Category Archives: White House

“Keeping the Faith” and Keeping the Faith

There is a good bit of questioning about antisemitism in America and about the Jewish identity and experience in America if one is attuned to such discussions. The totality of the discussion would include a variety of relatively disinterested observers, Jews and also thoroughgoing antisemites.   However, this post is not primarily a post on antisemitism. Like a lot of posts on this blog it sort of meanders along –but it meanders more into being a discussion of Jews in America than being a discussion of antisemitism. However, for those interested in a more thorough discussion of antisemitism in America in recent years this article on the Huffington Post is a place to start.  But while there are no simple answers to the question, it is possible in a meandering way to ask “who are American Jews?” With all respect to Wrangler and Lee, it has always seemed to me that the most American garment is a great pair of blue jeans and the most American of the great blue jeans is also Jewish. The Levi Strauss company founded by a German Jewish family before Germany became known for the Holocaust and when Mendelssohn’s wedding  march filled both synagogues and Christian churches and was likely to be what one thought of in terms of the relationship of Jewishness and German identity. But this article is not mostly about Mendelssohn but mostly about another music maker — Billy Joel. (Still alive and more than welcome to comment on my little blog).

I like Billy Joel music and songs — in fact Piano Man is probably my favorite Billy Joel song, although this post is much more about Keeping the Faith. But in this post I want to discuss a particular aspect of my appreciation of his music. That aspect is how his music added, and still adds a certain something to American life and culture. Something which is Jewish, which is American and which is more profound than it seems.

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The story of American life and the story of American Judaism is a complicated pair of stories that relate very definitely to one another. Some names that come to mind when thinking of the Jewish qualities and tones that are part of American life and the American qualities and tones that are part of some Jewish life are Billy Joel, Eli Wiesel, Albert Einstein,  J. Robert Oppenheimer, Gloria Steinem,  Adam Sandler, Gilda Radner, Billy Chrystal and Yasmine Bleeth among others. But in the matrilineal tradition of many parts of modern Judaism and Hebraica neither Bleeth nor Steinem or necessarily Jewish –only their fathers really are for sure. Some people like Jean Chatzky are not so open about it in all aspects of their life but they are still willing to reveal their Jewish identity in the right format. The connection of all Jewish life to the events of the Holocaust is a real and vital set of connections. That doesn’t mean that the terms “Hitler” and “Nazi” have not often enough been bastardized to mean whatever anyone might want them to mean. Nonetheless, the Third Reich was real enough. The nation of Israel has shown Jews fighting for their own people and doing so effectively. There were few such successes in direct Jewish resistance to the Third Reich. But a Jew from Germany ‘s First Reich (named J. Robert Oppenheimer) with the support of a Jew who refused to return to the Germany during the Third Reich (named Albert Einstein) designed and developed the atomic weapons that would have defeated the Third Reich if we had not already beaten them a bit earlier. These same Jewish based technologies secured America’s place in the post-war world. As much as these varied people have contributed to American life and greatness I still am drawn to think about Billy Joel.

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I am where I am in my own journey through life. There is not much I have to write that does not matter in some significant way to me but I am aware of the limits of its import to the larger world. But as I begin this post I have a particular song on my mind — Keeping the Faith, by Billy Joel. The video features his real life wife playing a character in the song. Christie Brinkley is the only woman to bear him a child that I or the general public know about for sure — Alexa Ray. Although he would be married several other time and Christie Brinkley would have other children not with him and most romantic of all, she and Joel didn’t make it all the way to the grave together they were a couple who made an impression. I have spent a good bit of time in the last few months talking about my own past, in some ways I find something to relate to in Billy Joel’s song. But it is hard to know how well America relates to this nostalgia for an American youth.

Billy Joel is a man who in real life has known something about the love affairs and American living that he heard about first and later wrote intelligently about in  the songs of American popular music. The story is that of a man with his fair share of woes to say the least but also the story of a great American pop artist. The lyrics of “Keeping the Faith” tell some of his story.

 

“Keeping The Faith”

If it seems like I’ve been lost
In let’s remember
If you think I’m feeling older
And missing my younger days
Oh, then you should have known me much better
‘Cause my past is something that never
Got in my way
Oh no
The truth is that when one looks back on the past and sees only the glory days or only the sorrows one does not really look back on the past.  But we have a hard time not looking back on the past with all the many colors of nostalgia at one time or another. Billy Joel has allegedly attempted suicide a number of times and had struggles with alcohol abuse. What I am sure of is that he wrote and performed songs which people have related to fairly intensely over the years. Judaism contributed to the founding of Islam and Christianity each more than any other single source in objective historical terms — and therefore it is older. Nostalgia has a particular place in Jewish identity in the West.

Still I would not be here now
If I never had the hunger
And I’m not ashamed to say
The wild boys were my friends
Oh
‘Cause I never felt the desire
‘Til their music set me on fire
And then I was saved, yeah
That’s why I’m keeping the faith
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Keeping the faith

There was a  whole lot more going on in the  urban neighborhood of Joel’s song besides just music and faith. One thing he seems to believe in as he tells the story in song is the junction of youth, community and the  commerce based on  local  shared consumption. One can imagine a largely or susbstantially Jewish neighborhood in a great American city in the song. the song is sometimes shocking but a Catholic who is honest about Mardi Gras or Carnival as a Catholic liturgical season that is not a liturgical season should have no trouble making room for some kind of insight.

We wore old matador boots
Only Flagg Brothers had them with a Cuban heel
Iridescent socks with the same color shirt
And a tight pair of chinos
Oh
I put on my shark skin jacket
You know the kind with the velvet collar
And ditty-bop shades
Oh yeah
I took a fresh pack of Luckies
And a mint called Sen-Sen
My old man’s Trojans
And his Old Spice after shave
Oh
Combed my hair in a pompadour
Like the rest of the Romeos wore
A permanent wave, Yeah
We were keeping the faith

The boys with the condoms and  and the knowledge of which local merchants had the right clothes who smoked and got their hair done were making the boundaries of their community real enough. One wonders about the connections between the Catholic situation in America and the Jewish one at various times and in various places. the Jewish belief in the rituals that consecrate sex, life, the seasons of the year and the sense of being a people are modified in different ways as they come into Christianity. The secular Jewish experience is another modified view of those ancient streams.

Catholics have different reactions to the Trump administration singling out Mexico for his principal target of isolation. Isolation can be targeted. So the reactions over time will be interesting…. the targeting of Sanctuary cities may well be a cause of conflict with Catholics in many cases.  But the Catholic identity is that of Mike Pence, VP as well as of the undocumented worker. In addition Mexico and Central America are much less Roman Catholic than they used to be — much less. One wonders about the kind of Catholicism that Donald John Trump expects to confront. In the paper below from the American bishops, the right of the country to protect itself is balanced with the rights of those who might suffer. But there is a cultural sympathy that is not to be missed. One sees in trump a man who is very much an American secular Protestant who surrounds himself in close relationships with Catholics and Jews as well as others. I still have not pegged Trump at the personal level, his real policy goals I feel I understand well enough to discuss them but the man — not so much. Pence seems a likeable Catholic and his job is important and official. Mnuchin seems an unusually unlikeable American Jew and may not get confirmed. While Ivanka and Jared seem to be trotted around a great deal neither seems to have an official position. If not all Catholics will trust Trump is devoid of Anti-Catholic bias one wonders what varied Jews might be thinking.

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I am told that the President of Mexico has cancelled a meeting with President Trump. I like Trump being strong and energetic and I favor a vigorous and strong America. I also favor a healthy Mexico. I am a Catholic and an American. I look at the people who are trying to see where Trump plays out with Jews and there seems to be a hint that some people are wondering if only Israel is the Jewish place to be. Some see this perhaps in Trump’s chief strategist. I myself am on the far right (in my own opinion). I am able to oppose too much driving of Christianity from the Public square. But I also see a value in secular space and zones of governance. I also appreciate the Jewish American experience I even think there are things all of us can learn from their journey — even my WASP friends.

Getting back to Billy Joel, I too can remember that my own ethnic and specific heritage as a particular kind of American was not perfect either. You  (or one) can see a criticism of both a blind progressivism and a cultural conservatism that is unquestioning for any American in his  next few lines. Take them as autobiography, politics, romantic memoir or any  number of other forms and one can find some truth in them.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Keeping the faith
You can get just so much
From a good thing
You can linger too long
In your dreams
Say goodbye to the
Oldies but goodies
‘Cause the good ole days weren’t
Always good
And tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems

But Billy Joel and I do indeed have different pasts and he is quite a bit older than me. Getting a bit off text again we witnessed different parts of the fire he sang about. We had different parts of the song going through our heads. But only the differences of versions and arrangements of the greater metaphorical song — I relate to his song We Didn’t Start the Fire , just fine. But like a lot his songs it is not of a single simple meaning. For now, let’s get through the song for which this post is named.

Learned stickball as a formal education
Lost a lot of fights
But it taught me how to lose O.K.
Oh, I heard about sex
But not enough
I found you could dance
And still look tough anyway
Oh yes I did
I found out a man ain’t just being macho
Ate an awful lot of late night drive-in food
Drank a lot of take home pay
I thought I was the Duke of Earl
When I made it with a red-haired girl
In the Chevrolet. Oh yeah
We were keeping the faith
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Keeping the faith

A while back on Facebook I received a compliment from a red-haired beauty from my own ethnic community in Acadiana and reminded her of a long ago date in Chevy Impala and was gratified by a smoochy emoji in response. While Billy Joel’s lyrical boasts do not apply to the date she and I were commemorating online much is similar, thus remembered by me or in song  it is a deeply American experience.  So I look at the role of Jews as a religious minority and I contrast them to the Jihadi Muslim communities. The other Muslims may or may not listen to Billy Joel but the smartest among them realize that American Jews have worked hard to create a workable secular American culture because it is one that they can participate in. It is sometimes good and sometimes bad but I respect the effort. Muslims, Christians and Jews can all wear Levis, listen at least to Piano Man if not this post’s theme song  and enjoy some discrimination-free public space. I have a  Jewish friend, a woman whose initials are JY and like some of the great American Jews she has done humanitarian and secular and patriotic things. She is spiritually adventurous and like so many she is vastly more liberal and more leftist than I am (two separate measures) but I think she has come to respect me and my views a little. I have mentioned her here but will not go further than this in this particular post. The relationships between Acadians and Jews are very complex and very enduring. there is plenty that is of Hebrew origin in the mix of French, Greek, Latin, Spanish and MiqMaq ingredients an Anglo scholar can find in the Cajun culture. I have reminded miss JY of her heritage more often than not — although I do not know really how closely she relates to it. But whatever her struggle is with majority culture it does not involved blowing up people in their homes and at markets. Europe’s murdered millions of Jews filled a niche that others from the same region of the world now fill- a good number of those people are committed to destroying the Europe both Goethe and Mendelssohn built together.   Where Hitler complained of the occasional Jewish Caftan there is now the burka.

