Engage and Enrage

It’s the art of politics on the right side of the aisle here in the good old USA. But if you see us as one nation, under God and all of that, shouldn’t y’all be working harder to engage and assuage? Why would anyone want to pit one group of Americans against another? What are they hoping to achieve? 

And beyond just politics, we do in general very much like our groups, those with whom we share something important to us, be that an address, a job, a style of dress, a place of worship, a school, a sport, a pop star, a hobby. And we are proud of those groups and so when our group pride is somehow hurt, we rally our group against other groups, ostensibly our enemies, but almost always just a bunch of Americans who ultimately share the same beliefs about life, love, family and friends.  

So what do we do? We resort to inflating the importance of small issues, things that might look or sound bad or wrong or weird, but are ultimately no skin off our backs. And we say these things over and over to keep people thinking about them (they say that hearing something 14 times will lead a person to action). It’s called propaganda, and it works.  

Anger, distrust, unhappiness, jealousy, and ultimately violence; that is what they’re hoping to achieve.  And when you think about it, the more we’re beating up on one another down here in the trenches of life, the rich and powerful stay busy, accumulating more power, and getting richer and richer and richer.

Thich Quang Duc and Wynn Alan Bruce

Most people my age and older have some knowledge of, and may have the image (above) seared into their mind of when Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk, set himself on fire to protest the police and Vietnamese army’s massacre of Vietnamese people during a celebration that turned into a protest. At the time Vietnam was 90% Buddhist but the current ruler, Ngo Dinh Diem, was Catholic and wanted to “westernize” the nation and so banned the display of religious flags. On May 8, 1963, they celebrated Phat Dan, or the day of the birth of the Buddha, religious flags were displayed, and the massacre ensued. A month later, on June 11, Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk who was not at the massacre, sat down in the middle of the same street, began meditating, set himself on fire (doused in gasoline) and sat motionless as he burned to death.

An American photographer happened to be on the scent and got the iconic, jaw-dropping photos that exploded across the globe. Thich Nhat Hanh, another Vietnamese buddhist monk, prolific author and teacher, often brought him up in his writings, and while I never committed the man’s name to memory, I never forgot that image since I saw it as a teenager in the 1970s.

Recently, a blip in my online, 24-hour news feed, filled with stories of mass shootings, war in Ukraine, awful American (and worldwide) politicians and people, and the ongoing, ever-expanding destruction of the planet thanks in large part to human-induced burning of fossil fuels, was something about an American who did something similar in Washington DC. I’m appalled and embarrassed how little attention I paid.

Reading the obituaries in the local paper this morning I stopped cold when I saw: “on the steps of the Supreme Courthouse…”

“Bruce, Wynn Alan
Born in Green Bay WI Aug 25, 1971 and died on Earth Day April 22, 2022 on the steps of the Supreme Courthouse in Washington DC. His father, Douglas Bruce (Holly), mother Martha, stepbrother Eric (Jamie), extended family and friends in Minnesota and Boulder, CO and around the country are greatly saddened by his death but respect and honor his commitment to the issues of climate change and the environment.”

Unless you’ve got your head jammed straight up your ass and/or have been fooled by extremely effective but idiotic right wing media, you understand what is happening right now to our climate due to humankind. I’m human and not at all pretending I’ve been doing much myself. In fact, my passion for doing something about this has been washed away, shall we say, having watched the world (and more importantly, individuals like you and me) do absolutely nothing about it.

Scientists have been warning us for decades, and year after year, the climate has been proving them almost exactly right, but to pretty much no avail. So I’m now at this point hopeless we’ll do much about it and wondering what we’ll do about the consequences. How will we handle the flooding of coastal and inland low lying areas? What will we do about the incredible heat waves that will make many places currently filled with humans uninhabitable? How about the massive fires that will only get worse and worse? Who’s going to pay to rebuild after the super storms keep coming and damaging property, farmland, and infrastructure? And in the current pandemic of xenophobia what will we do with the mass migrations due to heat, flooding, fires, storms and water shortages?

Of course, we’re already paying for increasing storm damage, controlling and putting out growing fires, cleaning up and relocating people after massive flooding, but it’s that last one that I really worry about. Here in the U.S. people are filling their pants because there are 60,000 people at the southern border trying to get into our nation of 330 million people. What about when there are 10, 50 or 100 million people clamoring to get in? What big beautiful wall is going to stop them? How about when the entire population of Southwest U.S. starts running north and east? What happens then?

We’ll see. Then, by the way, is only a few decades out, maybe sooner. But here we sit, doing nothing and not even noticing, when Green Bay’s own, Wynn Alan Bruce, sits down in plain view and burns himself to death in an incredibly brave warning to all of us of what’s coming. Blip.

A Little Help?

“When the alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien.  The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt:  I am the Lord your God.”
Leviticus 19:33-34 and 24:22

Help Wanted

Not sure about you, but everywhere I look I see Help Wanted signs. They are in windows, on restaurant tables, billboards, huge banners draped on buildings, in urban, suburban, exurban and rural areas – everywhere – Help Wanted signs. Some of these are for better paying jobs but most are for line cooks, dishwashers, service industry, construction, fast food, hotel staff and the like. These are jobs traditionally held by new immigrants and people low on the socio-economic ladder. Businesses are desperate for workers at a time when our jobless rate is at an historic low of 3.6%.

