A few items in the news engendered this morning’s post.
I don’t know if you saw President Obama’s speech yesterday afternoon. It was a major policy speech in which he talked about curtailing the U.S. targeted drone attacks against al Qaeda and closing the Guantanamo prison.
A woman a couple of times during the speech rudely interrupted the President. I thought he handled her public outrage with Presidential courtesy and politeness. Bravo to Mr. Obama.
The Boy Scouts of America voted for an historic policy change yesterday. As of January 1st, they will allow openly gay scouts to join troops, but they will not allow gay scoutmasters. Wow! Welcome to the 21st century.
I was a scout back in the early 1950’s and while I didn’t know of any scouts that were gay, I did observe some scout leaders who were different. I didn’t understand that difference then, but I do now. So be it.
I wonder how the two senators from Oklahoma now feel about federal disaster aid. The two of them voted against Federal aid for the hurricane Sandy victims. It seems to me you cannot tie the federal budget to the pain and pathos of American citizens suffering anywhere because of nature’s destructive force.
The problem is that we are a country of divergent cultures, and economies and even ethics. The Senators and Representatives in Congress don’t see our oneness. The representatives of one regional culture cannot muster the empathetic resonance with another because they see the other as takers from the national coffers. Tragedy is the national denominator of a Samaritan ethic. If a neighbor or citizen, distant or close, needs help, then you help. That is the American way.
The images coming out of tornado torn Oklahoma are powerful. They affect us all.
Along with the strune debris of homes, crumbled buildings, schools, and bodies, come the tears and fears of the living. Sometimes the emotions come in sobs, sometimes in wails of disbelief and sometimes in silence. The old cry for the loss of place and memories hoping for the strength to start again. The very young cry reliving the fear they just went through.
It is the children that get the most worry. Their security of a familiar bed or toy vanished with an ill wind that claimed so many lives. Parents do what they can to comfort the little ones, to reassure them, but the eyes always mirror a fearful heart.
Right now Oklahoma screams, you can feel it. The victims search for their lives in the puzzle of rubble and find yesterday’s peace is tomorrow’s uncertainty.
As we hear the stories of those in need, as we become numbed by the statistics of loss, we cannot feel secure because we have normalcy, because we have shelter or we have food, or because it didn’t happen where we are at the moment. It could, for nature does not discriminate in her distribution of sporadic wrath.
Despite the difficulties, the victims in Oklahoma must know the collective healing spirit of prayer does not forget them.
I am thinking this morning of the simple spiritual things I often experienced.
I recently mowed the lower meadow where the grasses had grown to twelve or more inches. I’d cut it once already this spring, but its growth exceeded my human schedule what with recent spring rains and warming sunlight. It’s just another reminder that nature does not attune to me, but I must bow to it.
Mowing is a task many of us do in the maintenance of our homes and homesteads. As my machine cut the living grasses and weeds I noticed tiny clumps of Bluets and Lilly Of The Valley flowers. These magnificent clusters of delicate blossoms beautify the meadow with minute flashes of white bell flowers and four blue petals with a yellow stamen on the Bluets. They are so tiny and so beautiful. I had my blade set to four and a half inches so the flowers missed the cut.
I took my time to thank the flowers, grasses and weeds for the grace they give the greening meadow both in their long form and when I cut them short. Every once in awhile I’d get a whiff of an onion aroma as my blade sliced a patch of wild chives; there is nothing like it.
Later as I trimmed some Wisteria vines and pulled some ambient seedlings from the various house gardens, I again thought of man’s proximity and connection to nature’s constant birth and how we attempt to manipulate the natural beauty of spontaneous chaos into the patterned form of our symmetry and color.
I am reminded again and again, as I am so often, of Shakespeare’s line. “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” I hope your days are just as profound
Some observations from the train. I’m on a Metro North train going into New York City. It is an hour and forty minute pleasant journey along the Hudson River. The foliage is out now so you don’t get a full view of the river all the time, but there are long clear spaces to take in the river and it’s life.
The river itself is 315 miles long and is not really a river below Troy, New York. It is an estuary and very tidal. The Lenape Indians called it Muhheakantuck which means the river that runs both ways.
Someone just got on the train at Beacon with an aromatic toasted onion bagel; the aroma is wonderful.
