Saturday, July 30, 2016

Moving to "Australia"

Its becoming almost a running gag. Seems that everyone (except the politicians -- hey, wouldn't that be a better answer?) is saying that if "so and so" is elected they are going to flee over the border to some imaginary sanctuary,

In an email this past week one friend jokingly told me where his sanctuary country is going to be. Saying something to the affect of  "if things continue like this we could always move to Australia."

My answer was that in a real sense I already had.  That I'd moved some years ago to my "Australia." And it was (and is) New Hampshire.  And in that I really wasn't kidding.

What is it that encourages people to think this way?  Yes, it is only a "joke." -Even to those who are saying it passionately, not with mirth. But still, wasn't it just a couple of generations ago that their own people had not jokingly said such about moving here, to the USA? And then moved? And aren't many even now, today, making such a move?

Yes and yes.

The common answer to what was and is driving such is found in one word: "Change."  For both the nation -- our nation -- and the time -- our times -- are (to quote the song) "a changin."  And not for the better.

Younger people -- the so-called "millenniums"-- cannot see this.  They turn on an old TV show from the fifties and see a world that they think, indeed, that they have been told, was a complete fiction. One where families sit down to a meal together and the children bring their simple little problems to dad because "father knows best."  And where those children do so so after having spent their day out with their friends on their bicycles, roaming about freely, unsupervised, and completely unafraid.

After dinner the children in those imaginary families went upstairs to do their homework. After, of course, they had completed their "chores."

Their bicycles were left in the driveway.  No, no one stole them. Doors were left unlocked.

Hah! Hah1 Hah!

But such was the world many of my generation grew up in. And then, over time, the world became something else. This. What our world is today. And along with that change came the feeling that it -- our world -- is getting worse, and worse and worse.

I need not describe every detail of that reality here. We all experience it daily. -The fear that exists that makes parents not only see the need to lock their doors, but to lock their kids inside behind those doors so that they can be "safe."  But where even keeping them "in" really isn't "safe" because what is "out there" creeps in -- the very worst of it -- on the internet, in "tweets" and via a hundred different routes that most older people can't even accurately name or describe.

A world where schools are no longer primarily places of learning --- at least not in the old sense where that meant things like reading -- not just the skills, but the end purpose of those skills -- exposure to great ideas and great literature. And knowledge of history as it actually unfolded -- not the neat false stories passed off as history to teach "lessons."

A world where "what do you want to be when you grow up?" was a question with a million wonderful possibilities. None of which required taking on a pile of debt or living in the family's basement.

And now, instead of all of this, we have our heads filled with a false narrative. One where our best future is dependent on some government program. Our present likewise. And even our past is falsely painted to have been the same.  Where the "we" of people voluntarily acting together out of a common cause has been reshaped into the same -- meaning a regulated government program overseen by people who view themselves as our masters.

Yes, we older people know what has been lost.  And no, not just here in the USA, but in countries across the Atlantic. Countries where the older people, too -- those who actually saw and experienced the world of the past -- are voting to leave what those self-appointed masters have created. And where the younger people -- those with no knowledge of much of anything apart from what they have been fed -- feel in some cases angered because the older people, by taking away their security blanket, are in their eyes stealing their future.  (And so they, too, now are feeling afraid.)

And meanwhile the barbarians are at the gate. Being welcomed in by the door-keepers. In some cases bringing darkness and mayhem and every other vestige of the worst in humanity's past with them; in others just ignorance and want.

So where can we go?  To a place that exists only in our dreams.

My fiend suggested Australia. But another friend, who actually lives there,  emails me almost daily with similar stories of woe. Of a government seemingly gone mad, ignoring the will of the people, and inviting in the darkness.

But to me this was not just a dream, a mental exercise of escape. For some fifteen years ago I moved to my "Australia" -- New Hampshire. The state with the rather hard to believe motto "Live free or die."  And not just to that state, but to a piece of it rather off the beaten path. Connected to the world at large by not a single four lane highway. And, further, there to some property quite literally designed for life in what to me seems a more civilized time. A time when "art" meant art. "Books" meant literature. And the world meant trees and wildlife, not some virtual reality snaking in via wireless or a cable.

But in truth what so many today are looking for is not a place -- not a literal "state" or nation -- but a state of  mind. A place where they can feel secure. A place with a future.

Part, but only part, of that is a re-grasping of the past.  Because in the past, too, people were fleeing. In the past, too, the future beckoned. But what was yearned for then was that thing that today has come to be seen as myth: A brighter future. One with greater peace. Greater freedom. Greater opportunity. Where even the common myths were myths of hope, not of past wrongs.

So yes, I have found my "Australia."  I moved here some 15 or so years ago. And I could do so, in part, because I knew what I was looking for. And I knew that because I knew what had been lost.

My "Australia" may not be yours.  There is not a single dream, but as many as there are people.

Maybe the fact that so many speak of moving here or there these days is a good thing. Maybe it means, if nothing else, that many have come to realize that something has been lost. Something worth searching for. Striving for.

A better life "somewhere."

May all such seekers find.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Donald J. Trump Reconsidered.

