The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘values’

FUNDING THE ARTS

Andres Serrano's Piss Christ

The debate over whether the government should use taxpayer money to fund the arts took off seriously in 1989 with the display of Andres Serrano’s photograph of a crucified Christ, submersed in a container that contained Serrano’s urine.  The photo was entitled, “Piss Christ”.  The piece set off a fireball of controversy, not surprisingly much of which came from Christians.  Serrano had received a grant to pursue his photographic art through an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

There was talk in the recent budget negotiations that President Trump wanted to eliminate the NEA from it.  That naturally brought howls from those who support government grants for the arts.  Hollywood came out in force.  “A Great Nation Deserves Great Art” was once again trotted out as the discussions took place.  Honestly, I agree with that slogan. But what are the impacts on art when it is government funded – at least in part?

The Serrano piece is certainly a piece of “art” if we define art to include photographic images.  Some people might think it is brilliant.  In my view it is, at the least offensive and vulgar.  Concerning taste, there can be substantially different views on everything from art to pasta sauce.  Freedom to produce art is as much protected by the First Amendment as is freedom of speech.  We might even define art in some forms, painting and ballet, for example, as non-verbal speech.

The only way to ensure that art may be freely produced is to ensure that the First Amendment guarantee is preserved.  It is remarkable that those who were most upset about the proposed defunding of NEA have cohorts who are, at that same time, trying to narrowly define the First Amendment to restrict the right to speak of those who have views that differ from their own by describing those who dissent from their viewpoint as spewing “hate speech”.

Even if this argument were valid, which I do not believe it is, who is to define what constitutes this sort of speech?  Should the government define rap music as hate speech since many songs use lyrics are filled with vulgarity, the n* word, refer to women as b*tches and advocate for the killing of police?  A government which finds this music and its lyrics objectionable might do just that but for the First Amendment.  But there is a flip side to this coin.

What if a government funds artists – but only those artists who convey a message that they want disseminated?  That’s exactly what happened in the Soviet Union.

Sergei Eisenstein was a Latvian movie director.  He and his mother moved to St. Petersburg when he was young.  Although raised as an Orthodox Christian he became an atheist.  After completing his term of service with the Red Army he decided to study engineering which was his father’s profession.  But he became interested in a new industry – film making and made his mark with the silent film, Battleship Potemkin.

By the late 1930’s the winds of war were howling across Europe.  Stalin was firmly in power in the Soviet Union and he called on Eisenstein in 1938 to make an historical/propaganda film, Alexander Nevsky, a film about the invasion of Mother Russia by the Teutonic Knights which occurred in the 13th century. The monk who accompanies the knights is the very epitome of evil both in appearance and action as he picks up Russian baby after baby, blesses them and throws them on the raging pyre, purging them of their apostasy.  This film was propaganda at it’s finest.  And it was propaganda for which the government paid.

Funding controversial art is part of defending free speech which is currently under assault.  It seems to me that the solution to this problem is simple for those actually seeking a solution.  If you don’t like what someone’s saying, walk out of the lecture.  If you don’t like an artist’s work, don’t look at it or buy a ticket for its performance.   But the arrogant left doesn’t truly want either free speech or art.  They want the Stalinist version of that.

Should the government continue to fund the NEA?  To me, that’s the smallest part of the fight that is ongoing.  The unique characteristic of being able to express ourselves without reservation is the real target.  And if each of us doesn’t rise up, refuse to be silenced and speak out for it, this most precious liberty may well be lost.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CANADA, BLOODY CANADA

It seems appropriate with the visit of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to offer a post about our good neighbors to the north.  And as an aside, it provides me the opportunity to offer my kudos to President Trump because despite all the forebodings coming from our left of center citizens, he has managed the visits of three foreign leaders without either verbally or physically assaulting them and has not insisted on their deportation.  Apparently they all went home voluntarily.

If you’ve read the statements which the Prime Minister has released recently, he is espousing a position of welcome on behalf of all Canadians to foreigners and refugees.  And I would have to say that from what I have read he most likely will be true to his word.

To start this conversation, let’s begin with the story of three people.  The first two are named Will Baker and Vince Li.  Interestingly, these are the same person sharing one schizophrenic body.  Mr. Li immigrated to Canada from China and subsequently changed his name.  The third is, or more exactly was, Tim McLean.  As it happened, Mr. Baker/Li and Mr. McLean were on the same Greyhound bus in Manitoba when the evil side of Baker/Li manifested himself.  Baker/Li pulled out a knife and applied it vigorously to the unsuspecting Mr. McLean’s neck. severing his head.  Incidentally, Mr. Baker/Li didn’t know Mr. McLean nor had they spoken when this rampage happened.

As disturbing as this homicide was, the story actually gets worse.  Baker/Li then used the knife which he had used to kill McLean and sliced a portion of flesh from his chest – and then proceeded to eat it.

When the Canadian court ruled on this case in 2008 they found Baker/Li to be not guilty by reason of mental condition.  Baker/Li was inducted into the confines of a Canadian mental facility where he remained under supervision – until last November when he was relocated to an apartment where he lived under limited supervision on his own – until last week when he was granted the right to re-enter Canadian society as a free man (men).  In return for this Baker/Li has promised to continue taking his medication.  I hope for the sake of all Canadian bus riders he keeps his commitment. That is the compassionate side of Canadian justice and is a story that all those who believe in the re-habilitation of the individual will enjoy as an endorsement of their philosophy.

But there is another side to Canadian compassion.  And for those of you who love diversity you might find it a bit disturbing.  That is that once again, the annual Harp Seal kill is about to begin. This is an annual hunt in which hundreds of thousands of harp seal pups, most only a few months old, are mercilessly slaughtered in the most primitive and violent manner.

There is no market for seal meat.  The seals are killed solely for their pelts which often are skinned from their bodies while they are still alive.  If you’ve ever seen footage of this abomination and have any feelings at all, you will probably endure a few sleepless nights.  In 2009 the European Union banned the importation of seal skins and the United States Senate unanimously passed a resolution calling for the immediate cessation of this hunt.  But it continues.

About thirty years ago I joined several humane and animal rights organizations that were actively working to try to end this annual slaughter.  I also entered on my own private boycott of all things Canadian – not that it has had much economic impact on our neighbor – but it does assuage my conscience.  Ten years ago a friend invited me on a railroad trip across the Canadian Rockies.  At the time I had one reason for declining the offer.  Today I have two.

 

 

IS THERE A CURE FOR B S SYNDROME?

Perhaps you have become too involved in the political reality TV to which we have all been treated in the last ten days or so to notice, but there is a serious and largely unreported new health issue that has surfaced in America.  It’s called B S Syndrome.  The condition derives it’s name from chanteuse Barbara Streisand and its symptoms include an overly large mouth and an exceptionally loud voice.  To date, little research has been done to ameliorate or cure the disease.  In the absence of scientific progress to treat this ailment, I thought I would share my observations so that those in lab coats might get a bit of insight based on my empirical observations which may facilitate their research.

B S Syndrome is, I believe, an outgrowth of a fundamental mental condition which might well be described as “Mind over Meaning.”  In fact, it is little more than an extension of solipsism in which the only reality is that which exists in the ideator’s own mind.  As the creators of their own self-absorbed universe, reality is whatever they believe it to be.  This is convenient because as the self-creating deity they envision themselves to be, people with this condition consider their own outrageous behavior to be totally acceptable while condemning far more civilized behavior in others – should that behavior in any way conflict with their view of how they feel others should behave.

