A Democratic Manifesto

 

I originally shared this as a post from someone at Facebook named Patricia Rollins Trosclair. As it turns out, it was stolen content; the original author contacted me to set the record straight.  Here is the original post:

Some people are saying that we should give Donald Trump a chance, that we should “work together” with him because he won the election and “he is everyone’s president.” This is my response:

I will not “work together” to build a wall.
I will not “work together” to persecute Muslims.
I will not “work together” to shut out refugees from countries where we destabilized their governments, no matter how bad they might have been, so that we could have something more agreeable to our Oligarchy.
I will not “work together” to lower taxes on the 1%.
I will not “work together” to increase taxes on the middle class and poor.
I will not “work together” to help him line the pockets of himself and his cronies.
I will not “work together” to weaken (or demolish) environmental protection.
I will not “work together” to sell American lands to companies which then despoil those lands.
I will not “work together” to remove civil rights from anyone.
I will not “work together” to waste trillions more on our military when we already have the strongest in the world.
I will not “work together” to alienate countries that have been our allies for as long as I have been alive.
I will not “work together” to slash funding for education.
I will not “work together” to increase the immunity the police already have when they kill people of color (or anyone!) who is unarmed and does not pose any real threat.
I will not “work together” to take basic assistance from people who are at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder.
I will not “work together” to allow torture and “black ops” prison sites.
I will not “work together” to “take their oil.”
I will not “work together” to get rid of common sense regulations on guns.
I will not “work together” to eliminate the minimum wage.
I will not “work together” to suppress scientific research, be it on climate change, fracking, or any other issue where a majority of scientists agree that Trump and his supporters are wrong on the facts.
I will not “work together” to criminalize abortion or restrict health care for women.
I will not “work together” to increase the amount of nations that have nuclear weapons.
I will not “work together” to put even more “big money” into politics.
I will not “work together” to violate the Geneva Convention.
I will not “work together” to give the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacists a seat at the table, or to normalize their hatred.
I will not “work together” to deny health care to people who need it.
I will not “work together” to increase the profits of the insurance companies.
I will not “work together” to deny medical coverage to people on the basis of an alleged “pre-existing condition.”
I will not “work together” to increase voter suppression.
I will not “work together” to normalize tyranny.
I will not “work together” with anyone who is, or admires, tyrants and dictators.

I will not “work together” with Donald Trump or anyone who supports him, as I view him as an enemy of this nation and the principles on which it was founded.

Signed,

Thomas J. Gray

I share this because I agree – in large part – with these ideas. As a species, we need to focus more on being human than enriching the already wealthy or killing one another for fractions of a Pale Blue Dot, as Sagan so eloquently stated.

I have disabled comments on this post because I’ve had quite enough of partisan bickering, and there are millions of places on the net where I can hear dissenting opinions should I choose to; I don’t need that kind of negative energy in my “online home.”

The Old Wolf has spoken.


PS: The author also posted this:

Patricia Rollins Trosclair, I am calling you out for your plagiarism. If anyone else reading this likes the post and disapproves of plagiarism, please re-post this and sign your name below mine so that 1) people will see the original post, and 2) Patricia Rollins Trosclair will learn that it’s not nice to steal someone else’s writings and then try to pass that off as their own.

The only way to the stars.

It won’t be technology that gets us there, although that’s a critical part of the equation. It won’t be money alone. Humanity won’t crawl out of the mud until we really learn to care for each other.

Kate McCormick.png

This sad tombstone reads:

Seduced and pregnant by her father’s friend,
Unwed she died from abortion, her only choice.
Abandoned in life and death by family,
With but a single rose from her mother.
Buried only through the kindness of an unknown benefactor
Died February, 1875, age 21
Victim of an unforgiving society
Have mercy on us.

The poem below was part of a BBC program, unfortunately not available in the US, translated by redditor /u/Reedit_girl

1jwalka

Too many people in this world live and die essentially alone and ignored and forgotten. How can we possibly hope to inherit the stars if we can’t even take care of our own here on this Pale Blue Dot?

