Archive for the ‘Income Inequality’ Category

Letter From Claverack 11 14 2016 The world we are waking to…

November 15, 2016

On Sunday, as I was returning to my pew post communion, one of my fellow parishioners, Susan Schuette, reached out her hand to me and asked if everything was alright?  She had noticed a dearth of postings since Election Day.

Wednesday, the day after the Election, I had cataract surgery [which went very well] and it gave me the perfect excuse to be at home with the blinds drawn, to not listen to the news, to eat comfort food and to binge watch on Amazon Prime.  I ate enough mashed potatoes with gravy AND butter for a family of five.

In the slightly hungover state from the relaxants they gave me while working on my eye, I sought to absorb the absolute fact the Donald Trump, television reality star, billionaire real estate mogul, orange tinged with the magnificently weird hair, was President Elect.

Rejoicing is being had on the right while the left is shattered and, quite frankly, totally at a loss as to what has happened.

My dear, dear friend Sarah, known since we were three, and I spoke today.  She lived for seven years in Franco’s Spain and feels we are moving in that direction, to be living in that kind of fear.  A social worker, her Hispanic clients are terrified, if undocumented they fear a door to door search for them.  If documented, they simply fear being profiled and harassed or worse.

Events since the election have fueled all our fears.

At an Episcopal Church in Maryland, the times for Spanish language service were torn down, replaced by graffiti that said: Trump Nation.  Whites only!

At the University at Pennsylvania, incoming African American students received emails from a group called “Mudmen,” announcing a “Nigger” lynching every day.

In Wellsville, NY a dugout was spray painted with the words:  Make America White Again, with a swastika.

dugout-hate

The swastika seems to be a much used symbol for those who are doing these things.

It has been reported in St. Louis a group of high school students marched through their school halls with a Trump sign shouting, “White power!  White power!”

A Muslim woman at the University of Michigan was approached by a white man, demanding she remove her hijab or be set on fire.

Ah, yes, the milk of human kindness…

When asked what I think, I say that I expect the next few years are going to be experiential.

A friend phoned me on Thursday and we talked about the election and he said, well you don’t have anything to be worried about.  After all, Pence is the one who is going to be running things after all.

Pence is homophobic.  Mentioning that to my friend, I said I did not feel safer as a gay man in America since this election.  Some of Trump’s supporters say unpleasant things about us though Trump did say in an interview with Lesley Stahl for “60 Minutes” that gay marriage was the law of the land.

He also told, in a bit of milk toast sort of way, that his supporters who might be doing anti-Semitic actions or harassing Hispanics to stop it.  It didn’t sound all that forceful.

The New York Post has called “fake” incidents of hate crimes since the election.  Maybe they would have happened anyway.  I’m not convinced.

It is a sobering time.  It is now my responsibility to be vigilant and to work against moments of hate.  It is my responsibility to work to restore a more liberal voice in this country and I will.  I’m not sure how but I will find some way to do it.

Republicans own the White House, the Senate, the House of Representatives and 32 of 50 gubernatorial posts.  They have the run of the land.  Let us see what they do with it.

And let us be prepared to be the loyal opposition.

At Christ Church Episcopal on Sunday, safety pins were given out.  They are to say to those who are frightened because of color, sex, race, religion, disability that you are a person they can be safe with.

Safty pin.jpg

Mine will be worn tomorrow.  It maybe I will offer them to my students.  It is my hope we all continue to be safe and that we are not falling into my friend Sarah’s fear that we are living in a time that will evolve into Franco’s Spain.

 

Letter From Claverack 10 02 2016 We, of this island planet…

October 2, 2016

It is twilight outside the windows; classical music plays, a gentle piano sonata.  In the trail of grey days that we have left in our time wake, the leaves have begun to change outside.  Most are still green but yellow branches now sway with the green in the twilight wind.

It is a quiet, magical moment here in the cottage.  Marcel lays sleeping on the couch, tired after taking me on a tour of his domain across the street. I am a bit tired too, for no great reason.  Waking at a reasonable hour, I did some early morning work, showered and went off to church.

Going home, I briefly walked Marcel and went off to the gym and from there to the Red Dot for my normal Sunday brunch, visiting with all the folks I know who also frequent there.

While sitting at the Dot, I read the NY Times on the phone and perused my emails.

The world was rocked today that Trump in 1995 claimed a loss of nearly a billion dollars.  It shielded him from many taxes for the next eighteen years.  It was legal and staggering at the same time.  A billion dollars in losses in one year?  In 1995?

Badly managed businesses provided that loss, especially the catastrophe of his Atlantic City Casinos.  And it seems to me that those catastrophes kept happening over the decades.

The returns were mailed to the NY Times anonymously with a return address of Trump Tower. His campaign called the NY Times an arm of the Clinton campaign.

In another report today, a commentator reminded us that several weeks after the death of Princess Diana, Trump was on Howard Stern’s program declaring he thought he could have “nailed” the Princess.  He was apparently between wives and sent Princess Diana mountains of flowers. A few years ago, a woman who had been close to Diana said that she felt creeped out by them and a bit like she was being stalked by the American billionaire.

