May 22, 2023- Wagging her finger at me, the perturbed woman growled: “Conservative is the only way!” She was at least communicative; her husband grumbled and walked off, cutting me off in mid-sentence. All this, because I was not of the same opinion about a relatively small issue, which I’ve actually already forgotten.

Labels are actually becoming increasingly irrelevant. Even Donald Trump has a strategy for re-election that involves a No Labels Party. Every one of us has aspects of our being that span the political spectrum. I knew Hippies who were incredibly straight-laced about their friendships and interracial ties. I’ve known buttoned-down businessmen who embrace a great tolerance for opposite points of view.

I am conservative, when it comes to common courtesy-from greeting people, to table manners, to respect for my elders. I am progressive, when it comes to honouring dignity-towards people of colour, towards women and girls, towards children and teens, towards street people and towards rural citizens. I am moderate, when it comes to speech and consideration of opposite points of view.

There are times to take a stand- and that process is one I learned from my father. He never came down hard and dogmatic, but stood his ground handsomely and always in a dignified manner. He was able to summarize other people’s viewpoints to us, in a way that made perfect sense, but not necessarily giving the impression that he agreed with them.

I cannot let myself be pigeonholed or typecast. Such misdirected performance art would solve nothing,

Marching On


January 21, 2017, Prescott- I was delighted by the snow that fell, this morning.  It was just enough to make everything lovely and to give me two hours of exercise.  Whilst shoveling, I noted that it was close to time for the Women’s March to take place, downtown.  I finished clearing the walk, for the sake of my neighbour, a disabled woman, who is wheelchair-bound and needs a clear path, at least three times a week.  I then took a rest, and thought very happy thoughts about the sky having cleared, for the marchers and for those with other business.  If someone chose to march today, God bless her.  If someone made other uses of their time, as long as (s)he hurt no one- God bless her, too.

Women and girls have lighted my world, from as far back as I can remember.  The most powerful woman I have ever known, has never marched or staged a public protest a day in her life.  She raised five of us, with two special needs children (my youngest brother and me) as bookends of her parenting.  She is a ferocious liberal, who loved her conservative husband with all her heart, and loves/ abides  three moderately conservative children (my beloved siblings), and me-the gadfly.  Her motherhood took the lion’s share of her life’s work, but does not define her.

The most beloved woman in my life, now departed, would have gladly taken part in today’s march, but would never have turned her back on basic values of respect and validation for those with opposing points of view.  She loved her ultraconservative father, even when his social comments broke her heart.  She and I would have heated conversations, but not once did they impact our commitment to one another.  She loved being a mother and wife, every bit as much as being a teacher, and a scholar.

I know, and love, thousands of women and girls, of all political/ideological viewpoints, and of no such viewpoints.  Their rights are the same as mine.  Their dreams and aspirations are every bit as valid as those of any man. Their strengths and abilities can only do the world good.  The woman who chooses to be a homemaker, teaches, nurses the sick or cares for others’ children is as valuable, to society, as she who practices law, runs a corporation, repairs motor vehicles or serves in the Armed Forces.  The conservative, who prefers a “traditional” lifestyle, and the progressive, who is in the vanguard of social change, are vital to one another, and would that they see this.  Each is certainly vital, in my world.

It is the nurturing presence, the capacity for bonding and the devotion to others, basic to a human female and expressed in so many ways, that makes standing up, for the well-being of women and girls, so essential.  In whatever way one marches- in serried ranks, two-by-two or singly and alone; publicly, or at home, in one’s own mind; by speaking out  before a crowd or by raising strong people, you, dear one, are making a difference.

March on.

Rust Removal


November 9, 2016, Prescott-  This past summer, en route to visiting my family in Massachusetts, I stopped to visit a progressive friend, in Indianapolis, on July 5.  We caught up on events of the past few years, and agreed that life was taking a turn for the better, for a good many people who had previously been living on the edge of society, though there was lots of work still to be done.

Five hours later, I stopped for dinner, in Zanesville, OH, in the foothills east of Columbus.  As I took a drive through the town, my heart was breaking.  There is much about the “Rust Belt”, from Pittsburgh and Buffalo to St. Louis and Milwaukee, that deserves this nation’s gratitude and support.  This is an area which once kept our country moving, during the years of war, and in times of past economic despair, the Midwest was where our national economy got a reboot.

