extremely hot day for $1.00.

"Selling Water While Black was enough to get the teens… handcuffed and humiliated by
Park Police working a undercover sting targeting illegal vendors.
The three youth were dumping the melting ice out of their bins, about to head home,
when they were surrounded by three undercover officers
who pulled out their badges and cuffed the boys
before questioning or conversation even began…
There they were, hands behind their backs,
one splayed on a sidewalk, as tourists walked by and gawked…
It was embarrassing. All these people watching us thinking we”re just criminals.
He'd never been in handcuffs before. He said they hurt."

So that's the basic story. There's really no more I can add. You must read the rest of the article to get the flavor of its totality. One of the youth was fearful that his mother would be mad at him – when she finally picked him up, after about an hour and a half in 90° heat. His answer was heartbreaking. "She was happy that I was alive," he said.

It is infuriating to me the double standard by which so many of us make judgments. Perhaps this comes at a particular time when I was again sensitized to our countries racism by one of my former students, a large, heavy–set African-American. This gentle, extremely pleasant young man wrote on Facebook about the embarrassment he experiences time and again when clerks check his $20 bill to see if it is counterfeit!


In my 91 year of life I have been heartened to see – and be a modest part of – the positive direction I thought had brought us beyond the divisiveness that surrounds us. The task before us is greater than ever in arousing a “true moral majority" that seeks equality and justice for all.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

I'm sorry, I just can't stop ranting,

and this time it's not about the presidency. It's about us, and our selfishness and concern for our only comfort and convenience that we failed to do all we can to help save the planet for posterity. Thus I become cynical and yearn for the old days. Oh, I know they were anything but the "good ole' days" for far too much of our population – African-Americans, Native Americans and those of a minority sexual orientation.  While I recognize we have ways to go  in those areas,I am truly amazed by the progress we have made since my growing up in Texas in the depression years. But for most of the "other" Americans it was a time of commitment to a cause and ready to deny ourselves for the good of the world as we saw it.  For us a much larger middle-class it was a relaxed and comfortable way of life.

I say this because I have been pondering a recent article in the Washington Post, "The inevitable climate solution." It was written by two former presidential cabinet members, one Republican and one Democrat, George P. Shultz and Lawrence H. Summers.  While I must admit that while I didn't understand the technicalities of their position, I was not prepared for the statement that follows

This approach ensures that working-class Americans
benefit financially.
Because energy use rises with income and the dividend
would be equal for all.
The Treasury Department estimates that the bottom 70% of Americans would be better off
with the carbon dividend plan.

How many of us "liberal activists" fall into that category? We are the selfish major destroyers of the environment. I'm appalled at how often we fail to follow the simple practices that scientific studies – from proper waste disposal to excessive use of plastic water bottles and the thousands of other proven environmentally wise practices.

I truly believe that too many of us in, or nearing that 30%, who have been content to exert our energies toward the ballot box and selfishly pursued our own comfortable lifestyle. In doing so we have failed to join what I am still convinced are the majority of Americans who want a more civil, sharing country and world that cares for more than our own comfort and the future of the world.

I wonder what sort of revolutionary spirit to join us in such an enterprise? Personally I still have hope and faith that this idealistic, committed younger generation can move us in this direction.

Monday, June 12, 2017

It's hard to muse at 92*

when one is a bit "under the weather", and does not have enough intellectual strength to work on the rant he would REALLY like to produce.  Thus it feels strange to merely add my "two cents worth" during this, one of the most perilous times I have witnessed in my almost century of life.

I've already disclosed my predilection to fall back to personal clichés. (I recall that in answering the thousands of Reddit questions during the past two years, I was asked about the use of idioms and clichés from my era.) I think they are more expressive of ones feelings than the computieze and tweets of today.  So I shall continue to do so.

The one that has come to mind first relates to the "chickens coming home to roost."  And I think that relates to "one reaps what one sows." Certainly the "Liar in Chief" was telling the truth when he stated he "knew how to make deals". And this is what we have gotten, a dealmaker who casts aside established rules, protocols and commitments as well as moral rectitude to achieve victory for himself over anyone or anything standing in his way.