You know the good ole days weren’t always good
And tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems

I told you my reasons
For the whole revival
Now I’m going outside to have
An ice cold beer in the shade
Oh, I’m going to listen to my 45’s
Ain’t it wonderful to be alive
When the rock ‘n’ roll plays, yeah
When the memory stays, yeah
I’m keeping the faith
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Keeping the faith
I’m keeping the faith,
Yes I am

So what about America and Billy Joel? What about the world of Christie Brinkley and Billy Joel? I am not sure that America will be great again or OK or anything else. But I will be here fighting my corner until I can’t anymore.  I am glad there are friends of Israel in the new administration. But along with some York, some Cornwall, some Languedoc, some Extremadura and some Shetlands — besides some Sicily and some Chihuahua — I like a little Galilee, Judea and Israel in my America as well.

 

 

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President Trump Sounds the Dawn Reveille

Donald John Trump has been inaugurated as the President of the United States. The Ceremony and the preliminary ceremonies as of this posting were it seemed to me decorous and worthwhile. His speech set a clear tone and although almost seventy Congressional Democrats were not in attendance the crowd seemed sizable enough given the gloomy weather and other factors.  We have a forty-fifth President. If somehow I were a slightly different version of myself living in a slightly different version of America, his speech would promise a time of opportunity for me personally as America sought to deal with China, Mexico and outer space in challenging new ways. Those are three places that have long been very important to me. But I will leave that as my personal note for now. I do not see President Trump as asking for my help or any real chance to be effective emerging here for me. This is a brief post centered on his speech. I think his speech is neither without merit nor without promise. But parts of it do concern me as well.

The new President Trump spoke succinctly enough greeting those present with propriety:

Chief Justice Roberts, President Carter, President Clinton, President Bush, President Obama, fellow Americans, and people of the world: Thank you.
We, the citizens of America, are now joined in a great national effort to rebuild our country and to restore its promise for all of our people.
Together, we will determine the course of America and the world for years to come.
We will face challenges. We will confront hardships. But we will get the job done.
Every four years, we gather on these steps to carry out the orderly and peaceful transfer of power, and we are grateful to President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for their gracious aid throughout this transition. They have been magnificent.

 

His acknowledgement of all that is involved in legitimacy and continuity was in contrast to the way that many have received his own ascent to power. I thought that was to his credit. He did strike a populist tone and make clear that the American Forgotten Man, already credited with his electoral victory was at the center of his launching of the new product line that is the Trump administration.   He addressed the people in a kind of idictment of the dignitaries he had just greeted moments before, saying:

Today’s ceremony, however, has very special meaning. Because today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another, or from one party to another — but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People.

For too long, a small group in our nation’s Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished — but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered — but the jobs left, and the factories closed.
The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.

Whether Trump can continue to connect with important millions across this vast land remains to be seen but he seemed sincere enough in the attempt.

 

 

As President Trump reminded us all our woes and sense of alienation he seemed confident he could make a difference in our experience of life in this country. He laid that out as well:

That all changes — starting right here, and right now, because this moment is your moment: it belongs to you.
It belongs to everyone gathered here today and everyone watching all across America. This is your day. This is your celebration. And this, the United States of America, is your country.
What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people. January 20th 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again. The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.
Everyone is listening to you now.
You came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic movement the likes of which the world has never seen before. At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction: that a nation exists to serve its citizens.

Americans do want someone to listen and Trump surely is chief among those they hope will hear them. The reaction over recent weeks has included the Congressional Boycott, The Arly Protests and the protests outside the electoral college voting. But it has included a wide variety of responses across the political spectrum. Those include, The Hill and many other outlets in the media who have reported that President Donald Trump came into today’s ceremonies with very low approval ratings for a new President of the United States. I will be looking to see how his ratings fare after today’s ceremonies. But merely saying there is discord has not been the totality of the conversation so far.

A lot of clever people from across the country have been weighing in on the Inauguration Day festivities for quite some time and most of all on the man and the office that together make up 45th POTUS, Donald John Trump. One article from South Carolina  reminded readers in advance that there was indeed a good bit at stake in this election.  As the nation prepares to mark a new course and follow it on immigration some have pointed to Melania Trump’s own journey to citizenship. While Trump did secure a sizable minority of votes among American Jews by his staunch support for Israel there have been actions in the Liberal majority of American Jewry that have been reported in the press and online of those lamenting his election. Trump did not emphasize abortion, Israel, or Obamacare in his speech. He focused on certain key parts of his platform. Note the issues mentioned:

 

Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves. These are the just and reasonable demands of a righteous public.
But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.
This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.
We are one nation — and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams; and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny.
The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans.
For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military; we’ve defended other nation’s borders while refusing to defend our own; and spent trillions of dollars overseas while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay.
We’ve made other countries rich while the wealth, strength, and confidence of our country has disappeared over the horizon.
One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores, with not even a thought about the millions upon millions of American workers left behind.
The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed across the entire world.

Trump was concerned about secure borders, trade, crime and economic development.  Those were the first themes he hit upon. While he did not malign China or Mexico they were clearly the most threatened by him as in all past speeches about the overall geopolitcal situation. He promised a new era, of Trumpist protectionism and fine infrastructure:

But that is the past. And now we are looking only to the future. We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power.
From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land.
From this moment on, it’s going to be America First.
Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.
I will fight for you with every breath in my body — and I will never, ever let you down.
America will start winning again, winning like never before.
We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams.
We will build new roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways all across our wonderful nation.
We will get our people off of welfare and back to work — rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor.
We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American.

Beyond that he was hawkish only toward radical Islamic terrorism. He was able to use the term and able to promise to unite the world against these foes. See the next phrases:

We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world — but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.
We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow.
We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones — and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth.
At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.
When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice. The Bible tells us, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.”
We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity.
When America is united, America is totally unstoppable.
There should be no fear — we are protected, and we will always be protected.
We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement and, most importantly, we are protected by God.

Next,He laid out the vision of a technologically progressive and economically powerful America that would lead the world to the future. See the rest:

Finally, we must think big and dream even bigger.
In America, we understand that a nation is only living as long as it is striving.
We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action — constantly complaining but never doing anything about it.
The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action.
Do not let anyone tell you it cannot be done. No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America.
We will not fail. Our country will thrive and prosper again.
We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the Earth from the miseries of disease, and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow.
A new national pride will stir our souls, lift our sights, and heal our divisions.
It is time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American Flag.
And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty Creator.
So to all Americans, in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, and from ocean to ocean, hear these words:
You will never be ignored again.
Your voice, your hopes, and your dreams will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way.
Together, We will make America strong again.
We will make wealthy again.
We will make America proud again.
We will make America safe again.
And yes, together, we will make America great again. Thank you. God bless you. And God bless America.

 

 

So Obama is gone and our civilization appears to be going on. The worst of the fears projected in this space have not been realized. The future is of course uncertain. The truth of the transition and all that will come of it is about to emerge more clearly.

MLK Day, Inauguration Anticipation and Me…

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There has been a good bit of discussion of Congressman John Lewis’s interview with Chuck Todd of NBC News in which he said that he didn’t believe that Donald Trump is legitimately the President of the United States. Lewis stated that this is because the Russians and other parties conspired to damage the candidacy of Hillary Clinton and to elect Mr. Trump.  There has also been a great deal of comment about President-Elect Trump and his Tweets regarding Congressman Lewis. There is plenty of room for discussion about the ways in which each of these men do and do not understand each other and the people who support them and with whom each of them most identify.

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My farewell address On Tuesday, January 10, I’ll go home to Chicago to say my grateful farewell to you. In 1796, as George Washington set the precedent …….poP

However, two events on the calendar make this exchange more poignant and different than it would otherwise be. One reality of the calendar is that Monday, January 16 is Martin Luther King Day. African American groups and associations can readily rally around the ideas expressed by Congressman Lewis, as can others — such as the Democrats already using his words in their fundraising programs.  MLK Day is when I am typing this post. Race is highly relevant to all these discussions, but it is not entirely clear how it is relevant. President Obama of course is of different racial connections than President-Elect Trump. Most Americans have noticed this. But how all this relates to Civil Rights history is less clear. Trump wants to make a new case to racial minorities– especially Blacks in the inner cities. Lewis does not represent a poor inner city district, but Trump may have believed that he did. That’s suggested by a Trump Tweet.

The other big day is on the twentieth of this month. That is the day on which Donald J. Trump is supposed to be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. Lewis and at least twelve other members of Congress have said that they will not attend. I have hopes of watching most of the Day’s events on television as usual. Lewis does not seem aware of how messy many elections in our history have been. But more likely he simply believes he must rally certain forces in the country. The Russian hacking is mostly an excuse, I think. A better excuse than many its our history.

