Then and Now

 

The kids came Saturday for another Thanksgiving dinner.  After dinner,  from a top shelf in my temporary bedroom (over a year now), I got two hand crafted Native American drums, sometimes called tom-toms.  One was, I  think, the first non book gift I bought for Eli. “He was too young for it, grandfather.”  Jenny said the other one was hers from childhood.  Eli has recently started drum lessons, so within minutes he and Viv were pounding out  a steady rhythm.

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That night I settled in to finish watching “Cheyenne Autumn,” a 1964 John Ford epic.  It was the last western directed by Ford; starred Richard Widmark, James Stewart, Carroll Baker, Edwin G. Robinson and others.  The story line is simple, based on a real event.  Although factual it’s told in a typical  “Hollywood style.”

In 1878, Chiefs Little Wolf and Dull Knife led over 300 starving Cheyenne from their reservation in Oklahoma territory to their traditional home in Wyoming.

The Northern  Cheyenne had been forced onto the desolate OK reservation from their historic homeland on the Yellowstone.  By 1878, sick and starving, tired of the white man’s broken promises, they began a 1,500 mile journey home.  They were pursued by the United States Calvary led by an almost sympathetic, Captain Thomas Archer (Widmark).  Bosley Crother, N Y Times critic wrote,  “It is an eye opening  symbolization of a shameful tendency that has prevailed in our national life — the tendency to be heartless to weaker peoples who get in the way of manifest destiny.

There  are many familiar images, curving lines of the refugees as they move through the western landscape — plains, mountains, Monument Valley; stoic, determined chiefs draped in government blankets; ever alert warriors, arms crossed with rifle;  resolute strong women.  And then the cavalry in dark blue (its black and white movie but) uniforms, precision, prancing horses, ready to charge the fleeing natives at the sound of a bugle.

There are various subplots, a romance between a Quaker school teacher and the Calvary captain.  A Congressional delegation that never shows up and Cavalry down time at a fort. In a strange sequence, Dodge City characters,  leave the saloon and gambling tables to check out the Cheyenne, only to retreat back to town when they discover them.  There are skirmishes  between the Cheyenne and soldiers; capture, followed by the killing of  warriors, women and children.  Finally escape for a few and an eventually an 1883 Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana.

As I tried to go to sleep,  a dreamy film loopes over and over.  The Cheyenne stood up to a government that didn’t recognize their rights and humanity. It was over 100 years ago.   The Cheyenne stood up and reclaimed their homeland.  It is still happening today.

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I haven’t paid a lot of attention to the resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline in Standing Rock, N.D.  I’ve actually been more aware of anti-pipeline signs around Stockton and Frenchtown, N.J.  According NPR, however,  the protest at Standing Rock “exceeds just about every protest in Native American history.  But that history itself, of indigenous people fighting to protect not just “their” land, but “the” land, is centuries old.”

“There are no rights being violated here that haven’t been violated before.” said Kim Tallbear, a professor of Native Studies at the University of Alberta, who for years worked on tribal issues as an environmental planner for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy. Those violations, she said, have taken two forms: long-term disregard for indigenous land rights and a “bureaucratic disregard for consultation with indigenous people.”

When she sees images of police using pepper spray and water cannons or security guards unleashing dogs on Standing Rock protesters, Tallbear said, she isn’t shocked. “I’m, like, oh yeah, they did that in the 19th century, they did that in the 16th century,” she said. “This is not new. … The contemporary tactics used against indigenous people might look a little bit more complex or savvy, but to me, I can read it all as part of a longstanding colonial project.”

“Maybe for non-Natives who thought that the West was won, and the Indian Wars were over, and Native people were mostly dead and gone and isn’t that too bad – now, they’re like, ‘Oh wait a minute, they’re still there? And they’re still fighting the same things they were 150 years ago?’

“Yeah, we are.” I need to follow this story.  This historic protest.

As I try to go to sleep, the film loopes over and over. The Cheyenne stood up to a government that didn’t recognize their rights and humanity. It was over 100 years ago.  The Cheyenne stood up and reclaimed their homeland. It is still happening today.

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Thanksgiving

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I began to reflect last night on why I was thankful:

I am thankful for my parents (gone now), even when we disagreed, they were supportative and willing to sacrifice to help me achieve.  They modeled and taught me values which I try to use to guide my life.

I am thankful for family, particularly Diane who has spent a disrupted year, caring for me with my medical issues.  It has effected every aspect of our lives.  Then there are my four sisters, Cissy, Vicky, Marylee and Liz, who are always helpful and fun to be with.  Jenny, Rob, Eli and Viv have a special place in my life.  They are the future.  I am so thankful what they bring to all the lives they touch. From Rob’s music, Jenny’s compassion, Eli’s wry grin and the twinkle in Viv’s eyes.  A special thanks for Eli’s recovery from neuroblastoma. Viv and Eli  are great kids and that’s not just grandfather pride.

I am thankful for the extended family, friends and colleagues who have listened to or been with me, particularly this past year.  Some have helped with household projects That I couldn’t do; I’ve visited others; weekly telephone calls with some; maybe just  social media contact, including many former staff and alumni from Holy Ghost Prep.  I am conflicted about mentioning names because I know I will miss some. But Ellen Mignoni, Philomena Profy, David and Judy Sears, Jerry and Susan Taylor, neighbors Mike, Kurt and Chrissy, Kathy Walsh, Tony Figliola, John DiGiesi, Matt Jordan, Tom Eckerle, Trish O’Conner, Mike Honan, Jerry Alonzo, John Amsterdam, Peter Cassidy, Tony Chapman, Mike Ditchkofsky, Barbara Cavanaugh, Barbara Dye, Jim McCullough, Jerry and Donna Kwait, Joey Lentz, Sue Micklewright, Dan Ryan, Edna Ramirez, and Robert Vierlinck.  Thanks.

I am thankful for those in Yardley who contribute to the small town atmosphere and community spirit.   From Canal O’Ween, Harvest Day, Saturday Farmer’s Market, those that serve on Council and so many other community groups, FODC, Community Center, Historical Association, Friends of Lake Alton.  And thanks to those  I meet ocassionally or regularly on morning Canal walks.

I am thankful for those political leaders and lawyers and judges who contribute to the American spirit of equality, freedom and justice for all, and celebration of American diversity who work to pass and enforce rules, laws, and regulations consistent with America Democracy.

I am thankful for our public and private school teachers who dedicate their lives to our children instilling values of tolerance, fairness, critical, open thinking, and a desire for constant growth and learning.

I am thankful for our university, teaching and research academics who expand our knowledge.  And the inventors and entrepreneurs who contribute to a healthier, sustainable, peaceful world.

I am thankful for those farmers, particularly small family operations, that contribute healthy, organic, sustainable, local when possible food for our tables.  And I can’t forget the chefs and members of the food industry who take the values of farm to table into restaurants and food markets.

I am thankful to the doctors, nurses, social workers, and all the members of the health and social welfare industries who attempt to provide the best preventive care, medical intervention and social services from birth to grave while respecting the patient as an individual with unique concerns and a special life.

I am thankful to members of the media, publishers  editors, writers, cartoonists and photographers, who attempt to provide factual, truthful news, the good and the bad.  Whose editorial coverage is thoughtful, admitting their personal point of view and bias which is impossible to avoid.

I am thankful for the middle and working class workers who make the world go round.    From trash collectors, construction workers, waitresses, sales clerks and all the others who work honestly and productively but also stand up for their and their fellow workers rights to a fair, liveable  salary and benefits, health care, family leave, retirement within the possibility of the richest country in the world.

I am thankful for those corporate executives who run companies with environmental and social standards that protect the planet, country, general citizens and workers.

I am thankful for those in the financial industry, bankers, stock brokers, financial planners who that treat consumers with fairness and respect accepting only salary, benefits and profits that recognize those values.

