It is your house…what will you do?

October 7, 2019

In today’s post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog, Jack used this quote from teenage Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg:

“I want you to act as if your house is on fire.”

It is common wisdom that when threatened most people react one of two ways – flight or fight. The flight response can take many forms – actually running away, lying to yourself and others, or just pretending not to notice. The fight response usually takes the form of some action to deal with the threat.

I would submit that the “house” that Greta alluded to is one that we all live in – the planet Earth – and the threat is not a fire but the effects of climate change. The response of many to this threat has been to ignore it or to create and spread the lie that it is not happening. That is a flight response. It is real. It is happening. Our house is on fire.

The flight response has not worked, nor will it ever work. We must turn and fight this fire in our house. Making that choice can leave you feeling a little like those pictures you see every now and then from California when wild fires are raging. Perhaps you’ve seen the ones with the homeowner standing there with his pathetic little garden hose trying to save his house by himself. It is a feeling of helplessness and being alone in a futile battle. That does not have to be the case.

You are not alone. There are many organizations out there that are rallying support against climate change. Some focus upon trying to get big companies to change their polluting ways; others focus on the political process and back candidates who get it and are committed to making changes to save the planet. Still others primarily focus upon educating the public and changing the mindsets of citizens who are still in flight mode by fighting against the misinformation being spread by the polluters themselves.

It’s time to take a stand and fight! It is your house. It is on fire! What will you do? Flight or fight?

Maybe it’s time to listen to the child – “And a little child shall lead them.” (Isaiah 11:6 ) – and join Greta in her fight against climate change.

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The search for contentment…

August 17, 2019

A recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words contained this quote – “We may pass violets looking for roses.  We may pass contentment looking for victory.”  (Bernard Williams)

Jack went on to call into question the popular sports-oriented saying “Winning is the only thing.”

As a society, I think that our obsession with winning and not allowing ourselves to be content with having made our best effort is contributing to the tensions and unrest that we see on the nightly news. It also is a major contributing factor to the current politicaldebaters divide, where compromise, which could lead to contentment, is considered failure. The two political parties have abandoned any search for a middle ground on most issues and seek only to win, to beat the other side. We saw that locally this past week were the scrum to choose a successor to the late L. Brooks Paterson turned nasty and completely partisan from the get-go.

I have from time to time called for the creation of a third party in the middle of the political spectrum  a party of compromise and reason. At least a new party would not disagreement2carry with it the baggage that the current parties have accumulated of late. It would also allow those who are uncomfortable with the extreme on both sides to fins anew home that perhaps with which they could become content. I suspect that quite a few who call themselves Republicans or Democrats would welcome a party with less strident positions on the issues and one which relied more on common sense than the political litmus tests that the current parties use on issues.

In life, as in politics, winning isn’t really everything. Giving it your best effort is more important. It’s not that you will be unhappy if you don’t win; but, rather, that you will be pecial olympics 2unhappy with yourself if you didn’t give it your best shot. If you made your best effort, but that fell short of winning, you can still feel good about yourself. In sports, even competitive athletes are often happy if they achieve a person best – they know that they did the best that they can for that event or race. Maybe you can look at the events in your life the same way. If you’ve achieved your person best, be happy, celebrate your achievement, use that experience to plan way to do better next time. Stop and smell the violets. Find contentment.

Have a great weekend of contentment!


Are we that easily manipulated?

August 9, 2019

A story on the evening news recently documented how Russian agents operating through Facebook and other social media outlets have been trying (with surprising success) to manipulate the American public by fomenting unrest and divisions within the devilpopulation. They tactics used by those agents aimed at increasing racial tensions and heightening fears about the impact of immigration. They were successful to the extent that Facebook and other sites have had to take specific actions to limit their access to accounts and monitor their attempts to plant fake news or to slant the coverage of real news.

The sad part of all of this is unfortunately the answer to the headline question. Are we as a people really that easily manipulated? The answer is apparently – yes. At least there is a large portion of the population that seems to believe what they see and read on social media sites without taking the time to evaluate the message or the sender. Perhaps that comes part and parcel with the shortened attention span that has couple-looking-at-phonesevolved in modern times. We have become an audience accustomed to sound-bites, tweets and YouTube posts. There seems to be no time to stop and evaluate the content, so we just accept it and sometimes act upon it. We re-tweet or re-post or take to the streets with signs because we read about a threat on social media. Never mind that the national news outlets or the big newspapers may be debunked the false reports or posts. Anyway, We are told that they are purveyors of “Fake News”; so, let’s believe a Facebook post from someone that we don’t know, instead.

What fun it must be in Russia and North Korea and Iran and in ISIS and Al Qaeda camps around the world to work at manipulating such a gullible population. They never have to question whether many Americans will believe some outrageous story or claim; rather they just have to figure out the best social media places to post it. I’m reminded of the old cereal commercial where the older kids who were leery about the taste of cereal said, “Let’s give it to Mikey, he eats everything.” Perhaps that’s the bad actors view of the American public – “Let’s feed them this false report, they believe anything.”

