Conspiracies: Imagined or otherwise

One of the frustrating characteristics of debating with supporters of Mr. Trump is their proclivity to interject accusations or criticisms of President Obama, Hillary Clinton, or other Democratic figures. I have often asked the question if, assuming all these various charges are true, how does that mitigate or negate the criticisms leveled against the President?

The most common answer is that I am deflecting the discussion. A reasonable interpretation of this response is that they are guilty of their accusation. No one answers the question. I can only assume that his supporters believe pointing out some perceived grievous behavior in the past serves to inoculate Mr. Trump from any criticism.

Nonsense. Someone getting away with robbing a bank does not automatically grant absolution for another caught in the act.

This got me thinking about the most absurd accusation promoted by the right. President Obama, fresh off his fooling the entire country with his birth certificate scam, convinced the FBI, CIA, NSA, DOJ in their entirety to target the Trump campaign and help Hillary win.

gIBSOThis must be the worst conspiracy in the history of conspiracies.

The other conspiracy propagated by the right is Mr. Mueller orchestrating his investigation for the sole purpose of dethroning Mr. Trump. Once again, it boggles the mind.

On September 8, 2001, the FBI was considered the premier criminal investigative agency in the world. It’s reputation outstanding, not perfect, and universally admired. With the advent of the 9/11 attacks, the FBI transformed itself, almost overnight, into the premier terrorist hunting agency on the globe. They added enormous intelligence-gathering tools to the US arsenal, targeted and captured the chief conspirators of the 9/11 attack, killing Bin Laden with the cooperation of US Special Forces as the point of the spear.

Robert Mueller guided the transformation of the FBI.  Talk to anyone at the FBI. They will tell you this is a fact. Mueller is as honest, capable, and incorruptible as they come. If he can’t be trusted, no one can.

The other laughable conspiracy theory is the Clinton Murder Machine. Some rightwing nuts would have you believe the Clintons have methodically, surreptitiously, and, so far, successfully eliminated those who would offer evidence against them by having them killed.

Not even the best written Stephen King novel could pull this off convincingly.

If you looked at the history of President Clinton and the FBI, Clinton held Louie Freeh, his FBI director, in contempt. They did not care for each other. Since a Republican followed Clinton in the Whitehouse, if such an allegation of organized homicide to silence critics were true the FBI would have jumped at that chance.

These conspiracy theories are nothing but childish games dredged up from some immature and uninformed minds.

The real problem isn’t just Trump, or the Republicans, or the Democrats.  It is a combination of them all.

Democrats and Republicans all seek power, the path to power is the key here. The difference is the path they choose. One caters to a pro-business, isolationist America the other caters to an open border welcome all and keep them dependent.

The pendulum of politics swings back and forth from conservative to liberal. The voters are supposed to limit the swing of the pendulum, to keep it from the extremes. But our world of instant unfiltered, unverified, unsubstantiated continuously breaking news has altered reality. Made-up headlines and slanted reporting replace in-depth analysis and thoughtful discussion. 255 character Tweets, complete with spelling and grammatical errors, are considered Pulitzer prize level writing.

Both sides are guilty.

The genius of the founding fathers was a government that to function it must cooperate. No one policy dominates, but the blending of the best each offers. The beauty of our system emulates a time-tested recipe. Taken alone some ingredients may be bitter, or spicy, or overly sweet, but in combination with just the right blend, they create a masterpiece.

Both parties have chosen to ignore the recipe for success in their selfish pursuit of power. Until we insist, by way of the voting booth, to a return to a government of compromise and cooperation nothing will change.

A forceful debate is a powerful tool for creating ideas. However, it is only useful if both sides listen. Maybe the first qualification for a candidate should be a hearing test.

The next big hurdle to take back control of government is term limits. There are people in Congress who have been there before the invention of cell phones and personal computers.  Think about that for a minute.

P.S. As always, dissenting points of view are welcome.  I’d be happy to post your thoughts on this or any topic of interest. If you would like to submit a piece feel free to contact me.  No topic is off-limits.
joe.broadmeadow@hotmail.com

Follow Your Dreams

Americans used to be dreamers. But we did more than just dream, we acted.

