No more turning away

Modified repost from January 27, 2017.

I have another ear worm. And ear worms are for sharing. I believe this deeply. But regardless of whether you agree, it is true that I am going to share. Be warned.

I find that Pink Floyd’s 1987 power ballad On the Turning Away remains relevant to me (and “relevance” & “Pink Floyd” don’t usually pop into my head at the same time). The song itself is a call to stop turning a blind eye to the suffering around us, but I think this has become my mantra – no more turning away. There is simply too much at stake for the future. And so I think I’ve extended the meaning in my own head a bit to include those marginalized groups that are in jeopardy now that religious zealotry (of all types) and nationalism  seem to be holding sway in the US and in much of the rest of the world. We all need to have our rights protected and I don’t want to see the clock turned back for anyone.

Of course, from a practical matter, I’m still working out what that really means – I just know that I cannot continue to sit idly by. I guess it still means more writing to call out the wrongs – but the rate of troubling news sometimes seems to come at a disorienting rate, making writing more difficult than it should be. I’m doing more volunteering now that I have more free time, and fewer constraints, but I’m often left feeling that I should be doing more – because there is so much that needs attention. And because I have other personal priorities and concerns that can’t get lost in my renewed quest to save the world.

I’ll continue to figure it out as I go along, but in the meantime, here’s the song (the lyrics are below) – sometimes inspiration can come from the strangest places…

 

On the Turning Away

On the turning away
From the pale and downtrodden
And the words they say
Which we won’t understand

“Don’t accept that what’s happening
Is just a case of others’ suffering
Or you’ll find that you’re joining in
The turning away”

It’s a sin that somehow
Light is changing to shadow
And casting it’s shroud
Over all we have known

Unaware how the ranks have grown
Driven on by a heart of stone
We could find that we’re all alone
In the dream of the proud

On the wings of the night
As the daytime is stirring
Where the speechless unite
In a silent accord

Using words you will find are strange
And mesmerized as they light the flame
Feel the new wind of change
On the wings of the night

No more turning away
From the weak and the weary
No more turning away
From the coldness inside

Just a world that we all must share
It’s not enough just to stand and stare
Is it only a dream that there’ll be
No more turning away?

— Pink Floyd
written by David Gilmore & Anthony Moore

Storm-laden sky – June 6, 2018

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The weekend has finally arrived

It’s been a noisy week, and as a result I’ve gotten pretty much nothing done for the past 2 days. Replacing the front steps and the garage floor has resulted in a great deal of noise from jack hammers. But it should all be finished early next week, and things can get back to normal.

Another result of the constant noise, I’ve realized, is that I lost track of time, and am far behind on getting this post written. So I may write the one I’d intended to write on Sunday (although it is Mother’s Day here in the US…), or maybe I’ll work it into a separate one. The gist, though, is that I’m honestly concerned about those friends of mine that seemed to have become incapable of responding to any topic without attaching a political spin to it, and the lack of self-awareness in some of their on-line posts. And I was puzzling over why. And how we let ourselves get to that point. But I’m not there yet, so if not Sunday, then maybe it will work its way into this month’s #1000Speak post – because life is politics, and after all one of the definitions of politics is “the total complex of relations between people living in society”. Or at least that’s what Merriam-Webster tells me.

In ruminating on people and politics, and on current events, I was reminded of something Gerald Ford said in 1974 about the Committee to Reelect the President:

“The political lesson of Watergate is this: Never again must America allow an arrogant, elite guard of political adolescents to by-pass the regular party organization and dictate the terms of a national election.”

Not entirely a fan of our restrictive two-party system, and also not a fan of the tight control the parties wield over the election process, but I suspect that one of the (many) lessons of  the 2016 presidential election, and its aftermath, will be that that particular lesson of Watergate may not have been learned all that well.

Just some more food for thought.

