A Crisis of Character: America at it's best, and worst

When the situation first developed with my daughter and son-in-law stranded in Morocco, and I sought to make people aware of their situation through social media, my reaction to the sophomoric, churlish, and idiotic comments about their plight, and that of thousands of other Americans, was one of rage.

Angry, intense, unmitigated rage.

Anger which, if allowed to express itself, results in prison terms. They directed these comments at my daughter and son-in-law and many other Americans. And they came from “my fellow Americans.”

To say it incensed me is an understatement.

Before I took to the usual recourse of writing about these things, I knew I needed to let the rage subside. I wanted to be sure everything I wrote came from my rational and reasoned side and that it was accurate and sincere.

I am now at peace with the rage. Here are my thoughts on this situation.

This country contains a significant number—not a majority, yet perhaps just enough to populate a small town—of moronic, self-centered, intellectually compromised nitwits. This small town of Moronville would contain enough people to give every other village, town, or city an abundance of idiots and still have leftovers.

Where do I begin?

When I contacted the local media to publicize the situation facing American citizens stranded overseas, I expected some negativity. I knew there would be a few dimwits, ensconced in their zealous xenophobic ignorance, who’d offer something less than charitable suggestions or ignorance-laden nonsense.

Yet I did not understand how many of our fellow Americans have absolutely no consideration or empathy for others.

I won’t dignify the keyboard courageous by repeating the comments, but they took great pride in parading their obliviousness. Their lack of fundamental knowledge about contagion, or even basic understanding that readmitting stranded Americans would have ZERO effect on the spread of the virus in the US, is frightening.

We are well beyond that.

Yet the absolute absence of any empathy, from those who I’m sure proudly claim their Judeo-Christian heritage, is astounding.

“What Would Jesus Do?” might be a bumper sticker on their car, but I dare say it was there when they bought it and no one has read or explained it to them.

Now here is the real kicker. While there were many comments wishing my daughter and son-in-law a speedy and safe return, they were in the minority. Yet one stuck out of the cacophony of overwhelming ignorance. A person who doesn’t know my daughter, and who doesn’t know me, offered to help.

This person was a Moroccan living here in Rhode Island. Surrounded by so many Americans who wrap themselves in the flag, foaming at the mouth about Making America Great Again, none offered any help.

But this Moroccan did.

This one exception showed what being a humane and caring member of the human race is all about. Think about that. Let that soak in for a moment. Americans offered criticism and “too bad, it’s on you for going there,” while a Moroccan offered to help by putting my daughter in touch with their family in Morocco.

Americans offered callous criticism and snide remarks, a Moroccan offered shelter from the storm.

That’s one reason why we travel. One of the many reasons we encouraged our daughter to travel, One of the reasons we encouraged her to go to countries like Morocco. To see the world beyond the borders of this country; to see there are good people all over this planet.

Now there is a second, and perhaps more troubling, aspect to this story.

The failure of the US State Department and the Embassy to offer even the slightest bit of help is a symptom of the incompetence of this administration.

It began long before the current crisis with the loss of many career State Department employees. In the face of the President’s policy ignorance, lack of Foreign relations skills, and callous disregard of advice from those with enormous experience, we lost decades of knowledge and expertise with the exodus. The President then replaced them with sycophants, wealthy campaign contributors, and co-conspirators.

Here’s a frightening example of how ill-considered appointments put Americans at risk.

Ambassadorship are often offered to patrons of a candidate. They are the plum positions rewarded for contributions and political support. Yet any competent administration should realize that world situations are fluid, fast moving, and prone to develop in the most unlikely circumstances.

Like a Pandemic.

Having competent people on the ground, even in countries such as Morocco with its relative stability, is critical. Political contributions are not a qualification, it’s a down payment or a bribe.

Even with the reality of politics, competence should enter the equation.

The American Ambassador to Morocco, David Fischer, is a Trump appointee. His previous experience was managing a collection of auto dealerships. There’s a comforting thought. The man on the ground taking care of our fellow American citizens has vast experience financing auto purchases and zero experience in diplomacy or emergency preparedness.