I'm affronted by his being seen throughout the world as speaking for my/our country. Through his caustic divisiveness, he has turned back the progress of  human and civil rights made in my lifetime.  He has personified and resurrected the image of the "Ugly American" throughout the world that millions have worked for years to overcome.   I am personally dismayed as an educator that our educational system failed in its responsibility to educate a thoughtful citizenry that would so  easily fall prey to the hollow promises of someone who represents the worst of the American character.

Through the years our country has achieved a vaunted reputation identified as "American Exceptionalism". In spite of our "sins" a reputation has been built and accepted by many throughout the world that our countries' leadership has had a positive influence in ameliorating suffering and leading the nations of the world toward peace.

Yet in far too many cases this leadership has been undermined by actions and moral failures that have "come home to roost."  I sincerely believe that for many reasons – from selfishness to the speed of change – we have begun to lose our way and must return to re-committing ourselves to human values that reflect a concern for the welfare of all races and religions.  "Globalism" is not a newly coined word or concept.  Republican candidate for president in 1940, Wendell Willkie's  book, ONE World joined the pronouncements of President Roosevelt in recognizing our role in leadership toward world peace through the United Nations.

And that's why I'm hopeful that I'll feel better soon to complete the one topic "weighing heavy on my heart". Of course I had to end with a cliché.

Ron Lehker

*I know I'm only 91, but I like the rhythmic effect.

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.   

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Making America REALLY Great!

"For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback."

A great many of us were exhilarated by those words of Michelle Obama upon the nomination of an African-American as the first presidential candidate of major American political party. Perhaps it is the loss of that pride and hope with the election of a candidate who thrived on hate and divisiveness that has been the major cause for the sadness that engulfs that majority of American voters who voted for someone else.

I must admit that in my 91 years of exposure to the American dream (and sometimes nightmare) I have never experienced such a roller coaster of emotions. Of course I have previously seen divisiveness beginning with the "American firsters" who opposed our entry into WWII. Hate groups were enthralled by Father Coughlin and Henry Ford and their antisemitism in that period. And then most all Americans finally stood up to Joseph McCarthy who "had no shame" as he viciously attacked the Hollywood establishment as he feared Communist influence in thoughtful films of the era. Jane Fonda was vilified as she took a stand against war in Viet Nam. And the exposure of Pentagon Papers and the questioning of the presence of mass destruction by government research was been questioned as being unpatriotic.

In my own mind I have renounced the hallowed slogan of the slogan given to my generation as "The Greatest Generation". How could a generation that interned Japanese citizens, we continued the long oppression of African-Americans, that mercilessly imported and used workers from other countries in building their cities and raised their crops in horrible conditions ever be considered as G R E A T!

My despair with the erosion of my countries declared values has grown even more since the election.  Yet unlike so many other, I felt compelled to follow the news ore than ever. Two things particularly stand out for me as I have tried to keep up. All my life I have valued the Free Press that has shown a light to cast out despair. There is no way that I can consider the PRESS as the enemy of my country. And secondly I have been totally dismayed that the followers of a man of history (yes, Jesus)  noted for peace, love and equality continue to embrace a man whose character discloses just the opposite values and behavior.  Yet we seem to pride ourselves a a Christian nation - and I this as an atheist who has attended churches all his life.

Yet it is in the long repeated term, "American exceptionalism" that I join Michelle in finding hope. I have long felt that the long trajectory of the American character has been pointing to an "Even Greater Generation"!. It can be seen in those brave citizens of the past who have fought injustice and place themselves in jeopardy in espousing unpopular cause. The American creed all has long stood for the right to protest. Furthering human values for all has been won by protests often led by women, youth, and elder sages, 

The struggle is never easy, but I see a determination in righteous people stepping forward using their voices and their feet to lead the way in setting our country on the right path once again. We need to accept our differences in technique and priorities to seeking and enjoy freedom and justice for all.

And then it came to me in a song. The folks who have stood against war, the folks who helped most in furthering civil rights and give opportunity for all including immigrants were actually revolutionaries. And that's when I realized that the song I was hearing was one that was used as an unofficial anthem for the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, "'Talkin' 'Bout a Revolution". For me that's the hope for the future. This younger generation with its idealism is being joined by oldsters (perhaps more than the youth realize are "those timid" oldsters from the past) and together,.