The new administration comes in at a time when I find myself uniquely alienated, despite an alienated life. My life is largely spent in ways that I own to which have left me deeply and broadly aware of how entirely devoid of success a life can be and yet remain the life one chose. Both Lewis and Trump are largely successful. Both are committed to the lives and paths which they have lived and blazed. Less alienated Americans will feel the divide between them more intensely. The empathy of millions will, for a while, center around one or the other.

Today is also the birthday of Ernest Gaines the prominent African American writer associated with my alma mater. I have read a good number of his novels and short stories and attended his lectures in the distant past. He also plays some role in shaping how I see this time.

But I am mostly preoccupied with concerns not much discussed nationally. I am going to be watching the next state in our affairs for any shadow of relevant hope. I will not expect much more.

 

 

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Obamacare, the long Christmas and Inauguration Day

With its embedded links this post is a kind of ambitious round up. It comes on the twelfth day of Christmas and a time for  dealing with cold weather in Louisiana. January 6, 2017 the votes of the Electoral College have been certified on the Feast of the Epiphany. I have written about the Epiphany before and about the bridge between Christmas Season and Carnival Season. I have discussed much of the meaning of Christmas as I see it in an unpublished novel, several chapters of which I have included in this blog as well. I am not celebrating in great style this year, I covered some plants against the cold. i smoked a cigar and shared some hot cocoa in two different occasions with two different friends  –and the day is not over just yet.

 

I started typing this post  today on the Feast of the Epiphany — January 6. My thoughts included the following Epiphany related thoughts, “I love to go to Mass on that day but it did not seem to be likely this year. I love a lot of things I do not do. I love to buy a King Cake but probably won’t make that happen either. ” This was also the same January sixth when there was cold weather that needed to be dealt with and when I had to help a friend at the library delete a Facebook account. Then while I had already been thinking about the certified votes I had a chance to hear and see some of them during the break between typing and editing here.

Donald Trump ran in part on the promise that people would start saying “Merry Christmas” again. (I have blogged a good bit about Christmas and love it plenty well.) My sister’s recent blog post about a Christmas tree.  But about much more than a Christmas tree. But like many things Christmas is a complicated matter if you look at it hard enough. The holiday season is not the only thing in contention (having ended for most Americans but not all). The new assault on an airport in Florida has many Americans facing this day with familiar and not festive feelings.

 

There has been a bit more fuss than usual in this certification day in Congress. I also noted a greater awareness in the morning news shows that this was the day assigned for the Congress to certify the Electoral Votes of each State.  However, the protests appear to have been ineffectual,the process moving the President -Elect one step closer to being President. The heritage of representative government and electoral governance and Western Civilization are linked in complex ways. But when we think of Greek roots of Democracy we must remember Greek roots of organized Royalist Monarchy and Aristocracy as well. The Greek ideas of the role of the One, the Many and the Few are beyond what I can discuss today but Greece continues to yield up new wonders from its storied past .I remain convinced that our Constitutional tradition needs to be both relatively conservative and dynamic. I have spelled that out here and here — at least in brief. I have said much more in other places in the blog. But this is the star of a new year and the start of a new Presidential administration is on the way and I am in no position to exert influence of any kind. One of the issues in this transition relates to the nature and state of race relations in the United States of America. Two stories frame this debated and reported struggle. One story is the sentencing phase of the trial of Dylan Roof, convicted of the Hate Crime killing of the people known as the Charleston Nine:

  • Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd (54)
  • Susie Jackson (87)
  • Ethel Lee Lance (70)
  • Depayne Middleton-Doctor (49)
  • Clementa C. Pinckney (41)
  • Tywanza Sanders (26)
  • Daniel Simmons (74)
  • Sharonda Coleman-Singleton (45)
  • Myra Thompson (59)

While only one of these was a politician several were leaders in the Black Church communities int he region. Dylan Roof gives every evidence of being a militant and selective terrorist. The other story is that of the hate crimes committed by four African Americans against a white guy of limited capacities which was broadcast on Facebook Live. these things remind us all of the racial tensions and animosities that exist in this country.

Those extreme situations only underline and bookend the much large tensions that involve race and other factors in more complicated ways. The Obamacare issues and the proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act are only part of the overall struggle. people who do lots of work for which they are not paid at all or are paid far less than one can survive on are taxed and fined to pay for the most irresponsible, expensive and uncontrolled medical economy in the world  on behalf of those privileged to have had good jobs are willing to admit that they have no work at all. Our society is deeply corrupt in countless ways that rest heaviest on those most victimized by Obamacare. the repeal will likely benefit not those people as much as the richer people who will pay less for the healthcare insurance premiums under a new regime and the more successful small business people who may see their deductibles go down. For some people it may always seem like Santa Claus is coming on Christmas to those watching, for others like the winter in C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia — very cold and brutal with no Christmas in sight. The middle fifty percent are the ones who can really afford to get excited about arguing the merits of the plans put forth.

For me this portends to be a very bleak year. But the actual Christmas that is ending has been better than average. I would like to hope for a happy New Year as well. But I am not there yet….

 

Hillary’s History and Politcal Conventions in a Time of Crisis

The conventions have had a bit of time to fade into the background. Both campaigns have been unconventional and both candidates experienced something different about their conventions.  In the DNC there was the contention between  Sanders supporters and the Hillary majority that she might have wished was less than it was. In the RNC,  Donald Trump was operating in a situation where Ted Cruz was booed off stage for not endorsing him and where not a single former President spoke to endorse him. Hillary had President Hubby and President Hussein. Trump did not have  have George War Hero Bush, George Texas Rangers Bush,  or Mitt Romney captain of the very loyal GOP block of moderate Mormons.  But if both sides had memorable conventions the most historic was the Democratic National Convention where a woman we all know very well if we know politics was nominated as the candidate for the Presidency of the United States.  I have no wife, no daughter and largely followed the conventions on both sides alone. I have a lot of female relatives and correspondents. But no matter what their political beliefs I would have to expect that most American women felt some kind of identification with Hillary.  It has been a long road here and she has earned the nomination by dint of creating an unequalled record of engagement in the affairs to which it relates in our time. That does not mean I will vote for her. I have not decided whom to vote for but I do want  recognize that as a student radical,  constituent advocacy attorney, First Lady of Arkansas, First Lady of the United States, United States Senator from New York,     U.S. Secretary of State and Presidential Candidate twice she has paid her dues. She simply cannot be denied that statement — no Democrat has ever had more sweat equity than she has…

She faces a candidate who is running on the plat form of building the Great Wall of the United States and encouraging an immigration policy led by wives for billionaires — although Marla Maples snuck in there somehow…. So we will see.  She is likely to be the next President of the United States of America.  She and her hubby do not make me happy about America’s future but unhappiness is a fairly permanent and pervasive thing for me.  I began my Mon ay with a meeting with the police to reclaim a relatives lost dog who had innocently enough put another relative into medical (really dental care) and then escaped the makeshift tethering the owners had done  as they left for the hospital.  Sunday after the DNC which was yesterday I had a very pleasant dinner with family but there was a potentially serious injury on both the way out and the way home.   Not traffic injuries but unrelated things. My life is full of little problems and medium size problems and big distractions but like most Americans I feel that I have a connection to Presidential politics.  Madame President or President Trump seem the only alternatives likely and Madame President is more likely. I do care and have a few things to say now.

Hillary Clinton has emerged as the first truly serious Presidential nominee by a major party in American history.  Victoria Woodhull’s candidacy in the Equal Rights Party in the nineteenth century was not a joke and has has been followed by many other minor party candidates but none of them had a realistic chance of winning. In addition, Geraldine Ferraro failed spectacularly on her ticket and Sarah Palin first lost with John McCain and then resigned the governorship of Alaska whereas before the national run she had reason to believe that she would be a reasonably successful governor and a fixture in Alaskan and regional politics for years to come.  Both women had some real success and fame after their losing bids, but not enough to say in either case that the run was entirely good for their public and political status. Palin did better in the creation of other opportunities than Feraro. But neither had as much to lose as HRC. Her selfish political reason for running (along with whatever noble and other reasons she has) is that she has done everything else except the VP and the Presidency that would constitute a climb up this ladder. Hillary Rodham Clinton has  a lot of valuable experience and also has a great deal of history to overcome. The Democratic National Convention was her time to try to cement her position leading the charge of the Democrats to regain the White House and also to show she can be an asset on down ballot elections. I think that it is fair to say that it has not gone all that smoothly. Thursday evening was the peak and the key of her efforts to legitimize and secure her position. The precedent had been set by Ivanka Trump introducing her father at the Republican National Convention, Chelsea and her mother would follow suit. But the crucial difference in a daughter introducing her mother was lost on nobody.  The question many were asking was whether a woman’s moment could be an effective reality. I thought that as regards the evening as a whole the jury is still out and may always be out. But Chelsea did a fine job.

Thursday evening Chelsea Clinton looked the best I have ever seen her look on a big stage and she spoke with virtually flawless delivery and presentation as she introduced her mother.  Then there was a video in the hall and a great deal of commentary by people who get paid to comment on most networks.  Bernie Sanders supporters in yellow shorts emblazoned with a dove of peace and the slogan “enough is enough” were much in evidence and some were interviewed.  Almost everyone was respectful of Chelsea and what she had to say.  It was much like Ivanka’s introduction at the Republican National Convention, in that it was hard not to at least wish to allow the speaker in each case a chance to rejoice and be proud of their respective parent.

Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech was another matter. There were several times when chants of “Feel the Bern” had to be drowned out by her supporters chanting “Hill-a-ry” but that was not like a cheer at the right spot — it still disrupted her delivery. That was despite several points in the speech where she made overtures to Sander and his supporters including directly thanking him and adopting his cause. She also attacked Donald Trump a great deal.

 

Wednesday, I did watch the Democratic National Convention during most of the nearly two hours that they were broadcast on broadcast networks in what seems like a later version of primetime than I remember primetime being. But actually the speeches by Tim Kaine and President Obama had little trouble keeping my interest. While I was tired and my nerves were frayed from a hard day I was eager to hear what they had to say. Of course, it bears saying that I had a high level of interest when watching Donald Trump and Ivanka as well as Ben Carson and some others who spoke at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last week. Both conventions have been contentious. Both seem to have achieved unity by their respective Wednesday evening speeches…. the contest between the parties can in fact take place.