We dreamed of building a canal connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific. And did it.

We dreamed of a railway across the entire country. And did it.

We dreamed of a GI bill to offer some compensation for the sacrifice of World War II. And did it.

We dreamed of building the most advanced scientific research center in the world. And did it.

spaceWe dreamed of going to the moon. And did it.

We dreamed many things once thought impossible and turned them into a reality.

To borrow, and alter a bit, the line from Anne Hathaway’s lyrics in I Dreamed a Dream,

“We dreamed a dream in times gone by…”

It would seem now we no longer dream of things we can accomplish but instead retreat into fear from things we don’t understand and the winds of change.  Like it or not, this is a global community in which we play an important, but not exclusively dominant, role.

Instead of focusing our efforts on what we can do, we focus on what we fear we cannot do. This mantra of making America great again misses the point of what American greatness is. It is our willingness to lead by example, not protect ourselves at all costs. To take risks for the greater good, not insulate ourselves from failure.

We used to be the country that learned from mistakes and turned them into success.

George Bernard Shaw wrote several apropos lines. “We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.“ I wonder what historians will say about this time in America. Will it reflect the best in us or the worst?

Shaw also wrote, “You see things; and you say “Why?” But I dream things that never were, and I say “Why not?”

I agree.

Why not find a way to offer a path to citizenship for innocent individuals who wish to do nothing more than embrace what for many is the only country they’ve ever known?

Why not find a way ensure every single American has access to the best healthcare in the world without the threat of financial ruin?

Why not pursue every available diplomatic solution to international problems before resorting to a military option?

Why not pursue green energy and reduce the undeniable impact of human activity on Climate Change? Even the Secretary of Defense, James “Mad Dog” Mattis when he was an active duty Marine recognized the threat to national security Climate change posed. He begged for an alternative to his armored forces being tethered to their fuel supply, primarily for strategic purposes of course, but coupled with the Defense Department’s long-held recognition of the threat of Climate Change.

If spending twenty-five billion dollars of American taxpayer money on a wall (with no contributions from Mexico as promised) makes you feel better, then have at it. I think it may be a wall ultimately proven ineffective.

I think, given the expertise and competence within the criminal justice system, the experience and input from the border states who’ve lived with the problem, and some rigid deportation enforcement for illegal aliens who commit crimes, the same amount of money could be spent in more efficient ways.

We Americans are dreamers.  Those of us lucky enough to be born here often forget the fortunes of birth. Those who dream to come here, or remain here, may see things in a much different light.

But let me be clear about one thing, a path to citizenship reflects the best American has to offer.  It is not unconditional. Commision of a crime, no matter how trivial it may be perceived, should negatively affect your chances. Serious crimes negate it entirely.

Break the law, leave the country, or we will show you the way out if you refuse.

The promise of America remains a bright beacon. One we should strive to preserve. We all have a responsibility to that promise.

In the words of Robert Frost,

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   

But I have promises to keep,   

And miles to go before I sleep,   

And miles to go before I sleep.

 

Frost may have been talking about death, but these promises are our daily efforts to fight for what we believe in and against those who would seek to return America to darker times of racial divide and isolationism. To live a life in pursuit of one’s ideals is a life well-lived.

The night of the President’s State of the Union, the line I remember most is this.

“Politicians may be judged by the promises they make, America is judged by the promises we keep.” Here’s a hint, he didn’t say it.

Once again we as a country have reached a point where the torch must be passed to a new generation. New ideas, new dreams, new goals, not some foggy clouded memories of former greatness. America doesn’t need to be great again; we never stopped being great in the first place.

A former Vice President once said his father told him that this country was so big, so strong, so resilient that no President could ever do permanent harm.  Let’s hope he was right.

 

Rational Immigration Policy

There are two immigration policies undergoing intense scrutiny. The Temporary Protected Status Program (TPS), which is an established policy within the United States immigrCustoms and Immigration Service and DACA (Deferred Action for Child Arrivals.)