During the most severe periods of drought in southern California a few years ago – I refer to the lack of water and not the lack of intellectual capacity from which many of that state’s citizens seem to suffer – the local authorities quite intelligently implemented severe water rationing plan to combat the situation.  Reasonable people, whatever their political ilk, understood and tried to support the conservation effort.  But one Barbara Streisand apparently either didn’t receive the memo or felt that she was exempt from it.  Fly over photos of her lovely home showed that her lawn was as lush as one might expect to find on the most verdant of the Hawaiian Islands.  Perhaps the explanation for Ms. Streisand’s choosing to ignore this water restriction may be found in one of her own quotes.  “I just don’t want to be hampered by my own limitations.”

There is probably no one who has taken the time to think about how to conduct a moral life who has not strayed from the perfection their philosophy demands.  That is, in essence, the nature of the human condition.  The first step toward spiritual growth is being willing to admit that we all have slips and some of those turn into falls.  But at no time in my experience have I witnessed so many people who seem absolutely convinced that they and they alone have been blessed by seeing the light of truth.  Adherents of ISIS seem to believe in that – as do a fair percentage of our “progressive” stars and starlets from the left coast.  Their latest furor over President Trump’s temporary ban of individuals from seven middle eastern nations is remarkable – but certainly not unexpected.

As some great sage once said, “Actions speak louder than words.”  So to those in Tinsel Town and others who believe themselves to be “entertainers” in whatever form, I can only speak for myself when I say, “I am certainly willing to entertain your outlook if you can demonstrate your sincerity.”  How could that be accomplished?  That should prove to be fairly simple.

If I understand your compassion correctly, you are championing those who are underprivileged.  As the temporary ban on some refugees is in effect, you do not currently have the ability to extend your generosity to those who may not enter the country at this time.  But there is no lack of people in need who are already here.

So to those compassionate souls in Hollywood who abjure the lack of American generosity, like the Lady with the Lamp, light the way and be an example.  Throw open the doors to your 15,000 square foot mansions and welcome the many homeless who live in squalor a few miles away from you.  Be a beacon to light the night and show all of us the virtue of brotherly love.  And when you have done that, I will be the first to say that you have truly overcome B S Syndrome and become an example for all of us to follow.

 

 

‘TIL DEATH DO US PART

Hyde Park had a strong Jewish presence in the early to mid part of the 20th century, in some respect due to the fact that the University of Chicago had a large Jewish faculty.  But as times changed and the surrounding neighborhoods deteriorated, bringing with that event an increase in the amount of crime in this middle class neighborhood, many of these people relocated to the north side of the city, particularly the area known as the Gold Coast.

There had been any number of delicatessens which catered to this part of the population but with their migration north, by the early ’70’s there was only one left – that being The Flying Lox Box on the very east perimeter of the neighborhood, a few blocks from the residence of the city’s first black mayor, Harold Washington.  The “Lox Box” as we called it, attracted a lot of us on a Saturday late morning for a delightful lunch, replete with outstanding dill pickle slices and an ample supply of insults from the proprietors, Rich who heaped disparaging comments on the diners as fully as he piled on the pastrami and corned beef on our sandwiches.  It was a bit reminiscent of growing up in Manhattan to me – and I reveled in the food, the company and Rich’s well meaning barbs.  I think that deep down, he had a repressed desire to appear on stage at Chicago’s Second City comedy club.

One of the regular patrons was a Chicago Police Department Sergeant, Adolph who was a sort of gentle giant.  Adolph could put away a sandwich with ease and frequently would order a second half sandwich to wash down the first one.  He was a delightful raconteur who would regale us with stories of life on the force.

In his earlier days with the CPD he was assigned to a different district – one that included Chicago’s second most dangerous housing project, Cabrini-Green, which now has been demolished.  He told us that the worst calls were ones coming from the project which involved domestic violence. Emotions ran very high in those sorts of calls.

One day when he and his partner had nearly finished their shift, they were dispatched to Cabrini on just such a call.  Queenie Johnson had called 911 to report that her common law husband was drunk and was beating her.  Adolph and his partner were only a few blocks from their apartment and responded promptly.

When they reached the Johnson apartment, they knocked on the door.  A timid voice answered from behind.  They identified themselves and Ms. Johnson opened the door.  It was immediately clear from the large cut and welt under her left eye that someone had indeed been hitting this woman.

On entering the apartment, Adolph asked, “Ms. Johnson, do you know where your husband is?”

“He be in the bedroom.  He be drunk and I think he passed out.”

“Do you want us to arrest him?  If so, you will have to come down to the station and file a complaint against him?”

“Oh, no, no, no, don’t do dat,” she replied. “He be drunk and didn’ mean no harm.”

“Well, ma’am, if you don’t want us to arrest him, what exactly is it that you would like us to do?”

Adolph paused for a moment.  Despite his large size he really was a big teddy bear.  He then told us what Ms. Johnson asked him and his partner to do on this visit.

She said with an almost childlike innocence, “Could you go in the bedroom, wake him up and make him say, ‘He love me’?”

I was about to join the others at our table who laughed at this woman’s request, but then it occurred to me how sad and pathetic her situation – and how terribly low her self-esteem must have been that she would willingly endure this sort of physical abuse.  And I could see that Adolph had not delivered her statement as the “punch line,” pardon the expression, of a joke.  He went on.

It was about six months after this visit when 911 got another call from Queenie Johnson.   Again, she was suffering a physical attack by her husband.  And once again, Adolph and his partner were dispatched to respond.  But this time, there was no soft voice behind the door.  They could hear the sounds of a struggle and when they broke in the door, they found Mr. Johnson holding a bloodied baseball bat on his shoulder, over the lifeless body of Ms. Johnson whom he had just murdered.

You could have heard a pin drop in the deli.  Even Rich, who had been eaves-dropping on this story, was uncharacteristically quiet.  All of us finished our meals without enthusiasm and went our ways, sobered and chilled by this account.

There are many reasons that I could advance for my unchangeable decision not to vote for Hillary Clinton.  I could argue that, despite the fact that she has never been arraigned or convicted for many of the past scandals which seem to circle her like a buzzard waiting for a wounded animal to die, she seems to be a magnet for controversy and activities which might or might not be legal but certainly raise questions of morality – a higher standard than what might be proven in a court of law.

I might argue that she exhibits all the pathology of a serial liar; that she arguably endangered this country through her slip-shod handling of emails; that she lied to the victims of the families of the Benghazi attack and to the American public; that she through the aegis of her and her husband and daughter’s foundation accepted money from governments which are among the worst human and female rights offenders in the world; that there may or may not be some quid pro quo from countries and individuals during her tenure as Secretary of State which enabled her and the former president to acquire vast amounts of wealth, far beyond even their excessive speaking fees would have produced.

But I do not need to argue any of that in formulating my decision because there is something far more profound and fundamental which in my mind disqualifies her from holding the highest office in the land and having ownership of the nuclear launch codes. That pre-eminent factor is her disposition and temperament.

Have you ever been involved or known anyone who has been involved in an abusive relationship?  If so, you know that the only alternatives open to that person is to terminate the relationship or to continue in it and continue to be abused.  Both choices are difficult – but the second one might be fatal as in the case of Queenie Johnson.

And the simple reason that people persist in abusive relationships always comes down to the same thing – lack of self-esteem.

As a friend, I’ve counselled any number of people who found themselves in situations where their spouses cheated on them or mentally or physically abused them.  My advice has always been the same.  I laid out the two alternatives that were available and suggested that the decision about what sort of future they had in life was totally dependent on how they went forward.