This image from David Linn – “The Ascent” – illustrates beautifully the Quaker proverb, “Thee lift me and I’ll lift thee, and we’ll ascend together.”

david-linn-the-ascent-helping-into-the-light

That’s what life is about, regardless of your spiritual walk, be it person of faith, humanist, deist, atheist, anti-theist, or somewhere else – it matters not. We’re here to make a difference in one another’s lives for good. If you’re doing that, you’re on a good road.

The idea is not new, it’s as old as the hills. In the Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a, we find this:

hillelquotehebrew

“That which is distasteful unto yourself, do not unto others. This is the whole Torah, the rest is commentary. Go and study.”

Lest you think I’m being partial to Judaism, have a look at the Golden Rule in many faiths around the world:

Golden Rule

Missing from the chart is the humanist “ethic of reciprocity,” the belief  that people should aim to treat each other as they would like to be treated themselves – with tolerance, consideration and compassion.

Until we live in a world where this idea is as natural to every person as breathing, we won’t be ready to inherit the stars.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

 

Fred Rogers, the quiet radical

rogersshoe

I have long loved and admired Fred Rogers. He’s so good and genuine  that he’s generated numerous memes and cultural references, the one below from Sandra and Woo:

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Today I stumbled across an informative post on reddit from user /u/MiltownKBs. There’s a lot of stuff here that I didn’t know, and I thought it deserved a wider audience.

Mr Rogers – The quiet radical. He didn’t go on marches, he was not confrontational, but nevertheless he had a ground on which he stood and he wanted to do something about it.

“a quiet but strong American prophet who, with roots in progressive spirituality, invited us to make the world into a counter-cultural neighborhood of love,” – Michael Long, author of the book, Peaceful Neighbor: Discovering the Countercultural Mister Rogers.

He worked from a steely social conscience. He used his program, with its non-threatening puppets, songs and conversation, to raise provocative topics such as war, peace, race, gender and poverty with his audience of preschoolers and their parents — patiently guiding them across the minefields of political and social change.

Examples: This one is one of my favorites … The puppet King Friday XIII was posting border guards, installing barbed-wire fences and drafting passersby to keep out those fomenting social change. “Down with the changers!” he proclaimed. “Because we’re on top!” This was 1968 and was aired as part of a weeklong series on conflict, change and distrust. King Friday’s declaration of a national emergency to preserve the status quo is a political statement. It is not a plot line merely to entertain children. It’s the idea that when we resist change, it’s because we want to maintain our position. In the end, the neighborhood was saved, but only through the bold civil disobedience of King Friday’s subjects. People who want change are often labeled as troublemakers.

Rogers was an uncompromising pacifist, and when Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood debuted nationally in 1968, during the height of the Vietnam War, he used his first week of programming to share his antiwar beliefs.

Rogers opposed the nuclear arms race, and in 1983 he developed Neighborhood of Make-Believe episodes in which King Friday appears confused and downright silly for calling for an arms race with a neighboring community. When Friday orders “one million and one parts” that he imagines to be weapons — they are not — he uses funds designed to support music in the neighborhood school. The neighborhood is appalled by this crass act.

At the beginning of 1984, the Presidential Task Force on Food Assistance, appointed by President Ronald Reagan, reported that it could not find evidence of rampant hunger in the United States. Rogers did not appreciate the report, and by the end of the year, he broadcast episodes highlighting the presence of hunger and addressing the need to combat it.

In 1987, at the height of the cold war, he traveled to Moscow and appeared on a Soviet children’s television show called Spokoinoi Nochi (Good Night, Little Ones).

Rogers was committed to racial diversity, and not long after inner-city riots erupted following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Rogers introduced the character of a black police officer keeping everyone safe in the Neighborhood.

In 1975, 14 years before an African American woman would become mayor of a major U.S. city, Rogers created the character of Mayor Maggie of Southwood, played by African American actor Maggie Stewart.

He wore an apron and ironed clothes on a mid-day broadcast set in a house, when most men would have been at work, modeling a revolution in gender roles. The puppet Lady Elaine Fairchilde anchored a newscast long before Barbara Walters did, and she rocketed into space a decade before Sally Ride broke the glass stratosphere.

