Future History

Scenarios for the Trump Presidency.

“Grandpa, were you alive when Donald Trump was President? We’re studying him in history.”

“I was, Billy, I was just a small boy, but I remember. They were scary times.”

“Why?”

“Because Mr. Trump said things that scared people. Mostly good people. It seemed he wanted to change America and not in a good way.”

‘So what happened?”

“Well, Billy, he surprised the world. He started like all the others, did what lots of politicians do. He said one thing to get elected, then, did something entirely different once he got in. Remember this, Billy. Running for President and being President are two very different things.”

“How Grandpa?”

“Because once you are in that office, decisions you make can affect millions of people. It can cost them their lives. President Trump turned out to be more thoughtful, compassionate, and intelligent than many expected.”

“So that’s why he’s up there?”

“Yup, Billy, that’s why he’s up there. Been a long time since we had a President who deserved this.  So, you ready to go?”

“I am, Grandpa, thanks for taking me here. Mount Rushmore is pretty cool.”

*****

“Grandpa, were you alive when Donald Trump was President? We’re studying him in history.”

“I was, Billy, I was just a small boy, but I remember. They were scary times.”

“Why?”

“Because he forgot about the history and dignity of the office of the President and the right of others to live their lives in a manner they choose.”

“So what happened?”

“Here, look through the telescope. You see that large debris cloud between here and Venus?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s all that’s left of the Earth.”

 

 

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Dogs May Be Smarter than Humans

Whenever I buy something new, I am always amused by the instructions or warnings. In particular, the universal stick figure illustrations that attempt to transcend language differences.

My personal favorite is the warnings on the desiccant pack included with most electronics. Their purpose is to absorb moisture. The warning, ominous and serious, says, “Not for Human Consumption.”

Really?

In all my life I never once considered having them for dinner. Not once. Yet, there are the warnings.

I used to be insulted that someone thought them necessary. Now, however, I see a need for them on what would seem a self-explanatory use of an item.

Dog waste bags, in the proper English. Dog shit bags in the vernacular.

You would think no explanation or instructions are necessary.

You would be wrong.

I walk the bike path in Albion almost every day. And almost every day the bike path is littered with used, yet improperly disposed of, dog waste bags.

Adownloadpparently, the concept is too complex for most.

It would seem simple.

Buy the bags, attach the convenient dispenser to the dog leash, take dog for a walk, observe (discreetly so as not to give performance anxiety) as the dog dispenses the processed Alpo, Purina, or recently consumed trash, pick up said pile of waste with the bag, spin vigorously to secure, tie in a knot, and then, here is where the instructions are necessary, DISPOSE OF IT.

Do not toss to the side of the bike path.

Do not leave them behind.

TAKE IT WITH YOU AND PUT IT IN THE TRASH.

For the love of all that is good, if you’re gonna leave it behind, why would you entomb a biodegradable item in a non-biodegradable plastic coffin?

The shit would be gone in a few days, the bag will be here until the end of time. It will confuse future alien archeologists. Imagine that discussion. “They bagged what? No way.”

One wonders if there is any hope for America. It’s hard to be optimistic when you realize some of these simpletons vote. People who cannot figure out that disposing of the waste bag is a critical part of the process probably shouldn’t be allowed out without supervision.

America’s Long Walk on a Short Pier

The America I know, the one that once served as a bright shining beacon to the world, is changing. Our headlong panic rush to insulate, rather than defend, ourselves from those that would do us harm is disheartening.

Talk of building walls, denying entry based on religion or origin, craving a national policy of carpet bombing without regard to innocents is not a solution. It is the easy way out. That is not America.

We are on a very long walk on a short pier.305880-pier

America was once the country who built piers to welcome those who seek the American dream. We stood greeting those looking for a better life. Yet now, because it is so easy to focus on those who misuse our welcome, we are throwing it all away.

When did we become so afraid of standing up for what is right, that we are willing to bury our head in the sand?

We bought into this ‘I’m being bullied nonsense’ and cry to our mommies. I know this may offend some people but you don’t run from bullies, or try to legislate them out of existence. You stand up to them.

