Politics · Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle · Writing, editing, editorial, philosophy

Vote!

Two hundred and some years ago, this country was founded on the principles of freedom, equality, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Here we are in 2020, in a country so obsessed by power and domination that we have lost sight of the basics on which we began.

One of our so-called presidential candidates has been rumored to be pushing for 12 more years in office. Never mind that our amendments have (wisely) limited presidential terms to two. The other candidate has been quoted as wanting to tax everyone to his heart’s content, regardless of social status or income.

Realizing that much of this is the work of the media and is more or less more campaign bravado than truth, I continue to wonder about the security of our wonderful United States of America. For as many campaign speeches as I have had the painful experience to endure, I still haven’t seen one that doesn’t trash the other candidate. Is it possible to ask for votes based on my merit and accomplishments rather than the alleged bad decisions made by the opponent?

No, I am certainly not naive. In the many hotly contested political races, the whole point is to capture the votes, almost without regard for how it’s done. But it’s almost impossible to separate fact from fiction, rumor from documented evidence, and personal vendetta from differences in political viewpoints.

If you are at all like me, you can hardly wait for the results from November 3 to be counted and announced. While it will mean a return to the many redundant and offensive ads that we were previously watching, almost anything is better than character assassination. Do not despair, Americans. This political race is almost over and we can return to some semblance of order and kindness.

It is more important than ever that you vote. Remember that your doing so has the potential to keep the candidate you dislike from winning. More importantly, your voice will join others in removing or eliminating those politicians who are not doing the best for our country. Every vote counts. Shalom.

Politics · Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle · Writing, editing, editorial, philosophy

What is important

During my most recent journey to the location where I have the greatest amount of clarity and inspiration, I repeatedly heard a message that consisted of the question, “What is important?” This is not as simple a question as it might seem. Quite a bit of the answer depends on your age, background, current status, and a vast quantity of variables.

If you’re a small child, the answer is toys and friends, along with frequent interactions with parental figures. Once you become a tween or teen, the importance factors change. Toys are replaced with electronic devices and social media; cohorts are still friends but less so parents. And once we enter the twenties and thirties, what’s important consists of jobs, earnings, homes, vacations, and other adult desirables.

It seems to me that we have a crucial responsibility to teach what is important as soon as children are able to comprehend the abstract. Whether we are parents, grandparents, or educators, it is our profound mission to teach those concepts that really are important. These include family, respect, consideration, kindness, integrity, and all those other characteristics that we value in each other.

My job as an educator is quite a bit more than teaching math, science, writing, reading, and social studies. When children are squabbling, they must learn negotiation and compromise. They must learn that yelling and screaming doesn’t solve anything. At the same time, we must let them know that the feelings and priorities of others are as important as theirs.

One way or another, kids will learn how to read and how to complete math problems. Whether in person or online, our education systems are sufficiently sophisticated to accommodate all levels of accomplishment and proficiency. But they can’t teach helping a classmate who has fallen in the playground. And they can’t emphasize how important it is to submit your own work rather than copying someone else’s.

Sometimes I worry that many of us have totally lost track of what is important. It’s not elections and campaign bluster. It’s not the size of our homes or the years of our family’s cars. It’s our ability to interact with each other on the basis of honesty and good intentions, rather than bravado and empty pledges. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle · Writing, editing, editorial, philosophy

Call your mother

One of the (endless) television programs that we watched the other night included a depiction of a national emergency similar to the pandemic that we are enduring. The message from an administrative assistant to her boss was, “Call your mother.” While this took place nearly twenty years ago, the message is timeless.

In our everyday lives and responsibilities, we must frequently take the time to thank those for whom we have the greatest appreciation. What brought this to mind today was scrambling some eggs, a skill that I no doubt learned from my own sweet mother. She isn’t able to take any calls from me now but her memory will always be for a huge blessing. My children both call me on a regular basis, an expression of love for which I have boundless gratitude.

Take a moment and call someone who will be thankful for your thoughtfulness. It may be a relative, close or distant, or a friend, former co-worker, neighbor, or somewhere in between. When I think about all of the people I have known and with whom I have worked throughout my life, I can count at least twenty from whom a communication of any type would be fabulous.

