DO POLITICIANS STILL BLUSH?

I long for the days when candidates were embarrassed by evidence of their ignorance and greed.

There was a time when we judged candidates on their perceived character. If it was “good,” if the individual was deemed compassionate, honest, educated, and trustworthy, they were seen in a positive light. Those who were “bad,” judged to be cold-hearted, prone to lies, ignorant, and untrustworthy, were considered poor choices for public office.

It goes without saying that this election cycle appalls me. How could it not?

Having lived through many elections I know that there are certain bellwethers that indicate when we have crossed into a danger zone. In this case, our nation is frighteningly divided. The status quo no longer works for the majority. One cannot help worrying about the future of our children as our country spirals further and further into a depth of darkness that seems intractable.

A half-hour or so online helped me to remember how important character was in elections a few decades ago. Here are some quotes I found illuminating, even knowing that these words often weren’t followed by actions.

*****     *****     *****

John F. Kennedy

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

“Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.”

“Things do not happen. Things are made to happen.”

“Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.”

“If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.”

“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.”

“Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners, and necessity has made us allies. Those whom God has so joined together, let no man put asunder.”

“For time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.”

“There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long-range risks of comfortable inaction.”

“Our problems are man-made, therefore they may be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.”

“The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were.”

“Once you say you’re going to settle for second, that’s what happens to you in life.”

“I’m an idealist without illusions.”

“If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”

“We have the power to make this the best generation of mankind in the history of the world or to make it the last.”

“We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.”

“I believe in a president whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.”

 

William J. Clinton

“Work is about more than making a living, as vital as that is. It’s fundamental to human dignity, to our sense of self-worth as useful, independent, free people.”

“I want American Dream growth – lots of new businesses, well-paying jobs, and American leadership in new industries, like clean energy and biotechnology.”

“Well, first of all, I think that a lot of the voters who are voting for the tea party candidates have really good impulses. That is, they believe that for years and years and years, the people with wealth and power or government power have done well and ordinary people have not. That’s true.”

 

Jimmy Carter

“I say to you quite frankly that the time for racial discrimination is over.”

“We become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams.”

“Globalization, as defined by rich people like us, is a very nice thing… you are talking about the Internet, you are talking about cell phones, you are talking about computers. This doesn’t affect two-thirds of the people of the world.”

“It is difficult for the common good to prevail against the intense concentration of those who have a special interest, especially if the decisions are made behind locked doors.”

“War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good. We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other’s children.”

“I can’t really criticize the Tea Party people, because I came into the White House pretty much on the same basis that they have become popular. That is dissatisfaction with the way things are going in Washington and disillusionment and disencouragement about the government.”

“It’s very difficult for the American people to believe that our government, one of the richest on Earth, is also one of the stingiest on Earth.”

“We must make it clear that a platform of ‘I hate gay men and women’ is not a way to become president of the United States.”

“We cannot be both the world’s leading champion of peace and the world’s leading supplier of the weapons of war.”

“We can’t equate democracy with Christianity because the largest democracy on earth is India, which is primarily Hindu. The third largest democracy is Indonesia, which is Islamic. Democracy and freedom are not dependent on Christian beliefs.”

“Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants. People have the right to expect that these wants will be provided for by this wisdom.”

 

George H. W. Bush

“The day will come – and it is not far off – when the legacy of Lincoln will finally be fulfilled at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, when a black man or woman will sit in the Oval Office. When that day comes, the most remarkable thing about it will be how naturally it occurs.”

“We don’t want an America that is closed to the world. What we want is a world that is open to America.”

“You have to understand that people that are hurting are going to criticize.”

“America is never wholly herself unless she is engaged in high moral principle. We as a people have such a purpose today. It is to make kinder the face of the nation and gentler the face of the world.”

 

George W. Bush

“Use power to help people. For we are given power not to advance our own purposes nor to make a great show in the world, nor a name. There is but one just use of power and it is to serve people.”

“We don’t believe in planners and deciders making the decisions on behalf of Americans.”

 

Imagination

There is much truth here. If we are limited to what our eyes see, we cannot envision anything better.

TuKawaii

The reason we have poverty is that we have no imagination. There are a great many people accumulating what they think is vast wealth, but it’s only money… they don’t know how to enjoy it, because they have no imagination.

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Issues 2016–May

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN HUNGRY?

Have you ever been hungry? Really hungry?

I’m not talking about working late and not getting dinner at the customary time.

I’m not talking about going on a diet, though that might give you a hint of the first stages of hunger.

