Tag Archives: Ann Gaylia O’Barr

No Consideration for Disruption to Lives, Families, Employers, Communities . . .

No consideration was given “to the disruption . . . on the lives of Daca recipients, let alone their families, employers and employees, schools and communities . . . ”

The quote is from a ruling by a federal judge staying Trump’s order to end the DACA program until the courts complete a proper review of the order.

DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) permitted the “Dreamers” to remain in this country to study and work. Dreamers are young people brought to the United States as children, who have grown up in this country.

The judge’s ruling highlights the upheaval caused by other sudden orders to deport thousands of people established for years in the United States.

These include certain Nicaraguans and Haitians. These groups were allowed to remain in this country for humanitarian reasons when natural disasters devastated their homelands.

Despite the hardship caused by Trump’s orders to the people involved (as well as the countries they would return to) many who voted for Trump support him.

I understand the broken immigration system this country has had for decades. Assigned to U.S. embassies and consulates overseas, I saw its shortcomings in the lives of the people we met every day in our work.

However, the harming of law abiding, productive members of American communities is a horrible start to immigration reform.

Frankly, My Dear, I Don’t Give a Hoot

Actually, the long suffering and finally fed up Rhett Butler said to Scarlett O’Hara at the end of Gone With the Wind: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

The word “damn” was effective because, at the time, swear words were not part of the public vocabulary as they are today. Rhett’s speech now would be about as noticeable as a car passing on the street.

As we all know, our language has been upended. So called swear words and terms for bodily fluids and intimate acts are common in both our movies and our written literature.

No doubt we bid good riddance to the faux courtesy of earlier days, as well as the racism embedded in Gone With the Wind.

However, our greater honesty is threatened with a vocabulary that is as enlightening as an overflowing sewer.

To use demeaning words prevents us from discussing a topic in meaningful terms. To claim, for example, that either proponents or opponents of the recently passed tax laws are covered in excrement kills true discussion.

We might, instead, say that we favor the law because we believe it will boost the economy with money saved from taxation. Or we might oppose the law because we believe it taxes middle class income while leaving too much wealth untaxed.

Some of our current speech is too often undisciplined blather against people who bother us. Or it flows out against those who happen to be in our space.

Purposeless language aiming merely to shock is like the empty calories of junk food.

Judges: Just Another Political Game?

“The prospect of more ideological and active conservative judges is not intrinsically bad. The federal courts look stronger for including a range of legal philosophies. The problem is that conservatives are not striving for balance, but conquest.”

      –The Economist, (September 25, 2017), commenting on what it considers the politicizing of judicial nominees.

Federal judges in the United States are appointed by the president for life, subject to the approval of the Senate. The goal is for judges to be impervious to political pressure, judging impartially without worrying about the next election,

Nevertheless, the appointment of federal judges has become more politically motivated than ever in the last few years.

Refusing to approve presidential choices for federal judges in the last year of Obama’s presidency reached record highs. This practice is not new, but the number of times it was done is unprecedented.

President Trump, now enabled to appoint a large number of vacant judgeships, has shown less regard for experienced judges than any recent president. The process has come to resemble the questionable practice of appointing ambassadors for campaign contributions.

Political ambassadors, however, only serve until the next president takes office, not for life.

Since his political party controls the Senate, the issue of partisanship in the appointment of federal judges is theirs to support or to end. If they choose to act for party and not for country, we will suffer the consequences for decades.

Politics and the Spiritual Journey

“The Republican Party’s political sellout to Donald Trump—and the Democrats’ lack of a clear moral alternative many people of faith are excited to support—leave many of us feeling politically homeless.” (Jim Wallis, “Politically Homeless,” Sojo.net, 4 January 2018)

The growth in independent voters who reject any political party is parallel to the growth of the “nones” in religious affiliation.

Sexual misconduct has toppled both political and religious figures. Corruption has touched politicians as well as spiritual leaders.