Work-in-progress photo of the garage floor taken while looking down from the kitchen door – courtesy of my husband

Tuesday’s Quotes May 8, 2018 – Truman

“Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.” — Harry S Truman, August 8, 1950, Special Message to Congress on the Internal Security of the United States

Today is the anniversary of the birth of the 33rd President of the United States, Harry S Truman in 1884. Born to a farming family in Lamar, Missouri, the ‘S’ was bestowed on him in honor of his grandfathers, but does not stand for any specific name. When I was a kid, I found the use only of a letter in lieu of a middle name as very strange. Admittedly, as an adult I still find it strange, but…

Anyway… it’s always worthwhile to keep these words of Truman’s in mind. Although quotes are often used outside of the context in which they were originally delivered, that does not necessarily change the intent (although, it often does). In this particular case, the meaning is much what the words say. The address that Truman made to congress was about the perceived dangers of communism, and how to best protect the nation – while still maintaining individual freedoms. The speech is relatively long, but I found it interesting – the times were interesting (if you’re inclined to read it, the full text of the speech can be found here). There was a great deal of paranoia in the days of the “Red Scare”.

It’s worth remembering that paranoia by our congress and executive branch does not make for a healthy country.

Photo of Truman borrowed from biography.com

 

Nerds Reunited – March for Science 2018

Once again, my  deeply introverted self and wonderfully supportive spouse spent our day yesterday, in the sunny 80 degree heat, at the March for Science in Washington, D.C. with a few thousand other people – fewer people than last year, and much warmer, but the vibe was still overwhelmingly positive. In the time since last year’s March, things, from a scientific perspective, have definitely worsened in the government, but, in a positive turn, several scientists and doctors have become politically engaged in both local and national politics, and that is a necessary step toward reducing the pervasive case of scientific ignorance that is gripping our nation. There is more to do to keep the momentum going, but, as I noted last year – referring to this as a protest – or worse as whining – is wrong. It’s a promotion of science, critical thinking, and evidence based policy making. It was perhaps more political this year than last, but scientific research often relies on public funding for public benefit. Furthermore, public health and environmental policies should be science-based, so the political reality cannot be ignored. Unfortunately, we are living in a disturbing time where neither our legislative nor our executive branches seem to have much respect, or use, for science. Yes, some of the signs were overtly political (but Scott Pruitt really has no business at the EPA, and Betsy DeVos’s agenda is not about improving education – and those two make Rick Perry look good at the Department of Energy), but the overall message was overwhelmingly pro-science and pro-critical thinking – the ‘pro’ far outweighed the ‘anti’.

It is important to remember that our founding fathers were products of the enlightenment. They understood science, technology, and the acquisition of knowledge to be critical to our country’s survival.  All of them supported public education under the premise that only an educated populace could safeguard our liberty and prevent us from falling into tyranny.

Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution specifies that one of the things that Congress has the power to do is to ‘promote the Progress of Science and the useful Arts‘. They were given that power to encourage technological growth and innovation by protecting the rights of those that did the work. It was, in fact, the basis for patents, and for copyright law. And it should not be lost that Thomas Jefferson considered himself a scientist first and foremost, and even the military leader that brought us to victory, George Washington, said, in his first address to Congress as president:

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 publick happiness.

We seem to have lost sight of that somewhere along the way. Our future and the future of the planet depends upon resetting our bearings. It is critical that our long national descent into willful ignorance reaches its end. Honestly, the March for Science movement was overdue. We have long been descending into the abyss, and something should have been done by those most qualified years ago. Perhaps that would have prevented things from reaching this point. Hopefully, we will realize that we can’t sit around waiting for someone else to fix things. That the scientific conclusions cannot be left to speak for themselves when people, especially those responsible for policy, are actively refusing to consider scientific conclusions as valid because those conclusions run counter to what they want them to be.

To borrow a line from James Madison:

“The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.”

It is past time to act, but hopefully it is not too late to have a positive impact.

