The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 79: That Which Hangs Heavy

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August 18, 2020-

The air before a thunderstorm tends to sit, held in place by an almost perverse high pressure system, of anti-gravity. Eventually, as the sun’s influence wanes and evening draws near, the barometric pressure often falls, and the moisture being artificially held in abeyance will be released.

The same is true in human affairs. Those who thrive on artifice, and control of the masses, have gone to great lengths to devise systems by which this control may be monitored, adjusted and synthesized, so as to fit the ever-changing state of affairs, which seems to elude their initial grasp.

There is an old joke about the Brass Ring, that it is thinly coated with brass and is in fact largely iron. It comes with a magnet, carefully placed above it, which unseen manipulators swiftly lower, grabbing the ring and raising it up, away from the longing hands of the underdog. It’s a variation of “You can’t beat the system”, “Murphy’s Law”, “Business as usual is the only business that counts”, “Corporations are people, too”, “You can’t always get what you want”-and so on.

There are a couple of other truisms at play here: First, patience is a virtue. The young, and those who have waited forever for their just desserts, are understandably short on patience. We see this in the outbursts that initially came after the deaths of George Floyd and Brianna Taylor. We see it in the outbursts that continue, seemingly without purpose or direction, in cities like Portland and Seattle. We see it in the outbursts that DO have purpose, in Beirut and Belarus. Patience is a virtue, but so is purposeful, constructive action. The trick is in knowing when to turn off the patience and turn up the heat-without unintentionally scalding or singeing innocent bystanders.

Secondly, those whose purpose lies in control of others are not going to lie down and play dead-ever. The Far Right has been masterful at playing Donald Trump’s ego, and his insecurity, like a fiddle. It has been ingenious at drawing in the fanciful minds of the New Age community, the orderly, obedient and heartfelt members of the Fundamentalist Christian and Orthodox (as well as Conservative) Jewish communities and the business-minded, obedience-oriented legal immigrants from Asia and Latin America. It has an End Game, summed up by “He who has the gold, makes the rules”. It foresees an America divided into palaces and favelas. It envisions a gradual elimination of those who deviate from what it defines as the norm. It will play the Master Race card.

The Far Left, no less authoritarian than its identified opposite number, has mastered the Game of Shrillness: It has capitalized on the lingering fears of Nazism and Fascism, which are ever-present among both those whose lives are well-ahead of them and those whose best years are behind them. It has owned the Megaphone, snatching that device away from White Supremacy, while being careful not to give it up, too much, to Black Lives Matter. It has dangled the nebulous term “Antifa”, in front of people whose own mantra is “Just let me go to work, come home and enjoy my family.” The idea is to cow people into submission, by shouting: “What are you, a bunch of Neanderthals?”, to anyone not toeing the line of its agenda. Its End Game is that-It has no End Game, except perhaps that same, pesky, Master Race card, which will be face up-should more people buy into the false dichotomy between the lives of children and the rights of women, the concept that ridding mankind of the congenitally-disabled is a key to a healthy community, or the equally false notion that religion cannot co-exist with free will.

Time hangs heavy-just like precipitation that is stuck inside a cloud.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 75: Three Tyrannies

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August 14, 2020-

When I was around thirty-one, I learned to play chess, by watching two chess masters teaching a group of Dineh boys, in the school where I worked and in the neighbouring junior high school.

Chess is a game of high presence and stealth. Many times, a player becomes absorbed in own feelings of cleverness and innovation, until the more present opponent makes the winning gambit, and announces “Checkmate!”. Chess can morph into Covert External Tyranny.

There are, essentially, three forms of tyranny: Overt External, Covert External and Self-Imposed.

