Sunday Rambling

For those keeping score, there was less snow (and more ice) than initially forecast, and now the temperatures, as predicted, are plummeting. Hopefully we’ll have clear enough skies tonight for the eclipse. Assuming we can stay awake. Most astronomical events lately have been ruined by the weather – hoping for a break tonight.

Something today reminded me of this quote by Albert Camus – it’s a useful thing to keep in mind, I think, on days like this when the dissonance outside is in conflict with the noise inside my head:

Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.

Very true.

I had a topic for today that I find I’m not quite in the proper frame of mind for – but I’ll get to it in a more comprehensive post later. As a start though, I’ll just make a couple of observations:

  1. President Trump’s “offer” yesterday was not one. He offered temporary concessions for a permanent, unpopular and unnecessary, expense. And when accused of offering amnesty by the more xenophobic segment of his base, he tweeted the alarming idea that “Amnesty will be used only on a much bigger deal, whether on immigration or something else”.  (yes, I’m on Twitter, too, sometimes). I keep wondering why my more conservative friends are not catching on to the fact that the border area’s congressional representatives – even the GOP one – are opposed to the wall. Many other things are needed & would make more sense. Nor are they recognizing that the Southern Border Sheriff’s & the Arizona state Sheriff’s organizations have issued statements opposing a wall in favor of technology, manpower, and infrastructure improvements. But obviously they know not of which they speak – or as a couple of people I know have said – “they’re delusional”. Gotta wonder who’s been drinking the kool-aid in this case (no, just kidding, I know, and it isn’t me).
  2. Our southern border is not being overrun by immigrants. And if it were, a multi-year infrastructure project would not normally be considered the solution to a “crisis”.
  3. Our immigration laws are confusing, and need reform, so it is not surprising that so few people understand them, but even within the “rule of law” that some are so fond of referencing, things are not always that clear. But being driven by the fear-mongering, and refusing to listen to other voices, is a conscious choice, and a poor one at that. We, as nation, are better than that. We have to be.

And, at the risk of continuing to traumatize those easily triggered Trump supporters in my life, I just want to point out that it was ludicrous for Vice-President Pence to use Martin Luther King Jr,’s “I Have a Dream” speech as a reference point for President Trump’s “offer” on the wall. Seriously? Equating Trump and King? Even Mike Pence can’t believe that.

And on that note, to my family and friends in the northeastern US – stay warm.

Pax

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Tuesday’s Quotes – January 8, 2018: 1st State of the Union Address

“Nor am I less pursuaded, that you will agree with me in opinion, that there is nothing, which can better deserve your patronage, than the promotion of Science and Literature. Knowledge is in every Country the surest basis of public happiness. In one, in which the measures of Government recieve their impression so immediately from the sense of the Community as in our’s, it is proportionably essential. To the security of a free Constitution it contributes in various ways: By convincing those, who are entrusted with the public administration, that every valuable end of Government is best answered by the enlightened confidence of the people: And by teaching the people themselves to know and to value their own rights; to discern and provide against invasions of them; to distinguish between oppression and the necessary exercise of lawful authority; between burthens proceeding from a disregard to their convenience and those resulting from the inevitable exigencies of Society; to discriminate the spirit of liberty from that of licentiousness, cherishing the first, avoiding the last, and uniting a speedy, but temperate vigilence against encroachments, with an inviolable respect to the laws.”

In a time of increasing willful ignorance, flat-out denial of science, in the US and elsewhere, and a distinct misunderstanding of civics in the US, it seems to worthwhile, on the 228th anniversary of the first State of the Union address, to recall some of the words that George Washington delivered on that winter’s day day in New York in 1790.

Text of the address available at https://www.mountvernon.org/education/primary-sources/state-of-the-union-address

Presidential portrait of George Washington borrowed from https://www.mountvernon.org/george-washington/biography/

 

Tuesday’s Quotes – December 18, 2018: International Migrants Day 2018

“Migration is a powerful driver of economic growth, dynamism and understanding. It allows millions of people to seek new opportunities, benefiting communities of origin and destination alike.

But when poorly regulated, migration can intensify divisions within and between societies, expose people to exploitation and abuse, and undermine faith in government.

This month, the world took a landmark step forward with the adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

Backed with overwhelming support by the membership of the United Nations, the Compact will help us to address the real challenges of migration while reaping its many benefits.

The Compact is people-centered and rooted in human rights.

It points the way toward more legal opportunities for migration and stronger action to crack down on human trafficking.

On International Migrants Day, let us take the path provided by the Global Compact: to make migration work for all.”

Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General, 2018 statement on International Migrants Day

According to the United Nations, well over 3000 migrants and refugees lost their lives so far in 2018. Because of that, the theme for this year’s International Migration Day is Migration With Dignity. According to the UN’s website:

“Treating every migrant with dignity is one of fundamental requirements we face before anything else we attempt on migration. Migration is the great issue of our era, and a force for dignity because it allows people to choose to save themselves, letting them choose participation over isolation.

“We must dignify those choices by paying them respect, and we respect them by treating those who make such choices with dignity. As we celebrate this day, our call is for migration to be safe, regular and dignified for all.”

Pax.

