A people’s strategy against perpetual war

© copyright 2008 Michael Prysner.  Party for Socialism and Liberation

Challenging the bipartisan imperialist consensus

On the outset of the invasion of Iraq, I sat strapped in a cargo plane that swooped through the night sky dodging anti-aircraft guns. As we sat in darkness, not knowing if we would ever reach the ground, we suddenly dropped quickly from the air and slammed hard against a makeshift runway. Our plane was the first to land in the north. Our mission was to get in quickly, take the required territory and be relieved by heavy armor.

As we took our first steps on Iraqi soil, we expected to get back on a plane and leave within two months. Month by month, our deployment was extended. We read of the overwhelming military defeat across the country, and wrote home to our families that we would see them soon. We began to pack our bags as we watched the president declare the “mission accomplished,” expecting our return orders to come any day. We watched the blazing summer come and go, just trying to get through one more month.

We grew bitter as we ate a Thanksgiving dinner of macaroni and stale bread as the president smiled for photos in Baghdad holding a giant fake turkey. We spent the day dodging bullets when Saddam Hussein was captured, thinking maybe-just maybe-it was finally over. Even as we strapped back into a cargo plane a year after we landed, we expected to circle right back and continue to watch the months pass through a rifle sight. This was a reality for some; many in my unit were sent back within two months of returning home. Anyone who could not find a way to get out of the army was stop-lossed and sent back for at least one more tour.

Essentially, my year of watching the months pass represents the Iraq war as a whole-thinking it was going to end, but seeing only an increase in the size and brutality of the occupation. With the “end of major combat operations” declared in the early months of the war, we saw all-out sieges on Fallujah, Basra and other cities where the Iraqi people had stood up to the occupiers.

The American and Iraqi people demanded that the troops be withdrawn, yet they got the opposite-a massive troop surge. The surge, sold to the public as a temporary measure to bring an end to the war, has served as a justification to keep the number of soldiers in Iraq well above pre-surge levels. Furthermore, the number of U.S. soldiers occupying Iraq has been supplemented by private mercenaries, paid generously by the Pentagon to terrorize Iraqis with no legal consequences.

To ring in the New Year-the fifth of the occupation-2008 began with the war’s largest bombing campaign on one of Baghdad’s most populous suburbs. Month by month, the body count rises and the imperialist occupation of Iraq deepens.

Why not just vote for change?

In 2006, the masses of American people opposed to the war put their hopes in the Democratic Party, handing it control of Congress in what was widely understood as a vote against the war. Since then, funding for the war has continued to flow unimpeded and General Petraeus and the Bush administration have continued on their destructive warpath. In June alone, Congress approved $165 billion to fund the war without restrictions.

Now, many who still fail to recognize the true loyalties of the Democratic Party have thrown their support behind another Democrat posing as an anti-war candidate. Barack Obama, who began his campaign promising a total withdrawal from Iraq within 16 months-simultaneously pledging imperialist intervention elsewhere in the Middle East-has also begun to shift his position to prolong the occupation.

Obama now promises, using ambiguous language, to remove “U.S. combat troops” from Iraq. “Combat troops” do not include residual forces such as “counterterrorism” units, military training personnel and force protection units. Nor does it include private contractors and mercenaries, which number over 180,000.

Obama’s Iraq policy co-coordinator, Colin Kahl, advocates a residual force of up to 80,000 U.S. troops. Obama advocates a “careful” withdrawal, essentially subject to the advice of military commanders. General Petraeus, widely known for promoting a massive, brutal and indefinite occupation of Iraq, has Obama’s full support as the new commander of the U.S. Central Command. This position gives General Petraeus full control over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as all U.S. military operations in the Middle East, East Africa, and Central Asia.

Those who believe that they can “vote for change” will be voting for a slightly modified imperialist policy.

Charting an independent path

The reality is that the war against Iraq will continue unabated. This is glaringly evident in the new security agreement now being forced upon the Iraqi people. Keeping with the trend of further entrenching and increasing the occupation while the Iraqi masses are demanding an end to it, the security deal will guarantee the U.S. military 58 permanent military bases in Iraq-nearly double the current number-while once the public was assured that there would be no permanent military bases.

The security plan will strip Iraq of whatever sovereignty it has left, cementing its de facto status as a U.S. colony. It will give Washington control over Iraqi airspace and the ability to use Iraq as a staging ground for military attacks elsewhere in the region. It will grant U.S. troops and private contractors full immunity from Iraqi law, giving them the right to raid any house and to arrest and interrogate Iraqi citizens without permission from the Iraqi government

Not only does the security plan demonstrate the U.S. government’s determination to forever control Iraq, it sets the stage for further conquest in the Middle East.

There is no doubt that, if politicians in Washington get their way, the war will continue for years to come. Months will pass as they debate the complexities of the war and develop new strategies aimed at giving the appearance that the end is just around the corner. Months will pass and the lives of Iraqis will continue to be destroyed and soldiers will continue to strap into cargo planes only to be snuck home at night in flag-draped coffins.

The plan to permanently occupy and terrorize Iraq is staring us in the face. We cannot vote for change; change will come the way it always does in society-through the efforts of a dedicated, militant mass movement against the heinous crimes of those who claim to represent us. Without such a movement, the imperialist plans for the Middle East will stay on course, and war will be a permanent reality.

The author is an Iraq war veteran and the Party for Socialism and Liberation’s congressional candidate in Florida’s 22nd District. Click here to read more about his campaign. Click here to read more about other PSL candidates running in local and national elections.

Fire Breathing Liberal Wexler; The Phoenix Rises

Wexler going back to Colbert, despite previous controversy

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

Trend-setter and teacher Congressman Robert Wexler may have mentored many a freshmen class of Representatives.  Well into the future, the newest Congressmen and women will study the mistakes that might define an earlier Wexler performance.  Certainly, Robert Wexler did.  Upon reflection, his trials helped him to acquire great knowledge.  The Democrat from Boca Raton, Florida learned his lessons well.  He illustrates why, as retired Major League Pitcher Vernon Law attests, “Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward.”

In 2006, Comedian, Stephen Colbert delivered a pitch.  Robert Wexler, swung and missed, although, then he felt as though the effort was a glorious home run.  It was after the replay, in front of a less than receptive audience that Robert Wexler realized his standing ovation would be rescinded.

Wexler got into trouble for following the host’s instructions to repeat statements that could doom the politician’s reelection if his 2006 race were contested. Those statements included “I enjoy cocaine because it’s a fun thing to do.” At Colbert’s urging, he said he enjoys prostitutes “because it’s a fun thing to do – much like cocaine.”

“If you combine the two together, it’s probably even more fun,” he said.

The day after the show, stories hit the mainstream media – including The Associated Press and NBC’s “Today Show” – characterizing Wexler’s appearance as a genuine admission of the use of cocaine and prostitution. On the following night’s show, Colbert took the unprecedented move of refuting the news accounts and defending the congressman.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), then the minority leader, issued a verbal warning discouraging other lawmakers from going on Colbert’s show. Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) made a similar statement as Democratic Caucus chairman to freshman Democrats at the beginning of the 110th Congress.

Undeterred and proud that he is open to erudition, Robert Wexler decided he would place himself in a precarious position once again.  Congressman Wexler said of his initial effort, “he harbors no hard feelings.”  Indeed, the  incredible Representative said “he knew what he was getting into before he sat down for the interview.”  

The wise and wondrous, Congressman Wexler extolled praise upon those some see as his nemesis’. Colbert’s and Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” provides “a method of political communication that is very powerful and going to be more powerful.”

With that in mind, Robert Wexler again chose to take the stage.  He spoke with Stephen Colbert on Thursday, June 26, 2008.  The determined and courageous Representative studied his earlier examination.  Mister Wexler evaluated the “tests” others took under the tutelage of Mister Colbert. Then, he concluded, he could again enter the fray and rise above it.  After all, he is a fire-breathing Liberal who not only survives, he thrives . . . just as he did in this recent command performance.  Well done Congressman Wexler!

Robert Wexler Resources . . .

Oil vs Ice

© copyright 2008 Storm Bear.  Town Called Dobson

To view the original, travel to a Town Called Dobson.  Oil vs Ice

Thankfully, California is doing something about global warming.

California outlined for the first time the largest U.S. attempt to regulate greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, calling for the creation of a new emissions- trading program and increased renewable-energy production.

All parts of the $1.6 trillion economy, the largest of the U.S. states, would be affected. Utilities, refiners, carmakers, farmers, manufacturers and forest managers would be called on to cut pollution under the draft plan released today by the state Air Resources Board.