Overt External is most often aimed at transforming the person subjected to the trials. It is never intended to permanently disempower its target subject. Basic and advanced military training; team coaching-in fact, any sort of “Boot Camp”, headed by a hard-nosed, but self-effacing, task master, exemplifies Overt External Tyranny. It occurs for a specified period of time, has specific performance goals, and once these are regarded as having been met, the subject is congratulated, the tyranny lifts and all participants come to know one another on a more equal level. A variation on this is SOMETIMES shown by our current President-hardly a self-effacing man, at least on the surface, but one who does, privately, give credit to those who have taken, and met, a challenge he has thrown out. The peace agreement between the State of Israel and the United Arab Emirates is an example of this.

Covert External Tyranny is illustrated by the common method of preparing crustaceans for food. The animal is placed in a pot of cold water, under which a flame is then lit. The water slowly heats, and the animal, being sensitized to the rising temperature, shows no distress. Once the water is heated to a point that no longer sustains life, the animal’s awareness is negated. It loses consciousness, it is boiled to the point where its flesh is safe to eat and the tyranny, in this individual case, comes to an end, only to be replicated, thousands of times over, with different crustaceans.

In the human world, a budding Covert Tyrant will study the target population. The interactions, mindsets and approaches to new ideas, of those intended to be subjugated, will be closely watched and a plan of action will be gradually devised. The Covert Tyrant will appear on the scene as a friend of the people, who will call attention to real and imagined difficulties they have faced. S(he) will then suggest ways to solve these problems, which look great, at first blush. A critical mass of the target group will be elated, extol the virtues of the newly arrived saviour.

The deception has thus started to embed itself, and ere long, as the people give up more and more of their prerogatives and freedoms to the Covert Tyrant, and regime, the rules and the penalties for non-compliance become more stringent. Before long, the tyrant and successors have cowed the populace, and the true intention, usually to enrich themselves, at the expense of the populace, and in perpetuity, is revealed. It is the boiling water, but the semi-conscious victims barely take notice. To those few who do raise a protest, the tyrant responds either with brute force or by disparaging the critics, rendering them as pariahs to the wider community. The current President has followed this pattern, as well. It is my view, though, that he is not the prime mover of the stealthy oppression. He is a bit player. Those who are really working behind the scenes have done their homework, have carefully worked, at state and local levels-and in the judiciary, where lifetime appointments are not easily abrogated by the voting public.

I have mentioned a right-wing claque, led currently by Charles Koch, in previous posts. They are seemingly opposed by an opposite, but more loosely-organized, oligarchy. Both, however, seek the disempowerment of the common man, with a view towards dominance towards their own ends-whether personal power and comfort for an elite, as defined by themselves or for the dispiriting of the masses, who will then grovel and serve without complaint. The enslavement of Africans and certain others, from the 17th-19th Centuries, is a prime example of the latter. Low wage employment and human trafficking, in the 20th Century and presently, are examples of the former.

These are made possible by the third form of tyranny: Self-imposed. Every human being has a modicum of desire to please those close to self: Child to parent and, sometimes, the reverse; spouse to spouse; worker to supervisor, or both, to employer; citizen to public official, and again, sometimes in reverse; friend to friend.

An imbalance in this desire, often sparked by low self-esteem, can lead to tyranny towards self. I have browbeaten myself, on occasion, for not having pleased a person whom I had held up as either a real or imagined authority figure. I wanted to please my parents, close relatives, those bosses for whom I’ve had genuine respect, my driving instructor-back in high school, my late wife. It was only when I learned to love and accept myself, within my own space, that this tyranny became unnecessary, and faded away.

There is much that we could discuss further, along these lines. I am still resistant to uninvited critics, who seek to impose their will-either overtly or covertly. Only by examining their motives from a safe distance does that change my response.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 14: By Definition

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June 14,2020-

Today is Flag Day, when Americans pay respect to our national symbol of unity. It is Race Unity Day, when we, around the world, can honour and commit to following the practical aspects of achieving unity. It is, finally, the birthday of U.S.President Donald Trump. I give him that, and hope he has had a peaceful day of reflection and family time.

Having had a meaningful devotional and discussion, earlier this morning, on the Oneness of Mankind, and having watched a lovely two-hour presentation on Race Unity, I wish to consider how we might determine: What defines a person?

