Friday, September 20, 2019

Credo of Don Rogers 2019

Credo for Don Rogers 2019

It is impossible to understand where I am today, without reviewing my long and convoluted religious growth and evolution. I will try to be brief.

I was born in 1943 to strong Seventh-day Adventist parents, who were diligent in teaching us the beliefs and restrictions of our religion. We did not eat “unclean meats”, drink alcohol, coffee or tea. Most importantly, we went to church on Saturday, the Seventh Day, because God never changed the day of worship, those evil Catholics did. 

For most of my schooling, I went to Adventist parochial schools, where we received a good education in reading, writing, and arithmetic, and also a lot of Biblical study. I think we learned a new memory verse every day.  

  I remained a devout Seventh-day Adventist through college, where I began to doubt the overall lifestyle. There didn’t seem to be much joy or love in being Adventist. There were a lot of rules to follow, and a lot of fear of not being good enough.

While I was still in that church, I briefly studied an offshoot called  the Shepherd’s Rod, led by Victor Houteff. There was an old man with a long beard who showed up at church services now and then just to argue and shout at the pastor during the sermon. The main message seemed to be that the Adventist church had backslid from the truth, and was now Babylon, and it was time for true believers to “come out of her.”

I was not attracted to that group, which was just as well. After Victor Houteff died, the group was taken over by a man who called himself David Koresh, and renamed the group the Branch Davidians. The end of that group is well known.

My maternal grandmother was a Jehovah’s Witness, and we discussed religion a few times. She was impressed with my knowledge of the Bible from years of learning memory verses in school, but she never really pushed me to change churches. I went to her meetings a couple of times, and didn’t see anything I liked. As I was still Adventist, I was shocked to find out they drank real wine at the communion ceremony, and not just grape juice, as Adventists did.

My father left our family when I was eleven, leaving my mother to continue our raising. Much later, after I had left the Adventists, I found he had converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints—better known as Mormons. 

I was immediately drawn to the emphasis on the family and the children and youth. The church actually had basketball hoops in the main meeting room, and lots of programs to keep the kids happy, including sponsoring the local Boy Scout troop. 

I also found their doctrine on humans being gods in training on earth for a destiny as rulers after death very attractive. There was none of the fear of not being good enough. Of course not, that was why you are here on earth—to learn all your life. It was a stark change from being poor helpless sinners who God now and then got mad at and either drowned or burned up and eventually was going to burn them all up in Hell.

I couldn’t buy the whole package, though and all the fantastical stories I found in the Book Of Mormon. But I kept the belief that I have worth and that I am in the family of God.

I briefly studied the Worldwide Church of God under Herbert W. Armstrong, who share the Mormon belief in the destiny of man as part of God’s family. But the rest of that religion was too much like the Adventist church I had left, with lots of rules to follow, and the constant fear of not measuring up.

I was still searching for the truth when I was drafted into the U.S. Army and was shipped to Okinawa, which was part of Japan. I had met two other soldiers on the troop ship who also had religious training, one as a Methodist seminarian, and another as a Baptist, I think. We spent many pleasant hours on the deck discussing religion. We all had thoughts of converting the heathens in Asia.

Not long after we arrived one of the others told me he had met with a Buddhist priest and we were invited to tour a local temple. After an exotic tour through the various rooms, we were invited to sit down while they served us hot green tea. After some general talk of how we liked the country, and some about our jobs in the Army, they invited us to tell about our beliefs and they would be happy to discuss anything we wanted. They made it plain that they were eager to learn and were always willing to learn more. For the first time in my life I was discussing religion with people who didn’t think they had “The Truth” and listened as well as preached.

The first surprising finding was that they didn’t believe in miracles. They believed in science above all else, and we found we were the superstitious heathens. They sure wouldn’t believe that Jesus or anyone else walked on water many centuries ago. Surely we wouldn’t believe someone who claimed that today. Why would we believe it from a text two thousand years old? If your own mother told you she walked on water, would you believe her? 