The blueprint comes 18 months after Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law requiring the country’s most populous state to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The law is the most far-reaching of any climate-change plan in the U.S., where President George W. Bush’s administration and Congress have resisted mandatory caps on greenhouse gases.

But is it too late?

When polar bears start suffering from heat stroke, you know something is wrong.

The plight of the polar bear is not just hinged on global warming. In Iceland, polar bears are being shot dead.

Icelandic authorities said they were forced to shoot a polar bear found wandering on the island in order to protect the public after a plan to anaesthetize the animal was abandoned.

The bear, an adult male weighing around 250 kg (500 lbs), was presumed to have swum to shore from drifting ice. The last time a polar bear came ashore in Iceland was in 1988.

“There was a lot of fog in the area and the bear was moving into the fog. We couldn’t risk losing him and there was no time to wait for anaesthetics, so we had to shoot him. It was for the safety of the public,” Police Superintendent Stefan Vagn Stefansson told Icelandic national radio on Wednesday.

In response to a public outcry at the shooting, the environmental ministry said it would review the incident to see if it could avoid shooting the next bear that lands in the country.

The world’s largest land-based predator lives in the Arctic, depending largely on sea ice to hunt seals.

The sport hunting of polar bears continues and some groups wants to lift the ban of polar bear hide importation into the US.

And of course, oil companies are given full permission to harass polar bears.

IT’S just over a month since the US government designated the polar bear as an endangered species. Now the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) stands accused of giving oil companies a “blank cheque to harass polar bears”.

The row revolves around the seven oil companies that paid $2.6 billion in February for the rights to look for oil in the Chukchi Sea, off the coast of Alaska. Some 2000 polar bears live in the region – a significant chunk of the estimated 20,000 to 25,000 bears worldwide, and the companies were worried that environmental groups might take legal action to prevent the animals being disturbed.

But the FWS issued regulations last week permitting firms to disturb “small numbers” of bears and walruses without fear of prosecution as long as they report each incident and take steps to minimise the animals’ stress. If underwater sonar is being used, for instance, engineers must stop surveying should a bear swim close by.

Race Relations; Reflections, Realizations, Reactions, and Rejections


copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

“Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free.

Nor is it less certain that the two races, equally free, cannot live in the same government.

Nature, habit, opinion has drawn indelible lines of distinction between them.”

~ Thomas Jefferson  (Autobiography, 1821)

It was a Saturday morning, late in June.  The year was 2008.  In the background, radio broadcaster, Scott Simon could be heard.  The host of Weekend Edition offered his Reflections on Race and the Presidential Election. Alexander listened halfheartedly.  It was not that he was not interested in the topic; he is and he was.  Alex was distracted.  The gentleman glanced over at Donna, a young Jamaican woman he knows so well.  Donna’s skin is as Black as pitch coal and as rich as sweet crude.  She gracefully moves across the room.  He thinks of how he loves the way her hips sway to and fro.  Her voluptuous bosom fills the full cup of her brassiere.  As she bends down to feed his ailing cousin Anna, Alex reflects on how lovely the dark skinned woman is.  His sentiment is not sexual in nature.  Alexander is analytical.

As Alex watches the woman stir, he contemplates human nature.  Recent research fascinates the senior fellow.  For years, Alexander wondered what was the attraction to female breasts and beauty.  He recalled the article he reviewed days earlier, What Women Want (Maybe.) Alexander marveled as he appraised the study.  Rapt by the results as reported, “Looking at a naked man walking on the beach is about as exciting as looking at landscapes,” Alexander wonders of women, men, and how they relate.  How much of what occurs between the sexes is biological?  Are two-legged mammals acculturated?  Do we acquire opinions that then become habits?   Perhaps, had Alex’s attention been elsewhere he would have heard the words Scott Simon uttered as they drifted through the air.  Alexander might have stopped and sputtered as Journalist Simon mused, “How many people can there be who truly don’t know that Senator Obama is black – or care.”  

Alexander definitely knows Presidential hopeful Obama is African-American; and yes, he does care.  Alex would never express his anxiety as blatantly as thousands have.  Nor would he actually join a fellowship of known fanatics.  This white man, genteel in nature, cannot imagine why extremists react as they do.  For Alex, racial discrimination is not a source of pride.  He wonders if that is why much intolerance is hidden, neatly tucked away in the Internet.

Hate Groups’ Newest Target

White Supremacists Report an Increase in Visits to Their Web Sites

By Eli Saslow

Washington Post

Sunday, June 22, 2008; A06

Sen. Barack Obama‘s historic victory in the Democratic primaries, celebrated in America and across much of the world as a symbol of racial progress and cultural unity, has also sparked an increase in racist and white supremacist activity, mainly on the Internet, according to leaders of hate groups and the organizations that track them.

Neo-Nazi, skinhead, and segregationist groups have reported gains in numbers of visitors to their Web sites and in membership since the senator from Illinois secured the Democratic nomination June 3. His success has aroused a community of racists, experts said, concerned by the possibility of the country’s first black president.

“I haven’t seen this much anger in a long, long time,” said Billy Roper, a 36-year-old who runs a group called White Revolution in Russellville, Ark. “Nothing has awakened normally complacent white Americans more than the prospect of America having an overtly nonwhite president.” . . .

“The truth is, we’re finding an explosion in these kinds of hateful sentiments on the Net, and it’s a growing problem,” said Deborah Lauter, civil rights director for the Anti-Defamation League, which monitors hate group activity.  “There are probably thousands of Web sites that do this now.  I couldn’t even tell you how many are out there because it’s growing so fast.”

Granted, extremists do not represent the Grand Old Party, John McCain, or Alexander.  Nonetheless, Alex knows the rise in racist rhetoric demonstrates many care about the undeniable.  Our potential President is a Black man.  Alexander admits, he is not surprised by the speed with which the trend towards intolerance increased once Barack Obama become the presumptive nominee.  The lovely mild-mannered man recalls, Senator Obama was placed under the protection of the Secret Service Agency earlier than any Presidential aspirant had been.  This action, this election is unprecedented.

Alexander recalls the day he read the accounts in the newspaper; the United States Senator from Illinois began his bid for the Oval Office and almost immediately received threats on his life.  It was obvious, Barack Obama and his family were not safe.  Excessive concern for the candidate’s race was expressed.  Bullies observed Barack Obama is Black, and they did not like that.

Journalist Scott Simon might ruminate; these persons play on the fringe.  Fanatics are peripheral to the population.  However, the more moderate man, Alexander has watched as generations of white people exerted extreme power over Black people.  He was also well aware of how Caucasians hid the emotions that had an effect on their every exchange.  Alexander quietly avows on rare occasions, he too does not reveal what he truly feels when in the company of a person of color.

His relationship with Donna may illustrate, the illusive nature of race relations in America.  The two are friendly; they spend much time together.  However, neither feels particularly close to the other.  Each understands they are employer and employee.  Encounters occur for there is a need, physical, financial, practical, and personal only in the sense that when two people come together they cannot help but talk.  Still, a genuine emotional connection is forever elusive.  Neither wishes to create what is not comfortable.

Perhaps, the relationship that exists between Alexander and Donna explains why, the seventeen (17) million persons voted for Barack Obama in the primaries, may not if the realities of racism are emphasized before the general election.  Blacks and whites can come together when the commitment is tentative, but would pinkish persons want their daughters to marry someone that looks like Senator Obama.  Would Anglo Americans wish to place a Black man and his African-American family in the White House.  Could it be that countless who cast a ballot for Barack Obama during the primaries, struggle with the reality that he might become their President and ever so powerful.

Alexander asserts people can be polite when what they perceive to be a potential threat is less than pervasive.  However, Alex, who with great reluctance, voted for  Barack Obama  early in the election season, understands for possibly millions of American citizens, the idea of a Black man as President of the United States is perilous.  

He need only consider his own inner turmoil.  Alex understands what apparently escapes Mister Simon; people care what a color a person is.  The possibility that our President may be a Black is reason for concern.  Bethany grasps what her cousin continually contemplates.  She sees and hears that Alexander relates to the fear others express outwardly.  He is just a bit more refined when he articulates his distress.  A Black man, Barack Obama must not become President of the country he loves.  Alexander is not ready for such a radical transformation.  He often muses, “Why change?”  The man who has made much of his life says with a sigh, “What we have here in America is good.”  He does not trust that an African-American will have his interests at heart.

