I think I have figured out the Trump phenomenon. His success in the primaries comes from supporters who behave at the maturity level of 15-year-old boys and 13-year-old girls. They are not quite children, not quite adults, and driven by raging emotional responses to anything they cannot or choose not to understand.
They are willing to sacrifice civil liberties and constitutional protections in the pursuit of fighting terrorists. They are willing to employ torture as a means justified by their mistaken belief it will protect America.
They support a candidate who said targeting families, including children, is a worthwhile military strategy. One he is prepared to order our military to carry out. Trump, with all his pride in his Ivy League education, must have skipped history and ethics. His was a poison ivy education.
Here is a quote Trump and his supporters could adopt in support of effective genocide.
Raymond D’Aguilers, a witness to the victorious end of the Crusade of 1096-1099 in Jerusalem, wrote
‘Men rode in blood up to their knees and bridle reins. Indeed, it was a just and splendid judgment of God that this place should be filled with the blood of unbelievers.’
Men, women, and children not of the Christian faith dead at the hands of the faithful. Unbelievers meaning those who believe differently than the one holding the sword or the launch codes for nuclear weapons.
Trump must believe My Lai was the most successful operation during the Viet Nam war. Unless he missed the story on TV.
Trump’s idea is not even original. Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheik Mohammed thought it a good idea. If we follow Trump’s logic, flying planes into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon was brilliant.
This country is in a lot of trouble if anyone, let alone a candidate for the Presidency, takes such policies seriously.
They risk destroying the very freedom and moral character that built this country.
Trump screams he will lead us to Making America Great Again. By what measure? By what means? He wraps himself in the flag, portraying himself as the ultimate patriot.
To quote Samuel Johnson, “Patriotism is the refuge of the scoundrel.”
Trump’s idea of patriotism encompasses all the evil of nationalism that no rational American should condone.
Out of this fire of ignorance, Trump emerged as the poster boy of xenophobia.
This pseudo-tough, swaggering, ne’er do well spouting invectives and threatening anyone not in lockstep with him. An American version of ‘das Herrenvolk.’
A schoolyard bully picking on the weak while his “fans” stand around with their cell phones recording and posting their childish voyeuristic nonsense, afraid to stand up for what’s right.
We face the real specter of a President whose policy platform consists of acting like a junkyard dog.
During the last debate, where supporters considered jokes about the size of appendages high humor, there was only one adult on the stage. Trump was not it. Yet his supporters are okay with that.
The reality that people are fooled into believing Trump represents the best of America is frightening.
Nevertheless, he is winning the primaries. True, he is winning Republican primaries under a system rigged to favor the lead candidate; designed to minimize the chance of a brokered convention. They never imagined the rise of the Donald and his living, but brain dead, hordes.
Keep this in mind; he is winning with at best 35% of the vote. Which means 65% of the vote went against him. Many of these are winner take all contests.
Staunch conservatives, like the Tea Party and others, deserve some of the blame here. As Stephen King so aptly wrote. “Conservatives who for 8 years sowed the dragon’s teeth of partisan politics are horrified to discover they have grown an actual dragon.”
We can only hope a St. George will arrive on the scene to slay the dragon before he incinerates us all.
If Trump wins, he will have at least given us one thing of value. We will need that slogan, Making America Great Again, once his Presidency ends. I fear, if there is a Trump presidency, we’ll be singing the line from the Paul Simon song, America.”We’ve all come to look for America…”
As most of us know, (and if this is news, you should pay more attention), the Justice department sought Apple Computer’s assistance in bypassing the security encryption on an iPhone.
Not just any phone, but the phone used by the two shooters in the San Bernardino case.
The FBI contends there is probable cause to believe that the phone contains evidence related to the case, may contain names of unidentified co-conspirators, and is a matter of national security. They cannot break the encryption without Apple’s assistance.
Now at first blush, this is a no-brainer. Apple should decrypt the phone and turn over the evidence.
However, upon more contemplation, I think Apple’s position is better for our cherished freedoms.
Now, for those of you who may not know my background, I was a police officer for twenty years. Every job has it fun moments. Ours often consisted of having a search warrant in one hand and a sledgehammer in the other.
Knock, knock we are coming in. One way or the other.
Over time it was inevitable I would see abuses of this system. Warrants obtained on the flimsiest of information. Governmental fishing expeditions usually in the cause of the Holy war against drugs.
Now, that Holy war has a new cause. Terrorism.
In the cause of fighting terrorism, we have lost sight of our original founding principles.
To force Apple to defeat the encryption designed to protect personal data is to start down a road from which we cannot return. The government wants companies to design a “backdoor” into encrypted devices. A door controlled by government.
That is a frightening thought. Imagine the potential for disruption of the political process, privacy violations, and abuse.
To invoke the specter of Orwell’s 1984 has lost some of its once chilling effect. In this world 32 years after that date, it fails to convey the dire warning it once did. Yet we should keep this in mind, Orwell’s warning of “Big Brother” may have been premature, but he was not wrong.
As Benjamin Franklin once said, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
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.
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.
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.
The recent cold brought back memories of when I was a young boy growing up in Cumberland. We had a trash barrel in the backyard where, a few times a week, we would burn our trash.
I know this is giving the environmentalists among you nightmares, but it was a different time.
During the cold months, my father and I would stand close to the flames. He sometimes told me stories of the Korean War, fighting in temperatures of minus 30 degrees. He hated the cold.
I was thinking about this in light of some recent headlines.
In one headline, state legislatures want to eliminate funding for Advanced Placement History classes, because these classes are critical of America. According to one of the Oklahoma lawmakers, these classes only teach what is “wrong with America.”
The other headline is from Rudolph Giuliani talking about President Obama.
