A Birthday Wish

Summer and the Radiation Moon

Another Yankee Doodle birthday. SeoAh turned 41. The U.S.A. 243. SeoAh’s birth culture is thousands of years old, as is Joe’s.

A Chinese
classical novel

We’re such a baby from a historical perspective. Our relative youth is on display in every interaction we have with China, an ancient civilization like Korea and India that has lasted into the time of nation-states. One commentator I read a while back refers to China as a civilization state, rather than a nation state for that reason.

China engages the world as a regional hegemon, a role its held for most of its long history. It abuts so many different cultures, unlike the U.S. Vietnam, India, Myanmar, Bangladesh, the Himalayan kingdoms, the Stans, Russia, North Korea, even Japan if you see the South China Sea from China’s perspective. It does not share the great geopolitical advantage of the U.S., world ocean moats on both eastern and western borders.

The dynastic period of China, begun during the mostly lost in the mists Xia dynasty, only ended in the 20th century with the Qing ending in 1912. Thus, there are patterns and assumptions built into even the Chinese Communist party that reach far, far back in the Middle Kingdom’s political experience.

Among them is strategic patience, a trait sorely missing from U.S. foreign policy in the 21st century. The Chinese waited until its 99 year lease on Hong Kong was up, then reabsorbed this city-state. Not without difficulty, yes, but even the one country-two systems policy has Hong Kong, like Tibet, as an administrative district of the larger nation. They are also waiting to absorb Taiwan, sometimes patiently, sometimes not.

The world is big enough for China and the U.S. as regional hegemons, not big enough for either of us to dominate. China knows that. I’m not sure we do.

If I could have a birthday wish for the U.S.A., it would be a leavening of our foreign policy with the wisdom of history. Hard to pull off when our supreme leader doesn’t read, I know. We, as a citizenry, may have to exercise strategic patience with him and his followers. Trump and his base are not the vanguard of a revolution, rather they are equivalent of the village peasant in traditional societies.

By James 4 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61859662

They are defensive in posture, that’s what America First means. You only wish for America First if you believe we’re already somehow less than others. I don’t.

DJT and his cult hold onto economic givens long out of date. Manufacturing and its supply chain, though still crucial to our economy, we’re #2 in the world after, guess who, China, has been in steady decline as an employer since the 1990’s, continuing a long slide begun in the 1940’s. see this Wikipedia article. Tariff man reflects a belief that the U.S. is somehow getting screwed on a regular basis.

They hold onto social givens like fear of the other, affecting immigration, race, and gender identity. The unearned privilege of the white American male is still regarded among them, and their leader, as a privilege given by hard work and innovation, rather than a teetering social contract based on patriarchy and ruthless oppression of minorities.

This is a passing phase, often at its strongest when its proponents sense their weakness, perhaps for the first time. Strategic patience involves doing everything possible to align their national political influence with their actual minority status. It means working against the Proud Boy in the White House and for politicians existing in today’s world, not yesterday’s. It also means not succumbing to despair or nihilism.

That’s tough, I know, especially with the climate crisis literally breathing hot air on our necks. But one way to not succumb is to do what is possible politically while focusing on those local and state level initiatives that will position us later for strong climate action.

Standing with you all in this, our 243rd year of a grand national experiment: Can a nation be built on political values rather than culture?

The Greatest Spectacle in Racing

Beltane                                                                                        Cancer Moon

Start of the first Indy in 1911

Today is the Indy 500. The 103rd. A long time. I’ve written here before about this race. Growing up in Indiana there are two sporting events that create a life-long spot in the heart, the Indy 500 and basketball, especially high school basketball. At the beginning of May the Indianapolis Star would start running articles about the racers, the crews, their preparations. The build up would peak pre-race on qualification day.

On race day those who didn’t get tickets would gather around their radios to listen. If you chose to go to the race, you already knew about the horrific traffic jams ahead of your trip to Speedway.