We shall indeed overcome!

.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Here's that man again..............

Clint Smith, the poet I heard about a year ago at an Aspen Conference on Race and Inequality. So very powerful!
https://www.pbs.org/newshour/brief/205828/clint-smith

Friday, February 17, 2017

I'm no proselytizer, but...........

................ I just have to share with you why this atheist attends church. You'll find it in the lead up to his sermon for this Sunday that the minister posted on my church's blog site.  Thrilling to me is also the great degree of social activism in this Unitarian Universalist church and the extremely large number of young people of all races, cultures, faith backgrounds and sexual orientation that are in attendance.

I truly believe that this introduction to his sermon shares a needed balm and comfort to surviving our present American dilemma.


A Great and Common Tenderness
As we wrestle with our own fears and anxieties about the direction of our country and the future of our planet, many of us have asked the question, "What do we tell the children?"
Here's the poet Rebecca Baggett's beautiful answer:
Testimony
(for my daughters)
I want to tell you that the world
is still beautiful.
I tell you that despite
children raped on city streets,
shot down in school rooms,
despite the slow poisons seeping
from old and hidden sins
into our air, soil, water,
despite the thinning film
that encloses our aching world.
Despite my own terror and despair.
I want you to know that spring
is no small thing, that
the tender grasses curling
like a baby's fine hairs around
your fingers are a recurring
miracle. I want to tell you
that the river rocks shine
like God, that the crisp
voices of the orange and gold
October leaves are laughing at death,
I want to remind you to look
beneath the grass, to note
the fragile hieroglyphs
of ant, snail, beetle. I want
you to understand that you
are no more and no less necessary
than the brown recluse, the ruby-
throated hummingbird, the humpback
whale, the profligate mimosa.
I want to say, like Neruda,
that I am waiting for
"a great and common tenderness",
that I still believe
we are capable of attention,
that anyone who notices the world
must want to save it.
I love the poet's reference to Neruda's "great and common tenderness." I'm waiting for that tenderness, too.
My sermon this Sunday, "A Balm in Gilead," asks how, in this time of vitriol and scorn, we can treat one another with tenderness and compassion.  And we'll hear from the All Souls Choir, who will share the spiritual "Balm in Gilead" and other beautiful music.
***********************************************

And before long I hope to share a major thought stream of mine regarding my 91 years experience in churches that has led me to becoming an agnostic atheist who finds hope in attending "thoughtful" churches.




Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Blood of Emmett Till

I've had an opportunity to attend a great many author book reviews in my 23 years in D. C., but none has been more dramatic or surprising to me than The Blood of Emmett Till.  The opportunity is also yours at the youtube listing below. Obviously a southerner, Timothy Tyson worked almost 10 years on this book and is at Duke University and Duke Divinity School as Professor of American Christianity and Southern Culture.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IiuCtJYcAxA

More information about the book and the author may be found at:

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=The+Blood+of+Emmitt+Till

Tyson's presentation is folksy, droll and challenging.  The large crowd interrupts with applause at many statements.  As a fellow southerner by birth (Texan) I could identify with much of his insight, particularly as he told of his grandmother and church up-bringing many decades ago singing the following in Sunday School as atrocities like Till's murder were not uncommon,

"Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Whether yellow, black or white,*
They are precious in his sight,
Jesus loves the children of the world.

*A better lyricist than I might add a line here like,
Neither atheist, Muslim,or Seik

The book is indeed worth your reading and perhaps discussing with others as Tyson credits Till's mother with the courage that actually precipitated the civil rights movement.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

God....placed you (Trump) there.


 “I believed that you would be the next President of the United States. And if that happened, it would be because God had placed you there.

Editor: From all my church going I must proclaim, THAT IS NOT MY GOD! - Ron Lehker

You might recall though that those were the words of the minister who addressed the congregation as president Trump attended the pre-–inaugural service at St. John's Episcopal Church near the White House. I know that a great many of you joined me in astonishment not only in the statement itself, but also in the virtual attack on one of our basic democratic principles, the separation of church and state.