But power politics tempts the voter and the religious follower as well as their leaders. Especially in a democracy, one is tempted to believe that the election of a political party will bring us the perfect society we desire.

From protection of unborn babies to protection of natural resources, one is tempted to believe that a particular party will make it happen.

Yet individual choices determine a society’s level of compassion and justice and discipline. The care, or lack of, we exhibit toward our families and friends and neighbors influences more than leadership.

Certainly we stand in awe of our democratic institutions. Refusal to carry out our civic privileges is both foolish and irresponsible.

However, the individual spiritual journey each of us makes—and how well we encourage this journey in others—determines the direction of our society.

Men at Home

Until the industrial age, women’s contribution to the economic well being of their families was as important as that of men. They worked on farms and in home based shops and businesses along with their fathers and brothers and husbands. In addition, children knew their fathers on a close, daily basis.

With the industrial age, work and home began to separate. Men went off to factories and city offices. Women stayed home to raise the children. Women were separated from the economic function, but men were separated from the home.

In the past few decades, women entered the economic sphere once again. However, the separation between home and work continues, for the most part, with too many fathers absent from close contact with their families.

Here and there, the digital age brings changes. Some businesses operate from private homes. Some corporation employees work partly from their homes.

Still, family remains an afterthought in our current life. The career person, man or woman, is in the spotlight—often portrayed as a gung-ho, get-it-done, partying millennial.

We lack, though, a work environment that allows home and work to more closely align.

No one supposes that every man and woman should become a parent. However, it’s to our benefit to create a society that allows its citizens (men and women) to choose both family and career if they wish.

In fact, our survival depends on birthing and raising responsible offspring more than it does on any career.

Whatever Happened to Puerto Rico?

We haven’t heard much lately about the hurricane damage in Puerto Rico. Maybe by the time Hurricane Maria devastated the island, we were bored with hurricane coverage.

After all, we had already followed Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Irma in Florida. Time to switch to more cheerful stuff, perhaps the latest breakup of a celebrity couple or our Facebook accounts of what we ate for lunch.

Bill McKibben, writing in Sojourners (‘Earth’s New Vulnerabilities,” December, 2017), recounts some of the devastation in Puerto Rico we may not have noticed. “Gone were airports and roads. Eighty percent of the island’s crops were destroyed . . . Almost all the cell towers. . . . Electricity was suddenly a thing of the past . . . Modernity retreats.”

To be sure, the aftermath of all three major U.S. hurricanes, not to mention the wildfires in California, strain our resources.

McKibben draws a deeper lesson. “We’re starting to realize how unbuffered the whole planet is . . . everywhere new vulnerabilities emerge almost daily.”

He calls on us to “staunch the flow of carbon into the atmosphere. Maria is what happens with 1 degree Celsius of global warming. We’re currently on a path for an increase of 3 to 4 degrees Celsius. That would be enough to join the whole planet in a community of collapse.”

Anybody for bringing back those forbidden words “climate change”?

The Hunger Games: When People Are Desperate

Early in the first book of The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take the place of her younger sister, Prim. In a post apocalyptic North America, Prim is marked by a “reaping” ceremony.

The ceremony chooses youth to participate in an obscene game where desperate teenagers are forced to kill each other for the amusement of a corrupt empire’s elites. (The series alludes to the “bread and circus” of the Roman Empire’s arena games.)

As Katniss ignites a resistance movement, she becomes the symbol of a downtrodden people finally rebelling against the sins of a bloated, selfish aristocracy.

In one scene, an old man defiantly raises his hand in the salute that came to define those resisting evil. He would be killed and so would many others, as the elite answered with the only weapon they knew—physical power.

But his defiance is a beginning.

Another scene begins with only a muttering, barely discernable. Then figures rise out of the mist, marching to what they know will be death for many of them. But they are desperate.

They carry their explosives toward a huge hydroelectric dam. They are not so much attacking people, though the structure’s guards will die in the dam’s rupture.

