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The Capitol

February 8th, 2021

You and I watched January sixth in sickened awe, in disbelief, in anger; as thousands of our fellow citizens climbed and clawed all over our gleaming national symbol, as a fire-breathing mob, stoked in hatred, enraged against their own government, screaming through its corridors in a violent, barbarous and flagpole wielding fury, bent on destruction and death - which they achieved.

Only one other time brought the reaction I had that day: It was the fear and uncertainty from viewing television images of Spanish soldiers shooting inside their democratically-elected parliament in an attempted coup d’etat in 1981.

The thought that anyone, in a modern democracy, would enter an assembly — Our assembly, Our Congress — and threaten its members with weapons, struck fear in my heart then. But never, ever did I think such an outrage could descend on our own gleaming citadel of freedom.

The people who work in that building work for us, you and me. They are our only voices in our nation’s government. They listen and react when you write or call. I know. I have worked in and around it for more than 40 years.

When a constituent of a House or Senate member’s district or state calls or writes, the people who work there take notice. If you visit in person, it’s almost like the red carpet gets rolled out. They care about what you think and what you say, because your vote will either re-elect or defeat them.

The men and women who work there are just like you or me: they’re young and idealistic, they’re older and wiser; they worship or not; they have spouses and partners and friends and children and dogs and cats. And they work hard, with schedules that pack meetings and visits and writing and voting from sunup to way past sundown.

Your government will act for you, if you make your voice heard; if you phone or write to your own representative/senator to urge passage or revocation or a bill or amendment, if you vote to elect/reelect the leader you want - not based on how hard s/he is attacked by her/his opponent, but based on the ideas s/he puts forth in the election contest and the perceived values s/he holds.

Our government isn’t the president, it isn’t one man. It is people who come to Washington from our own town and county, city and state.

Our government is us, you and me, and what that mob did on January 6 was to attack the very heart of each one of us, the heart of our nation, the cause for which Abraham Lincoln - who in 1865 was sworn in on those same steps, desecrated by the mob - spoke eloquently at Gettysburg:

…that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

It could have perished on January 6, 2021, but it did not. Our duty is to stand fast for our country, and ensure that perish, it never will.

Why Won’t He Leave Us Alone?

December 14th, 2020

Why won’t he leave us alone?
Why won’t he just go away?
We’re tired of his gripes and hate-laced rants,
We just want a normal day,

One filled with letters and phone calls
Emails and the aroma of dinner,
And sounds of kids in the halls,
And a “my, you look so much thinner!”

Enough with the lies and constant attacks,
On to truth and all relevant facts,
So we may know, and our allies, too,
That the U.S. of A. is again back
Tested, but tried and true.

Let us live, in Peace.

Election Emotion, Violence and Overseas Enemies

October 31st, 2020

Mr. President and Campaign:

Before you issue any more orders for your followers to “poll watch” or “stand by” with weapons in our streets on Election Day, consider this: our enemies overseas look upon the chaos you’re encouraging and they see a nation weak from within.

They see our shores as perhaps not so formidable.

No country has invaded us since 1812, but nations with unstable leaders, who relish disorder and anger in their cities and towns, do not fare well in history. Hold back, America. Be calm. Vote with all your mighty conviction. Then go home and await the returns.

Violence and chaos can weaken us as never before, and those leaders who wish us ill are watching with all the craftiness of Scar in the Lion King, waiting for his moment to pounce on the wounded prey in his sights.

Together, we are strong.

Divided against itself, as Abraham Lincoln said, a house - even our house - cannot stand.

Cry, My Beloved Country.

September 14th, 2020

The people of other nations are worried about us.

Us? The United States of America?

Yes. Due to the actions of our president, the U.S.A.’s self-described stance as “exceptional” is in jeopardy.

How did we become exceptional? In the 20th century our place was firmly established by President Franklin Roosevelt, who built a governing-manufacturing-citizen coalition here, and a coalition of allied nations in Europe and Asia. Together they patched enormous and varied resources, which enabled the defeat of war-waging Germany and Japan.

The peace and order that followed has been maintained and bolstered by U.S. leadership and military might that left us atop the world of nations.