In 1983 he arranged for Lady Aberlin, played by Betty Aberlin, to sing a quiet song (“Creation”) in which she refers to God as “She.” A fact that was not lost on the protestors of the time.

Rogers and regular cast member Francois Clemmons, an African-American, dipped their bare feet in a wading pool on a 1969 broadcast, when bitter conflicts over legally segregated swimming pools were still being discussed.

Rogers became a vegetarian in the early 1970s, saying he could not eat anything that had a mother, and in the mid-1980s he became co-owner of Vegetarian Times. In 1985, Rogers also signed his name to a statement protesting the wearing of animal furs.

When politicians in the 1980s spoke of welfare recipients as lazy and unworthy of government help, Rogers portrayed hard-working parents who still couldn’t afford all that their children wanted or needed.

Rogers broadcast public-service announcements on helping children deal with news of war and other tragedy, and he advocated for legislation that would allow at least one parent in a military family to remain with his or her children rather than be deployed.

The Old Wolf has reposted.

 

A compendium of hopes and fears

The election of 2016 is over, and the result I would not have imagined in a thousand night terrors has materialized. I couldn’t sleep last night, and put a lot of my thoughts out on Facebook in the hopes that I could stop feeling miserable and get back to bed. For better or worse, here’s an extended summary.

To my friends across the world, I wrote:

heart

Dear World:

I am deeply sorry. Please forgive us.
Je suis profondement navré. Veuillez nous pardonner.
Mi dispiace tantissimo. Per favore, scusateci.
Tá an-bhrón orm. Led’ thoil, maith dhúinn.
Es tut mir furchtbar leid. Bitte verzeih uns.
Jeg beklager så mye. Tilgi oss.
.אני מאוד מצטער. סלח לנו
Jako mi je žao. Oprosti nama.
Lo siento mucho. Por favor perdónanos.
Λυπάμαι πολύ. Συγχωρείστε μας.
Imi pare foarte rau. Vă rog, scuzați-ne.

I thought on this more than once:

litany_against_fear_by_kubuzetto

Donald Trump strikes me as the antithesis of all the best qualities Christ exhorted his followers to embody. In his first epistle to Timothy, the Apostle Paul wrote,

“A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous.”

If these are the qualities of a good spiritual leader, what then has America put into the White House?

A collection of tweets appeared this morning which lightened my mood somewhat:

George Takei: “The unthinkable happened before, to my family in WWII. We got thru it. We held each other close. We kept our dignity and held to our ideals.”

Michael Moore: “However this ends, that’s where we begin.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda: “Go through all stages tonight. You are allowed to feel however you like. Take stock of your heart. See you tomorrow. We are all still here.”

Stephen Colbert: “In the face of something that might strike you as horrible, I think laughter is the best medicine. You cannot laugh and be afraid at the same time, and the devil cannot stand mockery.”

JK Rowling: “Deep breaths. You’re not alone. There are many, many people on your side. The battle’s only over when you stop fighting. xoxox”

Kal Penn: “Stop it w: the moving to Canada shit. Double down on the country we love. If Trump becomes president, we have to get MORE involved not less”

Nina Las Vegas: “No matter who your president is, always fight for education, tolerance and quality. Votes can’t stop YOU from being good in your world.”

Jesse Tyler Ferguson: “I’m taking tonight to grieve for minorities, women, immigrants, muslims & the LGBTQ community but tomorrow I’m waking up ready to fight.”

Jessica Chastain: “The positive element from all this is that we can no longer pretend that we are free of racism & sexism. The question is, what do we do now?”

Barack Obama: “Remember, no matter what happens, the Sun will rise in the morning and America will still be the greatest nation on Earth.”

These thoughts echo what I designed immediately upon hearing the news:

trump

Lastly, I offer my own signature from the early days of email, one which I have always treasured and whose source is unknown:

Everything will come out OK in the end. If it's not OK, it's not the end.

May  God, nature, and humanity have mercy on us all.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Servers are people, not slaves

I’ve posted my thoughts about tipping before. I think it’s a bad system that allows restaurateurs to balance their budgets on the backs of their most important corporate assets, their employees. But as long as it’s the de facto standard, it’s important never to stiff a server.

