12/31/04: Deuteronomy and The New Year. Moses delivered the discourses in Deuteronomy a short time before his death. Essentially his second discourse was a course of conduct to follow. Imagine if the world had taken just this one to heart. "Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbor's wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbor's house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbor's." Deut. 5:21 While the ancient language today has a humorous element, a little translation illuminates a lot. Fidelity in marriage; today over 50% of all marriages end in divorce. Keeping up with the Joneses; everyone wants money, money, money. In a survey of fourth graders the number one thing they wanted to be when they grew up? Rich. Income comparison is unworthy; if only we could look at your checkbook and see your character written there. Why, you have quite a big balance, hence you are a nice person. Not. How often do riches and goodness go together today? Like beauty and virtue, riches and goodness are not a common match. Once you stop wanting what someone else already has you start to consider your current situation as an opportunity for improvement instead of a bad hand dealt to you without options. Helen Keller said "There are none so blind as those who have sight but no vision." The rules of happy life are here and are pretty consistent from religion to religion. The admonitions of Moses are repeated, even as he repeated them, in all religions across all time, now and forever more. Yesterday I took an hour or and reread Thomas Paine's "Common Sense," pamphlet. Here is a passage: "Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence." And he is so right. Self-government is what is needed. I think there should be a law, that no one can criticize someone for something they themselves have done. I asked the fire and police departments of the town where I live how much of what they do is drug or alcohol related. "Almost all of it." A little self-government goes a long, long way. Removing envy from your life would help. A rededication to good would help. A promise to put other people first, to practice unselfish love, and "to be the change," as Gandhi put it," that you want to see," would be a big help. To not kill -- not just physically, but also don't kill hopes, don't kill dreams, don't kill good intentions; to be true to your word, not ever unfaithful -- in marriage, in work, in friendship, in all ways be ever faithful, this would improve everything. Don't steal -- not just objects, but don't steal the limelight, don't steal other people's joy, don't steal ideas or credit. Never bear false witness, starting with yourself about yourself: don't lie for favors, don't lie for attention, be brave and love Truth, it will never hurt you, and remember there's no such thing as a "little lie." And, in the end, let the New Year be another year: don't make it the "greatest year ever" or the year your life is ruined forever; just let it be what it will be. You are here to help others, not yourself. Whatever comes you will be ready because you will always know what to do. Put others first. Love unselfishly. And keep the faith always. Someone once said that New Year Resolutions are promises that go in one year and out the other. Let's make one this year's resolution one that goes into our own heart and out to all the others we encounter. Happy New Year. It has a nice, fresh ring, doesn't it?

12/27/05: Individualism and Event Family. In the early years of America it was a rugged individualism that built this country. We didn't take can't for an answer in those days. But things have changed. Today individualism isn't rugged really, it's sort of puffed up. If you can afford to be an individual today, you're all set. If you can't afford it then you have a number of things to choose from all of which other people, millions of other people, are also doing. "I went to France for lunch." Now that's a stand out sort of thing. "I made lunch from leftovers." That's an everyman sort of thing. "I made millions in the stock market." That's a standout sort of thing. "I lost thousands in the stock market." That's an everyman sort of thing. In politics supporting the "individual" today has morphed into endorsing greediness and selfishness. People like that because it could be them. Being open-minded and non-judgmental today in politics is equated with weakness and flipflopiness. We take our piety from the powers that be today. What they say is good, we say is good. That's faith for many today. Today's individual is part of a big group or a group of groups. The small business (I mean two or three employees) is a fading phenomenon. The salaried people make the big bucks today with stock options and mergers. The bravery to start a business, suffer for years in hopes of success, is pushed aside in law and business schools for partnership in a big firm and $100,000 to start. Vice President. It means less every day; sometimes it seems there are so many Vice Presidents that if I could just find an assistant manager he or she would probably actually help me. So, true individuals today are cast outs. There is no room for them. There is a commercial on television where five men are sitting down to lunch, one is the boss. He is older but much richer obviously. All in the same company. He is the prize they all want; to be him. The waitress asks "Would you like something to drink?" Casting eyes around the table the first "individual" searches for a safe answer: "Water for me." The next two guys say the same. The fourth guys says, "I'll have a Sam Adams." The boss agrees, "Me too." The other guys change their order and now everyone is having a Sam Adams. The announcer says, "Don't be afraid to be an individual. Sam Adams is always a good choice," or words to that effect. How far we have come.

