We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Hooray for the Pumpkin Pie

Samain                                                                      Bare Aspen Moon

20171123_063842

My phone camera didn’t do it justice, but Thanksgiving came in over Black Mountain with a gorgeous pink cloud, a penumbra of gold light on Black Mountain itself and a glow over our home. May the rest of the day, and especially the capon, be as beautiful.

Finished the pancetta and fig stuffing by celebrity felon, Martha Stewart, last night. It smells like it will be as good as I imagined. The capon-yes, we have it-thawed out and will go in the oven around 11:00 a.m. Kate made a pumpkin pie and got the caramelized yams ready. Ruthie’s pecan pie is covered in foil. She’s also bringing deviled eggs. They’re planning on coming up around noon or so.

Last night, for some strange reason, the neighbor had his sledge hammer out, using it to pound on a plastic garbage container. For quite a while. Don’t know if his mother or his mother-in-law or both are coming today.

thanksgiving-farm-harvest-postcard

We will be saying our gratefuls around 2 p.m. I’m grateful for you if you’re reading this. I’m also grateful for all the love here: dogs, Kate, Jon, Ruth, Gabe, Annie. I’m also grateful for the lodgepole pine that spent millions of years acclimating themselves to this particular altitude. And for the clouds and the mountains, which have such great altitude, and the streams and the mule deer. The elk, the red and gray fox, the moose, the mountain lions, the bears, the marmots and pikas. The rattlesnakes. The available oxygen in the atmosphere and the amazing organs we have that convert it to our use. So many things. Endless really. Thankful for all of them, now and forever.

 

Kick the Bums Out

Samain                                                                  Bare Aspen Moon

MetooOn the #metoo phenomenon kicked off by the now thoroughly besmirched Harvey Weinstein. What has happened, I hope, is that the tacit cover for sexual harassers has become at least translucent, maybe on its way to transparency. It’s that cover, consisting of male privilege and the fear of retribution in ways large and small that go with it, which has given especially men in power, but also men in all walks of life, the sense that they can treat women as objects rather than persons.

This objectification of women has always been wrong, always leads to mistreatment. How else can we explain the gendered wage gap, the glass ceiling still leaving accomplished women trapped in their cubicles, the continued male on female domestic violence? Only when the 3/5th’s compromise, America’s true original sin, no longer applies to anyone in our society will we have justice.

THIS IS NOT A PARTISAN ISSUE. It is a male issue and in particular a males in power issue. As a result it is my personal position that anyone right now, even Minnesota Senator Al Franken, who has credible accusers should step aside. Resign. Quit. Admit that they were wrong and leave the position which made them feel so powerful that they could ignore the real lives of others.

#metoo2Apologies are important. As an academic who teaches a course on apologies noted, they affirm, confirm and reinforce social norms. We need to establish as the real norm that unwanted sexual advances of any kind are not funny, playful, teasing, victimless. One way to do that is for each of those harassers to acknowledge what they did, who they did it to, and why their behavior is abhorrent and inexcusable. Then, they should be allowed to move on with their lives, but not in whatever position they currently hold.

My hope is that as a result we will be able to nuance these incidents in the future. Perhaps, as some say, Al Franken’s clear admission and apology and the nature of his acts are less heinous than, say, Roy Moore’s or Donald Trump’s, but as we shake off the social consensus that allowed these events to go unremarked and their victims shamed, we cannot allow any special pleading. The chance to change the nature of our public and private life in favor of women is too important to occlude with partisan rhetoric.

I regret this position leads me to support removing politicians with whom I generally agree, but, to me, the moment and its potential is just too important.

Guns Don’t Kill People. People With Guns Kill People.

Samain                                                                      Joe and SeoAh Moon

AR 15, for the kill

AR 15, for the kill

“Researchers define mass killings as an event leaving four or more dead at the same place and time. These incidents occur at an average of about one a day across the United States; few make national headlines.”   nyt

Don’t know about you but this sentence shocked me. One a day? Damn.