 

 

Good advice

There seems to be too much fear in the world today – financial, political, physical safety. And much of it is actively stoked by those in power the world over. Fear often breeds hate. And when we allow ourselves to hate, we forget that one of the greatest gifts we have as humans is the capacity for kindness and compassion.

We must not allow ourselves to be so caught up in the media-fed frenzy of fear, outrage, and hate that we draw broad strokes across entire groups – Liberals, Conservatives, Muslims, Christians, Whatever. We need to remind ourselves that the only way to bring positive change, and to break the cycle, is for each of us, individually, to treat all others, and ourselves, with dignity, respect and compassion.

Now that the multi-cultural, multi-religious, holiday cycle,  which begins every year with Thanksgiving and continues past New Year’s Day, is underway, it seems an apt time to dust back off one of my favorite quotes from educator – and abolitionist – Horace Mann:

“Doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves. We must purposely be kind and generous, or we miss the best part of existence.”

The whole is only ever the sum of the parts.

Have a peaceful weekend.

Cold rain clinging to the Japanese maple, November 13, 2018.

Never underestimate the power of the intellect

Overall it was a very good weekend – had a nice day with younger daughter for my spouse’s birthday yesterday (including a decent dinner at the Doctor Who themed “The Pandorica” restaurant), and a peaceful day today. Of course it wasn’t without challenges – our poor dog managed to get bitten by a neighbor’s dog  on Friday & is now on antibiotics (and the irony of our very dog-aggressive dog getting bitten unprovoked while being held on a leash & unable to bite back was not lost on us or her vet). But now the weekend is coming to a close and I have much volunteering to catch back up on, spouse and I need to focus on our home selling options so we can finish up the ‘choose a realtor’ process (plus some estimates to review for work we still need done), and the normal stuff that always needs to be done (car inspections, health insurance, bill paying, etc, ad nauseam). Another busy week is on the horizon.

Meanwhile, though, those unhealthy triplets –  selective memory, willful ignorance, and cognitive dissonance – have also been in evidence this weekend, which called to mind this quote from Albert Camus:

“An intellectual? Yes. And never deny it. An intellectual is someone whose mind watches itself. I like this, because I am happy to be both halves, the watcher and the watched. “Can they be brought together?” This is a practical question. We must get down to it. “I despise intelligence” really means: “I cannot bear my doubts.”

It has been the case throughout history that those wanting to hold onto power, or to achieve power, have opted to denigrate the ‘intellectual’. The reason is obvious – the ability to think frequently flies in opposition to the means of control. Are intellectuals always right? Of course not. But in much the same way that rolling stones gather no moss, the seeds of oppression cannot flourish in an open mind.

 

Albert Camus, photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson – borrowed from the Encyclopedia Brittanica.

Is the noise in my head bothering you?

…Right about now, I, personally, am finding it deafening.

In the wonderful film The Gods Must Be Crazy, there is a scene early on where the female lead sits down to lunch in her workplace cafeteria, and a women sitting next to her looks at her and asks “Is the noise in my head bothering you?”.   (That line is just about as perfect as an oft-repeated comment by a dear friend “that was so stupid even my hair hurts” – which I’ve also freely stolen.)

Loved it so much that I used it about 3 years ago in an earlier post. About willful ignorance, and manufactured outrage, but, while that certainly is a pet peeve of mine, and certainly is still relevant, that isn’t what inspired me to use the line once again. In a way, it’s also an appropriate film reference.

This was something  less interesting than cognitive dissonance, but perhaps equally disturbing in its own small way: Today I managed to run afoul of Facebook’s notoriously inconsistent ‘Community Standards”. Earlier this week, I’d posted an article from National Geographic about the situation with the North Sentinel Island’s isolated natives, and the risk that they may be under now that they’ve apparently killed an American missionary suffering from the hubris of those that believe themselves to be “endowed by Christ”, as he’d apparently written, and who chose to illegally go to the island in the hopes of converting the tribespeople. Unfortunately, said article also had a cover photo of the islanders on their shoreline that National Geographic photographers had taken 40 years ago. They were indeed naked, but not all that disturbingly so. Here is a link to the offending article – it’s definitely worth a read on its own merits. This afternoon I was surprised by a notification telling me that the post violated the Community Standards regarding “nudity and sexual activity”. I, believing this to be a hair-hurting level of idiocy, requested a re-review. Once again the FB morals squad determined the photo was offensive.

Screen Shot 2018-11-30 at 7.22.02 PM

I was so impressed that I actually requested another review, which took longer, but yielded the same result. Naked people in picture – bad. So, just for fun, I wandered over to National Geographic’s own FB page & was unsurprised to see that their own posting of the article was still available for all to see. Since I was not going to get past the morals bots (after all the picture, as you can see, does have naked men), I marked the post private to get it off their radar, and I took Facebook up on their offer of providing feedback (so that they can continue to improve – haha). In the feedback I advised them that they were wrong in that there was nothing remotely sexual about the photo or the article, and that they were applying the standard inconsistently since the same article and photo were available elsewhere on FB. I assume they will ignore me, as they usually seem to do when I attempt to help them improve my experience by providing feedback.

Hopefully the weekend, which includes my husband’s birthday and a celebratory dinner at a nearby Doctor Who themed restaurant, will help free my mind of FB’s intransigence.

Have a great weekend!

Cover photo of the Rockies taken July 2015.