The Certain and the Uncertain: How I Plan and Act to Get Through 2020

Patriotism is a theme of my life and so is a devotion to Christianity and Catholicism but it is not certain that I will always be perceived as Christian or a patriotic American. A devotion to horseback riding, French 18th century fiction or Tyrolean folk songs can remain a sort of personal matter. I unlike any number of other devotions both the United States and the Christian and Catholic Churches are very real institutions in which other members and authorities are entitled to determine at least one version of what devotion ought to look like which others in the institution and community are entitled to respect more than the inner convictions of an individual and even I as an individual can sense the and recognize the ways in which I have drifted into the land of discontent. There are enough crises right now for lots of voices of discontent to fill the world but my own discontent is a bit older and and the record is preserved a bit more broadly. Rich and independent men can afford to be labeled malcontents and so can some kinds of poor people but not the kind of man I am but that road may well have been taken too decisively and too long ago to do other than just continue on the path.

I am certain that I wear a mask for many things and gloves on many occasions and that I own and use a lot of hand sanitizer. I am certain that I do not have the resources to meet my obligations without income and that a lot of people are not working just now. I am certain that I am certain that the rice mill that has been operating in Abbeville, Louisiana for over 100 years is not operating now. I am certain that the coastline of Louisiana is growing more porous and degraded year by year. I am certain that the schools were dismissed in mid March and they have not resumed regular operations although the schools would have opened by this date in an ordinary year. I am certain that this period has seen me do my required Board of Ethics training to continue to work as a public servant. I also finished getting and then renewing an insurance license and getting the required training to sell annuities. It has been a challenging thing to make it through this period so far but not a worthless time.

I do not title this piece, How I plan to get ahead in 2020. I am in the throes of a moderate hope for some moderate success in a line of work that I might find somewhat interesting and rewarding. I am also finding a way to persevere in a number of endeavors in which I have been involved for a long time. But life has a number of consistent themes and those themes are all indicative of a great deal of consistent decline in my overall position. I am not a man who has much to gain or lose in the way that a younger version of myself might have had. But I am still alive and active. Therefore there is a lot more to life than merely waiting to die. I am busy trying to figure out what is left in the particular life I have to live in the time that remains. I would like to say that I believe that I will be engaged in life largely devoted to the many goals and ideals that I have cared about in my life. I could find reasons to say such things but it would not be entirely true and I would rather not lie.

I have had ambitions of almost every size and most of them I have let go for one reason or another. But I have not renounced them because all of them are part of who I am. I am not letting them go so much as putting them on back burners or in deep freezes while I prepare other dishes in the kitchen of my life and capacity. We shall see what happens next. But I am not concerned about being overwhelmed with success.

I hope to do some teaching, maybe publish a fw things and maybe sell some insurance. I am trying to tend to all the other things I need to do but I am not filled with a sense of forward progress and I do not feel like I have a good chance of being fairly treated. I will do the work I can and play the position I find myself in a s well as I can. But I am not starting from a blank slate or any sense of endless opportunity. I am largely marking time until I expire. The losses are somehow endless. and the high points are largely in contrast to the long series of low point and long stretches of low plains that make up the geography of my life. At times it is possible think of all the various times that I have appeared in public for one reason or another. I look back at some public moments and the publicity is also to be balanced with the obscurity and disappointment of the times that make up most of the years and determine much of the times and trends of my life.

There are a great number of things that are very uncertain in my view the world has a very strong interest in only a few things, in the kind of very real intensity that characterizes the way a crisis is understood. But coastal erosion, climate change, water management and the development of school curricula are not much in the news, not on social media and not in the few conversations that I get into from time to time. I have pretty well adjusted to letting go of pretty much everything compared to what might have mattered to me at any time in the past when I might have wanted to do some particular thing or other. But I have come to understand my life largely as abandoned projects and enduring disappointments.

I find it impossible to describe my current employment status in the terms of questionnaires provided. and am not always able to answer other basic questions because none of the options provided really seem to describe my situation. This is not the exception so much as it is such a huge series of incidents as to become something at least very close to the rule. One of the attributes of the insurance company who laptop I have been issued, with whom I have an ID number and with whom I have a training account is Patriotism as a practice and a commitment. But I am not yet getting paid nor am I under contract. My identity and designation with the School Board has never quite returned to the one I had in 2000-2004 which is the only one I ever applied for and they are currently not available to provide the only jobs I currently do or ever have done except for a few accidents mostly in 2012. All of this is much too complex to fit into the website that provides some benefits to me. Those benefits are more money that I have ever received in all of my life in Federal benefits but they really are not that much money. But they will be finished soon. I have been working on a relationship with the patriotic insurance company for many months and have recently been putting off likely offers from companies offering to pay from $17 to $32 an hour which is more than I ordinarily make in recent years although in line with other periods when I did earn those rates and they were worth a lot more in real dollars than they are now. Life has been hard and bleak and these federal funds have been a counterweight to bad times and bad policies. But there are plenty of opportunities for all of this to come to ruin while I hear the preachments of those who may claim that I could have dome better and differently.

For me the question of what I could in theory do differently is not the question that interests me. Nor do I wish to take back any of my harsh criticisms of the institutions to which I have devoted much of my life. Nor do I wish to remove comments to the effect that some of my life experience has been hellish. If none of this interests me then what question does interest me?

The question that interests me in the time of COVID-19 and unrest and governmental crises is largely the same question that has always interested me. It is the personal question underlying my view of every larger question. The question is whether I can make the contributions and reap the rewards necessary to make a life work for the time that I have left? It is just not possible to pretend that I have the chance to make life work in all the ways I still think it should as I believe that it should. I simply can choose how to spend the time I have left when there are no really workable options of the type that even enter into the rubrics of the ambitions that form a certain kind of life.

So I await the immediate future not knowing how it will go. But I am looking forward to a simple ad yet splendid vacation for a few days and hoe enough things will go well for me to steal a way a few days with family in Galveston over the next week, Then there is just the unknown that must be charted and the path that must be walked, it is a path of certain troubles and uncertain opportunity.

