A Conversation Starter …

Late last week, my friend Brian, who I have mentioned before as being my sensible & sane republican friend, sent me the following message:

Hey Jill.  Someone posted this on a conservative news site.  I am not sending this because I believe all this, but most Conservatives appear to have this view about the Left.  Would love to hear your views.  Again… I didn’t write this. 😎.   Please forgive the insulting name. “DEMONUTS CHECKLIST 1Let the criminals out. 2Let illegals in. 3Mainstream media 100% gospel. 4Let boys in the girls bathrooms. 5Condemn police officers. 6Don’t care about the veterans. 7Eradicate history if offensive. 8Believe Healthcare is a Constitutional right.9Kill the unborn-10Stomp on and burn the American flag. 11Accept barbarity in the name of Islam- 12hugs,love and no borders will stop terrorism. 13Protect the Sanctuary cities. 14Black lives only matter. 15Coddle the lazy.16Encourage hate crimes. 17Call for the assassination of our president, 18talk of overthrowing ourgovernment. 19Burnbusinesses, attack innocent bystanders, destroy City property, 20call for, and try to incite a civil war. 21Refuse freedom of speech on others, while  their own political and government obstructionists.”

I tried to find information about the creator of this checklist, but all I could find is that it was created by a woman named Beverly Gibbs, and a visit to the Facebook account where this originated left me feeling ill.  However, the point here is that the ‘great divide’ as I have been calling it, has its roots in this very type of rhetoric.  People like Beverly and her followers, Trump’s followers, do not truly understand what the liberal left believe in or stand for.  Perhaps the reverse is also true.  So, I took this as an opportunity to correct the views expressed in the “Demonuts Checklist” in hopes that my responses might open some back and forth conversation whereby a few people make an effort to understand others’ views.  It’s worth a shot anyway.  I apologize for the length of this post, but I hope you find some value in it.

My responses:

  1. Let the criminals out – This is rather vague, so I am unclear what exactly is meant, but I am going to assume it refers to the fact that democratic presidents historically have commuted sentences at a greater rate than republicans. Barack Obama has now commuted the sentences of more than 1,000 people in prison for drug crimes We are not talking, necessarily about releasing the prisoners, merely reducing their sentences in most cases.  And, most importantly from my point of view, these are non-violent drug offenders.  Doesn’t it make more sense to attempt rehabilitation than to keep them in prison where they may well be exposed to more violent criminals and come out with harder attitudes than they went in?  It is, of course, a slippery slope and we must ensure that violent offenders serve their full sentences.  But the guy who was caught with a few ounces of pot in his car?  Let him out and place him in supervised rehab.

  1. Let illegals in – This is one I could write a book on, so I will try to condense my thoughts. First, the term ‘illegals’ is a misnomer.  They are humans.  They may be here against the law, but they are humans, not illegals.  Now, the objections to these immigrants appear to fall into two categories:  1) that they will take jobs away from U.S. citizens, and 2) that they may be terrorists.  They are not taking jobs that Americans want … they are taking the low paying (often below federal minimum wage) jobs that Americans do not want.  And they are not terrorists.  Terrorists typically fly into the U.S. with legal Visas.  I address terrorism in #12.  Now, to the greater point as I see it.  This nation is based on opening our arms to the persecuted, to those in need of safe harbour.  The immigrants that come here from the Middle East have been living in danger, fearing for their lives, for years and seek only a safe place to raise their children and have a better life.  Granted, there must be some limits, but simply to send these people back into chaos, turmoil and danger is unconscionable in my book.  Other nations are doing their share, and we must also.  As I said, I could write a book, but the above summarizes my thoughts in a nutshell.

