May 222015
 

Sitting on ther back porch in Asheville, NC, finally, in the spring sun, can’t move far and fast with my knee messed up…

The wind is blowing through the trees and my spirit resonates with the sound of the whispering leaves. Still, the traffic sound is incessant from Route 25; invisible drivers roar from north to souht and south to north. You have to wonder once again: what’s everybody in such a rush for.

Asheville is a relatively small city set in the mountains. We have our rich people, poor people and many ensconsed (too often precariously) in the middle-class. The poor are invisible too, like the drivers on Route 25–for the most part–but for anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear and a soul to be aware, they are less than invisible.

Faintly, in the distance, I hearthe cry of the dove. It, too, is invisible, its beautiful, mournful cry also drowned out by the incessant traffic of midday (for those wqho live close to 25).

In Asheville, we have so many artists and other talented people, some caught up in the often illusory struggle for recognition, others just happy to get their voices out their to friends, family and a small circle of appreciate fans.

Right now, I am happy to be writing this little essay, happy for the sunshine and happy to be alive and breathing, though I remain cognizant of the severe problems besetting millions of people. I consider what I can do to make things better for them–at least with my still small voice and by lending a helping hand to those around me, when and where I can. As I have said many times before in these small columns, there is far too much acrimony and division in this country and world, far too much schism and finger pointin , and far too much pointing, and far too much obsession with making the almighty dollar, driving the flashy car, etc., never mind those around us who are less fortunate.

It is so easy to blame the poor and homeless for the plight, but a multitude of reasons lead to economic deprivation–drugs, alcohol, mental illness, discrimination, to mention just some of the contributing factors.

I know. I have been there, having been stepped on but also making some terrible mistakes in my life. Isn’t that the way it is for all of us, regardless of our economic status. So why should we not lend a hand to those who are facing severe challenges in their lives?

May 212015
 

American politics and the practice of journalism seem to be headed down the same pathway of dangerous irrelevancy when they become obsessed with repeating over and over “gotcha” storiies–two of the most recent focusing on Brian Williams and George Stephanapolis. Which bring up another point: the tendency of media lately to focus on itself rather than the critical issues that the United States and world are confronted with: the widening gap between rich and poor, global warming,and political and religious extremism. Another dangerous trend that deserves focus is the war on science being conducted by right-wing extremists in the United States.

USAT has been relatively good about focusing on these critical issues while maintaining a balanced approach to analysis of issues. I appreciate that. Still, I am deeply concerned about the broader trends I have alluded to above. Also,: responsible journalists need to get out of bed–figuratively–with political operatives on both sides of the ideological divide. Journalists must maintain a healthy distance the between themselves and the political propaganda machines that seem more concerned with winning the next election than doing the next best thing for the people–and not just the rich and powerful people.

Finally, It seems obvious to me that we need more respectful dialogue between opposing parties, more meaningful compromise and, above all, less mud-slinging. I would hope that USAT and the rest of the media would do their part in advancing those objectives.

May 172015
 

Creativity and Personal Growth

I fought on through the night
for my health, not my wealth

I have seen money come and go
The important thing is to care for the body
and the soul, so I can create

and fight for justice
for narrowing the gap between
rich and poor

But how can I do that
if I am a prisoner of pain
and hopelessness

If I am obsessed with fortune and fame,
I am not living in reality, and creative folks
must embrace the truth at all cost

May 132015
 

I Fear for America

I fear that my country is slipping into a period of unremitting schism. Well, we have escaped this fate for a long time, while certain other countries have had to live with it for centuries. Still, I have to believe that Americans will not stand for this forever.

I see the American people, as a whole, as relatively moderate and apolitical, which is fine with me except that those characteristics of the people are being suppressed. Who wants to sit around thinking about how certain groups are having their rights gradually stripped away? Who wants to sit around and worry about the possibility that our cities will erupt in flames, as Baltimore, Maryland did recently, and Ferguson before it? Who wants to sit around and worry about voting rights being abrogated through such devices as gerrymandering and excessive voter ID requirements? I don’t. But this is what we are faced with in this country, and no intelligent person with a conscience can turn a blind eye to these trends. 

A form of right-wing despotism is growing in this country, but it could be left-wing despotism (think communist China or Soviet Russia). Any form of despotism is damaging to our social structure and way of life.