They are attacking a symbol of an evil wealth built on the backs of forgotten, powerless poor.

They march on, their front ranks decimated by the guards’ firing, but eventually their sheer numbers prevail. They set their explosives and try to escape, but regardless, the timers have been set.

The dam explodes, and in the capital, haunt of the wealthy, the lights go out.

The theme of The Hunger Games is not new: a people may overcome when hope ignites enough willingness to suffer for a greater good. The old narrative of helpless people resisting the overlordship of a corrupt elite entices us with its stark portrayal of injustice.

I’m uneasy with the violence of the series, if violence is intended as the ultimate answer to wrongs. Nonviolence, a part of countless protests from the American civil rights movement to others in eastern European countries and other parts of the world, mark a higher way to resist evil.

This kind of resistance wishes not to demonize but rather to change both powerful and powerless.

Needed: Another Miracle to Stave off a Nuclear Winter

If you look at photos of Daniel Ellsberg and the events surrounding the release of the Pentagon Papers in 1967, you first note the dated clothes and the men with longish hair and sideburns, but clean shaven faces.

The Pentagon Papers were the result of a top secret study of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Before the war’s end, over 500,000 American troops would be sent to that South Asian nation. Ellsberg had worked on the study and came to believe his country had wrongly chosen military action. Not only that, he believed the government had withheld disturbing facts about our involvement, facts which would cause the public to push for withdrawal.

So he released the results to The New York Times, who began publishing them in a series of articles.

The Department of Justice issued a restraining order against further publication. The newspaper argued the case before the Supreme Court. The court ruled in favor of the Times. Release of the material was justified under the U.S. Constitutional amendment guaranteeing freedom of the press.

A new movie, The Post, recounts that episode.

Ellsberg today continues his tradition as gadfly. In a new book, The Doomsday Machine, Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, Ellsberg reveals plans for nuclear war carried out under former President Dwight Eisenhower, now seeing new life under President Donald Trump.

In an article in Sojourners (“It’s a Miracle We’re Still Here,” January, 2018), Ellsberg is interviewed by James W. Douglass, a peace activist. Ellsberg talks of nuclear madness.

He says the activation of nuclear war today would cause near-extinction of life on earth. Regardless of the nuclear destruction, Ellsberg says, the resulting ash in the stratosphere would doom most, if not all, of earthly life.

Said Ellsberg: “It will be a miracle if we get through another 70 years without setting these weapons off again on humans . . .”

Alluding to the previous miracle that staved off nuclear war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, Ellsberg continues, “It will take a miracle for the transformation in the world to take place for another 70 years. But fortunately miracles are possible . . . ”

Freedom of Religion: the Right to Choose

Freedom of religion is based on the right to choose your faith community, that is, to associate with those who share your spiritual journey.

Freedom of religion is not something that began with the U.S. Constitution. The Roman Empire generally accepted the right of its subject populations to practice whatever religious beliefs they chose, so long as they did not appear to threaten the empire.

The Jewish Jehovah God was intimately bound to his people, caring for them and demanding a certain standard from them. Prophets tied the worship of God to justice and special concern for the vulnerable. God required his people to worship him and him alone, but the rest of the world could go its own way, as long as no other nation interfered with the Jewish worship of their God.

With Christianity and Islam, a different outlook emerged. At first, Christians saw the gospel as good news to be proclaimed, but they sought no political power. Only later did political leaders try to fuse Christianity with governing authority. This joining led to a perverted view of Christianity as simply one more lever of power.

Islam, the other evangelistic religion, conquered lands for their religion but generally allowed Christians and Jews to live in their own religious communities so long as they paid a tax for the privilege. Unlike Christianity, Islam was from the beginning a state religion.

Lands influenced by Christianity began to see the value of individuals choosing their own religious communities or no community. Christianity was a religion of the heart, not of an external state. Christianity shook off the shackles of Christendom.

