Thursday, December 8, 2022

A last look at the Midterm Elections, and a look forward

With Senator Warnock's victory in holding his Senate seat, it is time to put this election cycle behind us, and look for lessons for the 2024 campaign.

First, although scant time remains before the end of the current federal legislative term, I would hope that the Dems can propose and pass some type of election reform that attracts a few GOP representatives who are interested in preserving our democracy. Nothing fancy, but certainly, at the least, laws that specify the role of the Vice President in certifying the electoral counts, and that require states to honor the votes of the citizens (no alternate electors). And, if possible, federal baseline standards that require some sort of early in-person voting, automatic mail-in ballots to be distributed for the general election when a voter participates in the primary of that year, automatic approval of a request for a mail in ballot (no reason needed), and perhaps a drop dead receipt date for mail-in and absentee ballots, say the actual day of the election, although I would want this requirement to be a part of a state's extended in-person voting. 

In my decades of political discourse with friends and family, making voting easier was never a partisan issue. GOP and Dem alike almost to a person thought that retaining Tuesday as voting day was absurd, weekend long availability being the most common opinion, and eliminating the obstacles to requesting a mail-in ballot being second most popular.  When my wife and I applied for our mail-in ballots this past election cycle, a reason needed to be offered. Why? My right to vote should not require a reason to be given if I want to vote via the mail. 

And, now that I have done it twice, I find voting by mail to be much better. Receiving a ballot up to a month before election day gave me  much more time to research the candidates, in addition to not having to worry about the weather, unexpected sickness within the family, work related issues, long lines at the polls, or any other of the innumerable reasons why someone might encounter an obstacle to voting, especially when there is no early voting option. 

For consistency, I reread my first post related to the mid terms, which you can read using the link below.


One interesting tidbit that you may have missed, is that with Warnock's victory, this was the first mid term in about 80 years that the party holding the White House did not lose a Senate seat. In this case, the Dems gained one with the flipping of the PA Senate seat to John Fetterman.  As for the House, the GOP gained 9 seats, from a minority position of 213 to a 4 seat majority of 222. (218 is needed for control). Certainly, good news for those in the GOP who wish to derail any other legislative efforts by Biden in the next 2 years, but no where near the landslide that was expected as recently as 6 months ago. 

To put this into perspective, in the last 11 midterms which encompass 1 Biden term, 1 Trump term, 2 Obama terms, 2 GW Bush terms, 2 Clinton terms, 1 Bush term and 2 Reagan terms, only GW Bush in his first term and Clinton, in his 2nd term, didn't lose House seats. The other 9, including Biden this year, lost an average of just under 31 seats. Biden's 9 puts him just behind Reagan's second midterm of 5, and the first Bush who lost 8. By contrast, Obama lost 63 seats (a true red wave) in his first term, Clinton lost 52 in his 1st term, Trump lost 40, GW Bush lost 30 in his 2nd term, Reagan lost 26 in his first term and Obama lost 13 in his 2nd term. 

So, despite the highest inflation in 40 years (since Reagan's first term), in this years midterm election cycle, the Dems lost the least amount of House seats in a midterm since 2002, and gained a Senate seat for the first time since 1962 when JFK gained a 3 total seats. 

Why?

Well, clearly, the Supreme Court's decision to return women's reproductive rights to the individual states had a lot to do with it. But also, as Mitch McConnell alluded to back in November, candidate quality also mattered. A lot! No better indicator of that reason is the Georgia Senate race where the GOP candidate under-performed as compared to the GOP Governor candidate by 200,000 votes, then lost by about 100,000 votes in the runoff, an increase in deficit when compared to his loss by about 37,000 votes in the original election. 

And who hand picked that Georgia Senate candidate? Like the word loser, his last name also has 5 letters. As I said in my original post, it is past time for the GOP to jettison its association with the former president. This is especially important in light of the fact that in 2024, the Dems must defend multiple Senate seats that they hold in red or purple states. It is clearly possible for the GOP to retake the Senate in 2024, but only if they run candidates that are not beholden to the former president's lies and treasonous actions. Like this election cycle, there will be seats to take back, but only if they choose candidates that can put two cogent sentences together, who believe in a women's right to choose, and who believe in election results even when they lose. 

In the meantime, inflation will continue to cool. While a recession is still a possibility, by November 2024, economic hardships may not be as prevalent as they were this year. This makes it even more critical for the GOP to acknowledge that they got what they wanted from their 2016 presidential election win (a 6-3 seat majority on the Supreme Court), but need a new direction if they want to win the White House.  

I firmly believe that the current GOP agenda has little to do with governing and more to do with an emphasis on grievance and culture war issues. We will see how this plays out in the next 2 years in the House; will there be bills passed which address our national problems, or will it be 2 years of interminable hearings and posturing. If the latter, that will make it all the more easy for the Dems to fend off further legislative losses. While I believe that more people lean right than left, I also believe that more people want effective government, and want their public servants to pass laws that help the everyday American citizen, not just the rich or influential.

Like life, politics is cyclical although sometimes the cycles lag behind what is needed on Main Street. Regardless of the party you prefer, we need to demand from our public servants that they put us, the 90% of people who can not buy TV ads to voice our opinions or send our lobbyists to DC, front and center.  

The majority of Americans believe in freedom for all, including women to control their reproductive lives, and all Americans to marry whomever they love, to worship the god of their choice, and to use birth control, but even more importantly, to not pass laws that discriminate against others in the name of one particular religion. 

Whichever party embraces these basic rights, is the one which, hopefully, will win more then they lose, both in 2024 and moving forward.   

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Today's Witches

Just started reading the latest monthly edition of Smithsonian. One of the Prologue articles touched on the history of witch trials in the Catalonia area of Spain, and a fairly recent decision by its parliament to officially apologize to the victims of the witch trials which occurred there over the course of 300 years.

While Catalonia was not unique in its participation in torturing and killing witches in the 14th through 17th centuries, it's lack of proximity to the central authority in Madrid, the power of local feudal lords, and widespread illiteracy, combined to create its renown as the center of witchcraft trials in Europe. As a result, over 700 witches were condemned to die beginning in 1424 when Catalonia enacted the first law prohibiting witchcraft.

Today, of course, witches are not tortured and killed. But then again, those (mostly) women who were murdered as witches, were not  witches at all. They were either people who were used as scapegoats to explain bad events of the day, or people who were different from most, which again helped justify their being treated without compassion. Back then, it was easy to convince the uneducated that people like that were expendable, especially when the institutions and powerful of the day were the ones telling them so.

Today, we see similar efforts by those who seek power and influence to marginalize certain segments of our society. Specifically, we are in the middle of another concerted effort by some religious and political groups to rally their believers into thinking that the LGBTQ community is to blame for all of society's ills. 

I wrote a few months ago about this topic, what I called Different VS Special. In it, I discussed how there are two ways to perceive people who are not like ourselves. As different, which creates a negative connotation, or as special, which evokes a softer, perhaps even desirable perception.


