Life – LikeTheDew.com https://likethedew.com A journal of progressive Southern culture and politics Sun, 17 Feb 2019 15:51:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.0.3 https://likethedew.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/cropped-DewLogoSquare825-32x32.png Life – LikeTheDew.com https://likethedew.com 32 32 Abortion and Fetal Personhood https://likethedew.com/2019/02/17/abortion-and-fetal-personhood/ https://likethedew.com/2019/02/17/abortion-and-fetal-personhood/#respond Sun, 17 Feb 2019 14:39:28 +0000 https://likethedew.com/?p=70560

Believing that the U. S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion decision is hanging by a thread, states are positioning themselves to fill the legal void that would result if the Court overruled Roe. In place of a nationally recognized right to an abortion up until fetal viability, the question whether there are to be abortion rights at all would be returned to the states. Some, like New York, are moving to enlarge abortion rights in that event. Others, like South Carolina, are poised to limit them sharply.

A favored device in some anti-abortion states is to declare, as a matter of law, that a fetus, from the moment of conception, is a person entitled to the same rights of due process and equal protection that all other persons enjoy. Because a fetus, being a person, has a right to life like all other persons, some states taking this approach believe that a fetus’s right to life bars all abortions, because, as the author of a South Carolina anti-abortion bill said, abortion is the “shedding of innocent blood.” Other states would permit abortions only to save the mother’s life. So confident is the author of another South Carolina bill that he’s got all this right that the bill makes performing or undergoing an abortion where the mother’s life isn’t at risk a felony.

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Believing that the U. S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wadeabortion decision is hanging by a thread, states are positioning themselves to fill the legal void that would result if the Court overruled Roe. In place of a nationally recognized right to an abortion up until fetal viability, the question whether there are to be abortion rights at all would be returned to the states. Some, like New York, are moving to enlarge abortion rights in that event. Others, like South Carolina, are poised to limit them sharply.

A favored device in some anti-abortion states is to declare, as a matter of law, that a fetus, from the moment of conception, is a person entitled to the same rights of due process and equal protection that all other persons enjoy. Because a fetus, being a person, has a right to life like all other persons, some states taking this approach believe that a fetus’s right to life bars all abortions, because, as the author of a South Carolina anti-abortion bill said, abortion is the “shedding of innocent blood.” Other states would permit abortions only to save the mother’s life. So confident is the author of another South Carolina bill that he’s got all this right that the bill makes performing or undergoing an abortion where the mother’s life isn’t at risk a felony.

If the issue of abortion is on the verge of being taken out of the courts and returned to the voters’ legislative representatives, it’s worth asking what guidance our considered moral intuitions can give us about the legal protections fetal persons should have.

In 1971, two years before Roe v. Wade, Judith Jarvis Thomson of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology published a searching examination of the assumption animating the personhood movement. She accepted the premise that the fetus is a person and teased out its implications, some of which are especially relevant now.

Some, though not all, personhood advocates believe, like the South Carolina legislators, that abortions to save the life of the mother are morally permissible and should be legal. But in all other cases, including pregnancy resulting from rape, abortions should be barred, the personhood proponents believe, as a violation of the fetus’s right to life. As former Congressman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., famously put it, the “method of conception” doesn’t compromise the fetus’s right to life.

Why is a woman whose life is at risk entitled to an abortion but a fourteen-year-old pregnant as a result of rape by her father isn’t?

Taking the at-risk mother first, our intuition that abortion to save her life is morally permissible is based on her right of self-defense. Having the same self-defense right as the rest of us, she’s not morally required to wait passively for a toxic pregnancy to kill her. And health care professionals are morally permitted to support her in the exercise of her self-defense right.

So far, so good. But if the fetus is a person with the same right to life as everybody else, then it has the same right of self-defense as the mother. And if third parties may intervene in support of the mother’s exercise of her self-defense right, they may do so for the fetus.

If that’s the whole story, then we’re at moral stalemate. If only the mother or the fetus but not both can survive, it’s not at all obvious which one the law should protect. Legislating personhood for the fetus doesn’t automatically tip the scales in favor of the unborn.

We might think that it’s the innocence of the fetus that gives it a stronger claim to survival than the mother. But that can’t be right either and taking a closer look at our self-defense right shows why. If we grant that people have a right of self-defense, then the right to life obviously can’t be the right not to be killed no matter what. It can only be the right not to be killed unjustly, that is, in violation of your rights. So if you’re trying to kill me and the only way I can save my life is to kill you first, I don’t violate any right of yours if I succeed. I’m just exercising my self-defense right.

But that’s true even of innocent threats. Had Jared Loughner been so deranged that he thought he was brandishing a cucumber when, at a political event in 2011, he shot then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., surely we wouldn’t think he’d been killed unjustly if dispatched by police at the scene, even though he wasn’t responsible for what he was doing.

Now if the right to life is the right not to be killed unjustly, that explains why the mother’s self-defense right takes precedence over the fetus’s self-defense right in the case of a toxic, life-threatening pregnancy. The right of self-defense extends to defending ourselves even against people who’re innocent threats. If the only way we can save our lives is to take theirs, doing that doesn’t violate of any of their rights.

So the states that are prepared to allow abortions to save the mother’s life seem to be on firmer ground than those looking to ban all abortions. That more rigorous position doesn’t seem to square with our moral intuitions about these things.

But what about pregnancy resulting from rape? If as ex-Congressman Ryan observed, the “method of conception” doesn’t impair the fetus’s right to life, why should a fourteen-year-old pregnant rape victim have a legal right to an abortion? If her pregnancy doesn’t threaten her life, she can’t invoke her self-defense right to justify an abortion.

It’s tempting to think that what’s controlling here is the principle that the right to life is a right to everything needed to sustain life. If that’s a sound principle, then pregnant fourteen-year-old rape victims are out of luck.

Think about this, though. Suppose you come home from a trip to the grocery store and find slumped over your kitchen table a bedraggled person in obvious distress. He feebly waves a piece of paper at you and when you read it you learn to your horror that a FEMA operative has hacked your internet-enabled front door lock, and deposited this poor wretch, a Hurricane Michael victim, in your kitchen. The document goes on to say that your “guest” is in such a fragile state that his only chance of survival is room, board and medical care provided by you for the next nine months. But that’s not all, if you so much as let this person out of your sight, except when you’re both asleep, he’s done for. So if you sign on for this rescue, you and your charge will be joined at the hip, figurately if not literally, for the next nine months.

What are we to say about this? Following Thomson’s line of thought about a similar example, it would be spectacularly kind of you to take this guy on. Maybe it would even be callous of you to refuse. But your refusal would violate no right of his even if it ensures his death. After all, he has no right to be where he is, at your kitchen table close to breathing his last. Certainly he has a claim on your charity, but charity isn’t something that anybody is due as a right. He has no right to nine months room, board and all the rest unless you’ve agreed to it.

What this thought experiment suggests is that even if a fetus has a right to life, it doesn’t have a right to everything it needs to sustain life. And in the case of rape, it doesn’t have a right to the use of the mother’s body and blood supply. That isn’t a right she’s given it. It might be callous of her to refuse to carry it to term. But she violates no right of the fetus if she refuses, even if that ensures its death.

So if abortions to save the life of the mother or to spare pregnant rape victims aren’t ruled out by the fetus’s right to life as a person, just declaring that the unborn have a right to life from the moment of conception doesn’t seem to afford the burst of moral and legal clarity that advocates of these measures think it does. If a fetus is a person, then somewhere between life-saving abortions and vacation-saving abortions, there’s a moral line we shouldn’t cross. But legislative bodies may not be the best venues for figuring out where the line is.

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Grandma’s Singer Sewing Machine https://likethedew.com/2019/01/25/grandmas-singer-sewing-machine/ https://likethedew.com/2019/01/25/grandmas-singer-sewing-machine/#respond Fri, 25 Jan 2019 15:51:46 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=70349

Back around 1965 a fashion craze swept through high school. Cranberry, button-down shirts emerged as “the” shirt to have, and like other young bucks I had to have one. Nothing’s worse than being a teenager out of step with fashion. When it became apparent my folks weren’t getting me a store-bought shirt, Grandmom Poland said she would make me one, and she did. Made it on her Singer sewing machine. The collar was a bit out of line and the buttonholes a tad large but I loved that shirt and plumb wore it out.

Remember sewing? It used to part of family life, and there was a time when women bought bolts of cloth and made clothes for the family. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I watched Mom and Grandmom Poland pump the treadle and make that Singer sing. The song would start slowly but pressure on the treadle would rev it up, and that machine would hum right along. I recall sewing’s rhythmic tune, seeing parchment-like paper etched with faint blue patterns, and hearing words like rickrack, facing, and gathering. I recall, too, the complex act of threading the machine and seeing all manner of machine accessories. A wooden spool of thread sat on the spool pin and adjusting the thread tension proved critical. Sewing seemed mechanical and magical but more than anything it seemed to be a labor of love.

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Back around 1965 a fashion craze swept through high school. Cranberry, button-down shirts emerged as “the” shirt to have, and like other young bucks I had to have one. Nothing’s worse than being a teenager out of step with fashion. When it became apparent my folks weren’t getting me a store-bought shirt, Grandmom Poland said she would make me one, and she did. Made it on her Singer sewing machine. The collar was a bit out of line and the buttonholes a tad large but I loved that shirt and plumb wore it out.

