Wednesday, June 21, 2017

I'm sorry, I just can't stop ranting,

and this time it's not about the presidency. It's about us, and our selfishness and concern for our only comfort and convenience that we failed to do all we can to help save the planet for posterity. Thus I become cynical and yearn for the old days. Oh, I know they were anything but the "good ole' days" for far too much of our population – African-Americans, Native Americans and those of a minority sexual orientation.  While I recognize we have ways to go  in those areas,I am truly amazed by the progress we have made since my growing up in Texas in the depression years. But for most of the "other" Americans it was a time of commitment to a cause and ready to deny ourselves for the good of the world as we saw it.  For us a much larger middle-class it was a relaxed and comfortable way of life.

I say this because I have been pondering a recent article in the Washington Post, "The inevitable climate solution." It was written by two former presidential cabinet members, one Republican and one Democrat, George P. Shultz and Lawrence H. Summers.  While I must admit that while I didn't understand the technicalities of their position, I was not prepared for the statement that follows

This approach ensures that working-class Americans
benefit financially.
Because energy use rises with income and the dividend
would be equal for all.
The Treasury Department estimates that the bottom 70% of Americans would be better off
with the carbon dividend plan.

How many of us "liberal activists" fall into that category? We are the selfish major destroyers of the environment. I'm appalled at how often we fail to follow the simple practices that scientific studies – from proper waste disposal to excessive use of plastic water bottles and the thousands of other proven environmentally wise practices.

I truly believe that too many of us in, or nearing that 30%, who have been content to exert our energies toward the ballot box and selfishly pursued our own comfortable lifestyle. In doing so we have failed to join what I am still convinced are the majority of Americans who want a more civil, sharing country and world that cares for more than our own comfort and the future of the world.

I wonder what sort of revolutionary spirit to join us in such an enterprise? Personally I still have hope and faith that this idealistic, committed younger generation can move us in this direction.

Monday, June 12, 2017

It's hard to muse at 92*

when one is a bit "under the weather", and does not have enough intellectual strength to work on the rant he would REALLY like to produce.  Thus it feels strange to merely add my "two cents worth" during this, one of the most perilous times I have witnessed in my almost century of life.

I've already disclosed my predilection to fall back to personal clichés. (I recall that in answering the thousands of Reddit questions during the past two years, I was asked about the use of idioms and clichés from my era.) I think they are more expressive of ones feelings than the computieze and tweets of today.  So I shall continue to do so.

The one that has come to mind first relates to the "chickens coming home to roost."  And I think that relates to "one reaps what one sows." Certainly the "Liar in Chief" was telling the truth when he stated he "knew how to make deals". And this is what we have gotten, a dealmaker who casts aside established rules, protocols and commitments as well as moral rectitude to achieve victory for himself over anyone or anything standing in his way.

I'm affronted by his being seen throughout the world as speaking for my/our country. Through his caustic divisiveness, he has turned back the progress of  human and civil rights made in my lifetime.  He has personified and resurrected the image of the "Ugly American" throughout the world that millions have worked for years to overcome.   I am personally dismayed as an educator that our educational system failed in its responsibility to educate a thoughtful citizenry that would so  easily fall prey to the hollow promises of someone who represents the worst of the American character.

Through the years our country has achieved a vaunted reputation identified as "American Exceptionalism". In spite of our "sins" a reputation has been built and accepted by many throughout the world that our countries' leadership has had a positive influence in ameliorating suffering and leading the nations of the world toward peace.

Yet in far too many cases this leadership has been undermined by actions and moral failures that have "come home to roost."  I sincerely believe that for many reasons – from selfishness to the speed of change – we have begun to lose our way and must return to re-committing ourselves to human values that reflect a concern for the welfare of all races and religions.  "Globalism" is not a newly coined word or concept.  Republican candidate for president in 1940, Wendell Willkie's  book, ONE World joined the pronouncements of President Roosevelt in recognizing our role in leadership toward world peace through the United Nations.

And that's why I'm hopeful that I'll feel better soon to complete the one topic "weighing heavy on my heart". Of course I had to end with a cliché.

Ron Lehker

*I know I'm only 91, but I like the rhythmic effect.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The beauty of each day

I know, I know, it sounds rather Pollyannaish, or perhaps it's the "affliction" of old age, but hardly a day goes by that I don't see acts of love, charity or beautiful acts of kindness from strangers on the street. This came to me particularly last Wednesday as I was coming home from my volunteer job at the White House Visitors Center. My aching back was living up to its name in the 92° heat, and the "walk" sign said I had to wait 62 seconds before crossing the street. I could see that the other side of the street was in the blistering sun while I was in the shadow of a building. Consequently I leaned against a light post with my left arm while holding my cane in my right. I must've looked like Charlie Chaplin in the movie "City Lights". In a matter of seconds a young woman came to me to offer me a drink of water.