 

Our Times

Samain                                                                       Joe and SeoAh Moon

Last night, picture by Anshel Bomberger

Last night, picture by Anshel Bomberger

Gary Hart. Remember him? Turns out he lives just up Troublesome Gulch toward Kittredge out of Evergreen. Which means he shops at the King Sooper in Evergreen where a member of Beth Evergreen, Stephen Tick, also shops. In the fruit and vegetable aisle Stephen introduced himself to Gary and asked if he would be willing to speak at the synagogue. Senator Hart said yes.

Last night he spoke. A tall, patrician man, 81 later this month, he’s impressive. Charismatic and thoughtful. Author of 21 books, a degree from Harvard Divinity, law degree from Yale and a doctorate from Oxford, senator for 12 years, 1974 to 1986. And front runner for the Democratic nomination for President in both 1984 and 1988, losing out to Walter Mondale in ’84 and derailed by the first notable sex scandal of our new era in 1987. Here’s more.

Based on what I heard last night he would have made an excellent president. His speech, funny and full of cogent insights, succeeded, I think, in placing our current political mess in a broader context. First, a historical one in reference to the late nineteenth century and the populist push occasioned by the transition from a rural, agrarian society to an urban, manufacturing base.  Second, in regard to what he identified as two big revolutions that began in the 1970’s: the globalization of trade and the whole technological shift towards computers and radically different forms of communication.

As a result of the long term impacts of globalization and great technological changes, we have experienced a massive shift in our economic culture. When he ran for President in 1984, he toured shuttered steel mills in Ohio and Pennsylvania. They never opened again. Detroit, too, in the wake of the influx of Japanese and German cars, went into it well known death spiral.

Worked here two summers. 2015

Worked here two summers. 2015

These two combined effects of globalization forced thousands, millions, out of work. Alexandria, Indiana is a microcosm of those effects. A once vibrant small town, through about 1974, it now has dollar stores, plywood on store fronts, meth houses, and fractured families. It’s a Western mining town, an East coast textile town, a town whose economic base disappeared. In my lifetime. The result, in “Hart’s short hand definition of populism, a lot of angry people.”

6306717212_5c2a562fbe_zIn the late nineteenth century it was farmers whose livelihood lost its economic heft, forcing many of them to move to cities looking for work. In 1907, for the first time in U.S. history, there were more people living in cities than in the countryside and small towns. The Minnesota D.F.L., the Democratic Farmer Labor party, is a direct outgrowth of that era, with the F.L. expressing the populist sentiments roiling American politics in that time as labor unions tried to cope with the increasing power of the factory and farmers with the drastic diminishment of their way of life.

We’re playing out now the sharp turn from that wrenching, but ultimately successful shift to a manufacturing and consumer based economy, to a new economic order based on global trade and the many stranded effects of technology on our lives and economy. This transition will not be over soon and its impact will be felt far into the future.

He gave me a shot of hope, perhaps the first one in recent months, when he said we went through a populist revolt before and we can do it again. He said, and convinced me, that we have the capacity to weather these times. How we do that, what the necessary ingredients are, I’ll write in a second post.

Yes or No

Fall                                                                       Joe and SeoAh Moon

fear2Fear. Been thinking about it. It explains a lot of the political abyss threatening to swallow our democracy. Friend Tom Crane sent me a collection of articles about the neuroscience of political orientation, material I’d read in different places, but neatly summarized. It got me going.

Fear on the part of the white middle and working classes, fear about their jobs, their children, masculinity, the other taking, taking, taking, terrorists sneaking into our country, the future found their perfect amplifier in Donald Trump and his populist message. But Trump is not the problem. He is a problem, I’ll grant you that, but not the problem. Fear is the problem.

Fear_is_enemy2Meanwhile, my side of the abyss has focused on fear of a changing climate, the oppression of minorities, lgbt folks, the poor. Since liberals are more highly educated and usually wealthier than the white middle and working classes, we are more able to take our eyes off survival and focus on larger, more abstract issues. This feels more righteous because it seems selfless, disinterested when compared to chauvinism and day-to-day economic fears.