After several weeks of learning to use our reason and observation to determine what was truth, we all came to love the Buddhist way of thinking. There was no judgement, only help and advice on dealing with the pain and sorrows in this life. 

My two friends both converted to Buddhism before they left the island. I continued to study with other Buddhist groups and eventually found a priest who spoke to me in his writings and became my major influence, named Thich Nhat Hahn. 

I have recently found a church home here in the Red River Unitarian/Universalist church. There are no requirements for doctrinal beliefs at all, it is all about values, such as love, peace, and tolerance toward others.  


If humans manage to survive on this world, it will be because of these values.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Epilogue


Epilogue
July 12, 2019

It’s been a long, lonely year of my life. Carolyn has been gone for just a year today. It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced the loss of a spouse just how empty you feel sometimes. 

No matter what I’m doing, the little thoughts keep cropping up—“Isn’t there something you’re forgetting?” “Is this what you are supposed to be doing?” “I better check in on her and make sure she’s OK?”

My mind may never quite get used to being alone again. I remember, before we fell in love, not liking at all being single. Having no one to share one’s life with is the definition of lonely.  I still don’t like being single.

When Carolyn left, she took a little bit of the light with her. There is a small patch of darkness that follows me around. Sometimes it is very dark, like looking into an abyss. But most of the time it is just a little shadow that yanks my mind back from complete enjoyment of whatever it is I’m doing.

I’m intentionally keeping busy with different projects, as a distraction from the sorrow that sometimes overtakes me. I am still restoring my 1977 GMC RV motorhome. I have a camper rally next week in Athens, Texas, where owners of other RVs like mine can swap stories and tips on how we keep them running after 42 years. 

I have polished and painted on my 1949 Allis-Chalmers tractor and put it in an antique tractor show last month. That was fun, and a lot of people liked my electric drive conversion, but I didn’t win any prizes. 

The most intensive activity, and the most successful at keeping my mind focussed on the here and now is riding my bicycle long distances. To a Buddhist, meditation is a practice of controlling your mind and keeping it from wandering to bad places. Some advocate chanting mantras repeatedly, some focus on your breath, to the exclusion of all other thoughts. I find bicycle meditation works just fine. I can get in a zone mentally where my mind is totally locked in to the rhythm of the pedals and the hum of the tires on the pavement. 

Since I have gotten in shape, I no longer feel any pain in my legs as I used to, and my respiratory capacity is markedly increased. When I am climbing long hills now, my meditation shifts to my breathing, with my inhales and exhales using every bit of my lungs. My mind stays right where I like it to be.

Not long after Carolyn left my life, I tried to fill the void with another woman, thinking that would make things better. It did not work out well at all. I was sure I could love her just like I loved Carolyn, but it wasn’t fair to her or me. I wanted Carolyn back, and no other person could have filled in that gap. 

She tried hard, but i’m afraid I just ended up hurting her again, as her life was already filled with abuse and rejection by her parents and former husbands. She was a lovely nurses aide who took care of Carolyn before she passed on, and who had mentioned that she wished she could find a man to love her as I did my wife. 

I was sure I did love her, but my trying and her trying still didn’t work out. She has gone back to school to upgrade her certifications, and if I did nothing else for her, I hope I convinced her that she is a good person, and smart besides.

Now I have joined a Unitarian/Universalist church just across the river in Texas. I have made many friends there, and have become one of the fledgling choir. We sing for the first time this Sunday during the service. They have also found out I play keyboard a little, and I’m sure I’ll be helping out there someday, too. 

They don’t mind at all that I am Buddhist in my beliefs, and there is one other Buddhist member there, too. This denomination goes back over four hundred years or so, and many of the founding fathers of this country were Unitarians or Universalists. Five of our presidents have been members, also. They don’t hold to any doctrinal tests, but find fellowship in common values of love, peace, and tolerance. My kind of people, for sure.