Temporary Protected Status Program

The program falls under the aegis of the Secretary of Homeland Security who, when circumstances warrant, grants temporary protections from deportations for individuals from areas undergoing specific problems.

(From the United States Customs and Immigration Service Website)

The Secretary may designate a country for TPS due to the following temporary conditions in the country:

  • Ongoing armed conflict (such as civil war)
  • An environmental disaster (such as earthquake or hurricane), or an epidemic
  • Other extraordinary and temporary conditions

During a designated period, individuals who are TPS beneficiaries or who are found preliminarily eligible for TPS upon initial review of their cases (prima facie eligible):

  • Are not removable from the United States
  • Can obtain an employment authorization document (EAD)
  • May be granted travel authorization

Once granted TPS, an individual also cannot be detained by DHS on the basis of his or her immigration status in the United States.

TPS is a temporary benefit that does not lead to lawful permanent resident status or gives any other immigration status. However, registration for TPS does not prevent you from:

  • Applying for nonimmigrant status
  • Filing for adjustment of status based on an immigrant petition
  • Applying for any other immigration benefit or protection for which you may be eligible

Here’s the list of countries and the date of designation granting temporary protected status.

  • El Salvador    2001
  • Haiti                2010
  • Honduras       1999
  • Nepal               2015
  • Nicaragua       1999
  • Somalia           1991
  • South Sudan   2011
  • Sudan               1997
  • Syria                 2016
  • Yemen              2015

Aside from the extended period such designation has applied to some countries, there is something else that troubles me.

Nothing prevents those allowed into the country from applying for citizenship through normal channels. It would seem that individuals here from El Salvador, for example, since 2001 have had ample opportunity to seek citizenship.

Since the program is “temporary” protection, why is there any surprise or outrage if Homeland Security exercises their lawful discretion in terminating the program?

One can make an argument about conditions in Sudan or Somalia, perhaps, as ongoing. However, the situation in El Salvador that triggered the designation as long since passed.

I am not without sympathy for the plight of many in the world. Moreover, I think the US bears a great deal of responsibility to use our wealth and power to promote human rights in the world, but those who live in these countries bear the obligation to seek to change conditions in their own countries, not merely enjoy the hospitality of the American people.

I think the TPS program is a shining example of the best of America and I think the temporary nature of it need be recognized.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

Senate Bill S 1291  was introduced in 2001 and known as the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act). It has been reintroduced on several subsequent occasions but never enacted.

President Barrack Obama signed an Executive Order Jun 15, 2012, creating the DACA program as an interim.

The order was timed to coincide with the anniversary of Plyler v. Doe, a Supreme Court decision barring public schools from charging illegal immigrant children tuition. The policy was officially established by a memorandum from the Secretary of Homeland Security titled “Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion with Respect to Individuals Who Came to the United States as Children.” This policy allowed certain immigrants to escape deportation and obtain work permits for a period of two years- renewable upon good behavior. To apply, immigrants had to be younger than 31 on June 15, 2012, must have come to the U.S. when they were younger than 16, and must have lived in the U.S. since 2007. In August 2012, the Pew Research Center estimated that up to 1.7 million people were eligible.

So far, 800,000 individuals have applied for the protections. Applications are no longer accepted.

The DACA Program, a temporary humanitarian effort, is another example of the best of America.  We do not punish someone for the act of another.  Human beings brought here as children should not be callously deported from what may be the only country they have known.

The image of Immigration Agents separating families for deportation for no other reason but undocumented status is horrifying, raising the image of lines of Jewish women and children, separated from their husbands and fathers, in the depravity of Nazi Germany.

However, with that said, if someone brought here as a child, educated by public schools, enjoyed the opportunity (not the guarantee, opportunity) of the Amercian Dream yet has made no effort at obtaining legal status or citizenship, it gives me pause.

America has a big heart. We have demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice our blood to defend others in places far from America; Belleau Woods, Normandy, Tarawa, Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal, Inchon,  Chosen Reservoir, Hue, Afghanistan, and when many of those battles were over, we extended the hand of friendship to our former enemies.

