The Awakening Begins …

A few days ago, in one of my posts about the events in Charlottesville last weekend, I mentioned my friend Bruce, a white, conservative, Christian minister who suddenly realized that the silence he, and others like him, had engaged in was part of the problem. I have, almost since the inception of this blog, and certainly since the arrival of Donald Trump on the political landscape, called for people to wake up to the fact that racism, bigotry in all forms, is still alive and well in this nation.  If Bruce is any example, I believe that awakening is finally beginning.

Although I am not religious, I acknowledge that religion can serve a purpose, can encourage people to strive to be better, to rise above the hatred in the world.  The church, whether Christian or other, has great power, and how the church leaders use that power is important, for too many have used it to promote hatred, rather than to speak out against it.

The events last weekend were horrific, tragic, and should never have happened.  But … if it has awakened people, if it leads to a change in how ministers, rabbis and the like talk to their congregations, then perhaps those who died did not do so in vain.  Below are Bruce’s latest words.  Please read them and be encouraged, for there must surely be other church leaders who feel the same.


“Why do I suddenly feel compelled to call out racism from among all the other evils in the world? Primarily because it is screaming in my face, mocking my silence up to now, and largely because this evil is so persistent in our country and even within the church.

Our country’s history with racism is no secret, but I suppose we can find some comfort in the fact that “it’s better now than it used to be,” or at least I thought so until recently. I am disgusted by the resurgence of racism, or maybe by the boldness of once closeted racists to pull themselves out of the darkness they were hiding in. If the goal were to deal with a vile ideology, it might be a simple (though not easy) matter of voting against racists in roles of authority until their influence becomes only annoyance from the fringe of society. Honestly, this may be the best we can achieve in the “land of the free,” though we may certainly hope for more and strive for more.

However, it is unacceptable for Christians to stand by silently while other “Christians” promote racism and use Scripture to endorse their views. While our American forefathers misunderstood it (or perhaps even ignored it), the Bible is abundantly clear that racism is not Christian. It is untenable for Christians to allow brothers in Christ to go unchallenged as they sing praises to God in a church service on Sunday, knowing that they were chanting “Blood and Soil” on Saturday. As James wrote in his letter, “My brothers, this should not be” (3:10, NIV).

In the church, we must strive for more, and I will strive for more. God, forgive me for my silence and for words and actions that may represent my anger and guilt more than your love.”

Well spoken, my friend … I hope that more will follow your example.

Bruce and those like him personify what religion should be about.  One Bruce is worth a thousand Franklin Grahams, for the Franklin Grahams of this world are guilty of promoting hate rather than love.  Perhaps this is a turning point.  We can only hope.

An Update … And A New Twist …

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Joe Arpaio

On July 2nd I wrote a post about the former Sheriff of Maricopa Country, Arizona, Joe Arpaio.  You may remember that he had lost his bid for re-election in 2016, after serving for 24 years, since 1993.  At the time of my last post, Arpaio was standing trial in federal court on charges of ‘criminal contempt of court’.

In December 2011, U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow ordered Arpaio’s office to halt detentions based on nothing more than suspicion that a person might be in violation of federal immigration law. Arpaio’s response?  “I’m still gonna do what I’m doing. I’m still gonna arrest illegal aliens.” And he did keep on doing what he had been:  racial profiling and inhumane treatment of prisoners, refusing to investigate sex crimes, and closing cases without investigation, to name a few.  I meant to write an update to that story when a decision was handed down by the court, but I got sidetracked and failed to do so.  I shall do so now, with another, new interesting twist.

On July 24th, United States District Judge Susan R. Bolton found Mr. Arpaio, age 85, guilty of criminal contempt of court, a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail. In her decision, Judge Bolton wrote, “Not only did Defendant abdicate responsibility, he announced to the world and to his subordinates that he was going to continue business as usual no matter who said otherwise.”

His lawyers, of course, immediately said they would appeal the verdict.  Some supporters of stricter immigration enforcement rallied behind Mr. Arpaio. Dan Stein, the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said the election of President Trump had vindicated Mr. Arpaio’s policies.

“Clearly Joe Arpaio won the war, even though he lost this particular battle. Like any good American citizen, he recognized his obligation and was willing to pay the price for a form of civil disobedience.”

At this point it bears remembering that Arpaio’s tent-city jail required prisoners to wear pink underwear and sleep in tents in the brutal Arizona heat. They were served only two meatless meals per day, often consisting of moldy bread, rotten fruit and other contaminated food.  Prisoners were frequently denied care for serious medical and mental health needs.  At one point, Arpaio made the statement that even if he had a billion dollars he wouldn’t change the way he runs his jails.  Now, this is the man who Mr. Stein claims “paid the price”.  No, the prisoners – Arpaio’s victims – paid the price for his racism and inhumanity. It was precisely this that earned Arpaio my Idiot of the Week award last October.

Which brings me to the present. With all the news about last weekend’s horrors in Charlottesville, this tidbit went largely unnoticed:

“President Trump told Fox News he is “seriously considering” issuing a pardon for former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio. Trump told the news outlet during a conversation in Bedminster, N.J., that the pardon could come quickly, perhaps in a matter of days.

“I might do it right away, maybe early this week. I am seriously thinking about it,” Trump said, according to Fox News. He said Arpaio was a “great American patriot” who had “done a lot in the fight against illegal immigration.”