Zanesville presented a picture of a crumbling, somewhat boarded-up mini-version of Detroit, or of Buffalo at the turn of this century.  Its plight is, no doubt, replicated throughout the region.  The place needs believers.

In the past few weeks, the election cycle, just ended, featured one candidate insulting a wide variety of target groups.  Another candidate used the word “deplorable” to identify a large group of other people.  Both candidates claimed to care for those left behind by the nascent economic recovery.  Now, one of them has to make good on his rhetoric.

Human beings are not deplorable.  Behaviors and attitudes can be.  One such attitude is the view that people of colour are less than fully human.  Another holds that people who live in gender confusion, or are oriented differently, in terms of sexuality, need to be converted to a more conventional sexual identity.   A third, equally unfortunate, attitude holds that it is perfectly okay to leave uneducated, conservative people of European descent, in the rubbish heap of history.

My answer is :  None of the above is okay.  We saw what happened, twice, when the first two mindsets were challenged by a vocal electorate.  Last night, we saw what happened when the third mindset got its comeuppance.  There is, simply put, one overall solution:  Re-establishing community.    The White people of small towns and farms are not, inherently, the enemies of African-Americans, LGBT people, or Latinos.  The disconnect comes from not getting to know each other, and from relying on third parties to make each other’s acquaintance, and resume the practice of active listening.

I have friends across the political spectrum, and have made a point of traveling widely in the Midwest and South, for the very reason that every community is worthy of at least acquaintance.  Ignorance of others only leads to bloodshed.  History bears this out.

Make no mistake:  I will not abide an American Kristelnacht, or Jacobin tyranny, without speaking out and acting forcefully, if nonviolently.  The American Legion, to which I belong, vows to oppose tyranny of “both the classes and the masses.”  The first is outmoded and unnecessary.  The second needs to know that all its members are important.  “The People” refers to all human beings.

It’s time to scrape the rust off our souls, as well as off the factory towns of the North.


The Road to 65, Mile 163: Mom


May 10, 2015, Prescott- She is the eighth of nine children, born to a German-American shoemaker/farmer and a proper English-American country wife.  She loved and married a gregarious, gentle man, of French, Irish and Penobscot descent, and together they raised five of us. My youngest brother and I, the eldest, had our mental health challenges, his being complicated by other health issues, which took his life, when he was just shy of 30.  Our third brother, following Mom’s example of dealing with adversity, has toughed his health issues out, as I have my mental health issues, in my latest years.  Our sister rose above a life-threatening injury and has raised an exemplary family.  Our second brother has worked tirelessly, all his life, and shown the way to success, on many levels, seeking no one’s approval more than that of our mother.

She has said, time and again, that the time to pay homage to a person is while they are still alive.  My late wife used to echo those words.  In honour of both, I pay as much to my mom.  Having overcome her own health issues, which came late in life, she still drives, socializes actively and gets her exercise.  While Mom shies away from any technology more complex than a flat-screen television, she keeps current in other ways.  Always a progressive, politically, she speaks favourably of marriage equality and hopes to see Hillary in the White House. That she raised three Republicans and a political gadfly (me) doesn’t faze her a bit.  She loves golf, preferring these days to watch it on TV, and no one is more loyal to the Red Sox and the Patriots.  Her flower gardens used to be the toast of the neighbourhood.  They’ve pretty much gone away, but the lawn is still kept up- with local kids taking up the slack.  Above all, Mother’s mind is still a steel trap, and her eyes are eagle-sharp, after Lasik about five years ago.

I was raised lovingly and well, as were my siblings.  Mom set the example, in her single-minded care of my youngest brother, even in her darkest hour, following Dad’s sudden death in 1986.  ONLY because of her, and for her, did Brian hang on as long as he did, another eight years.  When I had the responsibility of caring for my slowly-dying wife, from 2003 to 2011, all Mom had done on his behalf was mine to follow.  It couldn’t have been any other way.

So, with all that she has given us, to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, I  love and thank her, eternally.