I recently spent some time with an acquaintance whom I hadn't seen for at least 20 years. During that time, we broached a number of subjects, sometimes agreeing, sometimes not, but always remaining civil. One particular topic in which we disagreed, was related to the LGBTQ community. 

Now, this person is not one of those evangelicals who demonstrate their Christianity by telling us who God hates. Still, while he understood the necessity of allowing gay people to marry, understood how our marriage laws benefited individuals and society meaning that laws against gay marriage were certainly discriminatory, he also felt that the "gay agenda" was being forced upon him, and that it had gone too far. 

In other words, a very fine man who, in general, follows the spirit of his religion, yet believes that gay people do not deserve the same rights as straight people. When I countered that I believe the vast majority of gay people, especially men, were created that way by the very God he worshiped, he only grudgingly seemed to accept that position. In his mind, acting on their urges, was clearly forbidden by his holy book, and, while they might have been born gay, they were forbidden to have sex with someone of the same gender. 

I didn't pursue this anymore, but later, I regretted not asking him why God would create people with sexual desires that they would be  forbidden to exercise? And, if true, wouldn't that make them special? Special to the point that we, as a society, would do our best to support them, and show them special deference? 

It wasn't that long ago that people born with below average mental capability were hidden away, at best, sterilized and institutionalized, at worst. Even now, there are societal barriers for people with mental challenges to overcome, but at least there are not media pundits telling their followers that granting them the same rights to pursue life and liberty are what is ruining America, or has gone too far.

It is always easy to blame those that are different for the problems of the day, especially when those listening prefer not to look in the mirror. Whether it be witches, or the gay community, or people who worship a different god, power hungry people, those without real solutions to society's ills, can always find a segment to dehumanize and blame. 

I believe that my friend will be welcomed into heaven despite the blindness he displays towards those born with a different sexual orientation. His goodness, his good acts outweigh his bad, and, in the end, isn't that the math we will all face and answer to? Still, if someone as good as he continues to believe that people born with a different sexual preference are condemned by god if they act on their desires, is it any wonder that witches were burned at the stake hundreds of years ago? 

The negative acts perpetuated by good people.

Many people complain today that there are those among us who try to evaluate those from our country's history using morals of today. And, to an extent, I agree, that we should not negatively judge those founding fathers who owned slaves while penning our great documents of freedom. I believe it is possible to carry two thoughts in our heads at once and that despite those original signers being products of their times, despite their biases, they achieved greatness. It seems to me that believing that people can accomplish and/or inspire historic accomplishments, and who do so even though they are flawed, allows all of us to strive towards our own goals, knowing it doesn't require divine intervention or extraordinary genetics or unlimited resources.

Perhaps though, a better retort would be to ask, why do we judge people today based on the standards of 2000 years ago? When someone says their holy book condemns homosexuality, well, that certainly doesn't surprise me since most of those tomes were written by men centuries ago. 

When Jesus was on earth, there were leprosy colonies. At the time, and for centuries afterward, victims were isolated from regular society, not just out of fear of contracting leprosy but because most of society was ignorant of the causes of the disease, many concluded that victims of leprosy were moral degenerates being punished by God. Jesus walked among them to illustrate that his God loved all men, and that all men were worthy of salvation. While I may be musing a bit outside the lines here, I imagine that a Jesus walking among us today would demonstrate the same anti-establishment behavior by supporting those being marginalized due to their own special way of expressing their love, and who they love. 

Perhaps it is time for an even newer Testament, one that recognizes that condemning people in the name of a god, is as out of date as burning witches and calling leprosy a divine punishment. At the least, maybe we should tone down the arrogance that is reflected when we speak, judge, condemn and praise in the name of the creator.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Mid-Term Elections

While all the results are not yet in as we still don't know if the GOP will control just the House or Senate as well, I thought I would offer some viewpoints anyway.

First, the elections are over. YAH! Although I am still receiving donation requests on my phone for the Georgia Senate runoff (from both sides), the endless stream of TV ads is behind us. In general, another disgraceful political campaign session featuring countless exaggerations and outright falsehoods about the candidates, the majority of which ended with the statement that the ad was not paid for by the candidate, but some other advocacy group. 

I know I am in the majority of Americans who support an end to this part of our campaign cycle. I also feel certain that most voters believe we need to reduce the influence of money in our election process. More money should not equate to more political influence, but clearly it is so today. While the following link only touches on possible solutions to this issue, it does reflect an overall plan which may help.

https://wurdsfromtheburbs.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-next-greatest-generation.html

Needless to say, requiring all campaigns to spend the same amount of money as provided through our taxes, reducing the time frame for candidates to run their media campaigns (perhaps no more than 6 months), and, most importantly, mandating that election ads address policy, to put it bluntly, no more negative ads, might be a good place to start.

Now, to this election cycle.

The last few elections have produced results not in line with the polls, and this one is doing the same, although with advantage going to the Dems instead of the GOP. What should have been, was predicted by most to be, a red wave, turned into much more a ripple than a wave, and in some areas not even red.

For instance in Pennsylvania where I live, the Democrats retained the governor's house, while also flipping the Senate seat, meaning that both PA Senators are from the Democratic party. Also, the state house, is one flipped seat away from producing a Dem controlled House of Representatives for the first time in 12 years. As of now, 12 seats changed from GOP to Dem in this election with a few to still be decided. In the district I live in, a 12 term GOP incumbent was defeated. Truly, a blue wave for the democrats.

To be more specific, the new governor of Pennsylvania, while certainly no charismatic star won by over 750,000 votes. And the new senator who suffered a stroke earlier this year, won his race by over 230,000 votes. What I am saying is that, in part, they won, not because they were outstanding candidates, but because the alternative was far less palatable. 

In the Senate race, the GOP candidate was not even from Pennsylvania, having just purchased a house in the state in the past year. His main qualification was that he was a TV medical personality, endorsed by that most famous TV personality, the former president. And, being rich, could afford to spend millions of dollars in an attempt to buy the office.  Even worse, the GOP candidate for Governor offered very little policy in his ads, other than Restore America. He openly stated that the pro choice perspective was utter nonsense, and that gay marriage should not be legal. Many prominent Pennsylvania republicans did not campaign for him. As a result, over 230,000 GOP voters who cast a ballot for the Senate candidate did not vote for him.

Clearly, in PA, the quality of the candidates mattered, and I am proud of all who voted in this election, but especially those independents, and voters on both sides of the aisle who made their choice based on that trait. 

And then there is the abortion issue. Both GOP candidates referenced above were pro-choice to the point where abortion was not just a difficult decision by a woman, her doctor and her family but murder. As was the case in a number of other states, including Kentucky and Montana, and Kansas earlier in the year, the decision by the Supreme Court to throw the abortion issue galvanized young and female voters to go to the polls to vote against ballot questions that would have made abortion illegal or in the case of Vermont and Michigan, voted for adding reproductive freedom to the state's constitution.  

For Pennsylvanians in particular who knew that with a GOP controlled legislature and governor, abortion would become illegal, and despite inflation being at a 40 year high, it appears that losing a fundamental right, the right to make basic decisions about one's own body, family, and future, was far more important than high prices, which while obviously extremely annoying, will pass in time. 