“Is there anyone in local law enforcement who has done more to crack down on illegal immigration than Sheriff Joe?” Trump said, according to Fox News. “He has protected people from crimes and saved lives. He doesn’t deserve to be treated this way.” – Matt Zapotosky, The Washington Post, 14 August 2017

Arpaio told Fox News, “I would accept the pardon because I am 100 percent not guilty.”

I predicted in my last post about Arpaio that he would never serve a single day of prison time, even if found guilty.  My main reason for believing so at that time was primarily his age.  He is 85 years old, and I thought an appeal was likely, which could drag on for another year or two, and at that point I expected his attorneys to plead for leniency based on Arpaio’s age.  Never in my wildest dreams did I even consider a presidential pardon.

There can be no denying that Arpaio is a racist.  That much is obvious and he doesn’t even bother to deny it.  So … if Trump pardons Arpaio, what message do you think that sends to the very white supremacist groups who perpetuated the violence and death in Charlottesville last weekend?

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Walter Shaub

Remember Walter Shaub, former head of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) about whom I wrote last month  ?  He resigned his position because the Trump administration was making a sham of the word ‘ethics’ and Shaub felt that he was no longer able to do his job.  Today, Shaub posted a single tweet about Trump’s proposal to pardon Joe Arpaio …

“Scrambling to reassure the white supremacists and nazis that he didn’t really mean what he said to the “normies” today…”

Can anybody disagree?  I said to another fellow blogger earlier that I could picture Trump on the phone with Richard Spencer or David Duke after his speech, saying, “Don’t worry … I didn’t mean a word I said, but you know … my staff told me I had to say all that stuff or else we might have riots here in Washington … but I am in your court, so … no worries.”

Ladies and Gentlemen … the man who is occupying the White House, the man who refers to himself as “president”, is in bed with the worst bunch of people to be found in the United States.  Expect many more weekends like the past one.

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Where Were They???

In truth, I had no intention of writing again about Saturday’s horrific events for a few days yet.  I wanted to step back for a day or two … needed to step back for just a breather.  But, every news site I visit, international or domestic, Charlottesville IS the news.  And as I perused, almost against my will, page after page, two things drilled so heavily into my mind that … well, here I am again.

The first thing that is bothering me is, with all the violence, the hatred, the threats, injuries and deaths, why were so few of the white supremacists arrested?  Why are they not running their tin cups along the bars and dressed in prison orange tonight?  In addition to the driver of the car that crashed into a crowd of counter protestors, three of the white supremacists were arrested.  THREE!  Three whole people out of a crowd that numbered well into the hundreds, if not thousands!

James Alex Fields Jr., 20 years old, the driver of the car that plowed into the crowd, killing one and injuring 19 others, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.  In addition to Fields, the other three arrests were:

  • Troy Dunigan, 21, of Chattanooga, Tennessee, was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.
  • Jacob L. Smith, 21, of Louisa, Virginia, was arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault & battery.
  • James M. O’Brien, 44, of Gainesville, Florida, was arrested and charged with carrying a concealed handgun.

Last month, the KKK held a rally in Charlottesville where 23 people were arrested.  There were no injuries or deaths related to that event, yet 23 people were arrested.  Compared to three this past weekend.  What the Sam Heck were the police doing???

According to an article in The Washington Post …

“Anger over how the police responded came from all directions and intensified after the death of a woman struck by a car that plowed into a group of counterprotesters. Experts said police appeared outnumbered, ill-prepared and inexperienced.

At one point, police appeared to retreat and then watch the beatings before eventually moving in to end the free-for-all, make arrests and tend to the injured. Complicating the dynamics was the fact that several dozen groups of armed militias — men in full camouflage toting assault-style weapons — were in the middle of the crowds.

Cornel West, the Princeton professor and writer who attended a morning church service at First Baptist Church in Charlottesville with a large group of clergy members, said “the police didn’t do anything in terms of protecting the people of the community, the clergy.””

Another report said that when violence first broke out, police stood on side streets behind barricades, but made no attempt to stop the melee. Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signor spoke out, justifiably, against Donald Trump for his inadequate, milquetoast response to the tragic events on Saturday.  I support Mayor Signer 100% in this.  But, I would like to see the mayor looking into the question of why men toting assault rifles in the middle of the city, threatening and browbeating others, and beating people with sticks and shields, were not arrested.  I expected to awaken on Sunday morning to the news that the jail in Charlottesville was filled to overflowing.  WHAT HAPPENED??? We have a right to know why those who threaten our very lives are not in jail!

Enter the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), and its head, Attorney General Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions.  Sessions talked the talk: “The violence and deaths in Charlottesville strike at the heart of American law and justice. When such actions arise from racial bigotry and hatred, they betray our core values and cannot be tolerated.” But will he walk the walk? I have doubts, as at this time, the investigation by the DOJ is limited to the homicide caused by James Fields.  A much broader investigation is needed, one that includes the white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups that caused the chaos of the weekend.

Granted it is early days yet, and the investigation could certainly be expanded in the coming days, but frankly I do not trust Mr. Sessions to do so, for it is a known fact that he, himself, was denied a judgeship during the Reagan administration based on his racist remarks and attitudes.

The other thing that struck me as I perused the news on Sunday was that the White House was busily making excuses for Trump’s lame, ineffectual response. Never before in my memory has a president and his entire administration been so out of tune with what the majority of the people in this country think, want and need.