Still, I believe that there is a “silent majority” of Americans who have not joined the extremists who are manning the barricades of hate, prejudice and ignorance that thesedeviil-and-angel bad actors thrive upon exploiting. There is still a strong sense of right and wrong within the hearts of most Americans and a desire to do what is right, rather than acquiesce to what we know is wrong. We may be frustrated that we cannot seem to resolve some of the big issues that are facing us as a society, but that does not mean that we will drift off to the edges of reason and join the bigots or zealots that define the extremes in today’s political and social environment.

Are we that easily manipulated? I tend to think not; however, we are not happy with the status quo. Every few years we get the chance to do something about that and 2020 is one of those years. Let’s not let the Russians or anyone else manipulate us and our system of government. Make up your own mind and get out and vote for the people that you believe will make the changes that are needed. I don’t think that you will find them out on the fringes and you shouldn’t look to Facebook or Twitter to tell you who they are. listenJust listen closely for the voices of reason and compassion and concern amongst all of the shouting and accusing and finger-pointing of modern politics. Centrists exist in both political parties and they deserve your attention and support.

We need not become an isolated, bully nation nor a socialist state to resolve the current issues that face our country; we just need to return to the rule of civility, reason and compromise and reject the hate, prejudices and fears that foreignflag agents are trying to use to manipulate us. We are a better people than that. We can make up our own minds – thank you very much. Let’s get ready to vote in 2020.


We should learn from history, not just ignore it or try to change it

April 22, 2019

There was an interesting quote on a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog – “One cannot and must not try to erase the past merely because it does not fit the present.”  (Golda Mier)

I recalled that quote while watching the news on Easter Sunday. One of the news stories was about the so-called “Slave Bible”. The story concerned the efforts that slave owners made to change the Bible that they gave to slaves by removing any preacher-pointingpassages that they felt might ferment rebellion. The result was a Bible that was about ¼ the size of the actual Bible and one in which slaves were advised to mind their masters in Peter 2:18 “Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.”

That story reminded me also of modern attempts, mainly in the South and somewhat successful, to remove the racist history of the South from school history books. Also conveniently erased from many school history books is the very poor treatment of Native Americans over time, including most references to the enforced marches to arrogant“reservations” that took place. These are ugly scars on our history, and some would just remove them from our school history books, in an attempt to protect our children from the ugliness of the truth.

Instead of just erasing or covering up those times in our nation’s history, we should be using them as teaching moments with our children to help them understand the tremendous negative impact of racism and bigotry and to make sure that history does not repeat itself. There are many examples through our history as a nation where hatred or fear drove the country’s leaders to make decisions that upon reflection were wrong. The internment of all citizens of Japanese descent during World War II was another example. The McCarthy “witch hunt hearings” to try to ferret out Communists in our midst was another.

The Civil Rights Movement in modern times provided many vivid examples that many people would like to sweep under the carpet and have us forget – but they happened and many were broadcast right into our homes on the nightly news. Today we have the “border crisis” and the plight of asylum seekers and   would-be immigrants. The pain and suffering of families torn apart at the border cannot and should not be ignored or predjuiceswritten out of our history. We also have intolerance and bigotry against those whom we somehow judge to be “different” – the LBGTQ community, those who are mentally or physically challenged, or those look or speak differently. We cannot write them our of our lives and our history.

We judge nations and the people in them using many standards, not the least of which is how they deal with inconvenient truths. Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Russia are two examples of nations with dark pasts that many in them would just as soon forget or re-write. There are many example today in the Middle East, South America and elsewhere of nations living through eras that someday they will wish didn’t happen.

But, it did happen. It is happening. There is/was suffering and death. We cannot just ignore it by writing it out of our history books or refusing to teach about it in our schools. Rather, we should use these unfortunate historical events as teaching examples of what not to do as a people with our children. We cannot erase the events of history. Much of the history of our country might not fit the present, but that does not change it. Some we may even have trouble explaining (or rationalizing), but we must try and we must point out what went wrong in order to teach what is right.


Choose to vote…

November 5, 2018

The quote on the Jack’s Winning Words blog today is “Your life is the result of your choices.  What will you choose today for your tomorrows?  (Robert Allen)

Jack used that quote to talk about voting or at least not whining about the results if you don’t vote and you don’t like the outcome.

While we may not agree on anything else about this election, I think all of us can agree that we’ll be glad when it’s over and those obnoxious political commercial cease ruling (and ruining) the airways. If the ads are to be believed, we have choices between the debaterssleaze-bags and the dirt-bags; between fanatical, bigoted storm troopers on one side and Communist sympathizers on the other; between those who would stand by and watch your sick child die and those who would steal the future from that same child. The party colors may be blue and red, but the political contrasts stand out in stark black and white. The only reaching across the aisle being done here is to reach out in anger for the throats of the opponents.