The charity of America is enormous, but not unlimited. We should offer hope and help, not unending handouts.

I think ending DACA is a mistake if we sacrifice innocent people in pursuit of such a policy. Stopping the Temporary Protected Status designation is a grave error if the conditions that triggered it still exists. I believe it is necessary if they no longer exist.

However, I also think asking people to help themselves, to make an effort at repaying our support by either reclaiming their own country or respecting the law and seeking citizenship here is more than reasonable.

 

DACA: Trump Upholds the Law and Fails the Spirit of America

President Trump’s decision to rescind support for DACA correctly recognizes immigration reform as a responsibility of Congress. Congress enacts laws, the President Trumpenforces those laws, and the Courts ensure the laws meet constitutional standards.

As much as I may disagree with the spirit of the decision, the President, no matter if I support or object to his politics, is not empowered to alter either the Constitution or the law.

If President Trump decided he would no longer enforce equal rights, we would berate him.

If President Trump decided he would no longer enforce fair labor law, we would chastise him.

If President Trump unilaterally decided he would not enforce any of the laws of the country to which he is charged with upholding, we would excoriate him.

Conversely, we should not expect or accept a President who creates or changes laws without Congressional action. What President Obama did with DACA was a temporary measure to address an injustice. Congress failed to act. Our focus should be on Congress to fix this.

While I agree DACA needs revision, Trump’s decision is political pandering at its worst. Even he recognizes the inertia paralyzing Congress. Thus, he can throw it back in their court and at the same time appease the significant number of bigoted jingoists that support him. He has about as much sympathy for Dreamers as he had for any tenants he foreclosed on in his real estate empire.

If the President harbors genuine sympathy for Dreamers, he would summon the leaders of Congress together and formulate a plan to make DACA irrelevant. He would help foster a change in immigration law that recognizes the travesty of visiting the crimes of the parents on innocent children.

Despite claims to the contrary by the simpletons who embrace these lies, Mohammed the neurologist is not trying to take Billy Bob’s job at Seven-Eleven.

Dream on that this Congress, or President, will ever put the needy before their own political survival.

A Rumor of Greatness: Lessons in America’s Past

If we are to make America great again, shouldn’t there be a point in time we can look to as the standard for this greatness? When did we hit the peak of American greatness? What started the decline?

Don’t we need to know what we seek before we go looking for it?

Here’s a look at post-World War II, when America emerged as the most powerful nation on earth.

In the 1950’s institutional racism was an accepted aspect of life in most of America.  Court decisions such as Brown vs. Board of Education moved the country, kicking and screaming, closer to our professed, but inconsistently applied, philosophy of equality.

The first routes of our involvement in Vietnam began with advisers.

America developed policies of equipping South and Central American police agencies with tactics to counteract communist insurgencies. These amounted to classes in sophisticated methods of torture.

Lessons learned from MKUltra Project (https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/document/cia-rdp91-00901r000500150005-5)

were turned into HOW TO classes for interrogation. We created the Office of Public Safety (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Office_of_Public_Safety) as a cover for this training.

We put a kinder and gentler face on a monster. Unleashing it on others while decrying such tactics as barbaric.

Our fear of a communist takeover in Central and South America drove us from our ideals. Our proclamations of the shining example of American rule of law fell on deaf ears, punctured in the torture chambers of police agencies we trained.

In the 1960’s the US intervened militarily in Vietnam. Our involvement cost millions of lives, supported a totalitarian government, and damaged the military in the eyes of many Americans.

We trained South Vietnamese Intelligence services with new and improved methods of interrogation. Guidelines spelled out in the CIA’s own manual on counterintelligence interrogation called Kubark. (https://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB122/CIA%20Kubark%201-60.pdf)

The programs were further documented in the fascinating (and horrifying) book, A Decent Interval, by Frank Snepp. A CIA interrogator who took part in the interrogation of Viet Cong suspects.

We created the Phoenix Program. A controversial program of capturing, interrogating, and killing Viet Cong and NLF suspects.

