Category Archives: meaning of life

Luke 12: 34

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Although I am a poor substitute for a professing Christian in our church choir I do like the weekly reminder of the call of Jesus of Nazareth. In Acts there is the story of one of his followers after the Resurection when his followers formed communes to share all their goods. One of them, Annanias, lied to Peter and to God about how much he was withholding from the community. Peter knew better and said: ” “Why is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit?” Annanias died on the spot.

Donald Trump, who is famous for bragging about his wealth, cheating on his taxes, getting hold of his inheritance before his father Fred was willing to hand it over, failing to make charitable contributions he promised to make while cheating the contractors who built his empire and the students who attended his colleges, should remember that its reported the same St. Peter, who said that Annanias was filled with Satan, guards the entrance to heaven. What are Trump’s chances?

Elsewhere in the Bible Jesus tells the rich young man that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven. Of course, like so much in the Bible this is cherry picked out by the prosperity gospel preachers who believe great wealth is a sign of God’s favor. I tend to agree more with Balzac’s observation: “Behind every great fortune lies a great crime.”

Back in the seventies a lot of TV preachers with their Lear Jets and mansions got tossed in prison for their misuse of church funds. That doesn’t happen so much any more and many of them are richer than ever. No wonder they have come to the conclusion that Donald Trump has the “mandate of heaven.” There’s not much more Jesus in their Churches than there is Lincoln in the Grand Old Party.

Thank you M’am

A couple days ago I volunteered to read to my grandsons before bed. Its something I did all the time a couple years ago but since they both began reading copiously I’ve fallen out of the habit. I miss it. I love to read to kids. Here’s one of my favorite books. For more push the “up” button. I’ve read a lot of books to Claudia too including all seven of the Harry Potter books – twice, except for number seven. I’ve only read The Deathly Hallows one once.

For this reading I pulled out a wonderful story from the time I led Great Books classes for my daughter back when she was in fifth grade. The story I chose to read was Thank You M’am by Langston Hughes of Harlem. It was written in 1931 a few steps from where my Grandfather earned his Masters Degree at Columbia University. Columbia and the Harlem Renaissance were next door neighbors. I thought I’d share it with you.

Jesus and Washington, lone wolves vs herds

This is a thought I may pursue before the day is out after I attend to some mundane chores. Otherwise I might just delete this post like a dandelion seed about to be blown to oblivion.

ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT! FOR WHAT ITS WORTH:

For an American George Washington is the first citizen of the land. He is the nation’s Father and Founder above all others. For Christians the same must be said of Jesus. George W. Bush was once roundly ridiculed when asked who his favorite “philosopher” was for answering, “Jesus.” That in a nutshell demonstrates the challenge of dual loyalties. By so honoring the founder of Christianity, even if thinking of him as a philosopher was a stretch, Bush offended the same crowd that Hillary Clinton may have had in mind when she called Trump folks “deplorables” and handed the Presidency to him. Continue reading

Flying over sunken ships

Even when I haven’t just returned from France my head is often bursting with thoughts I’d like to commit to the blog. France has only given me lots more with the counterpoint of my very positive experience in France counter to the national trauma I’ve come home too.

I’ve been back in the states for 22 hours and watched PBS news hour. I’m reminded of the great war that Gulliver found being waged on the Island of the Lilliputians over which way to open a soft boiled egg. Only its not a trivial issue trying to decide which of two idols is Satan is which is God.

So, here’s a picture of the planes map showing its location as it left France and headed for the US. I thought it was very strange that a plane flying overseas with sometimes fearful passengers would plot the wrecks of sunken ships on a map. More showed up as we neared the US including the Titanic, the Andrea Doria the Hunley and some Spanish treasure galleon.

That’s a much less significant question than how America will come to its senses. I don’t have an answer to either question at the moment. I’m going to bed. Good night.

An Open Letter to MCCL (and why even the Supreme Court will not end abortions)

A short note before I share the letter.

I was alive when “back alley” abortions took the lives of women. I formed my opinions on the subject of abortion in 1960’s and 70’s as a then liberal Republican. my thinking aligned with the Republican Supreme Court justices who ruled on Roe vs. Wade. My opinion hasn’t changed nearly as much as our society has where sex is concerned. I always wanted to make contraceptives available rather than rely on abortions. I was appalled that “pro lifers” of that era were more anti premarital sex than they were anti fetus killing. As you will see in my letter to the MCCL I haven’t changed my mind.

I have always felt that abortions, like guns and traffic and food production was a legitimate area for sensible regulation. I have always sympathized with the folks who felt that human life, even before birth, was sacred. But I’ve grown impatient with such people when they fail to act as though the life that follows birth is also sacred and have cemented themselves to a political party that makes a virtue of the poor being forced to “fend for themselves.”