Alexander battles with what may become a brutal truth, a Black man might lead the nation, indeed, the world!  Animated and with much apprehension and angst, Alex’s wife Mary recounts what she says many assert.  “Barack Obama has an army.”  “I hear it is 2500 strong; maybe it was 25000,” Mary storms.  “You know they are angry people.”  She continues, “You heard what Michele Obama said did you not?” Energized by her own expertise Mary marvels and asks her audience to entertain; “The Obama’s live in a big house.  They have white servants.  Can you imagine that?”  .Implied in her statements, is what Mary says is conventional wisdom.  “Those people are vengeful.”  She reluctantly admits, perhaps, Americans have not treated Senator Obama’s ancestors well.  Nor have our contemporary Caucasian countrymen been kind to people of color.  She then adds, “You know he is Muslim and has ties to terrorist.”

Bethany wonders and asks aloud, “Where did you read this?”  Mary happily responds, confident her sources are credible, “I read it on the Internet.”  The younger cousin inquires might Mary share her references.  Bethany acquaints Mary with what she “knows” to be true.  However, Mary does not hear her. The want for other information wanes, if it was ever really there.

Mary, as her husband Alexander, is a registered Democrat.  Neither ever misses a vote.  For decades, Mary proudly worked at her local election polls.  From dawn until long after dusk she monitors what occurs within her precinct.

Alex does not acknowledge that he agrees with Mary.  Nor does he offer disagreement.  He merely remains absorbed in all that disturbs him personally.

For months Alex wrestled with the fact that as admirable as the candidate’s education might be, as calm as the demeanor of the aspirant is, even when under fire, Barack Obama is Black.  While Alex may wish to think of himself as colorblind and open-minded, he cannot help but question Barack Obama’s qualifications.  Frequently, in conversation, Alex couches his concern.  “The man does not have the necessary experience.”  However, on occasion, and only when in the company of Bethany, a relative who he fondly thinks of as a very good friend, Alex admits he is biased.

He has confessed; it is difficult for him to plead guilty to this truth even to himself.  Alex recognizes he is intolerant of those whose skin is dark.  He fears Black persons he encounters on the street.  He suspects, those whose cocoa brown complexion glistens in the light, engage in criminal activity.  Perchance, had Alexander harkened to the words Scott Simon offered days earlier he would have engaged in a conversation in that moment.    He had many thoughts on the topic.  However, when the Journalist spoke Alexander was absorbed elsewhere.  He pondered, who and what is Donna to him.

Alexander says he does not think of Donna as a servant.  Yet, he recognizes she is an economic slave.  In an abstract way, he is her master.

Donna is an authentic person, equal to Alex in every way, except for the fact that she is not.  The wondrous white man may never wish to divulge as three (3) in ten (10) Americans did.  He is biased.  In a very recent Washington Post – ABC News poll, people acknowledged a prejudice.  Alexander may be inclined to think the Black women with who he engages, or any person of color, is perhaps less profound than a Caucasian certainly is.  For this carefree chap, who openly chats with many a Black person, the race of an individual creates an impression, although he appreciates this is often unconscious.  

Alexander assumes, since he frequently converses with people whose epidermis is the color of bittersweet chocolate he knows what it means to be an African-American, Jamaican, Haitian, or just dark in skin tone.  While he may honor an individual Black person who he associates with, none of the labels Alex would apply to this group of people as a whole is good.  Much as he tries to be tempered when he associates with people purplish-brown in hue, some would say Alexander is a bigot, a well-camouflaged racist.

Most may not see the subtleties of Alexander’s prejudice.  Likely, he does not realize how deep his predispositions are.  Alexander does not think of himself as intolerant.  Perchance, he would be among the fifty-three percent in the Washington Post – ABC News survey who presume race relations in America are superior.  

In truth, Alex is a bit more realistic.  He realizes there are problems.  He has said himself, prejudice is prevalent.  However, he might quickly add, skin color does not cloud his vision.  Alex believes he is merely selective in his associations. Perchance, he adopted his parents’ opinions, or habits.  Alex is not naïve enough to think nature keeps the races separate and unequal.  He only knows what is and always was, at least as long as he recalls.

The self-proclaimed aware and astute fellow believes there are a few special persons, no matter the skin color.  He just happens to associate more with those fair of face.  That does not mean he excludes African-Americans from his life.  

The ones that once worked for him when he owned his own business were wonderful men . . . as far as he could tell.  They were polite.  The delivery drivers did their work.  These burly men, brown as the bark on a weathered oak tree, never complained.  There was Natalie, and Josephine; they nursed his mother to health.  Certainly, Donna is a delight.

Donna knows her place.  She fills a necessary space in Alexander and Anna’s life.  The purplish hue cast by the beautiful brown complexion of this woman ensures that she will never be seen or treated as a peer, at least not by the cousins who employ her.  When the white man and woman gaze upon Donna, they forever see her as a Black person.  Thankfully, they say, she is not an African-American.  Those people cannot be trusted.

“Just ask her,” Alex says to his very close “friend” Bethany.  “Donna will tell you.”  “American Blacks are lazy,” he continues.  “They do drugs.”  Donna says, “It is true.  Those Black people born in this country just collect welfare.”  She speaks of her son, Christopher.  “Look at him; he was awarded a full scholarship.”  Beaming with pride, the Health Care Aide reminds everyone in the room, when Christopher was a Senior in High School, he was one of three, nationwide selected to attend a prestigious college.  Her son, she boasts, is motivated.  He is a scholar, not like those “Black boys” native to America.

Alexander listens and nods.  Donna affirms his opinions are not racist.  He has reason to believe as he does.  “Did you hear what Donna said,” he asks his companion.  “See.  She knows.”  Exasperated and in a desire to prove his point, Alex points to Donna and reminds his confidant, “She is a woman of color!”  

The conversation began innocently enough.  Alexander wanted to explain why he could not in good conscious cast a ballot for Barack Obama.  The older white man had done his duty in the primaries.  Perhaps, his vote for Senator Obama affirmed he is not a bigot.  Alexander actually did vote for the Senator from Illinois in the Spring of the year.  He hesitantly speaks of how he had to.

The World War II veteran had no other choice.  No, he did not approve of Barack Obama then.  Nor does he condone crass humor as was exhibited at the Texas Republican Convention just days before Scott Simon made his comment.

Mr. Alcox said he made 12 of the pins after seeing a comic strip where Barack Obama was standing in front of a sign saying “The White House,” with the building behind him.  Mr. Obama is depicted thinking, “That’s the first thing we’ll change.” . . .

The offending pin stated: “If Obama is president . . . Will we still call it the White House?” . . .

“Obviously, it’s been offensive to people. It was not meant to be that way. We’re into humor – not racism,” Mr. Alcox said.

Regardless of the intent, many were offended.  Bigotry only begets belly laughs from other bigots.  The object of intolerance, if given the opportunity can speak to what eludes the prejudice.  However, in a nation where an esteemed broadcaster expresses a wishful belief as truth, no one “cares” what color Barack Obama, a Black man is, few take the time to probe beyond what they think correct.  Americans are not colorblind as they claim to be.  They are colormute and hence, frequently insensitive.  On the rare occasion when Blacks and Caucasians speak of racism much is resolved, empathy expands.

(Mr. Alcox) said after having a conversation with a black man who called him about the blog post, he came to understand more about the nerve he had hit.

Sadly, prior to this incident it seems the vendor did as Alexander does.  While cordial and conversant with people of every color, bias against those of color is not typically, if ever the topic.  He did discuss the elections with Donna.  He even asked her what she thought of Barack Obama.  “You remember Bethany.  Donna thinks Black Americans are worthless.”

That is why Alexander was able to do as he did in good conscience.  Earlier in the year, Alex went to the polls as a good citizen does and was handed a Democratic ballot.  He is a registered Democrat; however, only in the primaries does he usually vote for someone in his Party.  

Before, the presumptive Presidential aspirants were assured, Alex was certain he would have, voted for Mitt Romney.  He is white . . . (Did he say that aloud) highly educated; he comes from good stock.  His father and he were successful Governors.  More importantly, each accrued ample wealth.  Alexander is a very affluent man, self-made.  He admires such qualities, that is unless the erudite, esteemed man, or woman is Black, although, Alex is careful never to say that directly, not even when with Bethany.  He is embarrassed by his bigotry.  

At times, he does softly state what he hopes will remain a secret.  He does not wish for others to know what he is unwilling to acknowledge to himself.  Still, almost inaudibly he has told Bethany.  He has little tolerance for people whose complexions are dark.  Alexander hopes he can trust his truest thoughts and feelings with his cousin and best friend Bethany.  History tells him, with her, he is safe.  The relationship is one of reciprocal reverence.  Bethany shares her heart, soul, and all her stories with Alex.  The two learn of what they never imagined when together.

They also share a common bond, many in fact.  Most significant in this election season, Alex and Bethany each harbored much disdain for Hillary Clinton.  Neither struggle with the idea of a woman President.  It was only that woman!  Bethany understands why Alex did not vote for the New York Senator.  “Bobby,’ as she likes to be called, could not consider the former First Lady either.