In effect, the Supreme Court decision to roll back Roe Vs Wade, helped spur the national red ripple we have just experienced, and the blue wave in Pennsylvania. Here is a link to my thank you to those justices which I posted in August. 

https://wurdsfromtheburbs.blogspot.com/2022/08/thank-you-supreme-court-justices.html

And then there is the Democracy issue. Among other things said by the Pennsylvania GOP candidate who lost the election for governor was that he would have the power to decertify the votes from any voting machine he wanted, sort of like a mini-king. Now, we all know he wouldn't be targeting votes cast in the rural areas of PA, just the cities, especially Philadelphia, where all the "cheating" is going on. The fact that most of those voters are Black, is just a coincidence, I am sure. Along with the other GOP candidates who openly stated that if they didn't win, it must have been rigged (where have we heard that before?), it has become increasingly more obvious that a sizable portion of the GOP, politicians and electorate, are not interested in winning elections, just in saying they won. 

Again, however, congratulations to the electorate for sending a clear message that telling us you believe our elections are rigged is not the path to being elected. This was especially important in a few secretary of state races, elections that no one ever paid attention to until that certain ex-president tried to pressure the one in Georgia to "find me 11,780 votes". Voters in those states told candidates who vowed to restrict voting access, and to decide for themselves which votes would count to, well, go to he**. Or perhaps to Russia.

Which brings us to the last reason why the GOP under performed in this election cycle. Donald J Trump. Someone, one might say, who is now a 3 time loser, having lost the House in the 2018 election when the democratic party flipped 40 seats to take control of that body, then in 2020, when the Dems won the White House and, the Senate where the VP casts the deciding vote when there is a 50-50 split.

And now, even though the GOP will regain control of the House, it seems pretty clear it is a GOP victory, not a Trump victory. For proof we can look at the results in Georgia where Kemp who Trump did not endorse in the primary, received 200,000 more votes than the Senate candidate, Walker whom Trump did endorse. Fully 10% of the republicans who voted for Kemp did not vote for Walker, a tribute to both candidate quality and the waning influence of the ex-president. 

I have always said that the GOP establishment and powerful conservatives have used Trump as much as he used them, especially in the areas of lowering taxes for the rich and packing the judicial system with Heritage Foundation acolytes. In the former, well, perhaps enough American voters will see that trickle down economics is a myth promulgated by the rich who care more for themselves than America, so that when proposals to require those with more to pay more, those candidates will win more than they lose. Unfortunately, the latter item, a judiciary that is beholden to capitalism even when it harms our economy and our country, will take a bit longer to fix.

In the meantime, let's hope that enough of the GOP will wake up to the fact that Trump is an albatross around their electoral necks. The reality is, we need 2 strong parties to help balance the policies that we need to move forward, and to to help bridge the partisan gap that has been exacerbated by the cult of Trump. If not now, perhaps a 4th loss in 2024 might do it. 

 

  



Thursday, November 3, 2022

The Reunion

                                      The Reunion 


Mike tossed a light jacket into the passenger side of the car, placed his phone into the raised holder in his console, entered the address of the restaurant, and started the car. The day of the friend's reunion was finally here!

Many of the best times of Mike's life had occurred in the company of the friends he was about to see, yet he had lost touch with many of them over the years. But after the death of two dear acquaintances from other stages of his life, he made the decision to attempt to contact as many of his friends from that time, the late 70's/early 80's, especially Sheri, Madeline (Lean), Brianna (Bri), Greg, Brian, Samantha (Sam), Tom, Jack and Julie. 

It had taken a month or so for Mike to reconnect with all of those dearest of friends from his early twenties. A few he had been in contact with lately, a few he found quickly through contacts he had retained. A couple he internet stalked, tapping informational leads into a google search, clicking on possibilities until the correct version of the name he was seeking appeared. 

Eventually, Mike spoke to them all, except Sheri who was difficult to track down even though it became clear that, not only had two of the friends seen her in the past 5 or 6 years, but that they lived within a mile of her apartment. Finally, after leaving 2 text messages on possible phone numbers, both of which were responded to with polite but firm, no, I am not Sheri, he decided to stop by her place without notice. A bold move to say the least, and one which Sheri repeatedly said, after the fact, "who does that?". But it worked, not because she answered the door, but because she called him that evening, responding to the phone number he wrote on a piece of junk mail he found in her mailbox.

During that conversation, Sheri used that same phrase of who does that when she recalled how Mike had ridden his bicycle from their home turf to her new place which was over 300 miles away. Mike allowed her that memory, knowing that, while he had made that journey just to see her, he had actually hitch hiked, a mode of long- distance transportation he had used a number of times in those days. 

Mike's drive to the restaurant was about 45 minutes, but all highway travel, so it was easy for him to fall into a mostly pleasant reverie, punctuated by one extremely sad memory. During many of the conversations that Mike had with his friends, he often referred to his desire to avoid their own collective Big Chill moment. He became determined, almost obsessively so, to make sure that their first reunion was not at a funeral service. Yet, just about a month before today, some of them had, in fact, saw each other for the first time at a life celebration for Brian, who had passed away suddenly. For the umpteenth time, Mike shook his head, wiped a tear from his eye, and thought of Brian. 

Mike met many of these friends at McDonalds. He couldn't recall who he met first, or even who he actually worked with and who he met after his brief 6 month employment, but he remembered many parking lot meetings, many picnics, and gatherings which featured McDonalds food. It was a glorious, youthful time of late night and weekend parties, laughter, drives in The Harvester, hanging out in the Little Room and, at the various places that were lived in separate from parents. 

Not to mention the college visitation parties!

Jack was the oldest of the group, so the first to go off to college. He was one of the funniest people Mike ever met, yet also the smartest, a physics major. There was not a comment that Jack could not twist into a joke. One of his favorites was "that's what she said last night". It was good, not only for sexual jokes, but pretty much for any situation. When someone received a joint that was at the end of its life, and said "It's so small I can barely get my lips on it", well, you know what Jack said!

Brianna was the next to go off to college, even though Mike, Greg and Brian were older. As it turned out, she was the last of the group to attend college in those days, although many of his friends, including himself, eventually spent some of their mid to late 20's in a higher education setting. 

Bri went to a school within spitting distance of the Three Mile Island nuclear generating station. At the time of the radiation leak, Mike, Lean and Jack drove to TMI in direct contradiction of the governor's advice, and common sense. Their "nuclear weekend" was as good as any, even though Bri had fled the college (smart girl), and the 3 friends were forced to stay in her dorm room with her roommate.

Brianna lost her father during those youthful days.  Mike wrote her a poem called "I lost my Dad" in an attempt to console her and commemorate her father. That gesture, and the time he spent with her during those difficult times had cemented their relationship, marked the point where their friendship, while still platonic, entered a new level of closeness.