I am in the middle of buying a house near Durant, out by Lake Texoma. I am working out the loan arrangements now, so I should get to closing on the house within a month. My nephew Joe, who has let me share his house for three years, is moving north to Talihina, to work on the Choctaw Casinos computer network as a systems administrator. Should be interesting to see what happens to this old house we’ve been living in.

So to sum it up, life goes on. It will never be the same again. Each day is a new window into the life to come. I am waking up each morning now with anticipation and wonder. I don’t know how much time I have left, but the moments of joy are more and more a major part of my life. 

I have reached the point where I can work on assembling the chapters I have written for the last five years or so without breaking down in tears every few minutes. With a little more writing to tie some of the chapters together, and some editing for clarity, I will have a manuscript finished. 

This will probably be the Epilogue.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Tractors and Music


It’s been busy these last few days. Thursday was the start of the Bryan County Antique Tractor Club show out at the Choctaw Event Center. There was to be a parade at eight that evening, and I didn’t want to miss that. I was in a couple of parades in Winnemucca, both in a Candy Apple Red 1966 Cadillac Coupe De Ville Convertible with United Way sponsorship, and on my restored 1949 Allis-Chalmers Model G tractor with the local antique tractor club there.

I sold the Cadillac before I came to Oklahoma, but I was able to bring the tractor here, with the help of my brother John. 

My problem with getting the tractor to the parade was the lack of a trailer, which got stolen the day after I arrived here and unloaded the tractor. I could drive the tractor there (it’s only five miles) but then I would be stranded there for the whole three days of the show. 

I figured out a way to get my tractor and my car there at the same time. I put the bicycle rack on the back of the car, loaded the bicycle up and drove to the display area. I parked the car, unloaded the bike and rode back to the house. I left the bike there and drove the tractor out to the display area at the Events Center.

I got to be the first tractor in the inaugural parade for the antique tractor club. Since I converted it to electric drive four years ago, it makes almost no noise. All the tractors that followed made up for it. Several “Popping Johnies” made a lot of beautiful noises behind me. It was a short parade. Many tractor owners were still working at their jobs and couldn’t get there until Saturday.

There were three belt buckles for awards for best restoration, oldest tractor and a “People’s Choice” award. I was hoping for that one, and I talked to a lot of people who looked the tractor over and were interested in the electric conversion. I invited folks to seat their children on the tractor seat and take pictures, too. 

I spent most of three days out in the sun, getting lightly roasted and tired. Darlene told me my nose was getting red, so I put sunscreen there, too. Carolyn used to tell me that at the Reno Air Races every year. I don’t know why I remember to cover my arms but forget my nose.

The awards were passed out on Saturday at four o”clock, and I didn’t quite make it for an award, although they said the vote was close. I kidded them about getting a sound system for my tractor. Every time they started those John Deeres people would come over to see and admire those old noisy tractors. I could start around the area on my quiet electric tractor and nobody noticed, most of the time. 

Just before the awards were announced, I noticed some dark clouds to the north, coming at us really slowly. The weather radar showed a band of heavy rain and thunderstorms moving south, but still a few miles away. When I’m sitting on my tractor my head feels nervously like it might make a good lightning rod, so I immediately got on the tractor and motored for home. It only goes about 6 miles an hour, so it took the better part of an hour to get to the house. I put it in the garage, took the bicycle out, and closed the garage door.

The squall line from the approaching storm hit just as I got pedaling south, making a thirty or forty knot tailwind that blew me back to the show area in a hurry. It was high gear all the way. I put the bike on the car carrier, and then went back to watch them load about ten old Caterpillar tractors onto trucks for the ride home. 

It’s always exciting to watch those old clumsy tracked vehicles try to stay on the center of the trailer as they go up the ramps in back. It is not without danger, as now and then the tractor slips or skids to one side and sometimes tips over on the ground. YouTube has lots of videos of such things happening.

As I tried to start the Mazda, the engine would not crank. I felt around to make sure the key fob was in my pocket. It wasn’t. So I got back out of the car and started searching the area, knowing I must have dropped it somewhere. One of the tractor owners came over to ask it I was looking for something, and I told him my problem. He said his daughter had found a Mazda key fob and had given it to the policemen to put in lost and found.