But just as important as a good tip is the way you treat those who serve you, or wait on you, or help you in retail establishments, or answer the phone to help you with a transaction or a technical problem. And far too many people (witness the horror stories at places like Not Always Right) treat others in this category like something horrid that they would scrape off their shoe.

A few examples:

  1. A pastor writes on her server’s check, “I give God 10%. Why do you get 18?” She later stated that this was an unfortunate lapse of judgment and felt embarrassed about it, but Applebee’s, where the incident occurred, fired another server for publishing the offending check on reddit, even though no PII was revealed.
  2. A couple leaves a “tip” for a server: here’s your tip,” they said and explained that a woman’s place is in the home, as it says in the Bible, and that she should go home, clean her house, and cook a good hot meal for her husband and children. They even said her husband “must see another woman on his way home from a long day at his work” because she isn’t home, and told her to stop looking for handouts to feed her family.
  3. Some “Christians” have taken to leaving these tracts disguised as money as “tips,” thinking they’re contributing more to their waitstaff than crass pecuniary remuneration.

assholes

People who do things like the above examples are neither Christian, nor do they understand the very religion they so publicly claim to represent – and I refer them happily to Acts 8:21: “Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.”

Then there are the people who are just douchebags for no reason.

  1. One sweet lady I work with told of spending almost 2 decades as a server. One “gentleman” she waited on told her that society had failed her because she was working as a waitress, and that she herself was a failure; he flipped a $5.00 bill at her and told her to put it into her infant daughter’s bank account, but that he doubted it would get there. Needless to say, he made her cry; this is what trolls do on the internet all the time, “for the lulz,” but it is beyond my capacity to comprehend how someone can do this in person. It’s a good thing I wasn’t at the next table, I would have been hard pressed not to stand up and smash his silly face.
  2. A man with “Esq.” after his name, proclaiming to all the world that he is an attorney, calls up customer service for assistance. When discovering his problem is a bit more complex than he wants (“Just fix it!”) he demands a manager. When he doesn’t get one immediately, he launches into this shouted tirade about “Now you’ve made me really angry! I’m documenting this call! I’m calling your CEO!” His douchebag wife even calls up to abuse some more agents about the same issue. And he actually does call the CEO, wasting countless people’s time and acting like a spoiled, entitled little brat until he gets heaven knows what. I’d love nothing better than to doxx this waste of human cytoplasm, but that’s not how I roll.
  3. For more examples, scan Not Always Right for the category “Bad Behavior.” (Link for the time-challenged.)

The solution to all these unhappy situations is pretty simple. It’s come to be known on the Internet as “Wheaton’s Law.”

wheatons-law

Seriously, just don’t.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

A visit to a dark corner of my soul

One of my Facebook friends just posted the following question:

“Just a thought….who does the Muslim world and ISIS support for president?”

The obvious answer is “Clinton” – the implication being that Trump would unleash Hell on Islamic terrorists and nuke them back to the stone age, or something similar.

In reality, Daesh does not support anyone for president, because Daesh does not believe in Democracy – but rather in Shari’a law under theocratic rule. If the extremists had their way, New York City might look like the image below, which appeared shortly after 9/11:

musnys

The problem with jingoism and xenophobia is that they know no bounds and do not require facts… just a gut-level fear of the unknown, of the different. Hence Donald Trump’s calls for the exclusion of all Muslim immigrants to the US, deportation of Muslims, issuance of identity cards to Muslims – all these have resonated with a segment of American society who have been terrorized by the terrorists.

A digression:

douwd

In the episode of Star Trek, the Next Generation entitled “The Survivors,” Kevin Uxbridge (brilliantly played by John Anderson) portrays a Douwd, an immortal being with godlike powers who fell in love with a human woman. When his wife was killed by a consummately evil race of beings known as the Husnock, Uxbridge explained:

I saw her broken body. I went insane. My hatred exploded. And in an instant of grief… I destroyed the Husnock… You don’t understand the scope of my crime. I didn’t kill just one Husnock, or a hundred, or a thousand. I killed them all. All Husnock, everywhere. – Are 11,000 people worth… 50 billion? Is the love of a woman worth the destruction of an entire species?