American Federalism and the Current Crisis and Me

I am writing this on a Sunday morning, There really is little or nothing I can do that will make this a day without some real anxiety. There is a lot trouble in the world, lots of trouble in my own prospects, lots of trouble in the outlook for America. The work of the Congress right now on a relief package is work and it is politics and it is not to be trivialized. However, the central part under contention is the enhanced unemployment benefits program. Under this program, the federal government has been adding $600 a week to state unemployment benefits. This was put forward largely by Democrat political leadership in the CARES Act but was supported by Republicans eager to keep the economy going and keep workers connected to their jobs when the recovery gets underway.

The unemployment enhancement has provided a bridge across the vast economic divides across the country. It is because of programs like this which occasionally occur that the many people in America who could be deeply and dangerously alienated from the Union are not so deeply and dangerously alienated. These six hundred dollars have been a restitution without apology from a society that has long waged both an intentional and a negligent war against its own lands and that means the money really counts more for people who live in poor areas with limited opportunity and in systemic decline that are also beset with cultural problems and a sense of being ignored — these six hundred dollars which are just enough to stay alive in the inflated, successful, powerful economies of a small minority of our country’s land area ARE ACTUALLY SIGNIFICANT FUNDS coming into regions and groups that have only known the constant drain and theft of their patrimony for a long time. Amid all the controversy , Republicans just voted to extend the pandemic unemployment benefits while still talking about other options. But the Democrats who have constantly supported extending these benefits did not vote to extend them, So the program has expired and we face the immediate future with a great deal of uncertainty across the country. Perhaps the increased saving rate around the country which allows more banks to buy US Treasury Bonds and the low interest rates will empower the United States to extend this program on cheap credit. It is a good bet that the issues will be complicated over the long haul — no matter what path is chosen. There is a poison in our political culture which will make the aftermath of the program more contentious than I think it needs to be.

Right now, there is so much unemployment that the program is objectively extensive but is also very much a matter of supporting people who do not have the options of exploring a job market with enough jobs for all workers in need. In addition, there is some calculable value in keeping those who can hope to return to their jobs in a position to do so when those jobs return.

Today is Sunday. I did not go to Mass. However, I watched some of the mass on television and I read the readings from Isaiah, the Epistle to the Romans and St. Matthew’s gospel. The reading in Isaiah urges the reader/listener to come to a free banquet offered by The LORD God. The Epistle tells us to remember that the love of God will overcome all intervening forces and not abandon us. The Gospel tells of the multiplication of fishes and loaves and the feeding of the multitude by Christ. The overall occasion created must lead to many sermons about the extravagant providence of God for his people. I actually could write a lot about these Bible passages and the themes in them. But the sole idea today is that American from churches that share this lectionary are being reminded that amid the advice to be prudent, to be vigilant for coming trouble, to invest money, to live simply, to manage debt, to accept hardship and poverty when necessary, to work hard for a living and do the work well — amid all that other Biblical advice — there is definitely a repository of commentary, commandment and promise related to the theme and covenants of Generosity and Giving. So a covenant of unemployment insurance into which all these workers have paid being amped up to a living wage that might see them through the pandemic might well be a very Christian response to this crisis. But the future clearly depends on other practices than this type of program. Yet the Gospel is not the gospel without the feeding of the multitudes.

The grinding impossibility of Americans making it in many places is a whole set of relevant issues and questions I cannot address here. But I am sure that while some have misused the money by any standard, the truth is that much of it has flowed in to fill up the gaps in financial foundations of hardworking and desperate people who have not been able to address any of their declining fortune’s real issues for years on end. In addition, people can afford to pay attention to the myriad costly demands of the pandemic that go beyond the loss of wages and employment due to being furloughed from businesses and institutions closed for the pandemic and its accompanying government restrictions.

The struggle of farmers with dislocations in the supply chain and the struggle of different industries with long term decline and the struggle of those disaffected with the political process are all coming together with this time’s other issues. But they are all coming together in the pandemic. The pandemic gives a focus to all of these things.

Criminal and civil law are also issues in this time and the focus on reacting to Police brutality by the movements in the streets is not unpredictable. The poor everywhere know that they have few resources for lawyers, for making restitution in a timely manner, for seeking out those they might injure when the disputes could be simply resolved. With the rising costs of interaction, the rising regulations and the decline in real wealth the poor know each year the kind of inevitability that they will will carry with them some degree of civil and criminal liability because modern life means bumping up against some barriers and walls and fences and there is no compensation for when their boundaries are violated and they are unable to mitigate the harms they do. Their wages as calculated are not significant compared to their obligations as calculated. But that is the general theme, for many the $600 a week has been one of the times when being part of American society has been rewarded and one’s job which never paid enough to give peace has actually provided what one can calculate as generosity. Predictably many have resented these funds going to these people who live without hope of ever being alright in any of the ways that America has claimed to be alright. This pandemic has allowed some Americans to feel that maybe sometimes America has not excluded the hardworking, left out and maligned in its calculations of the common good.

So yes, I am one of those who received some of that money. I am one of those who in these days of supporting causes, caring for family property without compensation, moving and keeping house and other preoccupations has factored in dealing with as many of the implications of this program as I could as well as I could. I will see how that continues to play out. From that point of view the rhetoric of some of those decrying the program is horrifying enough. There is simply not enough time to respond to all the fears and perceived injustices that cause one’s neighbors to react badly. It is also difficult to reject the rights of people to feel nervous or unhappy.

I suppose that we have a crisis around the world and the country which causes us all to take to heart any number of crises which may be coming upon us. I live with a number of personal issues that hold me hostage to not dealing perfectly with a number of larger issues that impact me. Basically there is also the issue of being a revolutionary in some sense who is sitting out a crisis in almost every sense. I am one of those few real voices of dissent and I am not choosing to try very hard to be heard in dissent just now. It is perhaps more than anything a matter of reaching an age for simply marking the time till the grave if one has not achieved sufficient position to pursue the ambitions and goals of one’s youth.

