A Few Thoughts

Just a few of my thoughts on this Saturday afternoon …


I think the people of District 3 in New York should have the opportunity to recall George Santos and force a special election.  The man they thought they were voting for, after all, does not exist.  Mr. Santos, or whatever his name actually is, built his reputation on a tower of lies … a very high tower, as it were.  And now, that tower is crumbling and should by any logical thought, be brought down before it does significant damage.  However, by the terms set forth in the U.S. Constitution, a member of the House can only be removed by a 2/3 majority vote in the House … or death.  With the current panic by Republicans over losing so much as one seat of their paper-thin majority, that is beyond unlikely.  Remember when the former guy said he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and not suffer any repercussions?  Well, apparently that also applies to George Santos and any other House Republicans.


Apparently, the committee name “House Intelligence Committee” is a misnomer, for Republican House Leader McCarthy has ejected the only two members who actually had any … intelligence, that is.  Yep, the arsehole refused to allow two very intelligent and qualified Democrats, Eric Swalwell and Adam Schiff, to serve on the ‘Intelligence’ Committee.  Both have previously served on the committee, and Adam Schiff, notably, has led the Intelligence Committee for the past four years!

McCarthy did not diss Schiff and Swalwell because they weren’t qualified – he dissed them in retaliation for the times that some of his choices were not chosen for various committees, such as when Nancy Pelosi wouldn’t allow the two Jims – Jordan and Banks – to serve on the January 6th investigative committee because both had played a role in the insurrection.  Or the time that the Democratic-led House stripped Marge Greene and Paul Gosar, two radical conspiracy theorists, from their committee assignments.  Or perhaps, as Adam Schiff says …

“His objection seems to be that I was the lead impeachment manager in Donald Trump’s first impeachment, and that we held him accountable for withholding hundreds of millions of dollars of military aid from Ukraine. So he is now, I think, carrying the dirty water for the former president in trying to remove me from the intel committee.”

Whatever the reason, he is denying two of the House members with the most experience a seat on an important committee, one that is crucial to the security of the nation, for reasons that make no sense to a rational mind.


Remember, folks, it’s not about good governance, it’s not about what’s best for the nation and its people, it’s not about justice or truth, it’s only about power and wealth for the few.  Full stop.  Let us hope that in November 2024, people will vote more conscientiously, will actually put thought into their vote rather than simply voting along party lines or for the loudest voice.

And now, let’s lighten the mood with a few ‘toons, shall we?

♫ Honky Tonk Women ♫

A few days ago when I played Get Off Of My Cloud by the Rolling Stones, this one was mentioned by a couple of you in comments, and I was rather surprised to find that I hadn’t played it here before, but according to my archives, I haven’t (sometimes those archives lie to me, though).  Funny … I always thought this was “Honky Tonk Woman”, but it’s not … it’s “Women” plural!  Learn something new every day!

This was written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.  According to Keith Richards, the song had its origins …

“… in Brazil. Mick and I, Marianne Faithfull and Anita Pallenberg who was pregnant with my son at the time. Which didn’t stop us going off to the Mato Grasso and living on this ranch. It’s all cowboys. It’s all horses and spurs. And Mick and I were sitting on the porch of this ranch house and I started to play, basically fooling around with an old Hank Williams idea. ‘Cause we really thought we were like real cowboys. Honky tonk women. And we were sitting in the middle of nowhere with all these horses, in a place where if you flush the john all these black frogs would fly out. It was great. The chicks loved it. Anyway, it started out a real country honk put on, a hokey thing. And then couple of months later we were writing songs and recording. And somehow by some metamorphosis it suddenly went into this little swampy, black thing, a Blues thing. Really, I can’t give you a credible reason of how it turned around from that to that. Except there’s not really a lot of difference between white country music and black country music. It’s just a matter of nuance and style. I think it has to do with the fact that we were playing a lot around with open tunings at the time. So we were trying songs out just to see if they could be played in open tuning. And that one just sunk in.”