  1. Mainstream media 100% gospel – While the mainstream media do sometimes make mistakes, for the most part what they report is fact-based and verifiable. We all make mistakes, as we often have less than perfect information.  As a writer of political analysis, I have made my share, but, like the reporters of the mainstream media publications, I recant my error as soon as it comes to my attention.  They/we must do that, lest we lose credibility.  As a rule, reporters report facts and leave the subjective material to the OpEd writers like myself. If you do not trust the U.S. media, turn to the overseas publications like BBC, Reuters and der Spiegel or The Guardian, for they report on U.S. events as much as on those of the EU. More to the point, why are some so willing to believe every conspiracy theory, no matter how unlikely, put forth by the likes of Alex Jones, Rush Limbaugh and their ilk?

  1. Let boys in girls’ bathrooms – Personally, I would like to see all public restrooms be unisex. People typically go to the restroom to relieve themselves and/or wash their hands, not for wanton sex. It is the 21st century, not the 14th. I do not see an issue here, and perhaps if adults would stop being so narrow-minded when it comes to matters of gender and sex, we might have fewer teen pregnancies and therefore need fewer abortions.  Teach children the anatomical differences between males & females, teach them right from wrong, and then trust them. There are so much more important issues in the world than which restroom a person uses.

  1. Condemn police officers – Most all of us have the utmost respect for our police force, and hold them in high regard. In fact, I grew up in the 1960s when it was not at all uncommon to hear the police referred to as ‘pigs’, but I do not know a single person who would say that today. However, when police treat blacks differently, when they use excessive force and even shoot to kill unarmed black men simply because they are black, then those particular officers are not deserving of respect.  When Middle-Easterners, Latinos and African-Americans are subjected to racial profiling, it lowers our respect, for we look up to our law enforcement community, we hold them to a higher standard, one which some are not living up to.  When we condemn the police, it is for their actions, not a sign of disrespect for the badge.

  1. Don’t care about veterans – I have no idea where this notion even comes from, so I have no response other than to say that I have never heard a single person of either party disparage veterans. Having come of age during the Vietnam War, and having lost more than one friend to that war, I well remember the disdain toward Vietnam veterans in the 60s and 70s, however I have seen nothing along those lines since.

  1. Eradicate history if offensive – I assume this point is in reference to the removal of confederate monuments. Admittedly I have mixed thoughts on this issue.  On the one hand, yes, they are pieces of history, but on the other hand, we are currently in an era of growing racism and an expanding white supremacist movement that are using the existence of those monuments as a sort of shrine to their purposes, stirring emotions and creating hate.  The other point is that the monuments themselves were not erected, for the most part, immediately following the Civil War, which would have made them truly historic, but were instead erected during the Civil Rights Era as an endorsement of the “southern cause”.  The southern cause, by the way, was in fact nothing more nor less than slavery.  The compromise solution I would like to see is to remove the monuments to Civil War museums, for perhaps they should not be destroyed, but neither do they belong on public property.

  2. Believe health care is a Constitutional right – No, I realize that it is not written into the Constitution that every person should have access to affordable healthcare, but it is inarguably a human right. Would you see a child die of a disease that could have been cured, simply because the parents could not afford medical treatment?  Perhaps the right to health care should be a Constitutional amendment.  Many other nations, including the UK, and Canada have decided it is the right of all people to be able to obtain health care, so why are we willing to allow people to die for a lack of? I support universal health care for the U.S., for it is an abomination that a rich person receive nothing but the best, while a poor child dies.

  1. Kill the unborn – While I am not a fan of abortion, I do support a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body. First, there may be medical issues that would threaten the life of the woman.  But on a practical side, if the woman realizes that she is, for whatever reason, incapable of taking care of a child, then to bring the child into the world is cruel.  That child may come into a life of abject poverty, or worse, be neglected or abused.  There are, on average, some 428,000 children in foster care on any given day in the U.S., with more than 600,000 spending time in the system at some point during the year. On average, 500 children are murdered by a parent each year in the U.S. And about three times that many die as a result of abuse or neglect at the hands of parents.  When parents are unprepared to be parents, the result is disastrous.  That foetus is much likely better off never being given life.  The argument about when life begins is better left to science that politics, but it is a slippery slope argument and who’s to say that the egg and the sperm weren’t already considered to be a life?  Where does one draw the line?

