Category Archives: Greatest Generation, Boomers, Millennials, Alphabets

How Many Pulitzer Prizes Has Twitter Won?

Facebook, Google, and Twitter face scrutiny over Russian infiltration of social media to influence the 2016 U.S. elections.

Do we actually depend on Facebook, Google, and Twitter for news and analysis? If so, we deserve the less than stellar candidates recently elected to public office.

I connect with friends on Facebook, use search engines to aid research, and tweet my blogs over Twitter. For news and analysis, I read reputable newspapers and magazines. Most can be read online as well as in print.

What does reputable mean? Judgement by peers is one measure, like winning a Pulitzer Prize. Editors, publishers, writers, and educators gather each year at Columbia University to judge entries for the prizes.

According to the Pulitzer website, entries “may be made by any individual based on material coming from a United States newspaper, magazine or news site that publishes regularly during the calendar year and adheres to the highest journalistic principles.”

Prizes are awarded in many categories. Recent awards were given for investigations of abuse of power, analysis of the opioid tragedy, exploration of hidden tax havens, and a host of others.

In other words, the reporters investigated. They didn’t depend on unsubstantiated rumors. Editors checked facts.

The founders of the republic were under no illusion that simply holding elections would, by itself, safeguard the nation. For it to survive and flourish, the citizens had to be informed.

Information will not come in a few digital bytes. Only dedicated digging can keep tabs on politicians, business interests, cultural movements, and other complexities of our postmodern world.

Opioid Plague: Searching for Spiritual Answers?

Dr. Thomas Andrew, at age 60, is changing his profession from medical examiner to that of minister. As medical examiner for New Hampshire, he’s appalled by the mushrooming number of deaths from drug overdoses for which he’s had to perform autopsies.

He’s planning to enter the ministry as a chaplain under the United Methodist Church. After watching the drug toll mount, Dr. Andrew, in the words of a newspaper article, “wants to try, in his own small way, to stop it.” (The Seattle Times, “Opioid deaths are taking a toll on medical examiners’ offices,” October 8, 2017).

Maybe Dr. Andrew has hit on an answer too little tried in our horror at what can only be called a moral epidemic. We plead with young people and others to save themselves from drugs, to enter rehabilitation programs, to think about what the drugs are doing to them.

Maybe getting people off drugs is not merely to keep drugs from harming them. Perhaps it’s also because, if they destroy themselves, they deprive their communities of their gifts.

Their job is to find their purpose in life, to discover their particular talents and skills, to explore ways to serve. In other words, to understand that they don’t exist for themselves alone.

Bring Your Pets to Work; How About Your Children?

A shopping section of one newspaper featured equipment a pet owner might want for taking their pet with them to their workplace. Suggestions for the growing pet-to-work movement included a pet carrier, collapsible feeding dishes, and a portable paw washer.

Anyone who’s loved a pet can understand the satisfaction of a pet’s affection and how the pet’s presence might contribute to less stress in the work place.

Animals now are used in some prisons to teach inmates responsibility as they provide care for a living creature dependent on them. Hospitals use pets to relieve tension of patients preparing for medical procedures. Sometimes animals are part of mental health programs.

Might parents also profit by having their infants and young children close by as they work?

Small humans present certain challenges, of course. They sometimes cry and want to be picked up no matter what other responsibilities the worker parent has. They have to be changed and fed, not always on schedule. As they begin to crawl, they are apt to pick up small items off the floor and attempt to swallow them. They constantly explore. Trash baskets and reachable desk drawers are a treasure trove.

One solution might be close-at-hand children’s centers. Parents could stop by on breaks and spend a few minutes. They might eat lunch with them or perhaps put them down for a nap.

Our separation of work and home, beginning with the industrial age, separated mothers from economic production. It also separated fathers from their children. Perhaps bringing children closer to workplaces might lessen both problems.

Personal Tragedy Becomes National Tragedy: We Can’t Work Because We’re Addicted

“The Columbiana Boiler Company [in Youngstown, Ohio] forgoes roughly $200,000 worth of orders each quarter because workers can’t pass drug screenings.”

The New York Times, as reported in The Seattle Times, July 30, 2017

For several years, we’ve read about the opioid epidemic, the drug abuse that kills young people in unprecedented numbers, especially in states like Ohio and West Virginia. Drug users have so increased in number that large segments of the young adult population cannot qualify for good jobs.

Working class jobs, we read, are disappearing. Yet, available jobs are going unfilled, because “too many applicants—nearly half, in some cases—fail a drug test.”