It won’t cost you any money, it won’t necessarily take substantial time and the rewards are clearly win-win. As I finish this, I will take stock of those who haven’t heard from me in some time and to whom I will direct a hello, how are you. It seems that using the phone to make phone calls is a practice that is all but obsolete except in business circumstances. And so, I will observe the apparent deletion of that form of contact in deference to something more digital.

Call your mother. Call your father. Call your brother or sister or aunt or uncle or cousin. This is definitely the time to reinforce your love and I can promise with as much authority as I can muster that it will be happily received. Maybe it’s a good time to create a new habit. Shalom.

Holocaust · Politics · Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle · Writing, editing, editorial, philosophy

Safety

One of the realities about the Holocaust that has recently occupied my time and thoughts is that very often, family members were separated without warning and without any means of preventing that separation. For example, a father and older son who could be put to work in a German factory were seized, leaving the mother and sisters as well as the grandparents who may have been living with them. Because killings were usually random and without provocation, there was no way to stop or prevent the atrocities.

Based on the recent events in Michigan, including the desire to overthrow the government and kidnap the governor, I began to think of the realities that we take for granted that may be in jeopardy. When I leave for school in the morning, I fully expect to return home in the afternoon without incident. We make the same assumptions going to the grocery store, manicure, or any other journey. What if my husband or children had to begin to worry about the safety of my journeys, whether to the grocery store or California?

For all my life, I have been an advocate of individual political rights. If you want to demonstrate, do so. If you want to protest in a peaceful manner, you likewise have my blessing. But when you threaten to initiate a revolution and establish a brand new form of rule in this wonderful, powerful democracy, I object. Kidnapping with the intent to do harm is no less horrible than Nazis breaking down your door and sending you to Auschwitz or Treblinka at will. And if you object to a particular statue or monument, don’t look at it. Others of us may appreciate the sentiment or the art.

There is a fine line between freedom of speech and diatribe for revolution. As someone who is particular sensitive to the language of white supremacists or any other type of hate advocates, I will take immediate offense at any attempts toward autocracy. What is it that makes you feel that you have a better alternative than the democracy that we enjoy in the United States? While I fully understand that races and natural origins are not yet treated equally, I will not support your movement toward condemning the form of government that we have in place. It’s difficult to imagine a methodology or system that would be preferable to that which we enjoy. Your acts of violence suggest that what you are proposing is much less tolerable.

If you don’t like it here, go somewhere else. We will not miss your terrorism, hate, and demonstrations of force. At no time do I want those around me to wonder if I will arrive home safely. The allies sufficiently defeated the Nazi way of thinking and can do so again, if necessary. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle · Writing, editing, editorial, philosophy

The help you give

How can I help? What can I do to help you? What type of support may I provide? What do you need? These are some of the many questions I have received lately from friends and relatives who are aware of our family health emergency and the innumerable questions and issues it presents. My dilemma is what I can say in response.

In all cases, I am certain of the sincerity implicit to these offers. But for the present, I am entirely without areas within which assistance can be provided. Because I elect not to share most of the details, I feel that I have insulated many from the true situation. But the question remains – what can I request from those who want to help?

Inevitably, I believe that a thank you must suffice. Sharing pain is not an option. Asking for direction with critical issues is also not part of the plan. And most importantly, because we are all responsible for our relationships with God, asking for prayers feels like an intrusion.

And so I direct my thoughts to all who have the best of intentions. Do whatever is in your spirit and heart to wish for the best of status. If you pray please do so. If you choose to hold someone in your thoughts, that is also an excellent idea. Sending regards by text or through someone else always works.

Any positive expression is welcome, treasured, and appreciated. For my part, the future is entirely in God’s hands and I am content to do whatever I can and God will do the rest. But in the interim, thank you for your concern and good wishes. They are all cumulative and help me and those around me more than I can express. Shalom.

Politics · Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle · Writing, editing, editorial, philosophy

Be kind

Yesterday I was presented with a small but important opportunity to deposit some goodness into the world. Walking through one of the mass market stores, I saw an older gentleman staring at a display of soft drinks. He looked somewhat perplexed so I asked if I could help. He smiled and said he needed a 12-pack of a soft drink and I picked up the one he wanted and deposited it in his basket.