 

I went out to dinner with an old friend on Tuesday evening and so we both missed the Bill Clinton speech. It is a tense time in the country and in the world as all times are but more so.  The country is at its most partisan, the supremacy of these two parties no matter what is more clear than ever in a year like this if there have been any other years like this. Monday July 25, 2016 the Democrats got their convention started. Most people seemed to agree that the highlight of the evening for the party was the speech given by Michelle Obama, the First Lady of these United States.   The news was not all good. there were scandals with the DNC, which has been hacked and has  leaked emails some say show they acted unfairly in favor of Clinton and against Sanders. Those scandals with the DNC are bound to make some people wonder about what was in the Clinton emails lost from her private server when she was in the State Department. Donald Trump has certainly already tried to make the connection. But regardless of what this means for the long history of apparent improprieties among the Clinton network and its two principal actors there were more direct concerns early on. It seemed clear enough that  not all Sanders supporters were in the mood to forgive and forget or to focus their anger on the hackers or any support the hackers may have received from Donald Trump or Russia. That is not likely to change completely even if it turns out that Russia is launching deliberate attacks on the Democratic party. Some evidence suggests there may be a pattern of such attacks.

They were already annoyed and now some of them are really angry. Debbie Wasserman Schultz had not planned to start the convention with her own public resignation from leadership. But her resignation and the hard work, symbolic gestures, speeches and other activities of the Democratic National Convention do seem to have worked to bring the discordant party together.  We must see the struggle as one aided by the supposed sharp contrast between the parties and candidates. However, when that is said one wants to remind everyone of all the candidates have in common although there is no reason to believe that that matters all that much. This is a season of conflict and competition….

Some will rejoice at the tone of the Hillarious  Democrats, peaceful and Kind compared to some in the GOP. But others will wonder if that is realistic.  Trump is not seeking world war or genocide. He is more alarmed than alrmist. The events around the world kept conspiring to make alarm seem reasonable. Japan had is largest mass killing in over half a century without firearms and a saintly old priest was immolated by ISIS in a French church. The Convention seemed tone deaf to some outsiders.  The message of universal tolerance, equal opportunity and average wonderfulness did not jive well with all the headlines. Of course the Democrats are in executive power that has two very different effects which play out across long periods of time.  First, a certain amount of relevance is assured and more is presumed. It’s almost impossible to be as out of touch as a party out of power can be. On the other hand, the portion of the electorate seeking change is likely to want to change such a party into an out of power party. But, in our current situation –and unlike the way many but not all countries work– the roles of the parties are reversed on the legislative side of things. Dems are out there and GOP holds sway. Both sides experience the two effects listed above in a limited and complicated way…

So the country has a complicated set of signals being sent…. But one of these people is going to be President.  Republicans just had their big political convention a few weeks ago at the longest description and it fades from memory. Hillary had her moment and now the Democrats are having their own chance for the Convention to fade in memory. The press is on for the vote. The election matters and I will return to it. But I do want to look at this moment as well.

 

 

Clinton’s Campaign: Does She Have Credibility, a Creed and a Contest ?

Will Secretary and Senator and Former First Lady  Hillary Rodham Clinton be the first female President of the United States? It certainly seems likely. Here you can read my first post when she became the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party.  Since the very first version of this post came out the Washington Post has run an article saying that her credibility is damaged, that article is here and it may or may not represent political reality. But the contention made here in all versions of this post so far is that there appears to be a small chance that she will be indicted, arrested and charged in the email scandal or in any matter to do with Benghazi. By small of course I mean that there is not a large chance. There appears to be a miniscule chance that Bernie Sanders will mount a successful revolt or set up a powerful third party challenge which would derail her path to the presidency. There is more or less no realistic chance that she will be stopped from being elected except by the victory of Donald Trump as the Republican Nominee over her as the Democratic Nominee in the general election. Almost no chance is not the same as no chance. Any number of things could happen including death of physical impairment. But the odds seem to be better than fifty percents that she will be the next POTUS. Few people have ever had more relevant work or official experience when approaching the highest office in the land. To be a Senator is a lot, to be Secretary of State is a lot, to be First Lady is a lot — to be all three is a staggering degree of experience. Of course I physically stagger more easily than some more physically gifted readers and so I go to that adjective and the related adverb more readily than they might. But if one does not stagger one at least must take notice of the degree to which she embodies tremendous experience. Compared to her:

  1. Donald Trump has never held elected office,
  2. he has never lived in the White House,
  3. he has never lived in the executive mansion of a State,
  4. he has never held an office appointed by a President,
  5. he has never led a sustained policy discussion as Clinton did with healthcare,
  6. he has never been officially invited to sit at the table to negotiate  a formal treaty on behalf of the United States.
To safeguard liberty we must be able to adapt to the changing times.

To safeguard liberty we must be able to adapt to the changing times.

On the other hand they do have some lack of experience in common:

  1. Neither on has held a major post in a religious institution,
  2. neither has served in the military,
  3. neither has served in the workaday world of the intelligence community,
  4. neither has lived on our borders or in border towns for any length of time,
  5. neither speaks Spanish of French well, official languages of our neighbors,
  6.  neither has lived and worked as a citizen in the way business people, missionaries, journalists and  volunteers do every day across this world as they forge an American identity abroad.

Ambassador Stevens was an unusually high ranking victim of violence abroad. In the last few days other Americans have lost their lives around the world but a glimpse into the kinds of decisions he faced is also a glimpse into kinds of decisions that Americans who believe in what they are doing abroad face every day.  The following excerpt is from the recent report on the Benghazi incident:

While the end of the fiscal year funding deadline was looming, the Diplomatic Security Agent in charge at the Embassy in Tripoli was, nonetheless,
concerned about Stevens’ trip to Benghazi. Although his first planned trip to Benghazi in the beginning of August 2012 had to be canceled because of security,14 Stevens was adamant, however, about going in September.15 The Diplomatic Security Agent testified:
Previous to this—to his decisions to going up there, there was— we would meet weekly to discuss the security situation in Libya.…[
T]here was a specific meeting regarding what was happening in Benghazi. In that meeting, we reviewed incidents and  probable causes, what’s initiating it. And a lot of discussion was that it was the conflict or the incidents up there were, you know, local population against local population and that that they weren’t specifically targeting Americans … up there. I expressed my concerns about the incidents that did involve us. And the basic response was that they … were anomalies.

We all have images of what leadership should look like which are not simple portrayals of reality.

We all have images of what leadership should look like which are not simple portrayals of reality.

Romney was a missionary in France during anti-American times, Bill Clinton visited Russia as a student in the Cold War years and there are other connections to tat least the same world Chris Stevens lived in that can be found in other political lives outside the military but not in the lives of Hillary Clinton or Donald trump so far as I know. Both have traveled a great deal. both have been at some risk but the proportion of risk to resources has never been equal in my opinion to the baseline many Americans abroad have experienced every day all of my life.

The other thing that they have in common is access to fame, fortune, privilege and the people in power. This is not an even contest between the two of them but neither does it really matter who has had more of such opportunity. These opportunities have defined both of their lives for a long time. One big difference of course is that Trump like all previous American Presidents is a man and Clinton is a woman. I visited that in the post where her candidacy was all but assured but I am not going to deal with it much in this post.

There are issues related to Clinton that have very little to do with the fact that she is a woman. Trump recently said he just knew very little about her religion and she responded by declaring her self emphatically enough to be a Methodist. My own take on some of the discussion of Clinton’s religion has been posted in this blog before and can be seen here. Of course there may be more to say as time goes on.  One fact about the election of the first Clinton to the Presidency is that the result was likely determined by the most credible third party candidate in presidential politics in my lifetime — Ross Perot. He made it more than possible for Bill Clinton to defeat George Bush Senior. Thus Clinton did not face the kind of intense contest he would have otherwise.  This kind of splitting is well established in British politics and may have been fostered in some way or another by the Rhodes Scholar, Bill Clinton as the biggest take home lesson from his time in Oxford. Some may see Trump as Ross Perot on steroids. He is the third party candidate who became the  candidate of a major party and the main obstacle to Clinton’s election. that would still be true even if Romney or someone becomes a real third party candidate somehow. So how does trump match Clinton on matters of faith?

To see Clinton’s faith in political terms this season means to examine Donald Trump’s faith as well. He seems to be a person, like Clinton, about whom one could say a great many contradictory things based on pretty good evidence. That is not necessarily because he is deceptive or a hypocrite but may be because of the place he comes from in his life context. Interestingly enough he has made it clear that he supports Christmas as a national holiday and seeks to preserve it. That was the narrow subject of my original blog post about Clinton’s faith and the faith of other candidates.    Christmas was of course never my only interest in the religious identity of candidates. I love Christmas very much and the Christian observance of it by this country is a tradition I think worth striving for and worth some sacrifice. However, it is interesting that the ugliest rumors and suspicions about Donald Trump involve the ways in which he reminds people of the NSDAP or Nazis and the Third Reich. While many Christians nothing like the Hitlerites have rallied around Christmas, there is also no doubt that the Nazis made Christmas and especially the control of Christmas tree sales and early focus of political activity.  In further clarification, it is interesting to note that the list of candidates in the Democrats poll I posted in that article did include Biden but did not include Sanders. Even more interesting is that Trump does not appear among the six Republican candidates who appear in the poll I posted and reviewed in terms of the religion of the candidates. Huckabee was the leader in the poll and he was of course a Baptist minister who claimed the same hometown as President William Jefferson Clinton — Hope, Arkansas. So where does that leave the discussion of religion as I saw it back in 2014? It is not a perfectly relevant post in every way  then.  But here is the principal quotation from that blog post as it pertains to understanding Clinton’s faith in very general political terms. The first paragraph below deals with how Americans likely to vote Republican were thinking about Republican candidates in 2014 and how that related to Christmas and it observance by the Christians of this nation . However the remaining paragraphs  relate to what Clinton’s religious identity is likely to be. It is perhaps best to look at the text:

There is a lot of shaking out to do if these numbers mean any thing before any Republican can claim the nomination.  But it does indicate perhaps the streams of thought that are shaping the country as regards finding a religious root for values expressed by America’s  “right” in politics.