Remember sewing? It used to part of family life, and there was a time when women bought bolts of cloth and made clothes for the family. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I watched Mom and Grandmom Poland pump the treadle and make that Singer sing. The song would start slowly but pressure on the treadle would rev it up, and that machine would hum right along. I recall sewing’s rhythmic tune, seeing parchment-like paper etched with faint blue patterns, and hearing words like rickrack, facing, and gathering. I recall, too, the complex act of threading the machine and seeing all manner of machine accessories. A wooden spool of thread sat on the spool pin and adjusting the thread tension proved critical. Sewing seemed mechanical and magical but more than anything it seemed to be a labor of love.

I hope I told Grandmom how much I appreciated the shirt she made me because it must have taken days to make. And that brings me to a question. Do young women sew today? Do they pin patterns to cloth and cut fabric with the utmost care? Do they lovingly put an old Singer sewing machine to work and hear it sing its song?

My guess is they don’t. It takes too much time, and so old Singers sit idle. They collect dust like the ones here that I photographed in Carlton, Georgia. And besides, just why should a young woman sew today? Plenty of stores sell clothes in a dizzying array of styles and sizes. There was a time, though, when you had to make them yourself, and there used to be a high school course called Home Economics where girls learned sewing and other practical skills, but those days are out of fashion now. Change marches on, but even I learned to appreciate sewing’s practical side. Granddad Poland wore overalls. He was short and Grandmom would shorten new overalls’ legs and hem them to fit. She’d sew one end of a discarded leg piece together, sew on a strap, and just like that I had a granite pebble bag for my slingshot. From that bag grew my love for camera bags, Pony Express-type bags, and leather luggage.

No, I doubt young women sew today, and I’ll admit that today’s husbands and beaus should be thankful that their ladies don’t sew. Few things are more painful than being dragged through cloth world. ’A trip to cloth world ’twas a fate worse than death. Still, when I was a boy, few things made me happier than that cranberry, button-down collared shirt I wore in high school. Grandmom sewed it, and it marked the beginning of my love affair with fashion, Brooks Brothers, seersucker suits, bow ties, and more.

Today, whenever I see an old Singer sewing machine, which is rare, I think of Mom and Grandmom sewing clothes for us. They weren’t store bought but they were made with love and they fit just fine. Now, except in the rarest of cases, homemade clothes are passé, and we’re that much more dependent on some seamstress we’ll never meet. Someone, no doubt, far, far away in another country. Someone else’s grandmother or more likely young daughter. Like a seam-ripper, change gutted us of yet another custom, and old Singer sewing machines sing no more.

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Not Our Coast https://likethedew.com/2019/01/15/not-our-coast/ https://likethedew.com/2019/01/15/not-our-coast/#respond Tue, 15 Jan 2019 16:09:50 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=70387

In 2015, the Obama administration announced that it was considering opening up the Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia coasts to offshore oil and gas drilling. 

In both Republican and Democratic areas, residents, legislators, and organizations held town hall meetings, gathered in protest, and lobbied Washington. Meanwhile, the military formally and forcefully expressed concern that the proposed testing and drilling would gravely impact their offshore Florida, Georgia, and Virginia operations. 

On February 2nd, 2015, the City of St. Marys signed a Proclamation opposing seismic airgun testing (the process by which companies search for oil) along our coast. Kingsland and Camden County soon followed suit...

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In 2015, the Obama administration announced that it was considering opening up the Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia coasts to offshore oil and gas drilling. 

In both Republican and Democratic areas, residents, legislators, and organizations held town hall meetings, gathered in protest, and lobbied Washington. Meanwhile, the military formally and forcefully expressed concern that the proposed testing and drilling would gravely impact their offshore Florida, Georgia, and Virginia operations. 

On February 2nd, 2015, the City of St. Marys signed a Proclamation opposing seismic airgun testing (the process by which companies search for oil) along our coast. Kingsland and Camden County soon followed suit. More than 320 municipalities and over 2,000 elected local, state and federal officials have signed similar resolutions/proclamations while fishing and tourism interests, including local chambers of commerce, tourism and restaurant associations, and an alliance representing over 42,000 businesses and 500,000 fishing families from Florida to Maine, also oppose oil exploration off the East Coast. 

This overwhelming bipartisan resistance from government and business leaders caused the Obama administration to reverse its course; effectively ending any potential oil exploration for at least five years. However, shortly after taking office, President Trump instructed his administration to review that decision and then-Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke chose to expose the Atlantic coast to irreparable and immeasurable harm once again.

It is now widely acknowledged that opening Georgia’s coast to seismic airgun blasting and offshore drilling would be a grave mistake with irreversible consequences. That’s why, during the recent campaigns, voters found it to be a great relief that both gubernatorial candidates, Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams, stood against offshore oil exploration and/or development. (As of this time, the East Coast governors stand united in their opposition.) 

As now-Governor Kemp stated, “I support increasing our nation’s energy independence, but I do not support seismic testing or offshore drilling off the Georgia coast in order to do so. My priority as governor will be to protect our vibrant coastline, and ensure tourism and economic development and improve the lives of Georgians living in Brunswick and surrounding areas.” (The Brunswick News)

And “While recently re-elected coastal Georgia Congressman Buddy Carter supports seismic testing and offshore drilling, Georgia Governor-elect Brian Kemp doesn’t want it here. Governor-elect Brian Kemp opposes drilling off the coast of Georgia.” (Savannah Morning News)

Time and again, Gov. Kemp has insisted that he will fight for our Georgia coast and take a vocal and active role in striking down anything that threatens its well-being…and we applaud him for this. 

But, as always, we are mindful that what is said during a campaign may not be what is realized once in office. We urge all who care for the integrity of our fragile coastal environment, our economic health, the safety of Cumberland Island, and the state of Georgia to take a moment to email or call Brian Kemp, thank him for his anti-oil stance, and encourage him to stay the course.

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Grandma’s Weapon Of Choice https://likethedew.com/2019/01/13/grandmas-weapon-of-choice/ https://likethedew.com/2019/01/13/grandmas-weapon-of-choice/#respond Sun, 13 Jan 2019 15:10:29 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=70335 In Sunday drives’ heyday, air conditioning was gaining momentum but you’d be hard pressed to find air-conditioned stores and homes in rural areas. Oh, you might see a window unit or two but central air was rare. Breezes blew back windows’ curtains and whirled through screen doors on sultry summer days. Inevitably, flies found their way insides and made themselves at home in the kitchen. It was there, at the hands of my grandmothers, that they met their maker.

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In Sunday drives’ heyday, air conditioning was gaining momentum but you’d be hard pressed to find air-conditioned stores and homes in rural areas. Oh, you might see a window unit or two but central air was rare. Breezes blew back windows’ curtains and whirled through screen doors on sultry summer days. Inevitably, flies found their way insides and made themselves at home in the kitchen. It was there, at the hands of my grandmothers, that they met their maker.

Mesh Fly Swatter
A screen wire swatter beats a plastic one.

Remember honest-to-goodness fly swatters made of screen-wire? My grandmothers wielded those instruments of doom with an Olympic fencer’s skill. How many times did I watch those ladies pull off a trifecta: dispatching three flies with one swat.

My grandmothers didn’t need bug sprays. Nor did they have new-fangled bug zappers. No, they walked around with a screen wire fly swatter in hand. While talking to me their eyes would dart about and a smooth backhanded “swat” sent Mr. Fly to the that great compost pile in the sky. Those ladies had fighter pilot reflexes. They even clobbered flies buzzing in the air.

My grandmothers relied on the real deal. They would have disputed the New Oxford American Dictionary’s definition of “fly swatter” as “an implement used for swatting insects, typically a square of plastic mesh attached to a wire handle.”

Plastic mesh? Please. Screen-wire swatters struck with deadly force and were far more effective than today’s plastic swatters, which flies evade with ease. You see, the little critters detect changes in air pressure and a clunky plastic swatter says, “Here I come” as its thick plastic air-mashing mesh tips Mr. Fly off. “I’m outta here” and off he buzzes. A thin mesh of screen-wire, however, arrives swiftly and silently with no shock wave, converting the fly to a countertop’s version of road kill possum.

Screen wire swatters swat plastic swatters, (say that seven times) but you will be hard pressed to find a genuine screen wire swatter today. All you’ll find are plastic ones. Go online, however, and you can find honest-to-goodness screen wire flyswatters. I suggest you get a few. Someday you will need them.

No visit to my grandmothers’ home was complete without watching those Southern ladies reach for an old-fashioned screen wire flyswatter. Both had radar. A flick of the wrist and a bloody stain marked the spot of the fly’s demise. But now we have plastic swatters not worth a hoot. Flies live to drop specks yet again.

Know what else was good about screen-wire flyswatters? The vanquished fly stuck to the screen where a shake over a toilet bowl buried the critter at sea. When a plastic swatter scores a kill over a slow, dimwitted fly, the departed remains where right it was, albeit wider, thinner, bloodier, and best of all, dead. But now you have to scrape up the mess.

One more thing … Flies and kids make a bad combination. Kids have an annoying habit of standing in an open door, neither going in nor out. This will sound familiar to you baby boomers. “Close the door, you’re letting flies in.” Let ’em in we did and when the flies flew inside, my grandmothers were armed and ready. The war commenced.