He was quite appreciative and asked if I was an employee of the store. I replied that I wasn’t but he thanked me very much and went on his way. It was a very small gesture but I felt quite happy that I had assisted him with something that was difficult to accomplish.

Leaving the store, I had four or five or six opportunities to yield my right of way to allow other drivers to enter streets or lanes. While I do this quite often, I was pleased and surprised that my earlier soft drink action promoted this type of driving courtesy and motivated me to continue doing it all the way home.

There’s a moral or lesson here. Regardless of the negative publicity that Ellen DeGeneres has received lately, she impressed me with her signoff, “Be kind to one another,” or something along those lines. It’s easy to be kind. If you are out in the world at all, opportunities to help someone are everywhere if you are paying attention.

The political campaigns have been so nasty and accusative, nationally and locally, that it seems more important than ever to extend some goodwill. If you’re like me, you’re sick of hearing about alleged Communists, Socialists, right-wingers, left-wingers, self-servers, and rip-off artists. It seems to me that if we can redirect all of that energy to finding ways to improve the world, all of us will be enhanced by the process. Be kind and everyone benefits. Shalom.

Politics · Travel · Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle · Writing, editing, editorial, philosophy

What defines a journey?

What defines a journey? How do you determine that it was good or bad, successful or unsuccessful, positive or negative, ordinary or extraordinary? Having just returned from my journey, I have realized that there are more components that define the character of a journey than one might initially suspect.

The actual travel from one space to another is one of the primary determinants as far as the value of the trip. Having difficult flights, connections, nearby travelers, weather, or airports can all have an influence on the quality of the experience. The COVID-19 pandemic has serious impacted everything about flying, from checking in to deplaning.

Start to finish, I completed five take-offs and landings, four airports. None of them were extraordinary in any way. The shops carried essentially the same junk; the only difference between one airport’s products and another’s was the local team or cause that it represented. When you are in Phoenix, you see the Suns and Cardinals. In Oakland, you (still) see Raiders and 49ers. But the food is essentially the same, the waiting areas are almost carbon copies, and it’s pointless to pay any particular attention to fellow travelers.

Car rentals don’t have the potential to have good or bad influence on the event. One rental car is essentially the same as any other. But reaching the car from the terminal can be more or less stressful, depending on the support personnel involved. In the first case, I was annoyed by a driver too unconcerned or apathetic to assist with my heavy suitcase. On the way home, the person in the same role was helpful, cheerful, and eager to assist in any way. My guess is that if he could have rolled or carried by bag into the terminal to help me, he would have done so.

Then there are the accommodations. A room is a room is a room, right? The fact that my plumbing didn’t work and I had to change rooms certainly didn’t add or detract from my trip. But the neighbors in the next room who left their television on all night and spoke only in loud voices did have an effect.

Somehow, all of this must remain incidental to the actual reason for my being where I was. With a close family member in irreversible decline, the balance of the trip automatically becomes irrelevant or trivial. My emotions about this are too powerful and compelling to articulate in this space. But I am amazed at how unimportant the airlines, the rental representative, and hotel neighbors suddenly become, especially when I reflect on the powerful, emotional time I spent with family.

The proverbial bottom line is that the logistics can’t and won’t have the power to have any significant influence whatsoever, due to the more outcomes derived from my trip. Even the two gentleman in the row behind me on the plane who have spoken only with mega volume in a foreign language haven’t the impact that I might have expected. Ultimately, why did we travel, whom did we see, how did we spend our time, and what noteworthy tasks did we accomplish take precedence and will continue to do so for the as long as we can predict the future. Shalom.

Politics · Travel · Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle · Writing, editing, editorial, philosophy

POTUS and pandemic

The news sources have just disclosed that the POTUS and First Lady have both tested positive for Covid-19. While I am not sufficiently cold-hearted to wish for the worst of consequences, I am hopeful that there will be some outcomes from these diagnoses that will be good for America.

One of my first thoughts was a comment President Trump made early on, that this was just a “little virus like the flu.” We don’t know anything specific about his condition yet but my best guess is that he has enough symptoms to confirm that it’s not the flu. One of my biggest gripes about our president is his apparent lack of compassion for a number of sectors. Maybe he will begin to experience that empathy for those who have and continue to suffer from Covid-19.