We’ve trusted a diplomatic mission to someone who amounts to a step above a used car salesman. I know that’s harsh, but other than politically supporting Mr. Trump, the man has zero qualifications. (https://ma.usembassy.gov/our-relationship/our-ambassador/)

The consensus among those on the scene, my daughter among them, is the Embassy has been useless. Local authorities say there’s been no communication from the Embassy and they advised my daughter and the others they were on their own.

The French, while understandably allowing their citizens to travel first, have been less than cordial with the Americans. They are allowing Americans on the Air France flights after taking any French citizens, but they are not happy about it and wonder why the American government has done nothing.

In contrast, the British Ambassador, Thomas Reilly, has received high marks for coordinating the return of British citizens. (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/18/travel/coronavirus-americans-stranded.html?fbclid=IwAR3qX0uAJJ-FbVGHzoXrOHAIsG3W7PLkzeW1M5EthzAeAvmoSL1coip51e0)

Absent any presence of American Government authorities at the airport, American citizens are at risk. And this is happening all over the world.

To their credit, staff in the offices of Senators Reed and Whitehouse have remained in touch, made efforts to get information from the Embassy, and move the government to deal with the issue. For that I am grateful, but they can only do so much from here.

The President does not bear the responsibility for this pandemic. He does not bear the responsibility for the global financial collapse. But he bears the responsibility for the incompetence and lack of planning in his administration’s response.

And if there is any doubt about the sinister nature of this administration and those who support it, there’s this gem. Senator Richard Burr- R-NC, a member of the Intelligence Committee receiving classified briefings about COVID-19 before the widespread pandemic, dumped stock and warned a group of well-connected constituents to prepare for the financial meltdown with the spread of the Corona Virus.

No doubt there will be more such noble actions brought to light by that evil enemy of the people, the media and the First Amendment. And I have no doubt there will be Democrats among them. (https://www.npr.org/2020/03/19/818192535/burr-recording-sparks-questions-about-private-comments-on-covid-19)

Something we need remember come November.

Can we afford such incompetence in the face of a such challenges? Because there will be more. Much as many would like, we cannot isolate ourselves from the rest of the world, nor should we. The very idea underscores the idiocy of many Americans.

I hope this does not dissuade my daughter from the joy and experience of travel. I hope she can remember traveling was not the issue, nor the pandemic, it was being abandoned by her own government, leaving her to her own devices, that was the biggest disaster.

And I hope she keeps in mind how the people in Morocco took care of them as best they good, and the kindness of the person from Morocco here in Rhode Island, to remind her there are good people all over the world.

*Author’s Note: My daughter and son-in-law are now on a flight to JFK having made their way out of Morocco on their own with little communication from the Embassy.

That, they will remember, and I will remember these things as well.

An Inconvenient Truth

inconvenient [in-kuhn-veen-yuhnt]
not easily accessible or at hand.
Inopportune; untimely
not suiting one's needs or purposes.

Let’s keep our wits about us and put this in perspective. The reality of this pandemic is a serious, but manageable health risk. There are uncertainties, but this can be mitigated with simple common sense. Let’s leave the politics of blame until after the entire story is told.

Most of the effort will be little more than an inconvenience. Yet the reaction by many, from hoarding like it’s Armageddon to wailing and whining because they cancel sports events, underscores just how selfish a society we’ve become.

There will be many who will bear the brunt of the real burden, i.e. hourly workers, waitstaff, etc. those who most people never give a second thought to. For them it will be more than an inconvenience, but for the overwhelming majority of us that is what it will be.

An inconvenience.

There’s a meme making the rounds which says it best…

“Your Grandparents were asked to go to war, you’re being asked to stay home and sit on your couch. Calm down, Sweetpea!”

The virus is here. There is little we can do about that. But there are simple steps everyone can take to do their part and prevent the virus from spreading.

It may involve a whole two weeks of staying home. That’s a far cry from years away from home, without the instant communication of today’s world, fighting a war.

Sometimes circumstances require Americans to come together as a nation, now is one of them. Don’t just think of your own well-being, but consider the well-being of the nation.

That is American greatness, and that is how we will weather this storm.

Stay home, read (here is a convenient link for some Exceptional books to read (https://www.amazon.com/Joe-Broadmeadow/e/B00OWPE9GU.)

This too shall pass.

The Great Corona Plague of 2020

(Imagine if you will a classroom of the future. Eager students sit in awe of the old-style digital images of 2020. The mass hysteria outside a place once known as a Walmart illustrates the insanity of that era.