On another note: watching the reports of the disastrous Indian Ocean Tsunami victims is sobering (Sam Adams aside now). One victim reported that he had been relaxing in his fourth story hotel room and the water had rushed in with such force that in pinned him against the wall and filled the room over his head. He was drowning, the force of the water's rush was totally overwhelming. His arms and legs were pinned immobile against the wall. Then the room's door burst open and now he was again pinned against the outside corridor wall, water rushed over him. He was helpless. Everything was lost. He survived by violently twisting his body, breaking his arms and legs free and getting somehow to the surface. He washed up on a street as the water subsided. Another man who he didn't know at all was there having suffered the same event. They embraced as brothers of an event family. The toll is up to 20,000 and rising. It could be much, much higher before the accounting is over. Did you notice that this event effected Americans far less than the World Trade Building destruction? Even though far more people died, far more children died, and far, far greater destruction and disruption occurred. Why do you think that is? If you think it's because it didn't happen here, you one of today's true individuals. If you don't know, there's still hope. If you are as deeply moved and as glued to the news reports as you were on September 11, 2001, then you are one of those rugged individuals who they thought was extinct. If you are one of those, I'm grateful that you've found I write all of this stuff for you; in a warm event family embrace.

12/25/04: Traditions.
Cardamom rolls with herbal tea on Christmas. It sounds perhaps a little boring to those of you who have young children waiting at the gate of gifts, but to us it's a quiet way to begin a day full of meaning. We usually start early, as early risers always do, just the two of us, tea by the desk, plates with rolls on our laps, talking quietly together. The smell of the cardamom seeds, the soft aroma of the tea, the warmth of the rolls and cups ... it all means something to us; not spoken aloud but shared and cherished. To me, that's really all I need. The gifts are fun but unnecessary. It's the sharing. Focusing on a lifetime of memories, of being with someone who knows it all, from the beginning to the moment just past. It is like being with God when you are with someone who has loved you and who you have loved for so many ... what? Years? That doesn't really say it. A year is a big chunk of memories. Months? Same thing. Weeks? Days? Minutes? Actually there is no way to truly express it. They say, "that one day with the Lord as a thousand years," and how true that is; but a thousand years with someone you love is as just one day. It reminds me of my sailing days, out to sea for weeks, out of sight of land, hand on the helm ... steering a course with a thousand little steering movements all the time but "steady as she goes," is the entry in the log. Our traditions are nothing more than entries in the log, way points along the way, passed, noted, and yet never really a goal or a destination. They come along and there they go. We remember that things have changed or that they have stayed the same, it matters not; tradition is always noted. In fact there is probably nothing the same in the "tradition" from year to year except the noting of it. Like longitude and latitude notations: "Here we are again but the ocean, the sky, the wind are all very different. But here we are again in the 'exact' same place." We are never back in the exact same place. Ever. So, enjoy today with all your heart. It is a day rich with tradition.