I went inside the building and got there just in time to see them put it on a table for filing away. I told them those keys were mine and I had just lost them. They took my name, and asked if I had gotten fully charged. They remembered me asking if I could plug my tractor into the RV plugs on the side of the rodeo building. Yeah, one night on the charger and it was full of electricity.

I went to the car and drove home. The thunder clouds had slid by us on the west side and we never saw a drop of rain or heard any thunder at all.

I was bone tired and my eyeballs felt cracked and it sure felt good to shower up and crash into bed. No, that’s not how it happened. That wasn’t the truth. I was so tired I went straight to bed and showered up the next morning. I’ll wash the sheets later.

Today at church the music director had the whole program, and it was a joy. This is the Unitarian Universalist church, and they don’t do sober and glum very much. Some of the music was with jazz percussion, and when it was time for the offering gifts, he played some bossa nova. In this church they don’t pass the plate—the people get up and walk to the offering plate at the back of the room, where the donations are taken. Some folks were dancing as they made their way to the back.

During the program he mentioned the power of music, and how just hearing Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” made tears flow down both his cheeks. I share that emotional response. The opposite is also true. “Oh Happy Day” by the Edwin Hawkins Singers will lift my spirits instantly.

I was given a list of three songs I should practice for a special program in a couple of weeks, which will be live streamed to a conference meeting of the church. This will be for singing in a choral group, not on keyboards yet, although I will be asked to fill in there in the future. I just need to find a good bass line for the songs. The songbooks are written for the piano, with arpeggios and such, without four part harmony. I’ll have to get that figured out myself.

I practiced one of the songs on an electronic Casio keyboard at home, and then I thought I would look up “Adagio for Strings” on YouTube and listen to it. Yes, it still made me cry, It’s a gray day today, so since I’m here, in this mood, let’s try “Meditation” from Thais by Massenet. Yep, more tears fell. Felt good. Maybe I should do some more.

It’s not just classical music—let’s try “I’m not Lisa” by Jesse Colter. Oh man, the tear ducts are wide open now. For the final number I found the original recording of “The Dance” by Garth Brooks. We played that as the last song at Carolyn’s funeral. Yeah, I’m sobbing now. Needed that. 

I think I’ll drive out and talk to her tonight.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll play, “Oh Happy Day.”






Saturday, May 25, 2019

Abortion


Abortion

Well, as usual, I got lost in a discussion on abortion again. I got sucked into debating whether life begins at conception or some other time. I know the history, the Bible texts, on and on, ad nauseum. That doesn’t cover what I really feel about abortion at all.

The truth is, I don’t care when life begins.

The truth is, I could meditate on a fertilized ovum in a Petri dish, or in a Fallopian tube, or implanted in a womb, all day long, day after day, and I will never feel a smidgin of empathy, or compassion for that ovum. And I believe it would feel the same about me. 

I don’t have enough imagination to believe that “clump of cells” is a cute chubby little baby, worthy of my concern. I know many claim to believe that, but I think there is more than a little pretense there. 

Several clich├ęs come to mind: straining at a gnat; seeing the mote in another’s eye; counting mint leaves; etc. Jesus said all these were useless, even if perfectly true, because they did not have love. 

I can’t love an ovum, or a blastocyst, or a zygote. I don’t believe anybody honestly can, without a lot of elitist fantasy. I can shed tears over a dog with a hurt paw, or a cat who lost a fight. But I can’t summon even one iota of compassion for a fertilized ovum. To me, the idea that that is a human being borders on pedantic sophistry.

But I can empathize, have compassion for, even love a woman in anguish and pain. Even if it’s her own fault. Who among us can claim to have never done the same?

I could lead her into a clinic to have an abortion, even at the risk of violence from “fine Christian” people lining the sidewalk. I could easily drive her across the state line for an abortion, even risking years of jail time. Because of love for another human being. Not a fetus.