Does colour of skin define? It has certainly brought into being a unique culture, in a good many cases, over time. Is that not, however, largely because of segregation, as well the particulars of the place where people have found themselves? There are, however, people of every skin tone who do not adhere to the popular perception of the characteristics of their “racial ” group. Are they less than those who do fit that perception?

Does one’s sex define? There has been a dichotomy of roles, since the human race’s hunter-gatherer cultures. Men hunted,and women tended the home. There have, throughout history, been women who hunted and men who tended the hearth. Are either of these less than those who fit the mould?

Does one’s job define him/her? What about refinement/coarseness of speech? Is where someone lives a determinant? How about his/her philosophy of life/voting record? Is the chosen Faith, or lack thereof, a factor? Is openness, or secrecy, a defining moment?

The truth is, it is all of these, taken together, and none of them, taken alone or in a piecemeal group. Skin tone, in and of itself, means nothing. Every shade of melanin is beautiful. Cultural background is a baseline for expressing personality, in a good many cases. For others, it is a baseline of struggle for self-acceptance. Sex, and its legal offshoot, gender, are not a defining factor, in terms of what a person is capable of achieving. One’s job determines several things-financial status, time spent working/at leisure, and sometimes,neighbourhood. Philosophy and political stance may affect how one sees the roles of government and social institutions in personal and community life.

There are plenty of White progressives and conservative People of Colour. There are open-minded people, in every point on the political spectrum and there are, similarly, dogmatic people alongside them. There are loving souls in every religion and creed, and there are their doctrinaire fellows in faith. There are both loving and hard-nosed men and women, alike.

What defines me, is my totality-and that is always subject to change. What defines you, is likewise. None of us can control the other. It is the illusion of control that has allowed stereotyping, fear and the sense of “other” to take such deep root and to wreak such havoc.

A blessed Race Unity Day and Flag Day to all.

I

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 8: Persuasion and Fake Rain

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June 8, 2020-

Today was a good day. I got to visit Raven Cafe, and while I wore a mask into the establishment, and while ordering and paying afterwards, I found the al fresco dining experience both comforting and free of any worries about COVID19. The young ladies who work there, like all those I encounter during this Twilight Zone of a year, are worthy of no less than the utmost care that each of us who patronize the place can muster.

I finally have restored all the photos that I eliminated from my 2012 posts, whilst still in the limited storage space of Word Press’s free account. Writing means more to me now, so maintaining a Pro Account, with its unlimited storage, has made such restoration possible-and with better quality versions of the older photographs.

Now, to the title subject. As is my wont, I have engaged in reading and listening to both sides, or all sides actually, of the various debates on both COVID19 and the episodes of violence towards individuals, the vast majority of whom have been African-American. I have engaged, as well, in discourse with people who bring up seemingly minor details of these matters, both by way of expressing their concern with the matters at hand and by way of denying such problems exist. There are also those who don’t want to hear what is being said, and interject-sometimes, but not always, with pejoratives and catcalling.

Into this cacophony, have come Black Conservatives-loudly, almost tearfully, denying there is systemic racism extant in this country. The “you low life cousins of mine are bringing it on yourselves” take on the issues MAY have SOME ring of truth, in SOME situations. What it tells me, more immediately, is that these are people who have either lived more comfortable lives than many others of their skin tone or they are just hard-wired to tough out life, without thinking much of misfortunes.

I have never had to endure the day-to-day ignominies faced by, say, Appalachian whites, or trailer dwellers who work day labour, in many small cities and towns across the continent. That doesn’t mean I look down on them. I am hard-wired to tough out misfortunes, but those who aren’t, are deserving of a leg up, along with encouragement to build up their emotional immunity, so that life is not an endless cycle of tears and self-loathing,

On the edges of the cacophony, and often in the middle of it, stands our nation’s 45th President. I have to say this- I do not think he is a well man. I don’t think he’s an evil man, but he is not acting like a well person. It would be far better for all concerned, if he were to step aside, preferably at the end of his current term, as our nation’s 36th President did. Lyndon Johnson was also not well, and did what he could to save himself and the country.

