An emotional life

Two years ago today, there was a tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  It seems to be time we take another look at that tragedy as school shootings and deaths continue to happen.  This was written soon after the Sandy Hook shootings:

Taking desperate measures

Sometimes we are just at wit’s end.  The business of living gets so difficult that a feeling of exasperation washes over us.  What do you do in these moments?  What do you say?  What will relieve the stress?  Some people squeeze foam rubber toys.  Others go for long walks or get in their cars and go for long rides.  Some might lash out at friends or family although they may not mean to do so.

English: A portrait engraved for a posthumous ...

English: A portrait engraved for a posthumous edition of Rousseau’s works, after an original by Angelique Briceau. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In moments of deep frustration I may have snapped at someone when I should not have.  I recall moments when I was not my best.  I usually feel quite bad if I raise my voice or say mean things.  People may not believe it at times when I am upset, but I really do try to keep my emotions in check.  What I say and how I react should be a measure of true feeling, and not some instant burst of emotion.  It is hard to live a carefully measured life.  It is an emotional world and many of us live an emotional life for which we have no good explanation.

I recently watched the fine PBS series called  “This emotional life.”  It examined the things that make us happy or sad, feel loved or unloved.  It also took a look at what makes us angry.  It showed how some react to certain situations with anger and even violence.  Interestingly, some people who exhibited antisocial behavior were not nurtured properly as children.  They may have gone without the touch of a parent or loved one with whom they could bond.  An interesting case of an adopted boy who had trouble accepting the love of his parents was also one where the boy lacked attention and personal care from others.  His orphanage had no time for that.  It took counselling and therapy to try to get him to love his parents back.  Being or feeling rejected even as young as infancy can have a terrible long-term effect.  In the final analysis however, we all want to love and be loved.  We all want to be happy, what ever that entails.  Although we can not really define it, we may spend a lifetime seeking happiness or fulfillment.

At some point most of us do stupid things out of anger that we regret.  We may or may not apologize for these transgressions.  We may or may not lose a friend over it.  We may or may not do something bordering on criminal.  Most of us will stop short of that, and that is what keeps society rolling along, even if on a somewhat wobbly tilt.  Then there are the few who have lost control.  Perhaps they did not get nurtured in the proper way.  Perhaps they did not benefit from good examples in their lives.  Perhaps there was a chemical imbalance in the brain that needed relief through modern pharmaceuticals.  Perhaps we just don’t know.

This week we were ripped apart by this: Charlotte Bacon, 6. Daniel Barden, 7. Olivia Engel, 6. Josephine Gay, 7. Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 6. Dylan Hockley, 6. Madeleine F. Hsu, 6. Catherine V. Hubbard, 6. Chase Kowalski, 7. Jesse Lewis, 6. James Mattioli, 6. Grace McDonnell, 7. Emilie Parker, 6. Jack Pinto, 6. Noah Pozner, 6. Caroline Previdi, 6. Jessica Rekos, 6. Avielle Richman, 6. Benjamin Wheeler, 6. Allison N. Wyatt, 6.  These are grade school children and their ages.  They are innocents.  We do not know what they would have grown up to be.  Perhaps one would grow up to find a cure for a form of cancer.  Another may have taught children to be better people.  There could have been a girl here that would be leader of the free world.  There may even have been a boy who would have mediated a peace in the Middle East.  We will never know.  Why?  We may never know because there was a boy who grew up unhappy and troubled.  Something happened  that made his emotional life spin out of control.  Before taking his own life, he robbed many families of the most precious thing they had: their children.

The horrible nightmare that fell on a late fall day in a Connecticut school will lead to many hours of debate on gun control.  How did this troubled young man get these guns?  Who sold him the ammunition?  Were the proper background checks performed?  Did he have the proper permits?  Some will listen to the rhetoric and the subtle, or not so subtle, political undertones and wonder, “are we missing the point here?”  While the debate will rage on until it fades away in talk of  the pending fiscal cliff, the college Bowl season, or New Year’s Rocking Eve, will the actual issue ever be addressed?  What was it in this man’s life that drove him to such desperate measures?