12/24/04: The Year Is Waning.
Only seven days left. They say the world was made in six days (seven, including a day of rest). What will we do in those seven days? Build a new world, suffer through the current one, retreat back to a world that never was, or just tread the waters of time letting the sand sift through our fingers with no effect? Imagine last year at this time and all your hopes for the New Year? Were they financial and material? Were they inspiring and spiritual? Or both perhaps? Which came true the most? This year, for me held exhilaration, failure, success, sickness and health, love and hate, joy and sorrow, life and death, happiness and disappointment, setbacks and vast advances, intractable problems and solutions I never dreamed of. My horizons changed drastically, yet so much has remained the same and constant. Foundations were torn away but another foundation was beneath. The things I worried about in those sleepless nights never happened. Other things happened. Things I thought would never change, changed. Things I knew would change, didn't. Things I wanted to change, changed somewhat, but not always as I planned. Progress was followed by steps back, then forward again. Things I thought I had to have became old hat and things I had always taken for granted became priceless again. There were sunrises that left me breathless and so many I never noticed. There was a lot of hard, hard work. That never changes. There were things I did that I didn't think I could do, and there were things I didn't think I could do that I couldn't do. There were poems I loved and poems I threw away striking the waste basket so hard it fell over backwards. There were songs I couldn't sing and still there were new songs that I sang over and over and over the way I love to. There are problems that are going to carry over into next year, and problems that are gone and I will miss like a friend who passed away. I can see things coming that will fill up my life next year and make it all happen again with even more intensity. There is no relief in sight. Thank God. And I still have seven days, we all do, to enjoy what's left of this year. Seven days moment by moment, thought by thought: it's an eternity between now and then. And incomprehensible infinity of potential and possibilities. Even just today is the same vast opportunity. Even this moment, this second. Seven days or seven times seventy. A world opens with every breath, every blink of your eye, every word that forms on your lips, every thought you form in your head. You and I stand before an eternity, free. Free to create a world of ... what? Of whatever we cherish most. Happy New ... what? Year? Day? Moment? Second? How about Happy Next Second? Why wait? And, oh, yes, Merry Christmas, too.

12/23/04: The Hierarchy of Giving.
"If you give what you don't need, that is not giving." Mother Teresa said that and she should know. There is a hierarchy of giving, and it is more than worth thinking about, especially with Mother Teresa's basic concept as a starting point. To give in such a way that the recipient knows you gave it is the lowest rung on the ladder. To give in such a way that the recipient can never know who gave it is the highest rung on the ladder. The top of the ladder is to give so that you never know who got it and the recipient will never know who gave it. I have told people this hierarchy, nice people, and had them respond innocently but ignorantly, "Well, what's the point in that?" "Giving" implies no compensation or equivalence. It is not a business transaction. Christmas has -- for many -- become a day of receiving. How far from the example of Jesus have we traveled? Not everyone, I know. But, if you watch the Christmas world on television it's largely a world of commerce. If you read about the world of Christmas in journals its a world of stress and coping strategies. "This will be the BEST Christmas ever," is a phrase threatening the meaning of Christmas itself. There will never be a better Christmas than the first one. And, on that first one there was a vast humility than has transcended the ages. There were no trappings of grandeur or wealth. Perhaps one of the greatest changes the world has ever seen began in the innocence of life itself. No medical pageantry, no political fuss, no financial struttings, no pomposity; just the beauty of a small family travailing forth. Ponder that. Think of what that example means. Jesus said, "I am the way." (John 14:6) If he meant that his life is the example of all our lives then we all must make more of ours. His riches were not with mammon, but with love. His life was not measured in years but in thousands of years. His "career" left his human life in ruins, but his true life has given hope and meaning to multitudes far beyond his brief years of physical existence. He "gave" at the top of the ladder. This is also true of many others, I know. The examples bound forth from the pages of human history, in all countries, all religions, all cultures and, yes, even in all families. So, if you celebrate Christmas take off all the "to and from" tags hanging from your hopes and dreams and go unto the tree in the morning with a smile of gratitude. You have been given the greatest gift of all: the ability and the willingness to love unselfishly. Go forth and multiply. Merry Christmas. Oh, and every day is Christmas. You knew that, right?

