On this weekend in 1969, 52 years ago, the Sunday edition of The Philadelphia Inquirer, our local newspaper, included in its special edition, a large glossy color print of the astronauts landing on the moon on July 20. I taped that photo high on the wall, almost touching the ceiling of the farmhouse bedroom wall where brother John and I had our bunk beds. The unwritten but well understood message of that event and that era was that we, as a nation, could do anything we set our minds on.
We saw that photo every day. The message of its meaning confronted us as we climbed out of bed each morning. We were the rural middle income kids of a single father, without any noticable social advantage or predictor of notable future achievement. But as I look back on that era and the parenting and societal mentorship of that era it could be encapsulated in that photo: We, as individuals, can do anything that we set our minds on.
As far as I know, that photo remained on the bedroom wall of the farm house until the farm was sold when I was in graduate school more than a decade later. Coincidently or not, both John and I went on to become national champion athletes in our own different sports and each of us launched separate businesses that were recognized as national leaders in their respective fields. Anecdotal coincidence? Perhaps, but it still feels like a compelling connection all these years later.
For younger generations who may not understand the psychological impact of this moon landing event had on millions of us then, I feel sad to think that their memories will be of multibillionaires efforts to exploit space. I feel sad that the nation has lost its way and ability to commit to common goals. I feel sad that the abilities of individuals to accomplish great things are limited by the widened gaps in wealth, income and community influence compared to our world of decades ago.
Today we continue to march forward with the same values, influences and sense of determination. But my perception of the world’s opportunities has clearly changed.
“More and more I am convinced that you can not challenge a dead soul. Not with truth. Not with principle. Not with morality. A dead soul must be first brought back to life. And the only thing that can do this is tenderness.” – John Flynn
I can think of only a few rare occasions in my life where a dead soul has been affected over a long period of time through tenderness.
I can’t vouch for the source but the communication if powerful.
LAKOTA CODE OF ETHICS
Rise with the sun to pray. Pray alone. Pray often. The Great Spirit will listen, if you only speak.
Be tolerant of those who are lost on their path. Ignorance, conceit, anger, jealousy – and greed stem from a lost soul. Pray that they will find guidance.
Search for yourself, by yourself. Do not allow others to make your path for you. It is your road, and yours alone. Others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you.
Treat the guests in your home with much consideration. Serve them the best food, give them the best bed and treat them with respect and honor.
Do not take what is not yours whether from a person, a community, the wilderness or from a culture. It was not earned nor given. It is not yours.
Respect all things that are placed upon this earth – whether it be people or plant.
Honor other people’s thoughts, wishes and words. Never interrupt another or mock or rudely mimic them. Allow each person the right to personal expression.
Never speak of others in a bad way. The negative energy that you put out into the universe will multiply when it returns to you.
All persons make mistakes. And all mistakes can be forgiven.
Bad thoughts cause illness of the mind, body and spirit. Practice optimism.
Nature is not FOR us, it is a PART of us. They are part of your worldly family.
Children are the seeds of our future. Plant love in their hearts and water them with wisdom and life’s lessons. When they are grown, give them space to grow.
Avoid hurting the hearts of others. The poison of your pain will return to you.
Be truthful at all times. Honesty is the test of ones will within this universe.
Keep yourself balanced. Your Mental self, Spiritual self, Emotional self, and Physical self – all need to be strong, pure and healthy. Work out the body to strengthen the mind. Grow rich in spirit to cure emotional ails.
Make conscious decisions as to who you will be and how you will react. Be responsible for your own actions.
Respect the privacy and personal space of others. Do not touch the personal property of others – especially sacred and religious objects. This is forbidden.
Be true to yourself first. You cannot nurture and help others if you cannot nurture and help yourself first.
Respect others religious beliefs. Do not force your belief on others.
When a high ranking politician offhandedly calls a history book “fact free”, we have a problem.
The 137 year old American Historical Association points out that we care about knowing the truth when it comes to learning about history. This is true across all political persuasions, sex, age, race or other distinctions. Multiple sources confirm that we care about knowing the facts when it comes to learning history. Even people who are inclined to ignore facts and data in other fields like science, medicine and social programs still care about facts when it comes to history.
Nine states under Republican governments have already passed laws that restrict the teaching of historically accurate history when the true history would cause upset or division in some people. Republican governments in 17 more states are considering passing similar laws.
This week Texas state government took it a step further and pushed for the cancellation of a book signing and lecture event about a new history book published by accomplished historians. Ironically, a core theme in this new history book is how our modern culture has distorted the historical facts over time to suit our currents needs. When a high ranking politician offhandedly calls a history book “fact free”, we have a problem. That’s exactly what happened here. Texas state government is actively supporting propaganda and repressing the historical truths.
We’ve made a joke about the saying “Facts and data have a liberal bias”. But I’ve never really considered that well documented facts about American history would actually be so blatantly opposed by modern American governments. More often now we hear different versions of the theme ‘we will believe what we want you believe and make enemies of those who prove us wrong’.
To some of us accustomed to free thought and free access to academic learning, this Orwellian government action seems shocking, like something out of a sci-fi movie. I am quite surprised myself that I am writing something like this in 2021 in the United States of America. Where do we go from here?