In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are currently at least 11.3 million job openings in the United States. The actual number will be higher due to very small businesses that often go uncounted.

“The Horror at the Border”

The reports are true: There was a record number of encounters with migrants at the Southwest border of 1.6 million in 2021, just over 1 million of those involved single adults. About a quarter of those were repeat crossers, so the number of new people trying to get into the U.S. was about 1.2 million. The number of people traveling in families was 451,087, also a record.

Sixty-three percent of these people were from countries other than Mexico, most from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, another record. Some of these were the migrants we read about or saw on television who walked in caravans hundreds and even over a thousand miles to get to our border.

Republicans among us gnash their teeth, wring their hands, and bellow about the catastrophe at our border. It’s good politics as they can dumb it down, blame it on President Biden and do nothing. Of course, the real reasons these folks are coming in such huge numbers is that there are no jobs in their own countries, they are in mortal danger and/or they want their children to have a better life than they had. The very same reasons every American’s family came to our shores.

I’m sure you’ve already done the math, but here we go: Had we welcomed every single one of those one million single adults at the border and got them each one of the 11.3 million jobs, we’d have filled less than 10% and still have 10.3 million job openings, we’d not even notice the number of Help Wanted signs having gone down, and business owners would still be desperate for workers.

I’m not advocating for that, of course, as it’s all much more complicated, but in general, the average American’s idea of immigration and our borders is shockingly skewed. This is mostly due to misinformation and mostly from right wing media and politicians. They understand that instilling fear into voters, in this case, with “illegal immigrants at the borders,” is extremely effective and distracts voters from the actual issues our elected officials should be focused on – the best education, affordable healthcare, climate change and others that truly affect American individuals and families.

Humanity is the Story of Migration

All Americans are from immigrant families. No matter where you are on this planet at some point your family immigrated to where you currently live. They did not spring from the ground like tulips. Life on earth is defined by migration – constant, ever-flowing migration. Keep an open mind, listen to your heart and don’t buy into the fear-mongering. There are often solutions smack dab in the middle of problems.

A speech I need to hear and now

Dear Fellow Americans,

Today I call upon Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop this massacre of innocent Ukranian people. We fully respect Russia as a sovereign nation and so will do nothing within their borders, but if we don’t see a complete withdrawal beginning within 48 hours, we will begin a military bombardment of all of their assets within Ukraine’s borders. We recognize Ukraine as a sovereign nation as we do Russia.

We call upon the oligarchs, the richest and most powerful citizens in Russia, to demand the withdrawal and do everything in your power to diminish Putin’s.

And we call upon Russian generals and other military leaders around Vladimir Putin to make absolutely certain that Mr. Putin doesn’t think for one second about using any weapons of mass destruction including nuclear weapons. That would immediately negate our respect for Russia as a sovereign nation.

Who among you wants to destroy the lives of your children, grandchildren and all of the generations to follow? None of you do and none of us do either. You all must band together to make certain that Mr. Putin does not have the power over you to continue or escalate this situation. You must exercise your power against the one man who can make that decision. There are many of you and just one of him.

We call upon the brave Russian soldiers to not wait for the order to retreat, but to immediately lay down your weapons and go home to your friends and families. We call upon the Ukranian soldiers to allow them to leave peacefully.

We call upon all peace loving Russians to get into the streets immediately and demand that they begin withdrawal and not let another Russian soldier die in this illegal war.

In fact, we call upon every peace-loving human being on the planet to show their support for this withdrawal in any way they feel – hang flags, bang pans, sing songs, play trumpets. As a world, we need to create a cacophony that Mr. Putin will surely see and hear.

I’ve already said that Mr. Putin is a war criminal and many in the rest of the world recognize that. I will look at the situation with very different eyes if Mr. Putin complies and peace is restored to Ukraine and the senseless murder and destruction stops.

Sanctions take time. Rape, destruction and murder do not. As a world, we need to stand up and say no more and right now!

Lovers of peace and freedom, in every nation in this world, shout it from the rooftops. We’ve got 48 hours to change the world.

Thank you.

Readers, please share this far and wide if you agree.

We think we know

Sentient beings need a brain, right? A nervous system to tell the body what to do in the world. It’s what we know. It’s all we know. But there’s a single-cell slime mold, sans any nervous system, that learns, passes knowledge to other molds, and repairs itself within minutes. No one knows even how to categorize this organism.

It’s been around for millions of years, but we have no idea what it is. Is it an animal? Is it a fungus? It’s capable of memory and adapts its behavior. It solves problems of moving around a labyrinth.

“The blob can navigate without eyes, limbs or wings. When researchers sliced up the organism and sprinkled them in a maze, the blob consolidated into its original form.” And get this: “After introducing the experiment to a new blob and allowing it to merge with another, the new super blob show incredible smarts. ‘Somehow during the merging process, the naive cells learned a behavior for a situation that they themselves had never experienced.'”

Crows taught to fear a particular human will give birth to baby crows that have never seen that human or know anything about it, but know to fear it. What do we know?