  1. Stomp on and burn the American flag – I find no evidence of any spate of recent flag burnings in the U.S., and since the Supreme Court ruled it legal as a form of free speech in 1989, it would be rather a moot point anyway. I have not heard either party call for flag burnings nor stompings en masse.

  1. Accept barbarity in the name of Islam – There are radicals within the religion of Islam, just as there are within Christianity. It is always a mistake to judge an entire group by the actions of a few.  Having a number of Muslim friends, I can tell you that Islam is every bit as much a peaceful and peace-loving religion as is Christianity, and it is more tolerant of those outside Islam than Christianity is of outsiders. The few radicals within Islam are the squeaky wheels that get the oil, the violent ones who act in the name of their religion, but not within its teachings.  As many Christians might say, “judge not, lest ye be judged”.

  1. Hugs, love and no borders will stop terrorism – Since 11 September 2001, nearly every terrorist act perpetrated within the U.S. has been committed by white U.S. citizens. Most Terrorists In The U.S. Since 9/11 Have Been American Citizens Or Legal Residents [Infographic]

  1. Protect the Sanctuary cities – see #2

  1. Black lives only matter – The acronym BLM stands for Black Lives Matter. The word ‘only’ is neither included nor implied.  White people in this nation have never had the need to question whether their lives mattered, but even post-Civil Rights era, black people are still treated as 2nd class citizens in many areas, including in law enforcement.  White supremacist groups, that have a growing following, have stated that they believe Hispanics and African-Americans are less intelligent than whites.  THIS is what prompted the BLM movement.  Blacks are not asking for anything more than to be treated as equals, which they are, and given equal opportunities.

  1. Coddle the lazy – Rather vague, but I am assuming this refers to social welfare programs for the poor. First, it is wrong to assume that poor = lazy, for that is not true in the majority of cases.  Poverty may be a result of many things, and we believe it is wrong to condemn people to homelessness and starvation simply because they are poor.  I have no problem at all paying taxes that help feed, shelter and clothe the poor.  Granted, some safeguards need to be built into the system to ensure that people are not taking advantage, using social welfare programs as a substitute for a job, but I would rather err on the side of humanity than to see a single child cold and hungry.

  1. Encourage hate crimes – Now I find this one quite interesting, for the Richard Spencers, Christopher Cantwells and Tom Metzgers, leaders of the Neo-Nazis, KKK and white supremacist groups are the ones inciting ‘hate crimes’ in the U.S. and to the best of my knowledge, every one of them are republicans. The point?

  1. Call for the assassination of our president – there has been no call for an assassination of Trump. There have been a few scattered threats by individuals, as there have been in every presidency since that of George Washington.  Assassination threats and plots against President Obama exceeded the norm, likely because of his skin colour, and some were even against his wife and daughters. I can find no evidence nor record of organized or politicized assassination threats against Trump, however.

  1. Talk of overthrowing our government – I am not aware of any such talk, nor can I find evidence of any. There is rumour of a republican-backed plan called the Overthrow Project, intended to radically shrink all three branches of the federal government, however I am not able to verify at this time, and I do not make a habit of speaking until I have verifiable facts.

  1. Burn businesses, attack innocent bystanders, destroy city property – This is not a practice that is condoned. Anybody who injures another human, intentionally damages property – public or private – is in violation of the law and should be treated accordingly.  Party affiliation is irrelevant in this case.  It happens … on both sides … and it shouldn’t.  I do not know of a single person, democrat or republican, who condones this behaviour.

  1. Call for, and try to incite a civil war – Every threat of a civil war that I have heard has come from the right. Jim Bakker and Roger Stone immediately come to mind, for in recent months, both have threatened that there would be civil war if efforts were made to impeach Trump.  These are both uber-conservatives.  Trump supporters and evangelical Christian leaders are the only ones from whom I have heard this threat.

