Another way of thinking

Einstein_blackboardThe nation is suffering in soul and spirit from the colliding dark forces of hate, elitism, lawless and treasonous conduct, and the growing sentiment that we need no discipline, no standards, no law or regulations, to keep us safe; the mantra is – “it will work itself out somehow.”

At the eye of this storm, ravaging America is an unmoored man who makes a fair imitation of Emperor Nero in his chaotic latter days when his gifts as a younger man left him.

Mr. Donald Trump defies the promise of our nation to greet the future with open arms, to treat all as equals, to fulfill our promise of liberty and freedom, and to join the family of man spread across this wide earth.

We’ve seen more than once how Mr. Trump withdraws from us all, wraps his arms tightly around himself, purses his lips, lifts his chin in defiance, and pronounces, in his unique syntax  some offensive comment, about policy or personality, that some fear is becoming a “malignant normalcy.” Continue reading

Southern character – John S. Mosby

“The Gray Ghost”

“The Gray Ghost”

Most of us are familiar with “the Gray Ghost,” John Singleton Mosby, a Confederate Army Cavalry Battalion commander in the Civil War, a guerilla fighter leading irregulars in Northwest Virginia, and throughout Loudoun County, known for raids on the Union forces and getting away afterwards, thus the appellation, “ghost.”

I’ve always found Mosby fascinating, but more for what he did after the Civil War, transformed, serving as a lawyer and public servant, and mending a nation divided.  We might learn from his character by mimicking today how Mosby acted then.

When the Civil War began, Mosby spoke out against secession, but joined the Confederate army as a private; it was his civic duty, he said, to fight for his “country.”  Mosby found a way to reconcile these difficult choices.

Herman Melville wrote a poem, warning – “Of Mosby best beware” for “mounted and armed he sits as a king” and “each alley [is] unto Mosby known” as his battalion “kill[s] and vanish[es] … through grass they glide” and “[t]o Mosby-land the dirges cling.”

Union General Ulysses S. Grant described Mosby as “slender, not tall, wiry and [he] looks as if he could endure any amount of physical exercise.  He is able, and thoroughly honest and truthful.”

Mosby said after the war that “whoever has seen the horrors of a battlefield feels that it is far sweeter to live …”  Mosby was not the first soldier to understand that working for peace and comity is much to be preferred but to make this adjustment so quickly after a civil war is quite remarkable.

Mosby knew that “we went to war on account of the thing we quarreled with the North about.” He said, “I’ve never heard any other cause than slavery.”

After the war, he practiced law and lived in Warrenton, Virginia.  Many have appeared in the same courthouse where Mosby argued causes.  Mosby was, however, harassed after the war, some tried to kill him, but what was surprising was that General Grant granted Mosby an exemption from arrest and guaranteed his safe conduct and Mosby wrote that otherwise he “should have been outlawed and driven into exile.” Continue reading

The year of the big lie

A two-faced Chief Executive?

A two-faced Chief Executive?

A two-faced person is one who is deceitful, insincere, double-dealing, Janus-faced, hypocritical, backstabbing, false, fickle, untrustworthy, duplicitous, deceiving, dissembling, dishonest and a liar.  This unflattering portrait fits our Chief Executive, Donald Trump, like a glove.

Our first President, George Washington, was thought so truthful, honest and upright that it was believed that from the time he was 6 years old that he couldn’t tell a lie.

No such truth-telling myth will ever apply to Mr. Trump; almost every day, he tells a whopper.

President Washington composed a code of civility not to reproach another for “infirmities of nature,” not to show “yourself glad at the misfortune of another,” not to “let your conversation be of malice or envy,” and not to utter “base and frivolous things” including “things hard to be believed.”  Mr. Trump fails this measure of civility in every respect. Continue reading

The working man and woman

Elaine’s Restaurant

Elaine’s Restaurant

Many working men and women are at risk.

We’ve seen it all before, uncertain jobs, reduced compensation, saving less, underwater real estate ownership, renting not owning, little or no medical care, pensions insufficient or non-existent, wanting for food, desperate short term loans, little insurance for the young, a government safety net torn to shreds, and what little we have to leave behind for our family when we die.