I am thankful for government employees at all levels that ensure that government, ‘s rules, regulations, values expenditures, and justice system are for the people, all the people, all the time.

I am thankful for those activists, social, environmental, international who serve as a conscious and motivator when we fail to respect the rights of everyone, in the United States and abroad.

I am thankful for those who join and support non profit groups whose mission may be civil rights, the environment, the arts, poverty, or social and health issues. Given  our current climate, I mention the Southern Poverty Law Center. In honor of Eli, I mention Alex’s Lemonade.

I am thankful for all those that enrich my life, writers, musicians, dancers, actors and actresses, artists of all stripes and mediums.

I am thankful for those designers, mechanics, crafts people, potters, woodworkers, basket makers, glass blowers, metal workers, and others that create interesting and functional objects of beauty and utility.

I am thankful for the vererans who serve(d) in the  military, based on conscience, a sense of what is right and duty to the people of the United States.

I am thankful for people who are different from me.  Racial, ethnic, religious, sexual orientation, gender and political diversity is what makes life so exciting.

I thankful for religious leaders who respect all types of  spirituality and promote social justice for all.

I am thankful for those volunteers, young and old who donate their talents and time to worthwhile causes.

I am thankful for drivers who don’t think they own the road, walkers who look at and say hello to those they pass, store clerks who want to help, and all those people that are just friendly.

I apologize to anyone I missed.  Try to catch you next year.

Happy Thanksgiving           Vince

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The Greatest Generation

 

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“The Greatest Generation” was a tribute to the generation was born in the depression and came of age during World War II.  It was written by Tom Brokaw and published in 2001. Earlier this week I began to read “The Greatest Generation Speaks: letters and reflections.”   In it Brokaw shares responses and letters from veterans and their families to his best selling   book.

I chose it from the short pile of books I’m ready to read or re-read.  I chose it to escape the feeling of miasma I have following the recent election. Weeks before the election I wrote a blog, “Trump:  I’m Tired.” And I’ve written about the seesaw feeling of wanting to never hear Trump’s name again and recognizing that in just a week he’s making appointments that could drastically, dangerously change the United States. I cannot close my eyes.

The Greatest Generation is my parents Generation.  Their story is probably pretty typical.  This Veteran’s Day I re-posted an article about my father who served in the Navy during WWII.  Yesterday in the mail, I received several documents about his service from the Department of Veterans Affairs and a notice that have forwarded my request to another agency, National Personnel Records.   The papers, “Notice to Separation from U.S. Naval Service” confirmed his service at Newport and the Great Lakes, on the U.S.S. Nelson and the U.S.S. Rapidan.  Enjoyed reading that he listed watch making as his preference for training and job.

These small windows into Fathers life are so important now.  He is gone and the record of his service is incomplete.  It’s only recently I realized how little he said about his years in the military.  That was not unusual among servicemen.  Most, like Vincent Profy, were humble, quiet about their sacrifice and courage.  Maybe they repeated a few favorite stories but not too much.  Brokaw’s book actually awakened memories for many.  How different today when we “shout out” our accomplishments or concerns on Facebook and Twitter.

Another lesson we can learn from the Greatest Generation is unity.  After Pearl Harbor, most Americans were united in a determination to defeat Nazi Germany.  There was a draft but thousands enlisted to protect American values — acceptance, freedom, democratic rule.  You can add to the list.  The unity extended to the men in the foxhole,  cramped in a submarine or flying over enemy territory. At home, young girls and recently married helped keep the home fires burning.  Sounds corny, but it’s true.  They worked in factories, raised kids,   established canteens for those in uniform.  They were brothers and sisters for the duration.  In contrast, our rhetoric today about coming together sounds hallow.

Maybe this was when “America was Great.” I’ve been searching for that period — turn of the nineteenth century, 1840s Oregon Trail, see previous blogs.    But there were some cracks in the WWII years.   African Americans faced discrimination in the military as well as at home.  Women were sometimes viewed as just”pin ups.”  Japanese Americans were herded into concentration camps at the same time second generation  Italian immigrants invaded the homeland.  Gays were in the closet and couldn’t openly serve in the military.  When it’s said “Make America Great Again.”  Is this what is meant?

I totally enjoyed escaping into the world of “The Greatest Generation Speaks.”  Like religion, it was a haven, security, warm, cozy, things were simpler then.  But it’s history; we can’t go back.  Can we learn something.

I totally respect and appreciate the humility, hard work ethic, loyalty, patriotism, and family values that characterized the greatest generation, including my Father and Mother.  I accept that their attitudes toward diversity and openness were sometimes less than they instilled in me.  Father had Black friends but held subtle racial stereotypes.  I fondly remember a day in center city Philadelphia when he realized we were part of  a gay parade, he literally turned and ran away.  Interesting, Mother despite or because of her devout Catholicism was a more open.

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Reading, hearing, thinking about the stories of my parent’s generation,  friends and neighbors, is both inspiring and questioning.  Sixty million people were killed in WW II.  Four hundred thousand were Americans.  Why?  Easy answer.  Hitler.   A leader who divided people and scapegoated —  the Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and . . .  . are responsible for your troubles.  A nationalist who proclaimed you are superior to others.  A demagogue  who institutionalize bigotry and racism.

If you are a 60s liberal like me and want to understand the Greatest Generation better, read ” Duty: a father, his son, and the man who won the war.”  Bob Greene never fully understood his father.  After his death he met Paul Tibbits, the pilot of the Enola Gay, who dropped the bomb on Hiroshima.  How could his father admire Tibbits who killed some many people with such a horrible weapon.  Greene meets and talks with Tibbits many times and slowly comes to understand his father, Tibbits and the Greatest Generation.  It’s quite a story, I remember after reading it, immediately passed it on the my father.  Maybe no gereration holds the keys to the kingdom.

I don’t think we are Nazi Germany.  At the same time I can’t smile and promote “return to normal.”  The Greatest Generation, my parents,  raised me to think, proudly,  for myself.  Whether they intended to or not, they taught me to defend American values, including diversity, immigration, religious freedom (all religions), women’s rights — we are brothers and sisters united.  Black and white, male and female, Muslim, Jewish and Christian, gay and straight.

I honestly believe in the end, my parents, the Greatest Generation,  would have supported that unity.  It’s what they taught me.

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The Oregon Trail

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My reading seems exceedingly slow but sometimes good things are worth waiting for.  I recently finished, “The Oregon Trail: a new American journey,” by Rinker Buck.  A great read on several levels.  The basic story, two brothers embark on a covered wagon trip from Missouri, following the Oregon Trail to West.  Journeys are one of my favorite themes;  especially journeys that recreate or follow incidents or chapters in American history.  The possibilities are endless.  Sail in the wake of Columbus to the New World, walk the Applachian Trail from Maine to Georgia, drive Route 1 to Key West, follow a slave escape from The Carolinas to Philadelphia.

Rinker’s  style, telling his personal story,  is totally engaging.  His father, in the late 1950s, decided to take the family on a summer vacation from their home in NJ.  The trip was “a combined camping  and coaching expedition, with stops along the way at historic sites like Valley Forge and Gettysburg that my  father wanted his children to see.”  Decades later, Rinker, discovers  the Oregon Trail and decides to follow emigrants on the the 2,000 mile trail in an wagon.  His brother, Rick, a good mechanic and mule team driver signs on.  Despite differences, the brothers argue, bond, work together, and complete what might sound like an impossible dream.

On the trip, Rink reflects on his life, particularly his relationship with his father.  His writing style is exciting, fluid, easy going.  What I call “a good read.”  He meshes his personal experience with the experience of the pioneers from the 1830s on.  Weather, trail conditions, steep inclines, broken wheels — all conspire to end the trip.  But Rinker and Nick spring back.  Almost always, ranchers, farmers, regular people support their trip.  America at its greatest.