Some continued in those relationships and their abuse went on as before, as predictably it would have.  Some smaller number decided that they had value as a person and took the daring step to find that better future for themselves, though this decision resulted in a great deal of immediate pain and self-doubt which they were only able to overcome through the support of friends and family and their discovery of an inner strength.

Ms. Clinton obviously has chosen the first path.  Apparently her inner strength is so minimal that she is wiling to accept the very public knowledge that she is the “other woman” in her own marriage.  And it amazes me that for someone who purports to be a “champion for women” she is such a poor example for women or, for that matter, people of either gender.

This post is dedicated to Queenie Johnson – and to all the other people, living or dead, who have suffered from abusive relationships.  And while I feel a great deal of empathy for them, pity is not a valid reason for entrusting the future of the greatest nation on earth to a person who allows him or herself to be a victim.

 

 

 

 

 

MANAGEMENT AND MS.MANAGEMENT

Ah, to sit at the top of the corporate food chain.  There you are, a middle-aged white male (with or without paunch), showing up occasionally to work in your chauffeured vehicle, taking a few minutes to check the emails that your underpaid assistant has already reviewed, then off to a three martini gourmet lunch followed by a full body in office massage and, noticing that it’s quitting time off you go to the palatial home in which you live thanks to the fact that you are overpaid for being the CEO of your company.  That is the general picture that those who argue against “income inequality”  put forward.

While the picture of a day in the life of the CEO as I just enumerated it is, of course, a gross exaggeration, since most of us are not and will probably never be CEO’s of any major corporation, we simply are not privy to what the CEO actually does. As a result it is not difficult for those who are “anti-corporate” to sell this image.  This resonates particularly well with those who are at the low-end of the corporate ladder and already view themselves as victims of “the system.”

If truth be told, I suspect that a significant number of those who rail against the inequities of corporate America would, were they offered the opportunity, gladly accept the position of CEO of their company complete with a seven-figure salary, stock options and all the perks that accompany that position, quickly forgetting their comrades in arms on the assembly line.  If that analysis is correct, then we can say that it is not the inequities of corporate America toward which people are hostile.  It is merely the fact that they are not the beneficiaries of the positive benefits that those at the top receive.  In other words, their motivation is predicated on one of the ugliest of the deadly sins – envy.

While I have never run a Fortune 500 company, I imagine that my experiences as CEO probably mirrors that of others who ran their own small businesses.  I can assure you that the glamor and prestige which is attributed to being the leader of your business is more than offset by trying to keep the company afloat, making sure that the cash is in the bank to pay your employees (even if that meant skipping your own paycheck) and the sleepless nights – wondering if your plan and your vision will be enough to bring you through a slow patch – well, who would ever trade pacing the floor at three in the morning in favor of a restful night’s sleep?

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from viewing the actions of a number of NFL players off the field, it is that if your job requires you to be aggressive and violent, it is sheer folly to believe that removing a helmet and shoulder pads turns you into Mary Poppins.  We are who we have become – both in our place of work and outside the office.

People tend to want to associate with people who are like them.  By that I am not speaking of superficial characteristics such as race, gender, ethnic background or religious views.  At the heart of this desire to associate with others like us is a general outlook on life and the way in which we conduct ourselves with others. That is as true for a CEO as it is for someone on the assembly line.  There is a reason that the term “den of thieves” is part of our vocabulary.  It speaks to the fact that those comprising the “den” all share a common value system – that theft is not only an acceptable way of conducting oneself – it is an underpinning of  their core belief of how they view the world and their role in it.

People, of course, can change.  But let’s think back to the era of light bulb jokes as one of those comes to mind.

“How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?”

“Only one.  But the light bulb really has to want to change.”

The fact is that behavior whether it is constructive or destructive seldom changes because miraculously the owner of that behavior has a sudden epiphany.  Normally, the longer we repeat doing the same thing seeing what we believe are positive consequences, the longer we are likely to continue in that same behavior.  The thief who knocks over a convenience store and gets away with the crime, is likely to plan additional convenience store robberies.  Or, he might expand his horizons by considering how to make an even bigger haul by robbing a bank.

As he continues in successful caper after caper there is no reason for him to change his modus vivendi.  The only likelihood that he will abandon his career is if he is apprehended, tried and incarcerated.  And even then, we know the rate of recidivism of convicts is extremely high.

There is a reason that two-thirds of Americans view Hillary Clinton as “dishonest and untrustworthy.”  (I am in that camp).   She has a track record which she has developed over decades for, at the best, being barely inside the furthest edges of what might be considered legal; and at worst, violating the law but escaping the consequences of those misdeeds by virtue of her being well-connected and privileged.

Now the primary argument advanced by Ms. Clinton and her cohorts to dispel all the controversies that have surrounded her and her husband for decades is that, “it is a great right-wing conspiracy to disparage and impugn them.”  I would consider myself on the right side of things politically.  Yet I’ve never in all these years received even one invitation to attend an anti-Hillary conspiracy meeting.  Perhaps I should feel offended by this omission.

In evaluating a candidate for president, I try to employ the same standards that I used in my business life in which I referred executives to our client companies for potential hire.  Does the candidate have the requisite experience to handle the position in an exceptional manner?  That was the primary determining criterion that i used.  But beyond that there was a subjective component to my decision either to refer a particular candidate to my client or to withhold that referral.  Did I like the person?

As subjective as “liking” someone is, I tried to apply objective standards to that decision.  Was the candidate late, on time or early for our scheduled interview?  Did she come to the interview in a crumpled outfit or were her clothes fresh out of the cleaners?  Did the candidate have a good handshake or was it limp and fishy?  How was the candidate’s eye contact and general body language during our interview?  Did the candidate respond to questions in a clear and succinct manner or did she or he talk around the answer?  Did the candidate engage in any activities whether on or off the job that suggested a generous nature and a team spirit?  And perhaps most importantly, after we concluded our interview, did the candidate take the time either to call or send me a note, thanking me for the opportunity to meet and expressing an interest in the position we had discussed?

In essence, I mentally compiled a FICO score of personality for each candidate.  Perhaps it was not quite as scientific or mathematical as those which are put together to determine credit-worthiness.  But it seemed to be pretty effective as more than ninety-five percent of the candidates we referred to our clients and who were hired had long careers with those companies.

Applying those same standards to Ms. Clinton, I would not in good conscience have referred her to a client should the position of CEO be vacant and she had come in to apply for the job.  That decision has nothing to do with our divergent political views.  Rather, it centers around the woman herself.

I lived in the same condo for twenty-seven years and served as president for eight of those and as a board member for eighteen.  Many of the owners were in the building for similar amounts of time – but there was some turnover as people changed jobs and relocated or found other accommodations.  In some cases, I only learned the names of the other owners when, after three or four years, they had sold their apartment and were moving.  The reason for that was simple.  They followed the few rules we had, were good neighbors and gave the board no reason to have to intervene in any disputes in which they and their fellow owners engaged.

But as luck would have it, there were two of the seventy-two units whose owners either would appear before the board’s monthly meetings with regularity to allege a complaint against either management or one of their neighbors or who were the subject of just such a complaint by one of their neighbors.  I remember that when they showed up for a board meeting, the rest of the board’s membership joined me in a collective groan as we knew what was in store.  And it seemed that no amount of negotiating, no amount of pacification, nothing we could do would deter these two people from having another problem in the months that would follow.  Very early on in this process, I believe that we all correctly came to the conclusion that the source and cause of the alleged problems was not the neighbor but the complainants themselves.