The Pro-Life movement is woefully ignorant about what will result should Roe vs. Wade be overturned. They think that it will be the end of all abortions in America. That’s obviously wrong. If Roe is struck down it will take the passage of a pro life amendment with by a 3/4ths majority of states to make it illegal in all fifty states. That will not happen in my lifetime. Abortions will always be available to the well-to-do even in states that would outlaw it. All they will have to do is travel to a state where its legal. When I was in high school such folks had to have the money to fly to Sweden.

Here’s that letter I sent to the MCCL

MCCL stands for Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life: Continue reading

Bread and Circuses

A lot is on my mind again. When I don’t post stuff it builds up like bran in a constipated elephant. This and the also empty post that precedes it both represent much that I want to write about. It almost goes without saying that it will be just like everything else that I’ve already written about and/or will ever write about and, in fact, everything that every other writer writes about.

But first, I should put the beginnings of a column together for my every other week contribution to the Duluth Reader. That too will be more of the same. Maybe I’ll write about my attempt to learn French in nine months or about my memorizing the order of service of our 45 Presidents or some of the interesting history books piling up on my shelves unread….. Gotta make a decision soon.

Rome’s “Bread and Circuses” were meant to keep its citizens from rioting much as the faltering Soviet Union’s drowning citizens in cheap vodka was used to keep them compliant. Keeping me from rioting is greatly aided by pointing me to a computer to pound out another column or post. That’s one way of keeping me out of gun shops for a quick non-solution.

The Lost Children of Tuam

For the past two months I’ve read very little. No books. I’m looking forward to the end of this campaign so I can once again look beyond the Duluth Schools.

I woke at 3:30 and trudged up to my office to work on the mandatory Finance Report that will be turned in Monday it having been due yesterday, Friday. After returning to the accounting later this morning I paused to look at the New York Times online.

I have some Irish in me, although my Dad always joked that it was orange not green. The haunting photo above lured me into an extended story about human indifference and one woman’s quest to bring the dead to light if not life. Maybe it was the adagios I had playing on Pandora in the background but I used up a couple of tissues wiping tears away. Tales of human decency often do that to me.

On Being

I caught the end of a BBC broadcast early this morning which I found engrossing and then tuned into On Being while I ironed wrinkly t-shirts brought back from China – all short sleeved.

It was the second time I heard Margaret Meed’s anthropologist daughter Mary Catherine Bateson being interviewed on “On Being.” Claudia was up early and listened too. Bateson is a practicing Christian unlike her parents who did read the Bible but as Atheists/Agnostics. It was a thought provoking interview even the second time through.

Bateson was raised with her Mother’s ethos of participating in life while at the same time being an observer of what is actually happening during that participation. Back in 2015 when I first heard this interview I concluded that this perfectly described how I went through life. Another way of describing this quality is “mindfulness” or even “living in the moment.” Except that, living in the moment suggests not paying attention to the past or the future and that is not me. I think of the past and the future at all times.

I joked ith Claudia that we were like one of Bateson’s cells (nucleus and cell) originally different creatures which back in the primordial past combined and found our synergy to be a survival tactic for our separate selves. Bateson used this as a metaphor for marriage. She also noted that it was easier for a couple in the past to stay together because they mostly didn’t live beyond 35 years and never had a reason to separate after raising children because that was generally the end of their life expectancy.

Burying the Hatchet – more than once if necessary

Just when I want to chuck my Buddy out the window he offers up a peace offering. I know it won’t last long but if I can’t get over my quarrels how can I expect anyone else to? Denmark’s is setting a good example for us here in North America.


To: “Harry Welty”
Cc:
Sent: 01-Feb-2017 19:55:04 +0000
Subject: A little Harry’s Diary | lincolndemocrat.com

From http://lincolndemocrat.com/?p=19202:
I woke up at 3AM yesterday and couldn’t go back to sleep because I was mulling over Trump nation. That happened often last year and the chaotic beginning of his new Administration isn’t offering any peace of mind.

And from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serenity_Prayer:
A slightly different version of the prayer has been widely adopted by Twelve-Step Groups:

God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change,
the courage to change the things we can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

From: “Your Buddy”

My Reply:

I was confused about that because those were the first words to come to me when I started posting. Then I read the prayer and that’s not how St. Francis starts or finishes it. The Serenity Prayer offers good advice especially that last line. Of course, where change is concerned a lot can be accomplished by many people. It took more than one man to make the United States. It will take more than one to bust it up. In the meantime I can be a band-aid or squeaking hinge. If if I’m not sticky enough or the hinge comes loose I expect there will be others to take my place and be more useful.