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Their wagon, based on the classic Peter Schuyler model of the prairie schooner used by my most pioneers, was built  by Pennsylvania Amish.  The Amish also built the “Trail Pup” designed by Rink to carry supplies and would be pulled behind the main wagon.  The mule team — Beck, Jake, and Bute — are major characters in the story, including their individualism. personality, cooperation, and rebellion. For them alone, read the book.

As well as an engaging personal journey, “The Oregon Trail” is a great lesson in American history.  Frederick Jackson Turner, in his Frontier Thesis (1893), described the settlement of the west as a “safety valve” taking pressure off the east coast and it’s cities, as immigrants flood into the country.  The Oregon Trail from Missouri to Oregon, opened up the land of Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase.  The land Louis and Clark explored in 1804.

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It is not an easy trip.  Just over 2,000 miles, established by fur trappers in the 1830s, beginning in Missouri, maybe Independence or Saint Louis, through Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho into Oregon.  The trail wasn’t a paved road, and could stretch to a mile or more wide, as thousands of wagons spread out across the prairie.  At some point there were forks for alternate routes.  It’s estimated that 200,000 emigrants used the trail west; maybe 20,ooo died in the attempt.   In addition to accidents, drownings, and run away wagons, there was disease —  typhoid, mountain fever and cholera to name a few.

Independence was the most common jump off point, where the emigrants stocked the wagon, pulled together into wagon trains, lead by a scout.  Shopping for wagon and supplies they had to navigate huckster salesmen and con artists.  It may cost $1,00o an emigrant. Some lost their shirts.

Group travel provided the man (and women) power to help each other in an emergency.  Only fools (like the Buck brothers) would attempt the trip alone.  The trail passed through  varied American landscape, rivers, open prairie, desert, and mountains.  Each presented challenges.  For the most part Native Americans were friendly, a few hundred were killed on either side in confrontations.  Clean, sufficient water was a major issue.  The trip usually took five or more months.

Today the route is marked in many places by deep ruts made by wagon wheels,               (amazing  they are still visible).  There were some mandatory stops at scenic or dangerous points or at forts.  At some of these,  entrepreneurs offered  goods for sale.  Frequently,  it was supplies dumped by emigrants to lighter the load.  The trail was/is littered with the debris, including broken wagons and the skeletons of mules and oxen.

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Rink and Rick Buck endure many of the hardships encountered by the nineteenth century emigrants.  Cold, hunger, run away mules, broken axels and wheels, steep rocky inclines and deep rivers.  They persisted as did so many before them.  And like the emigrants they spent a lot of time walking.  This wasn’t a wagon ride.

This is an exciting period in American history.  The myth of rugged American individualism emerged at this time but we also have the image of the wagon train circling together for mutual support and survival.  Complimentary?  Contradictory?  The Trail is part of the romance of the west, recorded in so many novels, movies and television shows.  Who remembers Ward Bond and the “Wagon Train” series from the 1950s?

 

Following the Oregon Trail and other historic journeys fire  my imagination. Why didn’t I think of this ?  Could I do it?  I also enjoy new perspectives on American history.  There is so much detail we don’t get in our survey courses.

After the 2016 Presidential election, I think we are at another turning point in our national history.  Can we learn lessons from the emigrants that followed the Oregon Trail?  One reviewer wrote, “The experience on The Oregon Trail stands squarely opposite much of what is modern — it’s slow travel with poor communications, it places struggle before comfort, and it represents a connection with history rather than a search for the newest of the new.”

For me “The Oregon Trail” was an escape into another world.  Something I need.  But I can’t help asking, “Is this when America was Great.

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Change at the turn of the century

“This Was America” by Martin Sandler. One of the many books of historic photographs that I’ve enjoyed. This is turn-of-the century, nineteenth to twentieth America. Americans are leaving  farms for cities. Agriculture is replacing manufacturing. Inventions are transforming daily life — telephone, bicycle, automobile, electricity. The western frontier is settled. Immigrants flood into the country, women don’t have the right to vote, Jim Crow rules the South and lynchings are a time for postcards and picnics, there are no child labor laws. Kids slave in factory and mine. Urban slums are notorious. The wealth differential between rich and poor dramatically increases. The wealthy enjoy Palm Springs and Newport, sailing, sports hunting and fishing, golf, and horse racing.  Restaurants, theatre, luxury and  servants — the good life. America is a world power; some would label it imperialistic.

No question that this was an exciting time in America history. Much of who we are today began or began to change then. Read history.  It’s important to know how we got where we are.

Take a look at the photographs (a new documentary invention back then). Was this when America was great?   If not when?

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It’s a small country after all

img_2116Last night I described in a blog how I was on a seesaw (see Seasaw).  This morning the unthinkable happened, I turned to my right and on the seesaw next to me was President-elect, Donald Trump.  Up and down he went, at times he seemed to balance right in the middle.  I couldn,t tell if he was happy.

Down he went, appointing RNC chair, Reince Priebus as his Chief of Staff.  This guy has strong establishment credentials.  What will supporters think.  Wasn’t the election anout”draining the swamp.”  They need to understand, we may need to pull bodies out of the swamp and put them in the administration if we want to get anything  done.

The seasaw swings up, appointing Steve Brannon, Breitbart News executive, who worked so hard on the campaign,  as policy advisor.   Won’t this please supporters (some anyway), Bannon and Breitbart are known as the voice of the alt-right, advocates of white supremacy. I mean the KKK enforced me and are mounting a big recruiting drive.

Then there is Paul Ryan, House leadership, wasn’t he deep in the swamp.  Trump tries a balancing act — hovering between up and down.  Do we pull him out of the swamp and give him a voice in the administration, it’s a tough call. Maybe we get in the swamp.   Ryan is talking about cuts to social security and Medicare.  He has firmly supported the appeal of Obamacare.  What do my supporters want?  What do I want?  What’s best for me in other words.

The seesaw swings down.  After talking to President Obama Trump realizes that there are provisions of the law that should not be repealed.  Maybe instead of repeal, it should be amended.  We should keep the clause that pre-existing conditions cannot disqualify and another that allows young adults to stay on their parent’s policy.  Will insurance companies pay for these provisions?  If not how do we pay for them?

Trump swings up but again tries to hover in the middle.  A lot was said about immigration in the campaign.  Supporters really expect results.  But deporting 11 million, that’s a tall order, maybe we can deport just the criminals, should be 2 or 3 million (the real number doesn’t matter as much as we say deport, deport the alien, Mexican rapists and drug dealers, Muslin terrorists, deport).  And we got to keep them out.  A wall is really expensive and would it work, Mexico certainly won’t pay for it.  Maybe Congress will approve a fence, in a few places anyway.  And what do we do with all those Muslims — those here, those who want to come here.  Can we deport them if they are a threat; can we ban them from entering the country.  Somehow we’d need to finesse the Constitution.

The seasaw swings up. Trump gets to appoint at least one Supreme Court justice.  Any liberal interpretation will disappear.  The Constitution is conservative and only political conservatives know what it means.  Only they understand the founding fathers (even though they were eighteenth century elitist).  The new Supreme Court will repeal Roe v. Wade.  That should make the troops happy.  What if over 65% of women support abortion, they still voted for me when the liberal press tried to paint me out as a sex deviant, grabbing, you know,  assulting — 42 % still voted for me. And what really counts 52% of white women voted for me.  But this does get complicated.

Down we go. Trump claims that gay marriage is the bag.  The Supreme Court has spoken.  But what to do about Mike Pence.  The administration needs him.  He might play a big role in policy.  But we don’t need headlines like the Huffington Post’s  recent “The Mike Pence (Donald Trump) Assult on LGBTQ Equality is Already Underway.”  I said, The Supreme Court has spoken, tough if it was a liberal court.  We can’t just change everything, can we.