However, Bobby remains unconvinced that Alexander would chose to cast a ballot for Barack Obama when it counts.  She recalls the day Alexander quietly revealed, “Maybe I am prejudice.”  Bethany had helped Alex to realize what he never considered before.  As a child, she, who is also pinkish in color, was raised with a Black family as much as her own.  She has never felt as though she was Caucasian.  This feminine Anglo American notices what many white persons do not, she is intensely cognizant of color.  Bobby, unlike countless whose skin is light is very aware of what is whispered to her.  What may not mean much to those who think themselves colorblind

When with a white acquaintance Bobby will feel a tug on her arm.  “Let us cross the street,” the friend says suddenly.  Bobby wonders; why might her colleague seem so distraught.  She looks ahead and the answer is revealed.  A group of Black men appeared up the avenue.

Bethany hears the hushed tones.  In a casual conversation, when a person of a particular color is identified, clarification is also offered.  “He or she is Black you know.”  This classification is meant to explain why that individual might think, say, do, feel, or be as he or she is.

A brilliant African-American is not merely a gifted and talented artist, academic, athlete, or author.  He or she is “Negro” first.  Then, the deftness is discussed.  “Actually,” the inference is, “the fact that this individual is a person of color makes them more exceptional.”

Most of us recall a cavalier comment offered by a prominent, practiced politician little more than a year ago.  Delaware Senator, and former Presidential spirant, said of his friend, Barack Obama, “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,” Biden said. “I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”  Of, course the remark was followed by an apology. “I really regret that some have taken totally out of context my use of the world “clean.” The sorrowful Senator explained.   “My mother has an expression: clean as a whistle, sharp as a tack.”  Neither the regret, nor revelation, would lessen the blow of bigotry.  If a person is Black, he or she may bow and accept what has become too familiar.  An Anglo may never notice such remarks.  Extremely offensive evaluations make sense when they are all you have ever heard.

Barbara Trepagnier, Sociology Professor at Texas State University-San Marcos has written much on the subject of Silent Racism.  She speaks of the culture of consciousness that evades many white Americans.  Ms Trepagnier, on the topic of careless commentary reflected on another incident.  She was reminded of Trent Lott and the callous statement he offered at former segregationist Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday celebration.  Then two, the orator offered a defense.  The Sociologist declared . . .

“I argue when we say things off the cuff, that’s what we really mean,” Trepagnier said. “His comments weren’t taken out of context.”

Her book contends that “silent racism” fosters routine actions not recognized by an individual as racist, but upholds the status quo.

Trepagnier says that this form of superiority remains prevalent in American society, and is a major reason African-Americans continue to struggle. Blacks are outperformed by their white counterparts in most social demographics, including factors such as education, employment, and income. She says that whites that deny the existence of racism or dismiss it as unimportant are often protecting white privilege.

Trepagnier says that some whites become detached from the race issue while others are so concerned with it that they become apprehensive about it, avoiding even the mention of the topic. In both cases, this passive stance silently provides the racist actions of others an endorsement, or worse, encouragement.

Alexander’s confidant Bethany does not negate what is too obvious to her.  Nor does she mindlessly wish to advance such postures.  Bobby shares her stories and feelings with Alex, if only to further his awareness.  

When Bethany is accompanied on a dinner date, she feels the stares when her cohort is a man of color.  The conversation with a server differs dependent on her company.  People at the next table are more likely to engage the couple when Bobby is with a white man.  When in a restaurant of quality, Bethany observes if there are many or any Black persons about, they are often the hired help.  Rarely is the clientele shades of purplish brown or Black in hue.  Mostly, people are light; skin tones are parchment in color.

When in the mall together, strolling down the street, in the bank, or other place of business, Bobby and Alex see numerous African-Americans.  Contrary to Scott Simon’s contention, each of them cares to recognize these persons are Black.  

Alex intentionally associates with people of color.  He hopes to work through the habitual bigotry that bothers him.  Bethany also engages.  She is aware her personal history shades her sense.  Black people are for her beautiful, inside and out.

The sensitive gentleman, Alexander, truly feels for those who are not treated as well as he is.  Bobby yearns to build bridges.  For so long she felt alone in her desire to end discrimination.  Frustration with a colormute community consumed her. The two think of what it might mean to those whose skin is ebony in color, black as coal, coffee brown, or cinnamon spice, if Barack Obama becomes President.   What will it mean to Anglos such as Bobby or Alex if Barack Obama becomes the world’s leader.  

Millions may think the possibility is beautiful.  “I am Black and I am proud.”  A few might be as Bethany,  whose skin may be a sweet pink, but whose soul was joyous soaked in a world of brilliantly rich color.  Millions could be ready to create the change that was once unimaginable.  For billions this possibility is still but a dream, or a nightmare.  Alexander, who has witnessed much history doubts that anyone is indifferent.  

Much is unspoken.  More is said in a subtle manner.  Reflections on race relations in America are approached and avoided.  People worldwide care and ponder the color of Presidential hopeful Barack Obama.  They just may not chatter freely or have the forum Commentator Scott Simon does.  If we are ever to move beyond bigotry perhaps, we must acknowledge, what is “politically more injurious” is not the insinuation of racism; it is the reality.  Mister Simon, might I suggest, people care about the color of a Presidential candidates skin.

Post Script . . .

Dearest Scott Simon . . .

While many may believe it is disingenuous for Barack Obama to claim the funds raised for his campaign will fight racism in America, it is no more sincere to deny the truth that racial discrimination flourishes.  Might people also consider Senator Obama and others who fear what will be in this campaign season feel they have reason to-reaction to a historical habit they know too well.  I believe, if we are to cure the ills associated with skin color, we must empathically speak to what is pervasive and persistent on this planet.  

People embrace habits and opinions as though they are facts of nature.  We all do this, whether we are Black, white, brown, red, yellow, olive, or pink.  Republicans, Democrats, and Independents are not exempt.  Greens, I shutter to say, are also two-legged creatures trapped in a prison they think rational and reasonable.  Perchance, it is time for humans to transform.  I wish to support a campaign slogan I believe is strongly needed, “Let change begin with me.”

References, Reflections, Race Relations . . .

The Human Footprint

To view the original art, please travel to The Human Footprint

copyright © 2008.  Andrew Wahl.  Off The Wahl Perspective.

And now for something a little different

This week’s toon, “The Human Footprint,” is a bit of a departure from my normal issue-of-the-day approach. It was conceived while camping on the shore of Lake Pend Oreille in the Idaho Panhandle last weekend.

“Two Million Minutes” or Where There is a Will

Two Million Minutes

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

The exceedingly successful Tennessee businessman may have shrieked with excitement when he realized all along he likely knew what would work well in American schools.  “More is best.”  “Too much is never enough.”  For an Entrepreneur these adages are thought accurate.  Bob Compton, founder and head of several technology and medical firms, a man with a Masters in Business Administration from Harvard knows how to tackle a problem and achieve results.  

Inspired during a dinner conversation in Bangalore, India, Mister Compton pondered the profundity of his mealtime companion.  The man from the Far East was bright, brilliant in fact.  He was well versed.  As Bob Compton, Tennessee father of 14- and 16-year-old girls assessed his newfound acquaintance, he marveled.  He became intensely aware of the puzzle he had not considered in depth previously; American children, teens, and adolescents are not well-informed.  Nor are they globally fluent.  

Compton, a successful venture capitalist, was meeting with some of the Indian software engineers he employed.  He soon found himself engaged in “the most interesting conversations I’ve ever had.”

He had expected math and science nerds.  But they also knew more about history, geography, and literature than most Americans he knew.

“I said to them, ‘How’d you get this way?'” he recalled.  “They said, ‘Well, at school.'”

After careful consideration, Bob Compton thought he found the solution to what has troubled many in America for years; how do we better educate our children.  Mister Compton calculated pupils plus time on task with a teacher trained in a specific topic equals overwhelming output.  Certainly, in the marketplace this computation makes sense.  Moguls, such as Bob Compton, often muse; minutes are money.

Thrilled to realize a resolution to the tribulations educators experience in schools today, Bob Compton set off to share the wisdom.  Compton created a documentary and screened the film at his alma mater, Harvard University.

Expert Theorists from the Graduate School of Education gathered to review what Bob Compton thought his finest portfolio, a feature film on Education.  

Through the documentary Professors of pedagogy would learn, in Bangalore, India, Shanghai, China, and Carmel, Indiana, a suburb of Indianapolis, societal expectations vary.  Students in China and India are busily engaged in their education,  Pupils “work” day and night.  In India, “High School” students, those in seventh, eight, and ninth grades, are required to take four years of math, physics, chemistry, biology, English literature, English grammar, civics, world history and Hindi.  Fourteen classes are considered an average course load.  