Lead guitarist Brian Jones was a founding member of the group and was considered their leader in their early years. Unfortunately, drug abuse made him pretty much worthless by 1969, and when The Stones finished recording Honky Tonk Women on June 8, 1969, they drove to his house and fired him. The single was released July 3, 1969, the same day Jones was found dead in his swimming pool.  The single was given away to all the fans who helped clean up after The Stones free concert in Hyde Park on July 5, 1969. This was the first concert Mick Taylor played with the band. A life-size cutout of Brian Jones, who died two days earlier, was kept on stage and the show was dedicated to him.

Mick Taylor had taken over for Brian Jones on lead guitar, and this was his first appearance on a Stones recording. Taylor claims he came up with the famous guitar riff, even though Richards plays it.

This was banned in China. When the group made arrangements to play there for the first time in 2003, they had to agree not to play this, “Brown Sugar,” “Let’s Spend The Night Together,” and “Beast Of Burden.” They ended up not playing because of a respiratory disease that was going around China.

This song hit #1 in both the UK and U.S., and was in the top #5 almost everywhere it played!

Honky Tonk Women

Rolling Stones

I met a gin-soaked, bar-room queen in Memphis
She tried to take me upstairs for a ride
She had to heave me right across her shoulder
‘Cause I just can’t seem to drink you off my mind

It’s the honky tonk women
Gimme, gimme, gimme the honky tonk blues

I laid a divorcée in New York City
I had to put up some kind of a fight
The lady then she covered me with roses
She blew my nose and then she blew my mind

It’s the honky tonk women
Gimme, gimme, gimme the honky tonk blues
It’s the honky tonk women
Gimme, gimme, gimme the honky tonk blues

It’s the honky tonk women
Gimme, gimme, gimme the honky tonk blues

Writer/s: Keith Richards, Mick Jagger
Publisher: Abkco Music Inc.
Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind

Saturday Surprise — Good People Doing Good Things!

I was pondering what to do for a Saturday Surprise post yesterday evening when I read a story from late December in The Washington Post that warmed my heart.  It’s really a good people story, so I pondered saving it for Wednesday, but … who says we can’t have a second dose of heartwarming at the end of another crazy week, eh?  So … grab your box of tissues and read about a disabled man and the young woman who saved his life …


A disabled man was stuck in a Buffalo snowbank. A stranger heard his cry and saved him.

‘This kind woman came out and heard a human being in deep distress and did something about it,’ said Ray Barker.

By Sydney Page

27 December 2022

At 7:30 a.m. on Christmas Eve, Yvonne White got a call from an unknown number.

“Hi. You don’t know me, but I have your brother,” a shaky voice on the other end of the line said.

It was Sha’Kyra Aughtry, a Buffalo resident, who had rescued White’s brother, Joey, amid the deadly winter storm that began battering Western New York a few days prior.

Joey White, 64, is mentally disabled, his sister said. She called him just before the storm hit, sternly instructing him not to leave the group home where he lives. He promised her he would stay put.

But as Buffalo’s worst blizzard in 50 years pummeled the city, Joey White — who also goes by Joe — ventured outside.

It’s unclear what time Joey White left home or for what purpose, Yvonne White said, but she suspects he walked about nine miles to the North Park Theatre — a single-screen cinema where he has worked as a janitor since 1980. She believes he got scared and spent the night there inside, and eventually decided to walk back home.

Joey White’s employer, Ray Barker — the program director at North Park Theatre — also called him on Dec. 22 before the blizzard began, telling him not to come to work.

“For someone who’s used to being in a pattern, I think it’s hard not to engage that pattern,” said Barker, explaining that during the pandemic, when the theater was closed, Joey White still showed up for work. “Joe is used to his pattern.”

Around 6:30 a.m. on Dec. 24, Joey White ended up in a snowbank, directly outside Aughtry’s home, which is about a seven-minute drive from the theater, in normal conditions. He was wailing and crying out in agony, Aughtry told Yvonne White.

Aughtry — who did not respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post — heard the stranger screaming, and found him outside, completely disoriented. She went into the storm with her boyfriend, and they carried Joey White into their home, Yvonne White said.

Joey White had visible signs of severe frostbite. Aughtry told Yvonne White she used a hairdryer to peel off his clothing, which clung tightly to his shivering body. She also cut off his frozen socks and removed the remnants of a grocery store bag that were cemented to Joey White’s hands. Aughtry sent Yvonne White photos of her brother’s skin, which look severely swollen and covered in multicolored blisters and sores.