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The seasaw swings back to the middle.  Thousands are protesting the great Trump victory.  So what if a majority didn’t elect me.  Trump won; the electoral college has (hopefully will) spoken.  The young Clinton (and probably Sanders) sore losers are taking to the streets.  They call it free speech; I call it anarchy.  We need to support strong police departments.  We need law and order.  Some of my critics say there is an increase of hate crimes, particularly in colleges, high schools and elementary schools.  It’s reported usually by the liberal press and organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center that students have painted  swastika’s on bathroom walls, told classmates they should be deported, told Muslim women to remove their hijabs, reminded African-Americans about lunching that happened historically if Niggers didn’t keep there place.  They try to say I’m responsible.  I say, “Now this is free speech.”  I’m not condoning violence or destruction of property, to that, I say, “Stop it.”  You remember when Nancy Reagan said, “Just say no”  and ended drug addiction.  Trump people aren’t haters; they love America and want to make it great again.

Trump remains swaying, balancing in the middle.  What does the new administration do about Education (Doctor Ben will know), Free Trade and NATO (I bet Mike Pence can figure that out, with a little help from his friends).  Climate change (we need a Secretary of the Interior who supports both burning coal and digging for more oil).  Burn, baby, burn, maybe Sarah has some ideas.  And jobs, how do I create jobs.  The Congress probably won’t fund a massive public works project. Maybe Christi can help, I read something about his involvement with bridges.  Experience can help if your not as smart as me.

Trump continues to balance.  Can I force people to buy American made goods even if they cost twice as much. But that’s no good,  the Trump brand of clothes isn’t made in the US.  And did you hear Macy’s refuses to sell the Presidents brand of clothing.  Could that be considered treason?   But wait, I wander, must stay focused.  Jobs, jobs, jobs, no regulations, no regulations, no regulations, lock her up, lock her up.  I need to get people chanting again, that will make America great.  And I’ll call Giuliani about the lock her up thing.

After about an hour of going up and down, balancing in the middle, Trump turns to me.  “You know, Profy, (yes, I know who you are), this isn’t easy.  Do my supporters think I can just deliver on those campaign promises.  Don’t they know politics in America is compromise.  At least it was until recent Republican practice.  Do they want me it ignore the majority of eligible voters who didn’t support me.  Is about 35% of eligible voters really a strong mandate.  Now that I’m elected I’ve got to think what’s best for me.  To paraphrase someone, “What’s good for Trump is good for the country.”  But I’m not selfish, I don’t need a tax break since I never pay federal taxes, but some of my friends might like a break.    “Maybe  this isn’t so hard, Profy, all I need to do is help the 1% that control this country.”  My supporters will follow like sheep.  Or will they?  Stay tuned.

 

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Seesaw

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Since Tuesday I’ve been  on a seesaw.  A pendulum swinging back and forth.  I am down and don’t want the hear or read another thing about Donald Trump. I don’t care why he was elected.   I don’t care who he will appoint to the cabinet.  I don’t care if he doesn’t like eating in tents or living in the White House.  I want him to become “the name that cannot be said.”

But then I swing up.  I have a responsibility to try to understand why so many Americans are angry and feel left out.  I must support organizations that resist the dismantling of decades of social progress — if it happens.  I must fight the hatred that’s bubbling up in schools and on the street.  Elementary kids gloating over a classmate who will be sent back to Mexico.  Attacks on African American and Muslin women. Trump protesters who are destroying property.  I cannot close my eyes.

I swing down again.  What can I believe?  The mainstream media has been indicted.  Facebook and the Internet are filled with totally biased unreliable trash.  Grab a social media microphone and tell the world.  Truth doesn’t matter.  Should I resign from the Internet and FB, turn off the nightly news and ignore the morning paper?

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I swing upward.  I can’t drop out.  Trump could be a serious threat to much of what I believe.  Environmental regulations,  civil rights, educational policy, social safety nets.  I need to contribute, to join, to help organize, to resist.

Then maybe Trump 3 will emerge. Trump 1:  Clinton supporters, the mainstream media, his own rhetoric created a monster — all the negatives apply.   Trump 2: His supporters created the savior of the average American.  Trump 3 may be the deal making pragmatist.  Shouldn’t really repeal Obamacare, there are good provisions we need to save.  A wall between the US and Mexico, well maybe we need some additional border patrols and fencing.  Can’t deport all of those illegals, just some.  Will he tone down, make friends, and survive?  I doubt it based on past performance.  But what do I know.

The seesaw gets faster and faster as each day passes.  Maybe I’ll fall off, hit my head, and sleep for four years.  I bet I have a copy of Rip VanWinkle to read tonight.

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Go West, Go West

 

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“Go West, young man, Go West and grow up with the country,” urged Horace Greeley,  a New York Tribune editor and promoter of manifest destiny who edited and reprinted the injunction.  The year was 1865.  The United States was destined to stretch from coast to coast.

Thomas Jefferson’s dream of Americans on the Pacific would be fulfilled.  “Great joy in camp we are in view of the ocean,” wrote William Clark in November 1805, although the Pacific was still more than 20 miles away.

I recently sat in a small house on China Retreat Beach in Ilwaco, WA. looking out from 35 feet of window, overlooking  a marsh and the mouth of the Columbia River.  Several miles to my right was Cape Disappointment where Lewis and Clark sited the Pacific.  (Footnote: Dissapointment refers not to Lewis and Clark but an English Captain John Meares who failed to cross the river in 1788.)

President Jefferson purchased much of the American West from France in 1803 — check out the Louisiana Purchase.  He had no Congressional authorization.  Spent about $15 million then, quarter of a billion in 2016 dollars.  Imagine.  Federalists (the other party) objected but the past is history.  Jefferson got the territory.  And in 1804 he engaged Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to explore the territory. It became part of the United States.

img_2084The  journey, about 3,700 miles from Saint Louis, Missouri to the Pacific, was made by the Corps of Discovery, 33 individuals, including York, an African American slave, and Sacajawea, a Shoshone woman who would help guide the expedition. They  forded  rivers, ran rapids, and climbed mountains. Wow,  too much.  Diane and I got to China Beach Retreat on a different route.

We flew west on American Airlines frequent flyers miles that I’ve had for decades.  School vacations always matched blocked dates.  But after an internet search months ago,   I had 2 round trip tickets for 50,000 miles.  We had to fly to Raleigh, NC, then to Seattle.  How many hours, time zone changes, forget it.  But quicker than the  Corps who took over two years. Their stop overs were improvised.

China Beach was one of several overnights in our trip to the Northwest.  We arrived in Seattle, rented a car (Enterprise), drove to my  sister’s house in Boston Harbor, outside of Olympia.  Traffic on Route 5 from the airport to Olympia was amazing, and we were told it never stops.

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Marylee is my third sister —  check out a recent blog, “Number 3.”  She lives alone (recently seperated) in a warm, comfortable house in Boston Harbor, about 10 miles from downtown Olympia.  The gas fireplace, music, garden views, mission-style furnishings, friendly kitty, personal arts and crafts from childhood, family and travel, we could spend our two weeks right in Boston Harbor. Check out my recent blog, Number 3, for a full profile.

After a few days, we  headed out for our  China Beach Retreat experience.  One day was spent exploring Cape Disappointment, light houses and the Lewis and Clark Intrepretative Center.  Our first night we ate in town at the Shelburne Inn, owners of our retreat.  I had razor clams appetizer, excellent.  First time I ever had them.  In conversation with another couple, they recommended another place for a razor clam entry.  In fact they came back year after year to celebrate their anniversary and eat razor clams.

