Monthly Archives: August 2017

The conscience of an American

Birmingham_fire_hoses_1963When I was 14, my friends and I were playing at Richard’s tenement apartment in the South Bronx, and Richard’s Mom asked quietly if I would leave and get my friends to go as well.

I must have looked puzzled when I said I would because Richard’s Mom said in a whisper, “You can come back later but don’t bring Stevie.”

Stevie was black.  He was one of my friends.

It was my first encounter with racism.

This is how an individual conscience awakens to bigotry.

In the neighborhood, among us kids, we were from lower middle class families, nobody had gone past High School, not the parents, nor the kids, we were a mixed lot of Irish, Italian, Jewish, Black and Puerto Rican boys mostly.

We played stickball, sewer to sewer, hand ball, swung from the hanging ladders off the fire ‘scapes at street level, ran up and down alleys, through basements and court yards.

We were friends with unnoticed differences, who talked trash, had fist fights, but got along.

Senator Patrick Moynihan might have considered us a species of his “melting pot” but we were hardly homogenous.  We celebrated our differences while remaining companionable.

There’s a lyric in the musical, South Pacific, that “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear.”  We neither did hate nor fear. Continue reading

Pipe dream or nightmare?

Work on the MVP pipeline

Work on the MVP pipeline

Last Saturday, Lovettsville residents and citizens from across Virginia and other states as far away as Georgia, traveled to the Bears’ Den on the Appalachian trail on the Loudoun County side of Mount Weather, to share the view that fracked gas pipelines must be stopped and the scenic trail saved from “desecration.”

The folks who came were young and old, some ordinarily political partisans, but they came together, despite their differences, resolved to stop these pipelines.

If there could be any doubt about what they “really” thought, they posed with a mock 1-foot diameter pipeline segment, “inscribed,” “NO FRACKING PIPELINE.”

It was only a hint of the EQT and Nextra’s proposed 300-mile $3.2-Billion Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), a pipe almost four feet in diameter, carrying dangerous odorless fracked gas from West Virginia that threatens the trail and the environment.

There were testaments from the speakers, objecting to taking the land by eminent domain, and complaints about the proposed pipe’s adverse effects including air pollution, soil erosion, groundwater contamination, terrible noise levels, lowered property values, and possible onsite accidents including gas explosions like has already occurred in Appomattox, Virginia.

If the pipeline is sited as presently proposed, speakers charged, it shall destroy once and forever the natural view shed along 100 miles of the 2,200-mile scenic Appalachian Trail, including Angels Rest, Kelly Knob, Rice Fields and Dragons Tooth — among the most visited and photographed locations on the entire trail that extends from Georgia to Maine. Continue reading

The disposable planet – and its people

jonflan-blueearth - 1As a people, we are suffering the twin insanities of our Chief Executive, Mr. Donald Trump, who has insisted on pursuing two separate paths that promise to destroy our planet and ourselves.

First, our “Commander in Chief”, and another mad world leader from Korea, improvised a bullying chest-beating duet of world-shattering war threats, from the slippery edge of an existential precipice, promising to hurl nuclear fire upon the world, and to kill countless innocents.

Second, our “Chief Executive,” Mr. Trump, belittled every other nation in the world and refused to honor a hard fought international agreement on climate change that the United States had signed.  Mr. Trump also dismantled air and water safeguards and denied that humans have in any way caused the planet to heat from fossil fuel emissions.

Each of us is a furnace of life, warmed within a sheaf of skin, at 98 degrees Fahrenheit, with a strong will to survive.

But too many of us defer to leaders, trusting them to do what’s best for us and the world’s survival when we now know they are doing nothing of the sort.

Our leaders take the corporate contributions of fossil fuel predators and vote their way, insisting that we not trust our senses that that’s what they are doing, even as they do it at the cost of our health and safety and survival.  In the bargain, they stall cleaner, safer renewable energy sources. Continue reading


20727825_10211469112177129_2338922944344859283_nHistory teaches us what happens when you don’t resist hate groups including Nazis.

Especially those who conduct torch marches and carry clubs in the streets of a university town – screaming insults against blacks and Jews – striking out and clubbing those who object to their intolerance – one supremacist even running over and through a crowd, killing one young lady simply crossing the street.

We saw the courage of the counter demonstrators who objected to these Nazis and these people, both young and old, these protesters, they are American heroes – for standing up to hate, and doing so in the best tradition of what is America.

It is heartwarming that in Virginia, our Governor and Democrats across the Commonwealth recoiled at the acts of the white supremacists.

It’s chilling and gravely disappointing, however, that Mr. Donald Trump and local Republicans failed to criticize the supremacists, thus giving aid and comfort to this pathogen in the body politic – brought to life by the intolerance of the man who would be our Chief Executive – who followed in lock step by Republican office holders.

Now our nation on the “morning after,” on Sunday, scans the reaction of other nation states, and is seen before the world, and rightly perceived, as a nation with its ugly underbelly exposed.

Each of us who knows what we were and can be again as a nation and a people.

We have a sad and depressed dread after Charlottesville at how, in such a short time, chaos and violence have supplanted the rule of law in this nation, and how this Administration and its lack of values and thuggish manner has brought us to this low point.


The Democratic Convention, 1984

The Democratic Convention, 1984

In 1984, I was running for Congress, was the Democratic nominee for Virginia’s 10th Congressional district, and found myself standing on the floor of the Democratic convention in San Francisco, just as New York Governor Mario Cuomo challenged the convention and the nation to get on with the business of the American people.

We are in about the same position today – although the late Governor Cuomo might find it’s much worse were he with us – given the bluffing, bravado, dissembling, firing, misconduct, lying, intolerance, war mongering and congressional grid lock – that’s paralyzed the public’s business.

The Republican Caucus in the Senate and the House are not working to solve our problems; they are creating problems, spending most of the congressional session since the election bowing and scraping before the demands of their wealthy contributing patrons at the expense of the many hard working men and women they ignore.

Governor Cuomo said in 1984 that Republicans believe our nation “should settle for taking care of the strong and hope that economic ambition and charity will do the rest,” so that “what falls from the table will be enough for the middle class and those who are trying desperately to work their way into the middle class.”

Callous indifference toward the many has been the hallmark of this Republican Caucus.

Front and center is the “health care” effort that so far proposes to give massive funds – in the form of tax breaks for the rich – offset by cutting the needed funds for health care for millions of the sick and dying.

No question, Republicans treat Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount as a foolish notion, that the meek shall ever inherit the earth.

Their Darwinian default is that the fittest survive and there is no exception for the fragile or vulnerable, not the ill, the disabled, more generally, not any one deemed “unfit.” Continue reading