The days of smashing flies are behind us. Air conditioning made life more tolerable but it robbed us of character and conflict. The war against flies required screen wire swatters and cotton puffs stuffed in window screen holes. Despite such patchwork measures, pesky, nasty, greasy flies managed to invade the house. It was there that they encountered the original No Fly Zone, and if chaps, as we were called back in my day, got out of line, well, Grandma’s weapon of choice swatter was good medicine for us too.

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Power https://likethedew.com/2018/12/09/power/ https://likethedew.com/2018/12/09/power/#respond Sun, 09 Dec 2018 11:00:24 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=70117 The dogs in the pen outside the old farm house always got fidgety just before it happened. They yelped, barked, howled. And you finally heard it; the faint train whistle and distant rumble like a long ocean wave. Then louder, pounding until the whistle was piercing and the rumble was a roar that drowned out the dogs.

The train never slowed as it faded into the distance, returning us to the still dark of our night.

My grandmother holding my granddaughter and her great-great-granddaughter, Evelyn.
My grandmother holding my granddaughter and her great-great-granddaughter, Evelyn.

That train in the night is one of my earliest childhood memories. But it is more than that. It is the beginning of a consciousness of the powerful and transient nature of this life. Those of us in this room feel it more deeply today because we share the influence of this wonderful woman. Nanny never used the metaphor of a speeding train to describe our time here, but she showed it to all of us in the way she lived.

She had a deep and abiding love for her husband and her three girls and that love only grew as the family grew. She loved them as adults the way she loved them as babies. They were hers, and their families became hers. Nanny worked. She cooked, cleaned, sewed clothes and served the church. And her faith was at the center of her life. It was from that faith that everything flowed. She sat at the breakfast table and read the Upper Room every day. She didn’t just attend church, she did all the hard work that nobody sees, from visiting the sick to sewing pew cushions. And she taught Sunday School and kept a prayer group together until the other members had passed away and left her alone.

I can remember visiting often as a child. Nanny could not conceal her joy when all her daughters were in the room singing and cutting up as we watched the Lawrence Welk Show. Later, she would laugh as she proudly said that she had three daughters on Social Security. And every grandchild, great-grandchild and great-great-grandchild in this room have seen that same joy.

Nanny lost Papa more than 30 years ago. She told me once that she had come in from working in the yard in the heat and just started talking to the chair where he used to sit before she realized he wasn’t there. And she sat with my mother as her oldest daughter’s life drained away through a ruptured aneurysm. It was the only gift she had left to give her girl.

Life is difficult, so it is hard work. Nanny knew that. She knew that when we answer the call to be the body of Christ, the literal hands and feet of Jesus on this Earth, we decide we are willing to do the most difficult thing; to put ourselves aside and to dedicate our lives to changing this world, to rebuild it as God would have it. Once she made that commitment, she never wavered. Nanny was a driven, powerful woman. The power of that train, which inspired awe in me as a young child, pales in comparison.

She would occasionally repeat a saying her grandmother imparted to her: “This life, and another and then a potato patch to dig.” Nanny said her grandmother had no idea what it meant. And, frankly, it has confounded our family for years. But today I’ll take a stab at it: If you live life as God would have you live it, there is always plenty of work to do. And there’s joy in it. It means it’s never over. It means Nanny is still working.

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Zin and the Art of Planetary Maintenance https://likethedew.com/2018/12/05/zin-and-the-art-of-planetary-maintenance/ https://likethedew.com/2018/12/05/zin-and-the-art-of-planetary-maintenance/#respond Wed, 05 Dec 2018 13:05:03 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=70095 Trolls. She’s watched it so many times, she knows it by heart. In the early 1990s, long before Zin was born, I was starting to worry about the impact of the greenhouse gases we were belching into the atmosphere and the plastic litter that we sent floating down the rivers and into the seas. I wrote a song about our dangerous notion that we could consume and pollute all we wanted and then, if things got really bad, just fly away. It began:

The planets and the stars Will not be ours Except, of course, to dream on For all our Star Trek fantasies This island Earth will be our home

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I’m writing this for my granddaughter, but I’m not telling her. I don’t want her to be scared.

Zinnia is 6 years old. She’s small for her age but otherwise precocious. She reads like a fourth grader and trampolines like a jumping bean. Other kids her age may make “yuck” faces at sight of spinach or broccoli, but Zin already relishes oysters, kalamata olives and “stinky” cheeses. Her favorite bedtime lullaby is “The Sounds of Silence,” which I thought was beyond precocious until her dad explained that the Simon and Garfunkel song is featured in her favorite movie, Trolls. She’s watched it so many times, she knows it by heart.

Zinnia picks fruitIn the early 1990s, long before Zin was born, I was starting to worry about the impact of the greenhouse gases we were belching into the atmosphere and the plastic litter that we sent floating down the rivers and into the seas. I wrote a song about our dangerous notion that we could consume and pollute all we wanted and then, if things got really bad, just fly away. It began:

The planets and the stars
Will not be ours
Except, of course, to dream on
For all our Star Trek fantasies
This island Earth will be our home

Our space-travel capabilities have improved in the intervening years, but we still haven’t found a destination planet enough like our big blue marble to covet or developed the means for even a search party to get there.

In the meantime, we’ve created a floating plastic garbage patch twice the size of Texas in the Pacific Ocean. We’re experiencing record high temperatures. Hellish wildfires are raging from California to Sweden, and hurricanes and typhoons are growing in size and intensity.

As if these inconvenient truths weren’t frightening enough, there’s a new report out from the US Global Change Research Program. Released on shopaholic Black Friday, of all days, it warns that if we don’t significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the annual average global temperature could increase nine degrees Fahrenheit or more, compared with pre-industrial temperatures, by the end of this century. The Congressionally-mandated report, compiled from the work of a dozen federal agencies, predicts increasingly calamitous weather that will endanger lives around the world. It also puts the cost of inaction in business-unfriendly greenback terms, estimating that the cost of unchecked climate change could reach hundreds of billions of dollars annually.

The year 2100 seems a long way off. Most of you who are reading this will be long gone when that new millennium is rung in. I surely won’t be around. But Zinnia and my other grandchild, Jackson, will be around to suffer for our short-sightedness and stupidity. So will billions of other kids here and around the world.

Zin is just beginning to figure out what she wants to do with her life. Maybe she’ll become a fitness trainer like her mom or a radio producer like her dad. Maybe she’ll be a doctor or a chef or a scientist or a maker of animated films like Trolls. Maybe she’ll have kids herself. I want her to have those opportunities. I want her to be living on a planet at least as beautiful and diverse and healthy as the one I grew up on – and, if at all possible, better.

No challenge we are facing or issue we are dealing with today is more important than our acting like responsible, caring adults and implementing every measure we can imagine to limit further physical deterioration of the only planet we have.

Not gun control or reproductive rights. Not Latin American immigrants or North Korea’s nuclear weapons. The environment. Our environment. Our incredibly complex, life-giving, life-sustaining, shared environment.

We need to do this whether we believe we’re God’s appointed stewards or simply because we recognize it’s suicidal to foul our nest. Pick your rationale, but make reversing damage to the Earth a personal and political priority.

We were making encouraging progress not that long ago, prioritizing cleaner energy sources, discouraging pollution, setting aside nature preserves both land and sea. Now, under new “leadership,” we are in spiteful retreat. There are those among us, including some rich and powerful people, who insist that the dire warnings of scientists like those who compiled the Fourth National Climate Assessment are a hoax or an anti-capitalist plot.

The former claim is an absurdity that would require a conspiracy of millions of scientists who’ve never met. The latter ignores the commerce to be engendered and the profit to be made from cleaner industry.

If the scientists turn out to be wrong, we will still be living a cleaner, healthier world as the 21st Century speeds along. If they’re correct in their predictions and we’ve allowed our leaders to shirk their responsibility, our children and grandchildren will be facing a rising tide of misery.

I would accuse the deniers of playing Russian roulette with our little ones’ lives, but that analogy overestimates the odds in our favor if we don’t act.

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As Blind as Bartimaeus https://likethedew.com/2018/10/24/as-blind-as-bartimaeus/ https://likethedew.com/2018/10/24/as-blind-as-bartimaeus/#respond Wed, 24 Oct 2018 14:37:36 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=69992 “I was in Jericho the day that Jesus of Nazareth and his disciples came. In fact I was in the crowd standing right next to the blind beggar Bartimaeus and when Jesus came near, Bartimaeus started to yell, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” All of us tried to get him to be quiet, but he would not stop yelling, “Son of David, have mercy on me.” And all of a sudden, Jesus called out to him, so I helped him up and led him to Jesus. Jesus turned and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus without even hesitating said, “Let me receive my sight, Master.” And Jesus said, “Go your way, for your faith has made you well.” I wanted to tell Jesus what I wanted him to do for me, but he didn’t ask and I didn’t know what to say.

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When I was in my 30’s, I became friends with a group of women in my area who were involved in a serious Bible study. A lot of them had left the local Baptist church because it was too liberal for them and they had formed a community church. They were kind, caring people who were always doing things for each other and for other people. I wanted to be just like these women, so I started attending their Bible study in hopes that some of their goodness would rub off on me.

One day the group leader told the story of the blind beggar, Bartimaeus, as if she had been there in the crowd. I remember her saying,

“I was in Jericho the day that Jesus of Nazareth and his disciples came. In fact I was in the crowd standing right next to the blind beggar Bartimaeus and when Jesus came near, Bartimaeus started to yell, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”
All of us tried to get him to be quiet, but he would not stop yelling, “Son of David, have mercy on me.” And all of a sudden, Jesus called out to him, so I helped him up and led him to Jesus.
Jesus turned and said, “What do you want me to do for you?”
Bartimaeus without even hesitating said, “Let me receive my sight, Master.”
And Jesus said, “Go your way, for your faith has made you well.”
I wanted to tell Jesus what I wanted him to do for me, but he didn’t ask and I didn’t know what to say.

