Sunday, August 13, 2017

Poets & Philosophers: A Tale of Two Towns


This is again a little bit of a break from politics, exploring instead poetry and philosophy, and weaving it all back into the fabric of current events.

July turned out to be a tale of two towns, and their poets and philosophers.

First, Concord celebrated the 200th birthday of Henry David Thoreau, with cake and speeches at his birthplace, Thoreau Farm, on July 12th, and many other events at various locations over the course of the month. There were literally bus-loads of Thoreau-vians who converged on Concord in July.




The only event I made it to was the birthday celebration at his birthplace, Thoreau Farm. (Did I mention there was going to be cake?) The US Postal Service also unveiled a commemorative stamp in his honor, and historian, Richard Smith, who portrays HDT at Walden Pond was also in attendance.

Cake - need I say more?

Historian Richard Smith, as Henry David Thoreau.


 
The room where Henry David Thoreau was born.
While attending, buying some stamps, and having cake, I figured it might not be the best time to confess that I have never actually read one of his books. I think I started Walden once, and never got past page three, because I felt like I was reading someone else’s shopping list, as he paid so much for so many pounds of nails, etc. If I had more patience, I would have learned about his relationship – reverence – for nature. He was probably our nation’s first environmentalist.

His most famous works – Walden and Civil Disobedience – strike me as all the more relevant now, 200 years later. I will have to add them to my summer reading list. Some quotes from his essays on Civil Disobedience apply equally well to modern times. Here’s an example of one I grabbed off www.goodreads.com that spoke to me, but check it out for yourself.


“I wish my countrymen to consider, that whatever the human law may be, neither an individual nor a nation can ever commit the least act of injustice against the obscurest individual, without having to pay the penalty for it. A government which deliberately enacts injustice, and persists in it, will at length ever become the laughing-stock of the world.” 

Yes, you can see that this led my thoughts back to President Trump, and his fixation with repealing the Affordable Care Act, building a border wall, suddenly trying to ban transgender people from serving in the military (via a tweet). His staff in the Department of Justice have filed a brief arguing that LGBT employees are not protected by the Civil Rights Act, reversing the Obama era decision that covered sexual orientation.


Yes, when he needs to rally his core 38% fan base (or is it 33% now?), all he has to do is take a few low blows at their easiest targets. Bullying is on the rise, is it any wonder? The license to hate has been unleashed and empowered, as evidenced by the Alt-Right/KKK rally in Charlottesville, Virginia Saturday, August 12th. It reminded me of something Idgie Threadgoode said in the movie, Fried Green Tomatoes:

“When they go marchin’ in those stupid parades, how come they don’t have sense to change their shoes?"

The hoods are off. Unashamed, they parade their hatred. American democracy has reached a new low. It’s heartbreaking. Meanwhile, the saber rattling continues between Trump and North Korea, and the Russian web of collusion continues to spin. These are difficult times, and so I am reminded again of the quote by Polish poet, Leopold Staff, when he was living in the Warsaw Ghetto, another time when hate was unleashed:

“Even more than bread, we now need poetry, in a time when it seems that it is not needed at all.”

~Leopold Staff

Sometimes we need both bread & poetry!

 
The weekend of July 15th took me to another gathering of modern-day poets and philosophers in the quiet country shire of Shirley, at the Bull Run Restaurant, which has been “serving the tired, thirsty traveler since 1740.” Curved, arching plaster walls, the smell of old wood, the creak of sloped floors, tilting stairs, it is like walking through a door into the past. Called, “Words Change Everything,” the poetry night came about very organically, through a conversation between neighbors, a carpenter and an inn keeper, Kristie Connolly and Alison Tocci. When Kristie pitched the idea for a poetry night at the inn, Alison liked it right away: “We’re all about the arts here.” 

Here’s a really nice article by Anne O’Connor that gives the full back story on how this event came to be.


If you build it, they will come, and come they did. The show sold out, and 16 poets signed up to read their verse to a full house. But not to be slammed. While there was a three-person panel of jurors, headed up by poet and Professor Doug Holder, scoring was done silently and the winners announced at the end of the night. It was a far more humane way to expose one’s heart on one’s sleeve, with no fear of harsh judgment or comparative scoring. The organizers had succeeded in creating the perfect environment for everyone to just sit back and appreciate the shared humanity, in a safe, comfortable, encouraging setting.

One of the greatest books about writing is by Brenda Ueland, titled If You Want to Write. Published in 1938, it still rings just as true today. A couple of quotes from Brenda:

“Everybody is talented, original and has something important to say.”

“For when you come to think of it, the only way to love a person is not, as the stereotyped Christian notion is, to coddle them and bring them soup when they are sick, but by listening to them and seeing and believing in the god, in the poet, in them. For by doing this, you keep the god and poet alive and make it flourish.”

Into such a warm and welcoming environment, after dinner and a welcome from Alison Tocci, an introduction and reading by Doug Holder, came the first poet, called up to the stage to read.
 
