My hair couldn’t be more gray than what it is. As I get older perhaps I have some small claim to wisdom, at least some experience in watching the world go by for almost seventy years. So the older I get, the more concerned I become about the great inequality in the distribution of wealth throughout this country and the world. So much of that inequality is the result of the accompanying lack of political power by those who are poor or at least middle income and lower. We have this strange idea that we are ‘in control’. To my way of thinking nothing could be farther from the truth. As the middle class and/or poor, we are so desperate that throughout history we have elected leaders who use the cry ‘for the common good’ for their own good. The Emperors of Rome used the old “bread and circuses” to keep the people pre-occupied and fed. It was a premise built on a shaky idea. That was proven later in the French Revolution when hungry people went on a rampage against the wealthy who saw the poor farmers and shop keepers as rabble and only to be used to their benefit. In South Sudan today we are seeing two politicians using age-old tribal hatreds to tear their newly found country apart. The wreckage is a land where millions have become refugees, where rape is used as an act of power, where people are scrambling for food wherever they find it, and horrible, horrible acts are being committed. There is nothing decent nor compassionate.
It is too easy for us to dismiss what is happening by saying, “Well, that is a different culture. They do not value human life and peace as we do.” The seeds for disruption and political breakdown have been appearing on the scene for years. The most troubling facet of our life in this country is the rise of the influence of money to control our elections. Party animosity has seeped into religion, and culture to the point that unless you define a political party, explain how you practice your religious faith, and align yourself with ‘the big bucks’ you will not survive.To climb the corporate or social ladders in any part of the world you have to be in the right group and you have to follow all the right rules.
The power brokers in Washington today and actually throughout the world are a club of billionaires. Their obsessive need to be in power, to control the fate of their particular nation keeps the world on edge. For many generations it was believed any young man or woman who worked hard could be president. That is a myth. You have to have money, come from money or be backed by those behind the scenes, the king makers. They don’t want to be seen or even known, but they are the power brokers and politicians need their money in order to survive. I heard one Senator make the comment that ten of the richest counties in this country are grouped around Washington, D.C. Money and power attract.
I don’t know how we develop a culture where compassion and kindness are how we define ourselves. Where simple living is joyful living. The anger that has torn us apart for many decades has resulted in a country that is divided and still angry. There is no civil discourse, there is no attempt at understanding. Even our president says, “My way or the highway.”
My own personal ethos comes most often from the words of Jesus and those men and women who have followed his teachings through the centuries. It is not Republican or Democrat, it is not liberal or conservative, it is not white or people of color; it is not legal or illegal aliens. If nothing else perhaps we could take a lesson from Creation. All around us we see ecosystems that depend on each other. Clean oceans, breathable air, mountains, trees, wildlife, the passing of the seasons. Disturb one part of it and the balance is destroyed.
I don’t know how we bring our lives, our thinking, our personal philosophies back into alignment with each other. I can’t make it through this life alone. I need people and for that reason I am willing to be needed. Those billionaires in power have no understanding of the way we live our lives here in Montana or anywhere in the small towns and corners of this country. They line their pockets and we struggle.
Not every politician is this way, of course, but those folks cannot defeat the establishment. There are millions of people in this country who need what help we can give for food (volunteer to help in the Food Bank), for employment (support job training), for housing (support low-income housing or groups like Habitat for Humanity), for medical care (support free clinics backed by government assistance). If our focus is on helping and supporting each other, politics becomes less important. It is up to us to create a decent place to live and an environment for our children to grow in peace. It seems the rich will continue to get richer and Washington will continue to be removed from the realities of real life. When they get done with their silly little games that make them feel good, perhaps something really worthwhile can then happen.
Well, this week will begin the tale of the Trump White House. I think the whole country is nervous about what lies ahead. As I have observed Mr. Trump he reminds me (1) of a child who has always gotten everything he wanted and had things his own way. He cannot stand to be challenged or corrected. If he has either one he detours around the issue and never makes a decision. (2) What little I have read of his life there seems to be a desire to please his father. Even at 70 years of age that is still a real part of his make up. I don’t think that is particularly unusual. I think most of us think of our parents in some way even as we get older. As we make decisions we hope it would please them and they would be proud of us. But we still have our own identities.
There seems to be no plan or direction for this President except to repeal what previous presidents have done. It will be interesting to watch Congress. I have a sense the Republicans are pleased Trump got them into the White House in such overwhelming numbers, but now will limit the powers of the president as they see fit. The Republican Congress is like a bunch of kids in a candy store and the repealing of the Affordable Care Act is being touted simply because they can do it. The terrible split between the political parties in Washington, D.C., has caused such rancor. It is like two gangs on the Southside of Chicago fighting it out and taking each other’s “turf”. The rest of the country becomes collateral damage.
I don’t say but what history is rife with these moments. My brother was reading an American historian recently who said the political atmosphere these days is very like the Reconstruction period after the Civil War and the terrible retribution that was leveled on the South. Some say it took the South a hundred years to recover from that time period.