The White House … and for the life of me, I wish they would stop with that, for I would like to know precisely who is saying what, and I am smart enough to realize that the White House itself cannot speak, so it was a person within the administration, but WHO???  The “White House” official defense was …

“The president said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred. Of course that includes white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi and all extremist groups.”

I don’t want to hear the “White House” defend, justify or explain Trump’s remarks.  I want to hear from Trump exactly what he meant.  I want to hear Trump come out and call a spade a bloody shovel, call this act by its rightful names:  terrorism, racism, anti-Semitism and white supremacy.  I want to hear him say that he will do everything in his power to put down white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups.  I don’t care what Kellyanne Conway or Sarah Huckabee Sanders or some anonymous “White House spokesperson” has to say … I want it out of the horse’s mouth, and if the horse is too damn cowardly to speak out against the racists that put him into office, then I want an apology from him and I want him to admit that he is not capable of doing the job and step down.  Period.

Saturday’s events were horrific in and of themselves.  But they were compounded by a lack of law enforcement on the scene, and an almost uninterested response from the man who the white supremacists put into office last November. As I have said many times of late, I thought we were better than this.  Today, I realize that, while some of us ARE better than this, and it is unfair to judge all by the actions of a few … still, as a nation, the way we will be judged by other nations … we are not better than this.  Can we be someday?  I don’t know … that depends on the path the leadership and the people take.  I am encouraged by the voices, previously silent, that are speaking out against white supremacy, against hate.  But is it enough, when we do not have humanitarian and compassionate leadership?  I do not know.

The Bright Red Line

Fellow-blogger Erik Hare, writing as Barataria, has written a thoughtful, honest post about the lessons of history as they relate to last Saturday’s tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia. Please take a minute to read, as he has made his point far better than I could have. Thank you, Erik, for this post and permission to share.

Barataria - The work of Erik Hare

This weekend a line was crossed, a bright red line painted in the blood of over 400 thousand Americans who died to end the scourge of Nazism forever. Chanting “Blut und Broden”, or its easy translation, children with far more energy than sense attempted to define Americanism by what has been demonstrated and defined to be its exact opposite.

Like their apparent heroes, they are losers. But they having chosen the losing side of history for predictably bad reasons beyond a simple moral failure. Their inability to learn from history is a feature of a nation incapable of learning from history and thus in need to constantly redefine itself.

As much power as there is in constant redefinition, there is also a need for constant vigilance. History is calling us today. Millions of ghosts are watching us waiting for us to make the right decision.

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The Great Divide Just Got Wider

Today the Great Divide that exists in the United States, got even wider.  Today, in Charlottesville, Virginia, home of my alma mater, the University of Virginia, at least 3 people died and countless others were injured by a gang of thugs – white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

Who, What, When, Where, Why

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Jason Kessler

A ‘man’ named Jason Kessler organized a rally in Charlottesville called ‘Unite the Right’, a rally that would include white supremacists, KKK members, white nationalists, and neo-Nazis to protest the removal of the Robert E. Lee Sculpture from Emancipation Park, a public park. People on both sides of the political aisle are divided on whether confederate monuments should be removed or allowed to stay in public squares and parks, but regardless of anyone’s opinion on that, this rally was wrong.  This rally was ostensibly about protesting the removal of the statue, but in reality, this rally was about nothing so much as hate.  Hate for those of us who are not white ‘Christians’.

The cast of characters was a veritable “Who’s Who” in the field of white supremacist hate, Richard Spencer and David Duke among them.  David Duke stated that the rally was intended to fulfill the “promises of Donald Trump”.

The rally was scheduled for noon, but by 11:00 a.m. there had already been so many outbreaks of uncontrolled violence that Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency and ordered hundreds of people out of the downtown park. “I am disgusted by the hatred, bigotry and violence these protesters have brought to our state over the past 24 hours,” McAuliffe said.

Counter protestors included members of the clergy, Black Lives Matter, and prominent Princeton professor Cornel West. Men in combat gear — some wearing bicycle and motorcycle helmets and carrying clubs and sticks and makeshift shields — fought each other in the downtown streets beginning on Friday night. Both sides sprayed each other with chemical irritants and plastic bottles were hurled through the air.

After police managed to clear the park, a large group of counter-protestors was moving up Fourth Street, near the mall, when a gray sports car came down the road and accelerated, mowing down several people and hurling at least two in the air. Details are not confirmed as of this writing, but it is said that the car plowed into the crowd, backed up and rammed forwards again at least once.

Charlottesville-car-bodies.jpgAt least one person was killed in this incident, and at least 19 injured.  The driver of the car was 20-year-old James Fields from Ohio.  I do not have many more details at this time, though I am certain more will be available in the coming days.  I do know that Fields was arrested on charges of second-degree murder.

Charlottesville.jpgThe reactions

Governor McAuliffe gave a press conference in the afternoon, saying “I have a message for all the white supremacists and Nazis who came into Charlottesville today. Our message is plain and simple: Go home. You are not wanted in this great commonwealth. Shame on you. You pretend that you’re patriots, but you are anything but a patriot. You came here today to hurt people. And you did hurt people. But my message is clear: We are stronger than you.”