If the voters of this nation want to stay the course of conservatism, there are plenty of others, men and women, who could take the reins. If, as current polls indicate, the electorate is shifting leftward, there are plenty of competent men and women who could serve, from that political stance, as well. (I am far from sold on the current presumptive alternative to Mr. Trump).

The cacophony, however, is unlikely to let up until a critical mass of one end of the spectrum either sees, or experiences, the legitimate concerns of the other. There is far too much urination, to put it indelicately, that is being sold the public as “rain”. Only independent investigation of truth can bring this to an end.

The Summer of Rising Tides, Day 1: Whose Law, Whose Order?

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June 1, 2020

The summer of 2020 doesn’t begin, astronomically, for anothe rthree weeks. From today until Labor Day, though, I will be entitling posts as part of a series, The Summer of Rising Tides. Coronavirusdisease-2019, and the racially and politically-sparked violence in our nation will be the initial foci of this series, as they are the immediate backdrop.

The situation is, as most are aware, extremely fluid-with fearful people across the political spectrum trying their best to show respect towards the Floyd family and many still making a concerted effort, within the bounds of their own sensibilities, to not spread the novel Coronoavirus.

There are those who view President Trump as the sole bulwark against a feared dictatorship, by a little known philanthropist named George Soros, who is nearly 90 years old and is of questionable mental stability. I personally don’t think Dr. Soros has a chance in H*** of taking charge of the country, or of even functioning as the “power behind the throne” , in a potential Biden Administration. His most powerful days, such as they were, are behind him-fortune or no fortune. Most of the fears people have expressed to me are the result of his occasional pronouncements that he sees himself as “a kind of God”.

Others fear a second Trump administration. The president may have added gasoline to that fire, by stating, “The looting starts, the shooting starts” and “I am your Law and Order President”. A rumour had even made its way out here that there was nationwide curfew, starting at 7 P.M. (EDT). That curfew has been established, but only for the District of Columbia, and it was announced by the Mayor of Washington, not by Mr. Trump.

Here in Arizona, we do have a statewide curfew, for everywhere except the Navajo Nation, which has its own sets of restrictions, themselves stemming from efforts to control COVID-19. The statewide curfew is essentially from 8 P.M.-5 A.M., until Monday, June 8. There are exceptions for those who are working or who are taking care of elderly relatives. The statewide curfew is a response to rioting in the Phoenix area, on Saturday night, into Sunday morning.

I am old enough to know that none of the above-mentioned events will play out as anticipated, or as feared. If Mr. Trump is re-elected, he is most likely going to adhere to our Constitution. If Mr. Biden is elected, Mr. Trump will likely complain, long and loud, will leave office and become an even louder voice of the opposition. As for Dr. Soros, he would be likely imprisoned, if he tried to assert power in this country. His comment, that he could gain power by getting the Black people on his side, because they “are easiest to manipulate”, has already sealed his failure.

This will not, however, be an easy three months. We will need to strive, mightily, to bridge our gaps, recognizing, at long last, that we all bleed the same. Stay tuned, and stay safe.

The Ongoing Story

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February 4, 2020-

As is my wont, I watched the State of the Union Address, and part of the “opposition response”.  I paid close attention to what was said, to the enthusiasm of the speakers’ supporters and to the reactions of the speakers’ critics.

President Trump’s speech was fairly good on specifics, with regard to what he considers his administration’s accomplishments and bullish on what he sees ahead-should he be re-elected.  There were fine moments: Carl and Marsha Mueller, from Prescott, honoured in the sacrifice of their daughter to the IS mayhem; Rush Limbaugh, with whom I often disagree, but who has been generous to the people of the Midwest and who is now in the fight of his life, against cancer, receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom; the mother and children from North Carolina, re-united with their soldier husband and father; the young man from here in Arizona, honoured for his interest in space exploration, alongside his great grandfather, a Tuskegee Airman,  who himself was promoted to Brigadier General, earlier in the day.  General McGee is 100 years of age.