Our ship of state is taking us into the roiling waters of insecurity, financial and human, into a field of economic violence, and, ironically enough, it’s the hardworking man or woman who shows up every day, no matter what, to work a job, who will suffer.

In New York, there was a special place on the Upper East Side called Elaine’s – after Elaine Kaufman.  If Elaine liked you, you got a good table.  Writers, artists, film-makers and stars came there.  Not like Studio 54.  No.  They came to eat, to talk, to see and, yes, be seen.  No dancing.  No drugs either.  Woody Allen would always sit in the back, and sometimes he’d play a tune on the piano.

It was a cramped and cozy getaway that didn’t awake until most everyone else had gone to sleep.  Elaine would seat the “special” guests up toward the front opposite the bar on the other wall.  The glitterati would sit up against the wall, one removed from the passerbyes heading for a table in the rear.

One night I came in and Elaine talked a bit, spun me around and sat me at a table up front, facing toward the back.  When I adjusted my seat, and turned to my right, I said, “Hello,” before I could see who it was.  It was the Pulitzer prize-winning playwright, Arthur Miller.  There was a revival in “town” of his award-winning play, “Death of a Salesman.”

“Salesman” is a truly sad story about a working man turned 60.  No longer appreciated.  Men and women cried when they saw Miller’s play.  They couldn’t get up from their seats, the play had such an effect.  Continue reading

Greetings

xmas - 1I know many who celebrate a range of spiritual and humanistic beliefs and unbelief; thus any seasonal greeting that rests upon a faulty recollection or calculated guess as to who believes what runs the risk of a quite inapt faux pas as we approach the winter solstice.

When in doubt it is therefore best to greet a passerby with the words, “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings.”

Some insist fervently on saying “Merry Christmas” without apology or seeming kindness to everyone, to Jews, Buddhists, agnostics and atheists.

Not to be too harsh, but that unconscious practice strikes me as not-very-Christian as it’s not very loving of one’s neighbor.

When younger and more innocent of religion, I was much taken with Pope John the XXIII who breathed the spirit of ecumenism into the Church, to create tolerance and cooperation among all Christians, a movement later described in Latin, as “ut unum sint,” so that all Christians might be as one.

But our times teach us we need more than just to bring Christians together as one.

We forget how many other ways there are to worship. Continue reading

Killing off our natural legacy

Utah’s Bears’ Ears

Utah’s Bears’ Ears

If you get a cut, it very likely will heal.

If you cut a femoral artery, you may bleed to death in minutes.

A forest fire may not destroy a woodland.

But development and coal and gas and uranium mining surely will destroy a woodland and all that is seen above and exists below the surface that has existed for hundreds and thousands of years, never to be restored, and dead to us forever.

Teddy Roosevelt, a rough rider, and a lifelong Republican, discovered nature in the Dakota Badlands.

In 1888, he wrote “the time has come to inquire seriously what will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil, and the gas are exhausted, when the soils have still further been impoverished and washed into the streams, polluting the rivers, denuding the fields and obstructing navigation.”

In 1905, President Roosevelt created the United States Forest Service, and after that, 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, 4 national game preserves, 5 national parks, and 18 national monuments.

The American Antiquities Act became law in 1906 and protected 230 million acres of public land because the Act gave the President the discretion to create national monuments – and he did.

After camping in Yosemite National Park, Roosevelt said, “It was like lying in a great solemn cathedral, far vaster and more beautiful than any built by the hand of man.”

Jim Wine, an acknowledged conservationist, now living in Stockholm, relies on the early legal doctrine of “usufructus” to state our legal obligation, a right to use the land (usus) in one’s lifetime, provided that its fruits (fructus) are not wasted and passed on to the next generation undiminished.

This past week, Mr. Trump violated this principle in a massive assault on protected public lands, two magnificent monuments in Utah, Bears Ears, and the Grand Staircase-Escalante.

Mr. Trump preferred the interest of large development and fossil fuel and uranium miners, insiders and contributors, who got him a desk in the Oval Office. Continue reading

A patriot in our midst

o-PAUL-REVEREWe survived the American Revolution, the war with Britain afterwards, our slave war among the states, the Civil War, Jim Crow laws, the exclusion of blacks and women from the voting rolls, the Spanish American war, Pearl Harbor, World wars, the McCarthy era, the Cuban Missile Crisis, ‘Nam, Nixon, Billygate, the Iran Contra scandal (“Contra-Fawn-and-Ollie (North)), and 9-11.