Life is never easy and unfortunately our incoming government is rife with plans to make it even worse. When you think of the issues facing the country it really is staggering: the rate of hate crimes have gone much higher in the past few months, there are thousands of women marching to Washington this week to reiterate the vital place of women in our world, Hispanics have no idea where they stand when it comes to this government and what will happen in the months ahead, many immigrant groups who came here, as did the Pilgrims and Puritans, looking for a place of refuge are faced with great uncertainty, the racial divide seems to grow, the voiceless Americans who have no one to speak for them are trembling on the brink of greater poverty, illness, and hopelessness, and the benefits for our senior citizens are always tenuous at best. An article in the New York Times this morning (January 17) said this: The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday that repealing major provisions of the Affordable Care Act, while leaving other parts in place, would cost 18 million people their insurance in the first year and could increase the number of uninsured Americans by 32 million in 10 years, while causing insurance premiums to double over that time.
No, I am not looking forward to the coming days. As actress Bette Davis said, in one of her movies, “Fasten your seat belts everyone. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.”
I’ve been seething long enough and I need to say something. The other day Donald Trump, talking about Hilliary Clinton said her candidacy for the presidency is based on the premise that “she is playing the woman card.” I was furious. His words were an insult to women everywhere. What a dinosaur! I cannot believe, politics aside, that any breathing woman would put up with a comment like that and more to the point vote for someone who is this clueless.
I thought we were long done with that kind of rhetoric. I was going to college and starting a career in the 1960s and 1970s and I have seen what women have done in the past fifty years. It is phenomenal. During my college days we selected careers in business, teaching or nursing. The young women who became lawyers and doctors held a special place in our lives. Since then the explosion of women in every walk of life has been achieved. Over the past fifty years, given legislation and just plain hard work, women have proven themselves over and over again as social activists, astronauts, engineers in every field, computer gurus and Silicon Valley business women. They are medical doctors, both surgeons and researchers; their religious denominations have consecrated them as bishops; they are in our military academies, serve in the military branches with officer positions. They are kindergarten teachers and college presidents, and congresswomen, like Elizabeth Warren, to name only a few career paths. If we move to the world, we find women central to the economic growth and welfare of many third world nations. They lead countries -- Margaret Thatcher in Great Britain, Indra Gandhi in India, Andrea Merkel in a united Germany, Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar and others. I think of Malala, the little girl who was nearly killed by militants who believed women had no right to be educated. Surviving that horror she has not been afraid to speak out on behalf of the education of women all over the globe.
I know the stories from my own family history of women who were courageous and strong and raised children and grandchildren who have made a difference in their worlds. Traveling in India I heard a man say, “Educate the woman in the family and you educate the family.” Indian women started small businesses and managed them to the betterment of the village. Women hold every university degree available to them. They are authors, musicians, artists. They work hard to bring safe living conditions, peace in places of conflict and education for the children of the world. In many places these mothers and daughters are still mistreated and abused but they are heroes in their own time and place.
You may not like Clinton’s politics, but she is an attorney, she has been a senator, a previous presidential candidate, First Lady and a secretary of state. She is a stateswoman. She does not play “the woman card”. All of us women have a vital place in this world and I stand alongside my sisters of every color and religion and creed. No woman I have ever known has played “the woman card.” They have worked hard to achieve a contributing place in their worlds. I think they have to work twice as hard as many men in order to achieve what they have gained, but they are willing to do it to prove their abilities. Today in most places men and women walk side by side to make the world a better place to live.
I would challenge candidate Trump to really look at today’s world and take a step into the 21st century where he will meet and work alongside bright, creative, intelligent individuals who are women.
Well, today is the day we have all been waiting for. Not! I often wonder if other countries let their campaigning get so out of hand as we seem to have done. Today's crop of candidates is totally unusual. According to the speeches we've heard (and granted they are mostly abbreviated sound bytes), this country is drowning in a sea of extremes -- everything is wrong and what is mostly wrong are the other candidates. In the past few months we have seen an entire range of political philosophies from the Evangelical Tea Party extreme right to Democratic Socialism and everything in between. Take your pick. It is all there.
I suppose Donald Trump is the one who has set the stage for most of what has been going on. Every candidate seems to spend a great deal of time responding to his crude, braggadocious (Trump's word, not mine) remarks, to the power his millions of dollars can buy. For surely this is the age when the common man and woman are out of the picture. We have very little say anymore in who gets elected. Millions of dollars pour into the candidates' coffers or they themselves are multi-millionaires, the only ones who can afford to run for office. Even people from outside the state get involved in local elections. I call them "carpetbaggers" who have no business in our business. But money is what wins elections these days which doesn't say much for us, the voters.
Gone is the candidate who got on a train and traveled the country, speaking from the back platform on his car. When he was a boy, my Dad heard Franklin Roosevelt in South Dakota. My grandparents went to a rally for William Jennings Bryan where Grandpa hoisted Grandma up so she could see the great orator. I heard George Bush, senior at a small town Republican gathering in Minnesota after he won the Iowa Caucus many years ago, but eventually lost to Ronald Reagan. Even in our little town of Glendive in the early 1900s Senator "Pitchfork Ben" Tillman spoke at a political rally.
I would think the Iowa folk would be weary of "in-your-face" politics, but we'll see what the turnout is tonight and who leaves Iowa a winner. It is not politics at its best, but it certainly is a case of "what you see is what you get."