Due to the period we have been passing through I have had a chance to reconsider how to approach my varied desires, obligations and plans which existed before the pandemic and its accompanying changes. We have ever so many things going on as a society but even in my own life I have only been able to address a few of my own most urgent needs and remedy only a few of my most urgent ills. But there are many days in this period that are very much days I can account as having offered some chance to regroup and some cutting against the tide of ever diminished opportunity. This began to be a life of limited hope a long time ago but in some ways this has been a reprieve. I doubt very much that I am alone in finding this to be the case. But these underlying issues of how people are affected by the long regional suffering that helped elect Trump is not on the discussion of any party or faction in the polity. We must pass the incident without noting that it is an appeasement for an abandoned country with ties ever eroded and reasons for discontinuity ever increased.

America is going through an identity crisis in which many voices are not much involved and which is very complex. I am not alone in having traveled a certain path where pursuing this education and that project has been successfully pursued after a fashion but not much remains with which to which to face the obligations that come with age. I also know that the truth as seen by the laws of society with its endless regulation and sense of consensus is not likely to jive with the truth as seen by an ambling free-lance writer, former lay minister, yard man and gypsy educator who has far more lean than illustrious times in his course of life. But times like this allow a kind of subsidy for all the works that one has seen thwarted by the general evolution of society. The erosion of the Cajun narratives, the Louisiana narratives and the Gulf Coast narratives which resemble in various ways other regional narratives displaced by the overall flow of things here. But America on occasion in times of disaster helps those areas most affected by its faults in ways that add a little consolation to even the most alienated lives that have felt the many costs of the changes of the times before the disaster. This is one of those times.

I hope that I can take the next steps as best I can and I hope for the best for my country. But I am afraid that I am not in a position to be entirely optimistic for either myself or the country. But I am in a position to recognize that some aspects of the response to the pandemic have been worthwhile.

The Crisis Perspective: This Week and Views of the American Future in Black and White.

The Speaker of the United States House of Representatives was at a funeral as Congress struggled with a stimulus package and COVID-19 relief. That did not offend me but neither did it offend me that the Republicans in Congress and the White House did not attend. Nor did I feel it incongruous that George H. W. Bush chose to speak. These are complex political times. Each American must struggle to find their way through all the crises we face and the racial tensions we endure as rationally and wisely as we can.

I am spending part of my day today watching the CBS and ABC coverage of the John Lewis funeral.  I have not read his final op-ed piece in the New York Times I took the time whether or not I really had it and I do take time for a variety of things that perhaps I really do not have time for because if I can spare the time they form part of the life and function of citizenship. I did not really follow the life of John Lewis all that closely — although I was aware of him always for most of my life. He featured in the book Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63 by Taylor Branch which I read in graduate school and still find prominently displayed on my bookshelf. Lewis with his very strong regional and ethnic accents was also articulate. It is said that in his backpack which was worn along with his trench coat on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on what is called Bloody Sunday he had the books Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton and American Political Tradition by Hofstadter and both of those books have been on my shelves most of the time in my life when I had the opportunity to put up book shelves. John Lewis was a Christian and that was evident in the service. It was also a time when while watching them I remembered vaguely what I once knew of his imitation of King’s techniques, his friendship with James Lawson, his involvement with the Albany Nine, his connection with the SNCC and the SCLC his voter registration work and his work to create an African American History and Culture Museum . I do not feel very connected to Lewis but I can see his life’s work laid across time and space and making America different. His view of the Beloved Community were not always in sync with my own views of a more perfect union.

I am not a man likely to remember all of the John Lewis legacy over his lifetime without thinking that he did a great deal of harm as well as a good number of good things. But Lewis and I shared a view that the future of America could somehow be bright and better. We also shared a view that it could be a good country for Black Americans and White Americans. It would take more than a little lying to make it seem that we agreed about a great deal about the paths and results of a more perfect union being created. James Lawson in his eulogy spoke about how John Lewis called what others called the Civil Rights Movement the Nonviolent Movement of America. There are many fragments of stories associated with this man and now his era is ending. But like me, John Lewis never served in the uniformed services of his country. Like me there is that missing element of clear life risking service in combat under a flag of this country, but despite the gaps both of us could claim to stand for an American future. However he has of course had a very much more successful path than I have had.

I chose to take the time to watch the funeral and I can question whether I could afford to take the time. I cut the grass in one of the two yards I take care of this morning, rejoicing that the ground was dry enough. I am scheduled to cut the other yard when the housekeeper comes tomorrow. I try to get out of her way in my small apartment by cutting the grass and doing yardwork when she comes. This is a challenging time and there are things which affect my life which I cannot effectively engage with in these days and in the times that I have. I am glad that I got my money back which was taken from my bank through Facebook this summer or without those $1300, my work and life would be more difficult than they are right now. But it is a burden to have to have shut off that account and I have many other burdens to deal with in a life that is far from a rousing status of success and inspiring life for my nieces and nephews to imitate. I suppose that this allows me a little more liberty to think about other issues that affect the country and the world. But perhaps I still cannot afford all the indulgences of the mind and eye which I choose to allow myself in theses days.

John Lewis made an appearance in the Black Lives Matter movement and has been involved in many liberal movements over many years. But what we face today is an America which is not a place without racial conflict and outrageous conflicts. It is not an America without problems that are not being addressed.

But although it is an America with problems and potential in black and white it is still America. All the tensions are there but there is also hope for an America that can offer a better future for all Americans.

Change and Conservative Values: The How, What and Why

Today, I went to Barnes and Noble Booksellers and used my membership card which I had purchased just before the pandemic. I had been feeling cheated that I did not use it. But I got a free cookie, a discount on my niece’s first birthday gift and picked up the most recent issues of Poets and Writers and Writer’s Digest. The WD issue was put together before the pandemic but the P&W issue was entirely responsive to it. In part it was in response to all the writers discussing how they are responding to the pandemic that I found the energy and purpose to at least put out this blog post. Blogging is work, even if it is not remunerative in my case. But I decided to undertake the task today.