A startling number of people in the United States do not eat because they are hungry. They eat because the clock shows a certain time of day. They eat because they like food. They eat because they’re bored. Sometimes they eat because they enjoy the company at the table.

But they aren’t eating because they experience hunger.

Even more startling is the number of people in the United States who are often, if not daily, facing hunger. I’ve included some links below if you want statistics or viewpoints from those working to reduce hunger. Figures seem to hover around 1 in 4 or 5 people. Slightly higher figures are given for children and fragile populations such as the elderly and disabled. Most groups working with hungry people report that there is plenty of food in this nation. Access to food, however, is intimately linked to poverty.

I live in North Carolina, one of the states with high poverty and, consequently, high hunger rates. Things haven’t improved much since the economy collapsed in 2008.

My concern about hunger is personal. During the economic collapse, my family fell from the middle-class position we had struggled to maintain into poverty. Job loss led to housing loss. Before long we were struggling to survive. We were in good company; many others were experiencing long-term unemployment, homelessness, hunger, and loss of hope.

By 2013, we felt things might get better. We had a stable address. We had some hope for the future. There were temporary and part-time jobs. Still, we lived hand-to-mouth. A virus requiring days off work, a minor car problem (heaven forbid a major one), or a month when our Social Security check came later rather than sooner could set us back. Once bills were paid and late fees were added it would be nearly impossible to catch up.

When things were going well, we would have two  meals or a meal and a snack every day. We sometimes dined on a sandwich or two daily for several days at a stretch. When things weren’t going well, we went without food for a few days at a time. But we survived.

Then there was the time we almost didn’t. Late payments from people who owed us for work we had done combined with a late Social Security pay date and several unexpected expenses. Our electricity was disconnected until we could catch up; this meant we had no water because the pump was not active. We lived in a substandard home in a rural area; there were no soup kitchens easily accessible. We had just bought two weeks of groceries and spent the first few days eating what we could and watching the rest spoil in the refrigerator.

If you are squeamish, I recommend you skip the next few paragraphs. If you have experienced hunger, you will find it familiar but perhaps too painful to remember.

Have you ever been really hungry?

It isn’t what you expect. The first few days we ate what was left that was fresh. After that we went through the canned and dry goods. Water to drink or flush toilets required trips to the closest gas station or park to fill empty jugs. There was no way to cook perishables, so those were gone almost immediately. We were down to rice and water left in the sunshine, strategically placed on the car dash to keep bugs away. The sun will cook rice and noodles after a couple of hours this way. Then that, too, was gone.

Eleven days would pass from the day the electricity was cut until we had another reliable check due. Our late payments from clients arrived two days after that predictable one. Our health wasn’t good; no health insurance through several years of physical and emotional stress can do that to you. Doing without food for long stretches required managing diabetes and other issues.

We survived. We had nothing to eat and little water. The last couple of days we were cautious with water usage. We had to be vigilant since the car no longer had enough gas to get back from the gas station with more.

After days with little food, we had days more with none. At first we joked about our stomachs growling. My son joked that, after we had money again, we could move up to the same indoor plumbing the Romans had two thousand years ago. It seemed hilarious at the time. Many things seemed funny. Gallows humor, I guess.

Fatigue and anxiety were constants. I thought about going to a hospital but there was no money for that; it would have resulted in even more bills we couldn’t afford.

At one point I worried about what to do if one of us died. None of us wanted the others to die. We argued, when we had food still, about who should eat and who should not. My husband and I wanted my son to eat. He wanted us to eat. We all thought it would be better if we died so the others could live.

This is what true hunger does to families. It begins conversations that most people are loathe to consider. Most can’t even broach discussions of end-of-life, desire-for-a-natural-death issues when life is good. I worried about what to do with my corpse if I died, knowing that burial or cremation would be impossible financially. I felt helpless to prevent the expense of my death from leaving my family hungry for years beyond my leaving.

At a certain point, your stomach doesn’t growl any more. It stops gnawing at itself; the cramps go away. You stop going to the toilet; there is no longer anything inside your digestive system. Your skin dries to the point of cracking. With scarce water, feeling full by drinking isn’t an option.

It is difficult to contemplate the situation clearly and come up with a plan. I considered asking my neighbors for help but lacked the stamina to walk the 65 feet to their house.

Finally, we had money when our Social Security arrived. We had just enough gas to get to town.

Here’s what you might not know about being hungry: You can’t just start eating again.

You’re body has gone into survival mode. It cannot handle a sudden feast. Too much food right away will cause vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, and cramping. We knew this because of shorter stretches with little to eat.

It didn’t matter.

We were so hungry we ate a regular meal, not huge but regular size for us. It was a very unwise choice. For days we suffered even though we tried to be smarter and build up from very small portions to normal meals after that first indiscretion. The physical pain lasted for weeks; the emotional pain will never disappear.

I understand hunger. I do not pretend to understand what people living through famines face, the trauma to the families affected by that. But I think I understand better than some people in the United States do.

I hope my willingness to talk about this will make you think about how you can help. I hope you will begin to notice the out-of-work neighbor who seems to be getting rather thin. If you notice that your coworker seems never to eat at break or at lunch, maybe you could bring something to share. If the cucumbers in your garden produce abundantly, share with someone. Take them to a food distribution center that can accept them, or to a church that has a kitchen.

When someone asks if you know anyone who has ever really been hungry, I want you to remember what you read here today.

We can help each other. We can each do what we can, when we can, how we can. Every action matters.

I am forever grateful to those who helped us, some of whom still do today. I try to pass it along every chance I get.

  • * * *
As a writer and artist, I process life a bit differently from some people. This micro-fiction resulted from this experience in my life.

When the Time Comes

            Clinging to the porch rail and her husband’s hand, she stumbled down the steps. From the rooftop the vultures watched and waited to be fed. She was dying, slowly to be sure, but dying. He blamed himself because she could not see a doctor. The farm no longer supported them. There was no money to bury her when the time came. They both knew it. And so they fed the vultures.

Copyright, Melanie Arrowood Wilcox
  • * * *

http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-us/key-statistics-graphics.aspx#verylow

https://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty-guidelines

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/08/140818-hu

nger-feeding-america-food-banks-aid-charities-meals-ngfood/

http://endhunger.org/

https://www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-hunger-us

http://thehungersite.greatergood.com/clickToGive/ths/hunger-in-the-us

http://ncfoodbanks.org/hunger-in-north-carolina/

 

 

Issues 2016–April ( 2nd post: A response to HB2)

I believe in love. I believe that life is easier if we love one another.  

With all the bitterness and anger in North Carolina about House Bill 2 (HB2), a darkness has descended on my heart. I am appalled by the guile used by our General Assembly and Governor to accomplish this without advance notice of the bill’s consideration. I am astounded by the lack of shame on the part of those people who were elected to represent the majority’s wishes.

Most disturbing to me is the willingness to use this hateful action to hide attempts to take away the ability of local governments to reflect the wishes of their citizens, to keep wages low, and to allow discrimination based on religion, gender, sexual orientation, race, and other personal characteristics that is forbidden by the United States Constitution and subsequent legal precedents.

Creating a class of people who can be mistreated, whose needs can be ignored, is wrong. This is often the first step for dictators, megalomaniacs, and mad men.  The appeal of this to the most base of human behaviors is undeniable; it has proven an effective tool for creating division among people. Division is necessary to control large populations. This is a fundamental aspect of coup d’état and warfare.

Unfortunately, this sort of legalized, socially-approved discrimination has the support of many religious and political groups. But I know of few religious figures, past or present, who encourage their followers to play the role of deity. Most seem to require acceptance, compassion, and cooperation.  Judgment of one another isn’t conducive to any of those rules for a civil society.

People wanting to care for each other, wanting to live honestly rather than suppressing who they are, and wanting to be respected or shunned based on what Martin Luther King, Jr., referred to so eloquently as “the content of their character,” seem like honorable desires.  How many among us don’t wish for the same things?

Lion, lamb, and angel. Copyright, Melanie Arrowood Wilcox
Lion, lamb, and angel.
Copyright, Melanie Arrowood Wilcox

I wish we could show love to one another. Love is worthy. Love for each other as brothers and sisters is to be cherished. Love as lifelong companions is rare, so rare that few are able to sustain those relationships for more than a few years. If people want to try, who are we to stop them?

For those so cold-hearted that only money matters, I would point out that people who love one another usually take care of each other’s needs. On the ledgers of government, that means we don’t have to pay to support some who are ill, alone, aged, disabled, or simply poor. Encouraging love saves money.

I believe in love.  I believe that love can save us, individually and collectively. I have come to understand  that when love isn’t easy, we can use “act as if we love” to sustain us until it is less troublesome.  It may be difficult to love the cranky two-year-old, the distant and rebellious teenager, the workaholic spouse, or the neighbor who looks different from us and behaves in ways we don’t comprehend.