It’s the only way to solve the problem. Time to recapture our pride and dignity.

Now, we are faced with a Presidential election. The campaign is a bunch of meaningless drivel, hurled by both sides, that offers no real solution, no intelligent analysis of the problem, and no real hope for change.

We are better than that. We deserve better than that. And yet, most of us just follow along like blind sheep lured by the aroma of fresh feed right into the slaughter house.

Instead of doing the hard work of identifying those who would misuse welfare, we punish the entire program.

Instead of doing the difficult task of bringing the fight to the enemy, we embrace politicians with no idea of the rules of engagement who see carpet bombing as a solution to end a philosophy. Innocent casualties be damned.

Instead of making the effort to understand the complex problems facing us, we engage in screaming matches that do nothing.

Instead of focusing on the logjam that is Congress, we scream and yell about useless Congressional hearings and speeches that capitalize on our ignorance.

Instead of embracing education, we dilute the standards then blame teachers for the results. Johnny can’t read and we do not care.

But there is still time.

There is time to remember that Congress holds the purse strings of America, not the President, and understand who holds the purse strings of Congress.

There is time to return to an America where holding public office meant doing public service not keeping it for life.

There is time, but it, like the end of the pier, is growing short.

I have noticed a troubling trend among the tattooed generation of Americans. I am noticing more and more individuals sporting a barcode tattoo on the back of their necks.

If we are not vigilant. If we do not wean ourselves away from chasing Pokémon. If we do not think instead of remaining mindlessly enslaved to our cell phones.

If we do not realize that we have stopped adding to the pier that is the American dream but continue to walk at our current pace, we will find ourselves at the end.

Those sporting this barcode tattoo may be a foreshadow of the American future.

Where once each new generation represented an addition to the treasure of America, our people, they may be reduced to nothing but inventory from a failed dream.

Think before we walk into oblivion.

Black Skin Kevlar Skin

It is impossible for me to know what it is like to be black in America. My upbringing in Cumberland, Rhode Island in the 1960’s could not have been more plain vanilla. Cumberland wasn’t home to very many black families.

The first conversation I ever had with a black person wasn’t until I went into the Air Force. So for me to pretend to understand what it’s like to be black in America is foolish at best and dangerous at worst.

Later, when I became a police officer, I came into daily contact with a much wider variety of ethnicities. Yet, it was easy to fall prey to the us versus them mentality. As my experience grew, so did my appreciation for the similarities we shared rather than the superficial differences.

Unfamiliarity breeds misconceptions and prejudices.

The America of the 60’s was torn by the strife of racial hatred. Cities in America were burning. Images of riots showed lines of club-wielding police officers, almost exclusively white, facing off against protesters, mostly black, in the confrontations over segregation and racial discrimination.

It was these images that served as the basis of my exposure to people of color. I didn’t see prejudice in Cumberland. Not because it didn’t exist, but because there were few people of color living there.

As a police officer, I saw examples of prejudice perpetrated by officers. Yet, the times were changing. These acts, once institutionalized, were by individual officers rather than department policies.

The truth of the matter is they became more concealed, more insidious because they hid behind the façade of arresting criminals. If there is one thing I learned as a police officer, it is that everyone is one dire change of circumstances away from committing a crime.

All it takes is a sudden downturn in fortune and a once successful, happy, employed individual might turn to some criminal action to obtain money or sink into the abyss of drug addiction.

This condition is color-blind.

There is another aspect to being a police officer that creates conflict. We started wearing ballistic vests, donning Kevlar skin as part of our job. A necessary evil that created a mindset that every moment on the job was fraught with risk.

Cops are not taught that people of color are dangerous. They are taught that everyone is. Cops begin every encounter assuming the person they are in contact with poses a threat. It is drilled into them in the academy and in the field. They evaluate the person starting from that assumption. It sets a certain tone to every encounter.

For anyone not raised with black skin to say they understand the problem or can empathize with someone of color is ludicrous.

For persons of color to assume the individual in Kevlar skin is a racist threat with murderous intentions is equally ludicrous.

I was taught to seek out a police officer if I were in trouble. People of color often teach their children to fear cops based on their own experiences. As a country, we can do better.