While states and the federal government contemplate budget cuts that slash funds to mental health facilities and critical medical and psychological research, should we not ask where our priorities lie?  More police and stricter laws do not necessarily lead to less crime and punishment.  We need to be less concerned about the aftermath and more concerned about prevention.  I think back to This Emotional Life and the adopted child who was not given love as a child.  Although he was only a few years old when adopted, he needed a tremendous amount of help to get past the lack of love a child needs in early development.

When we consider providing for domestic tranquility, let us carefully consider what it will take to insure that as many children as possible grow up with the love and care that they need.  Yes, I know many will come forward to claim that it is not the role of any level of government to interfere with a family or tell people how to raise children, but is it better than to wait to punish those who commit horrendous acts upon our society?  It seems that when we formed this nation we also agreed to a social contract with government.  It is one well rooted in the philosophy of such thinkers as John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.  We made a deal with the government to protect and defend, to nurture and preserve our freedom.  One concept of government is to help provide a peaceful society that brings education and culture to all.  Another concept is to arm ourselves against one another and execute those who do not follow the laws.  Which society will you have?

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My Kind of Town

Chicago Is

The expressways are the Edens, Kennedy, IKE, Stevenson and Ryan.  They are not those Interstate numbers shown along the highway.  Many Chicagoans will not even know those numbers.  The junction of the Kennedy, IKE (aka Eisenhower) and Ryan expressways is the Byrne Interchange (aka Circle Interchange) near the University of Illinois at Chicago, aka Circle Campus.  If you think these expressways are all named for politicians by politicians, you are right.

Lake Shore Drive along our lakefront is known as The Drive.  We don’t call it LSD but if someone does, we know what they are talking about.

Lake Michigan is The Lake, period

Chicago has a north side, a south side and a west side.  If you are on the east side you are in The Lake.

If you are a baseball fan, you are a Cubs fan or a White Sox fan.  You are not both under penalty of banishment from the city.  No mayor who wants to be re-elected would ever claim to be both.  The President of the United States is a White Sox fan.

Every one is a Chicago Bulls fan.  Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player ever so don’t give us any of your LeBron crap.

To prove we are open-minded there is a Milwaukee Avenue and a Green Bay Ave.  You can even find the intersection of Milwaukee and Chicago Avenues.  It is OK to live on Green Bay Avenue.  It is not OK to live in Green Bay.

Da Bears

Da Bears

We all think Soldier Field looks ridiculous from the outside.  It is a rather good place to see a game.  Of course being on The Lakefront in January does have its drawbacks.  On the other hand, we rarely play a home game in January.

If you call the stadium Soldier’s Field or Soldiers Field, you will earn a lecture from a real Chicagoan on the name of our stadium.  It is Soldier Field, a memorial, and it is small by NFL standards.

Only the owners of Wrigley Field think that renovating the park is a good idea.  There is no explaining that.  It is just the way people feel.  Anyway, the Cubs are under the curse of the Billy Goat and will never win a World Series in that ball park.

Ernie Banks is the most popular Cub in town.  He retired after the 1971 season and is 83 years old.

Minnie Minoso is the most popular White Sox in town.  He played in 5 decades and got a hit at the age of 50.  He is 89.

Wrigley Field has a statue of Ernie Banks and US Cellular Field has a statue of Minnie Minoso.

United Center

United Center

The United Center is also called the UC for short.  It has a statue of Michael Jordan.  If you have out-of-town guests you take them to the statue to have their picture taken with Michael.  If you do not take them to the statue, you are not a good host.

The official Illinois state bird is the Cardinal.  This is a travesty as far as Cubs’ fans are concerned and should be corrected.

The sculpture called Cloud Gate in all the guide books is to be known as The Bean.  No other name is acceptable.

Few Chicagoans call this Chi-Town and I suspect they are really from the suburbs.

Downtown Chicago is The Loop.  We are not sure how it got its name but all of the elevated train lines through downtown travel the same loop of tracks.

The Picasso sculpture in the Daley Plaza (downtown civic center) is ridiculous looking and we have no idea what it is supposed to be, but it is ours and we love it.  So stay off of it!

"Sears Tower"

“Sears Tower”

The tallest building in the country is the Willis Tower, aka Sears Tower.  This is determined by the highest point off the ground a person can stand on the building.  If you put a tall spire, that is a big chunk of metal, on top, it does not make it taller.  It means it has some ridiculously tall decoration.