“Let it only serve to unite Americans against this kind of vile bigotry.” – Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan

“The hate and bigotry witnessed in #Charlottesville does not reflect American values. I wholeheartedly oppose their actions.” – Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion… People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love… …For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela, quoted by President Barack Obama

“We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets [sic] come together as one! Am in Bedminster for meetings & press conference on V.A. & all that we have done, and are doing, to make it better-but Charlottesville sad!” – Donald Trump

In his later press conference, Trump said he condemned “in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence, on many sides,” repeating the last phrase twice.

Many, including this writer, felt Trump’s words were inadequate, that he should have voiced condemnation of white supremacy and its followers. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said, “The violence, chaos, and apparent loss of life in Charlottesville is not the fault of ‘many sides.’ It is racists and white supremacists. lawmakers, including members of his own party.”

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden criticized the president’s remarks in even stronger terms, saying, “What happened in Charlottesville is domestic terrorism. The President’s words only serve to offer cover for heinous acts.”

“I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists.” – David Duke, former imperial wizard of the KKK

My take?  If the driver of the car that maliciously mowed down a crowd of people had been of Middle-Eastern descent, a Muslim, Donald Trump would have been screaming “TERRORISM!!!” at the top of his lungs, and shamelessly using this terrible tragedy to spread fear and justify his hateful Muslim ban.

I will likely address this in more depth at a later date, when more information is available, when the dust has had a chance to settle a bit, and when feelings are not so raw. In closing, I would like to share the reaction of my friend Bruce, a long time conservative republican Christian minister, and a genuine, decent human being:

“I’m a white, conservative, Christian American, and I denounce the hatred and racism demonstrated at UVA, as well as other previous expressions that I have, until this moment, been too timid to denounce. There is nothing “right” about it; it’s not Christian, nor is it conservative, and it is absolutely not American. To my Christian friends who want to “whitewash” this as simple free speech or as some kind of evidence of frustration at political correctness or the condition of our country: keep it to yourself, reread the Bible, repent, and, if necessary, unfriend me here.”

Well spoken, my friend … I am proud of you.

Tonight, our nation is more divided than it was this morning.  The causes for this will be picked apart, analyzed and reported on at great length in the coming days, but in this writer’s opinion, there is only one cause:  arrogance.  The arrogance of those who believe that somehow having pale skin, believing in the rules and rituals of the Christian doctrine, make them superior to the rest of us.

Tonight my heart breaks not only for the good people of Charlottesville, Virginia, but for each and every one of us who find ourselves living in this country that we no longer recognize.

A Peek Inside Of Filosofa’s Mind-Bounce

Well, I cannot seem to settle into a topic tonight.  There is too much to write about, too many ‘goings-on’, and my mind seems to be on overload.  So, forgive me if I indulge in a bit of mind-bounce, but that may be my only hope for regaining a degree of focus.

I try very hard to avoid commenting on ignorant political opinions and ridiculous memes on social media.  I try, I tell you … I really do.  And usually I am successful, for I have too much to do to waste my time on it.  However, as I mentioned, tonight my mind is all askew, and I was just cruising around on Facebook, hoping a bit of a break might stop the mind-bounce.  And I came across an extremely bigoted rant against the religion of Islam and its followers.  The writer claimed that Islam is “pure evil” and that we needed to get rid of Sharia Law in the U.S.  Well, as you can imagine, that set me off (mind bounce is often accompanied by enhanced irascibility) and I, against my better judgment, took off my shoes and jumped into the fray.

You would have been proud of me … I responded with intellect and quiet dignity, even when asked what planet I had come from and if I had been asleep all my life.  I stayed only a short time, enough for two or three well-placed comments, and then I left the conversation and turned off notifications so that I would not be tempted again.  But it made me start thinking about the bigotry and hate we are seeing, most of which is based on sheer ignorance.  A few of the comments that stood out, that spoke volumes about the mentality we are dealing with here:

“Outlaw all Muslim activities and people from our country,they have millions of acres of land in their own part of the world ,send them back ,declare this a Christian country”

“it’s not right ,it’s a mental illness that should be treated as such, all these types of people will eventually implode ,they will poison the minds of innocent children and most likely at some point molest someone ,and/or kill themselves or others”

“Harry too many liberals that don’t understand something when they read it ,or what it was supposed to convey ,they just steer away from it to their liberalism”

All comments reproduced “as is” without corrections.

To be sure, there were others who, like myself, tried to educate, to enlighten, to make the haters at least stop and think, but a handful insisted that they were right, everybody else was wrong, and just as I exited, it was becoming a vulgar free-for-all.  There is no value in such an exchange, and this is not a conversation or even a dialogue … it is simply sport.  Blood-sport, at that.

Which led me to thinking about red hair.  (I told you … mind-bounce)  Well, I was wondering if perhaps there is something in the lack of skin pigmentation, or in something in the water they drank, that gave them this tendency toward bigotry.  Are there certain physical traits that indicate mental traits?  And that brings us to the red hair connection.  It is said that people with red hair have shorter tempers.  Is it true? Well, I didn’t find any definitive answer, but I did discover that redheads get cold quicker and feel pain more acutely.  Okay … a snack is needed … something without sugar …

AHA  ….

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Coffee-nut m&ms … no sugar here, right?