The risk with drug abusers is the higher possibility of accidents related to their addiction. Accidents may result in fellow workers being killed and maimed. The company cannot hire them. It loses work to foreign companies because those countries have a better labor pool, apparently with less drug abuse.

States now rush to pass laws legalizing cannabis because pot has become a part of the culture. The reasons behind legalization are understandable. Law enforcement officers are stretched thin to fight opioid use, much less cannabis.

Yet cannabis also interferes with a worker’s ability to produce. Why did pot suddenly come on the scene? Why did Americans need a new pleasure drug?

Communal drinking has been around since grapes were first fermented. But today’s drinking has gone beyond a few beers around a television while watching a football game. It’s become more than enjoying a satisfying wine to enhance a meal.

Party goers now drink in order to get drunk. Unlike countries such as Great Britain, where the public takes more seriously the ban against driving under the influence, car-dependent Americans think nothing of driving away inebriated from the bar or the party, their judgement seriously impaired.

Why do we feel such a need for that which destroys us? It’s a question we should all be asking.

What Is the Alt-Right and Why Did the Largest Protestant Denomination in the United States Denounce It?

“Resolved, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, June 13-14, 2017, decry every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy, as antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ; . . . ”

Thus, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States announced itself against alt-right white supremacy.

What is the alt-right?

The Seattle Times defined the alt-right, or alternative right, as “a loosely defined far-right movement associated with white nationalism, racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and a desire to keep the United States a majority white country.” (November 29, 2016, “What Is the ‘alt-right’?”)

Why did Southern Baptist delegates from an evangelical denomination vote as they did? The denomination was founded in 1845 partly because of issues over slavery, some leaders at the time espousing slavery as supported by biblical texts.

However, in recent years, Southern Baptists have begun dealing with their past history. In 1995, they apologized for their role in supporting slavery. The convention now includes more non-white members.

No doubt a more diverse membership contributed to passage of the resolution. One of the bulwarks of the evangelical belief of Southern Baptists is that people can repent and change.

Hallelujah.

Safe Places

What if girls and young women at risk of unwanted pregnancies found safe places to gather and grow? What if such places offered guidance often missing in dysfunctional families? What if they provided an alternative to all that advertising suggesting that a woman’s only concern is attracting a male?

If those at risk could gather in safe places, they might discover a more mature vision of their purpose. They might find practical help—with their homework, with ideas for careers, with the motivation to set goals for their lives.

Older women could tell stories about finding their place in life and their need for maturity before allowing males into their lives. They could model motherhood as a responsible choice.

Working with young women before an unwanted pregnancy might bring together both sides on the abortion issue.

Why Did Women Vote for Trump?

About forty-one percent of women voted for Trump in the November election, according to numbers from The Washington Post.

Why would a significant percentage of women vote for Trump, despite his recorded remarks toward females which many consider sexist and disparaging?

Why would they not vote for Clinton, a woman who surely epitomizes women’s search for respectability and equal status with men?

For professional women, Clinton is a role model. But many women in the United States, just like many men in the United States, are not professionals. They work at their jobs because they need the money to live.

Such women might be interested in equal pay, but their careers, as for some men, are not geared toward success in the professional sense.

Many men and woman yearn for a past time, sometimes mythical, but whose loss they feel. Just as numbers of working white men are angered at the loss of well-paying jobs, so some women are angered at feeling pushed toward the career model when they really prefer more time at home tending to family or engaged in community service.

Not all women are interested in crashing the glass ceiling or working at high stress careers. Some prefer part time work after the children are past the toddler years. Their main focus is still on their families, (including aging parents) as well as religious and community service. The high cost of living in today’s world creates barriers against this kind of life.

Of course, many men might wish for more time off to be with family. Some men and women are not drawn to the role model of the elite professional, though it is a commendable goal for many. It just isn’t the goal for all men and women.

The irony is that Clinton favored more family leave and other family-focused policies. Is the new administration aware of the need for such policies?

Homelessness Is No Community

Writing in First Things (“Homeless,” June/July 2016), R.R. Remo talks of the homelessness felt by so many in today’s world. The obvious homeless increasingly sleep on streets or in encampments in U.S. cities. The refugees flooding into Europe are homeless, as are many who cross national borders in North America.

Homelessness is not limited to the physically homeless. People drift spiritually from communities that sheltered them in the past. Old beliefs are called into question.

Even the well off may lead rootless lives, leaving little room for lifelong friendships or family support. As couples increasingly have only one child or no children, terms like aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, and cousins pass from use. Our connections tend to be temporary.

Rootlessness affects our political situation also, Remo says. “Rejecting established leaders, voters who feel abandoned are vulnerable to manipulation.” They may flee to “strong men who promise protection.”