As always food is big for us.  I learned that the waitress and her husband, made and sold sausage.  So I ordered 2 pounds of smoked and Italian, delivered at tomorrow’s breakfast.  Next day after a Shelburne breakfast, we went to a local museum that was featuring their cranberry festival.  Small town.  Crafters.  Enjoyed some local history and bought a huge bag of cranberries.  After lunch at the docks, a few shops, knitting and of course local bookstore, we took a drive to the northern end of the pensiula.  Found a park with trails to the beach but I was too tired to walk.

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On the way back to the retreat, we stopped in Oysterville.  A small historic district. Old cannery that now sells oysters and other seafood.  I bought cans of smoked oysters, tuna and razor clams.  That evening we went to our Razor clam restaurant, 42nd Street.    Razor clams can be on the tough side but tasty.  Met the owner, drank some local brew.  Weather was rainy most of the day so we went back to the house, fired up the gas stove, watched birds and rain in the marsh.

Next we spent a few nights in Olympia, local explores.  Marylee invited fellow kayackers for dinner.  An interesting group.  Very nice.  On Sunday one friend took us on a motor boat explore from Boston Harbor.   It was raining lightly.  But this is expected.  For me the concern was, can I climb in and out of the boat?  Made it.  Button up, settle in.  Diane saw otters, probably the highlight of the two weeks for her.  Can’t say I really saw them.  We anchored in a small cove and enjoyed a picnic lunch.  Wind and rain got heavier so we headed back.

The next day off to Seattle.  We dropped Marylee off at the Convention Center where there was a nursing conference.  Diane and I dropped baggage and car at the Inn at Market. Seattle. Coffee time. Always it seems.  On Pike Place, in front of the market, we crawled past a Starbucks, crowded with Asian tourists, cameras snapping.  OK, I get it, this was the first Starbucks.  A block away, almost as crowded as Starbucks, we settled down in Cafe Capagne for coffee and croissants.   At home, my coffee is black, but on the road,  I’ll go for change,  cafe mocha, delicious.

Now for the Public Market.  We’ve been here before but love markets, indoor or outdoor, particularly food markets. Pike Place doesn’t disappoint, it’s rich in seafood and vegetables.  Fish, salmon of course, halibut, scallops, mussels, oysters, clams, Dungeness crabs, all carefully displayed, overflowing, piled high on chipped ice.  It’s beautiful.  One stand is famous for the theatrical throwing fish when sold to the person who will wrap it up.  The team may shout 20 pounds of halibut to Philadelphia.  Ship away.  I also noticed quite a few unknown vegetables — the Asian influence maybe.  And many speciality shops — hazelnuts, honey, pickles and jams, tea and of course coffee.  Then there are t-shirts and other not edibles.  In fact our purchases were limited to t shirts with Native American drawings — not a lot of room in our suit cases.

The entire market is actually several levels of shops down to the waterfront.  I got directions to Elliott’s several blocks away.  Working our way along a highway and industrial buildings, Diane doubts.  Do I know what I’m doing?  Do I know where I’m going?  I mumble, “I think. . .”  Elliott’s it turned out is huge, I’d read about it being a classic downtown seafood, on the Sound.  Quite a few people having lunch.  Whatever else we ate, I remember the plate of oysters — a dozen, from mild to salty.  Alaskan Red is also becoming a favorite on tap, local almost, beer.

We wander back to the hotel, stopping in a few shops — amazing chocolate, Native American crafts, maps, spices.  We crashed mid afternoon.

When  investigating Seattle restaurants online, I was intrigued by The Walrus and the Carpenter in the Ballard neighborhood.   Sharing the name with Diane I found out that the owner-chef, Renee Erickson was featured in a recent Food and Wine magazine (and Bon Appetite).  Even more amazing we had her cookbook, “A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus: menus and stories.”  This was a must.  But NO reservations.  About 5, Marylee was back, we called for the car and drove to Ballard.  In a block of run down industrial buildings we found “The Walrus.”  In the same building was Marine Hardware, a Nathan Stowell (another foodie name) restaurant on my short list.

The Walrus had a small bar, baskets of oysters, a few tables and another room with a few tables.  Intimate.  Cozy.  We started with raw oysters — Fanny Bay and Hump island.  I am slowly recognizing and tasting differences. Sweet, salty, or just tasty.    I had octopus for my main course.   Cured Salmon and fried oysters for the women. Delicate squash. A bottle of Chablis. And we shared a Maple Bread Pudding for dessert.  Beautiful, delicious.  As we drove out of Ballard, a few blocks away, we drove through a “hip” busy, blocks of restaurants and shops.  Note for another trip.

The next day, full sun (this is Seattle in October?).  I joked with people, “I’m from Philadelphia” and it’s always sunny in Seattle.  We walked several blocks to the monorail, to the Seattle Center and the Space Needle.  A new experience.  Great views, could see snow covered Rainer and Baker mountains.

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Next to the Needle was Chihuly Glass Garden.  I’d seen one of his large hanging glass sculptures in the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia.  The museum and gardens were amazing.  We were reminded of some Steve Tobin glass sculpture.  There is another Chihuly museum in Tacoma.  On the list.

 

For lunch I’d discovered that Taylor Shellfish had a restaurant within walking distance.  They are a very big seafoood farming company.  Various farm locations, the headquarters is in Shelton not far from Olympia. The place was empty.  Too far for the Fall tourist walk I guess.  Diane had an oyster stew and I got to try local mussels, large, sweet, not the kind we get at home.  Diane’s getting to like hard cidar on tap.   Our waiter said the restaurants were a new idea, an attempt to show how shellfish should be served.  Not a money maker for the company.  On our way home from Port Townsend we did stop at the headquarters in Shelton.  Note, tours available.

Back at the Inn we crashed.  Dinner was downtown at at Wild Ginger.  I thought some variation from tradition seafood would be good.  Diane informed me we has eaten there before.  Although my blackened scallops were great; the Thai chicken didn’t sit well with her.

The Northwest offers so many trip options.  We went back and forth for months planning the trip.   The Columbia river, San Juan islands, Portland,  Olympic peninsula, Oregon coast.  After Seattle, we headed north to Deception Pass and the bridge to Whidby Island.  Again traffic around Seattle was awful.  At the bridge we stopped at an overlook.  Someone’s phone rang.  It was Eli and Viv on FaceTime.  We described how on the rapids below, Marylee’s kayak was hit by another kayak in the fast waters.  But there was a good ending to the story.  The kayak was repaired and she finished the trip.  The guy who hit her was a doctor who made kayaks on the side.  He designed and built her first hand crafted wooden kayak. These are beyond beautiful.  What craftsmanship.

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We spent two nights on Whidbey.  The Boatyard Inn was a B.and B. Marylee had  stayed at before.  On the Saratoga passage, our room looked out on small harbor-dock area.  Very warm and comfortable.  Not much in town.  We had a kitchen, so dinners were right there.  A nice change.  One day we explored Coupeville.  Renee Erickson, The Whale and Carpenter experience, was photographed in a pier there.  Why?  Local, Penn Cove mussels.  Of course I had a bucket of them.  Diane and Marylee enjoyed the shops — quite a few.

The weather was turning.  A major storm was expected.  High, very high winds.  Rain.  At the Boatyard we watched the weather turn.  Dramatic.  Exciting.  Could we get the ferry in the morning?  I called and we were able to board a 10 a.m. ferry to  Port Townsend.  By  mid afternoon, the ferry was closed.

Our ride was smooth.  The ferry was bigger than expected.  But we arrived early in Port Townsend.  Marylee immediately took us to a boat building school on the docks.  Very neat.  Especially the computer generated navigation simulation on the third floor.  Computer programs generated screen conditions, that the student navigated with a wheel.  We lunched in a small waterfront cafe and headed to our B.and B.,  The Old Consulate.