Do you know what Kellyanne Conway, America’s #1 Bimbo, makes per year in salary alone?  $179,700.  Nearly a quarter of a million dollars per year.  For … being a mouthpiece, and a bad one at that.  For making up lies to cover Trump’s exposed posterior. For being obnoxious and mostly wrong.  $179,700!!!!!!! More than three times what I made in my highest earnings year!

So, Senator Ron Johnson, a republican (of course) from Wisconsin intimated on a radio show on Wednesday that Senator John McCain’s “nay” vote on the proposed healthcare bill before the Senate last month, may have been a result of his brain tumour.  The radio show host was notably taken aback and asked Johnson if, in fact, he really believed what he was saying.  His reply: “I-I-I don’t know exactly what — we really thought — and again I don’t want speak for any senator. I really thought he was going to vote yes to send that to conference at 10:30 at night. By about 1, 1:30 (a.m.), he voted no.”  Stuttering … genuine embarrassment?  I was looking a bit into Johnson’s background to see if there are enough of these moments to qualify him as Idiot of the Week.  Maybe …

And here is another …

Lindsey Graham … from time to time I have actually had reason to respect Senator Graham, but not today.  Last Tuesday (August 1st) Lindsey appeared on NBC’s Today show with Matt Lauer.  Here is what he said that set my teeth on edge:

“If there’s going to be a war to stop [Kim Jong-un], it will be over there. If thousands die, they’re going to die over there. They’re not going to die here. And [Trump] told me that to my face. That may be provocative, but not really. When you’re president of the United States, where does your allegiance lie? To the people of the United States.”

Somebody PLEASE tell me he didn’t really say that!  Lindsey Graham is now, in my book, a bloomin’ DOLT.  People.  They are people.  We are people.  Trump and Graham are thinking it’s okay if hundreds of thousands of innocent people die, just so long as it isn’t on U.S. soil?  Think about that one for a few minutes, friends.

Earlier today, dear Roger told me to seek my ‘soft and quiet corner’ and rest there.  I told him my soft and quiet corner was filled with nails and shards of glass.  I now understand where those nails and glass shards are coming from.  And now, dear friends, I believe I shall go give my corner a good cleaning and spend a few hours there, away from the madness and mayhem. And in my next life, I am going to be a wolf, for I do not much care for the human race any more.

 

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Good People Doing Good Things — Small Acts of Kindness And The Homeless Mayor!

This week I am shining the light, once again, on ordinary people who are giving of themselves and their time to help others.  Sometimes the smallest act of kindness, just something as simple as picking up a dropped object for an elderly person, or helping someone across the street, can make someone’s day a little brighter.

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Never Too Old For A Bike Ride …

Elderly people sometimes don’t get out and about as much as they might like.  Visual and mobility limitations may keep them from enjoying a walk in the park, or even just a trip to the grocery store.  Imagine the feelings of loneliness, or isolation that these people experience. And young people are often busy with their own lives, wrapped up in the drama of school, relationships, sports, etc.  But in Scotland, there is one young man who is helping bridge the gap between young and old, and helping seniors have the opportunity to get out just a bit more.

Meet Fraser Johnston, a med student at Falkirk University who has started a movement to help get elderly people out on … bike rides!

Wed-Fraser“A lot of people who are stuck in care homes or stuck in their own homes, the only time they ever get taken out is with their family or through activities at the home. But it’s normally from the home to a car to a bus to the next location. For some of them it’s such a strange thing when you say, come out on the bike because they think they’re going to do the pedaling. But when they find out it’s a young or old volunteer taking them out, they jump at the chance to get on the bike. Everyone has some time in their lives that they could give back to the older generation, and offer them opportunities like this they wouldn’t get otherwise.”

What started as one young man doing a kindness soon became more than one young man could handle last month after BBC Three made a video for their Amazing Humans series.  The video went viral and … well, long story short, what started as a one-man show has now expanded.  Fraser learned of a volunteer project, Cycling Without Age, that was started in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2012, and decided to start a branch of the organization in Scotland.  To date, he has about 30 volunteers and has two of the bicycles – actually more of a cross between a large tricycle and a rickshaw — called Trishaws.

“It’s like a victorian carriage, minus the horse, which you don’t need when you’ve got a  strong pair of legs behind you. I have noticed a difference in Mary, her eyes look completely different, they’re back to what they were years ago”. – Chris Ogilvie

It may seem like a small act of kindness to us, but to the people who he is taking for rides, it must seem like a very large thing. And I’m sure you won’t be surprised to know that back in 2015, Fraser was awarded the sportscotland Volunteer of the Year award.

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A Teacher’s Dying Wish …

Kay Wistrand is a language arts teacher at Tomball Junior High School in Tomball, Texas. Earlier this year, Ms. Wistrand was diagnosed with a lethal form of spinal cancer and was given a maximum of 2-3 years to live.  When she announced her diagnosis to her class, they were heartbroken, for every body loved Ms. Wistrand.  Four of her students got together and were trying to think of something to do for Ms. Wistrand, when suddenly one remembered hearing her say that her dream was to someday see the California Redwoods and dip her toes in the Pacific Ocean.