And it wasn't too long ago that I was riding the escalator, bent down and rested my arm on the rubber moving banister. How thoughtful of someone to ask if I were okay and offered to help me.  And each day people smile and say "hello".

So much of our lives are filled with anxiety with much of it induced by the national political scene and traumatic events around the world constantly on display. Yet with time to look around and not be fixated on a smart phone, I am impressed each day with the friendliness and greetings I receive from people as I walked down the street.

Louis Armstrong said it quite succinctly:

                                           "What A Wonderful World"

I see trees of green,
red roses too.
I see them bloom,
for me and you.
And I think to myself,
what a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue,
And clouds of white.
The bright blessed day,
The dark sacred night.
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.

The colors of the rainbow,
So pretty in the sky.
Are also on the faces,
Of people going by,
I see friends shaking hands.
Saying, "How do you do?"
They're really saying,
"I love you".

I hear babies cry,
I watch them grow,
They'll learn much more,
Than I'll ever know.
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.

Yes, I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.

Oh yeah.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

What do you consider to be the invention that has most changed American lifestyle in your 90 years?

"What do you consider to be the invention that has most changed American lifestyle in your 90 years?"

I vacillated a great deal as I answered this question many many times on Reddit's AMA. At first I felt it was the automobile which provided unimagined mobility and then, coupled with the interstate highway, made suburbs possible. Then it was the rapid development of aircraft which truly made our world the "One World" as predicted in Republican presidential candidate Wendell Wilkie in his book of 1936. And optimist that I am, I at one time thought it was the United Nations to assure lasting peace.  Of course television completely revolutionized our entertainment and along with yer-round team sports almost completely changed family structure. Further on the social scale,  I've personally felt that American family life was dramatically changed after World War II.  Before that time – even in the lower middle-class families like mine  – only (generally) fathers worked and mothers stayed at home.  

Now, after reading a pre-publication copy of Franklin Foer's "World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech," there is no question in my mind that the most dramatic change and one that is still growing is the Computer/Internet.  (Full disclosure – Frank is my partner Linda Greenfelder's son-in-law.)  I'd already begun to be influenced by young people to the marvels of the computer age. How convenient to be able to type letters by talking on my Dragon dictation device and send emails.  My suspicions of the magnitude of change wrought by computers/Internet increased with the election, Now Frank's book opened my eyes to the dangers that have accompanied this truly earthshaking, human behavior changing phenomenon.

Some of you may recall my last/last rant when I set aside ranting to work on a major thought trend of mine. It's listed below. And now Frank's book gives me another tangent to consider.

"But as I discontinue weekly rantings, I'll give my attention to preparing a major write-up on a topic of lifetime concern to me personally. It relates somewhat to the insightful book of Robert Putnam, "Bowling Alone". In it he calls attention to the fact that a great many of the social organizations that have unified our country have now been lost. And for me personally this includes the continuing decline of the effectiveness of the three institutions that have had the greatest impact on my life: the family, the public school and churches. Certainly the family and schools have received a great deal of attention. Yet while religion has increasingly played a predominant role in worldwide affairs, a major development in America has been a continuing decline in church attendance – particularly by young people. Indeed I have seen it in my own family and understand fully the rationale for this phenomenon. I hope that my personal observations will be of value to others in considering this topic: i believe that religion has played a major role in creating the problems of humankind, but i believe that it can provide a way to solve the problems.  I hope to enlarge on this by showing how my religious/philosophical concepts have changed in my 91 years so that religion can be seen in a new light as a place for adding meaning and purpose to ones life and increasing the opportunity for world peace.   

Thursday, April 20, 2017

I thought things might be better!

With two weeks away on vacation from the "swamp" without a computer and television, I thought I might stop ranting and raving! But I see things haven't changed and I find myself somewhat depressed about my country that appears to be so rudderless for the next four years. Never in my 91 years have I felt so concerned for the welfare of our country. And so I must still occasionally speak my piece. 

Earlier I had thought that we had elected a clown.  But now I realize that it is so much worse.  The man is a charlatan, a con man.  And my fellow Americans have fallen for him.  And should a likely impeachment occur, I fear as much a man who follows him like a puppet and espouses Christian virtues that I do not recognize.  

And I can only wonder what the reaction of those concerned about the welfare of children on the playground of the Trinity Lutheran School in Missouri would have been had it been a playground for Muslim children?



Thursday, March 30, 2017

A few things that come to mind as I take time off to focus on what's REALLY IMPORTANT TO ME

MY FINAL TWO ARTICLES!