12/22/04: Truly Revolutionary.
When the American nation was founded it was believed that the notions and doctrines of our revolution would sweep the world; and they did in some ways. But, like all revolutions, apparently, the fervor was usurped by politicians and bent to their purposes. In many ways historians recording "The American Revolution," were less inspired by the message than the personalities, and who would be surprised at that? As Alexander Pope wrote: "The proper study of mankind is man" (Essay on Man). But, perhaps (still loving that poem) he was wrong in a way. The proper study of mankind is man's ideas and where they lead. Our revolution was about ending nationalism, not enlarging it. It was about universal, unalienable rights. Now the "America Way." It was about seeing the good in all, not forcing our "good" on all. If Americans today really knew the founding fathers
they would be surprised and perhaps become true revolutionaries again. Perhaps they would see the hypocrisy and manipulations of a government that calls for "democracy" around the world and that leaves so many behind economically, spiritually, and socially in our country. And, perhaps they would see the current trend to raise to the highest levels of national admiration those whose greed and avarice are most astounding, leaving the kindest and most unselfish to fend for themselves in anonymity as a conspiracy against our own life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And perhaps Americans today might see that the distance between what now exists and what was fought and dreamed for in 1775 and 1776 has become far to vast to continue to accept. As always the truly revolutionary idea is not "us against them," but "us against us." The battle within starts not with politicians and tanks' rolling thunder, but with the quiet rumblings of conscience. Can you hear it?

12/21/04: Fair and Just.
"Is it fair and just that the citizens of the world should expect their appointed government representatives to achieve a peaceful settlement, and yet, for those same citizens to be at war among themselves, within their families and with their neighbors?" -- Glenn Evans. He was a great teacher and a thinker who led nearly a thousand people in association to greater heights than they could ever imagine. His message: the millennium starts with you. If we spend our lives figuring out excuses for why we did what we did that caused problems then in fact we are the problem no matter how persuasively we argue on our own behalf. It could be no other way. Self-justification is a great and lingering mistake. People hear you do it and they are left with a feeling of worry and fear about you. You are left to continue the argument into all other aspects of your life until a total corruption of your core is achieved. Only in that burned out wreckage can you now be safe. Among the rubble you find refuge and build on such false foundations that only those who share your self-delusion can be welcomed in. Self-love fills your life unaware. Self-will powers your existence. You are alone in a world apart. And how do you regain your freedom? There is only one way. To face and address the innate sorrow you felt back at the point of your moral departure, when in the eyes of the people around you and in your heart you knew you were going wrong. It's not a 12-step program. You don't have to go back and fix everything. You just have to acknowledge it in your heart and reconnect with reality: not everything you say and do is terrific. Sometimes you blunder and fall flat on your face. It's not the falling that will kill you; it's the thinking that the fall was really an ascension to perfection. It wasn't the mistake that brought you down, it was your inability to accept your own fallibility and it was your misguided energy in self-justification that caused your rose to wither away. Is that fair and just? No. Not to you, not to your neighbors and your family, not to anyone. So, as in all things, fairness and justice start with you. Ask yourself: "In my life have I learned more from my successes or my failures?" And, try not to manipulate the answer.

12/19/04: Lonely and Alone.
You know how they say, "I'm alone but not lonely?" Implicit in that is that aloneness is a chosen state. Imagine being alone and lonely ... for whatever reason. Imagine waking up alone, all day alone, going to bed alone ... over and over and over. It can happen. Elder citizens are often alone. Poverty brings a sort of solitary confinement. Our two million prisoners (the largest population in the world) has myriad problems but loneliness and isolation is certainly a big one. Prejudice creates a lonely confinement in both directions. There are a ton of ways to be alone, to be lonely even in a crowd. It takes discipline to decide not to be lonely, to decide to open your eyes and your mind to the one message all religions and all philosophies preach, but few practice: be not afraid. At the end of our long lonely day lies the discovery that there is nothing to be afraid of. Death? Hardly. It happens to everyone. The only definition of death, so-called, that I have ever embraced is the perpetual separation from Love. How could that happen? There is really no religion that accepts death as the end of Life. In the broadest sense Life goes on: tigers still hunt, birds still fly, and people are still born to ask why, why, why. Life in the broadest sense is infinite and eternal. How can the whole be different in essence from its parts? So, loneliness and fear are lying companions that confine and confuse. Start today to prove the point. Know anyone that needs a call? Start there.

Remember: Christmas is about giving of yourself. Of course.