It was my experience that the overwhelming majority of my neighbors were kind and courteous people.  They acknowledged their neighbors with a cheery, “Good morning” when we’d run into each other in the lobby and perhaps take a moment for a little chat even if they were on their way to work.  They always thanked the doorman for opening the outer door of the building for them.  On the other hand, the two people who regularly showed up at our meetings to file their complaints were cold and dismissive.  They would seldom say hello to other residents and treated the doorman and the janitorial staff as though they were indentured servants.  On more than one occasion, I apologized to our staff for their rude behavior.

Now consider for a moment that somehow, one of these two people were not only elected to the board but, even worse became president.  What was once a generally well-functioning entity is now being run by people who had demonstrated that they were always at the center of controversy – and because of their actions were the cause of that controversy.  How long would it take for the building’s operations to deteriorate, first into mediocrity and then into chaos?  I suspect not long at all.

Ms. Clinton brings with her candidacy a great deal of baggage that has caused many stirs over the decades.  One might agree with her assertions these are all a function of that vast great right-wing conspiracy.  Or one might argue, the reason for all the controversy surrounding her is that she, through her own actions or inactions, has focused scrutiny on herself.  If the same person is on site every time an arsonous fire is set, it would be foolish to overlook that person’s proximity and not have thoughts of suspicion arise toward them.  Accidents happen fairly infrequently – and coincidences even less often.

Despite her proclamations to the contrary, Ms. Clinton is one of the least transparent political figures in this country.  I cede the award of first place to President Barack Obama, hands down, undisputed, no argument. But Ms. Clinton is running a close second.  She has, through her cohorts in the establishment in the DNC managed to schedule very few debates and most of those were aired at a time when people were absorbed with watching major sporting events or preparing to celebrate the Holidays.  She hasn’t had a press conference for six months, unusual for a candidate for president who logically would want the public to know and understand what her positions are on important issues.

If we remember the premise that people tend to associate with people like themselves, what kind of staff would Ms. Clinton hire should she be successful in her bid for the White House?  Well, we do know what kind of staff and who it was that she hired in the only executive position she has ever held – as Secretary of State.

The Dems in Congress have downplayed Ms. Clinton’s role in what lead to the death of our ambassador in Benghazi and that of three other Americans.  To be candid, we may never know if their deaths were preventable.  We also may never know whether the State Department acted in a prompt manner to attempt a rescue effort.  But we do know that the State Department and President Obama knew the night of the attack that their explanation for the attack, that it was due to “an internet video besmirching the Prophet Mohammed” was a false narrative, repeated over a week’s period of time.

Further, we know that Ms. Clinton clung to this narrative while she “consoled” the families of those who had fallen in Libya – though she now denies that despite the testimony of those family members who heard her speak those words.

We also know that despite the Benghazi Committee’s Democrat members who have and still call this a “witch hunt,” were it not for the committee’s investigations, we might never have known that Ms. Clinton maintained an unsanctioned personal server and communication system nor that she deleted thirty-three thousand “personal” emails.  These, among other matters, are currently the focus of an FBI investigation – not the “security review” that Ms. Clinton speaks of when addressing this issue.

Besides the FBI investigation, a number of organizations including Judicial Watch have filed suit to determine whether Ms. Clinton (and her staff)have violated any Federal statutes.  Under the Freedom of Information Act, one of her senior assistants, Cheryl Mills gave a deposition last week.  Ms. Mills was accompanied to this hearing by no fewer than seven lawyers – three who represented her personally and an additional four from the Justice Department.

While I’m sure that it was Ms. Mills’ intent to be transparent and totally forthcoming in her deposition, apparently she refrained from answering a significant number of questions put to her because it might have “compromised national security.”  How ironic.  That Ms. Mills could so clearly identify issues of “national security” in the questions posed her, yet her boss, Ms. Clinton was so unable to determine that thousands of the emails she received could not be so identified truly amazes me.  I am further startled at the sheer numbers of legal talent that were assembled to advise this woman.  In twenty-six years in business I don’t think I had need to consult with that many attorneys in toto.

Throughout her career, both Ms. Clinton and her spouse have regularly relied on legalistic defenses for their actions.  It is reasonable to expect that should she be elected president, that sort of approach will continue.  Perhaps we will see her put the law firm of Dewey, Cheatham and Howe on retainer.

But to my thinking, legal redress in most cases could be avoided by simply doing the right thing in the first place.  That, it seems to me, is one of the fundamental roles that good management brings to the table.

In Ms. Clinton’s case, I am afraid we would see little more than Ms.management. And all of us will end up footing the bill.

MOTHER, MAY I?

Virtually every American city which has what we euphemistically call an “inner city,” (translation being an area of urban blight and poverty, overcrowding, under-education and where single parent families are the norm), has one thing that provides some constancy.  That is that “progressives” (translation Democrats) have been in control for the better part of half a century or longer and have created the perfect conditions for all of this human tragedy.  While I can’t personally speak to the conditions throughout the country, after thirty-six years of living in Chicago I do feel qualified to address the disaster that city has become.

Moving from Manhattan at age seventeen was not only a nine hundred mile geographical relocation.  I felt as though I had moved back in time by a century.  Truly, I had the sense that I was now living in the Wild West – with all the disadvantages that entailed and few of the benefits of modern 1960’s society.  Perhaps those feelings came from snobbery.  But as involved as I was with classical music, I was shocked that the classical radio station WFMT went off the air at 10:00 p.m., the Chicago Symphony at that time was a mediocre ensemble and Chicago’s “opera scene” was only ten years old.

To usurp a Robert Heinlein title, I felt as though I were A Stranger in a Strange Land.

Well, I adapted.  I found a local store that sold used vinyl and the broadcast void was filled with recordings of all the masters, bought on the cheap.  I became used to the fact that in Chicago you couldn’t buy meat in the grocery stores after six in the evening, even though it was sitting there pre-cut in the display case.  (This was a concession to the butcher’s union).  And I later became aware that on “Days when members of the Illinois General Assembly were being elected, it was illegal to buy a drink at a bar or buy a bottle of liquor in a liquor store during the hours that the polls were open.”  As I was under the legal age to buy liquor at any time and didn’t drink it, I found that law amusing – because as I later came to view the Chicago political process, it seemed to me that the only conditions under which one would voluntarily vote for the hacks who held office for decades was if the voter were completely inebriated at the time of casting his ballot.

I’m not sure how my thirty-six year long experience with crime compared to that of other Chicago residents.  One mugging; one near mugging (rescued by my Irish Setter); one car stolen (twice in six months – the second time permanently); one car vandalized twelve times in sixteen months so the thieves could steal the Blaupunkt radios.  As I said, I don’t know how that experience compared to that of your average Chicagoan.  Nor was any of this the basis for my reason to move to Nevada.

It occurred to me that I was paying the State of Illiniois three percent of my income (now four and one half per cent) for the privilige of residing in the state.  Notwithstanding all the monies that Illinois extracted from its citizens, the state’s budget was completely out of balance, has only gotten worse and Illinois now finds itself right behind Puerto Rico in terms of defaulting on its obligations.  But that was not the motivating reason for moving.  The City of Chicago was.

I had been giving some thought to relocating and felt that I needed a change.  As most of us, myself included, fear change, after thirty-six years this was a big decision.  But what decided me was looking at the City of Chicago’s budget for the year 2001.  Included in that budget was a line item for five million dollars.  The expenditure was for something called an anti-graffitti campaign – to purchase equipment and pay for the manpower to remove the graffitti the city expected would be applied to public buildings in the following year.

Consider the thinking behind this one item.  Rather than attack the problem at its source, apprehending people who applied graffitti, the city’s solution was to tolerate the application of paint to its buildings and then return the buildings to their original appearance – at the taxpayer’s expense.  This “solution” is so typical of government’s approach to problem solving at all levels.  And it is infuriating.

It is akin to a man walking into the Emergency Room of a hospital with a gun shot wound, the bullet still embeded in his abdomen.  The attending physician, rather than removing the bullet, gives the man a narcotic based pain killer to remedy his discomfot.  If that were to happen, you can bet that the hospital and doctor would be served papers as the defendants in a medical malpractice law suit.

Many who self-apply the misnomer, “progressives” to their political philosophy view government intervention as the first step toward creating a paradise on earth.  But with the sort of thinking that treats symptoms rather than addressing the underlying problems, what they and their political minions do is ignore problems to the point that they fester – perhaps beyond repair.  And that is precisely what has happened in Chicago and other major cities.

This being the Memorial Day weekend, Chicago started off last Friday with several murders to give us more people to memorialize.  The first death was a fifteen year old girl and was what inspired this post.

Veronica Lopez’ was the first of four murders last Friday in the Windy City.  She was in a car on Lake Shore Drive and at 1:30 a.m. was gunned down when a car pulled up to the vehicle in which she was riding.  Her car was being driven by an unidentified 28 year old male, the presumed target of the attack.  Veronica was apparently an unintended victim of what the police believe is a gang related shooting.

Those who believe in the efficacy of “nanny government” should be inspired by how effective this form of overseeing our citizenry proved to be in this case.  You see, Chicago, like many other cities passed curfew laws regulating when juveniles might be out on the city’s streets when they are not accompanied by a legal guardian.  In Chicago’s case, all juveniles under the age of eighteen are prohibited from being out after 11:00 p.m. on weeknights.  That law has been on the books for over seventy years.

Veronica Lopez’ death would have been avoided if she merely had obeyed the law.  Her mother, Diana Mercado was understandably distraught at learning of her daughter’s death.  “They took my baby,”  she said.

Well, fifteen year olds don’t always exhibit the best judgment.  But sometimes parents don’t either – as in this case.  Ms. Mercado should ask herself, particularly if she has other children at home, if she is enforcing the sort of discipline that a parent has the right to command of her offspring.

Why did she allow her daughter to violate the curfew law?  Even more to the point in these days when acts of predatory rape are as common as grains of sand on the beach, why did she allow her daughter to hang out with and go driving with a twenty-eight year old male?

As a kid, I used to resent what I viewed as my parents’ over-protectiveness.  If a friend invited me to a party at their apartment, my parents wanted the phone number where I could be reached.  And while I could walk there by myself if it were light out, my father would pick me up if it was dark when the party ended.  This was back in the fifties when it was considerably safer for children than it is today.

But the important thing was that my parents strictly regulated what I could do.  I don’t remember going out more than a few times during my time in grammar and high school years on a school night – and then only after I had completed my homework.

The usual response I received as I requested to go out and asked, “Mother, may I?” was “No.”  I wonder if more parents today exercised their authority, laid down rules for their kids and enforced discipline for infractions of those rules, how many more fifteen year olds might be alive in Chicago – and elsewhere.

THREE LITTLE WORDS

Unless you’ve undergone a lobotomy, you certainly are aware that our world is a roil with dissension, violence, anger and aggressive behavior.  It is easy to sit back, view the day’s events and sigh, “Ah, for the good old days.”

Of course, the way we define the “good old days” is probably dependent on how old we are.  For those of us who are over fifty we might think back to those far more halcyon days of our childhood and early adulthood.  If  you’re younger than that, you might think of those good old days as the time just preceding the last iPhone release.

Back in my “good old days” I remember a particular neighbor by the name of Mamie Howlett.  She was a widow who lived in apartment 9B – just next door to our apartment.  From my perspective as an eight year old, she had an exceptionally red face which I learned was a function of the makeup she wore.  I never met her husband but I did know of one of her relatives – a nephew by the name of Mike Wallace.  (For those of you who are still unaware that history began prior to George W.’s presidency, Mr. Douglas was a very well respected television news commentator).

For whatever reason, Mrs. Howlett had a special fondness for me.  My family used to invite her to join us for dinner every so often.  I think as I consider this in retrospect, that was because she was alone and my family felt sorry for that emptiness.  (My folks regularly invited orphans of any age to join us for dinner.  They just felt that was the right thing to do).

Mrs. Howlett asked me to join her for lunch in her apartment once every other month or so.  It was always on a Saturday – and she always cooked the same thing – Chinese.  Well, it was about as Americanized a version of Chinese as could be procured.  Lunch always consisted of a heated up meal that came from one of those double cans of Chung King – the kind with the veggies in the larger bottom can and the sauce and meat (normally chicken) in the small top can.  Of course, this concoction was placed atop a layer of crispy fried chow mein noodles.

Well, we continued to invite Mrs. Howlett to dinners and she continued to invite me to bi-monthly Chung King Saturday lunches for about three years.  I had just started the fall school session when I came home one afternoon to be greeted by my grandmother who had a particularly serious look on her face.  She took me aside, put her arms around me and said, “Sweetheart, Mrs. Howlett passed away this morning.  I know you liked her – we all did – and I know she liked you very much.  I’m so sorry.”

I was dumb struck.  I mean, I was aware of this vague thing we called death in a sort of intellectual way.  I knew Columbus had died as had Shakespeare and a lot of famous people about whom I had read in my history books.  But this was the first person I really knew who had died.  Mrs. Holwett’s passing set me back on my heels and caused me to start doing some serious thinking.

The questions I began asking had been posed many times before by many far smarter people than I.  Like so many, I wanted to know, “Where did I come from?”  “Where am I going?”  But to me, the most pressing of the questions I had was, “What should I be doing while I’m here?”  You see the first two of those I realized even at eleven could not be proven – whatever a person’s opinion of the answer.  But that third question … well it was pretty undeniable that we were here and there should be a good answer to that.  Fortunately, my grandmother came to the rescue with at least the suggestion of an answer.

It was several weeks after Mrs. Howlett’s funeral.  After school I came home to the smell of home baked bread.  On the days that Grandma baked bread, she always cut the heel off one end, toasted it and spread it with Land of Lakes sweet cream butter.  She was a simple woman and there was nothing that she found as wonderful as a before dinner snack.  She always accompanied this with a half cup of black cold coffee, left over from the morning’s breakfast meal.

This particular day, she sat down next to me with her bread and coffee as I was about to start my homework and for no reason that was apparent to me asked, “Sweetheart, do you know the three most important words in the English language?”  Because we were a family that expressed emotion quite easily and often, both verbally and physically, I almost immediately replied, “I love you.”

“No,” Grandma said.  Those are the next most important three words.  She picked up the last piece of the bread that was on her plate and as she ate it, a warm glow came over her as she was having what to her was one of life’s greatest delicacies.  She breathed a deep sigh of contentment and then said, “The most important of all are, ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You.'”  And having imparted that profound bit of knowledge, she got up from the convertible sofa on which she had been sitting and left the room.

I have no idea what moved her to say what she told me that particular day.  But with the dramatic entrance and exit, I realized that her words were important.  So I began thinking about them – particularly since I was already trying to figure out how to conduct myself as I mentioned earlier.  What I took away from this specific conversation was that being polite to others was the starting point for leading a fulfilling life.  I didn’t see how that was going to make me rich or improve my appearance – but I had a great deal of faith in my grandmother and pretty much took her word as gospel – so I tried to use those three words regularly.  In fact, back in my “good old days” a lot of people used them.

A good friend and I have breakfast together at one of the local casinos once or twice a week.  Monday was one of those days.

I parked in the garage and took the elevator down one floor to the casino and restaurant entrance.  The last barrier to entering the property are three sets of heavy glass doors.