Blind woman by © Sergey KhakimullinThen the group leader said, “ And now, almost 2000 years later, still if we call out and say ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me,’ we need to be ready to say what it is that we want him to do for us.”

We talked about this story for the rest of the morning, discussing what we needed to do and ask for to be good wives and mothers. Then we decided to study in depth about how to be a good wife. Our leader ordered the necessary tapes and workbooks and each week we had an assignment. We listened to the tapes, read scripture, did our assignments and also had little extra tasks we had to before our next meeting.

About this same time Marabel Morgan wrote The Total Woman and we incorporated ideas from her book into our class, such as cooking special meals for our husband and putting little surprises by his plate at dinner. Morgan even had some more ridiculous suggestions in the book, like meeting your husband at the door wrapped in Saran Wrap or wearing a raincoat with nothing else underneath it when he came home from work, and then opening up the coat to surprise him…and we did it all. And that did get my husband’s attention!

According to our Bible study teacher and Marabel Morgan, if I did all these special things for my husband and I was submissive to his will…didn’t argue with him and let him make all the decisions, then it was his job to love and take care of me and our family like Christ loves his church. I couldn’t imagine a more enriched marriage and fulfilled life than that would be.

But my husband wasn’t in that stage of his life or maybe he just didn’t agree with the concept, because he did not change one bit. He worked hard as Director of Personnel at First National Bank of Atlanta, and was frequently late and tired when he got home. Some days when I prepared a special treat or his favorite meal and had it waiting for him, he might be 2 hours late getting home from work. He was not impressed and often did not even notice the unusual food and gifts. He even told me he thought the whole concept sounded a lot like manipulation. So needless to say, I was disappointed and felt like I was a failure.

When we got together with our close friends, the guys played one-upmanship games and seemed to boast to each other as they said things like, “Well I worked late four nights this week” and “I got up at 5 AM and traveled all day on Monday” and “I went here and there…” as if the most important person was the one who had worked the most hours for the week. There was never any talk about what good wives they had or the delicious meals we prepared or the importance of supporting their families. Their scorecard was completely different from mine.

Every week we reported back to the Bible study group about how things were going at home and I heard some fantastic stories, but I just listened because I never had anything to say.

This continued for quite a while and I thought I’m just not trying hard enough. These women are making it work, and I can do it, too. So I tried harder and harder…but still nothing changed. And I became a little more frustrated and then a lot more frustrated and FINALLY one day the thought occurred to me…Why do I have a good brain and special talents if I’m not allowed to use them? If I’m not supposed to make any decisions or think for myself, why do I have these thoughts? Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.

And then I heard the question, “What do you want me to do for you?”

And I said, “I want to be able to use my brain as God intended me to use it.”

Not long after that, the new associate pastor assigned to our church was a woman, which was a rare thing in those days. One day I talked to her about all of this and she said, “It seems to me like you need to go back to school.”

When I married at age 19, I had not finished college. My youngest child had just started first grade and going back to school was something I had always planned to do. My husband supported me completely by encouraging me to enroll. So after a lengthy application process, I reentered Georgia State University at age 35 and for 2 ½ years I attended classes and graduated with honors. My husband was very proud of me and agreed with me that I should immediately start graduate school.

One month after I graduated, my husband died suddenly of a heart attack. My whole life changed in a matter of minutes and I didn’t know if I’d survive. It took weeks to fully grasp what had happened and even longer to figure out how the kids and I would live. I had so much to learn.

I had often said that when I married, I went from my father telling me what to do to my husband telling me what to do. But now I was the only person in charge of my life…not only mine, but I had three children to care for. And for the first time in my life, because I had gone back to school, I was prepared and ready to support us.

I’m so glad that I got out of that skin of the submissive woman so I could start preparing to do what had to be done. What would have happened to me and my three children if I hadn’t decided to use my brain?

As I continued in graduate school, I began taking more computer classes and concentrating on skills that would enable me to get a good job. After several months I accepted a job offer with a computer software company close to my home and became a systems analyst and programmer. Figuring out ways to solve problems challenged me, and I loved the job. And not only could I do the work, I communicated well with our clients, so I was always included in customer visits and soon became head of training. It was the perfect job, with flexible hours that allowed me to be at home when my children needed me. I felt challenged and capable, plus had a lot of fun.

Years later as I look back on this story, I think thank goodness I had the experience of asking the question and finding the answer. It changed the course of my life and enabled me to survive at a crucial time in my life. It wasn’t easy being a single mom, working and raising three children, but at least I was prepared and able to earn a good living and keep our lives together.

Even though sometimes we can be as blind as Bartimaeus, if we have the courage to speak our minds and pay attention to our hearts, we can not only just survive, but actually live, grow and thrive. I’m so glad I asked the question and paid attention to the answer.

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What “Values” Candidates Get Wrong About Values https://likethedew.com/2018/10/13/what-values-candidates-get-wrong-about-values/ https://likethedew.com/2018/10/13/what-values-candidates-get-wrong-about-values/#respond Sat, 13 Oct 2018 12:41:52 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=69949 Franklin Graham, sharp-edged son of the late beloved evangelist Billy Graham, advised his Twitter followers recently to “be aware of candidates who call themselves progressive” because they don’t “believe in God…and will likely vote against Godly principles….”

To appreciate fully what the “values” candidates favored by Graham and his ilk don’t get about values, let’s hear directly from an ilk. When Vice President Mike Pence accepted his party’s nomination for that office at the Republican Nation Convention in 2016, he famously declared, “I’m a Christian, a conservative and a Republican in that order.” What’s chilling about this isn’t so much that “Christian” came in first as that “American” didn’t even make the cut.

"The noblest motive is the public good." Thomas Jefferson BuildingPence and the values candidates for whom he’s the poster boy don’t understand what makes America the free society it is. What defines a free society is its bedrock commitment to a fair distribution of the secure social space within which competent adults are at liberty to live, not as others think fit, but by their own lights, their own conception of their good, consistent with the same liberty for others.

Your conception of your good is your personal vision of the best, most worthwhile life. It’s what you look to in deciding how to deploy your talents and abilities, how to treat others, etc. It’s a personal moral code, personal because it varies from person to person, depending on upbringing, education, accidents of history, and exposure to a more or less wide range of experiences.

What values candidates don’t understand is that election to public office subordinates their personal conception of their good, which may or may not be shared by all their constituents, to the impersonal, undivided public good that defines ours as the free society it is.

We recognize that the public good takes absolute precedence over elected officials’ private good by requiring them to affirm their allegiance, not to the Bible, the Koran, the Bhagavad-Gita, the Analects of Confucius, the teachings of the Buddha, the tenets of Baha’i, the wisdom of Druids and Wiccans, or the musings of L. Ron Hubbard, but to the Constitution of the United States. Because of the absolute priority of the public good over an officeholder’s private good, the only honorable remedy when they conflict irreconcilably is for the official to resign from office and return to private life.

Candidates and officeholders who don’t understand all this subscribe to what I’ll call the Rick Santorum model of political life. When Santorum represented Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate, the New York Times Magazine published a profile of him and quoted him saying about some of his Senate colleagues at the opposite end of the political spectrum, “They’re out there because they really believe this. This is from their core. They’re true believers. God bless them. That’s what political discourse is all about. You bring in your moral code, or worldview, and I bring in mine.”

On the Santorum model, political life is a high-stakes game of capture the flag. Candidates for office and their supporters duke it out for possession of the machinery of government, and whoever wins is then in a position to deploy the coercive powers of the state to turn their personal moral “worldview” into public policy.

But that model subverts the bedrock value that a free society aims to realize. Since the difference between competent adults and children is exactly that the former are free to live their lives in terms of their own values and moral beliefs and children aren’t (yet), another way to look at this is to think of a free society as one in which competent adults need not fear being reduced to the condition of children.

On the Santorum model, though, being reduced to that condition is exactly what the losers in political contests can look forward to from the victors. That’s because the victors mistake the power to translate their personal moral ideas into public policy, to the disadvantage of the vanquished, for the duty to advance the undivided public good at the foundation of a free society, for the benefit of all. It’s that bedrock impersonal public good that’s compromised every time we elect somebody bent on making his or her merely personal “worldview” a law for others.

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College Is A Smart Choice For Economic & Non-Economic Reasons https://likethedew.com/2018/08/31/college-is-a-smart-choice-for-economic-non-economic-reasons/ https://likethedew.com/2018/08/31/college-is-a-smart-choice-for-economic-non-economic-reasons/#respond Fri, 31 Aug 2018 20:08:52 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=69717 Journal of Economic Perspectives reveals that there are some priceless non-economic benefits to college as well.  “Schooling generates many experiences and affects many dimensions of skill that, in turn, affect central aspects of individuals’ lives,” the authors write.  “Schooling not only affects income, but also the degree to which one enjoys work, as well as one’s likelihood of being unemployed. It leads individuals to make better decisions about health, marriage, and parenting. It also improves patience, making individuals more goal-oriented and less likely to engage in risky behavior. Schooling improves trust and social interaction, and may offer substantial consumption value to some students.”]]> The unemployment rate for college graduates is half of that of non-college graduates.  College graduates earn more than double what non-college graduates earn.  And college is the gateway to graduate school and professional programs, where the disparity with earnings and employment in comparison to non-college graduates gets even wider.  But now we know there’s more to a degree than just the money you’ll make over your lifetime, as new evidence shows.