But we are no longer leading, no longer convening the major democracies in the cause of freedom and justice. The shine is gone. Instead, our president dismisses allies and embraces murderous dictators, even musing how much he admires their power over their countrymen: “He [North Korea’s Kim] speaks and his people sit up in attention. I want my people to do the same.” His people? Sir, you work for us.

Because of his divisive words, his daily blasts of insult and rage, our civil discourse is fracturing, with crude online and in-person name-calling that’s harmed children and families, that some have now carried to physical violence in the streets.

Beloved country, what is happening to us?

In the midst of a global pandemic, unseen by the nations of the globe for more than a century, coupled with the ensuing economic depression, our president mocks world renowned U.S. scientists, shuns their life-saving advice, denies states life-saving support and encourages disorder.

Consequently, we hear some of our fellow citizens exclaim, at a time of a deadly contagion, “I want to be ‘free,’” from the “oppression” of suggestions by public health officials to wear a mask, because “I don’t want my government telling me what to do.” But without the leadership of these agencies, how can we expect to be rid of the COVID-19 virus and its deadly threat to our lives?

Our governors asked us to stay at home, and we did, for three months. As a result, the rate of COVID-19 infection, then roaring through the states, and the horrible rising toll of death, slowly stopped climbing and reached a plateau, which allowed hospitals and healthcare workers to breathe and their facilities to re-group.

But then … infections began to skyrocket in those states whose leaders ordered them to “re-open,” for citizens to resume normal activities. And with the onset of flu season, we’re told by our scientists that illness, COVID on top of flu, will again rise and become deadlier than it was last spring.

Remember those health workers so daily taxed, their energy overcome, seen in harrowing video diaries last spring? What’s to become of them? On those dedicated health workers will fall the burden of our mistakes, of failed national leadership.

All while our president has so diverted our attention from our genuine national crises, to those of his own personal imagination, that our nation risks a shattering of what makes us “exceptional.”

After federal forces descended on Portland in the summer, columnist Roger Cohen received a letter from Brown University history professor Michael Steinberg, the former president of the American Academy in Berlin, who expressed these alarming words:

“The American catastrophe seems to get worse every day, but the events in Portland have particularly alarmed me as a kind of strategic experiment for fascism. The playbook from the German fall of democracy in 1933 seems well in place, including rogue military factions, the destabilization of cities, etc.”

Even Germany’s leading news publication has expressed its concern for us, saying, “the foundations of American democracy have grown brittle.” — a warning from the nation once, itself, consumed by fascism that fought to consume the world.

Does this sound like the United States of America we want to pass on to our children, and their children? We’ll have a chance to decide, in less than 40 days.

What say you, beloved country?

How to Apply for Your Absentee Ballot

August 18th, 2020

Simply go to this link - https://www.usvotefoundation.org/vote/voter-registration-absentee-voting.htm - to fill in an online application for your absentee ballot for the November 3rd Election.

At this site - https://www.nass.org/can-i-vote/absentee-early-voting - which is operated by the National Association of Secretaries of State, the organization for those officials who manage elections in each state, you will be taken to your state’s election office, where there are instructions on how to apply for your absentee ballot.

Think You Know What It’s Like to Be Black?

June 10th, 2020

Please listen to this African American man, who spoke on the PBS NewsHour on June 8th, and see if he changes your mind. (also at https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/time-really-get-uncomfortable-talk-racism-says-filmmaker.)

And if you’ve wondered about those confederate memorials, take a listen the striking testament of this woman, a true daughter of the South. (also at https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/26/opinion/confederate-monuments-racism.html)

Driving While Black … “Three Times”

June 6th, 2020

This column has been written in loving memory of Calvin Milton Jones, who died May 25, 2011.

“Has that ever happened to you?”

His face looked at me with the most serious expression I’d seen from this gentle man.

“Three times,” he said.

My friend, the late Calvin Milton Jones, had just sent me a copy of Dick Gregory’s talk to a Tavis Smiley “State of Black Union” convention center audience. Gregory, the comedian and activist, wondered aloud, that if Bill Clinton was truly “our first black president,” would he know (at 1 min,50 sec.) how it felt to be a black man, driving down the road, and hear a police siren:

“Mr. President, do you know what it feels like to be a black person, to be a congresslady, to be a lieutenant governor with 12 doctor’s degrees, and driving down the street, and hear the police siren, and you start squeezing that steering wheel tight, and they pass by you, and you Thank God! Damn! You didn’t do nothin’ in the first place. Do you know what it is to be black?”