This theme was echoed in Attack of the Clones, in which Anakin Skywalker tells Padmé Amidala about the Tuskens who kidnapped and killed his mother, “I killed them. I killed them all. They’re dead, every single one of them. And not just the men, but the women and the children too.”

The desire for ultimate vengeance upon those who have harmed us or our loved ones seems to run deep in the human heart, witness the Hatfields and the McCoys, the internecine conflicts of the Balkans, the Middle East conflicts, the Tutsis and the Hutus, and so many others.

And as I experienced that day of infamy in 2001 when our nation was stabbed to the heart by unspeakably evil men, my soul went to that darkest of places. On that day, had you offered me the Elder Wand and told me that by simply waving it, all Muslims everywhere would simply cease to exist, and every one of their holy sites would be reduced to a glowing lake of slag, I probably would have waved it without a second’s hesitation. Such was the depth of my anguish at the emotional insult of that day.

It has taken a long time, but I was obliged to take those sentiments and wall them up behind the barricade of reason.

cask_by_jason_gray_art-d5u2ra2

I admit that every time I see images of 9/11, or hear of a new atrocity committed in the name of Islam, I can still hear Fortunato’s bells jingling behind that wall. That day scarred my psyche for all time. I doubt I will ever fully heal, but I refuse to give in to the bestial urges.

With all of that in mind, I cannot support as president of this nation a man who would demonize fully one fourth of this world’s population for the actions of a few deranged and deluded madmen. Yes, those few are dangerous, and a threat to global security. But this is not Riyadh, or Tehran, or Darfur – this is America, and Muslims are as much a part of our country as the Catholic immigrants from Italy and Ireland, or the Jewish immigrants from the global diaspora. The enemy is ignorance, the enemy is extremism. We must be vigilant, but we must also be human.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

It’s not the lesser evil, it’s the greater good.

For a long time I’ve been complaining to myself, about every four years or so, of having to choose between the evil of two lessers. Over the course of my life, my politics have been all over the spectrum, from Democrat in my youth (think McCarthy and McGovern), to a 40-year stint of drinking the GOP Kool-Aid (I still think Reagan had the best interests of the nation at heart, but Cheney & Co. put an end to my straight-party history), to Libertarianism (too close to Anarchynarchy for comfort), and back to the Dems since 2008, because like many Americans, I really was hopeful for some change, particularly in the economic arena.

While I don’t agree with all his politics or agenda, our current President has had a pretty good run if you look at the numbers. Those on the evangelical right tend to see him as Satan incarnate, the enemy of all righteousness, attacking foundations of “moral America” with jackhammers and wrecking balls, but despite what the John Birch Society would have you think, no religious code is enshrined in the Constitution; morals remain, thanks to the First Amendment, a matter of personal choice and personal accountability.

Bernie Sanders was the first real breath of political fresh air I have experienced on the national stage in my entire life. I worked for him, I stumped for him, I contributed my $3.00 (several times over, if the truth be known), I was a caucus captain for him in Maine, and I was really hoping for someone in the White House who would pay less attention to politics or private interests than those who have occupied that seat of power during my sojourn on earth.

Now those hopes have been extinguished, and once again I am left to choose between two people whose politics I do not endorse, and must choose the lesser evil. Or perhaps not.

Donald Trump is a caricature of all that is wrong with politics, a real-live Oliphant cartoon (I deeply regret this great commentator’s gentle slide into retirement, especially during this circus of an election season), Tammany Tiger in the flesh, the ghosts of Leona Helmsley, Imelda Marcos, and Joseph McCarthy brought back to life in one horrible package of xenophobic one-percentism. The prospect of a Trump presidency terrifies me, and the thought that a fraction of this country approaching 50% thinks he would be good for this country leaves me with cold sweats.