College Lecture - A Serious Man Uncertain PrincipleResearch by Philip Oreopoulos and Kjell G. Salvanes in the Journal of Economic Perspectives reveals that there are some priceless non-economic benefits to college as well.  “Schooling generates many experiences and affects many dimensions of skill that, in turn, affect central aspects of individuals’ lives,” the authors write.  “Schooling not only affects income, but also the degree to which one enjoys work, as well as one’s likelihood of being unemployed. It leads individuals to make better decisions about health, marriage, and parenting. It also improves patience, making individuals more goal-oriented and less likely to engage in risky behavior. Schooling improves trust and social interaction, and may offer substantial consumption value to some students.”

I’ve reported similar findings on marriage and parenting, as well as safer choices experienced by college graduates, on average.  But here’s a smart choice the authors may not have noted.  College students are more likely to keep their religion better than those who are of college age, but don’t attend higher education.  That doesn’t fit the media stereotype, but it does fit the data.

Now we don’t teach people how to “marry better” or how to be a good parent per se, but at our college, like many others, we teach the values of civility, diversity, service and excellence.  When those are your goals, better choices and respect and care for others tend to follow.  You also wind up making a lot of better choices in life, on average, when you pursue these goals.

Of course, you don’t have to believe my research, their research, or anyone’s research.  We live in a free country, and you can succeed without a college degree, of course.  It’s more challenging without one, but not impossible, and I don’t disparage anyone without a degree.

Heck, my dad, the youngest of 10 on the family farm, was the first person in the family history to go to college, so more likely than not, you’ll find a Tures without a college degree.  Though it probably looked like a scene out of a Norman Rockwell painting, the grandfather farmer I never knew said goodbye to his youngest child headed for college, just months before his tragic death.  But though it wasn’t his path, or own life choice, and it wasn’t the farm or working the land, he believed that college would be a good choice for his boy, and in more ways than just the bottom line.  There dad met my mom, also one of the first in her family to go to college.  They gave all of their kids a chance at higher education, because they realized how precious it would be to each of us.  I left the private sector to be a professor, because I see this kind of degree value as well.

If you’re trying to make that final decision about whether to go to college at the last minute, or are thinking about making the decision for the Fall of 2019, as a traditional or non-traditional college student, here’s what I recommend.  Go to a college fair or take the tour, but do this extra step.  Sit in on some classes.  Have lunch with some students or a professor you might study under.  Get to really see what college would be like.  Chances are, you’ll be interacting with students who will confirm the findings of those economists, instead of their media caricature.

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A Year After Charlottesville, Racists Still Haven’t Made Progress https://likethedew.com/2018/08/18/a-year-after-charlottesville-racists-still-havent-made-progress/ https://likethedew.com/2018/08/18/a-year-after-charlottesville-racists-still-havent-made-progress/#respond Sat, 18 Aug 2018 11:15:40 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=69609 she told the officer she should be released because “I’m a clean, thoroughbred, white girl.” When the officer asked what she meant by that, she replied “You’re a cop; you should know what that means … you should know based on the people that come in this room.” Rather than dismiss all charges, and escort her home with an apology for having pulled over a white person, she was treated like anyone else who would behave so dangerously. I don’t think her race and gender will help her case in court any better.]]> She blew past the stop sign at 64mph in a 30mph zone, and then blew at least twice the legal limit in Bluffton. With drink and drugs in her system, it was a pretty easy case. Then she told the officer she should be released because “I’m a clean, thoroughbred, white girl.”

When the officer asked what she meant by that, she replied “You’re a cop; you should know what that means … you should know based on the people that come in this room.”

White supremacists clash with police in Charlottesville, VA August 12, 2017Rather than dismiss all charges, and escort her home with an apology for having pulled over a white person, she was treated like anyone else who would behave so dangerously. I don’t think her race and gender will help her case in court any better.

Think white people typically try to use race to get out of a jam? The officer doesn’t agree. “Making statements such as these as a means to justify not being arrested are unusual in my experience as a law enforcement officer and I believe further demonstrate the suspect’s level of intoxication,” the police officer noted in his report.

At the same time, another white woman was trying another plea for attention. She was trying to attract TV viewers by saying extreme things, trying to top her media colleagues with this gem.

“In some parts of the country, it does seem like the America we know and love doesn’t exist anymore,” this commentator said. “Massive demographic changes have been foisted upon the American people. And they’re changes that none of us ever voted for and most of us don’t like. From Virginia to California, we see stark examples of how radically in some ways the country has changed. Now much of this is related to both illegal, and in some cases, legal immigration that, of course, progressives love.” This TV pundit, Laura Ingraham, tried later to walk back her media comments, but didn’t apologize.

I’m glad she walked those comments back, because they certainly aren’t supported by the data on how Americans really think. The “we” she refers to, in survey and after survey, accept and even embrace these changes. Only between 2% and 4% agree with the KKK, white nationalists, and white supremacist movement, with those disagreeing ranging from 73% to 94%, in an NPR/PBS poll. For the sake of comparison, the Black Lives Matter movement registers 50% of Americans agreeing with the group and only 33% disagreeing with them in this same NPR/PBS poll. More than 80% reject such white supremacist views in an ABC News/Washington Post survey. And pollsters now find people more willing to share their true beliefs in surveys.

Extremists who oppose this America are shrinking as well, as peaceful counter-protesters vastly outnumber their little bunch, while turnout among white supremacists are few in number, an embarrassing handful from Newnan to our nation’s capital. That ain’t U.S.

What we learned in Charlottesville, Austin, and among Neo-Nazi groups, however, is that there still will be extremists, angry enough to kill because they have fewer and fewer friends out there. There will still need to be vigilance on such domestic terrorists, just as we must watch out for al-Qaeda and ISIS, similarly weakened but dangerous as well with their leaderless resistance.

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Hiawatha https://likethedew.com/2018/08/13/hiawatha/ https://likethedew.com/2018/08/13/hiawatha/#respond Mon, 13 Aug 2018 10:22:15 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=69578

Ye who love the haunts of Nature,
Love the sunshine of the meadow,
Love the shadow of the forest,
Love the wind among the branches, . . .

Listen to these wild traditions,
To this Song of Hiawatha.

— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Trail Marker by Dave PruettSince my early teens, I’ve loved the out-of-doors and spent many a good moment there, sometimes in the company of others, often in blissful solitude.

At the age of forty, beset by an unexpected urge to solo trek, I strapped on a JanSport backpack large enough for a bathtub, filled it with fifty-four pounds of gear and sustenance, and hiked north on the Appalachian Trail (AT) out of Damascus, Virginia, bound for the high country of Mt. Rogers and Grayson Highlands. After a schlep of nine miles, mostly uphill, I collapsed and camped right beside the trail, too exhausted to search for a better spot. Each day thereafter, I grew stronger. By day four, lugging a pack for fifteen miles seemed the most natural thing in the world, and taking it off at the end of the day occasioned the euphoria of feeling weightless. Dad, who had just retired, picked me up in the afternoon of the fifth day, and we spent a sweet night with Grandma at the family cabin, my halfway house back to civilization. I’d knocked off fifty-five miles in all—and had a glorious adventure.

Career and family intervened, and few such opportunities presented themselves until I semi-retired at sixty-four. Hiking the full AT and peddling across country remained on the bucket list, but was I over the hill? Most likely. Certainly my JanSport days were over. The external-frame beast and its archaic gear gave way to an internal-frame North Face, a lightweight down sleeping bag, and a three-pound MSR tent. Much as I loved that faithful brass Svea white-gas stove, it went to pasture, replaced by a 1.7-ounce titanium contraption atop a five-ounce propane canister.

In July 2013, the second summer into my retirement, my wife dropped me late one morning in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, the rough midpoint of the AT, and I naively headed south and uphill from the Shenandoah River with forty pounds of gear, including seven days of food. I’d hoped to make one hundred miles in a week and in the process convince myself that the twenty-five intervening years since my first solo trek had not robbed me of much stamina. Oh, was I wrong.

Rescues:

The route snaked over the infamous boulder-strewn “roller-coaster” that fatigues even veteran Appalachian Trailers, past the delicious Bears Den youth hostel—where thirty bucks gets you a bed, a shower, a washer, a pizza, and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s—and to the threshold of graceful Sky Meadows State Park. I showered at Bears Den, but left immediately, cognizant that should I remain longer, I’d succumb to the Sirens of Comfort.

On the morning of day five, with thirty-four miles under my belt and a painful blister at the end of a toe, I awakened to terrifying numbness along my right arm. Fearing heart attack, I popped a baby aspirin — always a companion — and called my wife to rescue me at Route 50. With no other symptoms of heart trouble, I calmed and began to explore other possible origins for the worrisome numbness. In the two hours it took Suzanne to arrive, an alternative theory surfaced. Years ago I’d damaged an elbow from regularly lugging a leaden briefcase to and from work. While navigating the “roller coaster,” I’d relied heavily for balance on a hiking pole in my right hand, the stronger one. The constant pressure along my arm had revived the old elbow injury and pinched a nerve. It wasn’t a heart attack, but it was time to throw in the towel. Three weeks elapsed before full feeling returned in the arm.