Wed-Wistrand.jpgThe students got the idea of setting up a GoFundMe account to help Ms. Wistrand realize her dream. Here is what Mickey Nolen, one of the four students wrote on the page:

“Kay Wistrand is one of the best people I have ever had the opportunity to meet. She is an AMAZING English Language Arts teacher. She teaches at Tomball Junior High School. And is one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. But, she has an uncommon tumor in her back that doctors cannot remove. They have given her 2-5 years give or take. The tumor has spread and she now has a small tumor in her lungs. We don’t know if the lung tumor can be removed, if not her time left on this beautiful earth will drop dramatically. The doctors also said that she can no longer go through chemotherapy. And she told us she feels absolutely awesome without it. In class, she told us about her Bucket List, she mentioned a trip to California, specifically the Redwood Forest. She also wishes to step foot in the Pacific Ocean, because she never has before. Out of everything on the list, some friends and I thought that we could make this happen. Mrs. Wistrand has loved all of her students so much for many years. We just want to return the favor for all of the hard work she has put in to teach the youth of our community. Please find it in your heart to help out our amazing teacher, she deserves it more than anyone I know. Together we can Wistrand everything.”

The students, hoping to raise $7,500, have now raised $10,811!  Isn’t it inspiring, after all the negative stories we hear about young people and drugs, alcohol, and selfishness to see young people like this whose hearts are in the right place, who care about others enough to make an effort to help?


The Homeless Mayor …

Wed McAdamsMayor Ben McAdams, of Salt Lake City, Utah, lived on the streets and in a homeless shelter.  For three days and two nights.  His goal?  To be better able to provide better services for the homeless of Salt Lake City.  Now, you might say he isn’t qualified for the Good People post, but I think he is.  When we look at the politicians we see every day in the news, can you name one single other who would actually spend time living on the street in order to better understand the needs of the homeless?

On the first night, he slept on the street. He wanted to know why someone might choose the sidewalk over the shelter. “I didn’t feel safe. I absolutely did not feel safe.” McAdams described it as a “very chaotic environment” and got about four hours of sleep through it all. Still, some of the people he talked to said it’s better to be outside and get some space from the drug abuse and gang violence that takes place in the shelter.

wed-homeless.jpgOn the second night, he stayed in The Road Home. McAdams got in line for a bed in the afternoon, but was turned away. He came back again in the evening and was able to snag a mattress. He was drenched from the rain by the time he got indoors but was too late to get a blanket. “At least it was warmer inside,” McAdams said. Once inside the shelter McAdams witnessed the blatant use of drugs, including his bunkmate injecting drugs into his arm, and the smell of what he assumed was smoke from drugs “all night long”. He also witnessed a fight between two men in which a man was dragged off of his bunk and hit his head on the concrete floor.

During his three days experiencing life as a homeless man, McAdams said his time was consumed by solving two pressing needs: Where am I going to sleep? And where am I going to get food? “You have to plan your day around that,” he said, realizing that leaves little energy left to search for jobs or housing.

I give two thumbs up to Mayor McAdams for caring enough to make the sacrifice, for truly wanting to understand the problems faced by the homeless, rather than sitting in his ivory tower making decisions without understanding the issues and the people involved.


These stories should serve as a reminder that, no matter who we are, how little we may think we have to offer, there is always something we can do for others, and the smallest acts of kindness can mean the world to someone in need.

Wed-helping

The Good, The Bad, and The Silent

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Today’s story is a good news/bad news sort of story.  I like to think the ‘good’ part outweighs the bad in the long run, and gives us hope for humanity.  I don’t know … what do you think?

The bad …

It was just after 5:00 a.m. last Saturday morning, and people were arriving for Fajr, early morning prayer services, at the at the Dar Al Farooq Islamic Center in a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota. About 20 people had entered the mosque when a fire bomb was hurled through the window, shattering windows and causing extensive damage.  Fortunately, nobody was injured, but certainly the intent of the criminal was to destroy, maim, and even kill.

The center had been receiving threatening phone calls for some time, according to Mohamed Omar, Executive Director for the mosque. “… people talking about us, telling us, accusing us that we shouldn’t be here, that we are like a burden to the community or we are like harming it. We’ve had some threats and comments. People walk to our door, bang on our door and had foul language. With the country’s climate and rhetoric going on, we feel [we’re] in the middle of the tension.”  Omar cited hateful comments on Facebook including some that read, “Islam needs to be eliminated like the black plague,” or “maybe they will start leaving now. Keep up the good work.”

Wed-mosqueThe FBI is investigating the bombing and says it was a form of a pipe bomb, but with “more sophistication” than expected. There were no security cameras at the mosque, as the congregation is made up mostly of Somali immigrants and does not have extra funds for such things. The FBI also said in a statement that they want to “assure the community that this investigation is our top priority and we continue to work to determine who carried out this crime and why.”  Let us hope so.

The good …

The good news in all of this is the community and the support they have shown.  According to a post by Robert Reich …

“Members of a local Catholic church delivered over 200 notes like the one below. On Sunday, a steady stream of people stopped by to leave flowers and express their sympathy. Erik Stoltenberg brought along his 4-year-old daughter, telling the Twin Cities Pioneer Press, “I explained to her that people attend things that are like our church but different and that some people sometimes don’t like other people for bad reasons and that it was important for us to come and show our support as a community.” People have also donated over $50,000 to a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for repairs.”  

Wed-firebomb-noteThe GoFundMe account has thus far raised $67,275 in just two days, and has been contributed to by 1,629 donors!

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton condemned the act and ‘called a spade a bloody shovel’ when he called it an act of terrorism.  “What a terrible, dastardly, cowardly terrible act this was that was committed yesterday. As someone said in the meeting, if the roles were reversed, it would be called a terrorist attack. And that’s what it is, an act of terrorism. That action is despicable and hateful, but it does not represent who Minnesota is. It does not represent the vast majority of the people who live in this fantastic state.”