A young girl, confused by what she has seen, comes home to her grandfather to ask him to help her understand. This is the legacy of a generation begging for an explanation.)

“Grandpa, were you alive during the Great Corona Plague of 2020?”

“Yes, sweetheart, I was. Why?”

“We’re studying it in school, and I have a few questions.”

“Okay, ask away.”

“Well, there was one thing I didn’t understand. I know it was important to take care of yourself, and I know it was important to avoid crowds.  I understand it made sense to limit travel to Europe and ask people not to travel in the country. And washing your hands is common sense.”

“My sweet Baboo, everyone understood that. Most of us knew it with nobody telling us. What is it you don’t understand?”

“Well, Grandpa, what was up with the run on toilet paper? I mean of all the stupid nonsensical things to do. The teacher had the entire class roiling on the floor, laughing. Toilet paper? Why Toilet paper?”

“Honey, in 2016 this country elected a buffoon as President. And no one can explain that or anything that happened for those long, dark, toilet-paper shortage ravaged four years he was President. Wait until you study that if you want a laugh.

“But we regained our senses.  

“We put people who knew what they were doing in place of the dysfunctional cabal. We developed a vaccine for Corona, reopened the office that plans for such things that the buffoon President closed during those disastrous years, and rebuilt our strategic toilet paper reserve.”

“Oh, Grandpa, you’re just as funny as the teacher. There is no such thing as the Strategic Toilet Paper Reserve.”

“Yes, there is dear. We converted all the Making America Great Again signs. We’ve got enough paper to keep our rear-ends clean for centuries. We store it in the building that would have been the Trump Presidential Library. As you will learn, there was no need for such a place.”

MAGA   Making America Go Again.

“Hic incipit pestis.” *

*”Here begins the plague” is written in the register next to the entry for Oliver Gunne’s burial on June 11, 1564 one of the first victims of the plague that ravaged Europe back when the “treatment” for such illnesses was praying or trying to exorcise demons. We seem to be reverting to such fear based reactions to a natural, if troubling, evolutionary process of viral mutation.

As one of our greatest Presidents once said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself” (Franklin D. Roosevelt)

Before we hunt and burn witches once someone suggests they bear responsibility for this Corona Virus Panic, it may be time for a deep breath. (And dispense with the paper masks, one they get wet from your breath all they stop is bad breath, and not very well.)  

It is this panicked fear of a naturally reoccurring phenomenon which grips this country and the world that is the genuine danger and risk.  While any death from what will soon be (although not in 2 or 3 months as someone suggested) a treatable and preventable viral infection is tragic, yet it’s the way the world works.

We (meaning the world) have faced the Black Death, Spanish Flu, a host of childhood diseases, AIDS, MRSA, Ebola et. al., once almost always fatal, and have found treatments or preventative measures to mitigate them. We did it through scientifically valid research and development.

We have child-guard caps on medication because someone died. We have seals on bottles because some put poison in a pain killer and someone died. We have seat belts in cars because someone died.  We learn from experience and use science and reasoning to deal with these issues.  Panic accomplishes nothing but a proliferation of ignorance.

It is the fundamental lack of basic science which troubles me the most. The anti-vaxxers with their pseudo-science already proven not just wrong but dangerous making claims without the slightest bit of evidence.

And people listen.

It is people not having a fundamental understanding of how viral pathogens are transmitted running around stockpiling disinfectant hoping to stave off which for most will amount to two sick days.

Yet people panic.

Now this is not to minimize the risk to those with compromised immunity or breathing difficulties. But these same risk factors apply to the flu which mutates every year (responding to the vaccines and evolving as life always has) and returning in a new variation.

As reported by the CDC in their 2019-2020 Flu Season overview, 280,000 to 500,000 flu hospitalizations and 16,000 to 41,000 flu deaths this year to date.

The flu, which in most cases is preventable by well-established vaccines, is still expected to kill between 260,000 and 350,000 people worldwide with 36,000 deaths in the US.

And this happens EVERY YEAR.

Now in case there is any doubt in anyone’s mind, I am not a fan of the President.  But in his news conference he did say something that is accurate, we should leave politics out of this. Whether Mr. Trump and others will– Democrats bear responsibility here also–is doubtful, but it is necessary if for no other reason than to mitigate the panic all out of proportion to the risk.