I have been away from this blog for a while. I am back, in part because I am finished moving for the second time in a year. Partly I am finding time to blog because I managed to renew my insurance license in June and get the contract application finished for the country that I would prefer to work for and am waiting to get final approval or start a job search. I am back to the blog partly because the ground was too soaked from recent rains for me to have cut grass all day and become too tired to blog. I am blogging partly because I have something to say.

There is a lot of uncertainty today and the raging pandemic is a big part of that uncertainty. The astronauts on the International Space Station and Elon Musk’s role in privately contracted space transportation hardly makes the news. The Arab and Chinese Mars missions which are not manned have gotten as much attention. America is currently defined not by technical triumphs but by a high Covid-19 death and infection total, social unrest and racial tension. The recent situation in which the United States of America is gripped by the Covid-19 pandemic, economic uncertainty and the unrest that has followed the killing of George Floyd is probably the time when anyone who was not me would look around and say, “Clearly the voice that I have spoken into the world is a voice that is not shaping the events of my time. It is an extremely dangerous time to be out on the edge of things alone and I should seize this opportunity to renounce all of the Far Right American ideas that I have put forward in public and try to run for cover.” But again those people who are not me never put forward my particular ideas in the first place. So I will not be doing that. I will probably not try to make a push for those ideas but not because I do not think that they are a better solution than other ideas out there. I will not make a push because there is no momentum or opportunity. The current crisis is not necessarily good and will not necessarily make things better.

So where are we? what is this crisis really about and what does it tell us about the future? I am going to try to find the time and energy to address those issues. We are burying activist, Congressman and ethnic leader of African- American national politics John Lewis. We have a presidential election coming up soon and all sorts of controversies about the major nominating conventions in a time of pandemic and unrest. We have armed militias holding standoffs (so far), we have racial violence perpetrated on all sides. We have state, local and federal government all making power plays opposing each other and based on some kind of principle. We have massive unemployment. We have an active hurricane season and I live on the Gulf Coast. The Federal government is busy struggling over a pandemic relief package that matters so much to so many. I can hardly list the major topics of today’s news in this blog post.

I am aware that we are all discussing things far beyond the merely immediate. I have my troubles but am, as of yet, not infected and not caught up in a riot. There have been impacts of the larger crisis on my life but not all of those impacts have been bad. So I could just not worry very much and that would make sense. I could just avoid commenting and that would make sense. But I feel the need to deal with what is out there now and what may be coming my way. I believe that there will be a lot of difference in the future depending on whether or not President Trump is reelected. But while he is at the focus of a lot of this outpouring of energy he did not create the wellsprings from which the energy flows. I feel that there is a move to remake America in a way which is not under the control of what passes as the established political Left in this country. There is an effort to define conservatism and the American tradition in a way that is not controlled by what passes for the established Right in this country. But these forces still need to win the Presidential election. Only one side will win and the tensions will get worse.

I think it is obvious to many that there is something deeply awry in the way things are playing out. We feel that the fact that there are both riots and peaceful protests filling the streets in times of a public health emergency indicates that a lot of things are not right. But we are so far beyond that basic conflict of priorities now. The contrast between the liberties taken by those involved in all these demonstrations of political unrest contrast sharply with the restrictions under which the rest of the population has struggled. We would have a sense of this being a crisis if those were the only facts. But they are far from the only facts.

Rioters have destroyed property from fire trucks to monuments to the African American troops who fought in the Civil War to end the slavery of their relatives. But Confederate monuments have been at the center of this wave upon ave of social violence. Now the feds are trying to defend a courthouse in Portland, Oregon. That is the current focus of violence. We have seen the sacking of Rodeo Drive and the beating of men waving American flags. But the Confederate monuments have been easy consign to ruin relatively speaking.

To many people the Civil War has seemed very remote in time for a long time. For me it does not seem so remote. This year the last recipient of a Union pension for civil war service died. Just recently the last real and true sons of Confederate Veterans of the War between the States have died. Now in this Black Live Matter, Antifa, Occupy Democrats and allied forces movement we see the proposed and often accepted end of the public display of a large majority of Confederate memorial sites and monuments. We also have seen a lot of them destroyed and defaced before they could be removed. But in the broader movement their is revealed the energy that makes people remember that there are other sides to the story of the period following the War Between the States than the currently acceptable versions. The history we live with has many aspects and it is useless to pretend that there is no connection that runs through all the many challenges that people are facing across the country in all parts of the country.

I have reposted reliable links across the period of the pandemic. I have engaged with left and right and those of no definite persuasion. I have engaged with Blacks and Whites as well as those who are not in those racial categories. But there is a lot going on in the country that probably needs to be dealt with.

Below is a Facebook conversation between me and a friend I only know on Facebook who is more open than most but not alone. Of course I have also had many comments with very different points of view.

This friend wrote about the death of Gorge Floyd and its aftermath as follows: Had a priest died, I police officer, probably even the pope had died, there would have been little to very little of what this nonsense is. Floyd was a man, one man, just like you or I. He was no more special than we are , but by many means very undeserving… He then went on to describe some of the more offensive aspects of the movement as it was being expressed.

When I said that I thought he had a right to be upset about some of these things he added to his narrative a social context as he perceived it.
Blacks are always throwing the race card to solve all their issues. The favorite line is ” its because I am black”. Well backs hate whites simply because they are white. They hate cops simply because they defy authority. No matter what society gives them or no matter how low the white man stools to below their level, they will never be satisfied. It is never enough. Welfare cash, its not enough money. Food stamps, not enough. Free housing, not fancy enough, free healthcare, it should include abortions. It is never enough. Equal rights is a joke. When you build your argument on the double standard, nothing is equal. Equal rights include everyone capable of being racist, not just whites. What is being demanded is superior rights. Not one white would have gotten away with the destruction these rioters are doing, so where is quality. Equality has become a matter of narrative and agenda.