To applaud the killing of Police Officers while doing their job is to sustain the perception and problem. It derails any attempt at a solution.

America can no longer afford to ignore the endemic racism prevalent within our society. We must confront it in an open and honest manner.

The reason our prisons are full of people of color has nothing to do with propensity to commit a crime. It has to do with a difference in access to justice. The lack of access to dedicated legal advice is the prime factor behind incarceration rates. Until access to justice no longer comes with a price tag, such disparity will continue.

I cannot pretend to know what it is like to be a person of color in this country. Just as most people cannot begin to understand what putting on Kevlar skin and going out into the dark night is like.

There is room for increased understanding and conversation on both sides of that spectrum. The time to act is now. The cities are smoldering. Now is the time to remove the fuel of discrimination before they are burning once again

 

The Inherent Risks of Freedom

Freedom carries with it responsibilities and risks

Those who enjoy the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution and Laws must accept the responsibility to support the same freedom for those that hold different perspectives.

We bear the burden of tolerance for those with whom we disagree in exchange for a tolerance of our own ideas.

The risks of freedom are not the same as the risks to freedom.

The laws of this nation insure that all views, religious, political, social, or personal are entitled to equal protection.

One does not have to agree with or support such diverse differences, but you cannot support or condone oppression.

The sole exception is to remove those who refuse to tolerate  others, or seek to impose their beliefs on others by force or law.

Thus the risks of freedom include the necessary evil of tolerating those that may hold abhorrent beliefs (Neo-Nazis, KKK, Supremacists of any color, racists) so long as they do not try to impose their beliefs or break the law.

However, the reality of the world is it can be a dangerous one. The risks to freedom are often masked as attempts to preserve it.

So it comes down to a simple decision. Do we live in fear? Do we sacrifice our long-held hard fought for principles of equality?

Or do we stand up to it?

The single greatest tool against the fanaticism of fundamentalism and intolerance is education. The free exchange of ideas and knowledge.  Embracing intelligence and education seems to be woefully out of fashion in this country.

What is needed today, along with the reality of a strong military, is a 21st century version of Radio Free America.

The spread of knowledge will someday negate the need for force if we just use the best qualities of America.

Perhaps, in the not so distant future, the next generations who occupy this earth and the universe, will look back on this time as the moment the United States of America once again led the world by virtue of our courage and intelligence, not just our miltary might.

Failing Memories: December 7,1941 and American Freedoms

The memory of one of the most tragic days in United States history is fading into the fog of old memories. One news article described it as another generations 9/11.
It is the way of life. Events once thought to be of monumental significance pale against the ravages of time.  The numbers of those most affected slowly eroded by mortality.
That day will come for 9/11 as well.
Someday, those of us who lived through that time in history will follow the same path into death.
What I dread most is not my mortality. What I despair of most is what I see happening to this country. Americans that so cherish their freedoms, paid for in the blood of Iwo Jima, Tarawa, Guadalcanal, Chosin, Hue, Iraq, Afghanistan, would deny the same freedoms to others because of false perception of differences. Such actions dishonor the heroism of those that fought the wars to preserve the freedoms of this country.
Freedoms promised to all by our laws and Constitution.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the President that guided the country through that terrible time after the Pearl Harbor attack, once said, “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.”
That fear is now gripping this nation. The once bright shining city on the hill, the beacon of freedom that has served this country so well, would cover the light in order to deny those same freedoms to others because some think we should be afraid.
We did not spend the blood of our men and women in fighting those that attacked us just so someday we would deny freedom to an entire group because we are afraid of a few.
Or do this simply because of a perception that one particular religion is more dangerous than another.
15000 Arab Americans fought in World War II, many of them Muslim. Arlington Cemetery has a number of American heroes who served with valor and distinction earning some of the highest military medals for valor. And they were of the Muslim faith, buried next to Christians, Jews, and Atheists. Americans of all faiths have served this country.
Arlington does not refuse to accept dead Americans by reason of faith or race or ethnic origin, why would America do that the living?
They paid the ultimate sacrifice for the very freedom some of their fellow Americans would deny to others for no other reason but fear..
Where has our courage gone?
Let me be clear about something. Those that seek to destroy us, those that follow some deranged interpretation of religion, any religion, who seek to impose their beliefs on us by force, know well that the US will always win such a battle.
We embrace our freedom. We are willing to share it with those that seek the same and are willing to do anything we have to do to protect it. We will die if we must, but our death will not come without cost.
We will visit death on you if you choose to try to take our freedom and it will be swift and terrible.
What we cannot do is give up any of our principles out of fear. It is not any one faith which poses a danger to this country. It is, as Roosevelt said, fear. A fear which blinds us to the greatness within this nation.
 E Pluribus Unum.
The real danger lies in those that would choose between the right religion and the wrong religion based on their own prejudices and call that being American.
Nothing in more un-American than that.