     I've spent two weeks alone while Linda has been in California where her 98-year-old mother died. Being alone I became absorbed in current issues as never before as I spent too much time with CNN, MSNBC and - for balance - even a bit of Fox News.
     While one had to be pleased with the defeat of the "alleged" money-saving healthcare proposal of the Republican Party, the fiasco totally exposed the paucity of Trump's leadership style. It was obvious he knew nothing about healthcare, he is only a wheeler/dealer making deals. He has no plans for anything other than building a wall.
     The further tragedy is that his bravado postings and his lies distract us from important issues regarding our nation's welfare. He is indeed THE MASTER DISTRACTOR!  Certainly one of the first of these concerns the environment: an area where we had made so much progress during the Obama administration.
     So that's one of my two articles - briefly relating to the the environment. While of course there are national and worldwide projects underway, I continue to believe there are many things that individual citizens are overlooking in their daily lives where we can both show our concern and have an impact. Thus I was quite disappointed that in my (mostly youthful) audience I received but one response to my request for practical thoughts and ideas about how we might have an impact:

WHAT ARE THE TEN MOST IMPORTANT THINGS THE AVERAGE CITIZEN CAN DO EACH DAY TO HELP PRESERVE THE ENVIRONMENT?:

That person's response included:

1) Go vegan/vegetarian.
2) Donate to organizations which work in this field (https://www.outsideonline.com/2144781/6-best-environmental-groups-donate-better-world) (as frequently as possible)
3) Buy less. Not necessarily local, because that does not necessitate the product being greener. 
4) Fix what is broken.
5) Take public transport, if feasible. Saves you money too.
5) Spread the word - as you are!

While I realized that folks are busy, I had hopes that some might be challenged to think about this and make suggestions or have access to an environmental organization that has such a list. Indeed I began mine with these simple things:

1. Turn off all lights and appliances when not needed
2, Take showers rather than baths and then limit the time and number per week
3. Don't use more than one plastic bottle a week.
4. Walk to anything less than a mile away.
6. Flush the toilet only "when really necessary".
7. Use public transportation as much as possible,
8. Use both sides of paper whenever possible
9. And my pet peeve, that EVERYONE should work on: why is it that for over 40 years not a single state has been added to the list of states that have enacted a bottle deposit bill.  Coming from Michigan, I know how well it can work.  But it only works in the ten states that have it.  Having studied it for many years I know it is defeated only through lies of bottling companies.   Here is a topic that youth (high school debate societies) could engage in for study and meaningful dialogue.  Most enlightened countries have VERY strict and effective laws.  We have had a Container Recycling Institute advocating the passage of such laws since 1991 and only one state has been added (and one dropped).  It almost makes one think that they are there only to make us THINK we are doing something about it.  Surely here is a topic we can all do more about.  My concern is that we have become so enamored with protests and demonstrations that we fail to do the sustaining work that can make a difference.

But as I discontinue weekly rantings, I'll give my attention to preparing a major write-up on a topic of lifetime concern to me personally. It relates somewhat to the insightful book of Robert Putnam, "Bowling Alone". In it he calls attention to the fact that a great many of the social organizations that have unified our country have now been lost. And for me personally this includes the continuing decline of the effectiveness of the three institutions that have had the greatest impact on my life: the family, the public school and churches. Certainly the family and schools have received a great deal of attention. Yet while religion has increasingly played a predominant role in worldwide affairs, a major development in America has been a continuing decline in church attendance – particularly by young people. Indeed I have seen it in my own family and understand fully the rationale for this phenomenon. I hope that my personal observations will be of value to others in considering this topic: i believe that religion has played a major role in creating the problems of humankind, but i believe that it can provide a way to solve the problems.  I hope to enlarge on this by showing how my religious/philosophical concepts have changed in my 91 years so that religion can be seen in a new light as a place for adding meaning and purpose to ones life and increasing the opportunity for world peace.   

I'll continue my weekly DC culture blog except when I am on vacation. I'll use it and other media to tell when my last ranting/rave is completed.




Thursday, March 23, 2017

Coping with distractions and frustrations

This week I've been distracted by the feeling that I am living in an Orwellian world. That a dictatorial force has taken over my life/the nation/the world. I/we've allowed this force – through its lies and distractions - to create mayhem and distrust.

Or perhaps that's just an excuse for my not having had time to compile and prepare the responses from last week's questionnaire about THE TEN MOST IMPORTANT THINGS THE AVERAGE CITIZEN CAN DO DAILY TO PRESERVE THE ENVIRONMENT.  I'm still working to compile them

Thus the best thing I can do is to refer you to last week's topic as I sincerely feel our nation is in the most perilous state I seen it in my 91 years. And encourage you to join me in seeking out valid/reputable news sources, express our views appropriately and find time from patience and wisdom through meditation (or whatever) can provide balance for our lives.

And if you haven't done so, I encourage you to check out the last posstings

SOME ADVISE FOR THE PRESIDENT THAT COULD ALSO CHANGE THE PUBLIC'S VIEW OF MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES

I'M DAMNED MAD! THE COUNTRY I KNOW IS BEING HIJACKED: