Monday, September 25, 2017

The Fishing Expedition

Mr. Trump has diverted our attention once again.  No matter how many times he does it, we seem to fall for it.  On Friday, he baits the hook with a juicy morsel (kneeling during the national anthem  “disrespects our flag”) and we all nibble and then take the bait, hook, line, and sinker.  Like any skilled fisherman he re-baits the hook with  “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he's fired. He's fired!” Ah! it is time to resort to rough language, vulgar language, some folks like a president like that (few of the fish pick up on the racial undertone in that foul language).  We no longer nibble at that bait now, we strike at that new bait (according to our particular view).  The hook is baited again, “For a week (that owner would) be the most popular person in this country.  Because (kneeling during the national anthem) that’s a total disrespect of our heritage.  That’s a total disrespect for everything we stand for.”  Now the bait is fortified with protein (red meat)—not only is kneeling during the national anthem disrespectful of flag and country, but now a “total disrespect of our heritage…of everything we stand for.”  We strike at that red meat bait—and swallow hook, line and sinker.  

The fishing expedition goes on all through the weekend via Twitter with other choice morsels to create a feeding frenzy.  “Courageous patriots have fought and died for our great American Flag—we must honor and respect it.  Make America Great Again.”  Now he provides bait for veterans and military members, even first-responders.  He has caught a lot of fish, some big, some small:  NFL owners and players in London and across the nation, NASCAR folk, the media pundits, the sports commentators, sports fans, veterans, our neighbors, friends and family—and me.  He has caught all of us in one way or another.

Now that we have all taken the bait (each in our own way) and swallowed it hook, line and sinker, Mr. Trump tweets this morning:  “The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race…”  What?   Who initiated the kneeling?  What bait, what hook, what line, and what sinker are we swallowing?

Caught!  on a Greek Isle

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Sunday Morning Distraction

“Monday Night Football” is one thing, but Sunday Morning Football is quite another. It will be the first time ever that I have watched a football game on a Sunday morning.  The Baltimore Ravens are in London.  They are playing the Jaguars at 2:30 p.m. London time, which translates to 9:30 a.m. here in Maryland.  Sports bars are opening their doors early in Baltimore and other places to give Ravens fans the opportunity to gather and watch the game on the big screen.  

I’ve never been a big sports fan.  I never participated in sports during high school or college days.  I never watched a Super Bowl game until my youngest son insisted, some 30 years ago, that we have a Super Bowl party like all the rest of his friends.   Since then I have watched the Super Bowl annually (and some times the World Series), but seldom any of the games preceding those annual events.  In the last several years, however, under the influence of my children, grandchildren, and friends, I have taken on watching football games, especially those of the Baltimore Ravens.  Last Sunday, for example, I watched the Ravens game from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and then watched the Bronco’s defeat the Dallas Cowboys.  That amounted to almost seven to eight hours of sitting on my duff (though I do get up and move about during commercials and half-time, and often I have a book in hand while watching the games).  

This new development in my lifestyle is a conundrum (a confusing and difficult problem).  You see, I think football is a distraction, like the gladiator games held in ancient Rome’s colosseum were a distraction.  Those ancient games were merciless and played to the death.  Those games were held to keep people from dealing with the real issues of their time, just as modern sports keep us distracted from the real issues of our time.  People get hurt playing football, seriously hurt, and here I am watching the spectacle and enjoying it!  I’ve always been a critic of those “crazy fans” who are willing to sit in the rain, snow, sleet, and cold and watch people get hurt in the great colosseums we have built, often with tax-payer money that could have been used to renew our inner cities.  I’ve also been critical about the high salaries paid to those who play professional sports and the money spent to promote such distractions.  Yet, here I am about to watch the Ravens play the Jaguars in London at 9:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning!   I guess Hamlet was right—or perhaps I should say, Shakespeare had it right.

Grandson Nick and his Mom

Saturday, September 23, 2017


In my reading yesterday I came across another word, seldom used these days, but practiced often, that caught my fancy.  The word is “loquacity” and it simply means “the quality of being wordy and talkative.”  Synonyms for this word include:  chattiness, effusiveness, gabbling, babbling, and chattering. Loquacious people are talkers.  While there is a time to speak and a time to keep silence, these talkers seem never to have observed the latter part of this wise saying. Talkers generally talk whether they have anything to say or not.  They just have a natural inclination to talk incessantly.  Their loquacity is usually only an exercise of their tongue without any use of their other faculties (like listening, for example). 