And then there were the trips to Bloomsburg College, where Mike's best friend was enrolled. The parties were epic, sleep non-existent. Without going into details, there were some after hour visits to the local hospital which did not have locks on their outside fences behind which were stored nitrous oxide tanks. Laughing gas. If you can envision a party where, on one side there are a few people standing in line at a keg, cup or glass in hand, while on the other side of the room there is a nitrous tank, with a warm towel wrapped around the bottom, with a few people standing in line, hefty bag in hand, well, that was the scene in Bloomsburg, off campus housing, of course.

Mike pulled into the restaurant parking lot, drove around the back and parked. He was about 15 minutes early, in hopes of getting an outside table for the group, but as he walked from his car, Brianna and Julie pulled up as well. Mike gave them both a hug.

Julie lived out of state, so was planning to stay overnight at Bri's house. She was one of the first friends who had made the decision to "grow up", which in their case meant less partying, and who had returned to college to get her degree, which led to a very successful working career. Mike loved all his female friends from that time, but was most impressed with Julie's accomplishments, which he told her during their few phone conversations. She was an example of a true American success story, having overcome many obstacles with persistence and faith.

Madelene (Lean) was the next to arrive. She was the youngest of the girls of the group, yet had curiously spent much of that time dating Jack, the oldest. Mike always considered her a younger sister, and, despite the fact that she was injured in a car accident in which he was driving, she thought of him as someone she could count on for anything. They even lived together, briefly, after her breakup with Jack, during the fall semester of Mike's last year of college when he was student teaching in the area. 

Mike had also hitch hiked to see Lean when she moved out of state, the last of his long trips dependent on other's vehicles, this one over 1500 miles. She was living with Jack, so it was not just a reunion of two but three. Even though Mike struggled to get home by the thumb, eventually taking a bus instead, that was a visit that would always stay in his memory as one of the best, with two of his best friends. 

Once seated, Brianna whipped out the pictures she brought for the first four arrivals to review. They were amazing. Almost every picture evoked a memory or many memories, in addition to the common comments, "look how thin, and look how young we look". Not all of the pictures were of people from the main group of friends, which reminded all of them how many individuals flitted in and out of their lives during those years, and in the years since. 

Greg and Sam arrived next, having met in the parking lot. They joined their friends in ordering a drink, and scanning through the pictures. 

Two of the pictures showed Greg with his eventual wife. He was the first of the group to be married, Mike being honored to have been the best man. Greg proudly spoke of his children and grandchildren, he and Lean being the only two to be able to brag about being a grandparent. While Mike was sketchy on who he worked with at McDonalds, he did remember that he and Greg worked the 6 AM to 2 PM shift during his tenure there. They laughed, remembering the manager who primed his workers with robins eggs to help handle the breakfast and lunch rushes. That guy used to slide around the counter into the backroom in his shiny shoes to check on their progress, then go sliding back to check on the counter staff. He was truly a beneficiary of the helpers he provided them.

Greg was the main driver of the group, the owner of the Harvester, an almost truck like vehicle with a front bench seat, and a removable back bench seat that was often jettisoned to accommodate the friends when they parked in various driveways, playing all sorts of card games that involved drinking. One such game, named Driveway, involved a bit of math, and drinking. Mike went on to use that game during his brief teaching career, sans drinking, of course. Mike wondered if he had ever thanked Greg for the countless times that he drove the group from one great adventure to another, whether it was just around the neighborhood or to Philly or DC or the innumerable rock concerts they attended in those times.

Mike's favorite memory of Greg was the morning Greg slipped on a pickle while at work, landing with one arm on the grill. Mike didn't see the fall, but noticed Greg shooting special sauce on the Big Macs in a haphazard way.  When pressed, Greg showed him the ugly burn on his arm. Even though it was just McDonalds, Greg was as loyal an employee, and a friend, as they come. But oh, the damage a wayward pickle can do!

Whereas Mike loved all his female friends, Sam was the one he spent the most time with, the woman who introduced him to the world of love. He regretted most having lost touch with her, although they had reconnected a few years ago when he heard about her husband's illness. They were communicating regularly now, and, while he still could experience the feelings he had those many years ago, he also knew that a renewed friendship was so much more rewarding, so much more meaningful. When she smiled at him across the table, he didn't need the pictures to remind him how her smile first attracted him to her, and how, no matter how we change with age, a smile is as good as anything to remind one of youth and happiness.     

Tom was the last to arrive. Mike had seen him for the first time in 15 years, at least, at Brian's life celebration event. Tom had forgotten to change out of his suit when he left work, so when he came up to Mike and thanked him for attending, Mike thought he was the funeral guy, being the only man in a suit. This was especially humorous, since it was Tom who had told everyone in no uncertain terms that there should be no ties or suits at the event, per Brian's instruction.

Tom was the youngest of the group, the true baby-faced one. He had also gone on to college later in life. It struck Mike for the first time how odd it was that so many of this group had attended college later in life than the standard, right after high school. It also struck Mike that the math said that all those parties that Tom, and Lean as well, took part in were before that magic age of 21. Tom was the only one of the group to volunteer for the military, having spent a summer away at boot camp. Mike recalled how surprised he had been at this decision, wondered if it was a reaction to the group sometimes being a bit derisive towards Tom's age, as if Tom wanted to prove he was on par with his older friends by one upping them by serving. He vaguely remembered speaking with Brian about this, all those years ago, but couldn't remember what conclusions they had drawn.

Mike's favorite memory of Tom, while not necessarily complimentary, was during their trip to DC. Tom had bumped into a display of the Constitution, almost knocking it out of its sacred case. The group reminded Tom of this clumsy encounter often, and mercilessly in the following weeks. I guess that is what you do to your baby siblings, heaping friendly abuse on them to show them your love.

Just about on cue, a picture landed in front of Mike, a picture of a young, vibrant, smiling Brian, shirtless on a summer day, at one of their many softball games. When Mike first started contacting everyone about a reunion, no one was as enthusiastic as Brian. He wanted it to be at his house, a weekend affair. As a precursor to the reunion, Mike had organized a smaller reunion at Brian's with just himself, Greg and Lean, although, on the actual day, Lean had to cancel.  

When Mike arrived and knocked on the door, Brian called out "door's open, come in". Mike entered a darkened room, Brian sitting with his back to the door, a blanket covering his lap. Mike sat in an adjacent chair and looked at his friend, trying not to convey any shock in his face. Brian did not look well, not just older but also not healthy. Later, when he went to the bathroom, Mike understood why he hadn't answered the door when he activated the lift mechanism on his chair to get up, then used a walker to navigate out of sight to the bathroom. Worse, while some of their conversation was upbeat, dotted with laughter about the old days, some of it was regretful about decisions made, and not made. Brian had been the life of the party, the go to guy for fun ideas and activities. Now, he seemed a shell of himself.

Later, outside, when he and Greg left, he asked Greg about Brian's health, and how, such a vibrant, young man had become so sickly, and despondent. Greg was hesitant to talk about his friend, someone whom he had stayed in touch with over the years, unlike Mike. But gradually the story emerged, a story of difficult relationships, especially that all important relationship we need to have with our self. 