I responded to the post at a time when there was a lot of effort to silence such voices. I think that there is a lot of truth in what you are saying. Many Blacks do not hate whites. Many work hard and pay their own way. Many have come from disadvantaged backgrounds in which the laws and rules against their progress were part of the reason their families had more limited means.
But there is a lot of justification for anger. Here are the stats for the racial breakdown of the District of Columbia:
According to 2017 Census Bureau data, the population of the District of Columbia, was 47.1% Black or African American, 45.1% White (36.8% non-Hispanic White), 4.3% Asian, 0.6% American Indian or Alaska Native, and 0.1% Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander.
But in DC 90% of the “lookouts” as they are called by police for violent crime are for young Black males.That means descriptions given by eyewitnesses and victims of the perpetrators of violent crimes are of of young Black Males 90% OF THE TIME. That is the reason and not police bias for te higher incarceration rate in that area. For poor whites in the area it is simply a fact that they live in an endless race war they have lost which is not assuaged by the fact that much of the violence is between young black men, much is directed at other blacks and the police sometimes increase, decrease or redirect the violence.
There is simply no way to justify the way the establishment in this country views life in these neighborhoods or attacks the institutions it does not itself care about when the endless violence spills up. Many of the worst looters in this process were young black men with criminal records and no jobs. Antifa, Occupy and foreign radical helped to direct the rampage. But at the same time we really do have less opportunity, more economic disparity, a decaying infrastructure. The protesters throngs contain many people seeking to be heard about how hard their lives are when on top of all their troubles they cannot live without fearing abuse of police power.
All of these forces as different as they are combine to make the life of a community or a neighborhood in society almost impossible. In my view we will come out of this and things will be much worse in many ways. I don’t think simple force to restore law and order is the answer. But I have no reason to believe we will find any of the right answers at all.

I have also posted BLACK LIVES MATTER and stated a number of critiques of the current police establishment. But there is no use pretending that this perception is not real to those who share it. Now we are facing a great deal of pressure which reveals how many people do not have legal status, how many people are not satisfied with the politics offered them, how many do not earn a real living wage, how many business have limited reserves, how many people do not have health insurance. The vulnerabilities go on and on.

But a real conservative response will take more than this recognition of listed problems. The future will have to be one in which our real deeper weaknesses will be addressed. We have to have a way forward that works. I do not believe we are close to that. There is not going to be a consensus in November. I am not sure that the country can win in November. I think that there can be many political outcomes that are worse or better. But we are not getting close to building a foundation for the America that preserves our essential traditions and makes progress possible for all citizens and has a hopeful influence to offer the world.

Broken Hearts and Broken Promises

This is the start of the Era of the Post Pandemic Twenty-First Century. Doubtless a more compelling moniker will arise. I find myself stumbling in senses literal and figurative into the new era. Things could be worse for me than they are presently but they are, while better than I could have seen them being not long ago, still apparently more or less at the limit of my capacities and I am not commanding some vast structure of success under strain. I consistently struggle simply to get through the time and situation I am currently in and to move into the next with a spirit of hope and adventure strong enough to simply get through it given my resources.

I have at this writing 1,465 Facebook friends. That is more than at the start of the Pandemic but not many more and fewer than I had a week ago. On this blog I have few readers anymore but I may try to get into improvements next week or I may let the thing go. It is not likely I will let it go. I suppose that in time I will reach a real point of diminishing returns that requires me to decide if I will allocate resources to this. But for now I push forward a bit. Just keeping going in a time when my old and new heartbreaks seem to take most of my attention and emotional energy that is left after simply getting through things.


Photo by burak kostak on

I realize that on this day of the throngs observing George Floyd’s interment there are many things I would have to day just to say anything. I do not begrudge Floyd his burial. I do not begrudge his family the right to see his killer or killers answer before the bar of justice. But I do feel very strongly that there are many layers of broken hearts and broken promises in the situation that I survey. I imagine that we are very far from getting to the place where I would consider that real conversation even begins.

Nor do I believe that talking and listening or the only actions that matter Nonetheless, I look around at the crowds in this movement in a time of shuttered or barely open shops and churches and I am weary and sad. I look at the public discourse and at so many levels it makes me tired and sad. I look at the man I am as I face this new era and that makes me tired and sad as well. I look at the way we seem stood in a circle of endless easy answers and that makes me tired and sad as well.

Another smoke signal

I am bracing for Tropical Storm Cristobal.. You can see a general view of the storm here. I also have had an elevated heart rate, some pain and some hypertension, These things vary in my life. Yesterday, I cleaned some gutters for the rain and got some other things ready and today I cut some grass and tried to deal with a few other life issues.

I am not having a great day and cannot finish and put out my posts right now. I am not sure when I will get my head back up after the storm. But I will be working  on this when I can,  

Race, Racism and the Current American Crisis

What is the nature of the racial crisis in America? What is certain is that there is a crisis and race has something to do with it. On Facebook I have posted so many links on various aspects of the crisis for so many days that I can scarcely remember them all and certainly will not include them here. But there is a Wall Street Journal opinion piece that I want to include.  You may find the link here. It confronts the idea of systemic racism in American policing as a myth. I have also posted links to articles about things occurring on the periphery of the unrest but not separate from it like this article in the New York Daily News about three wounded officers. I have posted this piece about six officer killed in ten days, half of whom were African Americans. I have posted this piece from CBS news in Minnesota by my fellow Acadiana native David Begnaud telling of the arrest of the other three officers involved in the George Floyd killing and their having been charged with crimes. I posted a link to this more liberal source discussing many of the same issues as the Wall Street Journal op-ed on CNBC. I posted links to the stories about the killings of David McAfee a black barbecue chef in Kentucky who fed police for free, Patrick Underwood the African American cop killed by rioters in California, retired African American police captain  David Dorn killed defending a pawn shop from rioters in Kentucjy at about the same time four other officers were shot in the same riots. These posts alone are enough to mark me as not sufficiently penitent and anti-racist. But there is more to come. This post may make my life much harder over time because I am going to discuss some things. They will not mostly be centered around the theme that anything is justifiable in the effort to rid the world of the racism that caused the death of George Floyd. There are no limits almost to the issues to be considered. The piece linked here about a former Obama administration official bailing out a friend who firebombed an empty police cruiser is just one more piece of the seemingly endless puzzle. I can relate to the feelings and some of the analysis of the issues on all sides of this crisis. The long Black struggle. The White guilt, fear  and desire for peace is understandable. The anger and anxiety of other whites over all aspects of this crisis is understandable  The blind faith of so many in the political mantras and formulations they have used all their lives.  The hurt and anguish of many who have tried to avoid being engaged with this crisis and its causes is also easy for me to understand.  The world has seen a good bit of empathy for the throngs rallying to right the perceived wrongs that led to the death of George Floyd. That is documented at this link and is reported in many other outlets as well. But where will all  this energy bring us?