When Did the American Eagle become the Cowardly Lion?

When did we become so afraid? A country born in revolution, tested by a civil war, and bloodied on the battlefields of the Ardennes, Bastogne, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, Chosin Reservoir, Hue, Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

When did this country, blended of people from all over the world, the sum of the parts being greater than the whole, lose its heart?

When did this country, once willing to risk everything in its pursuit of democracy, once challenging itself to put a man on the moon, once serving as a beacon to the world, willing to bear the brunt of supporting the rights of all to be free, become afraid?

Are we so fearful of our inability to sustain and protect ourselves that we would turn our back on the downtrodden and oppressed?

Those who have been born here often forget the words that greet those who came here through the gateway of Ellis Island…

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Are these words that have inspired millions to risk it all for the opportunities of freedom meaningless?

Are they just words?

The opportunities of freedom so cherished by this country bear an obligation. Those that embrace freedom for themselves must be willing to bear the burden of supporting those that seek freedom.

I was raised to believe in an America that stood for something. An America that was willing to put actions to words and fight for all those that seek freedom and against those that would oppress us.

The Syrian refugees are the latest in a long line of oppressed seeking help. The idea that the United States of America is incapable of extending our protections to them as well as protecting ourselves from those forces of oppression is disheartening.

Xenophobia is a fever which has plagued mankind since the dawn of time. We are better than that. We are smarter than a bunch of illiterate zealots masking their craving of power with a distorted view of Islam. The very idea that we need to deny freedom from oppression to thousands of refugees because it involves risk is pathetic.

Where is our American pride? Where is our courage to do what is right, not because it is easy, but because it is hard?

Where has the America I grew to love, respect, and believe in gone?

I am not a religious person. I often poke fun at religion, but it is only because of the certainty which some of the faithful promote the particular faith. No one has a lock on the truth, but everyone is entitled to choose their belief, without compelling others to adopt this.

The Islamic terrorists misuse religion in their quest for power. We are smarter, stronger, tougher, and better than that.

There’s a line from J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye- “If Christ could see Christmas, he’d puke….”

I dare say if Mohammed could see what’s being done in his name, and our fear to do something about that, he’d have the same reaction.

A thousand years from now, if mankind can survive, those studying our history will remember more what we failed to do, than what we chose to do.

The America I love is better than that.

 

Gun Control: A Time to Rethink the Realities

I struggle with the idea of gun control.  Over time, my ideas have gone from embracing the idea that anyone should be able to own a firearm, as long as they comply with the law, to questioning the need for anyone to possess a weapon with the exception of the Police and Military.

I argued that there are practical problems with imposing serious gun control in this country.  Best estimates show there are 114 million handguns in private hands.  To create a program to remove them lawfully from private ownership has nightmarish legal and practical implications.

There are issues with overcoming the constitutional arguments.  I have revisited the arguments of the second amendment. I see a clear distinction in the common interpretation between its original intent and today’s modern era.

As with all aspects of the Constitution, adapting to a changing world is both necessary and reasonable

In light of the clear and undeniable problem of gun violence in this country, a new approach to gun control is long overdue.  The numbers for 2010 were 18,000 deaths and 33000 injuries from firearms.  Homicide rates in urban areas are 12.1 per 100000.

Some other interesting information; (various on-line sources)

The U.S.A. is ranked third out of 45 developed nations in regards to the incidence of homicides committed with a firearm. Mexico and Estonia are ranked first and second.