Kristie Connolly (L)
 
 
 
Alison Tocci, Bull Run Inn Keeper


Poet, Professor Doug Holder
 
  



















The poets were women and men, students, housewives, everyday people, young and old, ranging in age from not-yet-eighteen to over eighty.  And each one had a part of their soul to share, just five minutes, but pure essence, fire from their heart, observations on everything, death, beauty, hope, light, darkness, regret, capturing just a moment, like a fly in amber, or a crystal inside a geode. Each poet was a surprise. It was like Christmas morning, each poem getting unwrapped by a nervous elf standing at the microphone, notebook in hand, voice sometimes quivering, and sometimes bold, thundering loud, vibrating right off the rafters, just about knocking me off my chair.  
 
There was the teenager’s poem about people’s inability to unplug and connect, the hair stylist who saw the glimpse of something special in one of her clients, and perhaps my favorite, the apple orchard worker, reflecting on the death of a friend, and sharing his appreciation for the pure beauty of the orchards in spring.

It was like sitting back with a bag of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Jelly Beans. Just looking at the exterior, no way to know what would be inside, each one a sacred mystery, a god and poet, a burst of unexpected flavors, unfolding and exploding, like a firework, lighting up the night sky, giving some light within the darkness.

Bravo!

Get your tickets now – the next poetry night at the Bull Run is Saturday, October 7th!
 

Post-Script

Also in July was the Favorite Poem Project’s Summer Poetry Institute in Boston, started by Boston University Professor Robert Pinsky (Wickersham, 2017), bringing K-12 teachers together to explore how to better inspire students’ appreciation for poetry. Professor Pinsky was quoted as saying, “You don’t have to understand everything, if you’re having a good time.”


The difference is that the Favorite Poem Project is about reading poems written by others, and not original works, which in a way, by focusing on the work of others, denies or at least downplays the possibility that we, too, might be poets, and instead implies that poetry is written only by special people. Or, maybe they were just sidestepping any copyright issues.

I like to go back to Brenda Ueland’s quote instead:

“Everybody is talented, original and has something important to say.”

See and believe in the god and poet in one another!

Later in July, we dropped by Thoreau Farm for a little tour. In the backyard, they have added a replica of his cabin in the woods. It looks like something you could pick up at the Home Depot garden center. Our tour guide tells us, while Henry David Thoreau has been characterized as a loner, he was really far more social than we give him credit. In his cabin, he had three chairs: one for solitude, one for friendship, and one for society.
 

Three chairs at a friend's house (not Thoreau's cabin).
 
Maybe that’s just another way to say three’s a crowd! It sounds like he actually really enjoyed entertaining guests at his cabin. These one-on-one-on-one interactions form the very threads of the fabric of society. It really is more about our society than any one individual, even President Donald Trump. Once again, Trump is simply a reflection of our society, a symptom of the underlying disease.

1.    The real problem is the society that President Trump reflects. 

2.    All the chaos is a dangerous distraction.

And now we are witnessing day-to-day brinksmanship, and serious discussion about the potential for nuclear war. I thought all of this had been put to rest years ago in the movie War Games. Maybe some folks missed the show. We need to all get along.

In a certain twist of irony, the Bull Run sits in Shirley, a town abandoned by the closure of Fort Devens, which originally opened one hundred years ago in 1917, as Camp Devens for training soldiers before they were sent off to fight in World War I. One hundred years of fighting wars, and what have we learned?
 

Songs For The Day:

“Budapest” by George Ezra:
https://youtu.be/Cy0pwZnQlyM

Or maybe you’ll like this version better:
https://youtu.be/VHrLPs3_1Fs

“It’s the End of the World,” by R.E.M.:
https://youtu.be/Z0GFRcFm-aY

“Closer to Love,” by Mat Kearney:
https://youtu.be/h0CzCQFKORM

“We’re all one phone call from our knees.”

Indigo Girls: “Prince of Darkness.”
https://youtu.be/fY9-98tkfvg

“My place is of the sun and this place is of the dark…”
“Someone’s got his finger on the button in some room…”
 

Mark your calendars:

·         October 7, 2017: Poetry night at the Bull Run in Shirley, MA. Please be sure to reserve your ticket, and e-mail the organizers if you’d like to read your poetry. Guest speaker will be Emily Pineau. Again, it is not a slam, but instead a simple sharing of humanity.   


 “Even more than bread, we now need poetry, in a time when it seems that it is not needed at all.”

~Leopold Staff

Sometimes we need both poetry & bread!