Speedway is a western suburb of Indianapolis which, according to Mapquest: “The town of Speedway was developed as a city of the future. Meant to be a testing ground much like the famed race track which is its namesake, Speedway was designed to be a city that was hospitable to the car. In a time when Indianapolis streets were often narrow orange brick thoroughfares… the town had homes with garages for cars.”

Borg-Warner Trophy

On the F1 circuit, the winner stands on a podium with the second and third place drivers, opens a bottle of champagne and sprays his fellow drivers and the crowd gathered around. It’s a media event. At the end of the 500 the winning driver is alone in pit row, like a thoroughbred at the end of the Kentucky Derby, which runs not far away in Louisville, Kentucky. Also like the Derby the 500 winner gets a floral sash.

This Indiana dairy farmer will present today’s winner with an ice-cold bottle of milk

The 500 is a race with agricultural roots, a car race held about as far south from Detroit as it is north of the Derby. A blend. Nothing shows that more than the winner posing with the huge Borg-Warner Trophy and chugging down, not champagne, but a quart of milk. From a glass bottle.

In 1965, the same month I graduated from high school only sixty miles from the speedway, Jim Clark and his Lotus changed the look and feel of the race forever. Jack Brabham brought the rear-engine European designs from F1 to Indy in 1961. 5 years later Jim Clark won in his Lotus-Ford. After that rear engine cars dominated the race. And still do.



Tear Down That Wall

Beltane                                                                        Cancer Moon

cancer who decidesNo scan. AARP Secure Horizons denied payment. When I asked how much it would be as a self pay. Pet scan, $2,600, axium dose somewhere between $1,000 and $3,000. Nope. And, I made the decision for the same reason AARP probably did. The scan’s accuracy is around 60% and that goes down the lower the PSA. My PSA is well above the reemergence marker of .2 at 1.3, but it’s still pretty low for imaging studies.

What makes me angry about this is that I scheduled this scan on April 25th. That’s twenty days ago. If they’d come up with these problems even last week, I’d have had a chance to call the insurance company and Dr. Eigner, Dr. Gilroy, see if something could be done; or, if it was clear no payment option existed, what new imaging studies I could have. Now I still have to do all that, but 20 days after I put this study on my calendar. Meanwhile those little cancer cells don’t care. They just go right on chasing immortality at the expense of my health.

I had an image yesterday of our health care, that is, doctors, nurses, labs, hospitals. The entire province of folks and structures who provide medical services. They’re all there, most of them competent, capable people who got into medicine to help people, to cure illness. Now. Imagine all of those people and their support behind a huge wall, a really huge wall, the best wall possible.

cancer universal health careOn this side of the wall, where you and I are, is the money used to pay everybody in medicine. If you are a one percenter, there’s a special gate you can walk through anytime you need it. You can access all of the excellent care that is available. If you’re the rest of us, no money passes through the wall unless several corporate, bureaucratic entities and individual people within them, say yes. Those entities include private, for-profit health insurance companies, medicare, medicaid, non-profit health insurance, banks, credit card companies.

According to this CNBC article, $3.4 trillion dollars pass from the money side of the wall to the health care delivery side of the wall each year. That’s $3.4 trillion. In this interesting nyt article, author Matt Bruenig makes a case for treating health insurance premiums that employees pay for company insurance plans as taxes. He makes this claim: “Moving from our system to a European-style system would make our overall system of taxes and health insurance payments much more progressive for the majority of Americans, because the elimination of private health premiums would more than offset the rise in formal taxes for all but the wealthy.”

cancer insSuch a shift would eliminate all of the corporate gate-keepers who have an interest in profit for their company. Perhaps they could all go work for the TSA and use their previous employment experience to annoy the hell out of travelers.

Would such a change mean I get my scan? Not necessarily. There would still be assessments made about the appropriateness of particular care; but, those decisions would be made by people who have my health and the health of our medical system at heart, not the wallets of investors. In that case I’d trust a decision to withhold the scan as a considered one based on those criteria, not on what’s best for United Health Care’s bottom line.

Long. Strange.