Although the Inn was a satisfactory Victorian, the Inn Keepers were a bit overboard.  They dressed in costume, had period spiels, and many rules.  Diane was particularly put off by the communal 9 a.m. breakfast.  But the weather was the big story.  Both nights we ate in the Silverwater Cafe,  a place Marylee liked.  It was quite good.  We explored the docks as the winds and surf wipped up.  Drove around, watched a guy wind surf in the gathering storm.  I saw a more daring sister than I expected, as she navigated the wind gusts to take surf pictures.  Back at the Old Consulate the windows rattled, one blew out.  But by morning the storm had passed and  we headed back to Olympia.

One stop was at the Hama Hama oyster farm.  Renee Erickson buys oysters from them.  Do you detect connections.  It was noon, we ordered a dozen, and took home a pint.  Diane would make a delicious oyster stew — flavored with some smoked salmon.

We spent a few more nights in Olympia.  A small town really, market, a few blocks of shops, waterfront.  More important was the time spent with Marylee.  Getting to know her better.  Sharing stories from the past and hopes for the future. Boston Harbor was relaxing.

I had worried about travel.  I’m sure the first explorers of the Northwest worried.  For me pouches and drains.  For them, hardship, weather, sickness, the unknown.  But they made it.   I made it.  I had discomfort some days; but overall excitement at new experiences.  There is a lot more to explore in the Northwest. I want to continue my read about the Oregon Trail, Lewis and Clark.  And hopefully I will make another trip.

 

 

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The Day After

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November 9, 2016 might be a day always remembered like September 11, 2001 or November 22, 1963. The day is already remembered as “Kristallacht” or “Night of the Broken Glass” when the Nazi began their campaign against the Jews that lead to the Holocaust.

In 2016, it’s the day after the controversial election of Donald Trump as President of the United States.  Despite lack of support from many mainstream Republicans, outrageous comments and revelations, negative media coverage, Trump rallied his supporters in a populist uprising against the establishment.  He rallied rural Americans.  Forgotten Americans.  White Americans. High School graduate Americans.  Male Americans.  And unfortunately, Bigoted Americans, White Supremists, and sexists.  They rallied against elites, government, the establishment.

Many thought a win by Trump was impossible.  But the voice of the majority has spoken.  I suspect they have been heard.  Republicans now control all three branches of government.  Where will we go?  The worse case scenario would be mini Kristallachts — attacks on those that are perceived as different, through intimidation or laws. The best is probably a toned down Trump seeking advice and help in unifying the country.  In  between these extremes, we might see the erosion of many liberal policies that have been in place for years, decades.  How will women, Blacks, Latinos, Muslims, Homosexuals fare in a Trump America?

I was not totally surprised by the election outcome.  I wanted to close my eyes to the possibility but I knew it could happen.  I had given Trump 30-35 % committed core  supporters (not all but a percentage of them probably deserve Clinton’s “deplorable” label).  It became pretty clear there was another dissatisfied  group (some just anti-Clinton) who would vote Trump. Maybe, if it was 15%, he could win the election.  And it happened.

I wake up reflecting.  I spoke out strongly against Trump.  And still believe he will be bad for the country.  Maybe I should say my country.  Obviously many feel he will be good for their country.  Part of my current  reflection is the composition and beliefs of these different countries.  And how to bring them together.

I guess I am part of the establishment, the elite.  Although I sympathize and want to help those struggling, I live the “good life.”  My retirement so far (except for medical issues) has been pretty nice.  We vacation in nice places, eat in the best restaurants, go to whatever theatre or entertainment we wish.  We have good health care and don’t worry a lot about the cost of something we want.  We’re not really rich but part of an upper middle class percentage.  Lower-upper?

Today I wonder, how did Diane and I get here.  First  we had good families. We went to college.  We worked.  Both teachers.  Not the highest paid occupation.  And I even worked in private schools that paid less.  We didn’t inherit a lot.  We saved and tried not to waste.  So now we are part of the “elite?”  I don’t fully understand.

Although Ive been registered both Republican and Democratic, my politics have always supported what are labeled liberal policies.  I’ve never identified with national Republicans, big business or jingoistic American ethnocentrism.  I’ve believed American diversity was a strength, tried to overcome my male chauvinism, and supported the equality of all people.  That pretty consistently led me to Democratic candidates, particularly nationally.

Now we have a populist movement of average people.  Unfortunately up to now it seems like a movement of predominately average white people.  I might be part of an elite but I’m  in a party with a lot of average, nonwhite people.  What’s going on here?  I recall in 1966-67 when I was attending Boston College.  I spent much of my Sophomore year involved in the anti-war movement.  I was active in SDS.  We decided students had to reach out to the the working class.  They were being hurt by the war.  They not us (college students) were dying in Vietnam.  We tried to organize and recruit in poor and working class Boston neighborhoods.  Blacks and Irish.  It didn’t work.  For them, we were part of a deferred “elite.”  They continued to fight and died in Vietnam for another 8  years.  Tragic.

For me the current election frenzy leaves me a bit emotionally exhausted.  I will spend today, tomorrow and the coming days reflecting.  Can we forge new political alliances?  I’m pretty sure I won’t be satisfied in a Trump America.  But this may be a turning point.  A dialogue must begin.

Time to reflect today, listen to the rain, contact some close friends, watch the birds and the stock market.   Bake some bread and pumpkin pie.  Finish reading my book on the Oregon Trail — the story of some pioneers that made America great (unfortunately they slaughtered Native Americans and bison in the process).  But I  must think positive.  Today is just the first day after.

Is it time to circle the wagons?  Together?

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Hail to the chief.

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Tomorrow it’s time to vote.  It’s been a bizarre, even frightening campaign for the next President.  The outcome is a toss up; the consequences possibly nasty.  I’m 69 years old.  There have been twelve Presidents in my lifetime.

I’m a Harry Truman baby.  He became President when Franklin D. Roosevelt died in his unprecendented fourth term.  In 1948 Truman, a Democrat, from Independence, MO ran against Thomas Dewey from NY.  I don’t need to emphasize that I don’t recall anything firsthand about the campaign or Truman.  History  books document other names I recognize, Storm Thurmond (Southern Conservative), Henry Wallace (Progressive) and Norman Thomas (Socialist) — they all ran as Third party candidates.  So did Edward Teichert (Socialist Labor) but I never heard of him.

As a student of media and photography. I have seen many times the Chicago Tribune  newspaper headline declaring Dewey the winner.  Harry held a copy high.

“The paper relied on its veteran Washington correspondent and political analyst Arthur Sears Henning, who had predicted the winner in four out of five presidential contests in the past 20 years. Conventional wisdom, supported by polls, was almost unanimous that a Dewey presidency was “inevitable”, and that the New York governor would win the election handily. The first (one-star) edition of the Tribune therefore went to press with the banner headline “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN”.”

I also remember from history books, Truman’s desk sign, “The Buck Stops Here.”  Honest, small town kind of guy.  Most importantly I’ve thought about and taught lessons related to Truman’s decision to drop the atom bomb on Japan.  I’m not sure I or the history books have a definitive ruling on whether he made the right decision.

In 1952 Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected President,  Richard Nixon was his Vice President.  I was five years old.  Ike was a war hero who accepted the Republican offer.  His Democratic opponent was Adlai Stevenson.  Stevenson was known (maybe some puff) as a liberal and intellectual.  When we toured the Eisenhower farm in Gettysburg a few years ago, we learned that Ike read western novels and ate TV dinners on a small porch.  I seem to remember as a kid (he served two terms), thinking of Eisenhower as a grandfather-President.