I have no time for moral judgement. Neither did Jesus. Millions of people, (mostly women) were stoned to death for adultery. Jesus showed love and compassion, not moral judgement. 

The apostle Paul continued Jesus’ message of love. He vehemently argued with James about it. He got up in Peter’s face about it, and called him a hypocrite for it. What was it? Keeping the law and ignoring the need for love.  

This is what Paul said, “Owe no man anything, but to love one another; for he that loves another has fulfilled the law.” “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” “Love does no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as noisy brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” “Though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge, and though I have all faith so that I could move mountains, and have not love, i am nothing.” “Though I give away all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profits me nothing.” “Now remains faith, hope, and love—these three. But the greatest of these is love.”

I believe God is love. I believe God dwells within me, not out there in the sky somewhere. I must allow love to grow in my heart and crowd out the judgement that comes so naturally to the human mind. It is my life’s work, and it coincides with my Buddhist beliefs in the oneness of all humanity.

Just love everybody, and quit worrying about the small stuff.



Sunday, May 12, 2019

First Mother's Day alone.

Today is the day I've been waiting for all week long. This week has been thunderstorms, tornados, flash floods, and not much sunshine. We had to relight the pilot lights on the furnaces in the house, because we had a couple of cold nights. Did I mention it rained all week?

I woke up early this morning. I had been thinking about Mother's Day the night before, and I wanted to put some flowers on Carolyn's grave. No, she was not my mother, but she was the mother of my children, and I still miss her terribly. This is my first Mother's Day alone.

I have been attending a church in Denison, Texas, for over a month now, and I'm getting to know some of the people, I'm learning more about their values and beliefs, and they are learning some about me. One woman asked me today which religion I was raised in, and I told her I was raised Seventh-day Adventist until I was eighteen, and then I quit that one and by the time I was drafted into the Army I had agnostic embossed on my dog tag. I told her while I was stationed on Okinawa I studied Buddhism at a temple there, and have considered myself Buddhist since that time.

She laughed and told me I would fit right in. The church is the Red River Unitarian/Universalist church. This is from the church bulletin:

"We are people from many backgrounds who have different beliefs, but shared values...We are Unitarian Universalists, and at the same time we may also be agnostic, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, humanist, Jewish, Muslim, pagan, atheist, believers in God, and those who just let the great mystery be."

I think I will fit right in. I asked them last week if I could join, and today they had me sign the membership book. Next week will be a simple induction ceremony with an introduction to the congregation.

The church asked everyone to bring a flower to the service this morning, so as I was buying flowers for Carolyn's grave, I kept one out for later. The rest of the flowers looked good by her grave. I buried a vase there last year, and I was sure it would be filled with water. Did I say it has been raining all week?

When I got to church with my one red carnation, I found that they have a traditional ceremony on Mother's Day, where in each person, one at a time, goes to the center of the room and puts his flower into a large vase. When all have given their flower, a short homily was given on "The Secret of the Garden" and then we all, one at a time, go to the vase and extract one flower, but not the one you brought.

When the Flower Communion is over, we all have given a flower, and we all have received a flower.

I put in a red carnation, and I received a red rose. I took it to my sister-in-law Wilma, and she added it to a bouquet they were building at home for Mother's Day.

Since the weather is sunny and beautiful today, when I got home I changed clothes and rode my bicycle to Caddo and back. Next weekend is the Magnolia Tour, and I am far from ready.

The roadside are resplendent in all colors of wildflowers this year. Maybe all the rain? The Indian Paintbrush came up first, then the Bluebonnets down by the Red River. They are now fading, to be replaced by millions of buttercups and daisies, and some stunning blue tubular flowers that look a little like foxgloves. I don't know if there is a wild variety of those or not.

A couple of weeks ago I had been planning to drive my GMC motorhome down to a rally of like RVs down in Abilene, Texas. When I looked at the weather prognosis, I called and cancelled. In good weather I would have chanced it, but I really don't like repairing an old vehicle beside the road in the rain. I know there is a small coolant leak somewhere. Until I chase that one down and fix it, I'm staying pretty close to home.