12/18/04: Not Infantile, but Truly Faithful.
Imagine a time when there was nothing in your world except your own wishes. (We are back to Walter Lippmann's A Preface to Morals again, because I do believe that there is nothing more important in the world than this question of true morality and how to approach it.) The evil and carnage caused by religions is unfathomable. The good caused by religions is equally unfathomable. So, where is the morality, or is it event based, situation driven? In absolute terms morality cannot be based on circumstances, but how do we really avoid that slippery slope? The parent looking into the eyes of the child. The mature individual looking into the mirror, eyes wide and seeing. They say that people see what they want to see and hear what they want to hear. But that cannot be true. There is a mental zone of abscission for separating our fact from our fiction: the human conscience. There is no doubt that you know when you are not telling the truth, seeing the truth, or hearing the truth. The built-in inner voice that comes free with every human being is the source of pause and think. Early on we are taught to disregard it: "Don't do what I do, do what I say," says the drinking father to his curious fifteen-year old. "Do as I say, not as I do." Be a hypocrite, avoid true maturity, learn to block out your saving grace: your conscience. It is a wonderful thing that we care for our infant children, but take care that we are not teaching them to remain infantile throughout their life. And, if this has happened to you, then today is the day to devote yourself to honesty. "Liar, Liar," was a movie about a lawyer who is hexed into telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The situations are funny, but in the end the main character actually achieves a level of happiness that was completely out of reach before; unseen, actually. Just so, it is possible that unseen to all of us is a level of happiness we have never truly believed possible? Yes. And the bridge to that new day: faith. Not religion but faith. You have it, you know you do. Faith in yourself. Faith in those you truly love. Faith in how things really work. Faith in that voice that tells you which way to go, even as you go the other way over and over. Growing up doesn't happen in the crib, or in the schools, or in death. It happens with every next thought you accept, with every next blink of your eye, with every next word you speak or write. We cannot be children all of our lives; childlike, yes, but not children. Because our wishes do not govern the world, and they never did. Keep the faith.

12/17/04: Life Is and Is Not a Walk in The Park.
When Adam fell asleep for the first time he thought he was dying. How could he know? It was a new experience for him. When the caterpillar enters the cocoon he must think life is coming to an end, but the butterfly that emerges knows it is just the beginning. When you spend your life doing things you know you can do, you have already died in a way. When you plan and accept the calculated risk of doing something you are not sure you CAN do, then you are living again. Youth has no monopoly on life, or on love. Fighting the inner battles to be better, more honest, more self-denying, more giving unto others ... these are worthy. Self-congratulatory statements, a day full of self-love and self-justification ... these are unworthy. Constant proclamations of religious doctrine and religiosity are unworthy ... constant contemplation of faith and accepting the challenge of a good example ... these are worthy. Boredom is a self-inflicted insult. There is much at hand to do and to be grateful for. When I was in Vietnam I remember sweeping a village, creating terror and then all of us sitting down and resting. One of the people of the area peeked out from her Pepsi-can home (made out of flattened tin cans) and asked if we were hungry. She and her little family cooked one chicken, rice and broth and fed fifteen happy soldiers and sailors. She expressed to us a sincere happiness and love of her home and location. She talked of her children (sent away from the war zone) and of her husband (fighting with the Americans in Saigon). The elder couple who lived with her laughed with us and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. We stayed overnight and in the morning there was tea and more rice. I remember the day before we met them and then I remember leaving the next day. How much had changed? How many lives had been saved? Impossible to know, but one thing I know: life is and is not a walk in the park. Moment to moment the world is decided; with each blink of your eye the world changes and then changes again. When people tell you how it is, remember they are really telling you how it was. How it is is being determined with each breath you take, each thought you accept. My daughter asked me: How will the world be when I grow up? I knew her very question was making it better already. "It's up to you. Imagine a world where you will be happy." She looked at me and I could see her mind whizzing off into a world of ... well, how could I know? I'll just keep walking along, looking for things I'm not sure I can do, and trying them.