As the empty food containers and bottles mounted, the friends' conversations toggled from memories to present day life to memories again. Despite the distance of time, their friendships glowed through. At one point, their server, a young girl probably the same age as they had been, asked Mike for details about why they were together. She seemed to get it, seemed impressed by their desire to see each other again after all that time. Mike wondered if it would inspire her to do something similar sometime in her future, and then laughed to himself wondering what a reunion would be like in 40 years, and how it would be affected by 40 years of technological advances.

When it was time to go, everyone seemed torn between the requirements of their lives, the restrictions of their age, and their desire to reenact, if only a little, their shared adventures. They hugged and kissed, and promised each other another reunion in the much nearer future than the time that had passed before today's.

Mike walked with Sam and Tom to their cars, said one last goodbye, then strolled to his vehicle. On the way home, he laughed at the memory of the picture they had taken, the 7 of them around the table, smiling broadly. He also fought off some tears, sad that Brian had not been there with them, would never be there with them again, although he assumed it was Brian, looking down from above who had produced such a beautiful fall day that enabled them to sit outside.

Mike also reflected on why he had allowed these special people to float out of his life. Sure, everyone matured at different rates, some eschewing the party life for adulthood, and certainly marriage and family obligations can interfere with old friendships. But his two oldest friends whom he still regularly saw, predated this group, so it wasn't merely the length of time that got in the way. 

Do we lose touch to more easily separate the phases of our life, compartmentalizing the party days from the early marriage days from the family oriented days on purpose? And if so, is that to make it easier to know who we are depending on what stage we are in? Or to make it clear that "those" days are past, almost as if any bad or irresponsible behavior on our part can be dismissed as just an ex-version of ourselves, not a reflection of who we are today?

Mike always defended "today's kids" when people his age complained that the youth of today don't want to work, are selfish, expect too much, etc. While he certainly didn't behave today as he did at 20 or 22, it didn't mean he wasn't just as selfish then, living for the moment, not worried about the future or the consequences of his actions. Isn't that what youth is about, having fun, living for now, making mistakes and beginning that long, never ending process of understanding who one is, and wants to be? Didn't every generation think the next lazy? And wasn't it really a product of a jealousy that they were not young anymore? He recalled one his favorite Socrates quotes, over 2 thousand years old.

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”

Mike pulled into his driveway, turned off the car, and sat in the dark for a few moments. It had been a wonderful evening, ending too soon as great times seem to do. Sharing memories with and without inspiration from the pictures that Bri brought, especially those with Brian, caused a wave of sadness to cascade over and through Mike. Such glorious times, such beautiful friends. He wiped his eyes, slightly shook his head one more time in regret over Brian's missing their reunion, and renewed his determination to make sure their next gathering was soon, and as joyful as today's.

_________________________________________________________

This is the 2nd of two stories about Mike. In the first, for which I have provided a link below, Mike spends an afternoon at a funeral. During the drive to and from, he reminisces about this particular friend and the friend he had lost just a month earlier, and then vows to do more to reconnect with his past friends.

https://wurdsfromtheburbs.blogspot.com/2022/03/death-and-friends.html


Friday, October 28, 2022

Empathy and Evolution

Just finished an interesting article in the October National Geographic discussing various studies that have been and are being done concerning animals' minds and feelings. It touched on a variety of intellectual abilities and emotions that are claimed to be present in various animals, including sense of self, ability to use buttons to communicate with humans, indications of animals at play, recognition of anger, sadness, and distress to name a few, and demonstrations of empathy.

It is the latter that I wish to focus on today.

The particular investigation that intrigued me involved rats, which I must say is a bold choice considering what some might regard as an instinctual dislike for rats by humans, along with the belief that rats will eat anything, including each other.

In this specific experiment, a rat is confined inside a transparent plastic tube with holes. The tube has a door that can be opened from the outside. The tube is placed inside a cage with another rat that is free to move around. The rat inside the tube exhibits its distress at being confined, which is visible to the other rat, which begins circling the tube, biting it, trying to dig underneath it. Eventually, the free rat learns how to open the door and liberates the trapped rat.

So, first, there appears to be recognition by the free rat that the trapped rat needs assistance, or at the least, would prefer to be released. Empathy? Second, the free rat acts upon this feeling? by
trying to help the other rat. If we assume this is a conscious decision by the free rat, why would it behave in such a way? There is no reason to think releasing the trapped rat would help the free rat, if we assume rats only act out of self preservation. Third, as we all probably know, rats (and many animals) have some sort of version of problem solving skills, which, in this case, enables the rat to open the door and free his friend. Friend?

Ah, that is the key. Because as it turns out, this behavior is contingent on whether the free rat feels a kin-ship towards the confined one. This particular line of research has discovered that a free rat raised with others of the same genetic type will help a trapped rat of that type, even if it is a stranger, but will disregard a rat of a different genetic type. Will do nothing.

To check on the strength of this kinship, when rats of different genetic types are raised together, the free rats will assist those with the different genetic type, and ignore those of the same genetic type who were not raised with them. Genetics is trumped by familiarity. Its about having a family, and knowing that the trapped rat is part of that family.

I imagine that many of us know someone, or have read about someone, who does not believe in evolution, specifically that all life forms have evolved from single celled marine life, eventually emerging from the sea to land. As the various forms adapted to the environment, various species were more successful in adapting and thriving in earth's changing atmosphere and terrestrial alterations, until a few million years ago (remember, the Earth is estimated to be about 4.5 billion years old), the first human ancestors appear. (I know this is a remarkably terse and incomplete version of Darwinian evolution, but our physical evolution is not the point of this post).

I am not sure if it would make it easier to help doubters of Darwin to accept evolution, but I would bet that some of them might, if they have pets, agree that their pets display emotions, specifically empathy, dogs that lick your face when you are sad being one such example. 

Is it possible then, that empathy is a common trait of most life forms that exist on our planet? Perhaps then, empathy is a DNA trait, if you like, that has passed along from species to species, generation to generation. Passed along because it is necessary, even vital, for a species to continue to exist. 

If we take the position that empathy is a critical emotion for life and human survival, then is it wise to encourage empathy, to reward empathy, and to use it as a gauge for our decisions, personal and societal?

Or, to put it another way, aren't the worst examples of human interactions in our history, situations and occurrences when we treated our fellow human beings as less than human? When we displayed a complete lack of empathy.

I am fond of saying that when a politician or pundit offers simple solutions to complex problems, they are more than likely not interested in solving them, but more likely interested in telling you who to blame. 

But perhaps there is a simple way to evaluate our policies and laws, based on the Golden Rule, as delivered during the Sermon on the Mount. Do unto others as you would have then do to you.

Is that what the rat is doing, by freeing his trapped kin? Is that what we are doing by providing food and medical aid to those around the world who lack? Is that what we are doing when we help someone cross a busy highway, or pick up dropped items in the street, or reach something on a high shelf?

Is it possible that our personal and collective displays of empathy will be the yardstick used to judge us? 