The primarily black audience was in howls, cheering with a standing ovation at Gregory’s presentation. And I realized then that the expression, “driving while black,” was so real and so common that an entire audience of hundreds had reacted, knowingly and in unison, with raucous laughter at Gregory’s searing remarks.

After I watched it, I walked over to Calvin’s office and asked him, “Has that ever happened to you?”

He looked me straight in the eye, “Three times” … on the way to and from Washington and his hometown in North Carolina.

So this gentle and generous man … who arrived at the office at close to five o’clock every morning — even the day before he died, sick with pneumonia — to turn on the lights, make the coffee, check the phone and computer systems, arrange the conference rooms to be sure everything was in place for the days’ meetings … told me, with those words, that he had been stopped by police officers on three separate occasions, just because they knew they could taunt another black man.

This man, Calvin Milton Jones … who wouldn’t harm a soul, who cut all the lawns in his neighborhood, because he didn’t want it to look unkempt; who, unasked, often waxed neighbors’ cars; and who would give you the shirt off his back, if you were in need … this man had been pulled over three times for no other reason than the color of his skin.

Imagine how it must feel to look up into the eyes of a uniformed man, who, you and he know, could change your life in an instant.

And now we have young Trayvon Martin, killed by a single shot from the gun of a self-appointed ‘neighborhood watchman,’ who said Trayvon was, “suspicious … looks black” and, chasing Trayvon against orders, told 911, “They always get away.” But “they” (Trayvon) did not get away; and the man who hunted him down wasn’t even arrested.

Walking while black?

Author Donna Britt, commenting on the shooting death of Trayvon, said, “I don’t know what this child could have done to be safe, except not be black.”

Being, while black.

These two men, going about their business, are stopped for being “suspicious,” for being black men living in the world’s lone superpower; which the rest of us tell ourselves is “the land of the free” … the “sweet land of liberty” … that exists, “under God … with liberty and justice for all.”

Perhaps it is … for some.

President Trump’s Wartime Powers

April 20th, 2020

President Trump says of the governors’ response to the coronavirus, “We hope they can do the job,” and of the Defense Production Act, “We have the threat of doing it if we need it” [Washington Post].

In World War II, we didn’t ask each state to build its own bombers, make its own ammunition and sew its own parachutes to help the country defend itself and win the war. And we can’t settle for the president coaxing manufacturers to “do the right thing.”

He should do the right thing and order our manufacturing might into action. He should be a leader so doctors and nurses and hospitals and the patients they treat can survive.

He should help us all keep alive.

- See the Post article also at https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/governors-and-mayors-in-growing-uproar-over-trumps-lagging-coronavirus-response/2020/03/22/98ac569a-6c49-11ea-a3ec-70d7479d83f0_story.html

Urgent COVID-19 Information

April 6th, 2020

The most authoritative voice we have in this moment of national crisis is that of Dr. Anthony Fauci, who directs the infectious disease division at the esteemed National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. He has guided the nation through deeply worrisome health crises (AIDS, Ebola) in the past, and has the answers to our questions of concern now.

Dr. Fauci was interviewed by Judy Woodruff on the PBS NewsHour last Friday (April 3), and his words carried great weight in our. household. I urge you to listen to his recommendations, because they could save your life or the lives of those whom you love, now.

You can watch Dr. Fauci’s interview at this website, also at this link:
https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/what-dr-fauci-wants-you-to-know-about-face-masks-and-staying-home-as-virus-spreads

Trust Reporters - Truth Is Their Job

December 5th, 2019

The New York Times recently spoke out in an editorial - which was written by the paper’s opinion arm, not by those in the newsroom - decrying the awful term, “fake news,” and pleading for us to rely on journalists and journalism for truth.

At a time when unsubstantiated falsehoods are uttered, relentlessly, in Washington and in televised commentaries carried across our airwaves, we need to understand that reporters seek and print/post/broadcast facts they have gathered.

Please read this, carefully. The subject is all too serious. Our nation needs your attention. The November 30 editorial is titled, “Who Will Tell the Truth About the Free Press?” and begins,

Concocting fake news to attract eyeballs is a habitual trick of America’s New York Times, and this newspaper suffered a crisis of credibility for its fakery,” the

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