Chicago is not the windiest city in the country.  It is not even in the top ten.  It is the Windy City because of its politicians.  Of course, if you are in downtown Chicago in January and the wind is howling down The Lake, you will swear it is the windiest of cities.  By the way, we do not call the wind, the hawk.  Out of town announcers may call it that during sports games, which causes us to scoff and throw things at the television set.

If you need more information before visiting our fair city, just ask.  By the way, Al Capone does not live here, we are not the murder capital of the country (Flint, Michigan is according to the Pew Research Center) and we are not even in the top 10.

Frank Sinatra may have sung a popular song about New York, but it is OK because he sang two about Chicago.

Note:  Click on the photos for larger versions.

 

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Looks More Like a Rut Than Tradition

The happy holiday season is now upon us.  Actually, it never left.  We are in perpetual holiday mode, which should say something about modern society.  What that says escapes me, but it would have to be profound to deal with the depths of the ruts we now find ourselves in.  When you see Christmas decorations in the stores before you see Halloween candy, then you know it is just one giant marketing season.  Christmas supplies now start making their way to the shelves alongside the back-to-school sales.  We heard Christmas music in one store while we shopped for Halloween items.

Chief among the offenders of what used to be a nice November holiday is the Black Friday sales that follow.  It is hard to keep calling it Black Friday when the event starts early in the week on websites and continues into the following week.  No retailer wants anyone else to get a jump on him so they all start opening the stores earlier and earlier for the “Friday” sales.  Thanksgiving used to be a day to spend with relatives and friends.  Everything was closed and we actually had a day to retreat to our homes to give thanks and eat a lot.  Now it will be “hurry up and eat, the stores open soon!”

English: DC USA, Target, Black Friday

English: DC USA, Target, Black Friday (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last year Black Friday started at sometime on Turkey Thursday for the brick and mortar stores.  I fear that in just a few years the old tradition of spending time with family and friends, even if it was only because all the stores are closed, will give rise to another day to race to the shopping mall.  We want to stand in line to get the next “cabbage patch doll” (look it up) or whatever the hot item will be this year.  Is there a general lack of time between the fourth Thursday in November and Christmas Day that crass commercialism must encroach on one of the two days where just about every business was closed?  (The other, of course, is Christmas Day.)  I realize that for some it is the thrill of the hunt, but for others it is like lemmings to the sea.  Do you think that if you are not out in the post Thanksgiving dinner madness that you will have to admit to friends that you did not participate in the widespread seasonal opportunity to spend more than you would like.  It might be important to point out, that people generally find they do not save much.  If they get the items they want, they will probably spend more in the store on other things, which is exactly what merchants want.  If they have us conditioned to shop in the wee hours in the morning, why not let us shop all night long?  This may cost you dearly and certainly shortens the holiday of mall workers everywhere.

Another newly absurd practice is Christmas music on the radio.  The commercial station that plays all Christmas music in season has a warped idea of what the season is.  Having found that playing all Christmas music all day long in season was very popular, they decided to start earlier, and earlier and earlier.  You can listen to Christmas music from Halloween until the end of the year.  Like AM radios stations of yore, however, they seem to have a limited playlist.  How many times over two months can you listen to Burl Ives’ “Holly Jolly Christmas,” Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song,” Gene Autry’s “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and of course Bing Crosby forever crooning “White Christmas?”  Every artist who has had more than two hit albums has recorded Christmas music, if not indeed a Christmas Album.  What about everyone else?  Can we get something new before we watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas” or “It’s a Wonderful Life” one more time?

The thoughts of these limitations did not fall on deaf ears, XM radio has trotted out not one, but two all Christmas music channels, and they have FOUR more in the works.  One of the good traits is they are commercial free, unless you count the constant plugging of their other channels.  I hear songs from the 1940’s through the present.  Glenn Miller band played “Jingle Bells” and Frank Sinatra sang “Silent Night” for me while I made my happy way down crowded streets and “city sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in…,” but I digress.  “Siriusly,” I am not advocating you Christmas rush your way to your computer to get a subscription to satellite radio.  I did hear the Beach Boys doing “We Three Kings” once too often this week on one of the channels.  Take your favorite CD’s to your car instead.