I have offered a number of what-if-this-is-how-we-are-judged scenarios over the course of this blog. If it turns out that judgement is merely a calculation performed by heavenly accountants with expressions of empathy on one side of the ledger, and actions performed without empathy on the other, I fear we are currently in a phase in which we are falling behind in that calculation.

However, I do believe we are a more empathetic species than rats, and like rats, we tend to treat those in our families with more caring. Wouldn't it be even better if we were to expand our definition of family to include all fellow Earthlings, not just those who share our race or religion, nationality or country of birth? And, finally, perhaps we should begin grading the efficacy of laws, solely on whether it displays empathy, or more critically, lacks empathy, for any particular group of people. Or, to be more blunt, would you want that law to be applied to you instead of "them"?

I found 2 other entries about empathy that I posted. Here are the links:


  


Thursday, October 20, 2022

Replacement Theory

It is not hard to find all kinds of articles and essays on the philosophy and history of replacement theory, or great replacement theory. In brief, over the course of the last 150 years, various versions of the fear that immigrants are being brought into "white" western countries to replace the majority white folks has permeated various European countries and America.

I often tell my wife, that, in general, there is always a tincture of truth in every conspiracy theory. Is there voter fraud? Undoubtedly, there are hundreds, perhaps even thousands of votes that are cast by someone not eligible to vote. But millions of votes "changed" by foreign interests or computer hackers? While I am not naive enough to think that the democratic party might include some cheaters, I don't believe they are smart enough to allow just enough GOP candidates on down ballots to win, while altering the one name at the top for president. Massive voter fraud is not a thing, it is a lie created by a man who is such a loser that he can't accept losing.

Often, it is the obvious answer that is correct, and in this case, just as in 2016, more Americans voted for the democratic presidential ticket, in 2020, enough of those who had voted for Trump in 2016, witnessed his incompetence, and decided they couldn't give him another chance, but still preferred local, state and federal GOP candidates over their democratic counterparts.

And, by the way, when a candidate for any office tells you that mail-in votes are suspect and in-person votes can be altered, he/she is casting doubt on democracy as a whole. Casting doubt on our institutions, whether it be elections, the Justice Department, the FBI, the free press, etc, is page one in the wannabe dictator playbook. 

Acceptance and gracious congratulations when a candidate loses along with the peaceful transfer of power to the winning candidate, is one of the primary characteristics of a democracy. Denial of an election loss almost 2 full years after the election, is the mark of a autocrat who will destroy everything to stay in power. 

But I digress.

As far as I can tell, there is an ongoing demographic shift, one that will, in fact, create an America in which the white majority will be less than 50% of the population. Of course, this is not the first time that the native people of the United States feared an influx of immigrants. I was talking about this with my son last weekend, and he reminded me that in the early 20th century, the same sort of fears were prevalent in reference to the great immigration wave that changed America's demographics. At that time, there were many critics of the peoples coming from Europe, especially those with swarthy complexions. Those darker whites, along with the other Europeans who brought over their strange foods, cultures, music, language, etc, were thought of as invaders by many "native" Americans of the time, who could trace their lineage to the Pilgrims. Those nativists thought that their idea of America would be changed forever by these European immigrants, their culture lost into a morass of new ideas and traditions. 

The fact that those very Pilgrims were immigrants themselves only 200 years in the past, seemed lost on them. Not to mention that the actual natives of North America, a myriad of tribes that had existed on this continent for centuries, were systematically pushed further and further west, victims of a manifest destiny that justified stealing their homelands and decimating their populations.

If anyone has the right to talk about replacement theory, it might be the Native American population!

And now, the voices of the children and grandchildren of those very immigrants who were castigated as foreigners who would alter America forever, sing the same song about today's immigrants. Except that when "white" was eventually redefined to include those with off white complexions, we now hear the quiet part being said out loud by racist commentators who have no problem calling people from south of our border rapists and criminals, or dehumanizing those from s*ithole countries, countries that just happen to have darker people.

We all know that change is hard, and societal change even harder as that kind of change can take a generation or more. Just as the Italian, Irish, German, French, Swede, etc immigrants of the early 20th century were eventually accepted by most Americans as Americans by the middle of the 20th century, today's immigrants will be similarly accepted by our grandchildren. 

After all, very few people get upset today if their child is dating or marrying outside their particular ancestry once we become a 2nd or 3rd generation American family. Similarly, I feel confident that our grandchildren will have a similar perspective about a 2nd or 3rd generation American with ancestry from one of the countries that we now label as the source of today's invaders. 

Curiously, when importing slaves was at its zenith, resulting in many white landowners owning far more black slaves as there were white family members, there was little concern about the danger of replacing whites with other races, mostly since those slaves were powerless, without rights. Makes one think that control is the real issue here, or as I have said in the past, the fear that a white minority might be treated as horribly as the white majority treated those non-white peoples.

America is only 250 years old. We are inhabited by a mishmash of cultures, traditions, religion and race, philosophy and perspective. Some might say, we are great because of our diversity. So, when you hear people bashing diversity, advocating for a white nationalist agenda, or just seem to enjoy creating divisiveness by telling you which "others" are to blame for our troubles, in effect, they are saying that they don't like America. Or certainly, not the America that was built in great part by people who themselves or whose parents were not born here.  

What is truly ironic, is that now that we have mapped the human genome, we know that almost every person alive today has some small percentage of African ancestry in their DNA. 

In reality, skin color is just a matter of degree. One could even say, we are all black, just some of us are a lighter shade, or we are all white, just some of us are a darker shade. 

In the end, wouldn't it be great if we noticed skin color with the same attention as we notice handedness?


 


Tuesday, October 11, 2022

The 90% Boat

A few posts ago, I mentioned my concern over the commercials being aired against the student debt forgiveness program. 


My issue wasn't that some people think student debt forgiveness is a bad idea, but my feeling that the organization sponsoring the ad was organized and funded by wealthy people, and that, in my opinion, they were attempting to create a wedge between working class folks by appealing to their more selfish instincts. 

This "I don't want that group to get a benefit simply because I do not qualify for it" mentality seems to be a winning strategy for the rich. They use it to create jealousy between various segments of the 90% of us who make below $125,000 a year all the while deflecting their own culpability for some of the ills of our nation.

I experienced the effectiveness of this strategy just a few days ago.  I was speaking with a very nice co-worker about wages. She truly believed that there were some jobs that didn't deserve a salary of $15 an hour. She had totally bought into the rich people scam that paying a livable wage to the everyday workers of America was one of the causes of inflation. It reminded me of all the negative talk about unions that proliferated in the 70's and 80's when unions were in their heyday, and overall middle class wages were, relatively, as high as they had ever been. Unfortunately, too many middle class voters believed this propaganda.  Since 1985, union membership has dropped by almost half, while middle class buying power has remained static.

The rich got richer by outsourcing middle class jobs overseas, and won the battle of who was to blame for stagnant middle class wages by convincing many Americans that it was lazy union workers that forced them to export their jobs. 