Spring                                                                      Rushing Waters Moon

whatWe hit month 7 since Kate’s bleed yesterday. (To quote the Grateful Dead.) Procedures and imaging. Trips to the emergency room. Trips to doctors. The gradual shift in roles at home. Things have gotten clearer, some solutions have appeared, but nothing certain right now.

I remember saying to Rabbi Jamie in October, “Three weeks! It’s been three weeks. I know a lot of people have it worse, but three weeks…” Kate had been at Swedish for two weeks and Brookdale for one at that point.

As we enter the eighth month of Kate’s ordeal, I believe we’ve found a useful rhythm, a way to be together as this all winds its way toward whatever conclusion can be had. We know who does what. We’ve made some gains towards healing her illnesses. There’s a community of folks, wide spread, from Saudi Arabia to the western burbs of Minneapolis, to Singapore who care about her, about us both. The dogs, fortunately, have been healthy the whole time. A whole winter has come and gone.

The Celts originally had two seasons. The fallow season that began on October 31st, Samain, and the growing season which begins on Beltane, or May 1st. Here’s to a hope that the growing season, which starts in two days, can release its magic for Kate’s continuing improvement.

Rigel and Kep

Rigel and Kep

Rigel continues her odd habit of eating a bit, then going to the back door, which is mostly glass, and looking outside. She stays there 30 seconds, maybe a minute, turns around, comes back and continues eating. Kep, or Kep the Inhaler as Kate has dubbed him (she just finished a book that had Vlad the Impaler as a key character), finishes first, always. Gertie is pretty fast, too, but not as vacuum like as the Kep. She’s blind in one eye, it has the cloudiness of Odin’s, missing a canine, and has a bum left knee but she wags her tail, runs up the stairs to the loft, and can still catch a treat thrown directly to her. Dogs understand wu wei, perhaps Lao Tze learned it from a dog.

Kate’s coronation begins today. She gets the prep work done for four crowns. Sjogren’s, which dries out the mouth, reduces saliva, the natural mechanism that fights tooth decay. Since 1994, we’ve been on our own well, too, so no fluoride. And guess what? We’ve maxed out our dental insurance. Sigh. Whenever I’ve gone in for a crown, I’ve had an old hymn as an ear worm, “Crown him with many crowns.”

gunSynagogue shootings. Mosque shootings. Church shootings. I’ve not read of any Hindu temple shootings, but if they’ve not happened, it seems inevitable.  A Southern Baptist clergy said, “…no one should be gunned down in worship.” NYT  Well, No one should be gunned down. Not in school. Not at worship. Not in a McDonalds. Not at a mall. Not a college. The gun is a curse on our culture and the NRA is its pimp.

When will we take on the NRA, the terrorist organization responsible for more American deaths than Al Qaeda, ISIS and all terrorist attacks worldwide since 1995? According to the National Consortium for the study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, 3,685 Americans have died from terrorist attacks worldwide between 1995 and 2016, with 2,908 occurring on 9/11. In 2017, 39,773 Americans died in gun violence. NYT. That’s right, 10 times the number of deaths in only one year! No wonder the world shakes its head. We are, in many ways, our own worst enemy.

 

 

 

When Will It Ever End?

Imbolc                                                                            Recovery Moon

Going to On the Move Fitness to pick up a new workout on Tuesday. Then, back on Thursday to make sure I have the exercises down. This will be a gradual ramp up back to where I was before the month that shall not be named. Buddy Tom Crane, in a surprising show of solidarity, chose to have pneumonia over his birthday, too. Which is today. Not necessary, Tom.

instant potI’ve been using the Instant Pot. Made a wonderful chuck roast, shredded easily, tasted great. On Saturday I made rice. Turns out three cups of dry rice makes a lot of cooked rice. It cooked for 1 minute. Sort of. There’s a learning curve for guys like me. First, the instant pot, a pressure cooker with bells and a literal whistle, has to heat up to the temperature required to produce the right pressure. That can take a while, maybe 5-10 minutes. Then, it cooks for 1 minute in the instance of rice. Fast, right? Well, yes. But, with foods like rice that have liquid and plump up after cooking, you do what the instant pot cook books call natural release. In essence that means you wait until the pressure cooker depressurizes on its own. 10 minutes. So, to cook 1 minute takes around 20 minutes in real time. Has some resonance with DST.