I was in front of the one closest to the elevators and began to open the right door when I saw a very tall Chinese woman about ten feet away.  I pulled the door back and stood there holding it wide open until she could walk through.  She saw me holding the door and a big smile came over her face and as she walked through said, “Thank you so very much for your courtesy.”  I responded, “You’re quite welcome.  Enjoy your day.”

As I was about to walk through the door I saw a couple I took to be in their eighties about ten feet from the door.  So I stood back behind the door and held it open until they passed through.  The wife was a bit more nimble than the husband who had some obvious difficulties walking and when she had entered the elevator lobby she turned to me and said, “I don’t know you but I like you.  It’s so refreshing to meet someone nowadays who is courteous to others.  Thank you.  You made my day.”

Well, I have to tell you that I might or might not have “made her day” but receiving that compliment certainly made mine.

There are many organizations that claim to be involved in a movement to rid the world of hatred, prejudice and all else that plagues humanity.  Their methodology seems to be going to the source of these inequities, shouting down people whom they believe espouse them, destroying public property in the name of purging the earth from violence and otherwise acting in ways which are generally uncivil.  I don’t see how this sort of behavior is going to effect positive change.  Perhaps that’s just me.

But since we live in an age where movements are afoot and aplenty, I thought I might throw my hat in the ring and advocate for the creation of yet one more.  I’m going to call it the Three Little Word Fellowship.

This Fellowship doesn’t have a complicated structure or platform.  There are no lengthy by-laws which a member should read before signing on the dotted line – as there is no dotted line.  The Fellowship doesn’t accept donations so there is no need for us to seek IRS charitable status.  And because we have no income, we don’t provide membership decals for your car nor will you be receiving a monthly newsletter.

The Fellowship is open for membership to people irrespective of age, race, religion or lack thereof, or any other self-constructed characterization which identifies a person as someone who is “different”.

Needless to say, since we don’t have a staff, we don’t have a website and as we have none of the above there is no opportunity for members or friends to “like” us.  But the Fellowship isn’t seeking a lot of anonymous “likes”.  We’re hoping to make the world a better place by asking those who choose to join us do one simple thing.

The Fellowship encourages our members to use the three little words, “Please” and “Thank you” every time they have the opportunity and to encourage the enrollment (if we can call it that) of people who appreciate their courtesy of becoming members as well.  It is my firm belief that using courteous words can become an habitual behavior, one that becomes as automatic and natural as breathing.  And that kind words often transform their users into doers of kind deeds.  The church catechesis used to describe “Good Works” as “An outward and visible sign of an inward, invisible Grace.”

Don’t worry.  There are no undercover police checking on how well you are fulfilling your terms of enrollment.  And once you’ve become a member, you can leave the Fellowship if and when you want.  But then, why would you want to?

Granted, we might not change the world which is a pretty big place.  But we can change that part of it which we encounter on a daily basis.  And even if no one comes up to you and says that your courtesy “made their day,” you will know you did the right thing and that inner sense of doing the right thing is worth far more than the praise of  pundits and presidents.

 

BILL CLINTON AND THE DECLINE OF AMERICA

There has been quite a lot of head shaking among my fellow Baby Boomers at the current state of affairs in America both political and cultural as though they are thinking, “How could things ever have reached this low?”  Well, for them I have some good news.  We’ve been there before – about 50 years ago.  And we made a comeback.  Perhaps the core of our problem is that we think of things in a linear manner.  We would be better served if we adopted the Mayan view of time and events and thought of them as circular and recurrent.

That is not to say that as I watch the idiocy, misinformation and shear ignorance that is the stock in trade today of today’s younger generation brought about by an educational system that has largely failed them and turned it’s attention to creating “safe spaces” for these poor, shrinking violets rather than educating them in the classics and history, I do not wring my hands with despair and despondence.  I do.  But then I remember embarking on my college career as the country was highly polarized both by race relations and the Vietnam War – and I think to myself, I’ve seen this movie, well at least the original version if not the remake.

The college at the University of Chicago was left leaning since long before I started there in 1964.  The only place on campus one might find conservatives was at the Business School and, to a lesser degree, the Law School.  But for those of us who were undergraduates, we were generally immersed in a culture of the left – whether we wanted it or not.  Notwithstanding the political orientation of our teachers, we were exposed to a wide variety of thought – often thought which directly conflicted with our instructors’ own political or social viewpoint.

One of the mandatory courses was Sociology 101.  The reading list was extensive, almost unmanageable because of its volume.  But among those books which were required reading were the works of J. J. Rousseau, John Locke, the Federalist Papers and Alexis de Tocqueville.  These authors could hardly be described as proponents of the philosophy of the left.  Despite the fact that my professor for this class was a good friend of Saul Alinksy (Rules For Radicals) who dedicated this work, the subject of Hillary Clinton’s 1969 college thesis, to Lucifer, his approach to dealing with this material was to present it and, because he believed he had a superior mental ability either to the authors or his students, attempt to debunk what they had to say.

Consider that last line as a sign post of the difference between then and now because it is crucial.  The material was presented and debated – or at least it was.  Today’s universities do not exercise the same intellectual honesty because they present only one side of the story, pretending that is the only side to be told.  And this manifestation of intellectual dishonesty extends everywhere into the culture where freedom of speech merely means, freedom to speak but only in the manner that the vocal left minority deems appropriate.  The late Chairman Mao would be proud of them – as would have been Adolph Hitler.

“Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.”

– Alexis de Tocqueville

De Tocqueville was sent to the fledgling America by the French government to study her prison system and went on to write his classic two volume work, Democracy in America.  There are many profound observations which he made in that work and over the next several posts I will be using several of them to illustrate my point.

But let us move on to the subject of this post with the assistance of another of his quotes:

“The greatness of America lies in the fact that her laws are applied equally to everyone.”

There are two separate but equally important points to be taken from these quotes.

First, de Tocqueville recognized that moral behavior was an absolute thing.  That there was right and wrong, good and bad, truth and falsehood and that God, not man established those things which also gave rise to the Founding Fathers’ exclamation that “We hold these truths to be self-evident…”.  Truth, right and good were ordained as such by God and no matter how man might convolute these to suit his own personal needs, were immutable. There is no clearer expression of this than in our legal system where the person testifying is required to take an oath, pledging to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

But to whom is this oath sworn?  To God.  As de Tocqueville points out in the first of these quotes, morality is dependent on faith.  So if we set God aside, then the only concern of a deponent in a jury proceeding is not in testifying truthfully but in testifying in a manner which best serves his purpose if he is confident that he will not get caught lying.  And the sad truth is that there are few cases of perjury which are ever prosecuted – thus reinforcing this self-serving behavior.

During President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial our then Chief Executive clearly lied about his sexual liaisons.  Frankly, I could care less about them and would have had more respect if he had said, “Yes, I had sex with that woman in the Oval Office.  So what?” Clearly there have been other presidents who had dalliances outside their marriages including FDR and Eisenhower to mention just two who come quickly to mind and those relationships didn’t seem to impact their ability to govern.  Instead, Clinton chose to take the low road with a series of legalistic responses to avoid the embarrassment of public revelation about his numerous sexual relationships.  And his punishment for this perjury – a fine and the revocation of his law license.

Second, let’s consider the concept of “the equal application of the law” which de Tocqueville lauds and review the case of Martha Stewart.