Fade to another of those anti student loan forgiveness ads, and the narrator tells us that union workers who have been busting their hump (at real jobs, is the insinuation) are now forced to pay the debt of blue haired, gender studies graduate snowflakes who can't pay their own way.  Imagine that, union workers who were vilified by the rich a generation ago, are now the good guys against lazy, elite, college graduates who don't want to work!

Let me be clear. The 90% of us MUST begin to evaluate these ads, and to understand that this concerted effort to pit us against each other is all designed to deflect the simple fact that there is plenty of money in America, plenty of resources that would enable all working people to earn a livable wage, but the rich do not want to provide us our fair share. As long as they can keep us at bay from demanding, in unison, for livable wages (as well as health and PTO benefits), they can continue to increase their portion of the wealth in America.

According to federal reserve data as of Q4 2021, the top 1% of households in the US held 32.3% of the country's wealth, while the bottom 50% held just 2.6%. In 1990, those same top 1% held just about 10% less, 23.5% of the country's wealth, while the bottom 50% held about 3.6%. Even worse though, is the change in wealth held by those in the 50 to 90th percentile of earners.  Their percentage of America's wealth dropped from 36.7% to about 29%. Those are middle class workers, those making between $40K and $80K.

I have presented this example before but will repeat it anyway as it continues to be needed to be heard.  Increasing hourly wages from $13 to $15 per hour is doable, without increasing inflation, if large companies with executives making $10 million a year or more would take a 1 or 2 million dollar pay reduction. For every $1 million, which is roughly $20,000 a week, 250 people could get a $2 per hour raise (40 hours times $2 is $80, times 250 equals $20K).  $2 million gives 500 people that $2 per hour without altering overall pay roll, without passing along the extra labor costs to consumers, which is corporate talk for "we put our bottom line and stockholders needs above our customers ability to afford our product".

But Joe, you say, a 1 or 2 million dollar pay cut is a lot! Yes, it is, but when the average CEO makes $20 million per year, I believe they could struggle by on 18 or 19 million, don't you?  Also, what about athletes? While I am certainly a sports fan, I believe that $40 million salaries for the top athletes in professional sports is ridiculous. I also believe they could live comfortably on $30 million, which would free up $10 million for all those people who work behind the scenes.  Food vendors at the stadiums, office staff who support the organization's owners, players and coaches but earn average pay. Perhaps even lowering tickets (and food prices at the games) so that average people could afford to attend.

I know that the corporate mentality includes a cost saving aspect, and, of course, labor costs are usually 40, 50, sometimes even 60% of those costs. But, doesn't a livable wage for everyone result in less state and federal assistance (less spending)?  When salaries for the everyday American allows him/her to live comfortably, to buy products and services that increase demand for those products and services, doesn't that make business more profitable?  

Currently, the fed is increasing interest rates to combat inflation, thereby crushing the stock market which puts pressure on CEO's and corporate boards to reduce costs to maintain their stock price, and satisfy stockholders. Which is supposed to lead to less employment which leads to less spending which means less demand for products and services which leads to even more employee layoffs which may or may not cause a recession if all that can be coordinated enough to produce a "soft" landing.  

So, not being an economist, I think that this means that higher unemployment means less inflation which is good for stock prices, but sounds counter intuitive to demand for product and services.  Which leads me to my firm belief that Wall Street and Main Street are not only not in concert with what makes each successful, but might actually be on opposite ends of the pendulum, in that what is good for the rest of us, good paying jobs, is bad for Wall Street and those in the top 10% of incomes, which, apparently, includes those who sit on the Federal Reserve Board.

About a dozen years ago, I wrote a story about income distribution. At the time, I was thinking of a baseball player named Albert Pujols as the athlete in question, although I didn't name him, and he didn't follow the lead of my protagonist in the story.


Folks, the average CEO makes almost 250 times the salary of the average worker in their company.  Star athletes make more money in one year than 40 average workers do in their lifetime. Pay inequality exists, working people who need state and federal assistance exists, because those at the top have made a conscious decision to maintain, and enhance, an income distribution system that benefits them at the cost of the rest of us, those of us in the 90% boat. And, worse, they create and pay for media propaganda that purposefully tries to create rifts between us, to convince us that it is the fault of those we share our 90% boat with. 

We need to stop rocking our own boat, stop buying into the lies that our fellow boat travelers are keeping us from financial stability, that it is poor people, or immigrants, those at the very lowest rungs of the boat that are at fault, when it is clearly those sitting in comfort at the head of the boat, those who don't even do much of the rowing, but seem to have all the best seats, who are the problem.

So, the next time you see or hear an ad that tells you some blue haired college graduate, or refugee from a war torn country, or immigrant who has come to America to find opportunity and freedom, or even a hump busting union steel worker, is the problem with America, know that they are in the same boat as you, part of the 90% boat, and it is the other 10% that is the real reason why the middle class is shrinking, and half of us only own 3 percent of our great country's wealth.   

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Two Older Couples Walking on the Beach

               Two Older Couples Walking On The Beach


Two older couples walking on the beach, 

 separated by gender and 25 feet.


How about that Eagles game last night?

   How are your kids and grandkids?

Everything OK financially?

   Everything OK with your relationship?

Any thoughts on where we should eat tonight?

   Any thoughts on finding that spark again?

Can you believe that political ad we saw last night?

   Can you believe that men think they can legislate pregnancy?

Do you miss working sometimes?

   Do you wish he was still working at times?

We went to another funeral last week.

   We went to another funeral last week.


Where did the time go? Are kids really different than when we were young? Do you think about moving to a smaller place? Do you worry about aging ungracefully? About being alive but not living?


Do you worry that she will be OK when you're not there?

   Do you worry about being lonely when he is not here?

Can you imagine having not have asked her to marry you?

   Can you imagine not having said yes?


Two older couples walking on the beach,

   separated by gender and 25 feet.


______________________________________________________


This year, as I sat in the sun listening to the gentle crashing of the waves onto the shore, I noticed two older couples walking past, men a bit ahead of the women. Without thinking too hard, I tried to get into their heads to discern the difference in their conversational topics, and to wonder how those discussions mirrored those I have had during similar walks. The above is the result of those musings.

Two years ago, I wrote the poem below while on vacation with Nora at Dewey Beach, Delaware, a place where we have been visiting, first with the kids, and now just us, for 25 years. The very first time we went, we decided on the spur of the moment to spend a long weekend at the beach. We had no reservations, just the naive thought that we would find a hotel, and some quality time with the ocean and each other.  We did, in fact, find a place after only the second attempt, and have returned there, most years, ever since.


Two Old People Walking on the Beach


When I was younger, I would see two old people

walking on the beach.

Sometimes holding hands, sometimes holding sandals.


What are they thinking?  What could they talk about?

Passions burnt out?  Memories of bygone days?

Thoughts of friends no longer alive?

Thoughts of family no longer in touch?

Did they wish they looked as they did in the beginning?

Wonder where the time went, and how much longer

they might have together?


Two old people walking on the beach.

One is me, one my wife.

Sometimes we hold hands, sometimes sandals.


The view is magnificent today, she remarks,

and the sandpipers so cute.