·         October 8-15, 2017: HUBweek 2017 in Boston, various locations https://hubweek.org/

·         October 14, 2017: Walk For Education, United Negro College Fund (UNCF) http://give.uncf.org/site/TR?fr_id=2492&pg=entry

 

For further reflection on the concept of “opportunity inequality,” please visit my past blogs on Business and Baseball, the Diversity Question, Katrina, and Immigrants:

Business & Baseball: A Conversation with Jack Welch and John Henry, Moderated by Brian McGrory

 

Business & Baseball - Part 2: The Diversity Question

 

For more on opportunity inequality – Katrina: Ten Years Gone

 

We Are All Immigrants


 

Coming Next:

I might put all the radio show links together, in sequence, in a future post, so that readers/listeners can find them a little more easily and listen to the shows in order. Together, the six radio shows document this highly unusual time in our country’s history.  

As always, comments and suggestions are welcome!
 

About WBCA-LP 102.9 FM Boston & Schmidt Happens:

WBCA is a community radio station sponsored by the Boston Neighborhood Network, and is on the air from 6 PM to 2 AM each night. Jumana Hashim is a current member of Beantown Women’s Rugby Club, while Rosemary, aka Rosebud, Schmidt has been retired a few years.  

We are taking a little break from the radio show over the summer, but we plan to be back on the air soon. I’ll continue to post blogs as topics come up. Maybe we’ll even talk about something other than politics this fall, such as matters pertaining to public health: health insurance and the Affordable Health Care Act, concussions, stress, water quality, antibiotics, the microbiome, nutritional supplements, and diet.
 

References

Anderson, Leslie. 2017. Concord prepares to celebrate Thoreau’s 200th Birthday. Boston Globe. July 9, 2017.


Feurer, Alan. 2017. Justice Department says rights law doesn’t protect gays. The New York Times. July 27, 2017.


O’Connor, Anne. Poetry on the menu at historic Bull Run. Nashoba Valley Voice. July 3, 2017.


Sobey, Rick. 2017. In Concord, a Thoreau-ly historical birthday bash. Lowell Sun. July 13, 2017.


Ueland, Brenda. 1938. (The Estate of Brenda Ueland. 1987) If You Want to Write: A Book About Art, Independence and Spirit. Graywolf Press: Minneapolis, MN.

Wickersham, Joan. 2017. ‘Poetry is a basic human pleasure.’ Boston Globe. July 28, 2017.


 
© 2017 Rosemary A. Schmidt
Rose Schmidt is the author of “Go Forward, Support! The Rugby of Life” (Gainline Press 2004). The views expressed herein are solely those of the author, and do not reflect the views of any other agency or organization. Use of individual quotes with proper citation and attribution, within the limits of fair use, is permitted. If you would like to request permission to use or reprint any of the content on the site, please contact me. Twitter: Rosebud@GainlineRS

Mission Statement: To Educate, Inform, Entertain, Inspire, and Open Minds. (E.I.E.I.O.M.)
 

 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Happy Father’s Day & Independence Day


This is a little bit of a non-sequitur, reflecting on Father’s Day & Independence Day, and weaving both into the fabric of current events.

I was driving to work one morning in early in June, on one of the last of those chilly gray rainy days, temps hovering in the 40s to 50s, but the weather was predicted to break, the sun would come out and we’d finally be in the 70s. I was wearing my camel brown L.L Bean barn coat, and thought I could probably leave it in the car once I got to work, since I wouldn’t need it at the end of the day. What’s the worst that might happen, I thought, but the coat might get a little more faded by the sun, which would only lend it an even more authentic, weathered and worn look. I had to chuckle at myself, though, given that the barn coat has never seen even one day in a barn. 
 












It’s ironic how, despite (or maybe in spite of) all the plastic, glass and steel modernity we are surrounded by, we still crave the organic, the natural, weathered barn board, the distressed look, white-washed ship-lap, the distressed look, flannel, lace, leather, and yes, old barn coats. Stuff that is real. Fleece that resembles wool. A simpler, truer, more genuine time. Real.  

This is the battle of contradictions being waged inside each of us. We are both animals, operating at a very primal, instinctual level, and evolved, logical, intelligent beings.  

It’s funny how primal it is, buried and stored deep in the animal part of our animal brain. How the smell of wood smoke might be both alarming, a sign of fire, and yet also calming, reassuring, speaking of comfort, warmth, food, company.  A heavy rainstorm likewise, a baby can’t sleep, at some deep instinctive level recognizing the threat rain and thunderstorms can bring, yet can also be soothing, refreshing, replenishing a life need.  

These contradictions also play out at Father’s Day, just peruse the card aisle, and you’ll see all the mixed expectations for fathers, and men in general, in our society. They’re expected to be rough and tough, rugged, “manly men,” as well as caring, nurturing, loving, providers, caretakers, and teachers. Sensitive, but still tough.  

No wonder it is so confusing for men – the expectations keep changing, and the world expects it all. Men who can be masculine, but yet still sensitive and caring.  

Believe it or not, there are even organizations devoted to promoting boys’ and men’s equal rights. One such organization is called Parity, in the UK. It’s an interesting argument that even within the most privileged class (white men), that some may still feel pressured or let down by society’s expectations.  