Before I start posting here I look at my favorite comic, Questionable Content. You have to go back several months to get the drift. Then, I often move on to Ancientrails and begin to write. But, just as often, I think, “I wonder what the idiot did now?” That means turning to the NYT. He almost never disappoints. Like cutting social programs, plumping up the military, and cutting 8.6 billion dollars out of the total budget to build this shibboleth. Team Trump is one heroic gutted, long red tied, obsessive ideologue trying to do something he doesn’t understand, using tools he doesn’t understand. When will it ever end, as the 1972 song by the Awakening asked.

20190117_103526

And Big Foot’s gone even further into the mountains.

There was a time, not that long ago in historical terms, when being in the Rockies, living on a mountain peak as Kate and I do, would have been an effective shield against the current chaos and cruelty that passes for the U.S. Executive Branch. Not today. The elk, the mule deer, the bears, the mountain lions, moose, bobcats, fox, fishers, and martins still live here, but even these wild inhabitants cower before the Trump. He appoints people like Ray Zinke to watch over the great public lands of the West. He dismantles clean air regulations. He loosens the rules governing hard rock mining. He opens those same public lands to oil drilling, uranium mining, and industrial forestry. When. Will. It. Ever. End.

Even the mythical, or semi-mythical creatures of the Rockies are under siege, too.

 

Demotivation

Imbolc                                                                          Recovery Moon

daylight saving timeYou may not feel like I do. That’s ok. But, I hate daylight saving time. To have the clocks change on our 29th anniversary is a cruel poke in the eye. Well, that may be extreme, but it certainly irritates me. So it’s 7:30 am when it used to be 6:30 am. I’m sensing from different articles I’ve read that I’m not alone. Maybe, just maybe, somebody will have pity on us dstphobes and allow one time to rule us all. Please.

The sun is up, no grass has riz. I know where the flowers is. Comfortably beneath the snow. We’re 10 days away from the vernal equinox and there are patches of bare ground in the back, which faces north and tends to remain snow covered. However. We got back to (Minnesota, oops. No) Colorado in mid-April 2016 after Joe and SeoAh’s wedding. The day before we plucked the Rav4 out of long term parking Conifer received 4 feet, that’s right, 48 inches, of snow. This is the time of heavy wet snowstorms. They can take out power lines, precipitate heart attacks, and give us the moisture our aquifers and forests and rivers need. Go, snow.

eatingKate’s now on a 20 hour feeding cycle with her tpn. That means 4 hours free of carrying around the satchel that contains the pump and the now much heavier nutrition bag. With oxygen tubing a constant the addition of the tpn has made moving around a balletic exercise. And, it gets old. Both do things she needs and needs badly, even so. So the 4 hours are wonderful. If we go into the next phase of the tpn, not assured because of medicare, she’ll shift to a 12 hour on, 12 hour off cycle. This rhythm, first 24 hours, then 20, then 12 is to prevent refeeding syndrome.*

Talking with Kate yesterday about demotivation. The stress of her illnesses, hospitalizations, and very slow recovery, coupled with the domestic chores like dog care, cooking, picking up, laundry takes up most of my juice. Though I’m back from pneumonia I’m still fatigued by the afternoon. Don’t feel like doing anything creative. Not yet anyhow.

camelsBrother Mark reports on his walks around Arar in northern Saudia Arabia. He’s been living there since last September, teaching English as a second language. He observed this: “I took a walk, behind the bus station, past the police station, and up into a desert area next to a development. I met a camel herd. One young male camel was going in circles, foaming at the mouth. This means he is in a period of sexual excitement. He was literally going around in circles, freaking out, poor lad. He may have been tethered to a post.” Wrote him back and said this comment reminded me of high school.