  1. Refuse freedom of speech on others – This is one that requires more than a short answer. While I am a staunch supporter of freedom to speak, or the 1st Amendment, I am also a student of history, and the speeches by white supremacists and neo-Nazi groups frankly chill me to the bone.  I have studied Hitler’s speeches in the mid-to-late 1930s and the similarities are haunting.  I have an internal conflict here, as do many of my democratic friends.  I direct you to a recent post I wrote on this topic for a more in-depth analysis The Argument Between Me, Myself and I

These are my opinions alone, and if any readers would like to also respond to any or all of the points, please feel free to do so!  The more who engage in this conversation, the better.

Good People Doing Good Things — Team Rubicon

His name is Jake Wood and his story started with a simple Facebook post: “I’m going to Haiti. Who’s in?” It was January 2010, and the island of Haiti had just suffered a devastating earthquake with a still-disputed death toll of between 100,000 and 315,000.

Jake had only been out of the U.S. Marine Corps for a few months, and was planning to enroll in business school when he began seeing the pictures of the devastation in Haiti and thinking how much it reminded him of similar scenes from Iraq and Afghanistan, where he had served two tours of duty.  He realized that the skills he had acquired in the service, including the ability to adapt to difficult conditions, work with limited resources and maintain security in a dangerous environment, were sorely needed. And that was when he put out the Facebook message.  Wood persuaded his college roommate, a firefighter, to join him. Within minutes of seeing Wood’s Facebook post, another friend and former Marine, William McNulty, signed on. Interest quickly snowballed, and three days later, he and seven others were in the Dominican Republic, heading into neighboring Haiti with medicine and equipment.

Over the next three weeks, more than 60 volunteers — mainly from medical or military backgrounds — followed Wood’s lead and made their way to the stricken country to join his group. They set up triage centers in camps, treating whoever they could, and helped ferry people to hospitals. Wood estimates they helped thousands of Haitians.

They called their group Team Rubicon, in reference to the phrase “crossing the Rubicon,” which means passing a point of no return. Little did they know how prophetic that name would prove to be.  All along, Wood thought of his sojourn to Haiti as a one-time event, still planning at that time to return home and start business school. But, as so often happens, life had other plans for Team Rubicon.


In the beginning …

Wood and McNulty did some thinking and talking …

“We realized we were more effective than many organizations that were down there with us. We also realized that most organizations weren’t engaging vets on their own. So we said, ‘Let’s try to improve this.'”

And that is just what they did! Team Rubicon became a nonprofit, and in the first two years the group built an army of more than 1,400 volunteers — 80% of them military veterans — who respond to disasters and help those in need. They ran 14 missions in those first two years, running triage clinics after the Chile earthquake and the flooding in Pakistan. They traveled to Sudan and Myanmar to help people caught in regional conflicts. And in 2011, they removed debris and assisted in search-and-rescue missions following tornadoes in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Joplin, Missouri.

hunt-2In 2011, however, a personal tragedy caused the group to subtly change its focus.  One of the members of Team Rubicon and Wood’s best friend, Clay Hunt, committed suicide.  Hunt had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and survivor’s guilt. It was a shock to Wood, as Hunt seemed to be adjusting well. He was literally a poster boy for returning veterans, appearing in a public-service announcement for a veteran’s advocacy group. And Wood felt guilty …

“It was tremendously difficult to feel like I had let him down, knowing that we had survived two wars together but that when things were easy and it had come to peace, that I wasn’t there enough for him. That has been a very tough battle for me, dealing with that.”


Clay Hunt

Hunt’s death made the group realize that while the job they were doing was important, so was the way in which doing the job was helping the veterans, giving them focus, making them feel useful.  So the group changed the way it viewed itself, refocusing its own mission: Instead of being a disaster relief organization that uses veterans, Team Rubicon became a veterans’ support organization that uses disasters as opportunities for continued service.

“We’re giving them a reason to come together … and that community lasts long after the mission,” Wood said. “Right now, Team Rubicon is focused on how we can … get them involved in as many ways as possible.”