In contrast, American youth have few requisites.  The basics are small in scope.  Electives are popular.  Rigor, in most classes is scant.  If a pupil enrolls in physics, the study will not last more than one year.  A four-year program in the science of matter, energy, and force is not offered, let alone mandatory.  One year of biology, one year of chemistry; these are thought to be adequate in America.  In his film, Mister Compton features the variance . . .

(T)he voice of Neil Ahrendt, an affable, well-spoken young man and a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist, saying: “Occasionally, I do homework.”

Then classmate Brittany Brechbuhl talks about the importance of balancing schoolwork and social life. . . .

Hu Xiaoyuan, one of the Shanghai students, wants to study biology in college but also excels at ballet and violin. Her schoolmate, Jin Ruizhang, is a math whiz who says he began pulling all-nighters in junior high.

One of the Indian students, Apoorva Uppala, is a vivacious girl whose goals are to have a stimulating career in engineering and a happy family life. In the film, she outlines a weekend day, which includes studying with a tutor:

“Yesterday — that was Saturday — I got up in the morning at 5:45, got dressed . . . and then had two hours of tuitions; after that did a bit of math and physics and then went to breakfast with my friends; then after that straight to school, and . . . we had classes for three hours after that — without a break.”

Each of these capsules, Mister Compton explains make his point.  Hard work produces results.  However, Howard Gardner and other educational theorist thought his data and deductions flawed.

Esteemed Harvard Professor Gardner, a man who is often thought to be ahead of his times, offered only disdain for the documentary.  The film may have been a fine composition; nevertheless, the hypothesis was horrific.  Certainly, Howard Gardner chimed, the cure for what ails American students is not found in the simplistic formula Bob Compton offers.  

Gardner, among many prominent educators inquired, “What of the curriculum?” “How are multiple intelligences addressed?” Perhaps most obviously, for Doctor Gardner, without the liberties afforded in America, children cannot possibly be better prepared.  The scholarly mentor suggests the American system is better than those in Asian countries if only for the fact that here in the United States we have freedom of speech.  However, the contention Doctor Gardner offers can be argued.

American students even in low-performing states like Alabama do better on math and science tests than students in most foreign countries, including Italy and Norway, according to a new study released Wednesday.  That’s the good news.

The bad news is that students in Singapore and several other Asian countries significantly outperform American students, even those in high-achieving states like Massachusetts, the study found.

“In this case, the bad news trumps the good because our Asian economic competitors are winning the race to prepare students in math and science,” said the study’s author, Gary Phillips, chief scientist at the American Institutes of Research, a nonprofit independent scientific research firm.

The author of Multiple Intelligence huffs and puffs; Compton’s computation will not do.  The two men are engaged as mathematicians might be.  They each offer an equation.  They check the math.  Lines in geometric proofs are read one by one.  Yet, the conclusions they reach are different.

As each affirms, he is correct and the other has miscalculated.  Neither recalls facts, just as human beings, are fluid.  Concepts might be far more comprehensive than lists, linear logic, or logarithms.  In a flat, two-dimensional world a triangle has a total of 360 degrees.  In a three-dimensional space, the number increases.  Few pupils populate a plane without depth.

Children congregate in a classroom; yet, they are not a group.  Granted and gloriously, Howard Gardner attempted to expand the way adults envision how intelligence is expressed.  Nonetheless, he too posits parameters.  Theorist Gardner simplified the structure that is human, just as tycoon Bob Compton does and then rebukes the businessman for his shortsightedness.

Gardner does not appear to take into account what he would wish educators do when they evaluate a prospectus that ignores various ways students communicate or acquire knowledge.  The complexity of any subject or area of study is vast.  There are billions of brains and beautiful beings who want to learn.  No single method or mindset is superlative.  No country or concept is greater than another.  Logician Gardner seems to negate what he knows and espouses.  The youth are as varied as approaches to teach them or test them might be.  

Possibly, the supposition never explored in schools is, where there is a will there is a way.  If a youthful scholar feels the information shared is real, and relevant to him or her, as an individual, interest can be ignited.

If educators, the elders, parents and professional instructors, are to assist the children, each must encourage our offspring.  We must meet our young ones where they live.  Homes and schools may house their bodies; who the children are and what they will become resides in hearts and minds.  Possibly Howard Gardner and Bob Compton might consider intellect, curiosity, and concentration, are stirred.  Education is not limited by the number of hours spent in study.  Likewise, when educators evaluate the means by which a child reaches a standardized set of objectives, they too miss much.

What occurs in the classroom is not only the critical criteria to consider.  Did Mommy and Daddy announce their impending divorce over dinner last evening?  Perhaps, baby brother was ill.  The entire family spent the night in the hospital.  Might a child’s cold, flu, and fever affect an appraisal.  Will a sweet little girl perform well if her course load is increased, she lives in a nation where liberties are not denied; and she is continually distracted by thoughts of how her parents abandoned her.  The scars our children wear are not found on sleeves.  

Time in school and recognition for the type of intelligence they display will not likely yield perfectly balanced pupils.

Still, Howard Gardner speaks on.  He writes of what he concludes is the optimal solution, the seven intelligences.  The celebrated scholar suggests students are better served when characterized and classified by categories.  

  • Linguistic intelligence (“word smart”)
  • Logical-mathematical intelligence (“number/reasoning smart”)
  • Spatial intelligence (“picture smart”)
  • Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence (“body smart”)
  • Musical intelligence (“music smart”)
  • Interpersonal intelligence (“people smart”)
  • Intrapersonal intelligence (“self smart”)
  • Naturalist intelligence (“nature smart”)

Dr. Gardner, endeavors to improve the circumstances on this globe.  The Professor of Education poses his intent.  I want my children to understand the world, but not just, because the world is fascinating and the human mind is curious.  I want them to understand it so that they will be positioned to make it a better place.

Yet, he does not realize as he might, corporate mogul Bob Compton, also seeks to assist American children make the world a better place.  In spite of shared visions, the two men cannot agree on the means to solve the dilemma.  The data each acquired differs.  Perchance, the initial hypothesis effected the results.  The thinkers, in a desire to be profound do not ponder; science is not exact.  Scientist, scholars, and well-meaning magnates are not as exacting as they endeavor to be.

When humans are the subjects, solutions are not simple.  

The experts agree on the problem and not on the solution.  Parents and teachers are challenged to inspire minds.  Material wealth and money motivate American children.  Young minds, for the most part, in the United States remain stagnant.  The dropout rate is at an all time high.  Critical and creative thought is uncommon.  Pupils in this affluent country look forward to social gatherings.  College is a place where the social skills are honed.  The attitude is, at best to party hardy, or hardly ever in class.  

Each sees a crisis in American classrooms and communities and then builds a box.

American students are “slackers,” or intelligence is not measured adequately.  Indian and Chinese children are diligent, dedicated, and devoted and the way we measure intelligence in American schools is misguided.  Teachers in the East are seen as taskmasters, while educators in the states are not trained in the subjects they teach.  Mentors, Moms, and Dads in the United States are lenient.  Parents abroad expect more from their young.  The theories Mister Compton and Professor Gardner present, while arguably accurate may not address what is within individual learners.

The film quotes Vivek Wadhwa, a tech entrepreneur on sabbatical at Duke University, explaining why American students are slipping behind in math and science.

“The hunger isn’t there; the desire isn’t there,” he says.  Chinese and Indian kids “are a lot more motivated to get into these fields and succeed, because they’re fighting starvation, they’re fighting hunger.”

How to compete with that?  It isn’t easy.

What is not easy is evaluation and execution.  Whether we are educators or entrepreneurs, parents, or Professors, perchance, we must study ourselves and ponder.  What have we learned well and why.  When did we love learning?  The answer may be more instructive than any lesson plan.

When coursework is real and relevant to us, we revel in education.  The hunger, excellent pupils in India and China may feel, likely reaches a place far beyond the belly.  Exceptional learners are as Bob Compton was when he met a true mentor, inspired.  An individual or curriculum that can and does speak to our soul helps us to soar.

Perhaps the concentration on singular solutions such as hard work, or statistics calculated through test scores, or even slots that specify what type of learner a student is, limit us.  If we are to teach creativity, curiosity, and critical thought, the characteristics that truly benefit a child and a culture, then perchance we must act as though we are curious, creative, and can think critically.  