Some cable news networks have loquacious personalities—they talk even when others are trying to talk.  Have you observed this?  It seems that they are interested in only what they have to say about any matter, and that the other persons are with them only to be entertained by their loquacity.  This thwarts any possibility for real dialogue or conversation.  No one else can “get a word in edgewise.”  When the loquacity disease reaches this stage it becomes a form of “bullying.”  

"Bullying is a distinctive pattern of harming and humiliating others, specifically those who are in some way smaller, weaker, younger or in any way more vulnerable than the bully…( or unable to get a word in edgewise).” Subverting the voice of another by one’s loquacity, creating a situation that avoids all other  human faculties but the tongue of the loquacious, and which prevents talk about the cares and sorrows of life that another may be passing through is a sad thing. 

The Joshua Tree

Friday, September 22, 2017


In my morning pondering of things as they are, things as I’d like them to be, things as they ought to be,  things that irk my soul, things that wrench my heart, things that rankle in my mind, things that make me cry—all sorts of things come into play.  Sometimes the “thing” is a political or social thing, sometimes it is a religious “thing.”  A “thing” is “an object,” in my case, a subject, “that one need not, cannot, or does not wish to give a specific name to.”  Or, a “thing” might be “an action, activity, event, thought (as it is in my case) or utterance.”  

Sometimes the “thing” that comes to my mind is a single word that I may have seen in a book or heard somewhere.  My thing this morning is the word, disparity.  Disparity means “the condition or fact of being unequal, as in age, rank, or degree—difference.”  Synonyms for disparity include words like discrepancy, inconsistency, imbalance, dissimilarity, contrast, inequality—difference.

There are many disparities.  There are racial, economic, gender, age, civil, health and political disparities.  There are disparities everywhere!  Why, there are even disparities between you and me!  The word covers a lot of territory and speaking of “territory” I wonder if there are disparities between Puerto Rico and the states of Texas or Florida.  Of course there are disparities—and one of my “things” this morning is whether a “territory” will be cared for in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria as equally as a “state.”

Along those same lines, I wonder about the disparities of the “have’s and the have not’s” in  Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Puerto Rico and even St. Thomas.  I suspect the tourist sites of St. Thomas will be restored quickly so that the cruise ships have some place to go.  I doubt that the other areas of the island will be restored that quickly, if at all.  The disparity is apparent.

Disparity is a big, big word—it covers a lot of territory.  It is my “thing” of the morning and it will probably engage my thinking throughout the day.

So many people came before us.
So many will come after us.
Will we give them a place?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Only Yesterday

In 1931 (two years after the 1929 crash), Frederick Lewis Allen, wrote a book entitled,  Only Yesterday. The book is an informal history of the eleven years between the end of World War I with Germany (November 11, 1918) and the stock-market panic (November 13, 1929) which ended the years known as Coolidge (and Hoover) prosperity.  I first read the book as a high school student and have read it a number of times since, which is evident from the book’s present unsightly condition.   I would urge everyone to read the book (still in print and available) because I believe Allen’s Only Yesterday of the twentieth century, bespeaks of our “Only Yesterday” in the twenty-first.

James Howard Kunstler wrote, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.”  Any person reading  Only Yesterday will find a lot of “rhyming” between the stories of “then and now.”  The decade of the twenties was caught up in a blind faith in the power of capital (money, deals, and business) and American prosperity.  It was an era of “America First.”  Weary of foreign entanglements (World War I) the American people turned a deaf ear to Woodrow Wilson’s plea for the League of Nations.  They were caught up in radical conspiracy theories that they believed threatened the government and the institutions of the United States (The Red Revolution, foreigners, and Labor Unions).  Making the world safe for democracy was not on their agenda.  They only wanted to make America safe for themselves.  Sound familiar?

Allen wrote, “It was an era of disorderly defense of law and order, of unconstitutional defense of the Constitution, of suspicion and civil conflict—in a very literal sense, a reign of terror.”  Under the war-time Sedition Act, aliens (who were thought to be anarchists, “sinister and subversive agitators” or as it is today, “rapists, murderers, etc.”) were rounded up for wholesale deportation. The Ku-Klux Klan blossomed into power in that twentieth century yesterday, fueled by the various conspiracies and were seen as defenders of the white against the black, of Gentile against Jew, and of Protestant against Catholic.  This all happened only yesterday (1918-1929).  It rhymes with our todays that quickly turn into twenty-first century Only Yesterday.   