Question: Why do those who have a bad connection on a cell phone shout to see if they hear you? Loudly, “CAN YOU HEAR ME?” The entire car turned to look at this idiot.
West Point is coming up across the river. It is the oldest of the military service academies and still a magnificent fortress. It has been an army-post since 1778.
Just across the river from West Point is Constitution Marsh, a massive marshland and breeding ground for both flora and fauna of water and land. At one time it was one of the most polluted bodies of water in the world. During the Korean War there was a cadmium battery plant nearby and it discharged its toxic waste into the marsh. No modern era cleanup was even planned thinking it is better to leave the waste undisturbed and covered with a half century of silt.
There are five bridges crossing the river heading southbound into NYC from where I get on the train. The last bridge is the George Washington that connects New Jersey to Manhattan. When I first comuted into Manhattan the toll was fifty cents one way. Now it’s $13.00 round trip. Now you know why I’m on the train.
The Bear Mountain Bridge has an interesting history. It was built privately by the Harriman family in 1922 under a bond issue through the Harriman banking and brokerage firm. At that time the Harriman family owned land on both sides of the river and a bridge was needed for access. Eventually it was deeded over to New York State in 1940. When it was opened in 1924 it was the longest suspension bridge span in the world.
Heading into Peekskill you can see the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan, New York. It’s one of the oldest nuclear power generating stations in the country; operating since 1962 and there are continuous efforts from various groups to have it closed down.
The train is fairly full now. Lots of kids, teenagers mostly heading into the city for some experience. It’s near the end of the school year and many class outings visit the United Nations as part of their educational curriculum. Their dress, for me at least was suspect; Short shorts, grubby jeans, tee shirts and halter-tops. That wasn’t the way I was allowed to travel way back when.
There are patches of lingering late morning fog in the wider expanses of the Hudson. This morning it gives the river a mystical character, but boat and barge traffic brings it back to reality.
In a few moments we’ll stop at Ossining, New York. It’s home of the famous Sing Sing prison and the genesis of the prison phrase getting sent up the river.
As a pilot I have flown the Hudson corridor many times. Granted I was concentrating on my approach to Teterboro Airport, but I do remember the expanse of the Hudson and its service to the people of the region.
Some more observation in the future.
I must complement my former professional Alma Mater for their professional journalism.
CBS News reported last week that republicans misquoted or significantly embellished the emails Susan Rice used on the Sunday morning talk shows following the Benghazi, Libya consulate attack.
GOP lawmakers continue to insist that the Obama administration engaged in a cover-up to insure the President’s chances of re-election.
I’ll get into a specific in a moment, but the arrogance of the alteration should offend all American citizens who value truth and fair play. It is blatantly obvious that some members of the Republican Party will lie and cheat in order to discredit anything connected to President Obama. No wonder they have a disconnect to a majority of the American people.
The GOP is so intent on winning the presidency in 2016 that they will do anything to create an anti Obama climate.
One of the leaked documents shows how the GOP added new language to include a specific reference to al-Qaeda.
The actual email read:
“The penultimate point could be abused by members to beat the State Department for not paying attention to Agency warnings.”
The GOP altered email read:
“The penultimate point is a paragraph talking about all the previous warnings provided by the Agency (CIA) about al-Qaeda’s presence and activities of al-Qaeda.”
Be the way, CBS New Major Garrett confirmed that it was a GOP source that leaked the altered emails.
This is just one example, along with the others that should undermine the weak cover-up allegations from a GOP Congress.
Shame on the Congressional GOP and congratulations to CBS News.
There are many things we don’t understand, and then there are some things that belie common sense and common decency. Why, for instance, do we seem to have an endless need to be voyeurs into other people lives, and sometimes even after they are dead.
All too often the tabloids get a hold of a sordid story and publish the alleged assignations and private life of some celebrity. Love affairs, romantic trysts, who loved whom. Who cares. Voyeur is a French name for a Peeping Tom. Can writing about it or reading about it in tabloid or book be less perverse than peeping?
It is the memory of personal good and public grace left behind by the icons of society that should be remembered, not their private choices that may be altered by gossip or greed.
Do we see ourselves as better by peering into the prurient human failings of those we celebrate? Shakespeare was right. Let the sins or faults, endemic to all of us, be forever buried with our bones. Remember only the good someone does for that will honor life, not defile it.