The next summer, expectations trimmed, I tried again, anticipating a three-day inaugural trek. Two buddies dropped me near Front Royal, Virginia, and joined me for a few miles as I hiked into Shenandoah National Park, headed south. Eight miles and two-thousand feet in elevation later, now alone, I set up the tent on rocky trail, moments ahead of a thunder storm.

On day two, I planned another eight to ten miles, but unwisely extended to twelve, lured by visions of a shower at Matthew’s Arm campground. Exhausted and eager to call it a day, I raced downhill to the campground, a descent of seven-hundred feet in elevation, pounding all the way. Alas, there was no shower, only a “comfort station.” Dejected, I rested at a picnic table. Ten minutes later, I could barely walk, my left knee stiff and agonizingly painful. The following morning, after a near-sleepless night of continual pain, I hobbled to the Skyline Drive to meet my long-suffering wife. Rescue two.

This time the injury was severe. I’d mangled the meniscus. For two months I limped in pain, then spent another two months recovering from arthroscopic surgery. It seemed my backpacking days were at an end. One orthopedist said: “No more; take to biking instead.”

That was no doubt good advice from a physical point of view, but deadly from a psychological one. Fortunately, my general practitioner recognized the dilemma and gave tentative blessings to continued hiking, with provisos. During the spring of recovery following surgery, pondering options, I sought a compromise with myself. Were I to limit the number of days per trek to three, the maximum pack weight to thirty pounds, and the maximum distance to eight miles per day, could I, just possibly, keep trekking long enough to complete the Virginia AT, a full quarter of the 2200-mile footpath? More to the bargain, with distance expectations diminished, might there be more occasions to stop and “smell the wildflowers” along the way.

I gave it a shot. The third summer, I completed five short section hikes, about twenty miles each, finishing the AT through Shenandoah National Park. By the end of a section, the troublesome knee was sore and stiff, but it recovered after a few days of rest and acupuncturist-recommended exercises to open the joint. Some prophylactic ibuprofen before hiking also helped tamp down swelling. And sure enough, a turtle’s pace had advantages. The experience became richer.

By the end of the fourth summer, having turned sixty-eight, I’d completed all sections of the AT between the Shenandoah and James rivers.  Most memorable was the high country near Cole Mountain, where the trail wound through open meadows.  Even in thick rain and fog, I found the meadows magical, a stark contrast to the cloistered, dark woods.
True confessions: summer four also required a rescue, this time due to August heat and a ten-mile section of trail without water. Thanks again, Sweetie.

Hazards:

Sometimes I hike with friends, but often alone. I enjoy both modes, yet admit that at advanced age the unexpected becomes more threatening when alone: a heart attack; dehydration, heat exhaustion or heat stroke; copperheads and rattlers; insect stings; and bears to mention a few of the things that can get you. But the scariest hazard is a fall. In season five I dodged a bullet, and learned an invaluable hiking lesson the hard way.

The trail I was walking, slightly downhill, cut along a steep slope. As always, I relied on a hiking pole for balance. Planting it firmly at each step, I unwisely held it in the wrong hand, at the precipitous edge of the trail. Without warning, the pole cut through the berm, sent me tumbling ten feet down the embankment. Going down, my left calf cramped, the most painful part of the episode. Mercifully there were no rocks where I landed, only brush. I crawled back to the trail, bleeding from deep contusions on my right knee. When my wrist swelled, I realized I’d sprained that as well. No rescue this time, but my first-aid kit, unopened for years, was put to good use.

By now one might wonder whether the writer is a masochist. In addition to the aforementioned hazards, I’ve walked multiple days in the rain, endured thunderstorms in a tiny tent, packed up wet andn chilled to the bone, been consumed by blood-sucking insects. Though I don’t think I’m a masochist, I can’t honestly proclaim that these hikes are fun. Truth is, seven to eight miles a day— while carrying a load on rocky terrain that rises and falls through heart-pounding elevation changes d—is mostly an ordeal. A wet moss-covered rock or boot placed in the wrong spot can spell disaster. Being constantly on high alert is itself exhausting. , Were I able to remain out longer than three days, my body might adapt a routine where prolonged exertion, vigilance, and deprivation become “natural.” But age and knees no longer allow long excursions.

What I can say is this: my soul craves wildness. And then there’s the intriguing observation by my poetic and beach-loving friend Michele: “Salt cures all things: sweat, sea, and tears.” A good sweat is medicinal. In the recovery period after a trek, I sleep well, I’m more peaceful, happier. Admittedly, this enhanced state of being fades within days. But by planning and anticipating a section-hike each month during the summer and fall, I can projecte)) the benefits throughout much of the year. I’ve also come to recognize that the worst thing one can do to any machine, including the human body, is not to use it. I conclude that the risks of not g undertaking these hikes are worse than the risks of doing them.

Thru-Hikers:

Rhododendron tunnels, ever-changing rock formations, unencumbered vistas, rippling brooks, nighttime chirps, musty smells, and immense silence: these beckon my soul when reason and comfort say “no.” Still, for safety sake, it’s a relief to encounter other hikers on the trail. On the AT, there are day hikers, section hikers, and thru-hikers. Thru-hikers complete the entire AT in one long walk of four- to six-months. Two-thirds of those who set out never finish. If you’ve never attempted a multiple-day trail hike with a load, you can’t imagine how arduous the task.

The demographic distribution of thru-hikers is distinctly bi-modal. There are the young Turks in their twenties who haven’t started careers, and there are us retirees in our fifties and sixties with time on our hands. There are precious few in between.

Over the past five hiking seasons, I’ve developed some impressions of thru-hikers. They come in waves. The young, fit, and gregarious head north from Springer Mountain, Georgia, in late February or early March. They boogey, often knocking off twenty to twenty-four miles a day. Their wave crests near Roanoke, Virginia, in May. The last time I camped near a trail shelter, I encountered about twenty-five of them. It was hard to find a spot on the ground even for a 6two-foot by six-foot tent. This bunch can be rowdy and profane. I’m no prude, but somehow the constant F-bombs grate on me when sitting at a picnic table deep in pristine woods. Still, these guys, and almost as many gals, look after one another. They’re not a bad lot.

The older thru-hikers — and the more introverted ones, young or old — come in the second wave. They tend to start later (say, in April) to avoid the mobs in the first wave, and they pass through central Virginia late in the month of June. I admit I like these folks better. They’re not as likely to be burning up the trail. They’ll stop, make small talk, give you tips, and most of all warm you with a smile.

On the last day of my most-recent section hike, I encountered “Rusty,” resting on a rock during a water break. He looked to be about fifty, with a lean build, a bandana, and longish gray hair. We were headed in opposite directions, so I asked him if the trail to the south crossed the Blue Ridge Parkway. I was due to meet my wife at milepost 74.9 around three p.m. My trail map was inconclusive about whether the Parkway and footpath physically crossed or were only proximate. Rusty happily opened the Appalachian Trail app on his iPhone to address my concerns. It revealed that, although the road and the trail did not quite cross, they were just yards (not miles) apart at the rendezvous point. As Rusty navigated the iPhone with dexterity, I noticed his mal-formed hands, and that he sometimes used a knuckle to tap the screen. I couldn’t help but wonder if his feet were similarly afflicted and how that might affect long-distance travels by foot. I didn’t ask, of course. Still something exchanged in both the silences and the words between us, and I felt a kinship. On that day I met several like “Rusty,” each a kind soul, a lover of “the haunts of Nature.” I felt more than ever that given a chance, nature can redeem the hearts of men (and women).

Two years previously, at a trail shelter, I met two brothers from Pennsylvania whom I still recall with fondness, though I can’t summon their names. The older brother, then over sixty, was a warmed-over hippy who’d hiked half the Appalachian Trail, north to south, in his twenties. He’d stopped at Harper’s Ferry and had longed ever since to complete the southern half of the trail. His brother, a few years younger, was an engineer in a titanium manufacturing plant. He’d lost several ribs to childhood cancer, but he’d survived and stayed fit. The older brother had talked the younger one into section-hiking the lower half of the AT, nibbling off a sizeable chunk each summer. The brothers were clearly close, and they readily took me in. I camped with them one evening and hung with them for most of the next day, but we parted when my daily mileage limitation required me to stop. Distance backpacking demands that each trekker follow his or her own drummer.

The kindly brothers were well-provisioned and well-prepared. They were the first to introduce me to an ultraviolet SteriPEN for water purification. I now use one religiously. Impressively, they’d freeze-dried their own camp food and processed their own beef jerky. Like most distance hikers, forced to jettison every non-essential ounce to shrink the ever-oppressive load, they’d realized they were over-supplied and offered me a pack of jerky. It was the best I’ve ever eaten, even better than Melton’s jerky from the Mennonite market in Dayton, Virginia. I sure hope those guys are nearing Springer Mountain by now. They so deserve to finish and celebrate.

Each passing year brings more “vintage” hikers to the trail. With the recent publication of Grandma Gatewood’s Walk, the numbers of older hikers will likely continue to swell. If you haven’t yet heard the story, Emma Gatewood was the first woman to thru-hike the AT, completing it in 1955 at the age of sixty-seven. She carried her primitive equipment in a sack slung over her shoulder. The next year she did it again. Then, for good measure, she section-hiked the entire trail the year after that.