The actual culprit here is the media. Driven by the simple-minded attention-deficit tweet-addicted society we live in, the media resorts to stark headlines and “Breaking” News teasers to capture the infrequent moments of lucidity among many of our fellow citizens.

It forces them to compete with such major news as what Bachelorette picked which idiotic contestant or which Naked and Alone competitor had the most ant bites on their ass. And don’t even get me started on “My 600-pound life.”

The media are the modern equivalent of the boy who cried wolf or Chicken Little and the sky is falling. Their credibility, damaged by the constant need for shock and awe, discounted when they try to report actual news requiring some thought and consideration so the public, enamored of the hype and nonsense, doesn’t miss it.

Sadly, most of the time they do.

Mr. Trump and his administration, when faced with a genuine opportunity to show calm and deliberate leadership, booted it. Their intentional closure of the office designated to plan and prepare for this exact situation, further evidence of their disdain for science and expert advice, is a stain on an already tarnished Presidency. And their inaction followed by irrational overreaction will cause irreparable economic harm all out of proportion to the risk.

And people will still get the virus.

The media is as guilty as the President.  In its usual fervor for ratings, they further exasperated the situation with their hyperbole and drowned out the few voices of reasons—the doctors and scientists of the CDC and WHO — as they cautioned a reasonable reaction to a predictable situation.

Just for a bit of enlightenment in an age of darkness, here as some interesting statistics on the ways to die.

Oportet memento mori (Remember you must die)

Latin saying
Lifetime odds of death for selected causes, United States, 2017
Cause of DeathOdds of Dying
Heart Disease1 in 6
Cancer1 in 7
Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease1 in 27
Suicide1 in 88
Opioid overdose1 in 96
Motor Vehicle Crash1 in 103
Fall1 in 114
Gun Assault1 in 285
Pedestrian Incident1 in 556
Motorcyclist1 in 858
Drowning1 in 1,117
Fire or Smoke1 in 1,474
Choking on Food1 in 2,696
Bicyclist1 in 4,047
Accidental Gun Discharge1 in 8,527
Sunstroke1 in 8,912
Electrocution, Radiation, Extreme Temperatures and Pressure1 in 15,638
Sharp objects1 in 28,000
Cataclysmic Storm1 in 31,394
Hot surfaces and substances1 in 46,045
Hornet, wasp and bee stings1 in 46,562
Dog attack1 in 115,111
Passenger on an airplane1 in 188,364
Lightning1 in 218,106
Railway passenger1 in 243,765

“Remember man that thou art dust…”

Author unknown

A Self-Inflicted Crisis (in a long line of self-inflicted crises)

In our country today we find ourselves in the situation writer Issac Asimov described in his seminal work, Foundation.

“…that frequent phenomenon in history: the republic whose ruler has every attribute of the absolute monarch but the name. It therefore enjoyed the usual despotism unrestrained even by those two moderating influences in the legitimate monarchies: regal “honor” and court etiquette.”

Isaac Asimov, Foundation

America faces a crisis, and it is not just the corona virus. It is a crisis of leadership when it is most needed. The total incompetence and fundamental lack of rational and reasoned efforts are on full display in Washington and throughout this administration.

In a line written about business, but applicable to the Trump administration since he touts his “business success,”

“Even a dysfunctional culture, once well established, is astonishingly efficient at reproducing itself.”

Megan McArdle, Atlantic Monthly (https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/03/why-companies-fail/308887/)

And this is a dysfunctional President. The evidence is before our eyes, and before Congress, yet we and they have ignored it.  This didn’t begin with the corona virus, a phenomenon that occurs almost every few years as viruses mutate and change with evolutionary certainty.

It began with a President who has a fundamental disdain for the three co-equal branches of government and fails to remember he represents all Americans, not just those who voted for him.

The evidence of the incompetence of this administration covers the gambit from domestic to foreign policy to simple common decency and concern for humanity. Here’s one example that happened before the latest debacle.