After about an hour of trying to warm him up, Aughtry — a mother of three boys, ages 5, 6 and 13 — called Yvonne White. Joey White had memorized his sister’s phone number.

“The simple fact that he remembered my phone number is miracle number one,” said Yvonne White, 60, adding that she and Aughtry stayed in constant communication from then on.

Hearing about her brother’s state was “just heartbreaking,” Yvonne White said, especially because she had no way of getting there to help, as she lived about 20 miles away and roads were glazed in ice and snow.

“Sha’Kyra was telling me that he was literally frozen,” Yvonne White said. “She covered him up, she did everything for this man. She washed his clothes, she bathed him, she fed him.”

Still, despite all Aughtry had done to treat his wounds, he urgently needed medical attention. Getting help, though, was seemingly impossible.

“We called 911 easily 100 times,” Yvonne White said. “We tried everything.”

“With the blizzard, all of the emergency services have been affected,” said Barker, adding that Aughtry also contacted the theater to let staff know about Joey White’s condition. “We’ve been worried sick about him.”

“We were flipping out and crying,” Yvonne White said. “It was just getting worse and worse.”

In a desperate cry for help on Dec. 25 — one full day after Joey White showed up outside her house — Aughtry posted a live video on Facebook, which was widely watched.

“I’ve been very private and sensitive about this situation,” said Aughtry, who explained the crisis, adding that she had exhausted all options for getting medical help. “I have literally called everybody under the sun.”

“I’m asking for help from whoever,” she continued. “This man needs serious help.”

Yvonne White also posted a plea in a local Facebook group, and within half an hour, countless neighbors offered to help, and several showed up to plow around Aughtry’s home. They wrapped Joey White in a warm blanket, and carefully transported him to the Erie County Medical Center. Aughtry accompanied him for the ride.

“I’m so glad that y’all came,” Aughtry said in a video recording.

“I’m right here. You okay?” she reassured Joey White on the way to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with fourth-degree frostbite. “Nothing’s going to happen. Just breathe.”

The story was first shared by Sweet Buffalo, a local news organization, and then took off on social media. North Park Theatre staff set up GoFundMe pages for both Joey White and Aughtry.

He is being treated in the trauma unit, and “the physician who is seeing him won’t know how he’ll come through this until time goes by,” Barker said. “We are very much hoping that they will not have to amputate any of his fingers.”

Above all, though, Barker is grateful that Joey White — who he described as a “gentle soul” with a strong work ethic and a love of sports (especially baseball) — is alive. That is all owed, he said, to Aughtry.

“This kind woman came out and heard a human being in deep distress and did something about it, which most people in this day and age wouldn’t necessarily do,” he said, adding that the theater is planning to do something to honor Aughtry. “She saved his life.”

“Her act was an act of goodness, it was an act of charity, it was an act of empathy, it was an act of care,” Barker continued. “Joe won’t be able to express his gratitude fully, but he will feel it emotionally.”

Yvonne White, too, is overwhelmed with relief and appreciation that her big brother is safe.

“This stranger opened up her heart and opened up her home,” said Yvonne White, who is asking for people to send get-well cards to her brother to comfort him during his hospital stay. “I cannot wait to hug her.”

For more reasons than one, this was far from the holiday she hoped for, but amid the suffering and misfortune, Yvonne White found a silver lining.

“I feel that Joey and I now have a sister and a brother and three nephews,” she said. “This was such a Christmas miracle.”

More Questions Than Answers

This man, Tyre Nichols …

… is dead.  He died at the hands of police officers who used excessive force at a routine traffic stop on January 7th.

All five of the officers were charged on seven counts yesterday:  one count of second-degree murder, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of official misconduct, one count of official oppression and one count of aggravated assault while acting in concert.

My initial thought was that here we go again, white cops killing an unarmed Black man.  And then … I saw the picture of the five officers and … my jaw dropped.

Clockwise from top left: Officers Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Justin Smith, and Desmond Mills Jr.Credit…Memphis Police Department, via Associated Press

I’m not proud of the fact that I automatically jumped to a conclusion about the colour of the officers’ skin … what does that say about my own prejudices?  A topic I shall need to ponder on in a bit.