The photo above was my favorite sign of the day. Below are a few additional photos from the rally & march.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After spending a few hours at Monticello….

… while wearing my Vote for Science t-shirt and getting kind comments from a few members of the staff because “Jefferson would have approved”, I’m in a somewhat more intellectually reflective mood this evening. As a result, I thought I’d dust off this post from last May, since I am continuing to be dismayed, and somewhat frightened,  by the anti-intellectual, and outright anti-science, stance that our federal government keeps doubling down on.

“The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.”

— James Madison

Our founders understood science, technology, and the acquisition of knowledge to be critical to our country’s survival.  All of them supported public education, under the premise that only an educated populace could safeguard our liberty and prevent us from falling into tyranny.

Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution specifies that one of the things that Congress has the power to do is to ‘promote the Progress of Science and the useful Arts‘. They were given that power to encourage technological growth an innovation by protecting the rights of those that did the work. It was, in fact, the basis for Copyright law, and Patents. And it should not be lost that Thomas Jefferson considered himself a scientist first and foremost, and even the military leader that brought us to victory, George Washington, said, in his first address to Congress:

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 publick happiness.

We seem to have lost sight of that somewhere along the way. Our future depends upon resetting our bearings.

Photo of the Monticello, March 30, 2018.

 

 

 

Another Friday Contemplation

I’m in a philosophical frame of mind today. That’s only natural since I have a lot of things that I should be doing instead of philosophizing. I sort of have an excuse – I was up well before dawn to drop my husband off at the airport for a trip to visit his father, which, of course, means I’m overtired & under focused. A poor excuse perhaps, but it’s the best one I’ve got at the moment.

And today, in my overtired state, I’ve let myself be bothered (again) by the way in which so many people are dismissing the Parkland students, and the students that have joined their movement, so casually. Not the conspiracy theorists. They aren’t worth discussing. But those that flatly dismiss them as tools of the left (not entirely sure what that means, either – it’s hard to be moderate this days – the target keeps moving).

My message to my baby boom compatriots is that history will not be kind to us for dismissing them, just as it was not especially kind to the generation that dismissed us, ridiculed us, and tried very hard to silence us. Any yes – accused us of being manipulated by the ‘left’ of the time. In the end, we did enable change. Now that we’ve gotten older, though, I fear we have ‘become our parents’ so to speak. We thinks ours is the only way, and that “kids these days’ are too stupid, too spoiled and too immature to have an opinion. On the contrary, these students have shown themselves to be intelligent, to be more coherent than many of the adults they’ve addressed, and to be respectful in their approach. They aren’t spewing hate, they are asking for – yes, demanding – change. And they will be voting. I suspect in large numbers. Just as we once did when we flipped the status quo. But the time has come for us to accept that the future belongs to them,  not to us. We should be helping them build their vision, not telling them that they have no right to speak, or to hold an opinion. Or to presume that they are incapable of thinking for themselves. Our intransigence does a disservice to them, and to ourselves as well if we’ve allowed the ideals of youth the be completely replaced by an attachment to the status quo and a knee-jerk resentment of any call for change that does not fit our own view. The sad reality is that our time is coming to an end – and it is for future generations to find out for themselves what works, what doesn’t, and how to make sense of it all.

I was reminded of an oft quoted line by George Orwell from a 1945 book review:

“Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it. This is an illusion, and one should recognise it as such,…”

But that fragment is not the entire thought – the rest is meant to remind us to recognize that our own views are the product of our experiences, and are part of who we are. We should not abandon them.

“… but one ought also to stick to one’s own world-view, even at the price of seeming old-fashioned: for that world-view springs out of experiences that the younger generation has not had, and to abandon it is to kill one’s intellectual roots.”

The trick, I think, is learning to allow the younger generations to have their own experiences with losing ourselves at the same time. A difficult juggling act faced by every successive generation throughout time.

Something worth considering.

Image of the Hudson River looking north from the Walkway Over the Hudson, autumn 2015.