In 2009 United Nations statistics record 3.0 intentional homicides committed with a firearm per 100,000 inhabitants; for comparison, the figure for Mexico, where handguns are prohibited was 10 per 100,000, the figure for the United Kingdom, where handguns are prohibited was 0.07 per 100,000, about 40 times lower, and for Germany 0.2.

Gun homicides in Switzerland however are similarly low, at 0.52 in 2010 even though they rank third in the world for highest number of guns per citizen.

Perhaps we can learn something from the Swiss.

So, what are the arguments for allowing private ownership of guns?  Here are the two most commonly cited, the second amendment and protection against a tyrannical government.

“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Written at a time when the United States did not keep a standing army, citizens were called to duty when needed.  The benefit of having citizens maintaining and possessing firearms was clear.  The use of a firearm in daily survival, hunting for example, was common.  It was a different time.

Hunting is a hobby now, not a necessity. However, keep in mind, I am talking about handguns and, perhaps, high-capacity military type weapons.

Protection from tyranny.

Proponents of gun ownership often cite Hitler’s Germany outlawing private ownership of weapons as an example.  There is no evidence that the lack of private ownership of firearms by the German people contributed to the rise of the National Socialists in Germany.  The reasons behind that rise to power were infinitely more complex; handguns in every German home would not have altered anything.

This tyranny argument fails on two counts, one philosophical and one practical.  On the philosophical side, the idea that any American government could direct the military to attack the general population is ludicrous.

The men and women who serve do so because of the American people, not despite them.  I know no one who ever served in the military that would follow an order to attack American civilians.

Isolated incidents notwithstanding, the idea of a wholesale attack by the US military on Americans is insane. It makes for an entertaining movie theme, not reality.

Now the practical side of this argument.  Assuming for the sake of discussion that the President somehow convinced the military to attack civilians in a coordinated way, using the full power of the military, the “second amendment” advocates would not stand a chance.

A fully orchestrated attack by the 1st Marine Division, supported by aircraft, armored vehicles and artillery would utterly overwhelm a bunch of yahoos clinging to their precious weapons whose idea of training is drinking beer and shooting targets bearing the image of a politician they despise.

The idea that a citizen army could withstand such an attack is nonsense.

There is a long history of well-established civilian control over the military because the military is comprised of citizens. While one always needs to pay attention, I think a bigger threat to our freedom comes from Congress and not the Pentagon.

It really boils down to this, does the tradition of private ownership of firearms outweigh the real risk to our society.  We have a failing war on drugs because we thought we could arrest our way out of a health issue.  One that, while tragic, takes far fewer lives than handguns. Yet we seem to ignore the bigger threat of these weapons.

It is time for serious reconsideration of eliminating handguns, and perhaps non-hunting weapons, from private ownership and imposing strict control over their use by Law Enforcement.

Maybe it requires a discussion on the reasons behind our violent tendencies that are exacerbated by the easy availability of weapons.

I don’t know the answer, but ignoring the problem is not it.

A country that once said they would put a man on the moon, and did it, is most assuredly capable of finding a way to eliminate the very real threat these weapons pose to people.

Those Opposed to Displaying the Flag

I came upon a troubling story out of California, the University of California at Irvine to be specific.  The story concerned a proposal by six members of the University’s Legislative Council (Student Government) to prohibit the display of the American Flag in the lobby of the Student Government building.

Even more troubling was a letter, signed by a number of professors and other academics, in support of the resolution. (http://redalertpolitics.com/2015/03/11/uc-irvine-professors-sign-online-letter-support-campus-flag-ban/).

The line that caught my eye was this one.

“The resolution recognized that nationalism, including U.S. nationalism, often contributes to racism and xenophobia, and that the paraphernalia of nationalism is in fact often used to intimidate.”

These professors claim that nationalism, including US nationalism, contributes to racism and xenophobia.

They are correct and, sadly, they still miss the point.

What they miss is the Constitution of this country guarantees the freedom to express these opinions. A Constitution supported and defended at a high cost; one symbolized by that same flag.