There was also the hubris, which has been associated with this President, but has also been expressed by several of his predecessors, in their own detailing of accomplishments.  In the end, though, Donald Trump shared a thought with which few can realistically argue:  “America’s best days are yet to come.”  In truth, mankind’s best days are yet to come.

Both speakers, (Governor Whitmer, of Michigan, being the respondent), appealed to our sense of history and to a semblance of decency.  Both expressed pride and confidence in the ability of our nation’s youth.  Both faced rudeness from opponents, and ebullience from supporters.  More’s the pity.

Our best days are yet to come.  This will happen, when we stop seeing our leaders as mere extensions of ourselves; indeed, when we stop seeing other people as mere extensions of ourselves, in terms of what we think they should think, say and do.  When the dreams of each person become worthy of consideration, when they are validated in their goodness, when they are challenged and lovingly corrected in their elements of error or destructiveness, then will Humanity realize its true greatness.  When we truly learn to listen to each other, to link arms and celebrate one another’s humanity, then will our nation,  and our planet, begin to truly shine.

Our best days are yet to come.

On Unity

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December 16, 2019-

The subjects of who is responsible and of how much should we, as a human race, be working together, have resurfaced, in response to TIME’s selection of its 2019 Person of the Year.   I have discussed that particular matter, in an earlier post, and so will not belabour the point.

Conservatives are incensed that seemingly irresponsible progressives are in the ascendancy, with regard to environmental matters.  Those on the Left, likewise, regard ANY involvement by large business interests and nationalist groups, in the environmental movement, as suspect.

The facts, as always, paint a more complex picture.  A politically conservative team, led by Scott Presler, has made its way around the United States, cleaning up mounds of trash and debris in places like Newark,Baltimore, Los Angeles and Chicago.  One of the most reliable environmental disaster response teams on the planet is Team Rubicon,  made up largely of political conservatives, who also happen to have a solid combination of heart and disaster recovery expertise.   I have been part of a local group, here in Prescott, who cleaned up an abandoned homeless people’s camp, in early Fall of this year.  While they didn’t appreciate my political views, they did appreciate the help.

There are no shortage of people on the Left who help clean up the detritus, as well.  Indeed, Team Rubicon and Mr. Presler’s group hardly conduct political litmus tests of their volunteers.  Politics, simply put, should not be a distraction.  In the end, the Creator put us all here and we all have to live with what is.

There are as many ways to face our planet’s changing climate-which is a cycle, and no more a myth than the cycle which eliminated so much life during the Cambrian and Cretaceous Periods.  Mankind will not be eliminated by this cycle.  We do, however, have the responsibility of stewardship for our world, and there as many ways to respond to the challenge, as there are points of view.  All are needed here.

Two responses that will not accomplish what is needed are: 1. Doing nothing and 2. Throwing money, willy-nilly, at the events. Indeed, the controversial Ms. Thunberg has herself cautioned against a Green New Deal, in the sense that rushing into responding may cause more harm than good.  Plans must be made, and they need to consider as many possible outcomes in advance as is humanly possible.  Conservatives, with their command of Outcomes-based Models, can help greatly in this regard.  Progressives, with their commitment to social justice, can provide the psychological and emotional heft, as well as a fair share of intellectual awareness, to the process.

We can, moreover, do without the divisive extremism-that, “if THOSE people are involved, then count me out. ”   I would have strongly advised Greta Thunberg to so sit down with President Trump (or any other critic she may encounter) and explain her views, as clearly as possible, whilst giving him an opportunity to explain his, in a coherent manner. Neither of them are responsible for the other’s reaction, so it does not strike me as a fool’s errand.  For my part, I do not approach my own critics with anything less than dignified respect.