I moved my Allis-Chalmers tractor into the garage next to the house, and have been taking it apart for cleaning and repainting. It's a 1949 Model G that I converted to electric drive four years ago, and I've been encouraged by the local Antique Tractor Club to come on out and drive it in the parade on the 30th for Memorial Day celebrations.

Monday morning I go to the dentist's office for impressions of my implants so they can make a bridge. I will be so glad to get rid of this partial plate that no longer even fits because of the protruding implants. Monday evening I will go to the UU church to help with the garden. It's actually going to be a Monarch butterfly way station when we get it finished.

Just to fill in the empty days, I went to my primary care physician last week and got the good news the my blood pressure is wonderful at 122/76, my cholesterol is 140, my heart and lungs are working great, and best of all at 75 I take no medications for anything now. For many years I had to take immunosuppressants to keep my Ulcerative Colitis in check, but evidently as I aged my immune system is suppressing itself now. I am in complete remission.

But I didn't get off scot free. The doctor gave me some Kegel exercises to help with my prostate problem. Like most old men, I have something in common with basketball players. I dribble before I shoot. And he scheduled me for a colonoscopy next week, since I haven't had one in about five years.

My life hasn't been boring. I almost don't have enough days to get done all I have scheduled to do. But that is good. Busy keeps the mind from brooding on dark thoughts, and reduces the crying time considerably.

Life is what you make it, and I'm keeping busy.


Friday, April 5, 2019

Populism for 2020


I have a confession to make. I have been the beneficiary of white male privilege.

I didn’t get any scholarships to college. In fact I had to quit college and go  to work, and therefore didn’t get to be a mechanical engineer. But the college class I was in for 1963 had just one black guy and two women out of probably a hundred studying engineering. I don’t remember any of Mexican or Indigenous heritage at all.

But I have lived a very successful career as an auto mechanic first, and then after an apprenticeship at a factory in southern California, a machinist, with the benefits of also having engineering and mechanical knowledge.

After working for peanuts in little machine shops and inventor’s startups, gaining a lot of experience in how the real world works, I got lucky and found work in an electric generation plant in Colorado. When that one shut down after nine years, I found a good job in another power plant in Nevada.

So if I include the year working in the small power plant in college, I have a total of thirty five years in electric power plants, all but the first year working under union contracts, with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, known as the IBEW. In Colorado it was with IBEW Local 111, and in Nevada it was with the IBEW Local 1245.

Consequently, when I retired in 2006, I got a fair defined benefit retirement pension, which includes paid medical benefits. Barring an economic catastrophe on the order of 1929, I should be able to eat until I die. Using my retirement benefits and the Social Security checks for both me and my wife, I could afford to keep her in a beautiful assisted living facility for two years as she died of Alzheimer’s disease. 

At this juncture in my life, I should be happy and grateful for the life I have been able to live. But I am also aware that I am lucky to have lived in the era made possible by the policies of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the old Democratic Party. The New Deal protections for unions and the working class made my life possible.

Now most of those benefits are going and gone. Retirement pensions have been replaced by 401Ks, which puts those funds into the hands of Wall Street gamblers. It’s 1928 all over again. Conservative politicians all across the country are cutting programs to help children, poor people, and single women. Education is on the chopping block, with fewer teachers and larger classes the goal of the Department of Education. 

The population began to wake up to the fact that our representatives don’t represent us anymore. It’s not just Republicans. They have always been against unions, minimum wage laws, workplace safety laws and such. The Democratic Party, which used to be the party of working class and poor people, has abandoned that demographic entirely. 

President Clinton slashed benefits for single mothers and children with his Welfare Reform legislation and threw hundreds of thousands of poor people and people of colors besides white into long prison sentences with his crackdown on crime laws. Before that, we used to point out how terrible the Soviet Union was having all those prisoners in the Gulag. Now we have outstripped them as they closed down their prisons and freed those prisoners.