Meanwhile, at home, the still smoldering embers of racial inequality grew hotter. The war in Vietnam tore America in two. Poverty and racial inequality reignited the fire. American cities burned.

It forced President Johnson from office and led to the election of Richard Nixon with his “secret” plan (sound familiar?) to end the war. A war he also covertly worked against any resolution before his 1968 election. Read Haldeman’s book Inside the Nixon Whitehouse if you don’t believe me on that one. (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01NCYX17R)

In the 1970’s, anger fueled the raging race issues. “Activist” Judges had to order Boston schools desegregated.  Over 100 years had passed since the end of the Civil War and institutional segregation still existed.

And continues to this day (https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/03/a-mississippi-school-district-is-finally-getting-desegregated/519573/)

In the 1980’s Reagan (the hero of “small” government) launched the biggest government spending program in history, Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars), reigniting the potential for nuclear confrontation. We also went on the violate our own policies by negotiating with terrorists (Iran-Contra)

In the 1990’s Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act, defining Marriage as a union between one man and one woman (and one intern), bowing to the politics of placating those trapped in a whitewashed false past of a more moral America.

We fired a few cruise missiles at some targets in a desert and ignored the Rwandan Genocide.

Nothing occurs in a vacuum. The people who suffered by the duplicitous nature of our foreign intervention in their governments came to despise us. We compounded the very problems we were seeking to prevent.

There were more positives than negatives in these time periods. But we gain nothing from celebrating all the good we’ve done without an honest appraisal of our mistakes.

America wasn’t “great” then and worse now, it was flawed. The lack of a 7-day 24-hour news cycle, controlled by a profit-driven media, made it seem a better time.

Here’s one example, in 1978, the year I joined the Police Department, more than 210 cops were killed that year. The death toll among law enforcement began a slow and steady increase in the 1960s and 1970s, peaking in 1974 with 280 cops killed. One might argue they were casualties of war. The war on drugs.

Here’s an interesting fact, the most dangerous year on record for Police Officers was 1930 when 307 officers were killed. The safest years in the 20th and 21st century, 1943 and 1944, when 87 and 93 officers were killed.

It gives one pause.

Now one officer being killed is unacceptable, but the perception is there is a war on cops. It is a media-driven brainwashing of America which compounds the problem. Are there people out there who hate cops? Of course. Given the chance, they may act on that, but to think things were better “back in the day” is naive.

We look to Europe and see their policies of open immigration as disasters, threatening the stability of those nations. What we forget, while countries like Germany and France well remember, is the irrational fear of a group because of cultural differences leads to a Holocaust.

We fought a long and difficult war to end such horrors, we shouldn’t let those lives go to waste because we’ve papered over the ugliness that still plagues the world.

America can never be defeated by an external enemy. We can only be defeated from within if we forget the principles upon which we are based. It will not be an infiltration of 14th-century flawed fundamentalist philosophies that destroys us. It will happen only if we abandon those principles that guide us.

If we have ignored our principles in the past, we must strive to make sure they guide our future decisions.

America’s greatness is in our future. We must admit to our mistakes, take pride in our accomplishments, and seek ways that preserve our security without sacrificing our freedom.

There is a slogan often used by those who wrap themselves in the flag, Freedom is not Free. There is a truth here, one I suspect they do not see. Freedom requires us to defend it at any cost to protect not just those with whom we agree, but more so with those with whom we differ.

It is by embracing differences America shows true greatness.

Competing Disappointments: Barack Obama and Donald J. Trump

One of the biggest criticisms early in the Obama administration was his blaming of George Bush for the many problems he faced. It would seem Mr. Trump doesn’t remember this criticism.

Mr. Trump is leveling blame on Mr. Obama for failing to take decisive action when the evidence of Russian interference in the election first came to light. (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/06/us/trump-russia-cia-john-brennan.html)

In this, I must concede, Mr. Trump has a point. When President Obama received this most startling memo from the CIA, he had almost eight full years experience (and the gray hair to prove it) of dealing with the difficult decisions facing a President.

When his advisers split on giving the go-ahead on launching the raid which killed Osama Bin Laden, when the odds were about even the information was accurate, President Obama put the political risks aside and decided to go.