The silent …

The only response to this terrorist act from the entire Trump administration came from the Department of Homeland Security in a canned statement:

“Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke is aware of the explosion today at a mosque in Bloomington, Minn. We are in close contact with federal, state and local authorities and local community leaders as the investigation into this matter continues. The Department of Homeland Security fully supports the rights of all to freely and safely worship the faith of their choosing and we vigorously condemn such attacks on any religious institution. We are thankful there were no injuries, but that does not diminish the serious nature of this act.”

Not so much as a tweet from Donald Trump, nor any of his mouthpieces. No condemnation.  No words of empathy or support.  Nothing.

Filosofa’s take …

I commend and am proud of the good people in the community, of the 1,629 people who have contributed their hard-earned cash to help repair the mosque; of the people who showed up with flowers, checks, and those who simply brought a hug and a kind word.  These, folks, are the people who define this nation, who give us hope that we might yet overcome the trash that currently resides in the White House and the trash … white supremacist trash … who have the unmitigated gall to believe they have a right to condemn people simply because of their religion or ethnicity.  White supremacy?  HAH … white trash is a better description.  Donald Trump has yet to comment on the bombing, but can you imagine the outrage he would be spewing if a person of Middle-Eastern ethnicity had done this to a white, Christian church? His silence speaks volumes.

 

Is It Really Worth All This????

I and others have written at length about the political, economic and international results of a Trump in the Oval Office, but there is another aspect, another manner in which he has had a negative effect on the nation.  There is a social & cultural upheaval the can mostly be traced to Trump & Co. A while back, July 4th, to be exact, I wrote a post about some of the purchasing trends that could be attributed to Trump, such as the sale of alcohol and bomb shelters, dystopian books and Swiss watches having significantly increased.  This post looks more at the social, cultural trends that have shifted or been affected by Trump.

First, there is the effect on marriages, especially those in which one is pro-Trump and the other is not.  Marriage counselors recounted watching this dynamic play out in their offices. While some couples try to work through their differences, others — both young and old — find their differences too huge to overcome.  New York divorce lawyer Lois Brenner has counseled about a dozen couples over the last few months who cite political differences for their marital woes. “I’ve been doing this for about 35 years, and I have never seen anything like it, It’s kind of amazing. It’s really surprising and astounding … This is kind of unprecedented.” Interracial couples are having their share of problems also, when one supports Trump and thus his policies, certain of which are detrimental to non-whites.

On the flip side … there has also been an unprecedented surge in marriages immediately following Trump’s election.  In November, the New York City clerk’s office issued 6,929 marriage licenses, a 23 percent increase from November 2015, and performed 4,590 ceremonies, an increase of almost 19 percent. Then through Dec. 23, the office issued 5,682 licenses, up almost 16 percent from about the same time period last year. Many of these are couples where one partner is in the U.S. on a visa and their fear was that Donald Trump would make good on his ‘promises’ of mass deportation.

In addition to immigrants feeling stress from Trump’s threats, the LGBT community is also feeling it.  A recent article in Rolling Stone begins …

“The number of calls, texts and online chats made by transgender youth has more than doubled in the wake of President Trump’s tweet about banning transgender service members and the announcement of the Texas “bathroom bill,” according to a report recently released by The Trevor Project, a national organization that offers crisis intervention for LGBTQ youth.”

According to Amit Paley, the CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project, “Anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and legislation directly leads to crisis among our community’s young people. While the Trevor Project will continue to be there for them around the clock, our elected officials must stop throwing young people into crisis for political gain. Discrimination is un-American, and we will hold to account those legislators who attack the most vulnerable members of the LGBTQ community.”

And then there is the effect on our health.  In June, several media outlets, including U.S. News and NBC News reported on an article in The New England Journal of Medicine:

Health Effects of Dramatic Societal Events — Ramifications of the Recent Presidential Election 

“Events linked to the recent presidential campaign and election have given rise to fear and anxiety in many Americans. Research suggests that these events can have negative health effects on people who have been direct targets of what they perceive as hostility or discrimination and on individuals and communities who feel vulnerable because they belong to a stigmatized, marginalized, or targeted group. It is worth exploring the scientific research in this area and considering its implications for health care providers.”

The article goes on to identify a number of areas in which Trump-related stress is occurring, such as:

  • Increased racial hostility
  • Community-level prejudice
  • Hostility in the larger environment
  • Hostility toward immigrants
  • Worries about reductions in health and social services

And the American College of Physicians says that Trump’s policies on environmental issues, especially climate change, will affect the health of many.

“The elderly, the sick, and the poor are especially vulnerable. Climate change needs to be aggressively addressed on a global level, and the Paris accord is central to this effort. Without U.S. leadership, achieving the voluntary targets agreed to by the 195 countries that signed the accord will be far more difficult. Today’s decision therefore greatly increases the chances that the global effort to reduce carbon emissions will be insufficient to avert catastrophic consequences for human health.”

Norman Lear, creator of All in the Family, recently compared the Trump administration to Archie Bunker … watch this 42 second clip and see if you agree!

Lear actually tweeted that clip on Friday evening after Trump advisor Stephen Miller created a spectacle when he went off on reporter Jim Acosta over the words on the Statue of Liberty.