There are many, many success stories within the group, but here is one of the first …

Nicole Green served in the Air Force for four years, working as an intelligence officer in Iraq from 2003 to 2004. For her, finding Team Rubicon has been life-changing.

“When I got out of the military, it was very stressful,” she said. “You feel alone. You meet people who don’t understand your background.”

Green volunteered for the group’s first domestic mission, in Tuscaloosa. She enjoyed it so much that she helped out in Joplin less than a month later.

“I felt that I was doing something meaningful with my life again … using a lot of the same skills, but in a way that [was] constructive instead of destructive,” Green said. “And I was with other people who understood me … focused on a common goal. That was really a great feeling.”

Since its inception, Team Rubicon has grown by leaps and bounds and has participated in over 175 missions.  The team now has about 33,000 members, and in 2016 Wood lamented that there just weren’t enough natural disasters to keep them all busy.  He may feel a bit differently this year!

Remember Hurricane Harvey that hit the Houston area in August?  Team Rubicon was there with floodwater rescue teams conducting door-to-door searches in and around Houston while reconnaissance teams conducted preliminary damage assessments. One team conducted an evacuation and cleared two full neighborhoods in neighboring Beaumont.  A second rescue team conducted five evacuations, including two elderly residents and their daughter, and yet another conducted 21 rescues and evacuated 27 canines at an animal shelter.

rubicon-HarveyAnd Hurricane Irma?  Team Rubicon was there, too, with operations in Clay, Brevard, and Collier Counties, Florida. So far they have been conducting damage assessments, debris removal, muck‐outs, sawyer operations, and spontaneous volunteer management services to affected communities. This response is only the start of what will be long-term operations.

Team Rubicon expects to remain in both Texas and Florida for some time, helping residents recover from Harvey and Irma.  And then came Maria …

It took them a few days to collect the needed equipment and supplies and get there, but Team Rubicon reached San Juan, Puerto Rico on September 25th, fully three days before the U.S. even lifted the Jones Act and committed to sending aid.  Team Rubicon  has been assessing hospitals for structural damage, assessing community needs, removing debris, and helping out wherever help was needed.

My time and space are limited, but if you are interested in learning more about Jake Wood and Team Rubicon, there is an excellent article/interview by author/editor Kyle Dickman.  It is a bit lengthy, but a fascinating read.

In 2013, Mr. Wood gave a Ted Talk …

According to Team Rubicon’s website, their mission statement is …

“Team Rubicon unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams.”

Take a look at the website … I think you will be impressed. They are a class A organization, and their Board of Advisors include such notable retired Generals as Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus.

William McNulty and Jake Wood

I have the utmost admiration and respect for Mr. Wood and co-founder William McNulty for the great things they are doing.  What started as a one-shot adventure has turned into a lifetime passion. We will never know just how many people suffering from natural disasters have been helped by the volunteers of Team Rubicon, nor the number of veterans whose lives were improved, perhaps even saved, by knowing that they still have value, that they are doing good things to help others.

Good People Doing Good Things – For Mother Earth

Sooner or later, we will have to recognise that the Earth has rights, too, to live without pollution. What mankind must know is that human beings cannot live without Mother Earth, but the planet can live without humans. – Evo Morales

This week in my search for good people I found several examples of people spending their time doing good things for the environment, so I decided to follow that theme, in honour of World Environment Day, which was earlier this month on June 5th.  While some may greedily take from the Earth without a thought of giving back, there are many who are dedicated to helping clean up and protect our environment.  Let us look at just a few of those people.


In Mumbai India, a lawyer by the name of Afroz Shah brought together over 2,000 volunteers to clean up a 2-mile stretch of Versova Beach.  The group collectively picked up over 160 tons of trash from the beach, but they didn’t stop there!  They also planted 500 coconut trees!

The group was comprised of local students, local business people, and members of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). This in itself is impressive, but what I find most admirable about Mr. Shah is that his commitment is long-term … for the past 87 weekends he has spent his time organizing community clean-ups on the beach.