Beyond that, I don’t know exactly what I expect. For one, I am hopeful that he hasn’t infected numerous people. My second hope is that if he is able to continue campaigning, he will have enough good sense not to do so, for the sake of not infecting others.

What will this mean for the next debate? My best guess is that many of us will either elect not to watch it or hope that they make considerable changes to it so as to make it much less painful. There has been some talk about muting the microphones of the speaker who doesn’t have the floor but I’m not entirely certain that a live or muted mic will make any difference to our President. It may be that by October 15, he will just not be able to participate in a debate.

Beyond all that, we will simply have to wait and see how the President and the country are going to be impacted by his positive test for Covid-19. At the very least, he will finally realize that anyone is capable of acquiring it and maybe he should have been a bit more judicious with his mask. Shalom.

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Politics and pundits

When did decency, courtesy, common sense, and respectability vanish from political debates and campaigns? On Tuesday night, America and the rest of the world witnessed an interaction between our two presidential candidates that defied all semblance of kindness and decency. As someone who observed the entire spectacle, I was horrified at the remarks that were exchanged.

In spite of the moderator’s valiant attempts to maintain order and adherence to the topics presented, both candidates found ways to wander all over the spectrum of subjects. As insults began to be exchanged, the decibel level finally reached a place that made everything incomprehensible.

This is not simply an issue of Republican versus Democrat, Trump versus Biden, conservative versus liberal. Both participants turned important national issues into personality conflicts or denials of all statements made by the other party. It amused me that handshakes were not allowed due to Covid-19. If that situation were not in place, I seriously doubt that either Mr. Trump or Mr. Biden would have wanted to get that close to his opponent.

On the local level, Senate and Congressional races are no less ugly. Is it possible that hurling insults and accusations has been going on for some time and I never noticed before? We have candidates suggesting that their opponents are liars, robbers, and almost everything else short of being convicted felons. It can’t be the presence of social media in 21st century politics that has made the difference. My personal view is that the frequency of crime riots, hostilities, and social discord have made the exchange of nastiness more common.

Like most Americans, I can hardly wait for this election season to be over. Filling the television station and other media with hate and unpleasantness is wholly distasteful. I have stopped wondering who is honest and who is not, who is sincerely determined to improve our world and who is self-serving. But I sincerely keep looking for a candidate in any of these political races who asks for votes based on his or her record, not because the opponent is slimy and unworthy. From the looks of current situations it’s not in the foreseeable future and we can all hope that election day arrives as soon as possible. Shalom.

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How may I help you?

These are five words that have more power and potential than any five-word combination that I can imagine assembling. We are forever requesting and requiring actions from others. But with the posing of “How may I help you,” we are opening possibilities for doing good that exceeds any of our expectations.

Please note that I am intentional about selecting “may” instead of “can,” precisely because it requests permission rather than inquiring about the potential to assist. None of us generally want people to jump in and take over responsibilities from us, either in crisis situations or otherwise. But when you ask permission to help, you are respecting the other person’s preferences while offering your time and attention.

Nowhere do I see this as crucial as in the classroom. Little Johnny is having trouble with math problems. He scratches his head, chews on his pencil, destroys his eraser, and searches the skies for redemption. As a conscientious educator, I will likely ask, “Johnny, how may I assist you with your math?” Doing so gives him the option to explain his frustrations or simply ask, “How much is 21 divided by 7?”

Any alternative is unacceptable. Never will I walk up and say, “Johnny, 21 divided by 7 is 3.” Not only does that assume he doesn’t already know; but also, it removes the possibility of his solving the problem on his own.

This expression also works outside the educational setting. You’re walking through a grocery store and see someone looking high and low, displaying signs of curiosity or frustration. If you ask, “How may I help you?” you are offering escape from a troublesome situation without being insulting or intrusive.

The same is true when you see a partner or spouse creating a meal with some obvious difficulties. As an experienced cook, you are inclined to ask, “What’s the problem?” or “What’s wrong?” rather than, “How may I help you?” While the outcomes are the same, the methodology creates an entirely different tone.

And sometimes, people with challenges simply do not know how to ask for help. Rather than asking and appearing stupid, they will quit doing something or issue an expletive. No matter the cause, it’s likely to be a good idea to ask, “How may I help you?” if you are capable of helping. Shalom.