12/15/04. Google This.
Sergey Brin and Larry Page have always had the goal of making all of the world's information accessible to anyone with a Web browser. They've made a ton of money along the way, but that may not have been their first purpose. Even when they struggled through the skepticism of the pundits over their public offering of Google stock, they did it in an egalitarian way giving the little guys a real chance to get in. And, of course, their search engine is the best on Earth and getting better all the time. What is their secret? Put others first and work hard. The accumulation of wealth of that stature and the enormous power that comes with it is a troublesome situation in a world where so many have nothing, but at least Sergey and Larry have inspiring motives and motifs. How many people have failed horribly with the goal, "I want to be rich," and can you really fail when you say, "I want to make the world better?"

So google that. Seearch word: today.

12/14/04: Maturity.
"But as he grows up, and begins to be an independent personality, this providence ministering to his wishes disappears. He can then no longer hope that the world will be adjusted to his wishes, and he is compelled by a long and difficult process of learning and training to adjust his wishes to the world. If he succeeds he is mature. If he is mature, he is once again harmonious with the nature of things. He has virtue. And he is happy." -- Walter Lippmann, "A Preface To Morals"

The men and women of the world all learn this lesson sooner or later. The truth of life brings the lesson home, eventually. Whether sitting on death row, or at a Red Sox baseball game, we all learn the truth sometime, somewhere, someday. We are not the center of all being. The world revolves around its own center, we are on for the ride. The differences between the "groups" of this world are always less than the differences within those groups. We have far, far more in common than in difference. There should be a new rule in the world: No one can criticize, chastise, ostracize, or speak in any way against someone for doing something that they themselves have done. There would be a vast silence; perhaps even a reflective silence. All major religions have one perfect person; never more than that really. That should tell us something. We are perfect insofar as we help others improve. We are good only in the good we do. Doing good means not accepting the world as it is, but it does mean accepting others where they are and helping them along. Implicit is the acceptance of "adjusting [our] wishes to the world," but also the challenge is to work together to make that world better and better. Most people have everything they really need for a happy life. The trick is to let it grow under your very feet; and not see your happiness somewhere over the horizon in the world of if and when.

Today, try to see the myriad opportunities to help others all around you. You will have a happy day if you accept as many as you can.

12/13/04. Please Each Other 2.
It's a big problem in the world today. Pleasing yourself has assumed the role of a great goal in life, today. Getting what you want is paramount. Divorce, cheating in school, even in voting in the elections. I have had people tell me that they really like the sentiments and commitment of one candidate, but they were going to vote for the other one because of money and taxes. Me first, and then we'll think about everyone else. Even our most favorite TV shows: Survivor and The Apprentice reward those who fight hardest for themselves in the Boardroom or at the Tribal Council. In sports, enhancing drugs trump hard work because winning, self gratification is all that matters. Apparently. But even in the grocery store you see people grinding it out. "I hate shopping." Meaning buying and choosing the one thing that family loves the most: food. To me it's the nicest thing to do for your family, careful, well-planned menus and shopping for all the right ingredients. But, somehow that mission gets lost for many. Let's not talk about cooking, or cleaning, or just being patient when the driver ahead drifts off for moment when the light changes. I have had the guy behind me honk wildly at the guy in front of me, his finger waving as his hand pounded on the horn over and over.

We are all just racing to the next stop light anyway. Why not go in grace. Shop in grace. And live with a little grace. It all comes with caring more for others than we do for ourselves. Every day since 1995 on the front page of this web site we have had a quote: "Life's most persistent and most urgent question is ... 'What are we doing for others?'" Martin Luther King, Jr. had it right. As did many, many other great thinkers. Why can't we all see it? Happiness could be around the corner.

12/11/04. Please Each Other
. The great trick is to give others what they want. When we love one another it has to be in a way that the other can appreciate. If we love to please ourselves what have we done? If the one you love wants things you don't want to give, then there is a message in that. And if they love what you have, there's a message there too. Love is about giving. And giving. And giving some more. When you are worrying about what you are getting, you are not in love. You are in a cycle of resentment and frustration: the opposite of love.

Avoid the opposite of love: it comes in many shapes and disguises and not all of them horrible, to say the least.