“I suppose that Old Man Trump knows just how much racial hate He stirred up in that bloodpot of human hearts When he drawed that color line Here at his Beach Haven family project
[Chorus] Beach Haven ain’t my home No, I just can’t pay this rent My money’s down the drain And my soul is badly bent Beach Haven is Trump’s Tower Where no black folks come to roam No, no, Old Man Trump! Old Beach Haven ain’t my home
[Verse] I’m calling out my welcome to you and your man both Welcoming you here to Beach Haven To love in any way you please and to have some kind of a decent place To have your kids raised up in
[Chorus] Beach Haven ain’t my home No, I just can’t pay this rent My money’s down the drain And my soul is badly bent Beach Haven is Trump’s Tower Where no black folks come to roam No, no, Old Man Trump! Old Beach Haven ain’t my home”
Today I￼’m thinking about three Vietnam war veterans who influenced my thinking years ago. All three suffered mental health collapses in the war. It might’ve been drugs or chemicals or traumatic brain injury or (I suspect) a combination of these. But the point is they left here as normal kids and came back and never recovered their lives. Two of them spent a substantial part of their lives living on the street. As far as I know all have died since. As a young adult I remember having the opinion that every town in America had at least one brain injured veteran living on the street downtown. I tried to be kind but not patronizing. It hurt to see how they were teased and mocked by younger kids who had not lived during war time. I had already adopted my pacifist beliefs as a child and knew that I would never serve in the military. That has never been a popular decision and I assume it never will be. But I will never forgive my government for what it did to these boys and then abandoned them in the street.
The most important person in the Republican Party today is Donald Trump. The most important thing Donald Trump has to talk about today is how the bizarre QAnon-led search for bamboo fibers in Arizona ballots is going to put him back in the White House. We know that a good number of our friends and neighbors will believe whatever lies he says. So how do we move forward from here?
This cartoon by Kevin Kallaugher seems to sum it up.
The new American bipartisanship means eliminating the unconstitutional power of minority rulers to oppose the will of the majority of Americans.
Republicans lawmakers in both the House and Senate guarantee us – again and again – that no matter how popular actions are with Americans, they will continue to receive zero votes in Congress. This is the same result – but in reverse – as we saw in the last Congress where Republicans would vote against the will of voters again and again despite the clear will of the majority of Americans.
The current Congress’ legislative actions – including what is already passed (like the Rescue Plan) and what is now proposed (like the infrastructure Plan)- are among the most popular laws that we have seen in our lifetime. This is very important. It is worth repeating. Never before in our lives have we seen such popular national laws. The majority of ordinary people actually like what’s happening in DC this year!
The resulting action plan of our national leaders is simple:
1) Continue to build consensus among the people no matter what party (like Biden was doing in deep Republican Louisiana territory yesterday), and
2) Fix the broken provisions in Congress not part of the Constitution that allow for a minority of mostly rich white men to control the interests of the majority of Americans of all parties and Affiliations. Both the filibuster and super majority must go as relics of the past that only block and oppress the will of the majority of Americans today.
For me personally, this is exciting. i’ve been on a lifelong progressive mission to end minority rule in our government. Mostly, it’s even a losing battle. Never have we bso close to making the concept of rule by the majority of people a reality.
Will it be easy to accomplish majority rule government? No way.
“I do not pretend to understand the moral universe. The arc is a long one. My eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by experience of sight. I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends toward justice.” – abolitionist Unitarian minister Theodore Parker in a 1853 sermon.
““The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” – MLK, brought to new fame by President Obama, and now likely one of the most cited quotations of the past year.
Yesterday was a day of relief and even a day of joy. We survived a president without shame, a political party without spine, and an entertainment network without integrity*. But we are left a sicker, weaker and more indebted nation than ever before. Our financial position is weak, our cultural and political capital exhausted. China gained significantly in its global power over us in the past few years and our standing in global leadership and influence has dropped to previously unimaginable lows. It is absurd to continue to think of our selves as the greatest nation on earth – a concept engrained in our collective psychologies. Our world and our nation is suffering and in serious trouble.
The affluent mostly white class has been able to claim plausible deniability for our role in allowing this to happen. Too many among us lost the basic capability to discern data-based fact from emotion-based opinion. That era is past. As individuals, we have choices to make. Right now we can choose to acknowledge how we got here to this position today or we can choose to believe that our 401(k) account balance indicates that all will be OK. We can choose to acknowledge that our belief systems don’t stand up to scrutiny or we can continue to fight for ‘our way of life’.
Yesterday Amanda Gorman reminded us “Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished”. We may not have the answers to save ourselves but we certainly do know what makes the problems worse. We see the risks and cannot afford the luxury of giving stage time to those who deny this world view and the work ahead of us. “There is always light if we are brave enough to see it”. We must follow that light.**
I know that going forward I will be more vigilant and less tolerant of those who seek to follow belief systems that weaken and divide us. My actions to distance, dismiss, disengage, non-renew and disassociate with those on this dark path will be accelerated.
While we work toward finding a way forward it does not make sense to be dragged down by the uninformed, the tragically misled cult followers and the conspiracists. That misguided era ended yesterday.
We must recommit to a new era of seeking facts and upholding truth,
*Paraphrased from the NYT editorial yesterday by Thomas Friedman. **Thanks to Heather Cox Richardson for inspirations used in this post.