Unity requires no less.

 

It Has Come To This

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November 11, 2016, Prescott-  I had an exemplary Veteran’s Day.  Marching with a small group of humanitarians, known as Yavapai County Angels, I helped to send the message that, as I wrote yesterday, conservatives are not monsters and reaching out to those in need is a universal calling.

At a lunch afterward, the vocal women in our group excoriated anyone whose politics were not in line with the most ultraconservative viewpoint.   Yet, in the next breath, they extolled the estimable Dr. Ben Carson- hardly a dead ringer for Attila the Hun.  This tells me that Tea Party members are as fearful and confused as their “opposite numbers”, who have spent the past few days protesting and causing moderate mayhem, in several cities, large and small, from Flagstaff, AZ and Portland, to Dublin and Tokyo.

In my humble view, Donald  J.Trump, Sr. has 180 days to establish that he has a keen sense of right and wrong, and the ability to rein in both his own impulses and those of the most vulgar among us.  Barack Obama had to coach his own Vice President to not use profanity in any situation where words could POSSIBLY be overheard, then or later, by impressionable children.  Mr. Trump’s position may be somewhat reversed- it may fall to the devout Michael Pence to coach his boss, in the finer points of the Lord’s English.

Then, there is policy- and law.  My table mates want to see the recently ousted sheriff of Maricopa County, Joe Arpaio, as Secretary of Homeland Security.  I do not, if only for the simple reason that the stress would likely kill the man- he is 84.  There are more cogent reasons why I would not be in favour of such an appointment- but why quibble?  Suffice it to say, wanting to see people in high office, just because those people are loud and agree with one’s fear-based thinking, is exactly what gets nations in dire trouble.  Those on the Left need to remember this, just as much as those on the Right.

I want to see a Million Woman March take place- not to stop the inauguration of Mr. Trump, but to inform it, nonviolently, civilly and clearly.  It has come to this:  We are an organic whole.  The right hand cannot slap, stab, pester, annoy or bullyrag the left hand- or vice versa.

Aloneness at the Top

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August 23, 2016, Prescott- It’s time to take a break from the day-to-day, and think about our leaders, or those who purport to be such.  In a conversation this afternoon, the three of us noted that the school principal has an intense burden, not going out among the staff as often as people seem to want.  When she has shown up, her demeanor is pleasant enough, though the message I get is “Don’t make my work any harder, please.”

I remember having the sense, particularly in my first principalship, of being very much without friends.  My wife was forty miles away, at another school and son was only 10, and trying to juggle going back and forth between two schools, so as not to miss either of us too much.  The staff at my school was cordial, but after work, I went home to the dreariness of DirecTV and a diet of VH1.  The community, egged on by a local racist, was rather on the hostile side.

I reflected on these notions this afternoon, whilst listening to the author of a new book on Donald Trump.  He views his subject as pretty much a loner- a gladhander, yes, but one who tends to prefer his own company- outside of the work day.  Hillary Clinton seems equally a duck out of water, when in the company of strangers, after a certain amount of time.  Barack Obama is engrossed in his family unit, and the company of a small circle of friends.  Indeed, we have to go back to Bill Clinton to see a leader who relishes the crowd, and before him, all the way to John F. Kennedy.

I feel for our leaders, whether local or national.  The late Shah of Iran once remarked, in an interview with the journalist Oriana Fallaci, that, were he to have it all to do over again, he would want to be anything other than a king.  The crush upon a mere mortal has to be both deafening and suffocating.  Most people appreciate, and expect, a leader who will put him/herself aside, as it were, and rush to the side of the suffering.  Many, from George Washington on, wished to do just that- until, in modern times, the combination of security concerns, open calls for harm to be done to said leader, and the seeming ingratitude of some local communities, have led to a pullback by the Comforter-in-Chief, as we have seen in the second Obama term.

Could it be that we, the people, need to reassess our attitudes towards those whom we elect to manage our civic affairs?