From his own point of view President Donald Trump tried to reach out and address the killing of Floyd when he would have liked to focus on the return of manned spaceflight and the novel aspect of the Spacex launch but felt that he was robbed of that by the rising unrest in the country. His speech, alog with the speeches of Vice President Pence and others are included in the video clip here. But all of these clips and the reading they represent do not amount to any original reporting. I am not in the loop or the action right now except to some small degree online. Lord Norton whose blog still hosts my comments has posted a bit about Trump’s threat to use Federal troops. There is of course an issue of whether he will deploy them beyond military police in the District of Columbia — which is not a state. But here is the link to that post and there in most formats is  I hope is the link to my comment. If a reader is using a phone or other format that does not show it right away one can merely click on the comments and it should appear if a reader cannot find it otherwise. The world is watching but even the best and keenest observers are not getting a complete picture.

There is no chance that Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints, who apologized for his opinion about the flag protest will be considered as a besieged minority in a league where Black players dominate the union and the draft. There is also no chance that the players who feel that Colin Kapernick had a right to peaceful protest by kneeling during the National Anthem can escape his inciting violence in the riots nor that his critics can escape the heartfelt and civil nature of his original protest. In my view the chance of emerging on a better common ground are not good.  Gabrielle Union is denouncing racism in Simon Cowell’s firing her for complaining about perceived racism. But she has never examined publicly the likelihoods that her American character and identity may have made her his target. The well into which we are sinking is potentially endless. We cannot really hope to break the cycle of  division and dysfunction gripping our country without radical change. The odds that radical change will come in a way that I can support are very long odds indeed. But I have not given up, I bought a Mega Millions ticket last night and am not against hoping for long odds to work out well. I understand the mobilizing around answers and misperceptions that we  have suffered through as our framework. We are all stressed by the pandemic. The pandemic is likely to kill more people because of the unrest and also add to the way in which martyrs and dangerous folk define the struggle that is defining our nation.

But from my point of view this does not excuse all actions or even expressions. Nor does excuse answer the need. The need is for the best actions. My own sense of weariness and futility are real enough and yet I am doing what I can to be the voice that I can live with as I tend to this matter of surviving the pandemic and emerging fit for the struggles on the other side.

We may have a tropical storm landing where I live this weekend, I cleaned a set of gutters and began a few more preparations. But the task of preparation may exceed what I can do. I will see how that goes.

But I am sure that the race relations and racial issues that are part of our national struggle have yet to be fully addressed. From my point of view many people are trying but it will not likely be enough for a good result. There is little in the news that gives me hope. These times are very trying ones in my view. Even the fact that the Dow-Jones Industrial Average shows a real rise in the stock market when so much is so bad tends to alarm me more than reassure me,

I am also making it for today. That is not a  thing that I can take for granted. It is not so much that I  am not getting any closer to secure prosperity and a bright future as it is that I am avoiding a number of current crises that could have wrecked my life far more than they have so far. Many other Americans are facing the struggle of these times in the frame of great personal insecurity. That will shape how our country responds to the evolving crisis.

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I am trying to work on a couple of posts just now. For a variety of reasons I am not getting them done today. So I am just saying that I will be posting more about the unrest and its meaning as well as other matters if all goes well.

I am bracing for good and bad news a lot these days as well as tending to actual matters within my control. Best wishes to any readers with all of the challenges of this year.

The Memory of George Floyd, Spacex Launch and Endings

There is a lot of public unrest associated with the death of  George Floyd. This link here should show some video connected  to the protests and demonstrations  related to the incident. The death of Floyd is disturbing. I am not sure of much about him except that he was a security guard, he was the father of a young woman, is mourned by his girlfriend and family, played sports in high school and his death was caused by incidents related to an arrest recorded on video. Like thousands of other Americans to die recently he died  fighting for breath more or less. What is all to familiar is the tension between a large portion of the African American community and the police. But if one looks at the protests one can see in the videos and photographs distributed around the world there are many people other than African Americans involved in these events sparked by his death in the midst of the other national crises gripping us. President Trump spoke with the Floyd family. The police officers involved were fired and the detective Chauvin who knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes has been charged with third degree murder.  That does not seem to have been enough to prevent the unrest gripping many areas.  Buildings and cars have been burnt, traffic has been stopped and shots have been fired. The conflict is not new it is simply a resurgence of movements and energies we have seen before.

I started this post on a day when I was hoping to watch some of the events related to the Spacex first private launch of astronauts to the International Space Station which is also the first transit of astronauts to space from a launch on American soil in more than a decade. I saw part of the interview and also saw part of the commentary provided by Lauren Lyons online. She is among other things a  Black woman. Here is a quote from her personal website: “I graduated from Princeton University with a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and a minor in bioengineering, and got my master’s in Business and Government Policy from the Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government. I have worked as a medical device R&D engineer, a writer, a Mars robotics engineer at NASA, a dating startup company founder, and a leadership instructor at Harvard. I’m currently an engineer at SpaceX where I work on certification of the Dragon 2 spacecraft that will take NASA Crew to the International Space Station, and moonlight as the co-host of our live launch webcasts. In my spare time I write (true) stories, give talks about the power of STEM education, and do my little part to help make the world more empathetic, joyful, and just.”