Meanwhile, I don’t know much about the incident, but I have questions.  Why were five officers involved in a single traffic stop?  I’ve been stopped before, but never by more than one or two officers.  It is said that they pulled him over in suspicion of reckless driving, there was a skirmish, the police used pepper spray, and Mr. Nichols left the vehicle and ran.  The officers caught up with him and beat him so severely that he died three days later.  What caused five supposedly well-trained police officers to severely beat a man … any man? There is video … presumably body-cam footage … that will be released sometime after 6:00 p.m. tonight.

Why the delay, you ask?  Because of the near certainty that once the public sees what has been said to be horrifying, shocking video, protests are expected, so the timing is critical … Friday night, when most people have left work and are home, safe & sound for the weekend.  Not only Memphis, but the entire nation seems to be braced for a huge public backlash.  Officials are telling people that it’s fine to exercise their right to protest, but to please do so peacefully.  Everyone from Nichols’ own mother to President Biden is calling for peaceful protest …

“As Americans grieve, the Department of Justice conducts its investigation, and state authorities continue their work, I join Tyre’s family in calling for peaceful protest. Outrage is understandable, but violence is never acceptable.  Violence is destructive and against the law.  It has no place in peaceful protests seeking justice.”

In the coming weeks, questions will be answered in this most puzzling, tragic case.  Meanwhile, I hope that protests are peaceful, but I won’t be surprised if they are not.  People seem not to have learned that you cannot fight violence with violence.  I hope people will remember what Dr. Martin Luther King said …

“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars … Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

♫ People ♫

I didn’t need to look far or long for tonight’s song … it rather fell into my lap.  People … people who need people … people who help people … people who care about people.  Maybe it’s time for this world to stop for a few minutes, to remember what it means to be a human, a ‘people’.  We’re so busy putting down others, finding fault, seeking and finding superficial reasons to hate, that we’ve forgotten our humanity.  We all need people in our lives, but in exchange, we also need to be that ‘people’ in someone else’s life.  Take a deep breath … forget about the hatred, the conflict, the evil and the battles for just a minute and let Barbra’s voice carry you away …


According to SongFacts …

Composer Jule Styne and lyricist Bob Merrill wrote this for the 1964 Broadway musical Funny Girl, starring Barbra Streisand as real-life entertainer Fanny Brice. While some sources claim “People” was a cast-off from the 1962 animated version of A Christmas Carol (starring the nearsighted Mister Magoo), Styne biographer Theodore Taylor disputed the theory.

The songwriting duo met in Palm Beach, Florida, to hash out songs for Funny Girl. They realized they needed a tender song to reflect the complicated romance between Brice and her gambler/con artist boyfriend Nick Arnstein. Taylor described the scene in his 1979 book Jule: The Story of Composer Jule Styne: “Jule turned to his collaborator Bob Merrill, ‘You told me the other night to work on [the lyric] ‘a very special person.’ I think I’ve got a helluva melody for it.’…’Great,’ Merrill yelled. ‘But now it’s not gonna be just a ‘special person.’ Listen.’ Then he ad-libbed, while Jule played the melody again: ‘People, people who need people, are the luckiest people in the world.'”

Styne and Merrill knew they had something special when they finished the song, which took just 30 minutes to write – if only they could convince the producers, who cut the tune from early tryouts. Merrill fought to keep the song in the musical, which seemed to be a losing battle until Streisand was permitted to sing it one night and it brought the house down.

This was Streisand’s breakthrough hit and marked several firsts in her career. Not only was it her first single to land in the Top 10, it was her first one to even break the Top 40. It was also her first chart-topper on the Adult Contemporary tally. That same year, she re-recorded it for her first #1 album, People.