When the economy was crashed by George W. Bush in 2007, a plan was hatched to save the national economy. When Obama was elected millions of us waited in anticipation of another chance for a Liberal Democratic president to save the poor and working class, just as FDR did under nearly the same circumstances.

Instead, my heart sank as he poured billions into saving the banks, allowing them to consolidate and get bigger, instead of closing them and breaking them up. Then he basically stood by as those same banks foreclosed on millions of families across the nation, evicting those families onto the street with no help at all.

On top of that, medical expenses were growing much faster than wages, and the predatory extortionate practices of the insurance companies made a large segment of the population prepared for anybody who promised real change. Obama had promised that change, but we were sorely disappointed there, too. His Affordable Care Act removed the cap on benefits and allowed people with preexisting conditions to get insurance if they could afford it, but there was no effective means in the legislation to reduce costs. 

Worst of all, it made buying insurance mandatory, with fines if you didn’t buy an approved medical insurance policy. If you are a single Mom trying to keep food and the table, clothe your children and pay the rent and the light bill every month, and you are already working two or more jobs, it was insult to injury.

A huge opportunity was apparent for a politician who could promise these people real relief. A politician who claims to be for “the people” is called a Populist. I can think of only three in the 2016 election: John Edwards, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump. The rest of the crowd of candidates ran mostly on tweaking the “status quo” or even worse, on their youth or good looks.

John Edwards took himself out of the race by getting caught cheating on his wife while she was dying of cancer.

On the Democratic side then, that left Sanders and Clinton. And all I heard from the Democrats is is she “nice“ enough, or is he too old? Maybe he’s too “grouchy”, or she wears the wrong pantsuits. We just had our first president of color, now it’s time for a woman, kind of like there is a checklist. 

If issues were mentioned at all, it was how extreme Bernie’s proposals were, even though he was just espousing getting back to what we had with the New Deal seventy years ago. Hillary was pretty vague on how she would help poor people cope with the bills, and offered no help at all for college students buried in unremitting lifetime debt. And a living wage was out of the question. It took her a long time to finally acquiesce to $15.00 as a minimum wage.

On the Republican side, it was Trump against all the rest. He made a lot of promises to working people - to bring back jobs, make wages higher by banning immigrants from the southern border, and fix the medical coverage so everybody would have perfect coverage for almost nothing. The rest of the candidates made fun of him, called him names, and then when he trounced them all in the primaries, swallowed their pride and kissed and made up in the general election.

So in the general election in 2016, it became Clinton, who narrowly won over Sanders, by hook or crook, I don’t know. I do know that his followers were the enthusiastic ones, who out organized everywhere across the country, but could not overcome the power of the party establishment to sideline a usurper of the “status quo.”

On the other side it was Trump, who by dint of his promises for change to working class people, to be the one who was looking out for their interests, to bring back good wages and jobs, who easily overcame the other mainstream Republicans and got the nomination.

The mainstream media and the Neo-liberal establishment were horrified. They were blinded by their preconceived notions of the voting population. Pollsters were proved wrong time and time again, as they massaged their questions to favor mainstream voters, and ignored the rising populist vote.

Trump tailored his speeches to the crowds he spoke to, and as usual with any politician, nobody noticed or cared if he said one thing to this group and another thing the next group. Meanwhile Clinton ignored the issues pretty much everywhere, and based her campaign on disparaging the populist voters, calling them “deplorable”, and refusing to even campaign in a few states she thought were reliably hers.

Hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of voters who had voted for Obama twice, came out to vote for Trump this time. They were still looking for the change they had been promised and didn’t get. The pollsters were confused, Democrats were shocked and despondent, and even Trump seemed amazed that he had won.

The years since the election have amazed me. I believe Trump won because he saw the populist discontent in the country and played to it, and Hillary ran against Trump, which had the same effect as running against the populist tide sweeping the country.

Today, two years later, I watch in fascination and wonder as the Democratic Party is choosing its next candidate for 2020. In the midterm elections several upset victories brought forth new, unheard of progressive candidates, including a lot of women playing to the poorest of the base, espousing single payer medical plans, higher wages, and free college tuition. 