Could we live here some day or would we get used to it,

take it for granted, stop seeing its beauty.

I like the pace, or lack thereof.  Perhaps we should come

more often.


I look in her eyes, see the beautiful girl I married, 

the wonderful woman still beside me.


Two old people walking on the beach.

Friday, September 16, 2022

Pro-Fetus

I have been pondering this thought for a while, so thought it about time I post my view that the pro-life movement should be referred to as the pro-fetus movement.  

Now, to be fair, there are many pro-life advocates who are truly pro life.  They believe that the commandment, Thou Shalt Not Kill, is an absolute.  That any killing is forbidden by God.  But the reality is, that is a very hard perspective to maintain, when compared with all the reasons that many of us are OK with taking a life.

Of course war, is our greatest exception. Whether due to a perceived threat to world peace, a preemptive attack to prevent possible aggression, retaliation for an attack, to stop the domino effect of countries falling under the influence of communism, or merely to defend our access to energy sources, America has gone to war multiple times in the past 100 years, with the idea that killing those who stand against us is justified, even desired. And if you were against any of these wars, police actions or whatever other phrase was used to name the invasion and killing of people in other countries, you were generally not in the majority. More likely, rather than being praised as pro-life, you were called anti-American, a coward, or some other such derisive name. As someone who was fortunate enough to have been just young enough to miss serving in Vietnam, but not so young as to see who was cheering our onslaught in that country, I was well aware of the evangelical community's position; communists are evil, against God, not deserving of life.

Capital punishment is another issue for which most pro-fetus advocates come down on the side of killing. Certainly, I understand that someone who commits a crime so heinous that they are sentenced to the death penalty, might be easy to grant an exception to a pro-life stance. I recall a paper I wrote in high school positing that keeping someone alive, in prison, for decades until they die, might actually be considered more cruel than a quick easy death.  Still, the commandment Thou Shalt Not Kill, does not contain an asterisk with the words, except for those who commit certain crimes. Not to mention, it has been proven time and again that certain groups, lower economic and/or minorities, receive death sentences far more often percentage wise, than other groups. One might think that a pro-life person would see that when unequal justice produces a sentence as severe as death, then perhaps those in the pro-life camp might be better served to be against capital punishment.

But it gets far worse. The recent emergence of castle doctrine laws in some states, give an almost free hand to home owners to use deadly force against someone who enter their "castle" illegally. Now, like those who receive a death sentence, those who get shot while committing robbery don't generate much sympathy. But it is a far cry from chasing off an intruder with a gun (or baseball bat or big dog) to shooting them dead. I actually think that the everyday person who kills an intruder would not feel good about killing someone,  afterwards, especially considering that more than 60% of robberies do not involve an armed intruder. So, if you are pro-life, other than for self defense, defending or advocating for these type of castle doctrine laws might not reflect a pro-life attitude. 

As stark as these issues can be when one decides to proclaim that they are pro-life, what bothers me even more about the pro-life movement, and especially pro-life politicians, is that they don't seem to advocate as vociferously for a fetus once it becomes a baby, alive outside the womb. I mentioned in one of my previous posts about abortion that many of those states which have enacted the most severe abortion restrictions, have actually made it a felony to perform or even assist in an abortion, have the worst percentages in terms of child poverty and maternal death rate.

https://wurdsfromtheburbs.blogspot.com/2022/05/abortion.html

To be more specific, currently, the following states have abortion bans. Idaho, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana. 

Nine of those states have complete bans, with no exceptions for rape or incest. (Oklahoma bans abortion at the time of fertilization, which, as I have mentioned before, means some contraception that works to prevent implantation in the uterus would now be considered an abortion). Mississippi has an incest exception. West Virginia has exceptions for rape, incest and mother's health up to 8 weeks for adults, 14 weeks for children. Idaho has exceptions for rape, incest and mother's health, but has been challenged in court for not allowing doctor's to perform abortions to save a mother's life later in the pregnancy. Indiana's ban has very limited exceptions but is not a totally complete ban. Wisconsin's ban is over 100 years old, but is being actively challenged by the governor and district attorney of that state.

Georgia and Ohio have abortion bans after 6 weeks, but courts in both states have temporarily delayed those laws taking effect.

Now, let's talk child poverty. New data from 2021 shows a remarkable decline in America's child poverty rate since 2019, an unexpected decline considering many thought that the pandemic would result in an increase in child poverty. It did not because of the various government spending plans (which began during the Trump administration and continued into Biden's term) which pumped an unprecedented amount of money into the hands of lower and middle class families, especially those with children. Now, with rising inflation, there may be an increase when 2022 ends, but at least for now, child poverty is at an all time low of 5.2%. 

I found it difficult to find 2021 child poverty rate numbers by state, but did find 2019 and 2020 numbers. In both years, the child poverty rate was highest in Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, all in the bottom ten. Oddly, all those states have total bans on abortion. Texas was just out of the worst ten.  Of the other states, only Wisconsin was in the top half of states as having the least percentage of children living in poverty. 

As a side note, the overall poverty rate in 2021 was 11.6%, which is hard to imagine, that one out of 10 Americans, live at or below the poverty line. And, it is estimated that over 26 million Americans over the age of 65 were boosted above the poverty line via their Social Security payments. Remember that the next time a politician talks about eliminating Social Security, or who advocates reauthorizing it every few years. Especially if he/she claims to be pro-life.

Unfortunately, those same states listed above, have the highest poverty rates among all age groups in America. Since almost half of women who had abortions cited financial reasons, one would think that states banning abortion might realize that those who will be forced to carry their unwanted pregnancy to term would be those least likely to be able to support a child, which means even more children will live in poverty.  When I see the pro-life movement protesting at their various state capitals for more funding for child care, higher minimum wages, and better access to overall health care, I will give them their pro-life label. For now, they are clearly pro-fetus.

As for maternal death rates, those same anti-abortion law states rank at the bottom, with the highest maternal death rates in America. Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, and Texas all in the bottom 10, with 6 more of the 14 listed in the beginning of this post in the next bottom 10.  Only Wisconsin and West Virginia have maternal death rates lower than most other states.

Again, I do know some pro-life advocates who do their best to adhere to that very difficult axiom of Thou Shalt Not Kill. But most I talk to are not pro-life when it comes to war, the death penalty, castle doctrine laws, or state policies that address child poverty, overall poverty and maternal death rates. So, again, the best we can call them is pro-fetus, with a side of anti-women, and a big old helping of anti-choice.  When one consider that freedom of choice is one of the foundations of our American experiment in democracy, it surprises me that so many pro-life people would exhibit such an anti-American attitude concerning restricting half the population from making a choice about their reproductive lives. 

Like so many issues, having a strong opinion about what you would or would not do in your own life, is not the same as creating laws that mandate that strong opinion onto others.  Especially when that opinion represents the belief of a minority of the population. In the end, be pro-fetus, be against gay marriage, advocate for the abolition of contraception or inter racial marriage by not having an abortion, not marrying someone of the same sex or different race, and not using contraception. It is your choice. 

Ah, the beauty of being pro-choice.