Children can’t handle philosophy?

I was delighted with today’s rebuttal of this ill thought out think piece published in the Trib on December 4th.

I was strongly tempted to write my own critism. Its the second time I’ve been tempted to argue with this retired Iron Range teacher but I’m a busy fellow and, as a school board member, I don’t want to wear out my welcome writing op-eds to the Tribune. This “educator” opined that it was a waste of time to teach kids philosophy because their brains weren’t ready to handle it and more prone to taking stupid risks. Hell, why do we bother to teach them anything other than readin and writin and rithmatic before they are old enough for post-graduate studies?

Here’s is a sensible reply I second.

A short sample:

Heck, I’m a middle-aged man; we are famous for making bad life choices despite our well-developed brains. Just this summer, against my better judgment, I followed a couple of friends over a dangerous waterfall crossing at Tettegouche State Park. (And I’m still gunning for a sports car.) My fully developed prefrontal cortex may mitigate bad judgments, but it doesn’t immunize me against them.

More importantly, my bad choices do not make me a bad philosopher; they just make me human.

Fear and silencing in 2016?

The initial reactions of many in the wake of Donald Trump’s election have been fearful, ugly, gloating and generally panicky. There is an abundance if not an excess of caution. There has been local Radio talk-show indignation and Facebook hand-wringing over an evidently Anti-Trump message slipped into a school trophy case. It seems proof that political animosity works both ways. The tremors across northern Minnesota Schools yesterday from a vague threat is likely one more manifestation of this sorry situation.

I’m afraid that one more consequence of this election result is a powerful urge to cover our eyes and ears. At Tuesday’s school board meeting Supt. Gronseth expressed unhappiness with the student at Denfeld who took a picture of racist grafitti and posted it to Facebook to show how things were at the school. I’ll bet the police who have just charged a jumpy policeman in the Twin Cities with manslaughter may feel much the same way about Internet Videos. Silence is Golden.

I disagree. Communication is golden.

Yesterday a speech by an African-American historian was given at East High but then canceled for Denfeld when it was deemed inappropriate and perhaps an incitement to bad behavior. That’s a shame because the Denfeld students showed remarkable maturity and creativity in the face of the racist grafitti found on a bathroom wall. They countered it with a student led campaign to retake the school’s walls with positive and uplifting post-it note messages. According to one source this is what they missed when Dr. El-Kati was silenced:

“According to 3 equity minded individuals who all saw El-Kati’s talk yesterday at East, they are in complete and utter shock that Denfeld did not get to hear the awesome messages that El-Kati delivered. His main theme was moral character, and also touched on many topics and historical figures such as Thomas Jefferson, John Lewis, Frederick Douglas, Quakers, MLK, war, Minnesota tops in education, Duluth is wonderful, power and privilege, among others.

“They said Denfeld kids needed that talk more than East kids.”

I was unaware of the speech which the District had contracted until the Superintendent offered this post script to his email to School Board members about the “non specific threat.” This is all I know of why Dr. El-Kati’s Denfeld appearance was canceled:

Oh– and Dr El-Kati’s visit did not go as well as hoped. He did not deliver the planned message. He did not meet the terms of the contract. After things did not go well at East, it was decided that the Denfeld presentation would be canceled.

Judging by the superlative response of the Denfeld students to racist grafitti I have every confidence that they could have handled whatever Dr. El-Kati had to say. I wish my confidence in our students was more widely shared.

Speck # 6 The League of Democratic Women Voters

This is a report from a reliable source who attended the pre election meeting of Duluth’s League of Women Voters:

At one point a member got up and harangued the audience telling them that they had to go out and register voters to prevent a win by Donald Trump. Whether the candidate’s name was actually mentioned or not that was the obvious message. Not everyone was happy to have it put so bluntly.

The good old LWV ain’t what it was when I moved to Duluth in 1974. Back then it was a bipartisan group composed pretty equally of Democrats and Republicans. That began to change that year with Roe v. Wade. Two years earlier I went to a Minnesota State Republican convention that approved a “pro choice” plank in its platform. That soon changed as Republicans began to see a huge Catholic block that opposed abortion and as the party’s operatives began encouraging protestant preachers to oppose abortion. At first the protestants, soon to become the Moral Majority, opposed abortion because it made promiscuity consequence free. Saving “babies” was more of a Catholic thing initially. I’ve always thought that for southern Christians, still smarting from having northern Christians chide them for their racism, defending unborn babies gave them back some moral ground.