An easy decision in hindsight, gut-wrenching in the moment.

Yet, when faced with direct evidence of Russian interference in our election process, President Obama let the potential appearance of partisan interference affect his decision. Worried that unveiling such information might appear he was using the office of the Presidency to sway the election, he kept the information from the American people and took symbolic action against the Russians.

It was a valid concern, but not one that rose to the level of preventing him from doing what was necessary.

It is easy for those of us who’ve never faced such decision to criticize, but in this case, the political consideration should not have affected the decision.

The sad part about this is that the Russians outsmarted us. Say what you like about Putin, he is not stupid.

By manipulating the election they diminished our standing in the world. They feared a Clinton Presidency, with all the experience her background brought (leaving aside the negative baggage of which the Russians couldn’t care less), the continuity of a strong America was likely.

In Trump, they saw an inexperienced and naïve megalomaniac with a god delusion riding on the backs of an angry, but in many cases uninformed, populist trend. They could take advantage of the learning curve of a neophyte on the world stage. Or even better, take advantage of his “I’m always the smartest one in the room” attitude.

Yes, there is plenty of disappointment to go around.

My descent into disillusionment began long before Mr. Trump’s election. It began with the national nominating conventions. Out of three hundred million people, the best we offered was Hillary Rodham Clinton, a career politician who believed she had a divine right to the office of the Presidency and the aforementioned Donald J. Trump who seemed to run on a whim.

But I am an optimist at heart. Despite the trend of many to disparage any source with whom they disagree and to blindly embrace those they agree with, there is hope.

I have unqualified faith in Robert Mueller. His reputation, job performance, and history speak to the highest level of integrity. When he completes his investigation, whatever the results, I believe the findings will be trustworthy.

Despite my disagreement with much of Donald Trump’s policies, he is the President of the United States. Until the evidence and the law demand his removal from office, it is a fact we must accept.

Disappointment is a fact of life. Let’s hope we can also reclaim the pride in our government and the election process despite these past disappointments.

Russian Hacking, Spokesman Lacking

The Russians hacked and attempted to influence an election. Those who find this troubling consider this a threat to our democracy, some call it an act of war. Those in the Trump camp, who find it inconvenient to their position, call it “alleged” hacking.

I think the evidence presented by the President is compelling. It is laughable to think President Obama would use his last few weeks in office to create a fraudulent international crisis with the Russians, then walk away. That is beyond any rational thinking.

The lack of rationality part is the problem.

Sean Spicer, the incoming White House spokesman, had this to say,

“Nobody by any way or shape is suggesting that that’s acceptable behavior,” Spicer said. “But I don’t believe once I’ve ever seen an interview where anyone at the DNC was ever asked a question about whether they take any responsibility for what clearly appears to be a lax effort on them to protect their own networks.”

So, if I understand his argument, he’s saying the Democrats are at fault for the Russian hacking. At least he’s not denying it happened. But his argument is like blaming the way a woman dressed for her being raped. She is responsible for letting the crime happen.

I mean, come on. Look at her. She was asking for it.

So was the DNC, apparently.

If that’s the argument the future White House spokesman is making, this is going to be an interesting year. Spicer sounds more like a spin doctor for the Russians. Maybe we should see who is signing his paycheck? If it wasn’t so serious, it would be hysterical.

 

Trail of Tears: Standing Up Against Standing Rock

Lost amid the celebrations of Thanksgiving and the gluttony of Black Friday, most Americans continue another long tradition, ignoring the plight of Native Americans at the hands of business-driven government power.

Government agents using force against a people in much the same manner as happened when European settlers first came here. Treaties are signed and ignored. Whole tribes are destroyed in the pursuit of profit and prosperity.

A profit that comes at the cost of our humanity.

This is 2016 and the headlines could read like it was 1816. Yet, if the NFL plays today and our credit cards work tomorrow for Cyber-Monday, all is right in the world.

This is one of the last, and best, moments for President Barrack Obama to add to his legacy. If not because it is the right thing to do, then because it will be a finger in the eye to those who condone such actions.