Trail Names:

Thru-hikers assume trail names, losing their given names and non-trail identities. A trail name, I suppose, offers a useful blend of familiarity and anonymity. No one signs the log book at a trail shelter with their given name, and when you meet another hiker, you ask only for a trail name. Some trail names — say, “Montana”— associate the hiker with where they’re from. Others get identified with an item of gear or clothing, say, “Bandana.” Most earn their trail name in Native-American fashion, from some random trail event that seems a defining experience. The Appalachian Trail thru-hikers register of 2015 features “Wistful,” “June Bug,” “BonBon,” and “Dream Catcher,” among hundreds of others. The memorial Appalachian Trail “Foot” Bridge over the James River is so named, tongue-in-cheek, for William Foot, a dedicated Appalachian Trail maintainer and promoter. He and his wife, both thru-hikers, were collectively “The Happy Feet.” I’ve forgotten most of the trail names encountered this season. But among these are the long-haired, helpful “Rusty,” “Ramble On Rose,” and “Madiera.” A fortyish woman, “Madiera,” is thru-hiking the entire AT a second time, this trip with faithful companion “Ramble On Rose.”

Not being a thru-hiker, I don’t have a trail name. I’ve toyed with a few, but until recently none seemed to fit. My camping buddies sometimes call me “Dave of Tucson” in reference to where I went to graduate school thirty-five years ago — and my fondness for deserts. But having lived the second half of my life entirely in Virginia, “Dave of Tucson” doesn’t quite cut it.

Five years ago, two of those buddies and I were driven off the trail by a raging downpour in Grayson Highlands State Park. As we slunk to shelter in defeat, we encountered a sixty-year-old woman thru-hiker, plowing along happy as a clam in raingear. The following day we ran into a seventy-year-old former coach and long-distance section hiker. Acknowledging our lack of the Right Stuff, we good-heartedly dubbed one another “Wuss1,” “Wuss2,” and “Big Wuss.” But, damn-it-all, I can’t go through trail life with the moniker “Big Wuss.” A couple of years later, I bestowed upon “Wuss1” a far more fitting appellation: “Brave Fart.” He’s as good a trail companion as one could ever ask for, a solid rock in an emergency. Oh yeah, and at over seventy, he’s admittedly an “old fart,” but only in age, not disposition.

When I was a child, younger than the age of three when memory sets in, Mom read to me from Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha. Although I’ve no conscious recollection of those moments, what the epic poem now evokes in me is primal. I’ve absolutely no doubt that those words are connected in some mysterious way to both my affinity for all things Native American and my love of nature.

As I was parting from “Rusty,” having just learned his trail name, he enquired about mine. “Well, I don’t really have one,” I confessed, then added almost in the same breath: “But, I’m thinking of ‘Hiawatha.’”

“Hiawatha.” I like that.

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Dealing with Censorship https://likethedew.com/2018/08/07/dealing-with-censorship/ https://likethedew.com/2018/08/07/dealing-with-censorship/#respond Tue, 07 Aug 2018 10:16:05 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=69551 Does anyone know the difference between nudity and brief nudity? Seriously, I’m stuck. Movie ratings are based on such things as how many naked body parts are accumulated in the entirety of a film, how many F-bombs are dropped during the dialogue, and whether sex is depicted as serious or frivolous. Why?

For as long as we have been able to watch a story on a screen of some sort, there have been people, usually power hungry hypocrites, defining what is acceptable for others to see. I’ve always wondered how this system originated.

This film has been passed by the national board of censorshipFor someone to determine what is harmful, he must view copious amounts of questionable material and then explain to the film makers what must be removed to avoid irreparable harm to the viewers. If he’s watching all this smut and gore, isn’t he being harmed? I also wonder how someone decides what to censor. We all see things that make us cringe but there is a wide disparity where individual tastes are concerned.

We identify certain things as unacceptable or questionable, and blindly determine an age, usually 18, when someone is mature enough to not be shattered by offending sights like extended views of quivering breasts. I’m zeroing in on my seventh decade and am still somewhat affected by quivering breasts. Besides, I can’t think of a single thing that magically changed for me emotionally when I turned 18.

Which brings up the other, more important question. Why naked breasts and butts? Since the big three monotheistic religions appeared about 5000 years ago, we have evolved into thinking that any view of female body parts entice menfolk into uncontrolled lust and dire behavior so terrible the world is at risk.

Before these now prominent religions were invented, many of the world’s beliefs were focused on women and fertility. Humans celebrated the very things most of the world now considers too controversial to even mention, much less treat sensibly.

We modern humans are also much more likely to censor sexual scenes and leave violence alone. One would think that exploding heads, slow-mo severed arms, and human bodies being torn into pieces by various evil creatures, would be much more harmful than watching a couple of pretty people commit a mortal sin in synchronized harmony with a peppy soundtrack.

Sex depicted in movies is as far away from actual sex as one can possibly be. The actors involved in a movie sex scene are much, much prettier than anyone most of us will ever have sex with. The vast majority of humans never see people that good looking, much less get intimate with them.

And the choreography; gee whiz. I’ve never experienced, or known anyone else that’s experienced, the slow motion dance moves involved in on-camera hanky-panky. I’m pretty sure that stuff is an actual crime against nature.

But I’m in the minority. Every ten years or so, we decide that pornography, nakedness, and prurient interests are going to destroy mankind as we know it. Greed, need for control, and stupidity have been with us since we first stood up and no one sees fit to place limits on those behaviors. Why aren’t we worried about repeated depictions of those behaviors harming our morality?

Has anyone watched Succession? ]]> https://likethedew.com/2018/08/07/dealing-with-censorship/feed/ 0 Don’t be so gullible as to let your freedoms slip away https://likethedew.com/2018/06/25/dont-be-so-gullible-as-to-let-your-freedoms-slip-away/ https://likethedew.com/2018/06/25/dont-be-so-gullible-as-to-let-your-freedoms-slip-away/#respond Mon, 25 Jun 2018 16:06:31 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=69425 “We hold these truths to be self evident:  that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Those were Thomas Jefferson’s words in the Declaration of Independence of July 4, 1776.  They’re filled with a courage found just days earlier on June 28 as South Carolina patriots defended a fort on Sullivan’s Island at the mouth of Charleston harbor from a massive land and sea attack by the British.  It was the first major patriot victory of the Revolutionary War. Word spread quickly and gave colonists the courage to declare independence.]]> Americans shouldn’t have to be reminded about core values.  But with all that’s roiling in Washington, let’s go back to the beginning.

“We hold these truths to be self evident:  that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Those were Thomas Jefferson’s words in the Declaration of Independence of July 4, 1776.  They’re filled with a courage found just days earlier on June 28 as South Carolina patriots defended a fort on Sullivan’s Island at the mouth of Charleston harbor from a massive land and sea attack by the British.  It was the first major patriot victory of the Revolutionary War. Word spread quickly and gave colonists the courage to declare independence.

Through the years, that independent spirit forged values that became known as American all over the world — the continuing commitment to fairness and truth, the zeal to promote opportunity and the American dream through hard work, the passion of shared sacrifice to enhance the common good, an ongoing vow to do the right thing at home and abroad.  These ideals are intrinsically American, recognized in the image of America as the “shining city on a hill” as shared during presidencies from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan.

“In my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.”

the bill of rights being trampled by elephants

In a farewell address, Reagan shared the importance of America as the beacon of opportunity that began in the 1630s by John Winthrop of the Massachusetts Bay Colony:

And now five presidents later comes Donald Trump, who plays fast and loose with the rules and truth, who is placing economically-disadvantageous tariffs on American goods that likely will dampen the growing economy, who so wants an expensive border wall that he split kids from their parents and tried to blame others.  As this president tweets with selfish abandon, Congress plods. Too often, the media play along, looking at whatever new shiny thing Trump holds in one hand while the other is used to obfuscate, dissemble and trample the hard work of millions of Americans, especially those who do not look like him.

We should be outraged, not gullible.  We must protect the freedoms, human rights and values  championed in a 1941 speech by President Franklin Roosevelt:

Freedom of speech and expression.  Today’s “fake news” is nonsense infecting the country and dampening this basic First Amendment freedom.  Americans should not put up with lies and misrepresentations of verifiable facts.

Freedom of religion for people to worship how they choose.   It is unacceptable and un-American to demagogue red-blooded Americans who observe religions other than Christianity.

Freedom from want.  Artist Norman Rockwell portrayed this freedom as an iconic Thanksgiving dinner.  Roosevelt called for “economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants.”

Freedom from fear.  Roosevelt framed this basic freedom as a reduction in armaments to reduce war and violence.  Today, it translates into quelling the nuclear arms race. Trump gets credit for engaging North Korea (although we worry he’s been played).  But he fans the flames of fear by killing an arms treaty to denuclearize Iran and, more recently, announcing the withdrawal from the United Nations Human Rights Council.

America is a land of promise, a place that has thrived on shared sacrifice for the common good.   It’s hope and opportunity over deceit and greed. It’s love and helping others versus oppression and bigotry.  It’s about working out problems and moving forward, not embracing the sins of the past. It’s an ideal that freedom-loving people have aspired to since the days of Jefferson.

We need to move beyond an electorate that’s angry, a milquetoast Congress scared of its own shadow, out-of-control agencies and a president who struggles with truth daily.  Let’s not let the nattering nabobs of negativism, naysayers, greed-panderers and plutocrats fracture our shining city on the hill.  We must do better.