If we will believe the President’s assertion that Mr. Putin denied Russian interference in the 2016 election–despite a rare consensus among our intelligence agencies to the contrary. If the President vouches for the honesty and integrity of the Russian President–despite overwhelming evidence of Russian efforts to destabilize out political process–then we would have no reason to doubt Mr. Putin’s contention that Mr. Trump told him we spend too much money on defense, and yet Mr. Trump increased the defense budget. (http://uawire.org/putin-says-trump-confessed-to-him-about-huge-military-spending)

Aside from wondering why any American president would say such a thing to one of our greatest challengers in the world, it gives one pause when we consider we have to take a moment to think about who we should believe. Unsure of who has more credibility, our President or the Russian one?

We are spending money on programs chosen more for their economic benefit to certain supportive Congressional districts (and some Democrats do not get a pass on this) or to garner contributions from defense industry funded PACS than intelligently derived analysis of 21st century defense needs.

We are buying weapons to fight a war based on large-scale operations rather than asymmetric insurgency type operations which are the nature of warfare since 1945.  While China, Russia, and other countries focus on weapons designed to mitigate our overwhelming force superiority with hypersonic long-range missiles or other effective weapons difficult to counteract, we prepare for the pitched battles of WWII which no one fights anymore.

One might argue, as many military experts do, that our reliance on overwhelming force against any hostile action, i.e. multiple five-hundred pound bomb strikes against a single sniper, and the unavoidable collateral damage, creates more hostility and resistance to our expressed purpose for being there.

In other words, the military weaponry we buy fails to serve the purpose. We protect American lives in the short run, yet doom them to remain on the ground in harm’s way because we create more enemies than we kill. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Doubt this? We’ve been fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq for almost 20-years.

China has the additional foresight (another missing asset of this President) to invest in world-wide infrastructure to gain influence while we bog ourselves down in these endless sectarian wars at the cost of American lives and loss of respect for American policy.

 “In the twenty-first century, the military costs over $700 billion a year, and its budget is 3 to 4 percent of the United States’ gross domestic product (GDP). By way of comparison, the budget for the National Cancer Institute is only about $5 billion per year, when over 609,000 people in the United States die from cancer each year.”

Tim Bakker “The Cost of Loyalty: Dishonesty, Hubris, and Failure in the U.S. Military.”

And the deficit, the one that Mr. Trump claimed he would eliminate, grows exponentially with each passing moment. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2016/04/02/trumps-nonsensical-claim-he-can-eliminate-19-trillion-in-debt-in-eight-years/)

These things present complex and dangerous challenges to this country.

Mr. Trump, as he is wont to repeat ad nauseam, claims he is solely responsible for the economic “turnaround.” He claims the rise of the stock market is his accomplishment and his alone.

If so, Mr. Trump, then the fall of the market, nay the descent into oblivion of the market, is yours. While I have often argued the US economy is too complex for just one factor to have such influence, I must defer to your claims.

Not so fast, many of his supporters will shout. You cannot blame the President for the corona virus and its effect on the market.

True enough, but only so far. I can blame him for his ineptness and stumbling in the face of the crisis which contributes to the jitters on Wall Street.  The oft repeated mantra of “How’s your 401k?” doesn’t ring as sweet anymore, does it Mr. Trump?

You can’t tweet your way out of this one.

In just a few short decades we have gone from leaders who say and act with determination, compassion, and wisdom while calming and inspiring a nation in crisis…

“The measure of a country’s greatness is its ability to retain compassion in time of crisis.”

Thurgood Marshall

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

― President Franklin D. Roosevelt

…to this,

“There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”

President George W. Bush

Mr. Bush, with his stumbling and bumbling words, led us into an unnecessary and deadly war absent the slightest bit of justification. Yet, I think he believed it necessary to protect American interests even if based on fraudulent advice.

Now, we have a President whose concerns are much easier to divine.

If it reflects well on him, he is solely responsible. If it reflects badly, everyone else has failed him.

The corona virus is not a crisis in the sense that millions across the planet will die from it. But that is little comfort to the victims of other debilitating conditions who will die if they contract the virus.

The corona virus is a crisis because of the American failure to respond in a timely, organized, and well thought out manner. It shows the dearth of preparedness, the willful ignorance of science, and the lack of proper health care available to all Americans.

This from a recent article in the New York Times.

“Who would have thought?” he (President Trump) asked during a visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nerve center for the government’s response to the outbreak. “Who would have thought we would even be having the subject?”