I have saved the worst of the holiday ruts for last.  It seems that going over the river and through the mall to grandma’s house is not always a good idea.  While your attendance at a family gathering may seem more like a command performance than an invitation, it does not mean you actually have to go.  Yes, I know grandma will be disappointed if you do not bring your fake smile and weary mate to the gathering, but she will get over it if you stop in at other times during the season.  Work on a good lie…I mean story, and stick with it.  Many family gatherings turn into ugly affairs because people who might not normally get together during the year are appeasing grandmas and showing up to an event, when they would rather be at a sports bar or in their own homes.  Pent up feelings are likely to leak out and after a flaming rum punch, or whatever alcohol your prefer, you might just tell Uncle Orville what you really think of him.  The injury that does will probably fester until the next holiday gathering.

There will be plenty of survival guides on Word Press and all the other blog sites.  You Tubers will be busy making videos to help you through the madness.  I will take a pass on that.  I have no good advice that is any better than your own common sense.  I did start watching a video of someone explaining Black Friday traditions.  At first I thought it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but then I decided the young vlogger was just dead wrong.  Beware advice from teenagers and twenty-somethings who play video games all season and anger their parents by not showing up at these dreadfully uncomfortable holiday soirées.  Oh wait, maybe they have something there!

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ANGEL COMES OUT

Rich Paschall:

A story I wanted to write for a long time became my most viewed story of the year by far.

Originally posted on SERENDIPITY:

Based on the story that is sad, painful and true, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

Angel was a handsome boy who had a secret he desperately needed to keep. By the age of 13 he knew what he liked and by 16, he had a boyfriend. He spent a lot of time with his boyfriend and his cover was always that he was working on his homework. No one knew that his homework included kissing another teenage boy.

When Angel would return home from his after school “homework sessions,” he would have his boyfriend drop him off 2 blocks from his house so his father would not see him kiss his boyfriend good-bye. One day, however, his father was behind him on the street and saw the boys from a short distance away. When Angel realized his father was watching he told his boyfriend to leave immediately.

“Are you going to be OK?”…

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The Return of Polar Vortex

Things in the Situation Room were tense.  Intergalactic cyber intelligence was reporting that Aliens were preparing another attack on planet earth using the highly effective Polar Vortex.  The mere mention of the name sent shivers down the spines of the military advisors which did little to heat up the frosty cold meeting room.  Since the last attack just weeks earlier, the Military Industrial Complex had constructed a force field meant to thwart the invasion.  Since there had been little time to test it, no one knew if it would actually work.

News reports all across the country warned that much of the nation would be cast into the deep freeze soon and all should prepare to live in conditions worse than Antarctica.  People were in a panic and a run on supermarkets and big box, supersized, bigger than a football stadium home improvement stores was under way.  Shoppers loaded up on Campbell’s soup, Spam and beef jerky.  Teenagers charged their electronic devices while parents bought generators and gasoline.  Everyone was preparing for something worse than the Y2K predictions.  Old timers had their Fall Out shelters to fall back on.

Meanwhile, famed broadcaster Rush Limburger proclaimed the whole thing to be a government hoax.  “There is no such thing as a Polar Vortex,” Limburger proclaimed, “and it is just cold weather and further proof there is no such thing as global warming.”  As a matter of fact, just about everything the government warned us about was a hoax according to Rush.  He told his listeners that it was time we “take back America” but it was rather unclear what he meant by that.

People at all the NBS channels were certain the nation was in for a great catastrophe and publicly decried the broadcasts of Limburger.  Surely he is an uneducated crackpot, they claimed, and they encouraged people to listen to the scientists.  Rush, on the other hand, was certain that scientists were pawns of the left-wing and he ridiculed them daily.  Everything was a left-wing conspiracy according to Limburger and nothing would be right until the right returned to power.  “There are no aliens,” Rush insisted in daily broadcasts while telling the public that the last vortex was just a cold spell.  No one bothered to point out that months earlier this same broadcaster implied that the government was hiding something at Roswell, Arizona and he knew what it was.