Reliably and dishearteningly, the Democratic establishment is trying to sideline and disparage the new progressives as too radical and naive. I believe if Democrats don’t wake up and recognize the populist tide swelling in the country, they will be left in the dustbin of history.

It’s not enough anymore to just be the party of professional women, people of color, and the LGBTQ. Nothing wrong with those demographics, but they won’t win you any elections. Young people understand that without big changes, their future looks pretty dim. They are selling the issues. 

Democrats are still selling the hierarchy - “It’s my turn now.”  If they don’t open their eyes to the populist yearnings in the electorate, they will give the presidency to Trump again.

It’s been said before, and I’ll say it again. Nobody can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory like a Democrat.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Women in Congress

This week has been a revelation in how far women still have to go to get close to parity with men in the political realm. Just when you think that maybe they are making progress by winning seats in Congress, a lot of people are comparing them to sheep and the KKK because they chose to wear the colors of the suffragette protestors from a hundred years ago.

I’m seeing lots of ridicule and demeaning posts on social media, which doesn’t surprise me. What surprises me is the number of women who I thought were aware and enlightened who are joining in the merriment.

One in particular surprises me, because I know her well enough to believe if she had been of the right age one hundred years ago she would have been in the vanguard of the women who tore off their hoop skirts and girdles, put on white blouses and bloomers and marched in the streets by the thousands to get the right to vote.

Now she criticizes the women’s caucus for wearing white in unity for women’s rights at the State of the Union speech last week. I think their demonstration on the floor was a great display of their anger and intent toward the “pussy grabber” in chief of the country. There are still those who believe all women should remain barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen.

“Well behaved women seldom make history.”  Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Carolyn and I through the years spent many days walking from house to house in Nevada, registering people to vote, encouraging them to make the effort on election day, and make a difference in the country. I have volunteered in two different political parties to try to wake people up to what the rich and powerful are doing to the rest of us.

It is too easy to sit on the sidelines and snipe and criticize those who are actually out there on the political stage trying to make a difference. I seldom agree with every political stance of every politician running for office. I can’t think of any that I totally agreed with on everything. But I will fight for those I think best represent my wishes and needs.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

I am very proud that my former state of residence, Nevada, has become the very first state to have a female majority in the state legislature. I don’t know if women will do better at governing than the “old white men” who have had a monopoly until now, but they sure can’t do much worse.

I was also proud of the thousand of teachers who demonstrated in the Oklahoma state capital last year. It was a good demonstration of the power of unity. If one teacher at a time asks for a raise or school funding, they get brushed aside. But if they organize and fight as a group, people in power notice. 

Unfortunately, school history books are written by people who don’t want people to learn of the pitched battles, bombs and machine guns and bullets it took to get workers organized into unions and get working conditions and wages up to respectable levels. Nobody understands that until Franklin Roosevelt got the Labor Relations Act passed in the Thirties, it was illegal to form a union, and you could be shot for trying.

Unless people take it upon themselves to read and discover what they don’t want you to know, they will continue to fight for their rights as individuals, and be picked off one by one. 

The coming election will be a bellwether of the direction the country is going in the future. Neither political party seems to represent the will of the people anymore. That’s why populism is taking over on both sides of the political spectrum. A large percentage of the population realizes that the government no longer represents their interests. Both parties are bought and paid for by Wall Street banks and corporations, Nobody is defending the small businessman, the homeowner, the tradesmen, or the family farmer. 

Right now it looks as if the country is bitterly divided between left and right, liberals and conservatives. I think the truer divide is between elites at the top and serfs at the bottom. The elites like the left/right divide. They fear the day when the serfs at the bottom figure out what’s going on and unite to take back their country. 

If this nation doesn’t find a leader who can unite the people for freedom and prosperity, we will fall into the Fascist trap of military rule. Donald Trump, with his disdain for the Constitution, his ignorance of history, and his penchant for executive action, scares hell out of me. 


Hard times are coming. Hang on.