She works in a company owned and run in large part by Elon Musk — a white South African immigrant who has stated that he left South Africa largely to escape spending a life defined by racial politics. Yet his launch of this first privately owned rocket comes at a time largely defined by race for many. There are no easy answers to how to deal with the strains, conflicts and manifestations of violence and division in our society.

Today was a difficult day, worrying about what was for me  a large theft of money from my bank account through an online app. Worrying about losing access to another online account. I also cut some grass and did other important things in terms of making my life work — but not enough.

Today I also heard that Julianne Hough and Brooks Laich are separating. I did not see legal separation in the handful of articles but that was the clear intent of the writers of several articles. Like Musk, he was born in the British Commonwealth and has succeeded very well in America.  Their marriage does not appear to have been the best or worst relationship to be featured in Hollywood new over the years.

For me, my recent troubles have added to the sense that once again my  own aspirations for the summer may be ending with a new kind of falling short. Although I still hope to struggle through as I have been and even to have my money returned or protected since it was only a pending transaction when I noticed it.   Monday will tell me a good bit about how bleak or not so bleak my situation is and yet I am aware that the African Americans who feel desperate and left out and the police who feel besieged on the streets of this country are not making up their problems. So many who are suffering now are not sure what the future will hold but they are sure that they are seeing the end of a particular business, job, strategy in their finances or hope of making life connections interrupted by the Pandemic. George Floyd, gasping and pleading for breath is a visible member of the many who have lost their hold on breath,  He is a symbol of the impossibility of getting help when it seems like help should be available. He is a black man dead in the streets of America and memorialized in conflict.

So many of us have some hopes for the future. Many of us feel that certain sinking feeling of those hopes that have kept diminishing. I look at space and Julianne Hough and race relations  with an interest that comes from years of following and reading about all three. Today, the space industry had some kind of triumph. Perhaps Julianne’s   life will be as good or better but the separation is not a happy chapter surely. The racial situations in the country may improve but they do not seem great to me right now.

Then in the midst of all this is the ending of a brief streak of life not being quite as hard and uncertain. I had a small amount of respite before the theft. Today I leave things undone that I should do and go home to nurse my troubled feet and take a shower to wash off my honest sweat.  But I am reminded of my situation as one of the many nearly desperate Americans of various types, tending to see each aspect of our national situation through the lens of an urgency and pain that they cannot easily set aside to hope and dream of great enterprises and fairy tale romances.



Myth on a Big News Day: Oedipus and the Sphinx Revisted

If this blog and this post do not slip into oblivion, some may find it hard to forgive that I have chosen to blog about a Greek myth on this particular day — May 27, 2020. There is plenty to discuss, Not least of which is the Pandemic that has a thousand worthy stories demanding attention each day. For that reason alone it seems odd to blog about a Greek myth.  But there are other reasons not to write about a myth today…

Today many Americans are dealing with the video of George Floyd passing out as he lay under the knee of an impassive police officer and was calling out the at he could not breathe. Supposedly, he survived the incident long enough to reach the hospital.  Four of five of the cops beside the police car labeled “Minneapolis” in the video are said to have been fired. Another video shows a white woman yelling that she will call the police and complain about being threatened by a black man — which she does.  The avid birdwatcher filmed the incident and she has lost her job. He seems relieved that nothing horrible happened to him.  The truth is that most of my work last year was in a predominantly African American school and I definitely believe that Black lives matter , We have issues we must deal with much better than we do in America,

It is also the day when Spacex is to launch the first astronauts into space from American soil in over a decade. The weather may stop them but that is big new in this space friendly blog. But I am blogging about something else in the limited time and with the limited data available to me.

Most people alive to read this post know of Oedipus in terms of the Oedipal complex of psychology. He is the cursed hero who lost touch with his roots and on his return to Thebes ended up killing his father and marrying his mother only finding out about it much later. He represents an undue attachment and sexual connection with one’s mother and a rejection of one’s father which is repressed and denied but comes to the fore and explains one’s life. That is not the Oedipal connection on which this post will focus. Oedipus is centrally featured in his myth for solving a riddle. This is the riddle, “What is that which in the morning goeth upon four feet; upon two feet in the afternoon; and in the Evening upon three?” The riddle is about feet. Feet are rarely discussed in connection with Oedipus but that is what this post is about.  Oedipus in ancient Greek is generally understood to mean Swollen Foot. Thus the man named Swollen Foot saves his hometown by answering a riddle about feet.  That does not seem to allow for the idea that feet are not worth examining in the story . This has been touched upon in this blog here.

The answer Oedipus gives is not included in the earliest versions of the myth, But generally it is believed to be:Oedipus answered: “Man: as an infant, he crawls on all fours; as an adult, he walks on two legs and; in old age, he uses a walking stick” The man with the swollen foot has had much reason to ponder how people get around and he can answer the riddle. Remember that the Greeks kept their calendar by Olympiads. For a long time it was a series of sacred games that marked the passage of years and these were most notably foot races although other events were included. So if Oedipus was a cripple with a swollen foot it made him highly unusual before anything else in simply becoming a famous Greek hero in that he struggled with his feet. Franklin Delano Roosevelt led America to a transformative victory in World War II from a wheelchair and huge stiff braces that only stiffened his useless legs, the peg leg is seen as a symbol of the pirate, Tamurlane one of the greatest warriors of central Asian history   is thought to derive his better known English name from a confusion   about his more accurate English name “Timur the Lame”. Kaiser Wilhelm seemed to inspire a lot of fitness conscious German soldier in the First World War and indirectly in the Second while using his shriveled arm in various innovative ways as he reviewed his troops. It is way back at the earliest part of our record of leaders that we have Oedipus the swollen-footed King to be solving the foot riddle of the Sphinx, What does this mean and why does it matter?

Let us examine the sphinx a bit.  The sphinx is an important mythological creature of the ancient world  which has only the briefest mention in  the Harry Potter books and none at all in The Chronicles of Narnia or The Lord of the Rings. Because of these omissions it has not been restored to the understanding of  many in the way other mythical  creatures have been by these popular series. Soit does not have much more currency than Oedipus itself. In educated common language to be sphinx-like is to be expressionless. We are going to try to examine other aspects of the sphinx as a symbol.