Might Americans, Chinese, and Indians, not merely prepare the progeny to perform as we have in the past might we allow our offspring to be and see beyond our narrow horizons.  Could we best serve the children, and society, if we listen to their concerns.  Learn from them.  Perhaps, we might become acquainted with each child as a person and build not a box, but a curriculum that allows the individual to breathe.  If we attend to what occurs in a young persons life and share with our offspring authentically, then, we may be able to  unlock the will to learn.  

Perhaps the equation that cries out to us is, one pupil plus an empathetic  educator equals excellence.  Please, let the children teach us the way that best meets their needs.

References and Educational Resources . . .

Teach Not Preach; the Prerequisite to Peace

Teaching Tolerance

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

Imagine a world where all inhabitants did not fear strangers for everyone was familiar with the other.   When races and religions are integrated, not solely by means of a physical proximity, but also through empathy, tranquility is inevitable.  If we teach and do not preach, we may achieve world peace.  

Instruction is possibly the prerequisite to unity.

In my own life, in High School, a course in World Religions was offered.  The exploration was an elective.  I enrolled.  As I sat and studied each philosophical, theological principle, I marveled.  Our foundations are similar. No matter what any of us believes, basically we share standards.  Even an agnostic or an atheist honors ethics that mirror the values the most pious among us venerates.

I had not considered what occurred to me in my youth until I reflected on this CBS report, Teaching Not Preaching In California Bible Belt.  Perhaps my own education was edifying.  Illumination may have swept over me within the concrete confines of a classroom.  Perchance, as I gathered information and insights on religious rituals and realities, I realized we are one.   People in every country were and are connected.  The principles that we hold dear are common.  Possibly, this is why I have always believed peace is possible.  I learned the lesson.  We, worldwide, are alike.

For me, war has never been an option. G-d, Allah, the Lord, Jesus, Jehovah, the Almighty, Mohammad, Buddha, the forces that control the universe, chaos, and Thou embrace love.  When we identify with the other, we feel deep fondness.  Knowledge empowers, enlightens, and gives birth to beautiful bonds.  May harmony be with us all, brothers and sisters. Let us follow the lead of educators in Modesto, California.  Teach tolerance, better yet,  facilitate acceptance.  May we each help our neighbor, honor the principle understanding begets understanding.

For those unable to access the audio-visual presentation, I offer a sense of the serenity that can be. . .

(CBS)  Modesto is known as the bible belt of California. It has deep conservative roots in farmland and a vocal Evangelical community.

But increasingly, some less familiar notes are echoing through California’s Central Valley, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone reports.

Like many other places, Modesto is becoming more religiously diverse.

But unlike any other place, religion is a required course in high school here.

“We can’t preach, but we can teach,” teacher Yvonne Taylor said . . .

“And now we’re going to be looking at Judaism, Christianity, and Islam,” Taylor said to her class.

Most schools studiously avoid religion. In fact, Modesto is the only public school district in America where students have to study all major religions to graduate.

“The United States is one of the most religious countries on Earth. And yet Americans know almost nothing about religion,” said Stephen Prothero, author of a new book, “Religious Literacy.”

Prothero believes Modesto should be a model for the country, because America is paying a price for knowing so little about the world’s religions.

“Religious illiteracy imperils our Democracy at home and it puts to a huge test our ability to conduct foreign policy overseas,” Prothero said . . .

But in Modesto, the lessons aren’t about distant cultures, so much as about the student at the next desk.

“So the only religion that actually requires the wearing of the turban would be what faith?” Taylor asked her students.

“Sikhs,” students answered.

Jaskirat Brar, a devout member of Modesto’s Sikh community, may stand out at Johansen High. But thanks to the world religions course he also fits in.

“Kids get to learn what I am and clear up misconceptions they have about me,” he said.

“Because we have the world religions course, the students are aware of what’s happening in our community and that certainly is something to celebrate,” Taylor said.

“Probably the best thing that I learned [is] how to respect the cultures and the religions and what they believe,” one student said.

“I was really glad that people are learning who I am and what I’m about,” said Doria Hohenlavuth, a Buddhist.

The city’s religious leaders have embraced the course . . .

At the city’s Sikh temple, Ravinder Singh Brar said: “The more we know about each other, the more friendly we are going to be.”

While there are many religions here, the goal is to create one community where everyone is accepted.

Restricted Sorrow and Sainthood


copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

I stroked the chair, caressed the spirit.  I cried.  She was gone; yet here.  Not forgotten; forever her presence would be with me.  Then within a wink of an eye, seven days passed.  Luke Russert appeared before me.  He stood; head bowed, and touched another chair.  This overstuffed piece of furniture once held the frame of his dearly departed father.  While some thought the moment sweet, many expressed exasperation.  They tired of the coverage.  Timothy James Russert was dead.  We need not canonize him.  A few were critical.  They wondered did cable television have nothing better to cover.  A “fellow” Journalist commented, “Will somebody please e-mail me when the eulogies for Tim Russert are over?”  Perhaps, tributes only end when we, the mourners pass. Possibly, memorials are personal, as are the parameters on grief.

Three weeks ago today, I looked longingly at the place she occupied forever.  My Mom could always be found seated at the kitchen table, that is unless she was cooking, baking, or gardening.  When Mom boiled, broiled, fried, or roasted victuals she did so with a lack of restraint.  Recipes were not to be followed.  They were guides, as was her nose, and the tip of her tongue.  Mommy was an eager explorer.  If not in motion, she read voraciously while erect in a straight back wooden chair that I stood and admired twenty-one days ago.

Mommy reveled in being productive and creative.  Her hobby was critical thought.  She lived, breathed, and was a being who constantly researched, reviewed all she encountered, and reflected.  Mommy was, and is authentic.  Berenice never pretended to be perfect.  She did not believe in the possibility.  My Mom learned as she lived.  All aspects of live were her lessons.

In our home, an error was an opportunity.  Mommy evolved eternally, and had faith all beings do.  I have no reason to believe that she has stopped or was stilled by a physical trauma that took her visible presence away from me.  My father does not fear that she passed on to nothingness; nor does he conclude that  her progression ended when her eyes closed here on Earth for the final time.

Indeed, that very morning, less than a month ago, while in my parents’ home, my father did as he diligently did each week.  He placed flowers in a beautiful crystal vase and put them in front of the chair where Mommy often sat.  She was not there that morning; at least most people would not have been able to see her.  Berenice passed more than eight years ago.  Nonetheless, for my father and I she is always present.  

On this date as on every other, my mother, his wife, would smell picturesque peonies.  She would admire the crimson color.  Red was her favorite hue.  Fresh flora, picked from her garden, and presented with great care was never a vacant gesture.  Mommy loved life in every form.  Plants were no less important than people.  The kitties some would call “pets” were also considered equal to humans in my Mom’s eyes, although., I wonder if others ever understood that.

I think, at times, some felt as though Mommy was closer to the “cats” than she was to them.  Perchance, she was.  From the “babies” she received unconditional love.  They, as my father and I, knew all her flaws and thought them fun.  Those unique qualities were the source of endearment for father, the furry felines, and I.  Food and feedings did not bind a mammal mother to her daughter, her husband, or to the purrfect little ones who sat with her every chance they could.

Mom and the four-footed cuddly children expressed empathy for each other in ways that could only be felt.  She and some humans, not me, had never connected with such compassion.  I suspect those who know us only from afar cannot fully grasp the wholeness, the whoness, that makes an individual great.

For me, Berenice was and is beyond belief.  Perhaps that is why, all these years later, I gaze upon her station and shed a flood of tears.  For me, it is as though she has yet to pass.  Yet, in my heart I know of the looming doom.

Some would say my moans and the notion that I might mourn my loss silly.  Near a decade has passed.  Certainly, I must be over the occurrence.  We are here; then, we are gone.  People live and then they die.  That is it.  Enough already.  I have reason to believe some who knew Mommy do not grieve as I do.  Still the ache I feel at the mere mention of Mom is sincere.  The pain of her passing will likely never leave me.  Nor will her words or ways be lost on me.  She is as alive within me and for me as she was the last time we spoke, face to face.

On the Sunday I last spent in her home, before I left for the flight back to my own abode, I turned and kissed a photograph of her.  It stood in memorial in the dining area, on the sideboard.  There, Mommy could see the flowers my father picked for her.  From where she was, my Mom could also study the pile of books Dad left for her to read.  He, as I, trusted she would wish to remain current.  Just as they had when Mommy filled a more Earthly presence, volumes on various subjects, were stacked on the table.  Mommy and Dad would read and discuss onto infinity.

Yes, my father is as foolish as I.  