What then about the left? Where does the other side of American  political energy come down on our connecting with the roots of Christianity.  Unlike the possible GOP nominees, Hillary Clinton has tended to tower over her challengers for the 2016 Democratic nomination. Some people are saying that candidates like Elizabeth Warren are poised to show explosive growth but it would take a lot of growth to challenge  Clinton in the primary.

Joe Lieberman who ran with Al Gore was not a Christian but a Jew who seemed to tolerate a good deal of public Christmas. Mitt Romney belonged to what most scholars consider to be a post-Christian religion but it is one that celebrates Christmas as an American holiday and the birth festival of Jesus Christ. Many presidents have been devout Christians: Washington, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, Woodrow Wilson, John Kennedy and half a dozen others are clearly men who in my opinion must be seen as Christians entirely. Whatever they did not achieve of the Christian ideal is not because they did not adhere to that faith and religion. Richard Nixon was reared as a Quaker and (though many American Quakers seem pretty much to be Christians) Quakers as a whole are not a Christian faith but one which grew up among Christians.  It is hard to say what Nixon was when he was President. With men like Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and  a few others it hard to say where they stood in terms of religious classification and identity.

So that brings me to Clinton. She is a favorite enemy of the Christian Right and other religious people in American politics and she may well deserve it. She has a background which is mostly verifiable: Clinton was reared a Methodist Protestant Christian, belonged to a Senate Prayer Group and has spoken at Prayer Breakfasts.  Her profile may seem different to American atheists than to most other people. Here is an atheist site evaluating Clinton’s background and religious values.  It is hard to know how  she would deal with Christmas.

I have just finished observing the Independence Day  holiday in a minimal sort of way. It is always a time that I like to think about what it means to be an American and posts about those thoughts can be seen here. But although those ideas have been posted here they have more often been shared in other places and my thoughts about America have been posted here on other holidays. Those holiday thoughts on Memorial Day have been  here and on Veterans day have been here. While I have in common with Clinton and Trump that I have not a day of service in the military in my past it seems to be the military holidays that most inspire my patriotism. My observation of the Independence Day holiday was not entirely minimal by every standard and I did post quite a few notes and the lyrics of the National Anthem on my Facebook profile but minimal my observance  certainly was  in some measures. Neither Trump nor Clinton were very visible in my own perusal of our nation’s birthday. But one of them will likely be the American Head of State by next Independence Day. Unlike Christmas these holidays are not specifically Christian. I am a Christian and for me Christian prayer is part of these national holidays. I am not sure how the faith of either major candidate informs  their celebration of these days.  But faith and the most gung ho kinds of patriotism are linked by many as can be seen at links here and here. What else does  America expect from a leader and does Clinton have it?

Clinton has a lot of government experience, but the range is not infinite. One of the big achievements of this week has been the placement of the Juno observatory in position as a satellite of Jupiter. Some of the reason many people around the world are interested in this project can be gleaned here.  Neither Clinton nor Trump seems to be the kind to play an extraordinary role in blazing a pioneering trail into space.  These kinds of brave explorations may shape the future or not but they do not seem to define the vision of either Clinton or Trump.

One question many people have about religion is whether or not someone who prays for help should be President. Perhaps prayer means one cannot do the job. But some contend Clinton had private emails because she did not want to disclose the degree to which she could not do her job. That story can be seen here. It is to be noted that this not entirely clear story comes from a publication as biased in favor of Clinton and against Trump as one can get. But the point is here only that Buzz Aldrin, a rocket scientist, astronaut and space planner is a noted public prayer promoter in his own life and not being known for religious acts makes nobody a scientist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fathers Day, Poverty, Harsh Reality & Sports

Last night I watched LeBron James lead the determined Cavaliers against the super professional Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors. The beloved King James who had seen his jersey burnt in Cleveland when he signed to play in Miami was not quite in the land of ordinary men. He was  crossing over a bit into legend on that moment.  It was Fathers Day and a lot of American Fathers (and other fathers too) are sports fans. It seems likely that for many families in Cleveland this was Fathers Day they are not likely to forget.  Of course for the Curry family and the fans of the Golden State Warriors it was a bitter disappointment. The moment one team and one man and one city flirted with legend was the moment that another story fell short the best regular season in NBA history ended with a hard fought  seven game finals but it did not end with the championship.

Competition is not the only value worth having and really is not the central value of my own life. But it is part of life for all of us and it is part of male identity. This Sunday Americans celebrated Fathers Day. I had an enjoyable time with my father.  I brought him gifts and we enjoyed drinks at the Riverfront restaurant in Abbeville and a beautiful meal that my mother had prepared. During this occasion most of the attention goes to the stories of fathers bringing up children in pretty good situations.  But fathering is done in many parts of the world that are far from ideal. The sense of struggle is almost endless for many people and many of them are fathers too. The Syrian refugees, the destitute in camps, homeless shelters,  and squatting in sites around the world — many of these are fathers as well.  This is one very compelling study about what is happening in the world.  It does not focus on the whole world but on one part of it very specifically, the world of a large group or class of Syrian refugees.  My Dad has spent a lot of time with those who were in trouble. We have lived and he has lived and visited regions where people were involved in the kinds of lingering and sporadic civil wars that were common in the twentieth century, places where mass migrations had strained local resources,  places recently devastated by hurricanes and places under various kinds of social change.

Being with him in some of those times  and places where the trouble and need which attracted us there were prevalent was not always easy. The path of a life in the missions was certainly not one without real challenges. The story of those challenges and the joys that go with them has been a story that has long been a part of my life itself — not just the events of the story but the telling and retelling of that story. Even the journalism I have made a little bit of a living doing from time to time and the fiction that has not yet paid any bills –even that is informed by the really extremely varied story of that life and those years especially spent together often dealing with crises.

Crises shape the community, hardship shapes a community and depression shapes a community.  So does the fear of violence. Americans are subject to a considerable amount of fear of violence and there is not that much agreement about how to deal with it. The cultural hostility to a person achieving any kind of self reliance whatever can be very much manifest in groups of people that inhabit many people and intimidate the family oriented, hardworking and insightful people trying to prevent those neighborhoods from turning to living hells or remaining such. A country like ours that is so dotted with riots and violence and punctuates it life with so many bombings and mass shootings is not necessarily a place that will not be crippled by more emphasis on disarming the citizenry . The Obama administration has often been criticized  here and so have  those around him who want an unarmed lawful citizenry. They are criticized in large part because I believe that they do not know how profound the savagery, disorder and decay is in its effects in destroying the quality of life in this country.  Limiting the arms of besieged American beset with violence, chaos and resistance to public advancement on many sides will certainly increase this sense of a society where it is not safe to try to survive and thrive. Here is a story about these matter in terms of what American guns mean to maintaining a balance of terror. The bad guys will not be disarming much any time soon.

My Dad is a gun owner. He is not a big preacher of the value of an armed citizenry and in many rough places where we lived we could not keep weapons at home. In addition the radical nature of our involvement with those in need  required us to risk a level of vulnerability  — but my dad is, as I have always been, a man who knew and used guns and respected and enjoyed them.

 

But the arts of shooting and killing like many other things have not been the only part of his life that we have shared. Family, ministry and other values and themes of life have really been much more important without undervaluing those things.  There have also been times visiting tourist sites, wealthy friends and relatives, living in neighborhoods near stable work and hanging out on the beach.

 

But I think back on my life as life in which the moments victory in dark places and hard times mattered a lot. Compared to opening a new harbor facility, a new factory or a new large piece of permanent public infrastructure a lot of the victories our family shared were kind of fleeting and heard to define. Life the elated Cleveland fans who must go back to the problems that their city faces tomorrow. But Cleveland is building back in many ways over the last twenty years. Form the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, to the improving Browns, to American Splendor and  the story of King James and his knights of the round ball — Cleveland is a gritty place in a gritty state looking for and finding some real meaning and hope.

I never forget the connection between the Saints winning the Super Bowl and the devastation of Katrina and Rita. Things are far from perfect now but the Super Bowl did help to keep people who stayed in the struggle in the struggle. In America a lot of fathers watch sports and find a little hope in their own struggles from the struggles of sports. That happened to us when the Saints won it all.

Whatever come in the coming year that is difficult and challenging I am sure tha watching the game last nigh after getting back from Dad’s will not be my favorite memory. I am not a huge NBA fan really. But I am also sure that it is a Father’s day even that has some meaning. It is a moment in time that many will treasure  as dads and with their dads.

Mass shooting in Pulse Nightclub

Over fifty killed and another fifty injured in a firefight begun, sustained and led by American Islamic extremist Omar Mateen.  The young Mateen had been interviewed by the FBI several times. The belief is stated that he did not have ties to foreign Islamist extremists but his family is from Afghanistan and NBC News has reported that the father Seddique Mateen openly lobbies for the Taliban. So perhaps a more nuanced statement about his connections abroad should be made. There seems to be a basic agreement in the family that homosexuals deserve to be put to death although the father does not see it as lawful for people to perform that act of execution — leaving it to God.  the CBS link to a relevant story is here and I heard similar reports on other networks. In addition the young man bought weapons very recently.  His ex wife brings up the mental illness idea but one has to question what that means, but he does seem to have been a controlling wife-beater to some degree. The gay bar on the other hand seems to have been entirely unprepared for an Islamist attack of a military terrorist nature.  perhaps that is incorrect but that is how it seems.