People
Barbra Streisand

People,
People who need people,
Are the luckiest people in the world
We’re children, needing other children
And yet letting a grown-up pride
Hide all the need inside
Acting more like children than children

Lovers, very special people
They’re the luckiest people in the world
With one person (one person)
One very special person (one very special person)

A feeling deep in your soul (in your soul)
Says you were half now you’re whole
No more hunger and thirst
First be a person who needs people
People who need people
Are the luckiest people in the world

No more hunger or thirst
First be a person who needs people (people need people)
People who need people
Are the luckiest (luckiest) people in the world

People who need people in the world
People who need people (send them your love)
Who need people
People who need people in the world (people who need people)
Send them your love (oh those people)
People who need people in the world (people who need people)
(Send them your love)
(People who need people in the world) people who need people
(Send them your love) people
People who need people in the world

(Send them your love)

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Carmine Appice / Mark Stein / Tim Bogert / Vincent Martell
People lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

Remember …

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  It is a day we should all remember … a day we should hope never EVER happens again.  The lessons of this history have never been more relevant than they are today as we see many nations leaning away from democratic principles and toward authoritarianism, and as we see a rise in hate crimes, rise in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.  Those lessons of history should be the focus of this solemn International Holocaust Remembrance Day—designated by the United Nations General Assembly in 2005, on January 27th, marking the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration and death camp, in 1945.

The victims of the Holocaust were an estimated 6 million Jewish people, 200,000 Romani people, 250,000 mentally and physically disabled people, and 9,000 homosexual men by the Nazi regime and its collaborators.  We must … MUST take time to remember these victims and take note of how it all came about, else we risk repeating the mistakes, the horrors, of the past.

History and the lessons we must learn from it tend to seem less relevant to us as the years pass.  Today, 78 years after the end of WWII and 78 years after the liberation, there are few people still living who have direct, personal memories of the Holocaust.  But, we have the recorded history in stories and pictures to remind us.  These were not just “six million Jews” … these were people … REAL PEOPLE.  They were grandchildren, spouses, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters … they were each and every one loved by other people!  We cannot forget them or simply brush them off as another historical fact!  Take the story of 15-year-old Bertha Adler …

1940-44: Bertha was 11 when the Germans occupied Liege. Two years later, the Adlers, along with all the Jews, were ordered to register and Bertha and her sisters were forced out of school. Some Catholic friends helped the Adlers obtain false papers and rented them a house in a nearby village. There, Bertha’s father fell ill one Friday and went to the hospital. Bertha promised to visit him on Sunday to bring him shaving cream. That Sunday, the family was awakened at 5 a.m. by the Gestapo. They had been discovered.  Fifteen-year-old Bertha was deported to Auschwitz on May 19, 1944. She was gassed there two days later.

Or survivor Arye Ephrath …

From the moment he was born, Arye Ephrath was in danger. His mother gave birth to him with the help of a housemaid in spring 1942 while hiding from the first wave of deportations of Jews from their hometown in Slovakia. Later, a shepherd and his wife took in Arye on the condition they could disguise him as a girl so that he would blend in with their daughters.

Or the Margules children …

Pictured above are the Margules children wearing Jewish Star of David badges. Originally from Warsaw, the Margules family settled in Paris in the 1930s. Three of the children were deported and killed in 1942. Only one daughter (pictured at the bottom right) survived the war. Paris, France, 1941. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Mirka Margules

Real people … these were real people like you and me.  It is true that we cannot dwell on nor live in the past, but we can also never afford to forget the past, else we are certain to keep repeating it.  More and more of late I am disgusted by people making comparisons of such things as mask and vaccine mandates to the Holocaust … THERE IS NO COMPARISON!!!  And today there is a push by certain politicos to re-write history, to teach children only happy things that won’t give them any discomfort.  BULLSHIT!  History is often uncomfortable, but it is far less uncomfortable for young people studying it in a well-lit, comfortable classroom than it was for those who lived … or died … through it!  Whitewashing history does not make it simply go away, does not erase what happened, it only makes us more deaf to the voices from the past.

I leave you with a poem by Charlene Schiff, nee Shulamit Perlmutter, the only one in her family to have survived the Holocaust …

I Remember

By Charlene Schiff

I Remember
Blowing bubbles in the air Rainbow colors, all so fair.
Nightingales and jasmine’s scent All that love and beauty meant.

I Remember
Rainbow colors, no, no more Guards with rifles by the door.
Star of David on my coat I can’t swim, I can’t float.

I Remember
A haystack in a farmer’s field Used by seven as a shield.
Then only one of us is left, filled with sorrow and bereft.