Unfortunately it has only gotten worse.
Consider this "hot off the press" report of Trump's appearance at the National Prayer Service in The New York Times:


And then please take time to read the article in the March issue of The Atlantic Monthly by Franklin Foer:


What an amazing, awesome responsibility we all have to maintain and improve a democracy that was founded on (immoral) immigration and nourished and expanded through slave labor!


This 91-year-oldster continues to be amazed at the vigor of young people in peacefully expressing their concern through demonstrations. May we all be equally committed to appreciating the progress of the past and our responsibility to keep moving forward providing refuge for those in need and freedom and equality for all. 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

When the power of the state controls the press and the CHURCH

One of the long-standing traditions of the inaugural weekend are two religious services, one held at St. John's Episcopal Church on Lafayette Square across the street from the White House just before the inaugural. The other is held the following day at the historic Washington Cathedral. The public is invited to the service at the Cathedral, and I was particularly excited since I had attended the service four years ago for Obama's second inaugural.  I was most impressed by the sermon given by a Methodist minister focusing on the importance of humility and the person holding that office. How disappointed I was to find the following information in The Washington Post several days before the service "Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde, the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Washington state, “ that the request of the president elect was that there be no sermon.that the request of the president elect was that there be no sermon." While the service did involve representatives of a great variety of religious faiths the Post also reported, "the service focused on biblical readings, patriotic music and Christian hymns and prayers for the  country and its leadership.

I had never before heard of a congregant dictating to the church the content of a service.  But I had hope,  

What might be the message for the president elect at the service before the Inauguration - the one at St. John's?
  The entire sermon can be read at:
http://time.com/4641208/donald-trump-robert-jeffress-st-john-episcopal-inauguration/

A brief summary follows:

Before attending the inauguration ceremony, President Trump attended a private religious service at St. John's Episcopal Church, across the street from the White House, as part of a modern Inauguration Day ritual.
The service was led by the Rev. Robert Jeffress, a Southern Baptist who campaigned hard for Trump during the closing months of the election.
Here is an exclusive transcript of Jeffress' sermon, which drew on the story of Nehemiah, a historical figure described in the Old Testament for rebuilding Jerusalem.

.President-elect and Mrs. Trump, Vice-President-elect and Mrs. Pence, families and friends, it’s an honor to be with you on this historic day.
President-elect Trump, I remember that it was exactly one year ago this weekend that I was with you on your Citation jet flying around Iowa before the first caucus or primary vote was cast. After our Wendy’s cheeseburgers, I said that I believed that you would be the next President of the United States. And if that happened, it would be because God had placed you there.
As the prophet Daniel said, it is God who removes and establishes leaders.
Today─one year later─God has raised you and Vice-President-elect Pence up for a great, eternal purpose.
When I think of you, President-elect Trump, I am reminded of another great leader God chose thousands of years ago in Israel. The nation had been in bondage for decades, the infrastructure of the country was in shambles, and God raised up a powerful leader to restore the nation. And the man God chose was neither a politician nor a priest. Instead, God chose a builder whose name was Nehemiah.
And the first step of rebuilding the nation was the building of a great wall. God instructed Nehemiah to build a wall around Jerusalem to protect its citizens from enemy attack. You see, God is NOT against building walls!  .Mr. President-elect, I don’t believe we have ever had a president with as many natural gifts as you.




While I am well aware of leaders of the church in Germany like Dietrich Bonhoeffer who valiantly set up to Nazi power, the following information is too indicative of the church at large in Geermany at that time..

THE GERMAN CHURCHES AND THE NAZI STATE*


The population of Germany in 1933 was around 60 million. Almost all Germans were Christian, belonging either to the Roman Catholic (ca. 20 million members) or the Protestant (ca. 40 million members) churches. The Jewish community in Germany in 1933 was less than 1% of the total population of the country.
How did Christians and their churches in Germany respond to the Nazi regime and its laws, particularly to the persecution of the Jews? The racialized anti-Jewish Nazi ideology converged with antisemitism that was historically widespread throughout Europe at the time and had deep roots in Christian history. For all too many Christians, traditional interpretations of religious scriptures seemed to support these prejudices.
The attitudes and actions of German Catholics and Protestants during the Nazi era were shaped not only by their religious beliefs, but by other factors as well, 
*Holocaust Encyclopedia