But, at long last, will we survive the despot in the West Wing, Mr. Donald Trump, a failed casino operator, intolerant of one and all but especially women and persons of color?

Mr. Trump is best imagined as a relentless undignified thug, engaged in a never-ending assault, elbows akimbo, pushing dignitaries out of the way, hurling insults and trash talk, worst of all, attacking this nation’s first principle, as expressed by Thomas Jefferson, namely, that we are all equal, worthy of respect, amazingly diverse, and all in this together.

Mr. Trump runs down our government, the Courts, Congress, Mr. Trump’s own cabinet, as well as his Republican Party.

Mr. Trump sees himself as the one and only authority that matters.  But what else may one expect of a despot? Continue reading

Annie get your semi-automatic rifle for Xmas

Warner Workman’s gun shop

Warner Workman’s gun shop

Our local Lovettsville gun merchant, Warner Workman, posted a controversial sign on Thanksgiving outside his shop – urging folk – to get their semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifle in time for the holidays – it said – “buy now, buy often.”

Not everybody thought this was what we really need to be advertising and selling in a peaceful family oriented community.

Janice’s reaction was: “Disturbing!!!”

Lynda said, “Really !! All about the money grab.”

Ray underscored the fact that the AR-15 was a military style killing machine, responsible for mass shooting deaths in Aurora, Orlando, Las Vegas, Sandy Hook, Umpua CC, San Bernadino and Sutherland Springs.

Sandy Hook Elementary School is one of those tragic incidents that stands out from all the others.  It was a break with past shooting horrors, even including Columbine, and caught the nation’s attention because 20 students and 6 adults were killed in an elementary school class by a gunman armed with a semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifle made by Bushmaster and pistols made by Glock and Sig Sauer.   Continue reading

An inspired community

Karen Watson – Infusion Arts

Karen Watson – Infusion Arts

We live in a community of hardworking folk and, among us, is a community of artists who lend grace, beauty and a wealth of spirit to the region.

They are down the side streets in spaces that they’ve set aside for their art, in converted farm buildings and garages, having overrun kitchen counters, closets, and cluttered places in their homes.

The soil and clay around these parts is fertile for the various arts.

They work at their crafts down dirt roads, make and show what they’ve wrought on town and county art tours, and bring their inspired creations to local festivals when they are not shown on-line.

They work at their art because they love it, inspired by the smoothness of formed clay, an attempt to synthesize a media array, to play with the forgiveness of oil brushed on a stretched canvas, the challenge of water colors, or acrylics, or a charcoal drawing stick, a string of stones to make a necklace, or wool to make a scarf, inspired to try to create something no one’s ever made quite like what they’ve imagined and made concrete and real.

They have a passion to invoke their gifts, creating when they can get away from their “real” work, until, they dream, they can make their art full time, and give up “their day job.”

Thus has it always been.

Jill Evans-Kavaldjian, the President of the Loudoun County Arts Council said, “I was struck by the reflection of the trees outside on the tiles inside and captured what I saw with colored pencils and a varnish.”

Tiles

Tiles

Continue reading

The election – Virginia chose civility and reason

election-signs-2017-va - 1Hardly a person fails to follow the polls to consider the trend of opinion approaching the day of election.

In Virginia that appeared to favor Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Edward Gillespie closing in on his Democratic opponent.

There was a pol that had Mr. Gillespie’s opponent, Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Ralph Northam, with a 13-point lead in September, then a 6-point lead weeks ago, and a 2-point lead the weekend before the election.

There was much concerned talk among Dems and joyfully anxious conversation among Republicans.

As they went from polling place to polling place on the day of the election, many wondered if Northam might be the only member of the Democratic slate left standing by election night.

This seeming trend toward a narrow victory for Northam augured badly for down ticket Dems who rely on the tail of the statewide ticket to pull them over the electoral finish line.

Polls and pundits, however, were astonished at the results several hours after 7PM when the precincts across the state closed and began reporting their results. Continue reading