This thread ties back into the model presented by Professor George Lakoff that there are two ways that people view the world: those who come from and expect nurturing father figures (loving, caring providers) and those who expect the authoritarian head of the family (as in the movie, “Footloose”). Professor Lakoff would argue that the current schism dividing US society today is due to the conflict between these two opposed frames of reference. Those who believe in the nurturing father figure would promote a Government that takes care of its people, all of its people, even or especially the weakest and most vulnerable in the population, providing safety nets, and structures to take care of those who would be otherwise left behind.  

Those who believe in the authoritarian father figure would promote a Government that lays out the rules, and then gives people the freedom to care their own path, fend for themselves, literally, sink or swim. Tough love, no hand-outs. Confident.  

Recall, from a prior post, that the fastest way to de-motivate a white man in the US is to tell them that their success depends on the success of a team and multiple interdependencies. Culturally/socially, white men in the US are spurred on by the concept, the ideal, of rugged individualism, and making it on their own. This is not a fundamental truth about human nature; just our current culture. Other cultures put greater emphasis on teamwork, and that’s what they find motivating. We are perhaps in the midst of a cultural revolution, or evolution, that has spun off two polar opposite views of the world.  

We celebrate Independence Day, after all, not Interdependence Day.  

It’s not too difficult to figure out that the nurturing model reflects the Democrats, and the authoritarian, the Republicans. What’s shocking and fascinating and distressing is how powerful the message can be when it comes from a strong man. With a deep voice.  

I recall attending a workshop on Assertive Communication for women many years ago; so long ago that some of the other attendees worked at the store still known then as Bread & Circus. One of the most surprising things we learned: studies show that people (both men and women) find messages delivered in a deep tone of voice more credible. The deeper the voice, the more believable. At the workshop, we were actually advised to think of the word “aluminum” before we began speaking, because it prompts you to start talking at a deeper tone, and be heard more effectively. 

I’m going to make a little bit of a leap, and suggest there may even be a correlation between Lakoff’s model and music. In general, country music tends to be associated with red states, and what do you tend to hear more often in country songs? Really deep voices.  

But I digress. 

The horrible, crazy irony is that we all probably want things both ways: Governments that provide safe infrastructure, and safety nets, and yet allow individual freedom to pursue happiness and associate with whomever we choose. And we as a society probably want men to be strong yet sensitive, manly but partners in parenting. There are even studies that might show that women are attracted to different types of men depending on where they are in their menstrual cycle. Damn hormones!  

The funny thing is that men are also victims or benefactors of their hormones. In the recent article by Therese Huston in The New York Times, she shares the results of a study showing that heightened testosterone levels might lead to overconfidence. The irony of course, is that more confidence usually has only helped in getting ahead in the world. Reference prior blog about the great confidence gap (“Challenge Yourself,” January 27, 2015).  


However, as pointed out in Ms. Huston’s article, there are times when overconfidence in your position could have dire consequences, as increased levels of testosterone are also associated with a decrease in reasoning power. Just when a man’s reasoning is impaired, he may feel most confident in his opinion. The article is worth a read, given the scrutiny women have been subjected to because of hormones. Egads, when Hillary almost passed out, she was probably just having a hot flash.  


Anyway, it brings us full circle around to the question – are we human, intellectual beings capable of compassion, empathy and logical, rational thought; or are we really just highly-evolved animals, still just the products of our biology?

Or, most probably, both?   

 

Post-Script
Only in recent years have I found my Dad to be a surprising, oddly comforting source of counsel, and all of his old sayings seem to ring truer with each year: 

Food, clothing, and shelter.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
When the tough get going…
Be nice.

Stay out of debt.
Don’t be a slave to the lender.
Don’t live for the love of money, but for what it can do for people.
Be nice.

On Thursday, June 29, 2017, social media, the press and politicians lit up, reacting to President Donald Trump’s tweets mocking the cable news anchors, Mr. Joe Scarborough and Ms. Mika Brzezinski, probably reacting to their jests at his expense, about his fake Times magazine covers on the previous morning. Practically everyone came out of the woodwork, coming to Mika’s and Joe’s defense, calling Trump a bully, and telling him to stop tweeting, as his messages are unbecoming and do not honor the dignity of the office. Finally, but why now, I ask? Think about how many other people he has mocked and bullied: the news reporter with a disability, politicians’ wives, practically all women, Senator McCain, an honorable man, a Veteran, and a former Prisoner of War. For whatever reason, this is the line in the sand that has been drawn, and now finally everyone is outraged.  

Two key points: 

#1  The real problem is the society that President Trump reflects. It is just as Mr. Harold Ford said on Morning Joe the next morning, that the real problem is our society, the Trump supporters who still see nothing wrong with what he is doing (see my previous post about the 38%). President Trump in a way is just a symptom of the larger problem; the root cause is the disease in our society fostering and promoting such a hateful, misogynistic, uncaring, racist, sexist leader. It feels like we are in the last chapter of the book, The Lord of the Flies, and the savages have taken over, the conch is lost or broken, except that there are no grown-ups landing on our shore to save us, and restore order and civility.   