I Remember
The bottom of a water well. Did someone see me, will they tell?
I’m slipping, clinging to the rounded wall Dear God, don’t let me fall.

I Remember
Being hungry, snow and frost Cold, alone, and very lost.
Why go on with such a life Stalked by terror’s cutting knife?

I Remember
My heart by now an empty shell From all that pain, from all that hell.
It’s such a long and awful war My wounds forever an open sore.

I Remember
Papa’s hug and Mama’s kiss.
Darling Sister I’ll always miss.

Their loving, sweet and gentle faces.
Gaze at me from empty spaces.
They’re gone forever—all is vanished.
And my soul to torment banished.

Remember, my friends.  Do not let the lives of nearly seven million people be forgotten and do not fall into complacency thinking it cannot happen here or cannot happen again.  Yes, it can.

Note to readers:  My friend, Bee, has written a short but very insightful post about Holocaust Remembrance Day that I urge you to visit.  Thank you, Bee!

MAINLY FOR AMERICANS, AND THOSE AFFECTED BY THEM — The Debt Ceiling Debate

On Tuesday, I read, saved and bookmarked Robert Reich’s newsletter about the debt ceiling, planning to share it sometime soon, but I hadn’t gotten around to it yet. Meanwhile, our friend rawgod beat me to the draw, so in the interest of not re-inventing the wheel, I shall re-blog rg’s post! Please take a few moments to read this piece, for it clears up some miscomprehensions about what the debt ceiling is and how critical it is to the very survival of this nation. Thanks, rg!

Ideas From Outside the Boxes

Following are the words of Professor Robert Reich, once upon a time the Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. He is now, and has long been, an American professor, author, lawyer, and political commentator. He also worked in the administrations of Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. I believe he knows the truth about what he is saying.

**********************

Friends,

Few things make me as furious as the mainstream media’s reluctance to tell the public what the Republican Party is doing — and instead hide the truth behind “both sides” rubbish. How the hell can democracy work ifTheNew York Times,CNN, and even National Public Radio obscure what’s really going on?

Let me state five central truths about the pending fight over the debt ceiling and show you how the mainstream media is distorting each of them.

Truth #1: The fight is being waged solely by the…

View original post 1,008 more words

♫ Catch The Wind ♫ (Redux)

This was Donovan’s debut single, released in March 1965 in the UK and a few months later in the U.S.  I last played it in 2019, and from reader’s comments I learned some things, such as that the Canadians thought of Donovan as the “British Bob Dylan”!  I also learned that he taught John Lennon to play the guitar!  Who knew, right?

Donovan had a fleeting love affair with model Linda Lawrence, who was then the girlfriend of the Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones soon after writing this song. He bumped into her four years later and they married in 1970.  Now here’s my confusion … he says he wrote this song for Linda, even though he hadn’t met her yet when he wrote the song!

“‘Catch The Wind’, I wrote it for Linda, although I hadn’t really met her yet. It is a song of unrequited love, yet I hadn’t really met her, so how could I miss her? And I seem to write prophetic songs in the sense of the Celtic poet and I wrote this song before I met Linda, of a love I would like to have had and lost.”

This reached #4 in the UK and #23 in the U.S., and has been covered by more people than I can count on my ten fingers and ten toes!!!

Catch the Wind
Donovan

In the chilly hours and minutes
Of uncertainty
I want to be
In the warm hold of your loving mind

To feel you all around me
And to take your hand
Along the sand
Ah, but I may as well try and catch the wind

When sundown pales the sky
I want to hide a while
Behind your smile
And everywhere I’d look, your eyes I’d find

For me to love you now
Would be the sweetest thing
T’would make me sing
Ah, but I may as well try and catch the wind

Diddy di dee dee diddy diddy
Diddy diddy diddy dee dee dee

When rain has hung the leaves with tears
I want you near to kill my fears
To help me to leave all my blues behind

For standin’ in your heart
Is where I want to be
And long to be
Ah, but I may as well try and catch the wind

Ah, but I may as well try and catch the wind

Songwriters: Donovan Leitch
Catch the Wind lyrics © Peermusic Publishing

My Imagination Runs Amok …

It is early June, the crisis point on the debt ceiling has been reached, and word has come down from on high that “Nobody leaves the Capitol until there is agreement on raising the debt ceiling NOW!!!”  And so, the 435 representatives of the 50 states, tired and grumpy, are once again trying to hammer out a compromise that will at least appease both sides.  For the purpose of this conversation, there are only two voices – Republican and Democrat, shortened to Rep & Dem – representing all members of each party’s interest.