More later. Like always.

 

 

“Refeeding syndrome is a syndrome consisting of metabolic disturbances that occur as a result of reinstitution of nutrition to patients who are starved, severely malnourished or metabolically stressed due to severe illness. When too much food and/or liquid nutrition supplement is consumed during the initial four to seven days of refeeding, this triggers synthesis of glycogen, fat and protein in cells, to the detriment of serum (blood) concentrations of potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus.[1][2] Cardiac, pulmonary and neurological symptoms can be signs of refeeding syndrome. The low serum minerals, if severe enough, can be fatal. wiki, op cit

 

Water, Water, Somewhere

Winter                                                                        Waxing Moon

water colorado river basinOur first major snowstorm of the season is upon us. We’ve gotten 4 or 5 inches already and it’s only been snowing since midnight. May get 8-10 inches. Black Mountain has disappeared behind a gray-blue curtain, the lodgepoles look like flocked Christmas trees, and our solar panels have a 4 inch white blanket between themselves and the sun. No appointments today, no meetings. We can take this storm in as it comes, not see it as a barrier. We’ll get plowed today, I’m sure, so no worries there either. Let it snow.

Snow is so important here. Obviously it fuels the winter tourism economy, giving skiers destinations like Breckenridge, Aspen, Copper Mountain, Vail, Crested Butte. It transforms the mountains from gray eminences to white peaks that sometimes look like whipped cream on the horizon. But these are ancillary benefits.

Water2There are two other effects that are critical to life both here in the Colorado Rockies and in the southwestern U.S. A good snow season reduces the threat of wildfire in the spring and summer until the monsoons come. That effects Kate and me and our neighbors directly. It feels much better going into summer having had plenty of moisture for the trees and the soil. A good snow season also recharges our aquifers, makes sure we’ll have water throughout the next year. This is an immediate, right here result of good snow.

But effecting even more people is the snow melt* carried by the Colorado River downstream. Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming take an allocated and collective 16,400,000 acre feet per year. Problem is this amount, agreed to in a 1928 compact, is an inaccurate estimate of the actual annual flow of the Colorado. Based on tree ring data it’s somewhere between  13,200,000 acre feet and 14,300,000 acre feet a year. This is known by folks who deal with this complicated issue as “the gap.”

water crb blm“Total population in the Colorado River Basin (CRB) increased from 4.56 to 9.44 million people from 1985 to 2010. Most of those people were in the lower CRB, with 86 percent of the total in 1985, and 90 percent of the total in 2010.”** The snowpack numbers, created by our annual snowfall, are critical not only here, because the Front Range and the Denver Metro rely on the Colorado River, but throughout the seven state CRB. These figures, almost invisible to the population of the humid east, are never far from the minds of government officials at the state, county, and municipal level here in the arid west, or the population as a whole.

The gap is a problem for obvious reasons. Drought years, like last year when the snowpack was well below normal, and the increasing population in the CRB both reinforce and multiply the effects of the gap. As the Water Defenders fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline repeatedly said, “Water is life.” These are not trivial matters, so seeing a healthy snowfall is a joy and a relief to all of us living out here.

water_use_pieFinally, here is the problem that bedevils all those effected by The Law of the River, a web of compacts, federal laws, court decisions and decrees, contracts, and regulatory guidelines.* As this graph clearly shows irrigation is the largest claim on the CRB’s water by an order of magnitude. Add to that the allocation for livestock and aquaculture and 82% of the allocation goes to agriculture of one kind or another. We need food, those who grow our food need water. With public uses only 17% of the pie even the most draconian water policies in cities and areas like the Front Range will not move the needle much in total water use. Add to this the problem of the gap, droughts, and rapidly increasing populations, five of the fastest growing states in the nation are part of the CRB, then you can begin to imagine the tense negotiations required to maintain the status quo, let alone plan sensibly for the future.

So, as I said at the end of the first paragraph, let it snow. Please.