#2  This is a dangerous distraction. These petty fights and constant chaos are a dangerous distraction to the serious business of governance and engaging as a world power on a global stage. May I remind everyone that a little-known leader in Afghanistan quietly declared war on the United States during a previous distraction in the White House, while we watched the day-to-day enquiry into shenanigans mildly resembling an adult version of the board game, Clue: Bill Clinton, with a White House Intern, in the closet, with a cigar. While we were busy debating the precise definition of a sexual relationship, Osama Bin Laden declared war on us, and no one noticed or paid attention. It was page six news, literally. I remember that. 

Afghanistan. Prior to 9/11, a country I had not thought about since grade school, when at practically every Sunday Mass, from fifth grade on, Father Jackson would include prayers for Af-uh-ghan-is-tan, somehow making it into a five-syllable word, yet never taking advantage of that teaching moment to talk about why we were praying for Af-uh-ghan-is-tan, or the people there, or even what we were praying for, what might be our desired outcome. 

Father Jackson was a severe figure, towering over us, and he kind of scared us. Maybe he was mean. Yet, his meanness offered the possibility for a small moment of kindness. One time in class, a student who was normally one of the really well-behaved kids did something a little out of character, and said or did something while Father Jackson’s back was turned, and he spun around asking who did that? One of the perpetually bad boys spoke up, and took the rap for the “good kid.” It was just one more thing the “bad kid” was going to get yelled at for; it would have up-ended the world for the “good kid.” And, funny how it is, that this, THIS is what we remember, these little ironies, dramas, and tragedies that stay with us, playing over and over again, and these small acts of kindness, at its most basic, simple, fundamental level, how we can help people. I would like to remind everyone that the Office of the President of the United States is still, always, and foremost that of a public servant, working for the best interest of the people.   

If President Trump got upset about getting teased about the fake magazine covers, he should have considered another response: own it and have a good laugh at himself. Admit he had the magazine covers made up, as a joke; thought it would be fun.  

Yes, Mika and Joe were making fun of Trump. Yes, Trump was mean. 

Everyone just needs to stop.  

Stop. 

Stop the pettiness, the humor has passed, and there are so many much larger issues that need our attention: health care, jobs, retraining the workforce for the new economy (the old manufacturing jobs are not coming back, coal is over), North Korea, chemical weapons in Syria, Mosul, ISIS, refugees, Russian hacking of our energy networks, and of course, Af-uh-ghan-is-tan. 

Hope everyone had a Happy Father’s Day & a Happy 4th of July! 

Be kind! 
 

Dedication
This blog is dedicated to Mr. Peter Leckie, a member of Parity, who passed away in early June. He was a gentle soul and will be missed.

 

Songs For The Day:
 
“Hands,” by Jewel. “Only kindness matters in the end.”

An ode to the sensitive man: “Too Much Saturn,” by Francis Dunnery.

Asking the question, “Are We Human, or Are We Dancer,” are The Killers.
 

For all those dealing with loss, two songs:
“In The Sun,” by Joseph Arthur, performed by Chris Martin and Michael Stipe.

Lastly, “Afterglow,” by INXS, urging those left behind, to live on.

Get the theme – kindness, humanity, and finding our way. Together.  

Happy Belated Father’s Day!

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Interdependence Day, too!
 

Aluminum!

 

Mark your calendars:

·       July 15 – Poets needed! First-ever Poetry Night, “Words Change Everything,” will be held at the Bull Run Restaurant in Shirley, MA. For details: https://tickets.bullrunrestaurant.com/eventperformances.asp?evt=771 

If you’re planning to read a poem, be sure to click the link on this webpage to e-mail the organizers: https://tickets.bullrunrestaurant.com/ 

Here’s a nice article w/ a little more of the back story on how this event came to be. http://www.nashobavalleyvoice.com/ci_31112408/poetry-menu-at-historic-bull-run 

As it has been said: 

“Even more than bread, we now need poetry, in a time when it seems that it is not needed at all.”

~Leopold Staff
Sometimes we need poetry & bread! 

·         HUBweek 2017 in Boston, various locations, October 8 – 15, 2017 https://hubweek.org/

·         Walk For Education, United Negro College Fund (UNCF), October 14, 2017

 
Coming Next:
I might put all the radio show links together, in sequence, in a future post, so that readers/listeners can find them a little more easily and listen to the shows in order. Together, the six shows document this highly historic time, attempting to make sense of these strange and difficult times in our country.  

As always, comments and suggestions are always welcome! 

See you in September!  