On December 27, 2001, Martha Stewart disposed of her interest in Imclone stock based on inside information she had received.  This helped her avoid a loss of about $50,000 as bad news on the company was about to break.  Ms. Stewart was arraigned and her trial took six weeks, resulting in her conviction on nine felony counts.  But the bulk of her penalty – a six month imprisonment followed by five months of electronic monitoring and an additional thirteen months of supervision was the result not of insider trading, for which she paid a fine but because she had lied to the FBI while being interrogated under oath by them.  As an aside, until 2014 when the law was changed, the insider trading activity in which Stewart engaged and which was illegal for any American to participate in – was fully legal if you were a Member of Congress.  Perhaps that is one of the reasons that so many congressmen and women enter the Rotunda poor and emerge as millionaires.

In my view, the penalties meted out to Clinton and Stewart were hardly comparable.  If anything, Clinton’s should have been the more severe because he held the highest of public offices and Stewart merely saved herself some money – an insignificant amount considering her net worth.  But both of them have returned to the limelight in society, their past transgressions forgotten and forgiven.  To this day, Bill Clinton is one of America’s most admired politicians.  And de Tocqueville has an explanation for that in our closing quote:

“Society is endangered not by the great profligacy of a few, but by the laxity of morals amongst all.”

DIVERSITY

It was a late fall day as I waited for the elevator in our apartment building.  Several floors below from the open stairwell,  I could hear two of the tenants having a conversation and I realized that one of them was holding the door open.  If they didn’t finish their confab quickly, I ran the risk of being late for school.  Finally, I heard the door close and the gears begin to move the old elevator – but it was headed down to the lobby.  I would have to wait for its arrival there and then its return up nine floors for me to board.  I looked at my Mickey Mouse watch with the red plastic wrist strap and realized that I would have to hustle if I were going to keep my perfect on time record intact.

When I opened the building’s front door, I could see a gentle snow was falling.   I hadn’t gone two feet when a flake landed on the left lens of my glasses.  It seemed that eyewear was a magnet for snowlakes.  This had happened before – and I learned from an earlier experience that it was better to let the flake melt rather than trying to wipe it off with my sleeve.  So I semi-ran the two blocks to school trusting my familiarity with the route to get me there despite the waterfall through which I was looking.

I opened the school door with three minutes to spare and slowed down to the acceptable pace which we were supposed to use when we were in school and calmly walked up the flight of stairs to my classroom, passing the older kids who were stowing their outerwear in the lockers which were in the hallway.  It would be two years before I would have one of those – with my very own combination lock.  I was looking forward to being in fifth grade with all the priviliges that came with that achievement.

I opened my classroom door and saw that Mrs. Bounds was writing on the chalk board.  She turned and welcomed me with her usual warm, “Good morning.”  So I went to the rear where I hung my coat in the communal locker and took my seat.  We were starting the morning with math – one of my favorite subjects.  I was ready for a busy day of learning.

We had previously learned how to count by ones all the way to one thousand.  That was a heap of counting.  And my father, seeing how much I seemed to enjoy it said, “You know, you can count to one thousand by twos and threes and fours as well.”  I decided to take him up on this tidbit of information and I managed to count myself up to one thousand by twos.  Not to anyone’s surprise but mine, this took only one half as long as doing the same exercise by ones.  So I thought I would try threes.  And when I got finished, although this took even less time than twos, I thought I had done something wrong.  I got to 999 instead of my expected one thousand.  I couldn’t wait for my father to come home so that he could show me what I did wrong.  But then instead of just deciding to speak the numbers, I thought I would write them down to see if that made a difference.  It didn’t.  But I did get an interesting lesson on fractions which gave me a head start when we started learning about them later.  And I also learned that one thousand was not the end of all numbers.  That inspired me to count to two thousand, which I started doing that night.  But I fell asleep well short of my goal.

As Mrs. Bounds took attendance and we raised our hands when our name was called, I noticed that the small flurry of snow I had encountered on my way was growing in intensity.  In fact, it was falling quite hard.

Mrs. Bounds looked out the window and commented, “You know chidren, there are no two snowflakes that have ever fallen that are exactly alike.”  This statement had as much impact on me as learning that one thousand was not the top number.  And I believed Mrs. Bounds because she was originally from Canada where it snowed all the time – or so I believed.  While I was, of course, unfamiliar with the words millions or billions, after all it was third grade, I started thinking about how many snowflakes must have fallen since snow started falling.  And although I couldn’t express that unfathomably large number with a word, my mind reeled as I thought to myself, “That’s probably more snowflakes than there are stars in the sky on a clear night.  Way more.”  I was awestruck.

After one of the  Republican presidential debates, I caught an interview with the Chairperson of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.  I’m not sure if she’s related to the person who invented the Wasserman test to determine if a person is syphilitic, but I’m quite certain that she missed the science class in which she would have learned that standing in a pool of water through which an electric current is flowing is likely to have devestating effects on your coiffure – perhaps even beyond the ability of the finest hair stylist to cure.  If you’ve not already guessed, I’m not a big fan of hers.

Ms. Schultz went on her usual frontal assault about one of the earlier Republican debates, striking what I’m sure to her was the most damning condemnation in her claim that there was “no diversity” among the candidates.  Diversity is a very big talking point for the left.  But I wonder if those who espouse this principle really understand it – or, more importantly, really care about it.

Long before diversity became such a big PC bell ringer, I was introduced to it when I read some literature about how thousands of species were dying off in the South Amerian rainforests every day.  And I already knew that the Dodo and the Passenger Pigeon had gone extinct.  Well, of course, so did the dinosaurs.

But do we really want diversity?

Last year there was a huge brouhaha about those parents who did not want their children to receive a measles vaccination.  Rubella is a virus, as are ebola and polio and smallpox and our now most current virus poster child, zika.  Yet, apparently, humans would be very content if all of these viruses passed into oblivion.  Do they, as part of the ecosystem as much as are elephants and puppy dogs and snail darters and humans not have as much right to exist?  Wouldn’t fighting on behalf of these and other harmful viruses be advocating for diversity?

Several millenia ago, Christianity happened upon the scene.  One of the principles of that faith is that each person is unique and special.  I don’t see how you can get more diverse than uniqueness.  And, finally, science has caught up, confirming what religion has taught for centuries.  The proof of that is, of course, the fact that we now use DNA evidence either to exculpate or convict people of criminal activity – relying on our scientific understanding that each person’s DNA is unique. Who says religion and science can’t get along?

If we proceed from that standpoint of uniqueness, why then do we not view diversity within that framework?  Any crime against any other person should, in today’s context, be considered a hate crime or, at the least a crime against diversity.  That is true irrespective of whether either party is male or female, of the same or different races, whatever their religion and irrespective of sexual orientation – or whatever moniker we concoct further to divide, partition and pigeon hole ourselves.

And while we tend to focus on the negative and express real or imagined outrage when people act disrespectfully towards one another in any of the myriad way we express that, it might be useful to consider how our world might benefit if we actually embraced diversity in its truest sense and demonstrated that in simple acts of kindness or charity or, at the very least, in expressions of common courtesy to everyone we encounter.

The latest flare up in the war for diversity stems from North Carolina’s recently passed law regulating who may use which public facilities including bathrooms, locker rooms and showers.  Opponents of the law claim this will disenfranchise those few citizens who are trans-gendered, restricting them to using those facilities designated male or female and requiring them to use those which correspond to their genital equipment rather than their inner emotional sense of identity.  Proponents claim this will protect people from those who might be sexual predators.

Not meaning to sound dismissive of those who are trans-gendered, people with that condition represent, I suspect, a very small percentage, perhaps less than one percent, of our entire population.  Is it reasonable, by any logic, to inconvenience ninety-nine percent of the population to accommodate such a small minority?  And to ask a question, which I have never heard brought up in the debate, does that small minority have a responsibility to respect the vast majority’s concerns?  Isn’t that, after all, what a democracy is about?