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Farewell, My Lovely https://likethedew.com/2018/06/25/farewell-my-lovely-2/ https://likethedew.com/2018/06/25/farewell-my-lovely-2/#respond Mon, 25 Jun 2018 15:14:47 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=69417 I have grown fond of mowing my meadow in the late afternoon or early evening. I enjoy being in this one-time apple orchard. The gently rolling hillside and field went back to the wild soon after the local farmers quit working it, but I spent the past year clearing paths and removing dead growth. This grassy expanse is now clean of brush and shows off some clumps of Black-Eyed Susans, a gathering of Russian Olive, and a thicket of wild roses. These islands of color interrupt the view and draw the eye and mind into curiosity about what lies beyond the wood line, on the far side of the locusts and walnut to where the hickory, maple, and great white oaks tower.

The meadow is a place my dogs loved. Herds of deer, the solitary grumpy black bear who still leaves huge swirls of dark black scat, almost always with hair in it, an excitement of turkey hens marching their brood single file snatching tasty grasshoppers on the fly, the occasional black snake—that “narrow fellow in the grass”—and all kinds of other woodland critters coming and going, day and night, to wherever their lodestar guides them. The dogs run on fumes, so many scents to inhale, so many droppings to sniff and roll in as they cross and crisscross and then race around the meadow one more time. A band of merry pranksters.

I smile remembering their fun. The time I spend in the meadow gives me pause to think more about the loss of Abbie, my lovely forever-young Golden Retriever who would have been sixteen in October. I had to put her down on 4 June.

The meadow is comforting and allows me distance from the piercing of the heart when life steals what we love away from us. A vet told me once to space my dogs out better so they wouldn’t all grow old at the same time. But like a lot of families, there was little planning. My gals and guys just came down the path at their own pace.

Although death is with us all the time, especially in the country where the young and the vulnerable have the odds fixed against them, I have never learned how to deal with the end of life in any satisfactory way. I just don’t seem capable, or perhaps willing, to make accommodations. I only do what I know how to do: once again I dug a grave into the hard clay and stone on my side of the mountain.

People and animals lose who they are, no longer find comfort in food or water, and pee down their legs. They lie down not because they are tired but because their legs can no longer hold them up.

I’ve had to put a number of dogs down in my life and still haven’t learned much about timing. As we know, there’s never a good moment to say good-bye. Optimist or coward, one thing for sure is that I am never premature. I always feel the need to stretch the limit, even if it’s only a few minutes. The time comes, though, when you can no longer pretend that all will be well.

I told her how precious she is and reassured her that she is my heart’s delight. I then kissed her goodbye and held her trusting head in my lap. When her labored breathing ceased I knew I was in the presence of mystery. I was stilled in that moment.

Now I find I have little to say about death. Words fail. I stare blankly at my loss, my tongue mute, not knowing what happened. I am reminded that death, like music, shows us that the essence of being is ungraspable, unnameable. I am learning that this mystery of death cannot be articulated.

All I was able to do for Abbie at the end was to make her comfortable and let her go at what I thought was her own given speed. I wanted more time, not days necessarily, just a few more minutes. Time is not always our friend. I wanted to squeeze every available minute out of that defining moment. I looked up at the clock, though, and the second hand nudged me along. Time was growing impatient and wanted us to move on. I was back in high school Latin class translating Ovid’s Tempus edax rerum, “Time, the devourer of all things.”

That night I slept within dreams and counter dreams and wrestled with what really happened. The comfort of all things familiar was gone.

When I awoke I read from a book by Adam Zagajewski, the Polish poet and essayist, who often wrestles with time, too. In one passage I took comfort from his loving memory of his father who knew the importance of stretching out time when the occasion was right.

Zagajewski writes that his father’s “calling, his life’s mission, became comforting my mother, the constant, permanent, daily creation of an optimistic vision of events, a lens designed to neutralize her deep, deepest pessimism, her fear.” When German bombs began to explode on Warsaw where they lived on 1 September 1939, he reassured her, “Don’t worry, Ludka, it’s just exercises, nothing to upset us, calm down, it’s just maneuvers, there won’t be a war.” Thus, Zagajewski’s father gave his wife “an extra fifteen minutes of peace. He prolonged the interwar era by a quarter of an hour especially for her.”

I also searched for reassurance for Abbie as Janet, our vet, found her vein. “It’s just a shot, sweet thing, to make things better.”

]]> https://likethedew.com/2018/06/25/farewell-my-lovely-2/feed/ 0 Who Benefits from the “Booming Economy”? https://likethedew.com/2018/06/13/who-benefits-from-the-booming-economy/ https://likethedew.com/2018/06/13/who-benefits-from-the-booming-economy/#respond Wed, 13 Jun 2018 16:35:46 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=69321 “booming economy,” the benefits are distributed very unequally, when they are distributed at all. Buoyed by soaring corporate profits and stock prices, the richest Americans have reached new and dazzling heights of prosperity.  As of May 2018, the growing crop of billionairesincluded corporate owners with unprecedented levels of wealth like Jeff Bezos ($112 billion), Bill Gates ($90 billion), and Warren Buffet ($84 billion).  Some families have also grown fantastically rich, including the rightwing Koch brothers ($120 billion) and the Walton family, owners of Walmart (nearly $175 billion).  Together with the rest of America’s richest 1 percent, they possess nearly 40 percent of the nation’s wealth.]]> Although the U.S. mass media are awash with stories about America’s “booming economy,” the benefits are distributed very unequally, when they are distributed at all.

Buoyed by soaring corporate profits and stock prices, the richest Americans have reached new and dazzling heights of prosperity.  As of May 2018, the growing crop of billionaires included corporate owners with unprecedented levels of wealth like Jeff Bezos ($112 billion), Bill Gates ($90 billion), and Warren Buffet ($84 billion).  Some families have also grown fantastically rich, including the rightwing Koch brothers ($120 billion) and the Walton family, owners of Walmart (nearly $175 billion).  Together with the rest of America’s richest 1 percent, they possess nearly 40 percent of the nation’s wealth.

illustration of social disparityBut a great many Americans are not doing nearly as well as the nation’s super-wealthy.  That 40 percent of the wealth, in fact, constitutes twice the total wealth held by the bottom 90 percent of the American public (about 294,000,000 people).  On May 17, 2018, the United Way released a study indicating that nearly half of American households could not afford basics like food, housing, and healthcare.  Many of the wage earners in these households were child care workers, home health aides, office assistants, and store clerks―people who had low-paying jobs and minuscule (if any) savings.

Furthermore, according to U.S. government statistics, some 41 million Americans live in poverty.  Of these, over 5 million reportedly live on $4 a day or less―at least as long as they continue living.  Life expectancy in some parts of the United States, for instance in Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta, is lower than in Bangladesh.

Employment income in the United States serves as another example of extreme economic inequality.  Drawing on information provided to the federal government by 225 Fortune 500 companies with total annual revenues of $6.3 trillion, a Congressional study released this May reported that the CEO-to-worker pay ratio―which stood at 25 to 1 in the 1965―has now reached 339 to 1.

In some well-known firms, the ratio is much larger.  Consequently, their employees would have to work considerably more than a thousand years to catch up with their bosses’ income for one year.  These companies include Mattel (with a CEO-to-worker pay ratio of 4,987 to 1), McDonald’s (3,101 to 1), Gap (2,900 to 1), Manpower (2,483 to 1), Hanes Brands (1,830 to 1), and Kohl’s (1,264 to 1).  Walmart, owned by the nation’s richest family and with 2.3 million employees, has a CEO-to-worker ratio of 1,188 to 1.

Somewhat later this May, the AFL-CIO came out with its own report, revealing even greater economic inequality.  According to the labor federation, government figures revealed that CEOs of S&P 500 Index companies received, on average, $13.9 million in compensation during 2017―a 6.4 percent increase over the preceding year.  By contrast, the average production and nonsupervisory worker received only $38,613, producing CEO-to-worker pay ratio of 361 to 1.

As might be expected, corporations vigorously resisted providing this kind of information and reacted angrily to suggestions that there was anything wrong with the extreme disparities it disclosed.  “People have decisions to make as to whether they want to improve themselves and get higher paying jobs,” observed a CEO of a multibillion dollar company.  “Some people decide to do that and others don’t.”

This pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps philosophy has long served as a top rationalization of privilege by the privileged.  And, indeed, corporate executives are very numerous in the ranks of today’s wealthiest Americans, now heading up about two-thirds of the households of America’s richest 1 percent.  But this philosophy should provide little comfort to American workers, whose share of the national income has been shrinking for decades.

American workers are not only extremely unlikely to ever amass riches comparable to those of the wealthiest 1 percent, but even to see their incomes improve significantly through wage increases.  Median real wages rose only one-fifth of 1 percent in the United States during 2017.  Furthermore, despite nearly full employment and the “booming economy,” the same pattern has persisted right up to the present.

The failure to share equitably in rapid economic growth has been a common feature of American history.  In “the roaring twenties,” a surging economy, characterized by economic expansion and a dizzying rise in stock prices, was accompanied by significant income and wealth disparity.  Although the rich got much richer, average workers experienced no more than a slow rise in income.  Indeed, workers in some industries suffered from falling wage rates.

Thus, soaring wealth and incomes for the few do not automatically translate into better lives for the many.  Centuries ago, American slaves understood this as they labored under the lash in booming economies―economies that included their full employment, but served only the interests of their ever-richer masters.  We should understand it as well.

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