 

About WBCA-LP 102.9 FM Boston & Schmidt Happens:
WBCA is a community radio station sponsored by the Boston Neighborhood Network, and is on the air from 6 PM to 2 AM each night. Jumana Hashim is a current member of Beantown Women’s Rugby Club, while Rosemary, aka Rosebud, Schmidt has been retired a few years.    

We are taking a little break from the radio show over the summer, but we hope to be back on the air in September. I’ll post blogs as topics come up. Maybe we’ll even talk about something other than politics this fall, such as matters pertaining to public health: health insurance and the Affordable Health Care Act, concussions, stress, water quality, antibiotics, the microbiome, nutritional supplements, and diet.  

 

References 

Huston, Therese. Men can be so Hormonal. The New York Times. June 24, 2017.

Lakoff, George. 2017. George Lakoff: Trump Tweets, Press Leaps. Vox Populi.

Merullo, Roland. 2017. In defense of the white male. Boston Globe. July 3, 2017.
https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2017/07/02/defense-white-male/Me9UoUrcPbcljxRkPFlXAP/story.html

O’Connor, Anne. Poetry on the menu at historic Bull Run. Nashoba Valley Voice. July 3, 2017.
http://www.nashobavalleyvoice.com/ci_31112408/poetry-menu-at-historic-bull-run

Velez, Yamil, and Howard Lavine. 2017. Racial Diversity and the Dynamics of Authoritarianism. The Journal of Politics. April 2017.

White, Daphne. 2017. Berkeley author George Lakoff says, ‘Don’t underestimate Trump.’ Berkeleyside.com. May 2, 2017.

 

© 2017 Rosemary A. Schmidt
Rose Schmidt is the author of “Go Forward, Support! The Rugby of Life” (Gainline Press 2004). The views expressed herein are solely those of the author, and do not reflect the views of any other agency or organization. Use of individual quotes with proper citation and attribution, within the limits of fair use, is permitted. If you would like to request permission to use or reprint any of the content on the site, please contact me via Twitter: Rosebud@GainlineRS

 
Mission Statement: To Educate, Inform, Entertain, Inspire, and Open Minds. (E.I.E.I.O.M.)

 

 

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The 38 Percent: There is Darkness in the Lightness

The following is the blog post to accompany our May/June radio show, “Schmidt Happens,” airing Saturday night 3 June 2017 at 8:43 PM, and again Sunday night 4 June at 8:03 PM on WBCA-LP 102.9 FM Boston, hosted by Rosemary Schmidt and special guest host, Ellen Iorio.


Preface: Writing purely on topics of public concern; never seditious; but strictly out of the primacy of the concern for the health and very future of our democracy.  This is another in a series of blogs that have been looking to make sense and explain the inner workings and motivations driving things behind the scenes at the White House.








It’s spring in New England, everything is blooming, and there is so much beauty in the world. And yet, as Wonder Woman says in the opening scene, “there is darkness in the lightness.”

Two quotes keep coming back to me:  

“What kind of times are these, when to talk about trees is almost a crime, because it implies silence about so many horrors.”
~Bertold Brecht

“Even more than bread, we now need poetry, in a time when it seems that it is not needed at all.”
~Leopold Staff

The past several weeks have seen an extraordinary number of bombings, attacks, deaths. There is so much sadness, so much darkness in the world:

·        ISIS suicide bombing at Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, left 22 dead, and over 100 injured (May 22, 2017).

·        Many more deaths, fighting, bombings --- Baghdad, Kabul, Mosul, Egypt…And now London, too. Standing strong w/ the U.K!

·         North Korea continues its missile tests.

·        Two Good Samaritans killed, a third injured, standing up against a man making racial slurs against two Muslim women on a train in Portland, Oregon (May 26, 2017).

This is what patriots, real heroes, look like:


·        Chechnya leaders continue to roundup and torture gay men; 26 reported dead http://www.newsweek.com/chechnya-gay-purge-ramzan-kadyrov-russia-human-rights-616445

It seems wrong in a way even talking about something as light as a movie or concert, but maybe we need light, art, poetry, and music more now than ever. So, we went to the symphony a couple of weeks ago. No, not the Boston Symphony, but the Reading Symphony Orchestra’s spring concert on Sunday, May 21, 2017, and were immersed, mesmerized, and transported by the music. As they moved through the program, from one piece to the next, though, I started to sense a theme:

·        “In the Hall of the Mountain King” – Tells the story of finding a mountain full of trolls inside and escaping.

·        “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” – The Sorcerer leaves The Apprentice (where have I heard that before?) in charge, and his spells run amok, causing chaos, as little broomsticks fly about, until the Sorcerer returns to reverse the spell.

·        “Harry Potter Symphonic Suite” – Classic battle between good and evil.

·        “Waltz of the Flowers” (from the Nutcracker) – The nutcracker becomes a man.

·        “Stars and Stripes Forever” – Our Democracy will endure.