Barely cold in her grave, he was boasting he could have “nailed” her.  How gallant!

How disgusting.

A person very close to me sent me an email, asking me to disseminate it widely.  It was in support of Trump.  Having known this woman for eons, I wondered how she possible could be thinking I would do anything to support Trump?  Perhaps she was just tweaking me, even though she knows I know she will vote for Trump.

Columbia has been at war for over fifty years with the rebellious FARC.  A peace deal was negotiated and put to a national referendum.  It appears to have been voted down, leaving all of us to wonder if Columbia is to face another fifty years of internal war?

My sister lives in central Florida and has been wondering if Matthew [spelled with two t’s} was going to land upon them but it appears it will weaken once it has scoured Haiti, a country that can’t seem to get a break.

Another young black man was shot in Los Angeles and activists are calling for transparency.

There is no transparency or mercy, it seems, in Aleppo.  The Syrian government of Assad, supported by Russia, are pummeling Aleppo into submission, apparently deliberately targeting the resources they have to handle the bombings: hospitals.  The healing capacity of the city has been halved.

And where is the boy?  Where is the boy?

We, the US, have been warned by Russia to not target the Damascus government.

We are living on this island Earth, not really paying attention to the tectonic shifts in the eco-system while we kill each other all over the place.

It is now totally dark outside but it is not totally dark in my soul.  When I witness what is happening in the world, I also remember that for every dire act there is an act of kindness, of balance, of work to make this place, this planet, a better place.

It is why I still go to church.

 

 

 

Letter From Claverack, NY August 4th, 2016 Have we learned so little?

August 5, 2016

It is a little after 8 pm and the sun is setting in the Hudson Valley.  I have been a “prisoner” of my cottage for the last few hours as I have had my deck re-stained and I was not to go out and touch it until about now.

The trees over the creek are verdant green and the water in the creek is crystal clear. It has been a good day, in all sorts of ways.  I woke up happy and I enjoy that kind of moment. 

A couple of nights ago I was in distress, my lungs were congested and I was having a bit of trouble breathing.  Stumbling through the medicine chest, I found and took a Mucinex and woke up the next morning with the congestion at bay, breathing again.

There is nothing like being able to breathe.

And it is hard to breathe in this current political season. 

I have never in my adult life lived through such as season as this.

Anyone who reads me must understand how deeply disturbed I am that Trump is the Republican nominee for President.  And the more he prances across the stage, the more concerned I am. 

The New York Times did a video piece about the hatred they had witnessed while following Trump’s campaign.  It was disturbing.  You can view it here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/04/us/politics/donald-trump-supporters.html?emc=eta1&_r=0

I am at my dining room table and the sun has set and night has fallen.   I am wrapped in the coziness of the cottage and am so grateful I am here.

Were I someplace else the craziness of our time might well make me mad but I can retreat for moments into the woods and believe, for a second, no harm could possibly come.

Like most of you I cannot believe the season in which we find ourselves. 

This is not what I expected out of the 2016 political season.  A friend of mine and I waged a friendly bet some months ago.  He believed the Republican candidate would be Rubio; I went with Bush. 

Both wrong.  It’s Trump, who has solidified the anger of disenfranchised white Americans, who have reason to be angry.  The world is passing them by…

But really?  All this hate?  It is a return to the realities of 19th and early 20th Century America where hatred moved from Germans, Italians, Poles, Irish, Jews…

A friend of mine who is Jewish remembers his grandmother in the early 20th Century hiding from mobs running through Lower Manhattan, screaming “Kill the Jews!”

We are on the verge of some of us screaming, “Kill the Muslims!”

Have we learned so little?

Letter From New York 03 09 2016 Sequestered with my thoughts in the cottage…

March 10, 2016

The day we all lived through here in Columbia County was physically the most exquisite day of the year and it may hold that crown all year; it’s hard to imagine a day that will be more splendid than this one.  The sky was blue, the air was warm — after I finished teaching it was scratching at hot.

My students had presentations to make today and they pleaded with me to let them do it outside and I was game but one of my students was allergic to the sun [as was I as a child] and had been outside for her last class and was feeling the effects.  So I let them go ten minutes early and stayed after talking with several students about the graded presentation they were going to be making after spring break.

It was a sweet day.  As I drove around the county on errands, bits and pieces of the news filtered in over the radio. 

Bernie had won Michigan, either stunning the Clinton camp or, according to some reports, they were just shrugging it off.  He is capturing something she isn’t.  In Michigan, it was largely, I understood, about his trade positions.

Tonight they are facing off against each other in Miami.  I may look at some of it but then again may not.  We still have months of this in front of us.

Trump continues his romp, causing, I’m sure, many Republicans to pull their hair and mimic Munch’s “The Scream.”  Carly Fiorna has come out for Ted Cruz.

It’s a quiet night, sequestered in the cottage, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald are singing their classics, a martini is nearby and the lights are illuminating the creek.  For this minute, the world is my oyster and I’m savoring it.

As we probably all know, “Downton Abbey” has finished its six year run, all the plots and subplots neatly tied up by Lord Fellowes, the creator who rose to the aristocracy himself during the program’s run.  Not just knighted but made a Baron.  Good job! There is now talk of a “Downton Abbey” movie.  I am sure it will come together.  Both sides of the Atlantic are mad for the Crawley family and their servants.

Either critically wounded or dead is a man known as Omar the Chechen, a lead military figure for IS.  Interestingly, when he was fighting the Russians in his homeland he received training from American Special Forces and was a star pupil.  Later he became the “Minister of War” for IS and was largely responsible for the push that took them within a hundred miles of Baghdad.

A captured IS official seems to be spilling the beans about IS’s efforts in chemical warfare.  They seem to be centered on the use of mustard gas, used by the Germans in World War I to devastating effect.

A former American soldier has been convicted of attempting to join IS and faces 35 years in prison.   He had left a note for his wife telling her he wanted to die a martyr.

Mourners are paying respects to Nancy Reagan, who lies in review at the Reagan Library where she will be buried next to her Ronnie.

And I love — sort of  — the story of a Floridian mother who had bragged about her four year old son getting really “racked up” to go practice shooting with her.  Hours later, he shot her in the back.  They were out for a drive when it happened. WHAT?!

Kathyrn Popper died today at 100.  She was the last surviving cast member of “Citizen Kane,” the movie named by the AFI in 1997 as the greatest film ever made.  She was also Orson Welles’ longtime assistant.

Kim Kardashian has been posting nude selfies.  Outrage has broken out in some circles.  In other circles, people are posting their own naked selfies in support of her, including Sharon Osbourne, reality star, talk show host and wife of Ozzy Osbourne.  I am NOT going to search it out.  No.  No, thank you…

Lastly, Sir George Martin passed away today at the age of 90.  Longtime producer of the Beatles, he helped shape their sound and redefined the role of music producer. 

The evening is rich.  There is no sound quite like Louis Armstrong married with Ella Fitzgerald. The cottage is more than cozy.  Friends are arriving from Nashville for the weekend and it will be good to share with them my home.

Letter From New York December 3, 2014

December 3, 2014

A light fog skims the surface of the Hudson River as I head south to the city to have lunch with an old friend and to attend a Holiday Party at other friends. Not a bad agenda for a day.

The fog obscures the far bank of the river; barely visible from where I sit, haunting in its shrouded beauty, all greys and blacks.

The view from the train window is much like life – a bit shrouded, not quite able to see from one side to the other. Things are visible but not clear; we see where we want to go but not really. Things close to us are visible; those far away – not so much.

I am smiling. That’s the way I see my life right now. I think I see the far side of the river but it’s not very clear on the other side, yet.

I am also smiling because I am sitting across from a friend of mine who is so engrossed in her conversation that she has not noticed me. That’s a bit like life too, so engrossed in what is right in front of us that we don’t see what’s around us.

As is my routine, I woke up and got a cup of coffee and then checked to see what emails had come in and then checked the headlines from the NY Times, scanning them on my iPhone.

Ashton Carter looks like he will be nominated as Secretary of Defense. It is a little amusing because the Twitterverse has apparently confused him with Ashton Kutcher. I don’t think Mr. Kutcher would be called upon to even act the part of the Secretary of Defense – at least not for a while, except perhaps in a comedy.

Also down in Washington, the political scene looks like it is much like today’s fog bound scene. We seem to be moving back to governance by crisis, everyone knowing they want to get to the other side but not quite seeing the other side and certainly not sure that they agree on what’s on the other side.

The CEO of AT&T who is also Chair of the Business Roundtable has declared that the emerging scene is Washington is putting businesses on hold. They can’t see what’s on the other side of the river and so they aren’t going anywhere until they know.

Another article reported that millions of workers are kept in the fog by unreliable incomes, part of the phenomenon that has grown in the recession with part time work and contract labor. Apparently, income volatility has grown markedly since the 1970’s. A bit like living in the fog, not quite sure you can see how the bills are going to get paid. Full time work has shrunk since the Great Recession began and even though we are officially out of the Great Recession, it certainly doesn’t feel like it to many folks.

Perhaps that’s why Black Friday’s retail sales swooned and Cyber Monday’s were flat with last year. Too many are living in the fog of uncertainty.

Though one bright spot on Black Friday was auto sales: deals and low interest rates brought out buyers, some of whom had been delaying major purchases until things were clearer. For those who bought cars on Black Friday, there apparently wasn’t too much fog or they thought they could see the other side. They had confidence.

Ah, the fog is lifting. I can now see the other side of the river and the color scheme is more than black and grey.

My friend has still not noticed I am sitting opposite her; I continue smiling.

May fog lift for all who might be living in it; may the path to the other side be clear.