In the moment, the one defined by the nature of your real life, however, concerns about shrinking viability as a “race” (yes, it’s a false signifier except for those in the grip of its occult power) and as an individual will always trump (pun intended) concerns that seem far away or downright evil. This is a political reality suggested by Maslow’s hierarchy.

Fear is the killer

Fear is the killer

I’m trying to grasp the fear, to feel it from both sides. Not easy. For either side. This exercise is made more difficult by the apparently different neurological realities of liberals and conservatives. Conservatives have a larger amygdala, making them more inclined to fearful responses, while liberals have more gray matter in the cerebral cortex, making us more able to cope with complexity.

This means, I think, that liberals fears are felt less intensely and drive our politics less powerfully than those of conservatives.  The larger context for those things we fear may be more apparent to us, more capable of diminishing how large they loom in our lives.

fearsWithout going into exactly how it stimulates this thought (too complicated for a blog post) kabbalah sees yes and no as two of three primary pillars of creation. It seems to me that liberals are the yes, we can do that for others, folks. Conservatives are the no, there are limits to what we can do, folks. Another way to name these pillars is possibility and limits. Liberals see possibilities; conservatives understand barriers. Neither, by itself, is adequate.

Yes needs limits. No needs the push of possibility. We need, again, a politics that recognizes the interlaced need for Yes and No. Somehow we have allowed the difference between Yes and No to become absolute. We have allowed difference to become not difference, but a yawning chasm, one crossed only by the flimsiest of bridges. We might fall! We need the dialectical tension of hope and practicality. In fact, kabbalah suggests that not only do we need it; we are it. We are neither yes nor no, but both. Not knowing this is a form of sin, I suppose. In our time it may be the original sin.

 

 

 

Want to help? Change the system.

Fall                                                                             Joe and SeoAh’s Moon

Diego Rivera, Detroit mural

Diego Rivera, Detroit mural

An old brick warehouse in a seen better days strip of businesses, located down an alley with little obvious identifiers. When Kate and I found it, other members of Beth Evergreen had plastic bags in their hands, carrying multiple boxes of cake mixes into its interior. Inside snaked several sections of equipment with metal rollers, black plastic boxes filled with canned goods and boxed food items. Improbably, high up were case after case of Coors Beer.

Kate went in while I grabbed four plastic bags of cake mixes and followed the others inside where we deposited the bags on a wooden pallet. This room was forty feet by forty feet, filled with plastic boxes containing canned vegetables, pumpkin mix, potatoes, more cake mix on two sides.  The wall on the right as we came in had shelving with new cases of peaches, applesauce and other Thanksgiving food items.

We were there to pack Thanksgiving boxes for Action center clients. Barbara, director of Volunteer programs, an older woman in a blue Action center t-shirt, organized us. After linking up the sections of metal rollers to form an assembly line, putting a group to work making up boxes, and setting a crew to distribute cake mixes into boxes packed the other night, but missing the cake mix, she formed the rest of us in the first room.

jeffco action centerOne end of the sinuous assembly line of metal rollers had a person who put the empty boxes on the rollers, then stuck in a can of applesauce. After that the boxes moved past a station putting in peaches (Kate), yams, vegetables (me), pumpkin pie filling, potatoes, cake mix, 20 items in all. Moving out of that first room on the conveyor belt the boxes moved up the rollers and up a slight incline where the boxes got sealed, then plucked off the conveyor and put on pallets. All this under the glare of fluorescent lights and the scrutiny of those cases of Coors Beer.

We got there at 6pm and were done almost on the dot of 8. It was fun, doing mindless physical labor with friends, meeting others whom we didn’t know and helping alleviate holiday stress for folks with plenty else going on in their lives.

the warehouse another day

the warehouse another day

Barbara gave us a pitch about the folks who were clients of the center. “Two main stressors,” she said, standing behind a metal conveyor. “The first is medical costs or disability. The second, rising rents.” Denver’s very tight, hot, housing market has pushed up rents, those costs moving down market like a python devouring a goat; only in this instance the goat is available income.