The problem is not the flag or other symbols; the problem stems from the meaning and values we assign to them. That some attribute any semblance of xenophobia or racism to the American flag means they have never read, or understood, the Constitution and the ideals the flag represents.

When I see the flag, when I stand during the National Anthem, when I watch a flag draped coffin coming home, I am thankful I live in a country where some of us are willing to die to support and protect those that may hold a different opinion.

In this country, freedom of expression is the key to everything.  Those six members of the legislative council, as well as the professors signing the letter in support, are entitled to their opinions and every opportunity to express them.

Instead of proposing a ban on displaying the flag, perhaps they should focus on the underlying issues that do need to be addressed.  Xenophobia, racism, and discrimination are alive and well in this country.  Focus on addressing the causes of those attitudes. Do not attack a symbol that, for most Americans and those that want to become part of this great society, represents the best of this country, our guarantee of freedom of expression.

That symbolism, represented by the flag, is worth keeping on display as a reminder to us all that this freedom comes at a cost.

ISIS, Immigration, and the Law

In a February 25, 2015 column by Ann Coulter (www.anncoulter.com/columns/2015-02-25.html), Ms. Coulter complains about the narrow-minded focus of the country on certain issues.

Now, I do not often agree with Coulter. However, her columns are always well researched, supported by sound argument, and well written.  In this piece, she makes some valid points, and misses some others.

Coulter writes that Congress and the media fixate on ISIS and the crisis in Syria, yet ignore a much more serious domestic problem, illegal immigration. Or, more to the point, crimes committed by illegal aliens.

History is replete with Governments using Foreign affairs, war being a favorite tool, to divert attention from more pressing, and difficult to solve, domestic issues.

Coulter recites a number of incidents involving illegal immigrants committing violent crimes, ranging from assault and robbery to rape and murder.  She details how many of these illegals have extensive criminal records.

The complicity of the media in underreporting crimes by illegal aliens smacks of political correctness run amuck.  In many ways, this is more troubling.

She derides Congress, in particular the new Republican majority, for “gassing on about what’s happening 7000 miles away.”  She points out that ISIS has killed four Americans, while illegal immigrants have committed thousands of violent crimes killing many American citizens.

As she says, “if you don’t want to be killed by ISIS, don’t go to Syria.”

Where I diverge with Coulter, and the whole deport every illegal immigrant philosophy, is that while the law is clear, the Justice of its application is not.

First, the easy part, if you are in this country illegally and commit a violent crime you go to jail, and then you get deported. This is the ultimate no brainer.

Why not just deport them, you might ask?

Despite rumors to the contrary, prison is not enjoyable.  Giving them a free ride home is like pardoning the crime.  Let them do the time, all the time, no parole eligibility by virtue of their illegal status, then back to their country. While I am willing to extend access to our system of Justice to everyone, regardless of his or her immigration status, it is only to a point

Here is where it gets complicated and blanket deportation will not work.  Most illegal immigrants obey the law. Hold on there you might say, they came here illegally, and they already broke the law.  True, but many came here out of desperation.  Many left countries plagued by violence from their own government, starvation, horrendous conditions; they came here for the sake of themselves and their families.

Then, many of them had children who were born here yet, by virtue of the law, are illegal.

Justice in this country is famously blind.  However, the true strength of this country is its Justice tempered by Mercy.

There need be a path so those that are here, following our laws and contributing to the cultural mix, can remain here.  The words on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free,” are meaningless unless we find a way.

We should demand of our Congress and President, cooperation in finding a solution to illegal immigration.  One that fully protects our citizens from violence yet tempers Justice with mercy for those who have heard the message of the Statute of Liberty and believed in it.

If a time arises that ISIS poses a direct threat to this country, I have the utmost confidence in our ability to respond effectively.  No military in the world can provide the maximum opportunity for each member of ISIS to enjoy martyrdom like the US military.

In the past, playing the world’s police officer brought us only a few things, a host of dead American service personnel and the rending of our society at home. We cannot ignore the rest of the world, but more importantly, they cannot ignore us.  By strengthening our own society, we influence the world for the better.

This country will never truly be in trouble, until people stop trying to come here.