I was wrong about Donald Trump.  Simple as that. I was wrong.

When, back in January of this year, I gave my opinion about Trump it was derisive. There I described him as, in my eyes, a potential "disaster in the making."

Then my opinion of him slowly started to change  Not just because he started to win.  No, it came somewhat before that as I saw him connecting with working people -- those who had been getting short shrift for so long -- and I decided, quite consciously, no matter what my opinion of Trump the man, to side with them.

Donald Trump, I slowly had come to realize, was addressing their concerns. And he was doing so in a language they understood. Their own language -And, yes, I liked that. And with my ears adjusted to how he was speaking I began, just began, to slowly get the point. That he understood. That he really, really did.

Then a few months back his position papers started to appear. And to my own surprise I found myself nodding my head. And in so doing I realized that it wasn't just their problems -- those of displaced American workers -- that he understood, but our problems. All of ours.

The final "flip" for me came this just afternoon when I listened to his entire press conference -- nearly an hour of free-form questioning by a mostly hostile media -- and saw, yes finally saw, what 'average Joes' had been seeing all along: That here was a man who truly does get it. One who has the courage to say what has to be said. A man willing to go above the heads of America's "leaders" to their bosses -- the American people.

What I was seeing, I finally realized, was an American.  The type of man I had come to think did not any more exist: The American smarty pants. The sort of man who would have dressed as a red Indian and thrown all the King's precious tea into the harbor.

Yes, Trump is a revolutionary.  But his is not a new revolution. No, it's the continuation of that old one. The one that dates back to the 1776. The nervy throwing off  of the shackles of the King, but with its focus on today's problems. With strength. With courage. With confidence. With the classic American can-do spirit.

So yes, I was wrong.

Go Trump!

Let's together make America great again.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Some Lessons to be Learned from the Munich Tragedy

The man who carried out the horrendous massacre this past week in Munich happened to be a German of Afghan parents. A search of his home found no evidence of Islamic hate literature, but instead evidence of hate literature of a more generic variety. Feeding one's mind on "hate" makes one ugly. It matters not the source. But why a person becomes drawn to hate and consumed by it is not fully known. The general pattern is that a person who is surrounded by love and understanding will not do so. And yet even there we hear of exceptions. What Ali David Sonboly experienced in his home life is unknown. But there are stories of his being bullied and held up to ridicule for his non-German background. True? Who knows? (Fact is most kids get ridiculed for something. It is part of growing up with others as immature as we each were at one point in our life.) When, following the shootings, he was seen wandering about on a building roof some passers by called him a "turk." He yelled back "I am a German." The words "Turk" and "Turkish" have been used as a generic for anything from the area of the Levant or thereabouts since at least the 1800s. Mozart and Beethoven, for instance, called certain music "Turkish" if it had an "eastern" flavor. But to a youth in Germany today it would mean "other" - a mark of exclusion -- a huge burden for any youth to carry. That is something we should keep very much in our thoughts. Divisions cause hate. And hate in some cases leads to violence. Here in the USA great progress was being made for a good number of years in breaking down such exclusionary divisions. But all it takes are a few bad examples -- people who themselves are steeped in divisiveness -- and, especially if such come to have power or influence, the sleeping remnants of hate can come quickly back to life. This, sadly, is what has happened here in the US under Barack Obama. He himself, despite being of mixed race, is steeped in racial divisiveness. Enough so that with likely dozens and dozens of churches to choose from, he and Michelle chose to attend that of a known hater -- Jeremiah Wright. And there they listened (and had their daughters listen) to messages of hate week after week after week. That spirit -- very possibly there on some level from the start -- crept in to their hearts. And then it leaked out and touched our entire nation. Now, not quite eight years after Barack Obama became an influential voice, much of the nation's progress in overcoming racialism has been undone. Yes, such is the power of hate. We individually cannot change the heart of someone like President Obama, but we can resist its influence on our own heart and thinking. No one in America should be, by reason of his birth, an excluded one; a "turk." It is unfortunate that the basic lessons that have built up the Western World -- that of tolerance and understanding -- are being softened and forgotten. For it is these concepts that create unity and peace. Instead easy answers to the growing problems of division and violence are being sought after. Such as "gun control." The media will not play it up, but it is worth noting that the laws against firearm ownership in Germany are even more draconian than they are in Chicago. And they have proved no more effective at stopping violence there than they have here. If a person wants to kill they will find a way. A gun. A knife. A truck. Germans these days generally do not kill each other on the streets. This is not because they do not have guns, but because they as a people have adopted a culture that is basically not criminal. It is worth noting that the same is true in many parts of America. Being able to legally own guns, or not being able to legally own guns, is not what determines how much violence there is in a given place. What does is the people who live there -- what they have come to believe and how they choose to behave. The hurt done by a hater such as Ali David Sonboly is great. Lives lost. Families devastated. Entire communities fractured. That such happens equally breaks our hearts and turns our stomachs. But such is the world we live in. What we can we do about it? Seemingly not much on the grand scale. But we can look at our own hearts and minds. -At how we view and interact with others. And we can be honest about the sources of hate. We can resist them and stop making excuses for them.