The Americans and visitors to America were attacked this morning by a man who called 911 to pledge support and loyalty to the leader of ISIS. This call to emergency services was made in the wee hours of Sunday morning. The bloody ordeal went on until a final firefight with police sometime after five in the morning. Experience has taught me that not all links will be readable over time and I cannot check them all but a pretty good summary of the event should link here.

My first post on this event came shortly after I woke and was on Facebook.  I wrote,

Taking a moment to acknowledge the deaths of dozens of Americans and other people in America killed while celebrating a Saturday night out. The families and friends affected by this and also the wounded are also in my prayers. It would feel good to say that politics has no place here. It would be comforting to say that real issues related to homosexuality, to the obligation of nightlife to have more security now than in the past, to the views of American Muslims, to the policing of districts where clubs are located, to the disputes about guns and even more disagreeable to the electoral implications of these deaths –to hold that these issues didn’t matter. But all that and more matters. 

These are trying times…”

The President of the United States in his initial press conference largely minimized the Islamist nature of this incident. The Press Conference with the White House Press Corps was not his first response however and some of the tweets and actions that came out earlier are mentioned below.  Many issues will emerge over time. The effort to respond reasonably will be opposed on all sides directly and indirectly. A reasonable response in my view would examine honestly all the weakness  this attack reveals. It would deal not only with the many who have lined up to give blood for the victims but the many who are offended by federal bathroom laws, Gay Pride Parades in front of their children and would prefer not to live near a nightclub like the Pulse. Most of those people would not hesitate to condemn this act and take real measures to prevent it.  The gun control debate might include ind reasonably requiring high power assault weapons in a vault near security guards at sites very attractive to known terrorist organizations, might license accountable community militia groups, might acknowledge the fiasco that gun free zones occasion.  A reasonable conversation might   also realize that people call those with deadly records mentally ill in a way that has almost no definable meaning.  But after all the reason was brought to bear then perhaps real restrictions on trading, transporting, storing and using assault weapons could be put in place. When not at the shooting range, at the community armory or in your annually inspected home vault your assault gun might be at risk of seizure and you might risk a fine.  I don’t consider this country a safe place not because I expect to be shot today but because the social fabric is constantly being degraded. Few are interested in the hard work of repairing it. 

Military expressions are often part of Louisiana funerals.

Military expressions are often part of Louisiana funerals.

As the names and stories of the dead emerge the understanding of the events will evolve as well. For me their deaths came on an anniversary of another death.  Here is a link from the television station on Channel Four in Jacksonville which begins to disclose the names — but this is a step in a long journey. I would have discussed these events with that old friend almost exactly my age. His country and mine have changed and continue to change. But that will not lessen the tensions underlying the many faces of this tragedy. President Obama will continue to behave in a way which will evoke a very belated response from a very limited legitimate opposition press as seen in the New York Post story linked here. The journalist cites Obama as saying that ” We”not Islamic terrorism are at fault for the Orlando massacre. Social networks were abuzz but not as much as after some events. I think that the truth is people are unable to write as freely about the incident because it involved a gay nightclub. They may not like the current LGBT agenda and the may not be crazy in love with Gay nightclub scenes on morning television. They do not know how to deal with these realities without mentioning them if they post their sincere outrage at the attack and sincere condolences.  Apparently the club was largely a Hispanic clientele, and had the double empathy issues of current animosity by some towards the LGBT community and by others to the Hispanic community. But fencing things around with so many verbal protocols that one’s critics cannot feel safe to join you in opposing a common enemy seems risky to me.  Remember this man drove a distance to kill people indoors. He was not being forced to deal with any particular assault to his religion directly.

 

My brother, whom I always called my half-brother  and whom I did not know until I was in graduate school and who had a separate legal set of parents who adopted him was named Paul. He was a homosexual who died of AIDS and was living with me and my family after falling out of whatever support system the LGBT community in San Francisco had to offer. I called a friend and former fraternity brother in the LGBT AIDS assistance community to get help for him and corresponded with several others and with Paul when he first came there to us and nobody helped. However, my experience with programs helping in this country is that they usually have not responded to any request I made but did do many things I did not think worth doing. Those are painful memories for me. That set of memories does not make me an expert on the pain and loss these families are suffering. I tried to help Paul and we were fairly close at the end but he never even admitted to me that he was gay. It just remained a wide open secret between us. My mother gave him up for adoption before I was born. When I met him he was married to a woman from the Middle East and had a stepson named Jameel. I was married in those days as well. Families and sexuality are both complicated things. Death also comes for us all. But the horror of a mass slaying like this goes beyond death.   Nothing can compare to the loss and horror of those personally connected to the tragedy and tragedies like this.. That is true even if like me you do not put a gay bar at the same level as a church or an elementary school. I do not put it at the same level. There is no reason to ask someone like me to make it a shrine. The deaths of their loved ones doubtless make it sacred to the bereaved.  But the public nature of the place is otherwise. The issues of hate crimes, terrorism, murder, national security and civic injury ought to be enough to bother all of us — we do not need to have a belief that the space itself was a sacred one. But it was a privileged space. It was a gathering place for people who are different to do things not everyone will like or approve of them doing. It seems that whether one is opposed to the ambitious LGBT agenda or not one could support the idea of a safe, politically conscious place for adults to gather without disturbing neighborhoods. Many in the building would doubtless want to do all kinds of things in my neighborhood I would not like. But as an American I can still see a need for them to protect their basic civil rights even if we disagree about some of the boundaries, a place to congregate and a place to create a cultural of communication and sexual interchange within boundaries they define for themselves as proper which I do not have to witness. Driving a long way to shoot up a gay bar is more than a hate crime it is a small step in the direction of the extermination of gay people. In scale it is trivial but in type it is a kind of sexual act of genocide. It is of course not trivial to those who had a loved one exterminated.

. The families, friends, first responders and others have been traumatized to varying degrees and the wounded of course intensely injured. The President deserves some credit for trying to strike a tone of human compassion and his response is outlined below. White House Tweets at intervals varying from pauses of a couple of minutes or less to pauses of a few hours included attached materials and video summing up the President’s actions and words. There are other accounts involved and the White House retweeted itself and yet one can map out a response from the following principal tweets.

  1. “In the face of hate and violence, we will love one another. We will not give into fear.” —
  2. “We stand with the people of who have endured a terrible attack on their city.” —
  3. “As Americans, we are united in grief, in outrage, and in resolve to defend our people.” — on

  4. orders U.S. flags flown at half-staff to honor the victims of the attack in Orlando:

  5. Attacks on any American—regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation—is an attack on all of us.

  6. This is an especially heartbreaking day for all our friends—our fellow Americans—who are LGBT

The policy does not seem to reflect an ongoing series of attacks from Radical Islamists. It would make me feel better to focus only on the facts of the massacre as a massacre but terrorism is always political. Here are some of the political victims I can think of so far as the process is being led by the White House.  From the point of view of Americans who like Obama was fond of saying “cling to their religion and their guns”  this seems to be a chance to expose them to three prongs of pressure. They feel the hostility for Americans from ISIS and the family’s Taliban connections. They feel the hostility from the White House stirring up criticism of all those not fanatic cheerleaders for the LGBT agenda.  They feel what they cannot help but believe will be greater tensions from LGBT leadership who follow Obama’s lead in seeing this as a social hate crime and not part of an Islamist Jihad. For the conservative Muslim who wants a better future as a loyal American — this has to be a bad day. For homosexuals and others who are sexually aligned to the LGBT but while they want to have safe nightclubs do not seek a culture war or value its purported triumphs this is a bad day. For Hispanics who see countless ways this incident pushes out the kinds of connections they have spent a lifetime building with others this is also a bad day.   For those

Today is the first anniversary of a friend’s death. I am inescapably aware of how the United States we grew up in has become a place where Islamists frequently express themselves by killing people gathering places.

We have a responsibility to understand the words we use to shape our live and society. This is a picture of the Declarators committee.

We have a responsibility to understand the words we use to shape our live and society. This is a picture of the Declarators committee.

We must pray, vote, think, write and be  brave. But I make no claim that the path we are on is a promising one. Nor do I believe positive change is a foregone conclusion. The promise of America has been made simplistic and almost ridiculous in my view but it does have a promise and we can come to understand it. We can face the fact that crises like these play far too large of a role in shaping any national dialog we do have.  I just published a post about national conversation and this is the link to it here. I will also mention its title:  https://franksummers3ba.com/2016/06/09/presidential-politics-and-the-current-american-mindset/

I have some empathy with those who  wish to keep political comments for the future although I do not do so here.  I end with a quote from a politically active Facebook friend younger than myself, named Rick Fisher:

I am a conservative republican. I believe a person who is gay has a right to go to a nightclub without fear of being shot, just like everyone else. I believe a person who is Muslim has every right to be in this country, to live and work here just like everyone else. And I believe there is nothing wrong with expressing sympathy and sorrow first for the families of those who lost a live one due to an act of such extreme hatred I cannot comprehend.

Like everyone else I have several thoughts about the horrific tragedy that occurred last night in Orlando. Those thoughts will be shared in due time. But not today. Today we pray for the fillies of the deceased, and for the well-being and recovery of those who survived a battlefield they rightfully didn’t expect to enter.

So where do I get the incentive to do this analysis as I slide into the silent dark perhaps? I get it from the commitments I have made over the years.  From those who sought out my advice and published my stuff. From those of you I do not know who still read these posts. I also get it from inside as well. I do not know if I will return to this subject directly but sadly it is a subject  that is tied to many others across this blog.

 

Presidential Politics and the Current American Mindset

So will the US ban all Muslims from entering the country for a time? Will it seek to get along better with North Korea and not so well with the UK? Will it deport tens of millions of aliens to Mexico by relative force across the country? Do those visions fairly represent Donald Trump?

Will it lie, deny, distort and obfuscate as long and as much as can be imagined when challenged on any wrongdoing in the White House? Will it sing the official praises of those who who sell human body part of members of our species deliberately dismembered? Will it find ways to blame working class white men and unidentified big businesses for larger and larger parts of the country’s problems no matter what the evidence may be? Is that a fair vision of a potential Clinton presidency?