When a religion—any religion—begins to force itself on those who wish to believe otherwise, that religion begins to lose its moral authority. When religion must force itself onto a society, it has failed.

Our New Science: “Science in consideration with community standards and wishes.”

Observers have noted the removal of the term “climate change” from certain government websites. According to reports on CNN (December 8, 2017), even a story about progress made by the Environmental Protection Agency in their use of renewable energy has been scrubbed.

Are we to conclude that the use of renewable energy is some kind of harmful practice?

Apparently, many terms are joining “renewable energy” as forbidden words.

At the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “evidence based” or “science based” are also verboten. (Lena H. Sun, Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post, reported in The Seattle Times, December 17, 2017)

Findings of the CDC now aren’t “evidence-based” or “science-based.” Its recommendations are based “on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.”

Does that mean even if scientific studies point to a certain practice being harmful, they are not going to be reported if they offend a community? Whether something offends “a community” is now going to be our standard?

And which communities will be considered?

If reports citing harm caused by the burning of fossil fuels offend the community of oil and gas companies, are those reports not supposed to be published?

Might we suspect that communities of the biggest political donors will be the ones considered?

Holiday Libations

Writers and other artists have a reputation for drinking a lot. Maybe the artistic culture has more drunkards or maybe its members just write more about it.

Szilvia Molnar, a publishing professional, wrote about the importance of drinking within the writing/publishing world. ( “On Book Publishing’s Drinking Culture,” Literary Hub, 6 December 2017)

Though Molnar has no problems with drinking per se, she said she recently recognized “while it’s not been difficult for me to turn down a drink when I’ve not wanted one, it’s only recently that I don’t feel embarrassed by not drinking at all.”

It’s a high school mentality, she writes, that one must have a drink in order to fit in.

She indulges in a few whimsical imaginings: “ . . . what if we incorporated a little nonsense juice-bonanza into our social events? What if we performed delicate tea ceremonies or got really wild and crazy about latte art? Or ended a reading with a meditation rather than an open bar?”

Caveat: Like Molnar, I don’t have a problem with responsible drinkers. I don’t drink alcohol for a number of reasons, one being that breast cancer has appeared in many females on my mother’s side, and studies indicate that drinking alcohol may increase the odds of developing it.

Besides, I fulfill two services to society. One: Recovering alcoholics don’t have to stand out for refusing to drink if I’m around. Two: I’m always available as the designated driver.

How Many Pieces of the Economic Pie Do You Get?

Among rich nations of the world, “The top 1 percent in the U.S. own a much larger share of the country’s wealth than the 1 percent elsewhere.”

Christopher Ingraham quoted that statistic in a Washington Post article. (“Wealth gap widens between rich, everyone else,” reprinted in The Seattle Times, 10 Dec 2017.)

To aid our understanding, Ingraham proposed an illustration: Represent all the citizens of the United States as 100 people, divvying up an economic pie that is cut into 100 equal pieces.

Most Americans do not want a society in which everyone receives exactly the same amount—each receiving one piece of the pie. Most want more rewards going to those who work harder, for example.

Ingraham quoted a survey to find out how people thought such a pie should be divided. The survey asked respondents to divide the population into five groups by descending order of income. Then they divided the 100-piece pie among the five groups according to what they thought was fair.

Results: The wealthiest 20 percent of society would get nearly one-third of the pie; the next group about a fifth of the pie; the third group also would receive about a fifth; the next group would get 13 percent of the pie; the bottom group would get 11 percent.

In other words, “. . . the most productive quintile of society would amass roughly three times the wealth of the least productive.”

In fact, Ingraham writes, the top 20 percent of Americans own 90 percent of the pie, not 33 percent, as suggested by survey respondents as ideal.

The next 20 percent divide eight slices among all their members.

The middle 20 percent split the last two pieces of the pie.

The next group gets no pie.

The last group owes pie—they are pie debtors.

Do our tax policies favor or discourage a fairer division of the pie?