Actually, quite a few people would have thought, and did — including the officials in his own White House who were in charge of preparing for just such a pandemic only to have their office shut down in a reorganization in 2018. “The threat of pandemic flu is the No. 1 health security concern,” one of the officials said the day before that happened two years ago.

“Are we ready to respond? I fear the answer is no.” (https://a.msn.com/r/2/BB10V9en?m=en-us&referrerID=InAppShare)

How right he turned out to be.

This is a crisis of Mr. Trump’s creation based on arrogant disdain for the wisdom of others in areas for which Mr. Trump has no experience. In a time when a President should be in the forefront of leading the nation with a calm and reassuring voice, he focuses on the only thing that matters to him, his own self-aggrandizing super ego.

While leaving American citizens stranded on a ship waiting for someone, anyone, to bring them home and test them for the virus, Mr. Trump had this to say,

“I like the numbers being where they are. I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship”

President of the United States (this is not a typo) Donald J. Trump.

I like the numbers where there are as well, Mr. Trump. The poll numbers that show you trailing any of the potential Democratic candidates. But we all know numbers can and will change.

The number of those testing positive for the virus will rise because of the ineptness of this country’s response, for which you alone bear sole responsibility, Mr. President, for you are the one who should lead the nation at this moment.

But instead of leadership, calming words, and steady example of competence, you’ve once again used virtual bone spurs to avoid your responsibility.

Blame the previous administration, fire your chief of staff, turn to your favorite enemy the media, do everything you can to avoid the crisis instead of doing that which is your most sacred responsibility, to lead us through it.

Let’s hope the American people remember your dismal and abhorrent performance during this time of crisis, and it reflects in their voice at the polls.

A Rising Tide

Hope for America

The hope of America lies not in her great history or in the resiliency of her people, but in the ability of our system of government to survive regardless of the level of quality in our leadership. The founding fathers understood this more than anything else; if you rely on just the good nature of most people you will leave a way for those with evil intent to thrive.

America is like a pristine beach; warmed by the sun with a gentle surf changing the shore in subtle but continuous ways.  Men such as Mr. Trump come along and build intricate sand castles that mesmerize those who cannot see their vulnerability.  They become enamored of the spectacle, ignoring the fundamental flaw in the foundation.

When the storm arrives, as it will, such structures last but a moment in the face of the onrushing waves. Yet the shore, with just the millions of grains of sand bound by a common purpose, not only survives but over time erases the remains of the turbulence.

We are now facing the storm of rising mistrust in America by the rest of the world. By the disdain of former allies abandoned by ill-considered policies based on a self-aggrandizing charlatan and his sycophantic minions. By opposing governments feeding the ego of the President to interfere in our elections with his consent. By the constancy of American resolve to bear any burden abandoned in the face of challenges we once welcomed.

The sand castle that is the Trump administration will not withstand the coming storm, a storm of outrage and disgust by the American people who see their country roiled in the minefields of racism, injustice, virtual foreign invasion, and nationalism.  The storm will sweep away the sand castle and the shores of America will bask in the sun of a powerful but considerate, wealthy but generous, and vigilant yet hopeful nation once again.

An Immodest Proposal: Catch and Re-Lease

In 1729, Jonathan Swift, an Irish cleric better known for his work Gulliver’s Travels, wrote an essay entitled,

“A Modest Proposal For preventing the Children of Poor People From being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and For making them Beneficial to the Publick”

 It is more commonly known as A Modest Proposal.  Swift, seeking a way to deal with the starving people and abject poverty of Ireland, came up with a unique, if controversial, idea.

Since one can always learn from the past, I submit this Immodest Proposal for your consideration  in dealing with the Extraordinary Danger posed by the invasion of our country by those illegally crossing our borders, stealing all the good jobs, raping and pillaging (even if they are caught) because of our “catch and release” policy.

Here is An Immodest Proposal for Preventing the Poor Immigrant People from Being a Burden to America and For Making them Beneficial to our Economy (although I hear it is already perfect.)

It seems our efforts at stemming the tidal wave, nay tsunami, of people crossing our border under the mistaken idea we welcome these teeming masses yearning to be free has been only failure.

We have tried kindness and understanding, and still they came.