Barbara also said, “These are people who are working, who’ve hit a stretch of bad luck. I’m glad to help them and I hope you are, too. I wouldn’t feel the same about people who don’t work and want a handout.” Hmmm. This sort of charity is easy to sell. Church and synagogue folk love it, many having a similar attitude.

It is, however, from my perspective, band-aids on a compound fracture. Sure, stop the bleeding, not a bad thing to do, but what about that broken bone protruding from the flesh? The broken bone penetrating the skin of these folks lives is a capitalist insistence on market rate housing, on medical insurance offered through work–which is lost upon unemployment–or purchased, for now, with the aid of Obamacare, and personally devastating when lost. That penetrating bone is also jobs requiring increased levels of education, blue collar jobs now disappearing down the maw of robotics and artificial intelligence. And, increasingly, not only blue collar jobs.

Compassion in action

Compassion in action

We insist on pretending that all this is normal, that good-hearted folks with sterling intentions and an acceptable work ethic will be all right in the end. Well, no. Money does not trickle down, it races up to waiting vaults owned by the one percent. Think of friends or family and consider those displaced by a factory or business closing, a sudden illness or trauma. It is simply cruel to ignore their reality, to insist that they navigate this nightmare of an economic system with no substantial safety net.

So, yes, go to the warehouse, unload donated vegetables from black plastic boxes and add them to other items so one of these victims of our heartless economic system can have a Thanksgiving meal. Why not? But don’t delude yourself into thinking that this is the kind of help that solves a problem. It’s not.

That kind of work, problem solving work, is political. It involves changing our entire, established Way. This work is about liberation, about empowerment, about making it shameful to insist on grabbing as much as you can for as long as you can. This work is about recognizing that all people, ALL PEOPLE, need medical care, food, affordable housing, education, dignified and adequately compensated work, then constructing a political culture in which those needs are met.

If we spend all of our volunteer, good-hearted time filling boxes or ladling soup, the system will not change and those of us with at least some compassion will be diverted from the main, the political task.

 

 

On Base

Fall                                                                      Joe and SeoAh Moon

A few observations about life on an Air Force Base.

From Josephs back porch

From Joseph’s back porch

As a Vietnam protester, draft resister and general peacenik, I’ve not spent time around military folk, at least not until Joseph joined the Air Force 9 years ago. Since then, I’ve changed my attitude toward the military, seeing them now as dedicated, principle driven, and courageous. The military’s role in protecting our country seems important to me now though I reserve my critique of government priorities.

All this to say I’ve not spent much time on military bases. I was on base at Osan outside Songtan, Korea just before Joseph and SeoAh’s wedding. My three nights at Robins AFB was my first time on a base for any length of time.

It was a strange experience. On several levels. First, it was very quiet, almost deserted, after hours. Robins AFB has 25,000 employees working hard to make the Air Force a strong arm of the strongest military in the world and it seemed more like an abandoned factory site once the workday was over. The contrast between its work and its bleak evening persona could not have been more stark.

Robins_AFB_Banner

Robins_AFB_Banner

Second, rank has its privilege, as my Army/Air Force Dad used to say. Enlisted housing is near the front of the base and most of it looks like apartment complexes, not fancy ones. Officer’s housing is in a remote corner of the base with various suburban like cul de sacs filled with relatively new housing. There’s a dog walking park, stables for your horse if you own one as well as a large exercise area, skeet shooting, two fishing lakes, a fitness trail and natural habitat restoration. Civil engineers take care of the housing, mowing the lawns, caring for the trees and plantings, repairing things that break down.

Third, with a commissary (grocery store), the PX, various services like dry cleaners, tailors, fast food places, and a reasonably priced gas station, it would be possible to never leave the base. Medical care is available, too. Spin, zumba, yoga, seikadon, classes and art classes. Childcare and development center. Instructional buildings.

EntryFourth, there are the C-5s, transport planes big enough to hold tanks, the JSTAR’s unit where Joseph works, F-35’s and their maintenance facilities, large warehouses and munition depots. Lots of runways, too. There are equipment parking lots with stored golf carts, electrical transformer boxes, trucks, rolls of wire.