Over the next decade, as once solid Republican League members fell out of favor with the new pro-life Republican Party and all but disappeared taking their pro-choice views with them, the League became a mostly Democratic bastion in practice if not in principle. Its one more casualty of a divided nation. That doesn’t exactly excuse its local members playing partisan politics. BTW – They especially like to dabble in our local school board.

Speck # 4 Roy Cohn’s Revenge

In no way do I mean to praise Donald Trump. His campaign was as sleazy as it gets. Hillary’s insider string pulling in the Democratic machinery is part and parcel of every campaign. Its both understandable and unavoidable. However, Barack Obama proved that it was not invincible in 2008. Bernie Sander’s loss is hardly surprising. He was severely handicapped by announcing that he was a Democrat just before seeking that party’s nomination. The same was true for Donald Trump. Had Trump run as an Independent I suspect he would have done little better than Bernie would have as an Independent. They would likely have gotten Ross Perot-like numbers – close but no cigar.

All the Trumpian pundits who are saying the mainstream media was mean to Trump are full of _ _it. They shined a light on him but he was a nuclear explosion. Media flash lights meant little compared to the candidate’s sizzle. There is a whole lot in his closet for historians to ponder but most of his voters have been too blinded to notice. I’ll only mention one of them here – Trump’s muse, Roy Cohn.

Cohn is a vestige of my youth’s realities when police vice squads raided gay bars and rounded gays up with one aim – to publicize their depravity in newspapers and soil their reputations forever. There is a scene in the marvelous old movie “Advise and Consent” of the gay 602 bar that would have been repellent to audiences of that era. You can catch a brief glimpse of it in this trailer as the attractive JFK-like Senator walks in desperately seeking out an old lover who is blackmailing him about their old affair. When the blackmailer refuses to back off there is only one solution for the Senator. He has to commit suicide to hide his depravity. Modern audiences may find this preposterous but it would have made sense to people in 1960.

Roy Cohn worked in this atmosphere as the right hand of Senator Joseph McCarthy and helped him ferret out information on Commies in the Government at the height of the Red Scare. They destroyed many people at a time of national hysteria. McCarthy was finally upended when he went after the US Military unsuccessfully when it drafted Roy Cohn’s lover. Shortly afterwards the anti-communist crusade quieted to a dull roar sufficient only to mire us in Vietnam but no longer a threat to our Democracy.

Cohn’s homosexualy was common knowledge after this and he became a bitter man. He vehemently denied he was “queer” and became infamous for his take no prisoners legal maneuvering. The New York legal establishment tried for years to disbar him. A year ago Claudia and I watched the old HBO series Angels in America. Its about the Aids crisis that took out tens of thousands of gay lives in he 1980’s. Al Pacino gives an extraordinary performance as Roy Cohn. This scene tell you everything you need to know about what Donald Trump learned under Cohn’s tutelage and why he conducted a scorched Earth campaign for President.

One of the most hopeful things about America today is that under President Obama we have largely swept the homophobic past away so that we will never again create a Roy Cohn. One of the great ironies about Donald Trump’s election is that the homophobia that created Roy Cohn fifty years ago gave Cohn’s acolyte Donald Trump the strategy that elected him President of the United States. How ironic that Trump asked the pro-family, 2016, GOP convention for their help in stamping out homophobia and got applause it. Roy Cohn hated queers!

Speck # 3 a rumor of a threat against Trump

By now all of Duluth has heard of racist grafitti on our high school walls. Today a rumor got to me that the Ordean East Trophy case had a vague threat against Donald Trump placed on or in it. The rumor says it was there for a full day and that a parent took a picture of it and furthermore that the Duluth police and even the Secret Service came by to inspect it.

The log (or beam) Jesus talks about will tempt many partisans to only see the crimes of “the others” not those of their allies when people overreact to the consequences of this election.

A million dollars worth of damage attended the Anti Trump marches in Oregon. I found Black comedian Dave Chapelle’s comment about this noteworthy – “Amateurs.” If it was my storefront I’d be furious but it was pretty small potatoes however ugly. Four years after the post King assassination riots I took a bus through Baltimore and gawked at blocks worth of blackened storefronts behind metal bars. I know that every crowd attracts troublemakers and that all too often they are not anticipated before the crowd arranges itself. The crowd is both an attraction and a good hiding place for mayhem driven far more by mendacity than fury.

So the issue to consider in the case of the rumor, should it prove to be true will our District Administration be even handed in dealing with it……if it has or will raise its ugly head?

I suppose I could make calls to confirm this but to me the more important point is that we should not take sides. In fact, a threat to the president of the United States is a bigger deal than a racial epitaph.

Remember Johanna’s post-it notes.