We recall the wondrous women who taught us to believe in love.  Dad and I cannot forget the fondness of a being who had faith; there are no limits.  While we understand that several persons think my father and I need to “get over” her “death,” we must “move one,” each of us experiences that we have evolved.  Mommy has been integrated into our soul in a manner that shifts us farther forward.  Neither of us ever imagined we might grow as we have.  Our horizons have become more expansive.  Might we be the flowers Mommy now nurtures from an ethereal garden?  I can only wonder just as, I ponder the posture of those who easily leave loved ones behind.

Frequently, I marvel as I observe those who dwell on the hate, hurt, or the resentment they felt and possibly still feel.  As Timothy Russert was laid to rest, several of those who survive were not at peace.  Headlines blazed across page after page.  Columnist crooned.  In The Nation Alexander Cockburn penned all but a acclamation.  He wrote in an article titled The Canonization of St. Tim, Beat The Devil . . .

The delirium in the press at Tim Russert’s passing has been strange.  As a broadcaster, he was not much better than average, which is saying very little.  He could be a sharp questioner, but not when it really counted and when courage was required.

This short stanza is the kindest portion of the prose.  A reader might ask, was Tim Russert expected to be perfect.  Are we to believe that one is beloved only if they are flawless.  Could it be that homage is reserved for revered Saints; humans need not apply.  While I am able to relate to the frustration the author expresses, I also acknowledge the importance of what Tim Russert saw as his mission.  The broadcaster wished to create a historical record, “My views are not important,” Russert explained.  The man mused; the audience is intelligent.  Viewers will think for themselves.  Timothy J. Russert honored each of us when he offered a forum, a foundation on which we, the people could build.

For me, the vision Tim Russert spoke of defines love, unconditional, unconventional, unique, and exceptional.

Perchance, that is why I admire and appreciate what those who were close to him continue to venerate.  Mommy forever offered, “No one has the right to tell another what they should think, say, do, feel, or be.”  Timothy James Russert, just as my Mom trusted that each individual would decide for him or herself what was right, correct, and best.

An anguished viewer may have wanted the host of Meet the Press to attack a guest, to confront a purported corrupt Congressperson, or curtly cajole a public official.  Many an MSNBC spectator may have wished for an on screen war.  As a reader of numerous periodicals might surmise, several persons hoped to hear Russert rant and rage.  Yet, the gentle man could not, would not.  Perchance, the Journalist and Jurist was a peacenik to the core as my Mom was, or conceivably, he was just polite.

Russert said his mission is to learn as much as he can about the guests’ position on issues beforehand and take the opposing side, while maintaining a civil atmosphere on the show.

“I’m in a position to call them out and try to bring them back to the point where they’re giving an honest answer to an honest question,” he said.

Ah, the best policy.  As my Mom taught me, one must seek truth and trust that veracity for one may not be reality for another.  Wisdom grows; it is a progression.  The sources for information are infinite.  We must investigate, not castigate, or so I believe.  I recognize this principle is contrary to the opinions of many a media specialist.  Nonetheless, as one who intends to weep for the Mom I miss forever, I cannot spew words such as “How the Russert Test Failed America.”  

I inquire, might it be that America failed the Russert test; the key to a meaningful life is understanding.

Granted, judgments may differ; and I, for one hope they will.  For I cannot learn from those who agree with me, forever and always.  I embrace a philosophy that serves me well.  Mommy helped me to realize, perfection is not precision.  Facts are fluid.  A stagnant specific is as flawed as the falsehood, we must grief a loss for only as long as it entertains a particular person or audience.  

Tim Russert may have provided us with an unexpected opportunity, a chance to learn what most erudite elitists missed in educational institutions and esteemed ivory towers. If we wish to be excellent, we must embrace empathy.  Only when we walk in a world that differs from our own, as Timothy James Russert hoped to help us do, can we garner a genuine depth.  While conventional wisdom may teach us accepted rights or wrongs, I trust only exceptional insight allows for an awareness that the man or the Mom who sat in a chair teaches through his or her all too human being, more than they might through a supposed intellectual expertise.

Sources of sorrow, and serenity . . .

Letters To Editors Express Fear For Offshore Oil Exploration

Bush wants to lift ban on offshore drilling

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

In Florida, talk of fuel prices flourishes.  Citizens communicate concerns in Letters to Editors.  For the populace in this Southeastern State is the focus of numerous negotiations, consultations, and deliberations nationwide.  The subject is offshore drilling.  Might Americans abandon opposition to this environmentally perilous practice and let the petroleum flow.  There is much push and pull.  There always is when purses are pinched.  With the cost of gas high, and the use of cars critical in a culture built on travel, much hot and cold air is bandied about.

The questions presented to publishers are, who might decide the fate of the sea just off the shores of the Everglade State.  Are natural beauty and a balanced ecosystem high priorities, or only afterthoughts?  Do Sunshine State residents have a say in what happens on the fragile coastline or does the federal government dictate what occurs?  Perchance, Governor Charlie Crist rules?  There is reason to believe Californians are also caught up in this tumultuous tide, over offshore drilling.  The difference may be Floridians now fear a fight from within.  For many concerned citizens the Chief Administrator in the Gator State is a foe.  Charlie Crist has forgotten his constituency or made friends with those more interested in financial investments.

Readers mention on Op-Ed pages, many affluent individuals muse offshore drilling is an ideal resolution.  These influential profiteers have convinced an anxious public, the greater the surplus, the lesser the expense.  The people willingly believe.  Well-connected politicians propose what will benefit those with deep pockets.  The energy problem would not be, if only . . .

Other options are no longer preferable.  For consumers who contemplate the dilemma in print, the time is now.  The people do not wish to wait, worry; they love to wander.  Therefore, few have the “energy” to study how might laws affect the inhabitants and the country as a whole.  Sea mammals, fish, and fowl are not a consideration to contemplate; nor are future generations.  

Article after articles addresses the fact, Americans clamor; the cost of gas is too high.  This seems to be their more significant quandary.  The public asks what are the politicians going to do to relive the pain at the pump.  People who write in to periodicals note, the persons in power pounce on the problem.  The current President of the United States, George W. Bush, and his “protégé” Arizona Senator John McCain say, “I will take care of your needs immediately.”  Governor Crist relents, or rejects an earlier definitive stance.  While in the past all spoke of how we, as a nation, must reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.  Now that the price of petroleum has generated much public protest, these savvy elected officials speak of sweet crude differently.  They say supply can be easily increased and should be.  

The three public servants boast, inexpensive fuel is just around the corner, or off the shores of Florida.  Each “representative of the people” wishes to forego environmental policies they once endorsed.  Presidential hopeful McCain, and Texas-tea-tycoon and the man who now occupies the Oval Office offer, perhaps, it is best to do as we have done and know how to do.  Let us reinstate offshore oil drilling near the coastal shore of Florida.  Charlie Crist chimes in, “What is good for the goose or his political Party, will be good for his gander.  Governor Crist has his eye on his future.  Many whisper he could be chosen as John McCain’s running mate.  

A few letter writers assert, certainly, ocean exploration will provide Americans with the gas they covet.  At least this theory is the conventional wisdom amongst those who wish to please the people who ultimately place them in office.  In the case of George W. Bush, he may not desire a position in the Executive Branch.  He has been there and done that; he only wishes to strengthen his legacy .

While this shortsighted solution may seem supreme, did anyone mention Mister Bush, his family, and friends will profit from further investments in fossil fuels?  Might we discuss the rewards Republican John McCain will reap if research on alternative fuels is once again delayed?  Could we consider that the oil moneyed moguls intentionally choose not to operate eighty percent of established oilrigs?  If energy executives wanted to, they could produce more petrol . . .

Attempts to keep these topics out of the mainstream are ample.  Taboo questions are suppressed.  Talk is controlled just as the flow of fuel through pipes is forbidden.  However, on occasion the subject of profits, the Presidency, past and present, petroleum bubbles to the surface.

Many Floridians have penned Letters to Editors.  Often the refrain posits a need to lower the price Americans pay at the pump.

While some wish to speak of the cost of gas, I for one prefer to ponder the fate of nature, horticultural plants, to be differentiated from power plants, and people.  I submit my correspondence below, and I ask you to inscribe your own communication.  You may wish to use the template Florida Democrats furnish.  If so please click here, or you might read the reference and use it as a guide.  If you enter the Internet portal and select the publications you wish to address, the software will forward your message on.  Please remember, Letters to Editors need be short and concise.  A standard 250-word count may help to ensure your words will be published.

Economic and environmental endangerment

Dear Editor . . .

The reckless plan John McCain and George Bush proposed is meant to appease the public.  Fat and happy people will not protest.  The populace is encouraged to consider the current cost of fuel before they think of the planet’s future.  A desire for immediate gratification among the masses is a profitable opportunity for oil executives.  John McCain, George Bush, and Governor Charlie Crist benefit from the stuffed coffers of corporate oil cronies.  