*data here from this wikipedia site.

**USGS site

Fixed or Fluid

Winter                                                                Stent Moon

joy friends (2)The stent moon is a crescent, 12% illumination, hanging over Eduardo and Holly’s. It’s been everything I hoped. Next, a month focused on getting Kate’s weight up. What would you name the moon for that month? I’ll take ideas until Friday.

At night, before going to sleep, I identify the gifts given to me during the day, the gifts I’ve given and any trouble I’ve caused. Then, on waking I identify things I’m grateful for and things that bring joy. These simple habits, developed in mussar work over the last year, keep me aware of the ongoing miracle of the ordinary.

20181230_064700I woke up. The air is cool. My body’s ok. Kate’s beside me with no nausea or cramping. Kepler’s wagging his tail, ready to go upstairs for breakfast. The power came back on yesterday after a long outage. The generator works. I didn’t even know it was on. The long road to DIA offered good conversation with our second son. He’s going back to Minnesota to spend time with a friend who’s depressed. That gives me joy. Ruth up here painting and giving me tips. Joy. Pure. Gertie’s kisses. Murdoch’s bouncy, smiley presence. Snow. Cold. The black clear night sky with stars and a crescent moon. A car that works. SeoAh’s cooking. Kate’s joy at her relief. Gifts, joys, and gratitude. Everywhere I look.

biopolitics2Are there challenges? Oh, yes. But our human tendency to scan the horizon for threats, be alert for danger often blinds us to everyday wonders. Life is not all about illness, or finances, or legal trouble, or separation from loved ones. Yes, these matters crop up in our lives just like the occasional predatory lion or tiger came upon our ancestors in the veldt or in the forests of India and, yes, we need to see them, understand them, respond. We do not, however, have to build our lives around them.

I’m reading an interesting book by two North Carolina political scientists, Prius or Pickup. It posits a continuum on these very matters with one ended anchored in a fixed worldview and the other in a fluid worldview. The fixed worldview folks see danger and threat wherever they look. Those with a fluid worldview have more confidence in the world, focus more on the richness of life. In between are various blends between the two that the authors call a mixed worldview.  They argue that over the last few decades our political life has gradually aggregated those with a more fixed worldview in the Republican Party and those with a more fluid worldview in the Democratic.

20180720_124756

Stay Calm and Keep on Fracking, Evergreen, 2018

A field I didn’t even know existed, biopolitics, ties these worldviews to neurological differences, our partisan political environment has an increasing gap of understanding. Since that gap has roots in our neurobiology, we find it increasingly difficult to understand, or perhaps more importantly, trust anyone in the other camp. I’ve not finished the book so I don’t know what they propose. Gifts, joy, and gratitude identifying habits might help.

2019 lies mostly ahead of us. Yes, it’s an artificial segmentation of our ongoing orbit around the sun, but it does  mark the end of one orbit and the beginning of another. (though any day of the year would serve just as well) So we might consider, as we set off on another journey of 584 million miles, what, over all that distance, over that pilgrimage on which all us earthlings travel, we’ll choose as our focus. The threats in our life? Or, the joys, the ordinary miracles? Where we put our attention is our choice.

 

 

The Blade Runner Year

Winter                                                                Stent Moon

Kate’s face is smoother. She’s smiling. Her weight is stable, though not yet trending up so much as back and forth around 82. She walks no longer with the pained, slightly stooped habitus of a sick person, but, the steady, if slow, gate of a healthy one. 2019. The year things begin to improve. I hope. (and, believe)

Blade-Runner2019. The Blade Runner year. Dystopian time? Match. Authoritarian regime? Match. Police killing those marginalized to society? Match. The cinematography of our era may look different-though Hong Kong, Shanghai, Dubai-but the underlying premise of a dark future catching up with all of us was prescient, if not exactly surprising.