Many Americans, however, listened to the warnings and prepared for the Siberian cold.  Dr. Wizard dedicated shows to the topic of preparation for the extreme.  The good doctor was a national favorite after appearing on the Opal Windy show.  Anyone that Opal liked was in turn liked by the nation.  “In extreme weather,” the doctor said, “be sure to cover your extremities.”  How could the nation not follow such a reasonable precaution?  Windy was behind the cold advice 100 per cent.

President B. Rack Alabama prepared to address the nation.  His speech writers had laid out a reasonable explanation for what was happening and offered good advice for the coming days.  The pending attack was not from Al Qaeda the president would assure the his people, but rather from aliens so gruesome we dare not say their name.  “There is nothing to fear but the cold,” Alabama would say, “and if the Green Bay Packers can play in it, so can we!”  References to the cold of Green Bay were not taken well in the home of the their arch rivals, the Chi-Town Bears.  Anyway, it was hard for Midwesterners to follow a green president with slits for a nose.   Rush insisted his green color proved he was born in the Amazon and was not really an American.  He demanded to see the president’s birth certificate.

At the situation room, Secretary of State Carry sat quietly in the corner, unsure which country, if any, we should blame.  Vice President Buyten was asked to quiet down while the generals conferred.  President Alabama watched the weather channel to see if Jim Cantore was going to report from somewhere really cold.  The head of NASA, Captain James T. Qwerk, was ready to deploy shields to protect the country from the Vortex.  “Ready, Mr. Zulu?” the captain called.  “When are you going to learn my name?” Sooloo responded.  It seems those two had been feuding for years.  In the engine room, Spotty was giving it all she had and the nation could hold its collective breath to see if the attack could be thwarted.

“There is no attack,” Rush declared on his daily radio broadcast.  “When will you people wise up?  If there is another Vortex, I will move to Costa Rica, because seriously, who needs the cold?  But don’t worry, I plan to be here next election day to vote for my favorite right-wing, anti-scientist extremists and I hope you will be too!”  Rush never softened his tirades and never let the truth stand in the way of his anti-left wing rhetoric.

When the Vortex was thwarted and there was no extreme cold, Rush was on the attack.  He told the nation that the left were all lying and that NASA did not deploy protective shields.  “It is all a lie just like the moon landing,” Rush reported.  After all, the moon landing was planned under one of those left-wing presidents, so you know it is not true.

As the months wore on, Rush was fond of reminding his listeners of the Hoax of the Vortex.  It was one of many things that most people believed, but Rush called it a lie anyway.  As a matter of fact, Rush frequently told his listeners that the moon landing as reported by left-wing NASA did not happen but was staged in some NASA built movie studio.  Rush said the greatest day in his many years of broadcasting was the day he called Neal Armstrong a liar to his face.  How can we not put our faith in such a courageous Limburger?  And that’s the way it is!

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The Midterms

And the winner is…

The Republicans and Big Money seem to be the winners of the midterms.  They have taken control of Congress leaving us with some officials who do not seem to mirror the wishes of their constituency.  Have negative ads unduly influenced the elections and brought about results contrary to the nation’s beliefs?

If the Republicans were winners then it follows that the Democrats and their followers were the losers, but there was an even bigger loser than the Democrats in the 2014 midterms.  “Who or what was a bigger loser at the polls?” you may ask.  If you don’t already know or you are not sure, check out a commentary on SERENDIPITY now: Majority Does Not Rule.

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Vote!

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DEATH OF DEMOCRACY

Rich Paschall:

It seems like the perfect time to reblog this cautionary tale.

Originally posted on SERENDIPITY:

A cautionary fairy tale by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

The King Brothers strode through the luxurious lobby of the grand Wilford Washington Hotel. It is a stately old hotel with all the modern amenities. Only the richest of the rich can stay at the Wilford, and the King Brothers were among the one percent that controlled most of the nation’s wealth. It was a particularly joyous night for the highly successful businessmen as they again used their business skills and wealth to get what they wanted.

Your Vote CountsAlthough they were knowledgeable and successful businessmen, Chauncey and Derrick King owed most of their wealth to inheritance. Their father discovered a new way of making energy. It was not the most environmentally responsible method, but it sure made a lot of money.

When old Farley King passed on, Chauncey and Derrick aced out two other brothers to grab control of the largest privately held…

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Exercising your rights

“… to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.”