From a personal perspective, I can say that I have lost a number of friends due to the polarization of Trump’s candidacy and now presidency, and I know of many others who say the same.  I used to “do lunch” with a group of friends at least once a month, but we no longer do those … or perhaps they do and I am no longer invited … I don’t know.  I am more stressed, my temper has a shorter fuse, and I cry more easily.

So, just to name a few, Trump’s tenure in the Oval Office is causing an increase in some marriages, an increase in the divorce rate, a decline in friendships, increased health problems, and an increase in suicidal tendencies among some groups. WOW!  Is it really worth all this?

Call A Spade, A Bloody Shovel!

This was not what I set out to write this afternoon, but as often happens, one story led to another, which led to yet another and then something came to my attention that begged to be given a voice.  So, here I am, and my piece about Affirmative Action will have to wait another day.

The story came from American political news blog, ThinkProgress.  I get ideas from time-to-time from ThinkProgress, though I always confirm through another source, for the publication is not known for being completely unbiased.  But their reporting is usually accurate and they dig for stories others might miss.  That said, what caught my eye today was the following editorial announcement, issued in November 2016:

EDITORS’ NOTE: ThinkProgress will no longer describe racists as ‘alt-right’

The article gave me pause and made me stop to think for a moment:

A note from the ThinkProgress editors.

THINKPROGRESS, NOV 22, 2016, 4:04 PM

You can learn everything you need to know about the “alt-right” by looking at the man who popularized its name. Credit goes to Richard Spencer, head of the white supremacist National Policy Institute (NPI), and one of the country’s leading contemporary advocates of ideological racism.

The weekend before Thanksgiving, Spencer keynoted an NPI conference in Washington, D.C. Over the course of his speech, he approvingly quoted Nazi propaganda, said that the United States is meant to be a “white country,” and suggested that many political commentators are “soulless golem” controlled by Jewish media interests.

That, in a nutshell, is the face of the so-called alt-right. As Spencer himself has said, the core of alt-right ideology is the preservation of “white identity.”

So you might wonder what, if anything, distinguishes the alt-right from more hidebound racist movements such as the American Nazi Party and the Ku Klux Klan. The answer is very little, except for a bit of savvy branding and a fondness for ironic Twitter memes. Spencer and his ilk are essentially standard-issue white supremacists who discovered a clever way to make themselves appear more innocuous — even a little hip.

The ploy worked. News outlets such as CNN and the New York Times, always a little shy when it comes to identifying racism by its true name, have taken to using “alt-right” in headlines instead. The term is flexible enough that Steve Bannon, a top adviser to President-elect Donald Trump, can boast that he turned Breitbart News into “a platform for the alt-right” while simultaneously denying any association with white nationalist movements. Richard Spencer’s marketing campaign has made it possible for leading conservative figures to make common cause with neo-Nazis and Klansmen while dodging any accusations of personal racism.

Spencer and Bannon are of course free to describe themselves however they’d like, but journalists are not obliged to uncritically accept their framing. A reporter’s job is to describe the world as it is, with clarity and accuracy. Use of the term “alt-right,” by concealing overt racism, makes that job harder.

With that in mind, ThinkProgress will no longer treat “alt-right” as an accurate descriptor of either a movement or its members. We will only use the name when quoting others. When appending our own description to men like Spencer and groups like NPI, we will use terms we consider more accurate, such as “white nationalist” or “white supremacist.”

“White nationalist” refers to a specific ideology held by many of those who adopt the “alt-right” label. A white nationalist is someone who believes the United States should be governed by and for white people, and that national policy should radically advance white interests. White supremacists are a broader and more inchoate group, composed of those who believe in the innate superiority of white people.

We will describe people and movements as neo-Nazis only when they identify as such, or adopt important aspects of Nazi rhetoric and iconography.

The point here is not to call people names, but simply to describe them as they are. We won’t do racists’ public relations work for them. Nor should other news outlets.

I think they are right.  The term ‘alt-right’ does not actually define any particular ideology.  In and of itself, it could mean anything or nothing.  We have come, over the past year or two, to associate it with the ideology of white supremacy, but it doesn’t actually say that.  Words are powerful, and the term “white supremacist” is a powerful term.  It says, “this person or organization believes that white people are supreme to all others”.  It conjures images, as well it should, of Ku Klux Klan members setting fire to crosses on the lawns of black people.  It conjures images of thousands of soldiers with swastika armbands giving a stiff-arm salute.  Those who ascribe to the ‘alt-right’ movement are nothing less than white supremacists, and should be defined as such.

Racism is rearing its ugly head more and more these days, and the likes of Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions, Richard Spencer, Alex Jones, and many others are giving it their stamp of approval, while themselves remaining above the fray by using the more innocuous term ‘alt-right’.  I thought about this long and hard, and my conclusion is that on this blog, I will follow suit with ThinkProgress.  Unless contained in a quote, or as an example, I will now refer to the ideology and its followers as white supremacists, or if appropriate, white nationalists.

I have tried to maintain a standard with this blog.  I rarely use profanity, and try to be respectful of all sincere viewpoints. I have never, except when using a direct quote, referred to Donald Trump by his official title, nor will I, for to do so would lend legitimacy to an illegitimate president.  As I see it, this is one more layer in the standard … to call a spade, a spade.