This blog post does not attempt to answer any of those questions.  This post does assert that while I am doing other things I am still committed to the political commentary in this blog. It is a little different than the commentary any where else. It is very much my own.  Some of that commentary begins just now.

We all have images of what leadership should look like which are not simple portrayals of reality.

We all have images of what leadership should look like which are not simple portrayals of reality.

It looks like there will be a race for the White House between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. There may be surprises or a third significant candidate but it appears that those two will lead the charge for the major parties in this country. This post is a chance to simply link together a few thoughts and references for this blog which began during the presidency of Barack Hussein Obama. I still have a few more posts in my series Emerging Views but this post is about the developing presidential election and what all of that will mean for this blog and other aspects of life, culture and politics. While this blog is obviously a particularly small voice in the world of news and information it is not clear that America has the kinds of voices today which Time and Newsweek represented in the 1980s and 1990s. Those were far from perfect times and those two famous weeklies were far from perfect media outlets.  Perceptions of bias and the wrong kinds of selectivity were often stated and were justified.  But these news and culture magazines did seem to capture a sense of where American political energy and interest were in a way which no handful of media outlets do today. Rush Limbaugh, the ABC, NBC,Fox, CBS, Yahoo and Google News programs taken together cover a lot waterfront. I am not sure they bring together a sense of the country as those two magazines and handful of their peers once did. I wonder where and how this great debate and discussion will play out.

To safeguard liberty we must be able to adapt to the changing times.

To safeguard liberty we must be able to adapt to the changing times.

Before there were blogs forming a blogosphere there were letters to the editor in journals and magazines and I had quite a few published. That includes on published in Time. I recently wrote two long letters to Time although they really do not publish much in that way. Here they are reproduced nearly in entirety. The first discusses the state of political discussion in America from a particular point of view.

 

 Nancy Gibbs and Colleagues

Time Editorial Staff
225 Liberty Street
New York, New York 10281-1008
Ms. Gibbs (not to insult those who actually read this),
I am responding in part to the cover of the May 23 issue on Rana Forohaar’s careful rendering of her book into a lead article on capitalism. There is some alarming material in the article in the sense that it raises concerns that pose a threat to all of us. But the tone is perhaps other than alarmist. The cover was sort of evocative of covers that have appeared over times past with a contemporary take and for whatever mix of nostalgic and critical reasons I liked the cover and its kind of conversational approach to saving the U.S. economy. I also saw much of the same use of concepts of gate-keeping, source identification, making comparisons between varied crises and challenges for perspective and all these little traits reminded me of Time over the decades. But this time my reading was influenced by another experience that I will only mention and leave to any reader’s imagination as to how it influenced my reading of Time. The experience involved an interaction with an institution In some ways not at all like Time, yet both have played a role in the great and American intellectual commons which is distinct from a world or civilization based heritage or any regional or sectional intellectual ferment. That institution is one of the officials in the particular sport of television. I published a review in the Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television in the early nineties and since I have no plethora of academic publications that is yet another reason for me to be more interested in the NIelsen process than most. Thus I found it stimulating.  
Just about the time your issue was hitting stands and libraries I had a chance to participate in the Nielsen ratings. It gave me the opportunity to think a bit more clearly about the ways in which all that we know as mass communication is changing and about how our society is changing. I deal a good bit with issues of social change and and communications and I do it in my blog, Facebook profiles and other places which are possessed of much longer comments on these events than you have time to read from an over the portal source. A look at my Twitter feed and profile would quickly tell you two things: I do have some influential followers although the number is small and I just added Time to those I am following as I started typing this email. It is not that I never viewed your tweets — I just don’t remember to add people and institutions to my list.  My Linked In profile which should be available herealso show some other connections. The relatively long and bizarre path through life depicted there is not a fiction, doubtless there are some errors and some of longstanding.But every thing in it is at least close to the truth or has simply evaded my limited attentions as an editor of the profile.
Time has bigger fish to fry than my little corner of the media world. Your recent issue of May 23 seeks to address Capitalism, feminism with Megan Kelly, mental health with Kristen Bell, Jodie Foster discussing the meaning of her movie and how Sadiq Khan hopes to combat extremism. You do this in a way which is fairly coherent, clever and informative and makes someone like me want to write you a letter even though no letters to the editor appeared in the issue about which I write. But it is clear is it not that there are forces almost of the type found in YA literature which challenge Time’s capacity to marshal an argument, stage a debate and aid in the creation and dissolution of any consensus in these United States. Much of this is blamed on Culture Wars by some who keep up with news from the eighties and nineties. However, this year it is notable that energies channeled into supporting Hillary Clinton, Donald trump and Bernie Sanders all find focus in places near your offices in New York City. They really do not seem to be cultures at war. More like a single culture not able to deal well with the people who make up the culture. I on the other hand am one of the real outsiders compared to New York and D.C., Jackson’s demise as a face on currency in favor of a Broadway promotion of Hamilton will hurt tourism associated with the Battle of New Orleans and I will feel it more than most  — although being too disadvantaged to feel it much.   I did live in New York for a year as a child and in a vague and general way I am part of the numerous constellations of enclaves the best of New York journalism used to seek to stay in touch with but I think finds it more difficult to do these days. I believe Time  is bringing to bear a great number of important questions and people are reading Time and yet I am not sure the influence on a national dialog is very great.  The recent past was not perfect but there was a conversation going on about its imperfections when your mentors were young. But the costs are not trivial, I care about fur trappers, cowboys, loggers, oilmen and stevedores. Most of all farmers and fishermen have made up large parts of my life and I consider myself an ardent environmentalist. Likely any relationship with New York journalism would experience plenty of frictions from that area of tension alone.   
The magazine you lead is really defined in part by a set of relationships with Newsweek, Life, Business Week, National Review, U.S. News and World Report and a handful of journals just as much as it is defined by its relationships with readers, advertisers, interviewed talent and newsmakers. It is easy to see that  Life andNewsweek are relatively defunct, National Review is less than it was under the leadership of the late William F. Buckley and the others are struggling at least as much as Time to find their way forward in the current era and into the future.  
I am fifty-one years old and had a letter to the editor appear in Time in the days when voice mail was means of communication that was in vogue. That was sometime around 1993 and I was more optimistic, less bitter and more hopeful of a positive future for myself and the people, communities and values I care about in an emerging American society. I think the tone was perhaps more strident and angry than the tone of this email but I was less alienated. This year is a special year for many observers of and participants in American culture, with its communication focused at actual vocal human beings in attendance at the excited and seemingly burgeoning rallies for Trump and Sanders and the coverage of those events. This makes this political season a year about a different kind of dialog. But this is not coming out of nowhere,Black Lives Matter, Occupy, pro and anti Confederate Flag rallies, Hispanic identity rallies, anti-immigration rallies, the rallies at the Papal visit and with the Pope near the border all form a compelling national dialog. In addition David Duke’s endorsement of Donald Trump reaffirmed that the pure blogosphere ( in which Duke is a player) can make a difference at least for a moment in the news cycle. My own blog is right here. Or you can drag and paste https://franksummers3ba.com/ into your browser. Isn’t it also time to admit that many of the mass shootings are acompanied by political statements which are fairly serious, reasoned attempts by Muslims, White Supremacists, East Asian Americans, military veterans, African Americans and the victims of bullying. They feel alienated and that there is no real recourse in our major social and political process. The  focus on guns and mental illness to the exclusion of everything else these people are expressing is perhaps a real sign of profound bankruptcy as regards our national conversation. I myself would like radical change and I outline it in my blog.  But how change is achieved matters almost as much as what changes one seeks.

 One of the mysterious casualties of Hurricane Katrina and a host of other troubles was the loss of a daily New Orleans newspaper in the Times Picayune. The Advocate from Baton Rouge seeks to make up the slack, but I do not think this will be without some dire consequences down the road.The decline of newspapers has been discussed all my life. I worked for or with and have been published in a variety of papers that there is only  a small chance anyone in the initial review of this letter will know. Among these newspapers are the Abbeville Meridional (principal voice of Vermilion Parish, Louisiana since the 1850s), Gannett’s Daily AdvertiserThe Vermilion ( student paper for UL now then USL)and Bonnes Nouvelles ( the Vermilion Parish edition of a  chain owned by connected members of the Dardeau family). 

My Facebook friends list has the publishers and journalist of many Catholic and also of many regional outlets. The  list also includes the principal editor of the Queer Times and a number of space related blogs. Yet I cannot help but wonder if I am more alienated from the center you represent than ever before. Would it be to risky for Time to interact with me given perhaps some position or other in my blog?  The question is not purely rhetorical. I admit I would still love to have a byline in Time. I do not pretend that I am the only and best qualified person wanting to publish in your pages. I think your recent issue did a credible job. I enjoyed it although less perfectly than in the past and did not read every word. But I do wonder is Time very committed to a sort of national conversation? Committed in the way so many others are to so many other things? If not, then who is?   

— 

Frank W. Summers, III
Frank “Beau” Summers

The next letter I wrote to Time was related to an article I had read in their pages related to the  South China Sea and the brewing tensions there.  It is less to the point of this post than the first but it is not irrelevant:

 

Timelords (is that the correct form of address?),

 
Fiery Cross Reef is vital to Chinese military interests. There artificial island should be expanded with a more naturalistic artificial coastline. We need a very civilized rival somewhere in the world to justify maintaining our investment in traditional military assets. We need traditional military assets to have a long term future. The Philippines and the United States have a vital interest and real claims in the region are indeed held by several powers as described in the article.
 
The total story is a complex one. But where are the calls for the kinds of dispute resolution which the vast and costly international legal system and the United Nations could possibly actually resolve?
 
There are not yet any real bad guys in this story. It may turn out in the long run that a real belligerence must arise in this region. I wish that were less likely than it is… However, if the United Nations, the various systems of mediation and other institutions are worth anything then many people should be calling for them to be fully used here.
 