Afroz Shah

In the words of one local fisherman, “Before this movement, we were helpless when we saw garbage affecting the marine life, but nothing was done about it. However, after the clean-up drive, we can see the difference. We have realized that if the entire fishing community of Versova comes together, there will be no plastic in sight.”

My hat is off to Mr. Shah for his tremendous and inspirational efforts!  See … there are even good lawyers in the world!

rokkeKjell Inge Røkke (please do NOT ask Filosofa how to pronounce this name!) started his career as a fisherman at the age of 18, with neither a high school nor college education.  His rise in business is a story in itself, but will have to wait for another day, for today’s topic is what he is doing for the environment.  Røkke is considered to be one of the ten wealthiest people in Norway, with a net worth equal to $2.6 billion USD.

On 16 May 2017 Røkke announced that he is funding the purchase of a giant research vessel. The ship is built in cooperation with the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) in Norway. The Research Expedition Vessel (REV) is a 600-foot vessel that will maneuver the ocean’s waters sucking up plastic waste. Capable of accumulating and recycling up to 5 tons of plastic per day, the REV will also double as a mobile laboratory for scientists to monitor and observe the ocean’s ecosystems.

Once completed, the ship will accommodate 60 scientists who will ‘monitor and observe the ocean’s ecosystems’.  The scientists on board will have some of the most hi-tech research equipment available to them in order to properly observe the seas. Røkke hopes that the team will be able to utilize these facilities to discover new ways in assisting and nourishing the ocean’s struggling ecosystems.

“I am a fisherman, and curious by nature. Resources in the oceans and on the seabed have provided significant value for society – and also for my family and myself. For this, I am very grateful. However, the oceans are also under greater pressure than ever before from overfishing, coastal pollution, habitat destruction, climate change and ocean acidification, and one of the most pressing challenges of all, plasticization of the ocean. The need for knowledge and solutions is pressing.”

Røkke told Norway’s Aftenposten newspaper that he wanted “to give back to society what I’ve earned” and described the cost of the ship as costing “the lion’s share of his fortune”.

vetpawThink about this pairing:  veterans coming home, feeling displaced, often suffering from PTSD or other physical/emotional injuries … and … species of wildlife endangered by poachers with little or no conscience, willing to kill an animal as a trophy or for profit.  How do those two connect, you ask.  The answer is Veterans Empowered To Protect African Wildlife (VETPAW).

According to their website, VETPAW “provides meaningful employment to post-9/11 veterans, utilizing their expertise to train and support Africa’s anti-poaching rangers to prevent the extermination of keystone African wildlife, and the disastrous economic and environmental impact it would have.”

rhino.jpgFounded by former marine Ryan Tate and his wife Jeanne, the group of US military veterans he has assembled work in a remote private reserve in the far north of South Africa.  African park rangers are often shot by the poachers who are intent on killing animals for their ivory tusks or horns. With the training and assistance provided by the VETPAW soldiers, conservationists can work to defend the massive mammals, while knowing someone has their own back.


Ryan Tate

The program has resulted in a 11% drop in the number of rhinos killed during the first half of 2016.  Rhino horns are made of keratin, the same substance as fingernails, yet a kilo is worth up to $65,000. South Africa is home to 80% of the world’s wild rhinos.  The poachers are often criminal gangs, armed to the teeth, well-funded and part of transnational syndicates who will stop at nothing.

VETPAW is serving two important functions by helping preserve the wild rhino and other endangered animals, but also giving returning vets a purpose in life, a focus.  And there is another benefit from this program … local farmers and communities say they are safer now, as the poachers frequently posed a threat to them.

There is no single cause that is more important than protecting our planet, our oceans, forests, and wildlife.  We cannot all go protect wildlife in South Africa, or purchase a billion-dollar boat to clean up the oceans, but isn’t it good to know that there are people out there doing just that?  And we can do small things that make a difference.