If we believe in love, we must act as if we do even when it is difficult. That doesn’t mean we have to lie about our confusion or distrust. It does mean we must try to show the acceptance, compassion, and cooperation that civility requires of us.

I believe in love.

I hope you do too.

Shared Wisdom–April 2016

Copyright, Melanie Arrowood Wilcox
Copyright, Melanie Arrowood Wilcox

The depth of darkness to which you can descend and still live is an exact measure of the height to which you can aspire to reach.

–Pliny the Elder

All great artists draw from the same resource: the human heart, which tells us that we are all more alike than we are unalike.

–Maya Angelou

Issues 2016–April

MASS TRANSIT, OR HOW WE GET FROM HERE TO THERE AND BACK AGAIN

The elections have me thinking about what could be done to actually improve life for the majority of people. There are many big issues that I will probably discuss here in the next few months.

Today, though, I will talk about a big issue that isn’t on a scale to get into many of the political party platforms.

I think improving mass transit options would help us advance on many fronts.

Mass transit enhances lives by providing transportation to necessary services and opportunities. It puts more time into each person’s day to be spent with family or at work or school.

 

  1. It lets people who cannot drive or cannot afford vehicles seek employment and get to work.

Additionally, it provides access to medical care unavailable in smaller communities. It lets people take advantage of educational opportunities, including libraries and on-site training.

To some extent, it addresses issues such as food deserts, exercise and play opportunities, and child care.

Alternative transportation, such as trolleys or trams that carry a couple of people or up to three dozen individuals, could be sent into rural areas where larger buses and trains do not provide service. These would be especially useful to permit disabled or elderly people to remain in their homes.

  1. It frees up time for people who so often are tempted to use cell phones to text and talk while driving. This could reduce accidents due to distracted driving. For that matter, it might reduce accidents caused by driver impairment or excessive speed.
  2. It could reduce the number of vehicles on the road, including older ones that tend to do more environmental damage. This could reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
  3. It reduces the cost of maintenance of the highways needed to handle large traffic volume. The cost of maintenance would be more predictable and, most likely, somewhat lower.
  4. This would also be a good time to incorporate solar highway technology, such as that used in Europe, into road construction. Street lights could also make better use of solar technology, as could any parking structures and buildings. Green building techniques, incorporating small gardens or break areas, could also be included in the designs.
  5. It would initially create jobs constructing new infrastructure such as regional hubs for trains and buses and subways. These hubs would need parking areas for the vehicles of those using the mass transit options. Shelters for those waiting for buses or trains would also be needed.
  6. Parking lot security guards and attendants would be required 24/7/365 to keep vehicles and people safe and to provide access to vehicles when people return from their journeys. These would be permanent positions.

In addition to mass transit, we need to encourage healthy alternative personal transport. To that end, I strongly support other changes.

  1. New rural and suburban roads should all have bike and pedestrian lanes as well as places to store bicycles while at one’s destination. Existing roads should be brought to these standards over time, not to exceed ten years.
  2. Urban streets should all have bike lanes and sidewalks as well as bicycle storage facilities.
  3. Training for riding bicycles lawfully and safely should be part of early childhood education. This would fit with most physical education programs.

Issues 2016–March

I hate election season.

Mostly I hate that there is no ‘season’ about elections. There used to be. Mostly it was limited to the last year of the presidential election, with a few months around mid-terms.

Now, there is not a non-election season or year. Campaigning occurs year-round. Nothing gets done because politicians are always fundraising or promoting their superiority over their potential opponents. They draw lines in the sand and dare each other to cross them. I seriously doubt most of them have ever stopped to think about what they are suggesting. If their family lives are anything like their political strategies, I suggest they look for a family therapist or a family law attorney post-haste.

The rest of us, the ‘citizens,’ get emails daily from parties and causes. Mostly it is one or two a day building to a crescendo in the last year before the election.

I had 81 emails this morning, all to be instantly deleted because they were from politicians wanting my money. Hello, out there. I have no money because you folks aren’t doing your jobs. The nation needs to look forward and show concern for its citizens. You are focused on the past and deciding who is good enough, or perhaps rich enough, to deserve your concern. I would derive some unseemly, yes, but honest joy if I could see most of you fired for incompetence.

The handful of emails that really are interesting or important almost disappear in the flood.

I may have to get off email altogether for at least a few days each week for the sake of my sanity.

"Toothless" under the dash 2015 Copyright Melanie Arrowood Wilcox
“Toothless” under the dash
2015
Copyright Melanie Arrowood Wilcox