Liberty Bell, Independence Hall

Liberty Bell, Independence Hall

If only we could separate ourselves from the political powers that be.  They seem to have lost touch with us, or perhaps by not being an active part of the process, we have lost touch with them.  Oh yes, we see them all too often in political ads and very brief news clips, but do we really know them?  Are they serving our nation, our states, our cities well?  Are they only serving the causes of the rich benefactors that helped put them in power?  Do they refuse to comply with their appointed duties and to act under laws “the most wholesome and necessary for the public Good.”  For if it is not the public good for which they serve, then they are not serving at all.  When it comes to the duties of having fiscal responsibility and reaching across the aisle for compromise, many have “utterly neglected to attend to them.”  While pork barrel projects can get tacked on to public bills and items that benefit one another can find agreement, some in turn “refused to pass other Laws for the Accommodation of large Districts of People.”  Where is service for the common good?  Do some of our politicians have a notion of “common good”, or is their idea of good being anything that opposes the other party?

“…That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed…”

Perhaps many of the millionaires who pretend to represent the “little people” have forgotten that they owe their power to the consent of the people, or at least they should owe it.  We give our consent when we vote.  That is exercising our rights.  We also give our consent when we do not vote.  By withholding our voice, we consent to letting others decide who is in power, who sets policy and who spends our many tax dollars.  We can not accuse our politicians of “imposing Taxes on us without our Consent” if we fail to make any effort to give consent in the first place.  We should throw off the politicians who are not spending our money wisely or serving the public welfare.

“… it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security.”

If collectively we are dissatisfied with the state of the union and the lawmakers who have failed to enact a budget and brought us to the brink of the fiscal cliff while campaigning for themselves, then it is not just our right, but our duty to step forward and elect those who will do a better job.  While we consider our slim choices, we must recognize we will continue to get more of the same if we keep sending back the same legislators to maintain the same stalemates, except perhaps when it comes to their own benefits.  With the monumental disappointments of the current group of clowns, and  “their Acts of pretended Legislation” it must be our patriotic duty to consider what is at stake in the next election and endeavor to “institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”  For their will be little happiness if we continue down the road of perpetual impasse.

“…with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

There was a time when America was not so polarized into extremes.  Great causes saw us come together to provide solutions, even when the tasks were monumental.  A land so severely divided with its king that its pledge to stand together for independence brought forth a land of determination.  Even divided against itself in civil war, it found a way to heal.  The calling of World Wars meant the mobilization of the nation to see the fight to the finish.  A devastating economic crash found a people ready to be put back to work and in turn built some of the greatest construction projects in our history.  Roads, dams, power plants, national parks, and countless projects saw legislators reach across the aisle.  Although vilified by some opponents, one president was returned to office four times to heal a nation and guide it through rough economic times, then through war across the globe.  Where is that great spirit?  It is time for a landslide of votes.  I am not talking in favor of any candidate.  This is about a turn out so tremendous in size, that politicians will understand everyone wants action.  Everyone is watching.  Everyone is willing to turn out and vote and that may just mean turning the rascals out of office.  We must pledge “our sacred honor” to vote!

“We, therefore, the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly Publish and Declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES…”

Wikimedia  commons

Declaration of Independence

If you did not already know, all the parts in italics above are quotes from the Action of the Second Continental Congress.  That is, of course, The Declaration of Independence.  Perhaps you did not know that Independence was actually declared on July 2nd, 1776.  The Continental Congress approved the final text on July 4th.  It was not actually signed until August 2nd, despite the wonderful scene in the play and the movie, 1776.  It may have been mostly the work of Thomas Jefferson, but it was a 5 member committee that wrote the Declaration (See, Congress can work together!)  One of the members of the committee, Robert Livingston, never signed it.  Committee members John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on the 50th anniversary of the vote, July 4th 1826.  They had an infamous falling out, but historical letters indicate they reconciled through their final correspondence.  Roger Sherman and Benjamin Franklin were the other committee members.  Franklin was the oldest signer of the document.  He was 70 at the time.  Finally, historians doubt that anyone actually rang the “Liberty Bell.”

Note:  Today seemed like a good day to rerun the above.  Tuesday, Nov 4 is election day.  Vote!

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Why do you care?

Seriously, why do you care?