Then, we have religious extremism, both in the form of Muslim extremism resulting in terrorism or Christian fundamentalism resulting in closed mindedness and the demonization of anyone who does not fit into the Christian fundamentalist mold. I, for one, would like to not have to worry about these trends, but to shut them out of the mind and take no action to counter them is simply irresponsible. I, too, would rather enjoy the World Series than be seriously concerned about growing political and racial schism in this country, and the abrogation of rights laid out in the Amendments laid out in the Bill of Rights: freedom of speech, freedom of religion or the right to refrain from pursuing a religious path, equal protection under the law, etc. But as a sane and responsible American with a conscience, I cannot turn my back on these concerns, and I cannot refrain from pursuing nonviolent action (writing is a form of action, too) to help preserve freedom and justice in this country.

The vast majority of Americans are good-hearted people who genuinely care for those who are experiencing personal, social, or political travail. Most Americans do not care to think of themselves as intrinsically “better than” members of another social group. But right now, our most admirable inclinations are being undermined by self-centered individuals who seemingly care more about amassing riches than making sure that other citizens have decent medical care, a job that will support a reasonable standard of living, and freedom to pursue a creative life free from constraints imposed by the political powers that be. As a country, we seem to be slipping back to a pre-McCarthy era in which a significant number of Americans were denied equal protection under the law and felt constrained from pursuing a unique perspective on life.

I, for one, believe that it would be a tragedy if Americans retreated to an era of excessive conformism, inequality of opportunity and extreme racial animosity, and I will do all I can to contribute in some small way to the renewed struggle to preserve freedom and justice FOR ALL. One of my mantras is “Act as if everything you do matters” (William James). I believe in that way of living with all my heart. I refuse to sit on the sidelines while political and religious games being played in this country which are injurious to so many Americans. Another relevant mantra: “I am involved with mankind” (William Blake). Finally, I like the thought Michael Connerly weaves into his crime-mystery novels: “Everyone counts or no one counts.”

May 062015
 

Many crashes on Rt. 40
Many sirens, broken bodies
What’s going on

What’s going on in the world
People rushing everywhere
For what? For what?

Inocents murdered in so many places
Suicide bombers wearing masks
What’s going on in the world

Racists of every stripe and color
Not confined to the South anymore
Has the world crazy?

Or have people just lost touch
With their consciences and compassion?

I don’t know
It’s getting scary
Out there

Apr 282015
 

I fear that the country is slipping into a period of unremitting schism. Well, we have escaped this fate for a long time, while certain other countries have had to live with it for centuries. Still, I have to believe that Americans will not stand for this forever. I see the American people, as a whole, as relatively moderate and apolitical, which is fine with me except that that characteristic of the people is being suppressed. Who wants to sit around thinking about how certain groups are having their rights gradually stripped away? Who wants to sit around and worry about the possibility that our cities will erupt in flames, as Baltimore is right now? Who wants to sit around and worry about voting rights being abrogated through such devices as gerrymandering and excessive voter ID requirements? I don’t. But this is what we are faced with in this country, and no intelligent person with a conscience can turn a blind eye to these trends. A form of right-wing despotism is growing in this country, but it could be left-wing despotism (think communist China or Soviet Russia). Any form of despotism is damaging to our social structure and way of life.

Then, we have religious extremism, both in the form of Muslim extremism resulting in terrorism or Christian fundamentalism resulting in closed mindedness and the demonization of anyone who does not fit into the Christian fundamentalist mold. I, for one, would like to not have to worry about these trends, but to shut them out of the mind and take no action to counter them is simply irresponsible. I, too, would rather enjoy the World Series than be seriously concerned about growing political and racial schism in this country, and the abrogation of rights laid out in the Amendmens laid out in the Bill of Rights: freedom of speech, freedom of religion or the right to refrain from pursuing a religious path, equal protection under the law, etc. But as a sane and responsible American with a conscience, I cannot turn my back on these concerns, and I cannot refrain from pursuing nonviolent action (writing is a form of action, too) to help preserve freedom and justice in this country.