Lost in all of the rancor and bombast is the welfare of the people of the country. Taking care of the nation’s crumbling infrastructure or providing for the health and welfare of those less fortunate and in need takes a seat at the absolute back of the political buses of both parties, which are focused almost solely on gaining or maintaining political power. Of course, both sides claim to be protecting America from the ravages of the other side’s radical politics.

Still, if you listen carefully, there are a few voices of reason out there among the candidates that give us hope. Sure, they are running under the banners of one party or the other; candidates have to do that to have any chance at all in our political system. voteHowever, some of these more reasonable candidates have expressed their independence from the platforms and leadership of the party under whose banner they are running. They have shown that they are more in tune with the needs and desires of their constituents than the just being toadies to the party line. In itself, that is enough reason to get out and vote on Tuesday. Make the choice about your tomorrows by voting on Tuesday.


Now they’re just insulting the people…

October 20, 2018

Our American political system seems to be slipping ever deeper into the hyper-partisan hole of hate, bigotry and distrust into which it has dug itself. The campaign ads get more and more hateful and sleazy as voting day draws near. The gloves come off (if they were ever on) and the last vestiges of truthfulness and integrity are lost in the stampede to sling mud towards the opponents, no matter how outrageous or hurtful the messages ugly face.pngmay be. This is the ugly face of politics.

The politicians and their advisers think that they are “stirring up the base” by playing to the hate and fear messages that seem to resonate with the radical groups on either side. Rather than insulting the opposition, what these hate ads really do is insult the intelligence of the probable voters. They reduce the process to one of trying to pick out the least sleazy candidate to vote for in any election or the least likely to lead us into doom.

samuel Taylert ColeridgeI’m reminded of a quote that I saw in the Jack’s Winning Words blog – “Experience informs us that the first defense of weak minds is to recriminate.” (Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

I suspect that Coleridge would have found many weak minds among the slates of candidates in modern politics.

I will be glad again this year when we get by the election and can return to the more pleasant experience of the TV ads informing me over dinner about all sorts of medicines to help with gross bodily functions or diseases. Those are less likely to turn my stomach than the current crop of political attack ads. It is probably too late to save most of the politicians, but another piece of advice from the Jack’s Winning Words blog also comes to mind –

(Mark Twain) “Never lie to someone who trusts you, and never trust someone who lies to you.” Mark Twain

I wonder what Twain would write about our current political scene if he were alive today. I’ll bet it would be a fun read.

Heaven help us all to get through this mess we call an election.

 


Turn that anger into votes…

October 13, 2018

A post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog some time back had this little quote – “Did you know that Dammit I’m mad spelled backwards is Dammit I’m mad?”  (Sent by Norlene)

I read an article in this week’s BusinessWeek magazine about female anger and why it is so often suppressed and allowed to fade away. The #MeToo movement brought to the surface a lot of that repressed anger from women who have been taken advantage of and abused by men during their lives, especially in the business environment. The article speculated on whether the sense of anger and frustration that boiled over this summer, culminating with the confirmation hearings for Judge Kavenaugh, will affect the angry womanNovember elections and change the face of American politics. The article pointed out that a record number of women are running for office this year at all levels of government. Certainly, replacing the good old boys in government with women is one way to overcome the issue (at least in government).It will take a longer, more concerted effort to change the business world. So, maybe the #MeToo movement is morphing into the #OurTurn movement, and that’s a good thing.

In the political world, turning anger into votes is what got Donald Trump elected. He successfully read and tapped into the anger of the voters over issues on which they felt the traditional politicians had abandoned them. He was able to cast the professional politicians who ruled Washington at the time as a part of the problem and offer himself as the solution. It worked because those same politicians had become isolated from, and arrogantdisdainful of, their constituents. They had become focused upon feeding from the trough of lobbyists’ money and doing the bidding of those who paid for their attention. It became well known that the lobbyists were writing the legislation being sponsored by their toadies in Congress and that did not sit well with the breakfast crew at the local café. Given little other outlet for their frustration, it’s no wonder that so many voters took the chance to vote for someone like Trump, who claimed that he wanted to “Drain the Swamp” in Washington. Whether he drained the swamp or just brought in a new crop of snakes and alligators is the topic for another day. He turned that anger and frustration into votes.

Now it’s the women’s turn to change things. The anger level has been building throughout the year as abuse of women scandal after scandal erupted onto the scene. The #MeToo movement may have started out of things that gained attention in Hollywood; but, it has always been there, just below the surface. It was suppressed in the homes and workplaces of America. It was hushed up in the churches and schools of America. It was winked at in Americas’ board rooms and in the Halls of Congress. But ityoung-woman-furious was still there; festering; the anger building. This time, maybe it won’t fade away. This time, maybe it will once again turn into votes. This time, maybe the women of America will do what the President didn’t do and drain the swamp that American politics has become. We shall see on November 6. That’s the day in which women have the opportunity to say “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more.”