Issue an executive order freezing all federal funds for any state or government entity which has personnel at Standing Rock.

Order the National Guard to Federal duty and have them do an about face. Put their force to the protection of these Native Americans and their land.

We tout our efforts to protect innocents abroad while ignoring those within our midst. A people standing up for themselves against the power of greed much as our founding fathers did against British tyranny.

This is their land. Their sacred grounds. Those words, their land, should mean something in a country that claims to stand for freedom. We gave our word and agreed to this. Does our word mean nothing?

Standing Rock could be a cornerstone of the President’s last few months in office. An opportunity to demonstrate the content of his character. Or, it could go down as another terrible, yet forgotten, denial of basic human rights to the first Americans for the profit of a few, more recent, Americans.

It’s hard to be too critical of such actions by others when we engage in it ourselves.

I am reminded of a quote by Chief Seattle, Duwamish (the tribal area of Seattle and Washington State)

“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”

Until we realize that by attacking those at Standing Rock we are attacking ourselves, the promise of America will remain unfulfilled. Until all enjoy equal freedom, the greatness we seek will elude us.

#IStandWithStandingRock

 

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.

Patently Offensive

When did being offended become the national pastime?

People take offense at everything they find different or contrary to their own beliefs or perspectives. The concept of tolerance has gone the way of the dinosaur. Something we dig up by accident once in a while to marvel at the magnificence that once was.

If someone wants to display the Confederate Flag, let ‘em. I think it more a reflection on them that they choose to celebrate a representation of a repulsive philosophy than an acknowledgment of history.

And they lost. I prefer to celebrate a victory. If someone wants to cheer, “We’re number two, we got beat by you,” have at it.

Some people take offense at the display of the American flag. A symbol of their very right to disagree and talk freely about these differences.

Some people are offended by religious displays, patriotic displays, sports, military, police, and other symbols.

All of this offense at symbols belittles the very nature of intelligence and tolerance. It demeans a rational approach to understanding our differences that, when blended in the best way, make us all Americans.

When did it become necessary for the whole world to restrain from championing a cause out of fear that some would disagree? It is in a civil and rational discussion of these different causes that we find a common solution.

Those who embrace the symbol of the Stars and Bars suffer from a lack of fundamental understanding of the overwhelming stain of racism in this country.

Those who would burn the American flag fail to see the contradiction in their actions. They are able to do such things because brave men and women died to uphold the rights represented by that flag.

Those who are offended by the display of a Christmas tree, a Menorah, the Star and Crescent, and others demand tolerance for themselves yet refuse it to others.

Knowledge and education are the keys to the world’s problems. Focusing our efforts on arguing what shouldn’t be displayed drains energy from that which would do good; seeking to understand the history behind these symbols and recognizing them as powerless unless we imbue them with power.

The best example is the Swastika of Nazi Germany. To most people, it represents an unspeakable horror and destructive philosophy. Yet the symbol, called Svastika in Sanskrit, means auspiciousness. Nazi Germany co-opted the symbol for the Third Reich.

Most take offense at the sight of such a symbol. The image of Neo-Nazis in today’s world reflect the continuity of the ignorance, brutality, and irrationality of that era and philosophy. Yet, by understanding the original meaning, one can see the irony in a bunch of ignorant white bigots embracing a symbol created in a Buddhist/Hindu tradition.

A symbol carries meaning only if we recognize it. A Christmas tree is a symbol of the Christian faith or it is a tree sacrificed in the tradition of the Druids.

A flag with stars and bars is the symbol of the proud history of the south or a representation of the failure of one race to impose its false superiority on another.

If you find something offensive, first make sure you understand why. Then work to foster a better understanding. Seek to educate not merely cover up.

Americans should be made of tougher stuff than to let symbols, words, or insignificant displays offend us.

Don’t take offense. Don’t whine and cry and whimper in weakness. Seek to understand that the most offensive symbol in the world represents the ignorance of those who promote it, not the power or truth of what is represents.

Grow a pair America. If this offends you, good. Do something.