If we lift the ban on offshore drilling consumers will reap few if any rewards.  The price at the pump will remain high.  The greater the supply, the more likely demand will increase.  If we continue to focus on fossil fuels Americans will be as we have long been, at the mercy of oil moguls.

Off shore exploration will endanger the habitat of man, sea mammals, fish, and fowl.  Oilrigs blemish the natural beauty that is the coastal calm.  

Oil executives allow eighty percent of fuel fields to remain dormant.  There is no need to give petroleum companies permission to penetrate the Earth’s crust near Florida’s coast.

Might Americans realize oil production is an expense we cannot afford, economically and environmentally.

For years, in cooperation Florida Republicans and Democrats were unified against offshore drilling.  Let us not be led astray or forget our conscious choice to clean a badly damaged environment.  Our lives depend on this decision.

Resources, Natural and Rare . . .

Petroleum and My Prayer

Bush to Visit Iowa Flood Site

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

Dearest Mister George Walker Bush . . .

This morning as I sat in what I would wish to think of as my safe little sanctuary from danger, I watched you mount the stairs and ascend into Air Force One.  The television announcer spoke of your impending trip to the Midwest.  As one with family in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois, I was grateful for your travel.  I am certain the people in these regions will be comforted by your presence.  Most will feel they have reason to hope that you will offer help.  I truly appreciate you “swift” response to their needs.  I am gratified that you have decided to fly high above the flooded terrain, and perhaps spend a moment with an individual or two.  Perchance, you will speak to my sister or my Dad.

As I observed the day’s news break on screen, I perused the printed page and realized the American people may have another reason to thank you.  The New York Times reported Bush Calls for End to Ban on Offshore Oil Drilling.  I am confident those on dry land, still able to drive through the streets are pleased.  Your grand gesture will gratify them, belatedly if at all.  The United States House Committee on Natural Resources thinks the move will not improve circumstances.   I sigh.

There is no reason to let little details such as well-researched assessment get in the way of the glorious work you do Mister Bush.  As you well know, the public cares not what the future might bring.  The people prefer to be catered to in the immediate.  I know you understand this Mister President.  You felt the repercussions of a delayed action.  I remember your late response to Katrina, and even to the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center Towers.  

Woe, to the politician who does not take measures to calm the citizens quickly.  Mister Bush, I am consoled as I witness all you have learned.  Indeed, today, you quieted fears and felt the people’s pain.  You did as is necessary.

In this nation, an elected official who bows to the will of his or her constituency will be judged well.  After all, as you are aware Mister Bush, the people are the power.  The populace casts a ballot at the poll.  Even for those such as you, an individual who cannot hold the office of the President again, that is as long as the Constitution remains unchanged, legacies are the legends of history.  

Mister Bush, I applaud your heroism, your ability to reach out and to touch the common folk.  Yet, while I might admire the actions you took on this 19th day of June, I only wish that consolations would clean the mess you created.  

I fear each of the events of the day is the result of earlier enactments.  What occurred in the Midwest is as much that the world has seen recently.  Granted Mister President, you only preside over a portion of a North American continent; nonetheless, what is in our air travels overseas.  Water also journeys to shores far beyond our horizon.

Contaminants and toxins permissible in the United States will be found in the heavens above foreign soil.  Oceans, far from our homeland, will contain elements hurled into American waterways.

I know you might muse Mister Bush, as you did for near a decade ago, humans have little effect on the environment.  Ah, but President Bush, as you now relent, we do alter the balance of nature.  Decisions you made in our name, accelerated the cycle of unwelcome warmth on a globe too fragile to fight off the effects of a fever.

You, Mister Bush may have learned the laws of motion in your studies.  As Sir Isaac Newton discovered in an Earthly environment, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”  Perchance, as a Chief Executive and one who received a Master’s degree in Business Administration, you are more familiar with a similar premise, economic in nature, “You scrub my back, and I will cleanse yours.”  

In the financial world, the policies you endorsed illustrate that you embrace this “theoretical” truth.  I recall your first hundred days in the Oval Office.  Much to the benefit of business buds, who supported your rise, you chose to initiate practices that filled your friends’ purses.  . . . and oh, yes, these very guidelines damaged the milieu.  Ooops.

  • Bush administration marks 100 days in office (04/29/01)
  • EPA drops objections to Florida rule that undermines Clean Water Act protections (04/26/01)
  • Gale Norton nominates William G. Myers III as solicitor for Department of the Interior (04/24/01)
  • Yellowstone snowmobile ban goes into effect, but perhaps not for long (04/23/01)
  • Bush seeks to relax requirements of Endangered Species Act (04/09/01)
  • Bush administration delays hard-rock mining regulations that protect watersheds (03/21/01)
  • Bush withdraws new arsenic-in-drinking-water standard (03/20/01)
  • Bush appoints industry apologist as regulatory gatekeeper (03/06/01)
  • EPA upholds Clinton decision to clean up diesel pollution (02/28/01)
  • EPA delays, then upholds, new rule protecting wetlands (02/15/01)
  • White House announces regulatory freeze (01/20/01)

Indeed, you were a busy man Mister Bush, just as you have been today, and throughout your terms.  You entered the White House and released the latch on barn doors throughout the nation.  Domesticated animals, Americans, did not rush out, for they had long felt as though they were not in harm’s way.  Centuries of relative calm encouraged citizens, beasts of few burdens, to believe they were sheltered from storms.  However, once the portals were open, predators, or was it you Mister President, ran in.  

Marauders came though back gateways, side entries, windows, and slats in the ceiling.  Perhaps these too were but friends of the fellow we all know as George, you, Mister Bush.

Oh, Sir, you must know, corporations, intent on earnings, ignored the warnings of environmentalists.  Scientists could not be heard above the hum of oil drills.  The clang of change as it fell into deep pockets muffled the melodious mantra of the few concerned citizens.  This circumstances Mister Bush caused the globe to warm.  Now the water falls from the sky without end.  Levees poorly maintained or engineered break.

My Dad hopes his sump pump will not fail.  My sister prays that her home will remain on a hill.  My best friend fears for his roof.  A friend in Racine, Wisconsin I hope is well.  No one has been able to reach him.

Mister Bush, when you first arrived in Washington District of Columbia you changed the fabric of the land.  You did not steward the territory we each occupy.  Economic favors flourished as did environmental hazards.  The rich grew richer; the poor did not prosper.  Those who had wealth garnered dividends.  Those with few resources received less.  Now, we all suffer.

Wind and water does not discriminate.  Homes, bought and paid for wash away in a torrid tempest just as shacks do.

Oh my dear Mister Bush, you promised to be the Compassionate Conservative.  If only you had chosen to be the Consummate Conservationist.

Each day Mother Nature cries out.  She weeps and the terrain floods.  Her heart breaks, and tectonic plates move.  Cyclones are the swell of tears her eyes cannot hold.  Mother Earth pounds us with hail; she means no harm.  Her children, under the tutelage of an oil moneyed man are out of control.  She knows not what to do to get their attention.  She throws what she has at hand, and hopes, perhaps, her brood will stop the insanity.

Mister Bush, please I plead, do not pander, or patronize.  My Dad does not need cheaper fuel.  He is a patient man and willing to wait for alternatives that do not leave him soaked and sorrowful in the next five-hundred year flood, which may occur only a month from now.

My sister would be content, if she could tell he son with certainty, she will leave him a world better than the one she grew up in.  Sensitive as she is, my sibling hopes to bequeath her grandchildren with a glorious existence.  However, as you fly to her home with promises too late, and replete of a skewed reality, she fears a dependency on fossil fuels will never end.  

She too, just as Daddy, does not concern herself with what cannot be salvaged.  Each requests that we secure the future, clean the environment, and do not drill for more oil, offshore or anywhere.

Mister Bush, the time is now.  For as much as any American would wish to believe they are safe in their now dry homes, as long as we continue to rape the few resources we have left, as long as we waste, and want more and more “conveniences” no one will be secure.  

As you peruse the cities and crops destroyed by rains and runoff, you might realize climate change is evidence of what you sowed.  No promises will repair broken hearts.  No policies that allow for more petroleum usage will produce calm or clean seas.  We now reap the rewards of gluttony and gratification.  It is not a pretty picture.

Mister Bush, tomorrow does come.  Our actions today will be the cause.  The effects of your past performances are what you see today in Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri . . .  Let us no longer wash the back of a egocentric executive, at the expense of the environment.  Instead, kiss my sister, hug my Dad, and if you can find my friend, lost in the tragedy, please tell him I love him.

Resources, No More Oil . . .