It’s interesting to me that with the furor over this issue, I have heard the loudest voices coming from an amorphous collection of left wing people who themselves are not trans-gendered – but nothing from those who are trans-gendered themselves.  On the one hand I suppose one might look at these righteous crusaders as just that – people pursuing a magnanimous quest on behalf of the downtrodden.  On the other hand, one might argue that they believe the trans-gendered don’t have the verve, perspicacity or capability of speaking for themselves.

It always troubles me when there are those who, under the ageis of pure philosophical conviction, take up a cause and point out the injustices in society which are many and pervasive.  They, of course, are not affected themselves by the presumed inequity as they seek to wipe from the face of the earth any malevolent regulations or behavior.  So I thought to myself, what if we were to find a solution that would accommodate every person and see how that worked?

My solution is simple.  Just allow people of either sex to use whatever restroom facilities are handiest, irrespective of gender.  I suspect that within a week or so the outrage would be so loud that this issue would soon be buried in the footnotes of the annals of history.  But that’s just my opinion.

Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to this coming winter and hoping to catch a glimpse of the unique miracle of the diversity we find in snowflakes.  And, I anticipate just kicking back and chilling out.

Perhaps we might all benefit from that approach to viewing life.

 

 

 

MOTHER KNOWS BEST – SOME THOUGHTS ON THANKSGIVING

It’s so long ago that I don’t remember the exact number but I think I had ten or twelve of them.  They were jigsaw puzzles but not of the type that we find today, cut from cardboard.  The frames were made of wood, perhaps 3/8″ thick.  The pieces were individually hand painted.  Each puzzle had, perhaps, fifteen pieces.  Naturally, they were fairly easy to do.

As a challenge, my parents would empty three or four puzzles at a time, mixing up the pieces.  This proved far more entertaining to me.  I could work on these for hours at a time, swapping in different puzzles and doing the same thing, mixing together four  new puzzles.

But eventually, my interest in doing the puzzles diminished since I had done them so many times.  They were consigned to the little closet in my room.  Their main function was to take up a fair amount of the limited space on the top shelf.

Several years went by and I hadn’t even thought about playing with these puzzles when my mother came in one day and said, “Honey, I was thinking.  You haven’t played with your puzzles for a long time and they’re not doing you or anyone else any good.  Why don’t we take them down to the N. Y. Home for Foundlings and give them to the children who live there?”

I didn’t know it lived within me but as soon as she had spoken those words, I suddenly felt as though the air had been sucked out of my body and one of mankind’s greatest enemies, selfishness, rose up and spoke on my behalf.

“I don’t want to give them away, Mommy.  I’ll play with them again.”  And I walked to the closet, stood on the little step stool and reached for the top puzzle which I promptly emptied on my desk just to prove my point to her.

My mother said, “Okay, dear if that’s the way you feel.”

When she left the room I breathed a sigh of relief.  I had held on to my puzzles and no one was going to take them away from me.  So I completed the puzzle which held no interest for me and returned it to its place in the closet.

No more was said of this as we approached the Thanksgiving holiday.  It was the Saturday before the big day and my mother asked if I would come with her to do some grocery shopping.  I was happy to tag along.

So we stopped at a couple of stores and purchased a few items.  Then we went and took a detour and ended up at the orphanage to which my mother had wanted me to donate my puzzles.  It was a fairly large building, rather grey and bleak both from the outside and, as I was to learn, equally as unspiring inside as well.

When we rang the bell a matronly lady came to the door.  She wore a simple dress and a cardigan sweater and her grey hair was knotted into a large bun at the back of her head.  Her hair reminded me of the yarn with which my mother knitted to make sweaters for the family.  You could have put quite a few of those knitting needles in that bun.

But she was warm and very friendly as my mother introduced herself and we quickly were brought in from the chill and entered the building’s lobby.  Apparently, this lady had been expecting us.  I didn’t know that my mother had called and asked if I might join the children in a “play date”.

I was ushered into the orphanage’s play room where there were seven or eight children involved in a variety of activities.  Several were playing Chutes and Ladders and other board games.  But there was one little boy who was working on a jigsaw puzzle.  I asked if I could join him and he agreed.  His name was Timmy.

So Timmy and I worked together to put the puzzle together.  It was one of those less expensive puzzles with quite a few pieces but made from cardboard.  I remember that the puzzle was of a German Shepherd, standing in a field.  We had almost all of the puzzle finished with only three or four pieces to go when I noticed that there were no more pieces.  That poor German Shepherd had no nose.  So I asked Timmy where the other pieces were.  He told me that they had been lost a long time ago and that we were finished with the puzzle.  I remember feeling bad for that German Shepherd.  How could he smell his dinner?

Timmy and I started on another puzzle.  This one was a picture of a sail boat on a lake.  We had just finished the frame and were starting to work on the insides when my mother came in and told me that we had to leave.  I said goodbye to my new friend and mom and I returned home.

I didn’t sleep well that night.  The thought of that poor noseless German Shepherd kept running through my mind.  And I felt sorry for Timmy and the other kids because they had to work on puzzles with missing pieces.  I remember running into my parents’ room and waking my mother with the urgent news that I had decided to give my puzzles to the kids at the orphanage.  Despite being awakened out of a deep sleep, I remember seeing a few tears well up in my mother’s eyes and she smiled with approval.  “We’ll talk about it in the morning, dear.”

After we returned from church, Grandma prepared a light lunch.  It was just enough to keep our stomachs from growling but not so much as to spoil the large Sunday dinner that she always made.  And when we had finished, mom asked if I would like to help her pack up the puzzles as dad was going to have to drive us over to the orphanage as they were too heavy to carry.

I got on the step stool and started handing them down to her.  She had gotten two cardboard boxes to put them in.  I remember looking at them somewhat wistfully, knowing that I would never see these old friends again.  Maybe I had made the wrong decision in giving them away.  But then I thought of Timmy and the other kids and the German Shepherd who had no nose and those thoughts vanished from  my thinking.

Dad picked up the two boxes and we headed toward the elevator.  When we got to the ground floor he put them on the floor and went to get the car which was parked several blocks away as mom and I guarded this bit of treasure.  When he returned, he left the car running, grabbed the boxes and the three of us headed to the orphanage.

We were lucky to find a space right outside the building.  Dad turned off the car’s engine, grabbed the two boxes and the three of us walked to the entrance.  I remember ringing the bell.

The same nice lady whom I had met the day before, greeted us and invited us inside.  She quickly led us to the game room and dad found a desk on which to place the two cartons of puzzles.  Timmy and several of the other kids who I saw the previous day were there.

“Timmy, I brought you some new puzzles.”

Timmy came over and eagerly started looking through the first box.  He reached in and pulled out one of them.  It was a silly puzzle, a duck riding a bicycle.

“Wow, these are neat!  And I’ll bet we won’t lose these pieces, they’re so big and heavy.”

It gave me a warm feeling to see the joy in his face.  And I was sure that would be shared by many of the other kids as they played with what once had been my very own jigsaw puzzles.

Despite the turmoil in which we find our world today, there is still reason to be grateful at Thanksgiving.  It goes beyond a day filled with football and a meal replete with over eating.  It comes down to something far simpler and yet far more profound.

We are fortunate that despite the tumult which wells around us, there are still people who are willing to show charity to strangers for no reason other than it gives them a warm feeling inside.  And if we ever lose that, we are much like that jigsaw puzzle that is missing a piece or two, the pieces that comprise the finest part of the human spirit.

Have a joyous Thanksgiving.

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