An ancient Greek story may well be an odd thing to write about on Memorial Day.  I usually find plenty of Memorial Day themed things to write about on this holiday.  It may be posted later and even finished later but it was begun and planned out on Memorial Day, The perspective seems to change and the Sphix which is winged, as not all sphinxes are, seems bigger before Oedipus arrives. the creature is smaller than the largest African  male lions when it actually meets  Oedipus.   

In the 1880s Gustave Moreau did a series of paintings which may be counted among the greatest of their type. He painted Oedipus, the Wayfarer, Oedipus and the Sphinx and The Sphinx Undone. He may have painted others as well. But these depict the key elements of the mythical encounter of Oedipus and the Sphinx.  Oedi[us solves a riddle and by doing so he slays a Sphinx, saves a city and becomes a king — all in pretty short order.  It is not the norm in Greek mythology for having the right answer in an of itself to be a central heroic deed in a a mythical adventure.

The sphinx is an important mythological creature of the ancient world. It is depicted in a monumental way in one of the most important continuous sites of human civilization since the ancient world.  In Giza of the Great Pyramid and the Great City of the Dead there stand in  ancient and worn condition The Great Sphinx of Giza. This massive object is commonly referred to as the Sphinx of Giza or just the Sphinx. The monumental object was originally carved from the bedrock, today even the restoration we see is old. The restored original shape of the Sphinx has been effected with layers of blocks. Two hundred and forty feet long from paw to tail, sixty-six feet high from the base to the top of the head and  over sixty feet wide at its rear haunches it is piece of some great significance in linking us tothe  ancient Egyptians of the Old Kingdom during the reign of the pharaoh who ruled from 2558–2532 BC.

This Great Sphinx which is nearing 4,600 years of age is a limestone statue of a reclining sphinx, with the body of a lion and the head of a human. It faces directly from West to East, it stands on the Giza Plateau on the west bank of the Nile in Giza, Egypt. It may have born the face of the reigning Pharaoh — known as Kafre in our language. This creature looks in a way at Asia with Africa and Europe  behind it although not in any absolute since is any of this geographical description true.

Sphinx is indeed reported to have had many Riddles, but this offered to Oedipus was the chief, “What is that which in the morning goeth upon four feet; upon two feet in the afternoon; and in the Evening upon three?”

The painting of Moreau which depicts Oedipus meeting the Sphinx at the crossroads on his journey between Thebes and Delphi shows a Sphinx not so great in size as even a large lion much less the collossal image of Egypt.. Oedipus must answer the Sphinx’s riddle correctly in order to pass. Failure means his own death and that of the besieged Thebans. The riddle was: “What walks on four feet in the morning, two in the afternoon and three at night?”. Oedipus answered: “Man: as an infant, he crawls on all fours; as an adult, he walks on two legs and; in old age, he uses a walking stick”. Oedipus was the first to answer the riddle correctly and, having heard Oedipus’ answer, the Sphinx  is not at all the imperturbable creature we have come to associate with the name of Sphinx in this instance. The creature is fatally shocked and  killed herself by throwing herself into the sea . She has wings to fly through the air and four paws to go upon the land. She has the mouth and brain to enter into the world of humans but nothing to survive the sea.  Oedipus in slaying her secures the freedom of the Thebans, the  rights of kingship in the kingdom of that city, and a wife Jocasta, who was later revealed to be his mother. There are some tales in which he was the legitimate king of Thebes all along. In Moreau’s painting The Sphinx Undone. Oedipus’s feet feature prominently but neither is swollen. There are those who see the answer to the riddle in terms of sacred Geometry. But none who dispute that the riddle is about feet.

My life story appears in this blog in bits and pieces and in segments titled as autobiographical. But one part of my life story is my struggle with my feet. This struggle has shaped much of my view of the world, my fellow humans and every phase of my life’s adventure. The years I spent working on leg press machines were to try to find a sport activity in which I could achieve something close to great excellence and I think I did although there is no official record. But the press also helped me overcome the tendency of my left foot to curl onto a dysfunctional fist. My love of the water and beaches was due in part because both in their own way offered some comfort to my feet. I have suffered from the lack of access to those three remedies in recent years. 

Friendships, love affairs, business dealings and offices held have been compromised by seeming sudden attacks of pain, swelling and twisting in my feet. The list alone of real consequences has enough volume to fill many a blog post without comment or evaluation.  

But my foot condition has also been a teacher as have the painful times spent in braces, stretching, ice baths and more. Right now at this very moment my feet shape my responses to various challenges. I see each technology, policy and law through the lens of someone struggling to stay on my feet and keep walking. Now that I am much nearer the end than the start of my life long race I know clearly that I  have perspective of that kind . Honestly it does seem to me that I have sometimes solved the riddles of man’s condition when others could not because of the perspective of this lifelong struggle. But I am not likely to reap Oedipus’ great rewards nor suffer his strange curse. But I do think that in these trying times, although I may suffer great disgrace in months and years to come I have the balance of effort to reward in my favor when others see the opposite in my record. Here I simply remind all of my readers that we each must find  the answers to our great challenges not only in our strengths but in the uneven costs we have paid for such strength as we have. From the suffering unique to each of us and not only from our success in fitting in (which is valuable and costly according to my personal education by pain) we can learn the means to meet challenges which the common experience of all men will not answer. From our own private agonies we can upend and destroy the invincible power by casting it into the place where it is crippled and not equipped. We can do this because we know so well the cost of inadequacy and the monstrous forces we oppose do not have such experience. I am on my way to the future without great confidence but I am sure enough of the choices that I have made. I am sure enough of the choices I will make. I am not sure of empathy or understanding, I am not sure of getting what I would call a fir hearing, nor of of a final good result. But I am sure I have worked out in the crucible of my private affliction a sense of right that is not inferior to whatever standard I may be forced to account for or to in what remains of my time hobbling along life’s race.