How fight homelessness? Solutions require some exchange of self interest and the acceptance of risk for the sake of entering into community, including communities of family, faith, neighborhood, and even addiction recovery.

What Happens if the Jobs We Want to “Bring Back” No Longer Exist?

Years ago I worked for the Coca-Cola Company at its headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. The company gave an orientation tour for the new employees. As part of the tour, we visited a Coca-Cola bottling plant.

I was amazed at the small number of workers employed in the plant. A few people tended the bottling machines. Since then, even more manufacturing jobs in diverse industries have been lost to machines.

We can talk about bringing jobs back from overseas. Indeed, transportation costs and other factors have led some U.S. companies to return operations to the States. However, they may be employing less workers than before due to the machines that have taken over.

Jon Talton, writing in The Seattle Times (November 27, 2016), observes: “. . . so much manufacturing is automated today. In 1980, generating $1 million in manufacturing output took 25 workers. Now it takes about 6.5.”

The five fastest growing jobs listed in the Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook are wind turbine service technicians, occupational therapy assistants, physical therapist assistants, physical therapist aides, and home health aides. As you can see, technician and service occupations predominate.

Changing our work force for today’s jobs will require more than bringing back “manufacturing jobs.” Our work force needs job training, and it will need continuous training.

Actually Leaving Facebook?

A news columnist, Froma Harrop, announced her intention to leave Facebook. She’s leaving because she believes Facebook has become a platform for fake news.

At the same time, Mark Zuckerberg, head of Facebook, has posted (on Facebook) an announcement that his company is acting to curb false news stories. It is, he said, developing new tools to detect and classify “misinformation.” Further, he has said, the company won’t accept adds that are “illegal, misleading or deceptive.”

Possibly the problem is with the “friends” concept. Facebook may fit comfortably among a group of actual friends, brought together by some kind of kinship. It runs aground when it becomes an advertising center for businesses or political parties. Calling customers or potential voters our “friends,” when we do not even know them, degrades the word.

For the moment, I am still on Facebook. I have decided, however, that I will not like or click approval of any product or any unknown opinion piece. In fact, I will limit my viewing to personal notes from actual friends. And my time on Facebook will be minimal.

An Absence of Caregivers

Humans are dependent on others to care for them for the first several years of their existence. In addition, independent citizens can become dependent through sickness, old age, or misfortune.

Caregiving is as necessary for a society to function as are healthy political and economic systems.

In our justifiable concern with women’s rights, we have too often forgotten the caregiving performed by women over millennia. We made inadequate provision for it in the new system.

In the rush to give women the right to be “more” than mothers, we forgot the damage done to society when fathers neglect to be fathers. Children growing up without fathers compensate in often damaging actions, from drugs to gangs. We need both parents.

In a sense, mothers have followed fathers into a life not healthy for either parent. Both, in the words of Erika Bachiochi have chosen “to compete on a playing field designed for the unencumbered.” (“Embodied Caregiving,,” First Things; October 2016.)

For those who choose to be caregivers, what help do we offer them? Help may mean longer paid leaves, or part time work, or permission to drop out of a career for a while.

Caregivers need time more than any other gift, time to shape children’s lives and to provide services for the aged and the sick and the broken.

Decreasing the Demand Side of Abortion

No subject divides Americans like the abortion issue. David P. Gushee, a Mercer University professor, discussed abortion in a November, 2016, Sojourners article.

Since World War II, Gushee writes, “all kinds of factors have conspired . . . to create a society whose conditions constitute a perfect storm for abortion.”

Young adults need more years for education and training. Parents are less able to supervise dating partners for their children. From the age of sixteen or before, young adults have access to automobiles. Changing attitudes toward morality are evident in the films we see and the books we read.

We have Gushee says, “a culture deeply dependent on abortion.” Our efforts, then, should go toward preventing, as Gushee says, “that miserable drive to the abortion clinic,” a decision after the fact of pregnancy.

We could recognize valid needs on both sides of the abortion equation. One side sees an act requiring both a man and a woman, yet whose consequences are often borne by the woman alone. The man can walk away with his wombless body, back to his career and even to another woman, unencumbered by life within him.

Others ask: If it’s okay to stop life in the womb because it’s inconvenient, why is it not okay to take any life that’s inconvenient? Why do some accept abortion in general but become incensed with sex-selective abortion? Isn’t all life valuable?

Both groups might question why, in a time when women in developed countries now have many choices, we appeared fixated on two individuals and their attraction to each other without any care for the wider community.

What about the importance of goals, purpose, and meaning, especially for young women?