I also believe artificial islands must become major priorities for many of the world’s great powers. Learning to address the issues related to such projects ought to be both an American and a global priority.
 
Sincerely,
 
Frank Summers
Foreign Expert
People’s Republic of China
2004 to 2005
Students & in English Corner meeting on Campus SDIBT Yantai.

Students & in English Corner meeting on Campus SDIBT Yantai.

America has a lot on its plate right now. It is not mostly China which challenges us in the world. Our policies from Syria, to Iraq, to Israel, to Afghanistan and on to Europe are at least subject to serious question. This blog has been questioning policies throughout the Obama presidency. It has also been the place to put forward some policy proposals — many of them radical which may be up for discussion or may be ignored but are not being deleted from this site.  It has also made many correct predictions and some dire predictions about the possibilities of the Obama Presidency that may not turn out to be the case. While that was always hoped for by me and others around it nonetheless does undermine the credibility of the blog if things do not get significantly worse than they are before January.  My own life in these years has arguably been more and more ineffective with a few bright spots and counter trends not disproving that general direction. But while I  have problems and many others do as well I am not sure mine are the problems that resonate with the electorate per se. At least they are not likely be determinative of the outcome of the election. Yes I need better opportunity and more money but not in the same way as some other people whose needs better represent more voters.

America has many challenges to face and this blog is full of my thoughts bout meeting those challenges. but so far there is little evidence that this blog will be a major factor in shaping the key discussions of these matters at the heart of our political discussion.  I myself am more than a little weary and the worse for wear.  But I began this blog to express a point of view and influence the American mindset and I will continue to try to do that.

The earliest post on this blog was provided by Word Press but I could have deleted it. I am not sure if I edited it at all it appears here. 

It is reproduced here:

Hello world!

Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!

My next blog post was a kind of manifesto lifted from a series of Facebook notes just a few months earlier in its release on Facebook. You can read it here if so inclined. The idea of a very personal blog with a political view is quite manifest but not so much presidential politics. In fact specific politics as the term is often  are not much in evidence in that post.

The next post, which appears here, lays out some geopolitical ideas, visions and policies. It takes tongue in cheek a limitless ambition and scope as part of the nature of this blog.  I had nothing much to say about presidential politics in the manifesto.

The first post dealing with presidential politics in this blog links here. It was a reposting from a now long neglected or abandoned user blog I had on Politco.

I reproduce the long introductory segment of it here below. I cannot say that none of my views have changed or evolved but many have not:

I feel a certain amount of sympathy for Barack Obama. I choose to start with that line because I consider myself to be one of the people most opposed to Barack Obama within the spectrum of legitimate politics. However, I don’t think that there is any doubt that we have reached the point where Conservatism can be looked at as something which has merited the term “crisis”. America is in a crisis and I believe that it will prove to be a very grave crisis. However, conservatism is in a far greater crisis. For argument’s sake let us say that the terms right and left, Democrat and Republican describe a real political dynamic which matters in this country. I would argue that on the right in this country we have lots of politicians who use the label“conservative” but actually we have a collection of Libertarians, Tax Avoiders,  Moderate Neo-Fascists , Ultra-Reformed  Protestant Theocrats, and Anglophile Antiquarians who collectively squeeze a weak and demoralized conservative group of Americans who hardly matter at all.  Some of these five never discussed groups would be Conservatives if there really was a Conservative Movement for them to be part of , on the other hand many fundamentally despise Conservatism.I voted for George Bush the first time and almost certainly would have voted for him the second time if I could have made it to Beijing’s American Embassy in time to vote. However, I missed that election. I voted for McCain-Palin in the most recent election. I also voted for Mary Landrieu a Democrat this year. Through my life I have voted for a collection of Democrats, Republicans and Independents.  My sympathy for Barack Obama comes into play in this regard. Like Obama (and a lot of other people)  I have had to make the best choices I could at any given time. By the time I was old enough to vote I had forged a lot of bonds and relationships which included fundamentalists, communists in other countries, resentful Moslems, white supremacists, black radicals and lots of other people who don’t fall into the neat safe categories that President mills like mid century Yale Law normally produce in quantity.  If I were to have made a run at the US Presidency there would be people some folks would like as little as I like Rev. Wright and David Ayres. Despite all that colorful background I have lots of self-respect and more oddly yet, I think of myself as an authentic American Conservative. Arguably, I am one of the only American conservatives who could be optimistic about the Obama example. Because if such an oddly positioned person of such a background as Barack Obama can be President of the United States then maybe I could at least get elected parish assessor, city dog-catcher, county councilman, water-district representative or something else somewhere in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Somehow I don’t think Obama’s election signifies anything nearly that hopeful for someone like me.  I am able to accept that there is not likely to be a government paycheck in my future. That is unless you include the kinds of fellowships and part-time job checks form school boards and universities which I have gotten in the past. I don’t hate liberalism but I know that Liberals are more likely to take a political interest in those with odd and quirky backgrounds than conservatives are. I am able to say that I have won a few elections. I won a seat on Dorm Council in College, I was elected as Outstanding Graduate in my department , college and university for that particular commencement exercise at a different school. Then In China  a few years ago I organized elections among my student for various class and subgroup offices. Then there are a couple of elections where I was elected to post that I can’t discuss here by groups that like their privacy.  None of those races seem very much related to the Presidency or even a governorship however. In most of these races my political philosophy was not a central aspect of what people were electing me for or voting against. Many people hold office for other reasons than political philosophy. People vote for friends, members of their race or class, to keep seniority in a legislature or because they are personally opposed to the candidates opposition. But in  the big leagues there are always some questions of political philosophy that become important. I would argue that Conservatism is usually not on the menu.I think that a coherent expression of American Conservative political philosophy would require at least one very long book. If someone hasn’t read any of the books which have helped to from my opinions then an article or two would not make the great sweep of ideas stand clear. Here I am going to do something very different. I am going to propose ten unthinkable planks in a platform in an aggressive conservative movement. I don’t think that conservative means passive. Some of these would even require constitutional amendments. I believe that these planks would probably unpopular and are largely undemanded but that is because Conservatism is largely dead. I think that passing something along these lines would be essential to setting our country on a good conservative path. I believe struggling for something like this would be essential for rebuilding a conservative movement.

What is the mindset or set of mindsets which will shape American destiny in the coming election cycle?  Where are we headed as country?  This blog will still be involved in tracking these questions and any answers that it can find.

Strength, Security and the Future

Is the crisis in Ukraine and Crimea largely a show of strength? Who is showing strength to whom? Does Syria matter intensely and greatly in all this are is that just another small piece of a world wide puzzle which is likely never to be completely assembled? Our security in the United States and the security of many others around the world depends on many questions besides these. There are so many reasons to be concerned that I will not discuss in this blog. I just spent much of the week dealing with a death of the grandfather of two of my nieces and a nephew. Another former colleague and friend in a limited sense is in the hospital having lost most of her physical functions in a sudden injury. I never lack for reminders of how fragile human strength is in the individual.  It is far from everlasting in nations and states.

This is the author of this blog. I am standing beside the stone boat in the Summer Palace in Beijing.

This is the author of this blog. I am standing beside the stone boat in the Summer Palace in Beijing.

I am more aware than usual of the limits of my own strength. My father is lying abed with a painful foot and ankle  now and my only living grandfather (or grandparent for that matter) is bedridden and has been for years.  But this post is not about my own struggles with my health or those of my ancestors. This post is more about the strength of the United States of America in 2014. Strength is a fairly broad term to use to describe a set of qualities in a man, community, corporation, athlete or country. The quality of strength desired and measured differs from on type of strong being which is measured to another.

My immediate  family vacationing on False River before my cousin Severin W. Summers III was killed in Afghanistan. That was the site of the last long conversation we had about war, honor and family and peace.

My immediate family vacationing on False River before my cousin Severin W. Summers III was killed in Afghanistan. That was the site of the last long conversation we had about war, honor and family and peace.

It also differs in a variety of ways that depend mostly on who is doing the measuring. What is the truth about American strength right now? What is the truth about other problems we might face? What is the truth about whatever my own views of a way forward might be? These are questions I might try to raise in this blog that relate to more specific questions about our role in Ukraine and Crimea for example.

What can be done to help the Ukrainians who seek to move forward the process of transforming their society into an ever more positive and prosperous regime without creating impossible conditions for Russia? Can America admit that there is questionable legitimacy in the rump parliament and revolution government? Can the US admit Russia cannot place Crimea in such uncertain hands and most Crimeans may well want a Russian Crimea?

Yes secession of Crimea for a real independent Ukraine perhaps more federal than this one could be the answer. They will have to work with Russia on the issue of natural gas pipelines to Europe.  But America needs to protect its borders and solvency as well as to maintain its military heritage. I am not sure how much we can do in Ukraine. We must do something but  be honest with Ukraine that the more they want ties with us the less that can be done for Crimea. Truthfully this applies to the EU and it is the EU more than the USA that Ukraine is now courting.

I have in this blog many proposals to change America. But war with Russia over the Crimean Peninsula is not in any plan I have. I believe there is a role for America. But it is a dangerous game and nobody will come out looking like a superhero. The more Western we make Ukraine the more Russian Crimea must be because at some point we have to stop pretending international law is something we always observe and obey. Because some fairness is necessary.

The seal of the Confederacy ties the Lost Cause to the Revolution and the past long before that war.

The seal of the Confederacy ties the Lost Cause to the Revolution and the past long before that war.

This is not an easy time but it is a good time to promise oneself and commit oneself to the cause of a strong secure America with a future. To some degree we all face the facts of living in an age where strength in nuclear warheads deters less than some thought it would. Yet we also face the fact that our country must survive each challenge along the way — even as we seek to reach heights of excellence.

Strength requires wisdom to manage. I myself have both strength and weaknesses and each have caused me their own sets of problems. America has many problems past this one. But this is a serious issue. We are trying to really impose our views on the borders of Russia in a very open and confrontational style. I hope that all of this is being handled well.