Yes, sad to say, even the symphony reminded me of President Donald Trump! The “Elephant in the Room” we talked about in November has become every bit of the circus act we had feared and predicted. Even the real circus, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus just closed up shop, and had their final show on May 21, 2017. Since the last blog and radio show:

·        President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, who was leading the investigation of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia (May 9, 2017). When I noted that Trump wasn’t afraid to fire people, I was thinking of Steve Bannon, not Comey!

·        The web of potential Russian links continues to spin and expand, with news that Jared Kushner sought to establish a back-channel line of communication with the Kremlin (May 26, 2017) and more recently expanded to include former campaign manager Paul Manafort  (June 2, 2017).

·        President Trump went on a nine-day overseas trip to meet with foreign leaders in Saudi Arabia, Israel, the Vatican, Brussels (NATO) and Sicily (G7 talks) (May 19 – 27).


·       President Trump pulls out of the Paris Climate Agreement (June 1, 2017)


What is most disturbing in all of this, though, is the 38 percent of people who still approve of Trump. They don’t care if he lies, they don’t understand or care how his policies will affect them, or especially some of the most vulnerable populations.

Candidate Trump tapped into an undercurrent, no, a deep groundwater aquifer, under pressure, artesian, and he hit a gusher. For eight years, this portion of the population has felt unheard, unrepresented, left out, and left behind. There is a lot of pent-up rage. And a lot of what the liberals/progressives on the coasts celebrate goes against their core values, and everything they have ever known and believe in.

Now the tables have been turned, and their guy is in office, and the liberals are the ones who are upset, and on the outside looking in.

It’s as if we are living in two alternate realities, both worlds living independently in their echo chambers, amplifying, repeating, and reinforcing their own views.

“Funny, everyone I follow on Twitter and Facebook agree w/ me!”

This is not an original thought, many others have been saying the same thing:


So, what do we do? I keep asking this question, not because I know the answer, but because I am still trying to figure out what we can do to make a difference.

We march. Women, Scientists, Arts, Education, Peace… Millions of people are marching. This is great, I think, until I read this little article about a social science study that found that during group decision-making exercises, women and African Americans were viewed as less influential when they got angry; the same did not apply to white men (Salerno, et al, 2017).


So, when people saw all the women marching in January, the day after the inauguration, what do you think they saw? Millions of angry women. So, now, even if we are angry and want to be heard, we need to be cheerful, or no one will listen to us!

It’s all about messaging, it really is.

There is a fantastic article by Professor George Lakoff on the importance of framing. He has also written a bunch of books, too, on this same topic. The renewed focus on relating a message to an audience’s worldview has re-energized this retired UC Berkeley professor.


His point is simply that liberals/progressives tend to be more cerebral: “I think therefore I am.” However, as Professor Lakoff points out, voters are not that logical. They vote based on values and what they believe. For them, replace “I think, therefore I am” with “I feel, therefore I do.” 



Ultimately, it comes down to being able to see the world through another’s eyes, see and hear their reality, connect, and see that we are all part of the same tapestry. To recognize the right to coexist.  To meet people where they are. Live and let live. The loose translation of “Namaste” – “the light in me honors the light in you.” The hardest thing in the world is to stay at the table and keep talking and listening when people hold deeply opposing views.

Still, practically speaking, what do we do?

We could move to other parts of the country so we can vote in other states in the next election, especially the 2018 mid-term elections, to tilt the numbers. Probably not going to happen.

Maybe demographics will shift naturally over time, as the population ages, and views are dominated more by the Millenials who tend to be more liberal and voted for Bernie Sanders, caring about such issues as civil rights, education, and climate change.

Maybe we just need the right leader who could be a uniter and not a divider. Someone relatable. Someone who is “good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, people like him.” Why not the Honorable Al Franken? If he ran, I’d be willing to serve as Vice President, because I do have a few ideas, and mostly because we would make a great team: #FrankenSchmidt.

Here are just a few of my ideas:

·        Retrain workers left behind by the new tech economy; our STEM industries need a talent stream in the pipeline. Make it socially acceptable for men to move into healthcare jobs, historically considered women’s work, especially with the aging Baby Boomers. The jobs of the future are in STEM and healthcare. https://www.bls.gov/spotlight/2017/science-technology-engineering-and-mathematics-stem-occupations-past-present-and-future/pdf/science-technology-engineering-and-mathematics-stem-occupations-past-present-and-future.pdf


·        Make the 36-hr work week the norm. The number one complaint from most workers is stress. This would give employees an extra 4 hrs per week to do what they will, spend time with family, or volunteering in their community. They would save on commuting. Furthermore, this should technically create 10% more jobs, getting more people off unemployment. My Dad and I have been talking about this idea for several years now.

·        Modify unemployment benefits to help people transition into a working self-supported status. Sometimes people can make more money by not working. People really do want to work, feel useful, and feel like they’re contributing to society.

·       Lastly, semi-commercialize the US Postal Service, and add coffee shops to each Post Office.  This would create a community gathering place, a place to write letters, and would probably be far more profitable than the actual shipping side of things. The coffee shops would be called: Postal Roasters!

