Friday, May 16, 2008

Memorial Day, Ignorance and the Election

Over the last several days, I have been working on a Memorial Day story for the newspaper for which I freelance. Here in northwestern Pennsylvania there are a lot of story angles – a lot of material.
In almost every cemetery, large and small, literally thousands of flags mark the graves of Civil War veterans, along with those who have served this country ever since and even before the bloody north-south encounter. There are a lot of stories buried. Tragically, from the Civil War, there are many graves of young men in their late teens and early twenties, who fought for the Union.
This section of Pennsylvania was very much anti-slavery and there are numerous stories about the Underground Railroad. A more in depth look about that era shows that the churches were actively involved in the fight to free a people from the bondage and horrors of slavery.
Perhaps, one of the lesser known places around is the old John Brown farm in New Richmond Center (near Meadville,PA) where events are still held commemorating some of the events of that historic struggle against man's inhumanity to fellow men. Brown was eventually hung along with several others following the ill-fated raid on Harper's Ferry.
He was a deeply religious person who firmly believed that slavery was a scourge on America and was against all principles of Christianity. His intentions at Harper's Ferry was to free the slaves in the region in the hopes that the action would stir a general uprising throughout the south.
The freed slaves would be taken to safe houses scattered throughout Appalachia, a region deeply opposed to the rich landowners who used their wealth against the economically hard pressed mountain people.
The raid, in terms of today, would be considered homegrown terrorism and judged on more current values. However, it remains a poignant historical marker when taken into current context.
There is an unsettling and tragic ignorance among many in these regions today as the 2008 presidential race gets into full swing. The ugly face of racism against Barack Obama is showing it's stench. Pat Buchanan's column of March 21, 2008 is just one clear example, where he indicates the white race did the former slaves a tremendous favor against their own free will (among all sorts of other crazy and stupid claims).
What a total lack of historical or scholarly perspective. What a total disservice to this great nation. What a sacrilege against our veterans! Beware of false prophets dressed in sheepskin.
Yes, in the current context we need to support our troops; white black, brown, all colors and all genders. We don't have a “white” army.
And yes, Memorial Day, a national holiday created after that bloody conflict, is set aside as the official remembrance for those who sacrificed for our freedoms. Yes, it is a good time to re-examine the racial divides in this great country, to become more educated about our history and the forces that helped forge the greatest nation on earth. It is time to stop the bigotry.
On Memorial Day, it is time to stop the ignorant judgments based on “color” and examine a person's stand on issues facing the nation. There are those in this nation who need to change their attitudes and become Americans once again - every day. We need to do more than give lip service and send emails about supporting our veterans.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The American people, as well as much of the world's population, has endured a lot of misery under the Republicans of the last eight years. Hopefully, common sense will rule on election day and the Democrats will be returned to the White House, and win the greatest possible number of seats in both the House and the Senate.
To give the Republicans another term of power would be sheer idiocy and perhaps even an irrational act of suicidal proportions.
Granted, the Democrats are not first in line for sainthood, but they have not stooped to the depths of the GOP ever since the disputed 2000 Florida election. But, anyone would be hard pressed to find a Democratic administration as corrupt as the present day Republicans. The GOP scandals are simply too enormous.
The large numbers of Democrats and Independents participating in the current primary selection process are simple, plain evidence of the disgust in America with the present situation. The numbers are historic. The American voter is the most educated and informed in the entire world and clearly, they are not happy.
There are a number of reasons for the unease in America with the current administration; religion, the corrupt economy, a bellicose foreign policy and a disregard for the environment..
The demise of the GOP is largely due to the takeover of the party by the right wing, zealots of the so called Christian evangelicals. Fundamentally, the authoritarian and paternalistic attitude of “my way or no way” of the religious right wingers has led to the sad and ugly divisiveness in American politics. The GOP needs some time off to cast off the religious fanatics.
America has always been appalled at the very thought of state sponsored religion.
The GOP has also shot itself in the other foot with voodoo economic policies. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that our economy has wrecked. What is really behind the collapse of the housing market or escalating oil prices? Simple greed and corruption in the halls of power may prove to be one straightforward answer.
The GOP legacy of the last eight years has been a mishandled war. More and more, people are coming to the realization that we entered Iraq on shaky, if not outright false pretenses. We have lost thousands of soldiers and squandered billions of dollars while destroying another country and creating thousands of new terrorists.
Any serious foreign policy observer clearly understands that the foreign policy of this nation for the last eight years has been an epic failure.
The last eight years have simply not been good for our environment. There has been a disregard for clean air and water standards, our national park system is in disarray and the country remains undecided on a course to tackle global warming issues.
Yes, it is time for a major change in Washington and the Democratic Party stands at an important threshold. The Republican Party needs a major “time off” to cleanse itself. Hillary Clinton should now exit after a hard fought, but loosing battle. It would be good for America and the world.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Nature, Politics and Religion

Today is a rain day meaning I have some time to spend indoors and get some writing done. The weather has been near perfect since the last entry and I have spent a lot of time in the yard and backyard veggie garden.
This year I want to get a little stand together in the driveway and try to make some extra cash from selling some of the extra produce I grow. Writing jobs are scarce because the economy has pretty much tanked.
This past week nature really started to wake up. The bull frogs started croaking within the last couple of days and the jack-in-the-pulpit plants started blooming. They are an unusual, exoctic looking plant. The trilliums are started to bloom and the leeks are at their peak.
This week Obama seems to have clinched the nomination after a big win in North Carolina and just missed a victory in Indiana. I think he is the best nominee for the Dems for a number of reasons.
I guess one of the simplest reasons is I like the way in which Obama campaigns, his approach, his style. Clinton seems much too aggressive and almost "mean" in her approach.
But whoever the nominee will be, I will vote for because we don't need anymore Republicans running the county. The last eight years have been very difficult.
What is troublesome about the last eight years is the disregard for the truth. There is a spin for everything it seems irregardless of the facts. I wonder sometimes if that has filtered down into the popular culture. There just seems to be a general disregard for facts and evidence.
Perhaps, religion plays a role in this disregard. Too many preachers, too many churches proclaim they have the answers, the correct insights into the great mysteries, the direct pipeline to the Almighty's plan.
Perhaps, it is time to renew our sense of wonder and amazement; to stand in awe; to go quietly and pray, meditate alone or with a few others rather than standing before huge television crowds in multi-million dollar mega-chuches and arm waving congregations.