“I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up, through love of this country.”
Giuliani believes Obama is too critical of past American policies and decisions.
How does this all relate to Cumberland, Rhode Island in the winters of the 60’s you ask?
It matters because our government made decisions, against the evidence, sending my then 18-year-old father to Korea. These decisions put him, and thousands of other Marines, at the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea in November of 1950, surrounded and outnumbered by the Chinese.
General MacArthur ignored evidence of a sizeable Chinese presence on the border. He ignored his own intelligence reports that the Chinese might enter the war; in fact, they had already crossed the Yalu River.
The Truman administration ignored a message from the Chinese, delivered by the Indian Ambassador to China, that if the US crossed the 38th parallel, China would respond militarily.
The horrors experienced by my father haunted him his whole life.
I have another memory from those years; my father screaming in the middle of the night, thrashing around on the bed, my mother desperately trying to hold him until the nightmares, reliving the battles, drove him to exhaustion and he fell asleep.
I believe those experiences contributed to my father’s battle with alcoholism and death at the relatively young age of 65.
To argue that we need eliminate classes that educate our future leaders in critical analysis is ludicrous. This country needs more critical thinking, not less.
The decisions in Korea were not an aberration. In 1965, we did it again, sending American troops into the wrong place, at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons despite knowing the impossibility of the mission.
During WWII, we supported Ho Chi Minh against the Japanese yet, twenty years later, we sent our soldiers and Marines to fight him. It cost the lives of almost 60000 Americans, along with millions of Vietnamese. We failed to understand the nature of the conflict.
We did it again in Iraq, ignoring or fabricating intelligence, in pursuit of a doomed policy.
In each case there was evidence against the efficacy of those decisions, we knew it, we ignored it, and we did not learn from it.
Giuliani says President Obama does not love this country because he is often critical of it. Giuliani has it all wrong. No one demonstrates love of country better than through a willingness to seek the truth, no matter how critical or difficult, in pursuit of improving our future decision-making processes.
I understand sometimes going to war is inevitable.
However, critical analysis shows there are opportunities to avoid them. Perhaps, if critical thinking took center stage rather than blind patriotism or hubris, we might have found such an alternative.
The freedom to criticize government is the foundation of our political system. Freedom of speech is the First Amendment for good reason. The founders recognized the absolute necessity of open and free discourse without fear of governmental intrusion.
Critical analysis of past actions can lead to a better future. Many of the founding fathers owned slaves. It took almost 70 years after the creation of the Constitution before we abolished slavery.
“All Men are Created Equal.” When these words first appeared on paper, All Men meant white men. Black men were not included until the Civil War and women not until much later.
It was critical analysis of the errors of the past that righted those wrongs.
Legislative discussions should not be about reducing funding for advanced courses; it should be for increasing the funding.
Perhaps, with a stronger understanding of all the good this country does, tempered by recognizing our weaknesses and mistakes, future generations will not send young men and women into the nightmares of warfare absent full, and continuous, critical analysis.
I lost a friend of 50 years today.
He has passed on.
I met my friend when I was 7 years old and he has always been a part of my life since.
But, in life, there comes a time when you have to let go.
So, I let go. I will miss him greatly.
In life there are also opportunities. So my friend is now in the hands of another young child.
My friend, my guitar, something I have had since those first guitar lessons, is now part of another life.
Some arthritis, injuries, and surgery has stolen the dexterity from my fingers. They remember what they need to do, but can’t quite manage it.
Once you’ve played a “Paul Simon” guitar rift, the melody of Classical Gas, or any other of the hundreds of songs I’ve played on my guitar, it is hard to lose that joy.
Reality is stark sometimes. I am comforted that my friend is in good hands, Hands that will learn the simple joy of playing music. Not to crowds of people, but alone, by yourself, eyes closed, the music flowing from the instrument.
Playing music is as close as one can come to real magic.
It has brought great joy to me over the years.
I lost a friend today. But I keep the memories.
I know it is easy to pick on the TSA, but it occurred to me the other day that some of the blame should fall on us for how we chose to equip them.
The latest and greatest gadget in the TSA arsenal is the full body scanner. For those of us that have been in it, or for people like me that work in the airport, you cannot help but to think of it as the “surrender” machine.
You walk in, per instructions leaving everything out of your pockets and hands, and face the “image”
It demonstrates the required position to assume prior to the initiation of the analysis. This, pardon my active imagination, looks exactly like every picture, sketch, or painting of a POW I have ever seen.
When did this country accept that each and every person that wants to fly must “surrender”.
I am sure no one ever expected TSA to stand for;
To Surrender America.
Now please do not misunderstand me, I have no problem with the technology of the search, I have no problem with the requirement of the search, my problem lies in the fact that we (the American people) signed and paid for a contract in which the best position they could come up with to fulfill the contract was the POW pose.
I saw a gentleman going through the machine the other day with a “Bataan Survivor” hat on his head. This country has already asked too much of him to make him raise his arms in anything but to return the salute of a grateful nation.
As a matter of fact, I believe Senator John McCain, of whom I have great respect, cannot comply with this requirement due to his treatment by the inbound TSA in Vietnam of a few years ago. Of course it was a little different, they did shoot him down, perhaps TSA is To Shootdown Americans?
Isn’t it reasonable for the taxpayers of this country to expect technology we pay for be capable of performing as expected without demeaning, if not ordinary citizens, at least our heroes.
So let’s reopen the contract, require that they put a picture of the Stature of Liberty with the words “The Land of the Free” and require those of us that go through those machines to high five the Old Lady.
And for those leaving these shores let it serve as a reminder of how good we have it here in the USA.
I, for one, would go through every day and be proud