. Emphasis. Political correctness is the subject of several editorials around the country in almost any week. Today The New York Times had one where the phrase was featured. The subject was Christmas versus Happy Holidays. You can imagine the viewpoint. The emphasis is always on "political correctness," when it should really be on "correctness." The first definition is "noun: conformity to fact or truth." What's wrong with that? To refer to women as girls is incorrect. To generalize in any way is generally incorrect. There is a side to political correctness that sometimes leads to "correct opinions," but there's the slippery slope. Stick to the correct fact and don't mix unnecessarily fact and opinion. Sometimes it is unavoidable I know. Christmas is a religious event and has no place in a government of all of the pluralistic people. Sorry. When I grew up there were creche scenes on the mall, but today they are gone due to a higher awareness, not to an obsession with political correctness. We used to segregate the races, now we don't. And all races are better off. We used to limit women and now we don't. And both sexes are better off. The more we de emphasize incorrect labels and stereotypes the better off we will all be. Ethnic jokes, sexist jokes are sometimes funny, but harmful. When we don't indulge in them we will find a higher humor and we will all be better off. Humor that's amusing without abusing is better. We will all laugh together. So let's not jump off the "political correctness" band wagon yet. It is better to be kind than unkind and political incorrectness always has an element of put down in it somewhere. Why bother? We are here to lift not lambaste with a smile and a shrugging wink.

The only thing you offer to posterity is your example.


12/9/04. Our Government. When I was in Vietnam, our government told us that we were there to stop the spread of communism in Southeast Asia. "If we don't stop it here," they said, "there will be domino effect that will sweep through the region, perhaps affecting world history and the security of The United States." Now, our government tells us that visiting Vietnam as a tourist is a great thing to do. It's the same regime. The same communist system. It's the one we were fighting every day to defeat. Now our government describes the history, the friendly people, the variegated culture, and the beaches, oh the beaches. Well, what are those 58,245 names doing on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.? That's the question that I have been asking myself since reading the article about the Office of Travel and Tourism's new campaign for Vietnam travel trips. What did all of those wonderful people die for? And, why it is still going on right now?

12/8/04. The Ultra Rich Get Ultra Richer.
There is a lot of conversation about the "middle class" these days, especially since the ascendancy, so called, of the Neorepublicans. But in such political slow mo, starting in the mid and late 80s, that designation -- "middle class" -- began to fade in efficacy. The "middle class" now encompasses everyone who has to work to live. Whether you make $40,000 or $300,000 today really makes little real difference in disposable income availability and the actual freedom to do as you please. But there are those who are truly free -- who do not need to work -- and who can really do as they please. So the new political praxis is not to pit the poor against the rich, rather it is to pit the unfree against each other so that the free go on virtually unchallenged. This is true of corporations and of individuals. The last two elections were the perfect demonstrations of this trend. While the world watched chads avalanche over democracy, or the election of an unpopular President with an agenda the country didn't approve of, the true winners were already gathering up the spoils. While we all watched television and hoped our country would survive and thrive again, those others were moving on to the next thing seamlessly with cash pouring in. They couldn't have cared less about the election really. Just all the commotion and contention were enough to guarantee their security.

A friend of mine who makes $120,000 a year and is a "blue collar" guy was pretty happy with his income, even after this discussion. When I mentioned that that was probably about the same our Dads made in the sixties with annual salaries of half that amount -- and of course, there is less actual usable income and the tax bill is much higher today based on the "larger amount" -- he said, "You're right, I know."

So, it is not the middle class fighting to hold on anymore. It's the free people fighting to stay anonymous and unscutinized. The greatest thing they have to fear is the fear of being recognized. This new group of highly privileged, totally empowered citizens who don't have to work, whose children don't ever have to worry about their future, and who live the life of their own choosing in every meaningful way, are wary of the light.

How would you like to be one of them? There were 30,000 ultra rich in the United States in 2004 (people with assets of $30 million or more). This number is up 14% in one year and the predictions for 2005 are much higher than that. The ultra rich are getting ultra richer and the middle class is fighting among itself. And, of course that 30,000 are just the ones we know about. | Search | Ask | Archives | Online Store | Contact Us
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