Category Archives: Greatest Generation, Boomers, Millennials, Alphabets

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?

Homelessness, Drugs, and Purpose

The battle lines are drawn in Seattle, a ferry ride and an hour or so away from where I live. On one side are those who wish to remove Seattle’s growing homeless camps. On the other side are those who argue for the camps as necessary in a city with sky high rents and inadequate resources for dealing with mental illness and addiction.

Some of the homeless are responsible citizens with jobs but inadequate salaries to afford the high rents. Others have lost jobs through no fault of their own, victims of medical misfortune or of jobs lost in a changing economy.

Others are homeless because they are mentally ill, suffering from diseases such as schizophrenia. The state of Washington, through budget slashing, has seriously eroded the state’s ability to care for victims of mental illness.

The most difficult homeless are those addicted to alcohol and other drugs. These are the homeless that neighborhoods fear: the addicts who shoot up, dropping needles behind as dangers to children and other innocents; who camp on public spaces, leaving them trashed and unfit for human use; who attract drug dealers and turn neighborhoods into drug bazaars and sometimes murder scenes.

Dealing with addiction is surely complex and difficult. Any person under the terrible pull of drugs no doubt needs a strong purpose to conquer their awful hold: Family? A place of service? A pet to love?

If I had a loved one on drugs, I don’t think I’d want them living in a homeless camp. I’d want them removed to a safe place with supervision to help them find a way, a purpose for choosing a better life.

Safe spaces to rehabilitate require money, tax money. Cutting taxes may be a campaign pleaser, but sometimes cutting taxes means we pay higher costs down the road in wasted human lives and neighborhoods.

What’s So Great About the Forty-Hour Work Week?

My current work in progress is the third in a series. A new mother puts her career on hold to start her children “on the right path,” as well as provide a break from her stressful job. Now she’s going back to work, and her husband is considering taking off a couple of years from his career to parent them full time until they’re a little older.

The career theme pops up in my writing, both blogs and novels.

I keep returning to the need many of us have, whether parents or not, to take a rest from our careers. We want to do something different or pursue an idea or take care of others. The sabbatical is a part of some professions because it is deemed worthwhile.

Obviously, barriers prevent most working people from taking sabbaticals. Money is the main obstacle. A single person needs a hefty bank account, usually impossible for most singles without a spouse to back them up. And even couples struggle on one income, with rents or house payments taking a significant percentage of their earnings.

Second is the impossibility for most folks of having a job waiting, certainly the same job, if they decide to take a “sabbatical.” The work must go on. Somebody must do it. Employers may also see a request for a year or so of leave as evidence of laziness or lack of dedication. Certainly, it rarely makes the supervisory job easier.

Also one must consider career advancement. Leaving for a year or two or more can put one behind the power curve for career development.

We need new career models, not the one formed during the suburban decades of post World War II, centered on the single male breadwinner.

Innovative employers could consider changes in career models. Now that we live longer, some of that longer retirement could be used in the middle of life rather than all on the elderly side. Employees might work more years if they have breaks in between paid work. “Retirement” might come to mean merely a longer break.

Another Shooting, Closer to Home This Time

A young man, apparently angry at being dumped by his girl friend, killed her and two other young people and seriously wounded a fourth. This one took place only a ferry ride away from where I live.

According to reports, when his girl friend did not agree to restart their relationship, the young man purchased an AK-15 assault rifle and a manual on how to use it. He later returned for more ammunition.

At a gathering of alumni of a local high school, the young man saw his former girl friend with another man.

He returned to his car and studied the manual. Then he came back to the gathering with the AK-15 and shot his former girl friend and others that he knew as they ran for cover. The police later caught him as he sped down Interstate I-5.

Young men have always had trouble controlling jealousy. Before, they broke up parties with fist fights. Why does any young man, too young to legally purchase a six pack of beer, now choose an assault rifle to vent his anger?