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A Voice Crying In The Wilderness

The Christian community’s task (when at its best, which hasn’t been very often in the course of history)  is to work toward “the fulfillment of humanity in society.”  This implies that one rises above the narrow confines of individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.  It means geographical togetherness.  It means that no individual and no nation can live alone. Modern transportation has dwarfed the distance that once separated us. This new closeness, along with the new world of the internet and the satellite make international communication readily available and draws us together into one neighborhood.  The Christian faith, when authentic and true to the teachings of Jesus, would have this new neighborhood  become a community—one family—one people—a global village.  I am convinced, as a Christian, that this is what Jesus meant when he urged his followers to enter into the new kingdom—the new age.  It doesn’t mean that the leopard change his spots or the Ethiopian the color of his skin and become something other than a leopard or an Ethiopian.  This new age doesn’t mean everyone becomes a “Christian,” for Jesus stresses the fact that he has other sheep not of this fold.”  The great gift of democracy (rather than theocracy, despotism, dictatorship, monarchy and totalitarian) is that it recognizes differences and provides equal freedom for each and every person in the pursuit of happiness.

Yesterday, President Trump’s address to the United Nations General Assembly was antithetical to the ideas and the ideals of the UN, founded in 1945.  It was also starkly antithetical to the Christian faith and its task to work toward “the fulfillment of humanity in society.”  It was antithetical to the basic tenets of our American way of life.  When Mr. Trump spoke of “uncontrolled migration” (“suggesting that the best place for refugees is anywhere but in the USA”) he dehumanized refugees (human beings) and violated the words of our forefathers who framed the Constitution he has sworn to uphold and protect that “All Are Created Equal.”  Denigrating human beings seems to be his forte.. When he boasted that his main concern was America’s national sovereignty and would be respectful of the sovereignty of all other nations, and then threatened other sovereign nations (if they did not do what he wanted them to do) with annihilation, he not only contradicted his own principle of the sovereignty of each nation,  but the very reason the United Nations was formed in the first place.  Not once in his speech did the president mention Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election or its usurpation of Ukraine.  The president’s bombastic and bellicose speech is being praised by his supporters, but I would dare to suggest that such a stance (demonstrated by Mr. Trump throughout his campaign and into his presidency) is also antithetical to the Christian way.  

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Doublespeak & Overtalk

I chose not to watch the 2017 Creative Arts Emmy Awards program this past Sunday evening. However, I could not avoid hearing about Sean Spicer showing up, because it headlined the national news and went viral on social media.  I didn’t find Spicer’s performance funny.  Who can forget Spicer’s  performance at the first press conference on the day after the Inauguration?  I can’t.  In that five minute press conference he arrogantly lied (in spite of the photographs) about the size of the inauguration crowd, attacked reporters and the freedom of the press, and trampled the First Amendment.  That wasn’t funny. It was despicable.  And I might add, that Spicer’s press conferences following that first one were far from comical.  Kellyanne Conway, however, thought Spicer brought a sense of humor to the otherwise (in her opinion)—politicized Emmy program—but she did not find Stephen Colbert and others humorous because they were insulting “our leader.”

I did not find it funny that Mr. Trump as the President of the United States of America should re-tweet the video of a fan’s GIF that showed Mr. Trump golfing and the ball striking Hillary Clinton, which has also been aired by the media umpteen times since it was tweeted this past Sunday morning (the same day as the Emmy Award program).  The NY Times reported, “The tweet stoked outrage online, generating more than 11,000 replies, many of which condemned the president’s promotion of violent imagery toward Mrs. Clinton…But it was also celebrated by Trump supporters, who admonished “crooked Hillary” and accused Mr. Trump’s critics of lacking a sense of humor.”

Kellyanne Conway took to the media on Monday to criticize the anti-Trump innuendos made during the Emmy Awards saying, “You are showing the world that you’re so easy with an insult about our leader. I think that’s really unfortunate,” while ignoring “our leader’s” Birther Movement insults about the former president and “our leader’s” continued insults and personal assaults upon others.  

George Orwell coined the word “double-speak” in his book, 1984, using it  in the phrase, “war is peace.”  Doublespeak “is language that deliberately obscures, disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words—it disguises  the nature of truth.” It seems to me that we are presently getting a lot of “doublespeak” from all quarters.  Sean Spicer is funny; Stephen Colbert is not funny.  A fake video showing the president hitting a former First Lady with a golf ball is humorous, but any jibe directed at the president is not humorous.  I do not find “doublespeak” funny from either side!

Be careful, we are traveling a difficult road.