May the understanding of personal choices be acknowledged by the eternal Source of unconditional love and not vilified by those who are rudely nosy.
Every so often I reflect on the many stories I’ve covered and written through the years to see if there is some salvageable lesson that might be valid in my understanding of life today.
My reflections bring up a few memorable experiences and a couple of platitudes that elicit a smile, and even a few remembered inspirations for these troubled times.
The unfortunate realization is that there were troubled times then and there are troubled times now, and I suspect there will always be troubled times in the future for that is how we learn and grow spiritually.
Right NOW there is still a major war going on with superpower involvement. Civil wars and civil strife continue and there are a number of devastating genocidal conflicts that count deaths and starvation in the hundreds of thousands.
There are also numerous threats and secret desires of nuclear escalation coming from the threatening arrogance of nations striving for power.
It is interesting to note that in the developing world one in eight people are hungry. In the developed world one in five people are obese. What does that tell you?
We’ve got rampant economic greed in the markets and businesses of the world and individual fears of not getting what we want or getting what we don’t want.
We’ve got religious hatred of another’s method of belief to the same one and only God. It boggles the mind at the inhumanity and insensitivity of radical dogma.
Like most of us, I look at the news of the world. I read the Internet blogs and the magazine articles for reportorial depth and understanding and then I remember what is really important in life.
Without it we are blind wanderers through our complex and convoluted choices. Simplicity is the benevolent awareness of an inner knowing of what is right and it is also the Rosetta stone of intellectual and spiritual understanding.
The simplicity of unconditional love as a personal code is inevitable, only the time it takes for us to remember and then be it is optional.
Maybe it’s the stars or too much political pollen in the air or it could be bureaucratic arrogance, but here we have two stories of governmental agencies running amuck in an egregious misuse of power.
The IRS targeting conservative non-profits and the Justice Department secret seizure of Associated Press phone records.
It was an apparent effort by the Justice Department to track down a source that disclosed an alleged Yemen terrorist plot. The AP called it “a massive and unprecedented intrusion.”
Here’s the other troublesome part. The Justice Department said it valued press freedom, but it had to balance its action against the public interest. What interest?
That kind of doublespeak gobbledygook poppycock is unacceptable and is just another blatant usurpation of constitutional freedoms by a government agency. It is time we stopped justifying illegal actions for national security. Shame on the Obama Administration!
As for the IRS, when little minds, constitutional ignorance and political prejudice couple with a position of power, abuse will be the outcome. Misleading a Congressional investigation compounds the offense. Dismissal of all involved should be the result.
I remember sitting at a mall lunch table and watching the passersby.
There were young mothers and their babies in a stroller usually two by two. There were old folks with canes who kept to the aisle sides for they walked more slowly than the rest. There were several groups of youngsters. Boys and girls together most in their early teens and others a little older, but they all walked and looked and shopped in packs all the while playing, running, and teasing one another.
The energy of the little walkers was wonderful to watch. The little one’s, the toddlers and up to the seven year types are special. Their energy is astounding and infectious. One little girl, not only kept up with her fast paced Mother, she twirled and leaped and danced as she kept stride.
If I don’t do it frequently, I often forget how educational it is to watch people. Most of us don’t have the time to spend to do that. If you watch long enough, you will see yourself at every age you can remember and at every age you can imagine.
If we ever need an example of our oneness and our interconnectedness to each other, just go to a mall and watch.
I started looking at stuff, my stuff, my accumulated stuff that inhabits, decorates and lays in drawers, closets and storage boxes in the nooks and crannies of my home.
We come into this world without any stuff and we seemingly spend a lifetime collecting and gathering stuff that validates our success.
What if we are accumulating the wrong stuff or too much of the wrong stuff? What if the stuff of the world is not a measure of a successful and meaningful life, but is the measure of our distance from the spiritual values we claim to hold dear?
It is interesting that we can’t take any stuff with us when we’ve finished our time in this existence. What we take with us are our thoughts, both loving and non-loving. We also take our prejudices and our acts of kindness to others.
The opposite of material stuff are the nice things people do for people. Little things like small courtesies, a smile, a wave or even holding a door are of great value. So too are the big things that we do for others.
Thinking about stuff can be bothersome, but I think I need to do it more often.