Dem:  Well, the problem is actually quite simple … putting it in layman’s terms for you, consider the family whose bills exceed their monthly income.  Now, they have a few choices:  take another or get a better-paying job to earn more money; reduce some expenses, cut back on non-essentials; or sell something for additional funds.  This is where the U.S. government is at.  Now, let’s talk about those three choices.

Rep:  I’ve been saying all along that we need to reduce expenses!  Those retired people are getting around $1,600 every month for sitting on their porch swings throwing peanuts out for the birds!  Cut that in half … they should have been smarter and saved while they were working!

Dem:  I’m not even gonna dignify that with a response!  Those old folks paid into Social Security all their lives on the promise by the U.S. government – US – that they would have a cushion for their old age.  You want to jerk that right out from under them?  I know you probably don’t pay the bills in your house or do the shopping, but let me tell you, $1,600 a month is nothing!

Rep:  Okay, okay, you bleeding heart liberal!  So, what’s your better idea, or do you just want to rebut mine?

Dem:  We increase revenue by … guess what … taxing your rich buddies!  Percentage-wise, they are paying less than your average working Joe, especially since the tax cuts your lying little buddy gave them in 2017!  Cut their loopholes, institute a fully gradient taxation schedule, and no exceptions!

Rep:  Oh no!!!  You start doing that, and our donor contributions will shrivel to nothing!  Absolutely NOT!  That idea is not even on the table!

Dem:  Alright, then … that leaves the third option:  we sell something.

Rep:  Like what … maybe the White House, complete with the president in it?  (laughs at his own joke)

Dem:  No, I’m thinking maybe … well look, we’ve got 50 states, right?  Personally, since it’s likely going to be underwater in ten years anyway, I’d opt for selling Florida.

Rep:  I knew you’d pick a red state to sell … just knew it!  Okay, let’s take a different approach and look at which state is smallest?  I’m thinking that would be Rhode Island, right?  Only about … let me look this up right quick … only 1,544 square miles!  We’d hardly even miss it!

Dem:  No way, Josè!  First, it may be the smallest in terms of land mass, but not of population.  Second, it is in the heart of the New England states … nobody is going to buy a state that’s surrounded on all sides by other states.  But, that brings to mind another possibility, one that you might even agree to.  Alaska!  Alaska has the fourth smallest population, only 724,357 people, and it isn’t even physically attached to the U.S., but rather to Canada!  Why, I bet we could make Justin Trudeau an offer he couldn’t refuse and he’d snap it up in a heartbeat!

Rep:  Well … I dunno.  That would increase your majority in the Senate by two.

Dem:  And it would increase your majority here in the House by one.  And what, really, does Alaska contribute to the national good?

Rep:  Hey, there’s oil under all that snow and ice!  OIL!!!

Dem:  And you know as well as I do that the future of oil is doomed.  You can deny it ‘til the cows come home, but climate science is real and oil is soon going to be a thing of the past as we move on toward more renewable, environmentally-friendly energy sources.  WAKE UP!

Rep:  Yeah, yeah … I know it and you know it, but I can’t tell my constituents that, for I’ve spent years convincing them that climate change is a Democratic hoax!  Why, I’d never get re-elected!  Not to mention I’d lose all those lovely donations from the fossil fuel industry.

Dem:  Okay, fine, whatever.  It’s after 2:00 a.m., we’re all tired, and we have a mandate to come to an agreement before we can go home and crawl into our beds, so … do we have an agreement?  We raise the debt ceiling, pay the bills and let the old folks keep on keeping on, and to make up the difference, we sell Alaska to the Canadians?

Rep:  I don’t much like it, but I sense it’s the best we’re going to manage, so … okay, deal.

They shake hands, and the deal is done. 