It was during these years that Andy, one of my best friend’s father took us to John Birch Society and other right wing meetings.  Dr. Vince Romano was textbook.  A successful, small town, Catholic doctor, father of maybe a dozen kids.  Conservative to the core, obsessed with Communism, probably abortions and homosexuals (although both topics would have been taboo).  But I really appreciate how Dr. Romano exposed me to hard work (rebuilding the stone wall on their Riverfront home), political issues and bird banding — monthly trips to a banding station in Washington Crossing State Park.  Ironically in 1964, my first year in college, I was a member of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), a Romano legacy, and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), a Boston opportunity.  I do wish I had some of the pulp novels published and circulated by the far right at that time — great drama — and then the classic “None Dare Call it Treason.”

The election that stoked my political consciousness was 1960.  John Fitzgerald Kennedy (Massachuttes Democrat) ran against Richard Nixon (California Republican).     Kennedy was Catholic; I went to a Catholic elementary school.  Guess who I supported?  Andy Romano and I made several trips to a Kennedy field office on Otter Street (collecting buttons and other campaign material).  I still have some of those buttons.

On October 16,  1960 Andy and I rode our bikes up Radcliffe Street, through Tullytown to the Levittown Shopping Center.  We waited and waited.  Finally the motorcade arrived.  Kennedy spoke:

“I come here today as the standard bearer for the Democratic Party in this most important election. Actually, there have been many significant elections in the history of this country, and it is my hope that as a result of this campaign, as a result of our efforts, that the people of this country, all of them, Republicans and Democrats, will come as a result of our effort of the last few months to some definite conclusions about what our country must do. I believe if this election is to serve a national purpose, the best purpose it can serve is to inform our people, not of all the things that are good about our country, because we know there are many things that are good about our country but the things that we must do if we are going to maintain our country’s freedom.”

The text of the speech is interesting to read today, the Cold War,  education, social programs.  He concluded:

“I come here today, on a cold and windy Sunday, and ask your help in this campaign. I ask you to join us, to give us your hand, your voice, your support, join us in moving our country forward, join us in trying to do for this country what needs to be done if it is going to maintain its position in the world, if it is going to move ahead. Join us in moving America again. Thank you.”   Sound familiar.

I’ll admit.  I’m a Kennedy Democrat (most of the time).  JFK’s “ask not what your country can do for you,” images of  sailing on  Cape Cod, John and Caroline in the White House, yes, for me and I believe many of  my generation, this was Camelot.  And then the unthinkable.  Dallas.  Assassination.  November 22, 1963.

The Kennedy memory and legacy is complex.  Bay of Pigs, increase presence in Vietnam Nam, foot dragging on Civil Rights,  Cuban missile crisis. Later we learn obout personal issues.  Diane and I would graduate and join the Peace Corps.

I was in the HGP parking lot on a Friday, November 22, 1963.    We were organizing for a dance.  “We interrupt this program,for a tragic news bulletin.  The President has been shot. I repeat President Kennedy . . .”  We were brought to the HGP chapel and the reality of what had happened began to sink in. Then there was the shooting of Oswald on national TV and the photograph of Johnson with Jackie  Kennedy being sworn in on Air Force One.  Mother and Father drove to DC with friends and joined the long line paying their respects to the President and his family in the Capital rotunda.  With my sisters, I was glued to the TV all night looking for our parents.

Lyndon B. Johnson.  A sad presidency.  A Southerner, Texan, skilled Congressman, in the shadows of Harvard educated, Mass, Kennedys.  Johnson fought for Civil Rights but was strangled by the Vietnam War.  In 1964, he  runs for a full term.  His running mate is Hubert Humphrey, a Minnesota liberal. Republicans, led by the Conservative wing, anoint Barry Goldwater from Arizona.  I’ll admit I was intrigued by Goldwater.  I read “Conscience of a Conservative.”  Individualism and freedom from government intervention struck a chord, but I was wary of the extreme anti-communism.  The John Birch Society, Young American for Freedom rhetoric that I’d learned about thanks to Doc Romano had turned me off.  If I could have voted,  it would have been Johnson.

However by 1965, Johnson was the enemy.  His Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, came to Boston College to speak.  There were lines of protesters and another line of BC “jocks” screaming “get off our campus.”  I stood with a small group of Freshman. This was our campus.  We wipped out our student IDs and joined the protesters.  BC security didn’t care, we were swept off campus with the protesters.  Off campus we got together and established contacts with Harvard and Boston University chapters of SDS.

Back on the BC campus we helped establish an SDS chapter.  Despite my political naiveté, I was elected secretary of the chapter.  One reason was that a small group of juniors and seniors, political science majors, had already had scuffles with the school administration and wanted a low profile.   I believe that they were  the organizers of the food riot that forced a change in food service and showed us that collective action could achieve results.  Power to the people!!

In retrospect, I feel sorry for Lyndon Johnson.  But maybe I should reserve judgement until I read his multi-volume biography written by Robert Caro.  The war dragged on, more and more politicians began to join the anti-war movement. More Democrats turned anti-war and anti-Johnson.  Lyndon eventually decided not to run for a second term.

1968,  enter center stage, Gene McCarthy, an anti-war candidate.  Clean up for Gene was the cry (it meant cut your hair, shave, and change clothes).  I recall going to a rally in Madison Square Garden.  But McCarthy was too much for most older Democrats.  Robert Kennedy entered the race but was assissinated.   The party  went with the more traditional liberal team of Hubert Humphrey and Edmund Muskie.  Republicans reached back and found Richard Nixon with running mate Spiro Agnew from Maryland.  Footnote: George Wallace (Southern racist) and Curtis LeMay ran on the American Independent ticket.  Agree was off the wall, would fit in with today’s fringe Republicans.

Disappointed at my choices, my first Presidential vote, I voted for Humphrey.  American politics is compromise.

In 1972, the war raged on.  Nixon and Agnew carried the Republican banner again. Amazingly Democrats went with anti-war candidate George McGovern from South Dakota.   I didn’t get real involved but  enthusiastically voted for McGovern.   Nixon won. The war ended in 1974. Finally.

And then came the Watergate scandal.  During the early 1970s Diane and I  lived in New Hope with John and Barbara Paglione.  Everyday, in the afternoon, we watched the TV Watergate hearings. “Did the President know?”  Nixon knew enough and didn’t run again.  Gerald Ford became President.

In 1976 Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale, Democrats,  defeat Gerald Ford and Bob Dole.  I don’t remember any interest or participation in the election. Carter seemed a nice guy but didn’t inspire me

1980, Carter and Mondale were looking for a second term.  Along comes the ex-actor, Californian Governor, Republican Ronald Reagan and his running mate George H. Bush from Texan.  Reagan had tremendous appeal to what was called Middle America. I was appalled at his conservative, self-righteous paternalism.  I was at a party in Bristol and my brother-in-law was singing the Reagan song.  I decided to register Republican to vote for the more moderate John Anderson in the Republican primary.

Reagan and Bush won in 1980 and again in 1984. Democrats Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro did little for me.  It was great seeing a woman on a national ticket but I was interested in more aggressively liberal candidates.  But the country has shifted to the right.  Conservatives were in.

In 1988 Reagan was followed by George H. W. Bush and a weak VP, Dan Quayle.  The Democrats ran Michael Dukakis (Mass) and Lloyd Bentsen.  Ron Paul emerged as a Libertarian candidate. The Republicans prevailed again.  Bush had a refinement that seemed to represent another era, my father’s candidate.  He got us in and quickly out of the Gulf War.  Democrats it seemed we’re having a difficult time finding charismatic leadership.  Other than voting, I was not involved in National elections.

Strangely, ironically, Diane would say sadly, after registering Republican to vote against Reagan, I was approached by Yardley Borough Republicans to run for Borough Council.  At the time I was active organizing a Bucks County chapter of the Sierra Club.  Club officials told me we need Republican environmentalists.  Go for it, they advised. I met Susan Taylor, another Republican council candidate.  She was a fiscal conservative with none of the social conservative beliefs that were dominating  the party.  We got along well.  I decided to run.  We won.  Two terms. We forged a strong local Republican Party.