We put the National Guard on the borders, and still they came.

We built a wall (and rebuilding it as soon as part of it fell into Mexico,) and still they came,

We snatched their children holding them as hostages to discourage others from coming, and still they came.

It’s time we turned these lemons into lemonade. For what level of desperation must they feel to face not only our indignation and revulsion for their daring to embrace the dream of freedom but to ignore every effort we’ve made to stop them?

I have the perfect solution.

Instead of catch and release, we catch them and then lease and re-lease them to do all those jobs Americans are not willing to do.

We can lease and re-lease them to farms, at costs far lower than minimum wage, and thus lower the cost of agricultural products.

We can lease and re-lease them to cities and towns to clean the highways, collect trash, maintain the sidewalks, sweep the streets (at night to be out of sight of most citizens) thus reducing taxes and improving our living environment.

We can lease and re-lease them to companies who need massive amounts of labor to fill all those newly created jobs (after all Americans have first dibs, of course) and the lower labor cost will reduce the price of all those Amazon orders.

The cost savings will translate into lower taxes, put more money in the hands of “real & true” Americans, and eliminate all those pairs of sneakers hanging from telephone lines which is a blight on our land.

We can take some of them and use them to care for the children too young to work and supplement our own daycare facilities to lower day care costs.

Some might claim, this is slavery. I disagree.  We did not ask them to come here. We’ve made a tremendous effort to discourage them, yet still they came. It would be reasonable to conclude their ignoring our objections to their coming here amounts to volunteering.

We might even put a light at the end of the tunnel.  Say after ten or twenty years of toiling for our mutual benefit, they would be entitled to either a path to citizenship or a free ticket home.

Absent concurrence with my suggestion, we could always revert to Swift’s original idea. More difficult to sell but would accomplish the same honorable purpose.

The Soundtracks of Life

Music has always been a big part of my life. I’m sure that’s true for many people, I know it’s true for some of my friends. The music of our youth shapes us even to this day. It added color to our memories, and still keeps much of those “good ole’ days” vibrant and alive, even if tempered with time.

I always find it fascinating that I have to work at remembering names of people I’ve just met, yet just the first few notes (can you name that tune?) of The Sounds of Silence or April Come She Will and I can recite the lyrics without fail.

I often listen to the 60s channel on Sirius XM and, except for a few obscure songs, can sing along with almost every tune.

Pleasant Valley Sunday, I’m a Believer, Shiloh, Does Anybody Really Know What Time it Is?, and on to the days of Good Times Bad Times, Stairway to Heaven, Smoke on the Water, the sound of the first few notes or rhythmic beat of the drums and I am sixteen once again.

Born to be Wild… indeed.

In my senior year of high school, 1974, the theme of the prom was Seals & Croft’s We May Never Pass This Way Again. I didn’t attend the prom, choosing (or perhaps because I may not have had a choice) to experience (with several other option-less friends) a more cinematic cultural experience at a rather chic drive-in movie location, accompanied by fine, hand-crafted ales, and facilitated by our well-altered fake Id’s attesting to my being a mature 19-year-old and thus able to appreciate the fine art and refreshments.

I don’t recall the name of the movie, nor the actors, nor the theme of the story. Sometimes what seems to be a good use of time at the moment turns out not to be so. Such is life, but regrets never accomplished anything.

My point for revisiting that moment in time was the appropriateness of the theme. While we may have loved the music, and can still sing all the words, we didn’t appreciate how prophetic those words were or how quickly the time between those moments and now would pass.

Now I find myself a part another song from that era.

In 1967 (FIFTY-THREE YEARS AGO) the Beatles released the song, When I’m Sixty-Four. At the time of its release, me and most of my friends were eleven years old. Old people were sixty-four. Antique cars were sixty-four. Dinosaurs were sixty-four.

I could not grasp the concept of BEING sixty-four.

Now I am fast approaching sixty-four.

“Will you still need me, will you still feed me?
When I’m sixty-four?”

Yet even as I approach this now seemingly young age–60 is the new 40, or so I tell myself–the lyrics and music of those days still reside, alive and well-cared for, deep in my memory.