No flying cars. At least not in mass production. No replicants, though there a clone or two running around, at least one we know of for sure. Video screens wide spread? Match. Too much of a damned match. In fact, I consider one of my achievements for the year turning off TV’s in medical reception areas when nobody’s watching. When Kate went in for her imaging at Porter Adventist, we were the first ones in the waiting room in the bleary part of the morning. I turned off the TV and it was still turned off when we left about three hours later. Score!

Dystopian-WorldDystopian futures, even ours from the perspective of 1982, have this seeming anomaly: Life goes on. Most folks make some accommodation, some compromise, and go on with their daily routines. Short of mass suicide, what other option is there? It is those very accommodations and compromises that are fertile soil for the demagogue and the populist. See Trump, Erdogan, Germany’s alt-right, Hungary’s Viktor Orban, Brazil’s Michel Temer. Movies have to convey dystopian troubles cinematically, so we think if the visuals don’t correlate with ours that the movie doesn’t apply. Wrong. It’s the core cultural themes that are important.

So I would say this is the Blade Runner year, with visuals a bit less thrilling.

 

 

Assimilating. In reverse.

Winter                                                                           Stent Moon

Black Mountain, this month, from the loft

Black Mountain, this month, from the loft

Sol Invictus has risen, not daunted by the long night. Unconquerable, life giving, a true light for our world. Black Mountain and its lodgepole pine, its groves of aspen, its slashes of ski runs is visible against a bright white clouded sky. A great wakin’ up morning if you’re a devotee of the two who give us life, Sol and Gaia. Blessed be.

Wanted to make a quick note of something I realized the other day. Assimilation. Assimilation assumes, correctly I think, that each culture is a semi-permeable membrane. Varying levels of porosity create more endogenous, more exogenous groups. Our immigration debate, for example, is an attempt to adjust the degree of porosity of American culture. One side wants less permeability and that only under strict expectations of full assimilation. The other side wants more permeability and a recognition of the vitality that blending and mixing of cultures engenders.

Inside subgroups of a dominant culture, say Latinos in the U.S., Jews in the U.S., for example there’s always a tension between maintaining group norms, those things that keep the subgroup distinctive and recognizable, and the necessity of living and working and loving in a culture different from their own. This is neither bad nor good, it just is. As I understand the American experiment, we’ve intended a greater level of porosity than most other nations, defining ourselves by the American Dream:  “The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, the set of ideals (democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity and equality) in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, as well as an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers.”  wikipedia

An ancestor who lived almost two hundred years after Richard Ellis arrived

An ancestor, Demick Ellis, who lived almost two hundred years after Richard Ellis arrived (1888)

I love China towns, Korea towns, Japan towns, Latino neighborhoods, black neighborhoods, Italian and Greek and Russian neighborhoods. African restaurants, Cuban restaurants, Japanese restaurants. You get the point. Jewish delis.

Since my folks arrived on these shores in 1707, Ellises, and during the American Revolution, Spitlers, assimilation has never been an issue for me. I represent and live in the dominant culture, the one which assimilates, in the dominant world power of our time (until, maybe, right now), again the one which assimilates other nations. So it came as a surprise to me the other day when I realized I had begun, under the radar of my consciousness, probably for the reason of white, long standing US family history and privilege, the process of assimilation. You might call it reverse assimilation, but I don’t. It’s just assimilation.

ChesedI’ve begun to assimilate into Jewish culture. Different from becoming  a Jew, just like Jewish assimilation into American culture is different from no longer being a Jew, my identity is largely intact, but I find myself much more aware of living life through a Jewish lens. Their holidays are now mine. Their community, mine. Their marginal reality, also mine, though this last requires a full choice on my part, not just acquiescence. That is, I choose to stand with my new culture against all elements domestic and foreign and not to retire into privilege when things get hairy.

I’m at a point in my journey where I feel no need for formal conversion. I’m a person of my own religious persuasion and Beth Evergreen allows me to give it full expression even while immersed in Jewish life. Like I said long ago here I’m a fellow traveler, but now a fellow traveler who’s close to becoming a quasi cultural native. Strange, huh?