By the 1990s, Susan and I were finished serving on borough council.  I wanted to stay involved locally.  So I became a Republican committeeman with some input on who ran for council and other county offices.  I was always proud that my partner, committee woman, Sharon Lantzy, and I  were the only Bucks County committee people that did not vote to endorse Rick Santorum in his Senate run.

In 1989, I took a sabbatical from Holy Ghost Prep to work on my dissertation. The topic was educational policy making in Pennsylvania. I spent much of a year in Harrisburg. I was living State politics. When a new State house district was formed in Bucks County, I decided to run. There were at least four candidates.  I was doing ok with committee people, my cousin, Tom, Republican County Treasurer, even said I sounded like a Republican.  But the County chairman, Harry Fawkes, wouldn’t support me.  I was a teacher, he said and supported Dave Stiles, a Lower Makefield businessman.  Later I would joke that Harry probably made a good choice.  Although there was talk of an open primary, I dropped out to finish my dissertation.

George H.W. Bush was marked to be a one term President.  His challenger was Bill Clinton, Governor of Arkansas (running mate, Al Gore, Tennessee).  Ross Perot led an interesting third party bid.  1992 marked the return of a Democratic President.  Although I was happy, Clinton was from my generation, he moved much too far to the center for my politics.  In 1996, he held off Bob Dole and Jack Kemp.  Clinton’s style, working with Republicans dis lead to Welfare reform, an improved economy, no wars.

In the mid 1990s, I switched my registration to Democratic.  Harry Fawkes, Bucks County chairmen,  wasn’t listening to my recommendations for council but was supporting a true blue Yardley Republican faction.

In 2000, Clinton passed the baton to Al Gore.  I liked Gore and his VP, Joe Lieberman but I had no history of contributing or becoming involved in a national election.  As a teacher, however, I had been helping to run mock elections, invited local politicians to speak at school and took kids to DC and local rallies.  I remember seeing Clinton in Bristol one year.  Gingrich in DC.

The 2000 election was close.  There were disputes about voting in Florida.  Eventually the Supreme Court weighed in and George W. Bush with running mate Dick Chaney were declared the victors.  Republicans were back in the White House.  I was disgusted.  Much of my adult life was Republican candidates I would not support and Democrats that were uninspiring.

Bush and Cheney won a second term, defeating John Kerry (Mass) and John Edwards (NC).  Democrats seemed to constantly return to Massachuttes looking for that Kennedy replacement.  For years we vacationed in Nantucket.  Saw the Clintons there one summer and thought I was going to meet Kerry.  His wife, Theresa Heinz, had a house in town.  But I began to see her car on a dirt road with access to Nantucket sound, across the street from our rental. There were major renovations happening.  Was this going to be the summer White House?  Kerry lost the election.  Theresa Heinz responded to a letter I wrote saying a staff person was using her car.  No summer White House.  Didn’t meet Kerry.

In 2008 I got excited about a Presidential election.  Barack Obama, a Senator from Illinois, an African-American,  was the Democratic candidate.  I liked his running mate, Joe Biden, from Delaware.  Republicans chose war hero, John McCain.  He didn’t seem like a bad guy until he chose Sarah Palin from Alaska as his VP.  For me Palin marked the beginning of the take over of the Republican Party by crazies — right wing idealologues, 21st century no-nothings, anti-establishment conspiracy theorists.  I predicted then with some R friends,  the end of the Republican Party.  It could happen.

I wanted to get involved with the Obama election. I donated money several times, walked door to door in Yardley-Makefield, went to a rally at Temple and agitated among friends.  Obama seemed to represent hope and change.  He spoke as a strong liberal, not radical, but progressive.  When he won, I went to the inauguration with Dan Ryan.  Now to see some change in Washington.

Unfortunately, Republicans blocked Obama time and time again.  There wasn’t any bi-partisan cooperation, no compromise.  An important part of our democracy.  At times Obama’s liberalism receded as he attempted to court Republican support.  I don’t think there is any question that some of the antagonism was pure racism.  A black guy in the White House.  His birth as an American, his religion, and loyalty to the country were all challenged.  I became annoyed but didn’t blame him.  Republicans had become fully obstructionist.

In 2012 Obama and Biden faced Mitt Romney (Mass) and Paul Ryan (Wis).  Romney seemed to represent the end of old guard Republicans.  A businessman out of touch with much of the country.  Ryan was his nod to the conservative base.  A surprise to many, Obama won a second term. The Senate and House controlled by Republicans. Again I tried to be involved.

Republicans continued to resist anything Obama suggested.  Strongest was their opposition to tha Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, which addressed the millions of Americans without health insurance. The law has problems but it wasn’t a government take over of health care.  It was an attempt to help people get insurance, not be punished by a pre-existing condition, ideally contain costs.  Like any major piece of social legislation, there is need for changes.  But instead of  working for change or compromise, Republicans tried again and again to repeal.  A waste of time and energy.  Many issues followed this pattern, even the appointment of a Supreme Court Justice.

And now — tomorrow — November 8, 2016.  We will hopefully end what may be the sickest Presidential campaign in US history.  And there have been some pretty down and dirty campaigns.

Hillary Clinton, former First Lady, NY Senator, Secretary of State in the Obama administration was awarded the Democratic spot.  She faced a strong challenge by a real liberal-socialist, Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Senator.  As strong as he was, I thought it was always doubtful the country would support someone as far left as Sanders. Although I voted for him, I was not active in his campaign and a bit annoyed at myself that I wasn’t.   And I don’t blame my year in surgery.

Hillary Clinton carries a lot of unfortunate baggage.  For some, just as Obama is Black; Clinton is a woman.  Doesn’t belong in the White House.  As I previously mentioned I never liked the Clintons a lot.  As critics say, too tied to big business, rationalists, pragmatists.  Bill can be charming; Hillary is loyal.  But I understand some distrust.  That is not to say I accept or understand the paranoia.  The number of conspiracy theories, exaggerations, mountains out of molehills her critics  have built are amazing.  Yes she is part of the establishment but not a criminal, murderer, witch or devil.  Little has been said of her VP, Tim Kaine from Virginia.

After what has to be the craziest collection of primary candidates in history, the Republicans emerged with business tycoon, Donald Trump as the front runner.  Wow.  In the beginning there were 17 candidates.  A few were mainstream, Jeb Bush, John Kasich.  Marco Rubio and Chris Christie “seemed” normal.  Cruz, the ultimate conservative ideologue.  But then Walker, Perry, Paul, Fiorina, Huckabee, Santorum, and Dr. Carson.  Give me a break.  These are not Presidents.

But the party picked the most unlikely President, Donald Trump.  There has been some much written about him, I’ve read so many articles, reviewed the list of outrageous comments and crazy, unproductive policies.  I thought about 35% of the country would get behind Trump.  And I still believe-hope that’s about it for his core supporters, the believers.  There is another percentage, however, dissatisfied with Washington, distrustful of the establishment, of Clinton.  We will soon know the size of this group.

For months I’ve expressed my disgust with Trump in conversations, Facebook posts, several rants, and a blog post.  The purpose was primarily carthetic.  It made me feel better — primal scream kind of thing.  I’ve also tried to encourage voting.  I think I understand why the KKK, white supremacists, racists, sexists, conspiracy theorists, anti-Muslin, xenophobic, anti-semetics support Trump.  I’ve tried to understand why some normal, regular working people do.

I am not at all pleased with this election.  And I do believe it could get worse.  Whoever wins tomorrow, it’s time to find a better path.  I’d like a more wholesome debate and personally a more committed  involvement.  We can’t repeat 2016.  Your thoughts.

 
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