Despite my own feelings, I have a huge circle of friends who support both Trump and the GOP, and there are parts of their fears and frustrations that resonate with me. The “giant sucking sound” Ross Perot referred to with regards to American jobs – not to Mexico, as it turned out, but rather to Asia – is of deep concern. The rotting factories of America, the economic terror that is snapping at the heels of a far-too-great segment of our nation’s families, the social unrest, and a general trend in our country toward an “anything goes” outlook are valid concerns in the minds of many people. The growing fear of Islamic extremism is a real phenomenon; remembering that the enemy of freedom is not Islam but rather extremism of all stripes and ignorance has become ever more difficult since 9/11, an event that scarred my soul and twisted my Weltanschauung despite my being aware that it did so. But championing trickle-down economics and outright jingoism and fear-mongering are not the answers to these pressing problems, and these are precisely the principles upon which Donald Trump has built his campaign.

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On the other side of the aisle we have Hillary Rodham Clinton, part of the “Buy one, get one free” package that we inherited under the presidency of her husband. During the Billary days, there was a joke circulating that was so cruel and petty that I can’t repeat it here, but it underscored the notion that both Bill and Hillary were crooked and dishonest. It’s worth considering that much of the “crooked Hillary” rhetoric that seems to have become part of the American psyche could be the result of a decades-long smear campaign by her opponents on the right, but for good or ill it has affected me. I don’t know if I trust her to act ethically and honestly for the good of America’s citizenry, and that’s admitting freely that as a person, I don’t know her from Adam’s off ox. The Clinton presidency appears to be settling on the positive side of the historical ledger, but the moral lapses of our 42nd president, followed by the web of deceit and duplicity that followed, add to the general feeling that having this team back in the White House will do more good for them than for us.

Coming back to Bernie Sanders, there is a segment of his constituency who have adopted the “Bernie or Bust” philosophy… and I understand that as well. My franchise under the Constitution is precious, and casting a ballot for someone I don’t support seems like squandering that franchise. I supported Bernie so fervently that it seems folly not to ignore the dominant candidates and cast my ballot for him as a write-in, or vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein to bolster third-party strength. But that’s not the attitude that Bernie himself has adopted; he’s a career politician, has stayed on message for over 3 decades, and he understands clearly that politics makes strange bedfellows.

From where I stand, Senator Sanders’ support for Hillary at this time is an effort to make the best of a less-than-optimal situation. Even his decision to run as a democrat was a calculated political move, and one that paid greater dividends in the long run than having run as an independent might have done. I like what he stands for. He has a lifetime in the political trenches. I trust him. And if he’s asking his supporters to support the Democratic candidate at this point in time, it makes sense that I do so now.

From a faith-based standpoint, I should be on the far right. I believe that there are certain standards of conduct that, if followed, will bring greater overall happiness to mankind than the alternatives. But I am also a fervent supporter of free agency which I see as the core principle of our earthly probation; the whole concept of “I don’t believe in eating cake, so you may not have any either” just doesn’t fly with me. As a result, the efforts of the Christian right to impose morality on the nation by political activism is just as worrisome as the jihadis who would impose Islam on the world by the sword.

So there’s the dilemma. I can’t just stay home and not vote, because that would be an insult to those who dedicated their lives to creating a republic where my franchise is guaranteed. I can’t really justify voting Libertarian or Green, because neither party has a hope of winning in the general election, and I can’t write Bernie in for the same reason, as much as I would love to see him at the helm of state. I can’t vote GOP, because the Republican Zeitgeist at this moment in time seems to revolve around a world that works for the rich, the few, and the holy.

Yes, I think there has been a lot of jiggery-pokery in the political process this year, perhaps more than in the past. I think the DNC basically shafted Bernie and his supporters with a cactus, and that the game was essentially rigged from the start. But in the end analysis, I have to ask myself “Which party’s ideals intersect most strongly with my own?”

The answer, for myself, is clear. I will vote for Hillary in November, not because she is the lesser evil but because I believe she will accomplish the greater good. But in the meantime, I will continue to work for and support candidates at the local and congressional level who support the ideals that Bernie Sanders offered the nation: equal opportunities for all, a political process free of corporate money and influence, universal healthcare, universal human dignity, and – in the words of R. Buckminster Fuller – “making the world work, for 100% of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation, without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone.”

The Old Wolf has spoken.