Symbol of the major religions of the world: Ju...

Symbol of the major religions of the world: Judaism, Christianity, Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“What’s it to you how others get along as long as you have yours?  Let them get their own!”  You may have heard many versions of the “What’s it to you?” question in recent years.  You may have been told, “Never mind about them.  It is not your problem.”  If you have a comfortable living, I suppose you can walk away from a lot of social problems.  Indeed you can rant and rave against any notion that we should help others.  “Let them help themselves,” you may add.  “There is no need to concern ourselves about that problem, because it is not our problem.”

When exactly did we come to the philosophy to protect the wealth of the rich and to hell with the poor?  When did social security, medicare and unemployment benefits become terms that are to be tossed around like dirty rags into the trash?  There was a time when the Republicans across the aisle and their leaders called for additional taxes on the “haves” in order to help the “have-nots.”  Now many of them act as if this never happened.  Perhaps part of the problem is that they are all part of the rich themselves.  They pay themselves big salaries while trying to figure out how to give the elderly and the poor next to nothing.  To them “Entitlements” is a dirtier word than the seven dirty words George Carlin could not say on television.

On the other hand, some might argue there is a moral imperative that comes into play here.  That means we must take action, or not take action, as required based on a moral reason that comes from within ourselves.  This is like the voice inside that compels us to do right.  It is imperative that we do the right (moral) thing.  In modern philosophy I guess it is the same as saying, “do the next right thing.”  Suppose, however, there is no voice from within urging us to make the moral choice.  What if our inside tells us to ignore the needs of others and to protect our own?  What if our inner voice issues no commandment of reason (imperative) and there is no morality to be heard?  My friends on the left side of the aisle may call that the Tea Party voice, if they like.  I caution you that the Boston Tea Party was not what it seemed.

Whether or not there is a moral imperative to drive our decision-making, shall we also ignore the voice of the major religions that speak of our moral obligations?  Of course, there are people who do not follow any religion, but the vast majority of  people do associate themselves with one of the major religions.  Followers of Islam and followers of Christ both believe in the obligation to help those in need, Jews believe they are commanded in the Old Testament to help the poor, other major religions here this calling as well.  So how is it that political leaders can claim to be both religious and opposed to social programs?  Religious leaders here and around the world have encouraged the continuation of lending a helping hand in the tough economic times.  It is not a matter of whether there is enough to go around, it is the issue of whether there is a willingness to share.

Islam believes that it is a moral obligation for Muslims to share with the less fortunate.  It is a way for the rich to understand the needs of the poor.  A young man in Cairo recently told me that his family was fortunate enough to give a camel to the poor each year.  Some may give a goat or lamb.  Pope John Paul II wrote in his 1981 encyclical letter on social justice, Laborem Exercens, that there is a right to life and subsistence.  In other words there is an obligation to meet the minimum needs to the poor.  The Vatican’s Justice and Peace department have urged world leaders to create a fair economic system.  It called on Catholics as a “moral imperative” to help the poor.  U.S. Catholic bishops have urged Congress to extend social programs.  House Speaker John Boehner, a practicing Catholic, has been challenged by a faculty member of Catholic University regarding his willingness, almost stubbornly so, to cut or eliminate certain social programs.

Why should Congress care?  If they are not urged by some moral imperative from within, or pushed along by some moral obligation stated by the major religions, then by what standards do they rule over others?  In preserving as many of their own dollars and that of their wealthy friends, have they lived up to the social contract?  Do they care that men were “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are
Life?”  Or have we dropped “all for one” in favor of “each man for himself?”  Let’s look at this in an individually selfish way then.  Is is not better to preserve “domestic tranquility” by helping the poor when needed, rather than letting them fall into desperate and hopeless situations?  Crime rises in desperate times because if there is no hope, there seems to be little to lose.

 “The public revenues are a portion that each subject gives of his property in
order to secure or enjoy the remainder. To fix their revenues in a proper
manner, regard should be had both to the necessities of the state and to those
of the subject. The real wants of the people ought never to give way to the
imaginary wants of the state.”Thomas Jefferson

“Another means of silently lessening the inequality of property is to exempt all
from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the higher portions of property
in geometrical progression as they rise.”Thomas Jefferson to James Madison,
1785

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