The vast majority of Americans are good-hearted people who genuinely care for those who are experiencing personal, social, or political travail. Most Americans do not care to think of themselves as intrinsically “better than” members of another social group. But right now, our most admirable inclinations are being undermined by self-centered individuals who seemingly care more about amassing riches than making sure that other citizens have decent medical care, a job that will support a reasonable standard of living, and freedom to pursue a creative life free from constraints imposed by the political powers that be. As a country, we seem to be slipping back to a pre-McCarthy era in which a significant number of Americans were denied equal protection under the law and felt constrained from pursuing a unique perspective on life.

I, for one, believe that it would be a tragedy if Americans retreated to an era of excessive conformism, inequality of opportunity and extreme racial animosity, and I will do all I can to contribute in some small way to the renewed struggle to preserve freedom and justice FOR ALL. One of my mantras is “Act as if everything you do matters” (William James). I believe in that way of living with all my heart. I refuse to sit on the sidelines while political and religious games being played in this country which are injurious to so many Americans. Another relevant mantra: “I am involved with mankind” (William Blake).

 

Apr 262015
 

The radio sports guy and DJ
when you meet him in person
you cannot help but see

this man (whose voice conveys stability)
has deep furrows in his face, and a look
of desperation and sadness in his eyes

Apr 112015
 

I’m getting used to the rhythms of life

finally, at age 70…well, better late than never…

I mean the ordinary ups and down

 

but the patterns I have a hard time with

are the ones that arise which cause deep pain

in the heart…yes, the trauma

 

It’s a part of life, but let’s face it

it’s hard to let go of sometimes

Apr 082015
 

It seems apparent that congress and others (including myself, no doubt) could use some character education. The character Ed. movement continues to be prevalent in the schools but the elders seem to have strayed from some of its basic principles. Honesty, integrity, responsibility and caring are just three of the principles that are stressed through character Ed.. But there is more than meets the eye than the basic list of character traits. On the negative side, we see, all too often, self-righteousness to bad-mouth others in congress and beyond the walls of congress.

 

When I was sub teaching, I got in the habit of leaving rather extensive notes for the regular teacher, NOT leaving out mistakes I made that might have impacted the teacher-learner process. To admit mistakes, instead of covering up, is especially difficult in the work setting when your job could be at stake.

 

We all know that mistakes on both sides of the aisle have been covered up. You see this, in particular, when one is running for a big office, like president.

 

To quote Dr. Martin Luther King: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at moments of challenge and controversy.”

 

Don’t get me wrong, I have skirted the truth atgvarious times in my life. But thankfully, my conscience caught up with me, and I have regretted these moments greatly.

 

Returning to politics, the ability to dialogue and arrive at a point of reasonable compromise seems to be a lost art on Capitol Hill. I pray that this trend may turn around and that folks on in D.C. can stop regarding the political opposition as demons, but rather as normal human beings who bring their strengths and weaknesses to the workplace and to other areas of life.

 

Is winning more important than doing the right thing? I am sure if the late Dean Smith were asked that that question, he would answer with a resounding no.

 

Courage is another one of those character Ed. Traits. How many of us have the courage to speak honestly with our brothers and sisters, in a respectful manner?

 

Obviously, we have arrived at a point of moral crisis not only in the USA, but on the world stage, with terrorism rampant throughout the world. Terrorist organizations like ISIS cannot be fought if we ourselves are morally compromised.

 

Mar 312015
 

When you feel like you ain’t got no place to go When you feel like there are no people in the world who know or care about you whether you live or die, When you feel like there’s no reason to go on my brothers and sisters my enemies and friends, let the starlight beckon you, I say let the starlight beckon you, I say and let the music, let the music let the music go straight to the heart of what’s eating away at your soul Let the starlight and the music and the crashing waves in the darkness, let them carry you let them carry you, let them carry you home When you feel like the world’s gone crazy with all of the hatred disguised as religion when you feel like the country that you love America, America, with freedom and justice for all, where “everybody counts or nobody counts” when you feel like this beautiful country of mountains and clear running streams has been ground into the dust when you feel like every sacred intangible every sacred intangible has been bought and sold Well, my friends, let the starlight. walk outside at 4 am and let the starlight and let the music, and let the mountains and clear running streams and let the sound of ocean waves crashing in the darkness let them carry you, let them carry you let them carry you home