You Catch More Flies …

My mother had an expression I heard often as a child:  “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”  As a child, it made no sense to me, for who wants to catch flies anyway?  However, as I grew older, it came to make a great deal of sense, although I don’t always heed the wisdom.  In 2017, I wrote a post about a man named Daryl Davis , a Black man who reached out to KKK members, who won over people with dialogue, compassion, and understanding rather than fighting hate with hate.  This morning, I came across another such story, one of a man filled with hate who learned to love instead, thanks to a group of Muslims in Muncie, Indiana.


A stranger planned to bomb my mosque. He became a member instead.

By Bibi Bahrami

25 January 2023

Several years ago, an unfamiliar man showed up at my little mosque, a squat brick building on the side of a four-lane highway in Muncie, Ind. He had a large U.S. Marine Corps logo and a sketch of a small skull with a lightning bolt tattooed on his right arm. His face was flush, he barely made eye contact, and his fists were clenched. He seemed angry.

Naturally, we saw potential danger. In these days of intense cultural division, hatred against Muslims is palpable, and our places of worship have been the targets of terrible crimes. But we also sensed vulnerability in this stranger. My husband, an Afghan refugee and a gentle physician, welcomed the man with a heartfelt hug. Later, I sat alone with him in our mosque library — to share a smile and ask his name, to offer comfort and show him respect.

Why, you might ask, would I put myself in this position? When I was a young girl growing up in Afghanistan, I met troubled men like this at the homeless shelter run by my father. And when I fled the war in Afghanistan to a refugee camp in Pakistan as a teenager, I cared for many needy people. I have always believed in the idea that we must welcome the stranger, the person in need. And that if we search for common ground with all those we meet, we will discover our shared humanity, and we will all be better for it.

As the stranger and I sat on a green vinyl couch, surrounded by leather-bound books, he finally started to make eye contact. I learned that his name was Richard “Mac” McKinney, that he had served 25 years in the military, and that he had a wife and daughter. Over the next few weeks, Mac began making regular visits to the mosque, joining us for meals and sharing stories about his family and his time in the military.

I continually looked for ways to help him feel valued by entrusting him with responsibilities around the mosque: leading meetings, participating in prayers, even standing by the door as our resident security guard. I could tell this gave him a sense of purpose. Not long after that, he joined our community of about 200 by becoming a member of the mosque.

It wasn’t until months later that I heard unsettling rumors. Some congregants claimed they’d heard that when Mac first came to the mosque, he was on a reconnaissance mission. That he’d built a bomb to blow up the mosque and murder us.

I knew immediately what I needed to do. I invited Mac to my house for a meal of traditional Afghan food: homemade bread, chicken, kebabs, rice, eggplant, a green yogurt dip seasoned with cilantro and lime. He devoured the food. When he was done, I looked him in the eye.

“Is it true, Richard?” I asked. “Were you planning to kill us?”

He looked down. He was ashamed but answered honestly. He confessed that when he had first arrived at the mosque, he had planned to murder us by blowing up the building with an IED he had built himself.

“What were you thinking, Brother Richard?”

He explained that in the military, he had been at war with Muslims for years, and that he had developed a deep hatred in his heart. But he went on to say that the way we had treated him, with compassion and kindness, had changed his mind. He said we had given him a place to belong. We had shown him what true humanity is about.

From left, Richard “Mac” McKinney, Jomo Williams, Saber Bahrami and Bibi Bahrami. (David Herbert)

Of course, these stories don’t always go this way. In 2015, at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., Dylann Roof entered a Bible study as a seemingly curious participant but quickly transformed into a terrifying mass murderer, killing nine church members. Events like this are horrifying. But I refuse to give up hope.

We live in a time in which people have stopped talking to those who don’t share their views. It’s easy to despair. But I believe that if we continue down this road, we will never understand one another, never find our shared humanity, never have peace. If we truly want to heal our society, we need to find forgiveness in our hearts.

That’s why, in the end, our community chose to forgive Richard and allow him to remain. In fact, he not only stayed with us but also became president of our little brick mosque on the edge of the highway.

I realize that not everyone will be faced with a situation as extreme as ours. But today, tomorrow or next week, you might meet a stranger, someone who looks or thinks differently from you. It might be easy to ignore this person, to look the other way. Instead, I challenge you to smile. Ask their name. Learn a little about them. You might be surprised at what can happen.