On President Obama’s Visit to Hiroshima

On 6 August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, and three days later, 9 August, the U.S. dropped yet another atomic bomb on the city of Nagasaki.  The immediate death toll from these two bombings was estimated at over 100,000 people, with at least that many dying within the four months following the bombings. Less than a week later, 15 August, Japan surrendered, marking the end of World War II.  The official death toll from the two bombings was 210,000, though it will never be fully known how many died from later effects of the bombings.bomb2

During the past 70 years, there has been much debate about whether bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki was ‘the right thing to do’, bringing the war to a close and thus saving countless lives, or whether it was an act of inhumanity.  Those who supported the decision to drop the bombs claimed that in doing so, we were actually saving lives.  Then President Harry S. Truman, in his 1955 memoirs claims that “the atomic bomb probably saved half a million U.S. lives.”  Henry Stimson, then Secretary of War, claimed the bombings had saved one million U.S. casualties, and Prime Minister Winston Churchill also estimated the acts had saved one million U.S. and a half-million British casualties.  Maybe, but we will never know.  It is not my intent here to re-hash this debate, but briefly, my thoughts are that it was a horrific act that took far too many lives, almost all civilians.  In claiming that these bombings saved U.S. lives, it appears there is a certain arrogance, an assumption that U.S. lives have more value than Japanese lives.  I suspect the estimates that a million or more lives would have been lost had the war continued is a bloated estimate, one that is intended to serve as justification, to relieve our collective consciences.  While I am certain that the decision to drop the bombs was not made lightly, I do think there were other options and I wish, some 70 years later, that those options had been pursued.  Enough said.

hugThis week, President Barack Obama became the first sitting president to visit Hiroshima.  I, for one, felt great pride in our president as I saw him hugging Shigeaki Mori, 79, a survivor who was but a child when the bomb fell on his city.  Obama’s speech was poignant:

“Seventy-one years ago on a bright cloudless morning, death fell from the sky and the world was changed. Why do we come to this place, to Hiroshima? We come to ponder the terrible force unleashed in the not-so-distant past. We come to mourn the dead including over 100,000 Japanese men women and children, thousands of Koreans, a dozen Americans held prisoner.”

In the guest book at the memorial site, Obama wrote: “We have known the agony of war. Let us now find the courage, together, to spread peace, and pursue a world without nuclear weapons.”

As with nearly every single act President Obama has performed during his nearly eight years in office, there just had to be those who criticized.  I fail to understand the criticism.  President Obama did not offer an apology for the decision by his predecessor, but merely offered empathy, compassion, and a commitment to strive for a more peaceful world, one without nuclear weapons.  There is absolutely nothing to object to in this, and it is, in my opinion, an act of class, one that should have been done long ago.

American veteran’s groups had urged President Obama not to visit Hiroshima until the Japanese apologize for the wartime treatment of American prisoners of war, thousands of whom died of abuse and starvation in Japanese prison camps.  Others claim that even though the president did not tender an apology, they feared the Japanese might view his visit as such.  And, of course, this being the middle of a very ugly election year, the politicians and political wannabe’s had to have their say.  America’s very own bimbo, Sarah Palin, called the historic visit an “apology lap”, and accused Obama of “dissing our vets”.  She added, “Our commander in chief suggesting – actually, lying in suggestions – to the world that we were wrong to prove that we would eradicate evil in World War II.”  Eradicate evil?  Seriously?  But then, we did not really expect her to say anything sensible, did we?  Not content to leave it at that, she further added “You mess with our freedom, we’ll put a boot in your ass. It’s the American way.”  Would somebody please shut this bimbo up!!!!!

I give President Obama a two-thumbs-up for having the heart, the courage, and the class to stand up to his detractors and visit the historic city of Hiroshima.  At this point, nearly 71 years after the fact, apologies would have little meaning, but compassion and humanitarianism are always valued.  The tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were terrible and likely avoidable.  We cannot go back and change the decisions made decades ago, but we can learn from our past mistakes, and we can learn to respect those who were once our enemies.  This week, President Obama took a huge step toward showing that respect, and if it is viewed by some as an apology of sorts, then so be it.  Perhaps that is what is right and proper.