Of all the many songs and artists of those days— Neil Diamond, Harry Chapin, Chicago, Blood, Sweat, & Tears—Paul Simon and Simon & Garfunkel remain my favorites. Even today, with my fingers battered and bruised from an active life, tinged with arthritis, I can still pick up my guitar and play the songs.

Simon had a way with words and a masterful ear for setting music to his poetic lines. One of my favorites, interestingly enough also about the aging process although that was far from my mind back then, is the song Old Friends from the Bookends album.

Old friends
Old friends
Sat on their park bench
Like bookends
A newspaper blown through the grass
Falls on the round toes
On the high shoes
Of the old friends

Old friends
Winter companions
The old men
Lost in their overcoats
Waiting for the sunset
The sounds of the city
Sifting through trees
Settle like dust
On the shoulders
Of the old friends

Old friends
Memory brushes the same years
Silently sharing the same fear

Time it was
And what a time it was
It was. ..
A time of innocence
A time of confidences

Long ago. .. it must be. ..
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They’re all that’s left you

(Music and Lyrics by Paul Simon)

Sixty-four a moment away, seventy on the horizon…preserve your memories and sing the songs of your halcyon days. We will never pass this way again.

“They’re the Young Generation (and they’ve got something to say)

“Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans…” President John F. Kennedy 

The winds of change—unstoppable and inevitable—course through these United States.  Often such change begins with destruction of what was, scattering the pieces of the past askew. But like a forest fire destroying lives to prolong life, the devastation brings opportunity.

In 2016 anger drove many Americans to abandon principals—to ignite the flames of destruction—in exchange for a firestorm named Trump. They believed the mere act of burning down the past would set it right. 

But even a devastating fire leaves some things unharmed. It does not destroy all the trees.

This election will not be decided by people like myself who will vote for anyone but Donald Trump.

This election will not be decided by those who would grant Trump the Presidency without the benefit of an election.

This election will not be decided by those who have already made up their minds.

This election will be decided by a new generation. And they have the clarity of the past to measure the need for real, rational change.

History may not repeat, but it rhymes (a quote attributed to Mark Twain but who knows?) Here, the rhyme is the rise of a new generation to seize the mantle of leadership.

Men like Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders represent those of the Kennedy age who have served their country as they saw fit to do it. While I may not agree with everything they represent, they have been men of integrity. Not perfect, not flawless, but committed to fundamental honesty.

It is time they recognize the moment to pass the torch has arrived.

Pete Buttigieg ( well-educated, articulate, Navy veteran) and Amy Klobuchar (an accomplished lawyer and Senator) represent the rise of a new generation. Their resumes read like the American dream, striving for excellence.

While John Kennedy’s generation rose to preeminence tempered by World War II and the Cold War, this new generation is tempered by asymmetric warfare, instant communication, climate change, a more vibrant global economy, and complex–in some cases nuclear armed–geopolitics.

There has never been a time more critical for a cerebral President, attuned to embracing complexities, than now.

In 1959, during the race between Kennedy and Nixon, Kennedy’s Catholicism posed a major issue for voters. His youth posed another. These were divisive issues upon which many voters based their decisions. Yet that generation rose to the challenge.

In 1960, the idea that someday there would be a Black President was the stuff of disbelief for some and disaster for others.

Times changed and it came to pass.

Now, there is the real chance of a woman or a gay person occupying the White House. That this possibility exists is a good thing, that some will consider these salient issues upon which to base their votes shows we still have a ways to go.

And the only way we will get there is to learn from the past, but look forward to the future.

I, for one, am excited by the prospect of a new generation of American Leadership.

Ode to a Cracked Pot

Donald, Donald, orange bright
In the forests of the night
What immoral hand or eye,
Could frame they fearful symmetry?

In what distant deep or skies
Burnt the ire of thine eyes?
On what lies dare thee conspire
What the hand, dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could place the evil in thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat
What dread hair & and what damaged feet?

What the hammer? What the chain,
In what madness churns thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare create thy pompous ass?

When the Senate gave up their spears
And abandoned honor in their tears
Did the devil smile his work to see?
Did he rejoice in making thee?

Donald, Donald burning bright,
In our country you haunt the night
What immoral hand or eye
Dare inflict us with your symmetry?

Author’s note: Apologies to William Blake and John Keats for borrowing their magnificent words and to Dan Walsh who, if he reads this, will forever regret introducing me to their work.