Fifth, there are many, many office buildings for various Wings, an Air Force organizational structure, usually one Wing to a base, but Robins has three, departments like medical, security, civil engineering, instruction, as well as the various work specific units.

Getting on the base requires passing through a zig-zag setup of metal posts and a review of your credentials. Joseph gives the gate security his card, they look at him, look at the card, may use a handheld scanner, then they salute him. “Have a good day, sir!”

And there are many of these bases across the U.S., but especially in the south. Each base is an economic engine for the surrounding area. Base personnel buy housing, go to restaurants, movies, clothing and hardware stores. The base itself buys supplies and services. Not hard to see why closing bases is so difficult.

 

I Care

Lughnasa                                                                            Harvest (new) Moon

20170919_170415

Yesterday, after Ruth’s cross country meet, Kate and I drove over to a Vietnamese restaurant we like on Federal Avenue. A Jeep ahead of us had a full size flag flying from a flagpole attached to the back bumper. It read “American Truckers.” When we got closer at a stoplight, I noticed this strange juxtaposition of bucolic pastime and outright hate speech. It was chilling to me that someone would find, purchase, then choose to display on their rear window such a message.  As DJT might say, Sad!

 

A new moon

Lughnasa                                                                          Harvest (New) Moon

By NASA - Global plate motion 2008-04-17

By NASA – Global plate motion 2008-04-17

The disaster (Eclipse) moon has finally waned completely as we enter two days of new moon, the Harvest Moon. Not, however, without more disaster. Puebla, Mexico got hit by an earthquake, 7.1, that also shook Mexico City. And Maria, the third category 5 hurricane under the Eclipse moon, smashed her way toward Puerto Rico while Jose, a former category 4, may make trouble for New England as a category 1. It’s ironic that an eclipse on August 21st, a sign of doom for many thousands of years, marked the beginning of a month with so much misery. It is confirmation bias, right?

We need the Harvest moon. It’s a sign of hope, a welcome source of light for combines and corn pickers throughout the Midwest. The Harvest moon is the moon nearest the autumnal equinox which occurs this Friday at 2:02 p.m. Mountain Standard Time. Those of us with roots in the agricultural center of the U.S. know this is a time for farmers to work hard, the success or failure of a year often determined right now. In the plains states, if a journey takes you across, say, I-80, you could see wheat fields full of combines, contract crews that go from state to state, province to province, gathering the bounty.

As fall progresses, so do certain sports. Baseball ends its summer and prepares for the Fall Classic. The NFL is now two games into its season, banging brains in major cities across the U.S. College and high school football does the same. It’s also cross country season. Joseph ran cross country for St. Paul Central in his high school days back in the late 1990’s. Granddaughter Ruth continues that family tradition. Here she is, crossing the finish line yesterday afternoon in Sheridan, Colorado.

 

Awesome

Lughnasa                                                                                       Eclipse Moon

OzymandiasThe last night of the Eclipse Moon, a disastrous month for North America from the eclipse to its waning moment. The wildfires are still burning in the West from the state of Washington to California, in Oregon and Montana and Idaho. Harvey and Irma related disaster cleanup has only begun. The same in southern Mexico for the victims of the 8.1 earthquake. Jose is still pounding around in the Atlantic and Maria, now a category 5, has just shattered Dominica, Guadeloupe, and is headed for Martinique and Puerto Rico. It’s not the apocalypse, no, but for those whose homes and forests are on fire, under water, battered by wind or destroyed by the movement of the earth, it may as well be.

Awe is not confined to the benign, the amazing and wonderful. Each of these disasters, both in their gestalt and in their particulars, and as a collection of events, is awesome. They show the limits of human preparation, of human intervention. We are not, even with our nuclear weapons and our space station and our icebreakers, more than bystanders when these acts of earth strike us. We even have a name for them, force majeure, enshrined in insurance policies.

Nations and civilizations rise and fall, but earth, air, fire and water continue in their eternal way, or, at least as long as the earth herself lasts, to do what they want, when they want, where they want.

We are, in the end, Ozymandias, look on our works, ye Mighty, and despair.

December 2017
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