You can call me, Al!

And I’ll have to check out his latest book: Al Franken, Giant of the Senate.
Plus it will make the perfect Father’s day gift.

And, just for the record: those mantras really do work!
https://www.wsj.com/articles/one-habit-to-make-you-happier-today-1494259324?mod=e2tw

Post-Script
The opening chords this time truly should not be recognizable, as they’re an original work, versus all the other show intros where the song may have been rendered unrecognizable by my limited guitar skills. Maybe Jumana will bring her ukulele and play sometime. The guitar intro is really a nod to the movie, “Wayne’s World,” and what two guys (or gals) with a guitar and a makeshift recording studio can do! The movie is celebrating its 25th anniversary. The movie was ostensibly set in Aurora, Illinois, and Wayne and Garth’s show was on the semi-fictional WPWR station. (There really was a TV station in Aurora called WPWR back in the day!)

Ironically, Aurora was recently named one of the most diverse cities, and the best place to live the American dream, with the potential for upward mobility despite modest beginnings.



At the same time, Aurora is facing its challenges, and is a bit of a study in contradictions. Just announced in March, Caterpillar is closing its Aurora plant, and cutting 800 jobs. Just like everywhere else, those jobs have sailed.


Ironically, just weeks later Caterpillar profits were reported to be up, way up, “smashing expectations.”  What will those laid off union workers do? Where will they find their next job? And how many of them voted for Trump?



This is a city that knows how to land on its feet, though. Wayne and Garth will carry on!


Songs For The Day:

Couldn’t resist: “You Can Call Me Al,” by Paul Simon
https://youtu.be/ULjCSK0oOlI

Check out the Reading Symphony Orchestra, now in their 85th year! Amazing talent outside 128, close your eyes and they will transport you. I would match them bow-to-bow with any big-city orchestra. They might be defined as amateurs, playing solely for the love of the music, and that passion comes through. Bravo!


Get your tickets for the 2017-2018 season now before they run out!

On the ying-yang of lightness & darkness: "Counting Stars," by One Republic
https://youtu.be/hT_nvWreIhg

For the U.K.:
"In The Sun," by Joseph Arthur, sung by Michael Stipe and Chris Martin:

https://youtu.be/3U7aL3DHD_s

"May God's love be with you always."




Movie Recommendations:

Wonder Woman, of course, now in theaters everywhere.

The Internship, which will be on TV Thursday night, June 8th, at 5:30 PM on FX.

Mark your calendars:

·       May 26th marked the beginning of Ramadan, a month-long time of fasting and prayers. Ramadan Mubarak to those celebrating!

·       June 2 – Wonder Woman opened at the box office. We need a hero!

·       June 4 – Special performance by the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus, celebrating its 35th anniversary, with a show at Symphony Hall. For details, see: www.bgmc.org

·       June 10 – Boston Gay Pride Parade

·       June 18 – Father’s Day, don’t forget Dad!

·       July 15 – Speaking of poetry – Calling all poets! The first-ever Poetry Night, “Words Change Everything,” will be held at the Bull Run Restaurant in Shirley, MA. For details: https://tickets.bullrunrestaurant.com/eventperformances.asp?evt=771

·       HUBweek 2017 in Boston, various locations, October 8 – 15, 2017 https://hubweek.org/

·       Walk For Education, United Negro College Fund (UNCF), October 14, 2017

Coming Next:

We’ll be taking a little break from the radio show over the summer, but we plan to be back on the air in September. I’ll post blogs as topics come to me. Maybe we’ll even talk about something other than politics this fall, such as matters pertaining to public health: health insurance and the Affordable Health Care Act, concussions, stress, water quality, antibiotics, the microbiome, nutritional supplements, and diet.

See you in September!

About WBCA-LP 102.9 FM Boston & Schmidt Happens:

WBCA is a community radio station sponsored by the Boston Neighborhood Network, and is on the air from 6 PM to 2 AM each night. Jumana Hashim is a current member of Beantown Women’s Rugby Club, while Rosemary, aka Rosebud, Schmidt has been retired a few years.  


References

Bernstein, Elizabeth. 2017. One Habit to Make You Happier Today. The Wall Street Journal. May 8, 2017.



Boak, Josh. 2017. Job data suggest worker shortage. The Boston Globe. June 3, 2017.



Fayer, Stella, Alan Lacey, and Audrey Watson. 2017. STEM Occupations: Past, Present, and Future. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. January 2017.



Franken, Al. 1992. I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me! New York: Dell Publishing.

Franken, Al. 2017. Al Franken, Giant of the Senate. New York: Hachette Book Group, Inc.

Hessan, Dianne. 2017. The multiple personalities of the American voter. The Boston Globe. May 30, 2017.



Hogan, Mark. 2017. Caterpillar smashes expectations, raises forecast; shares jump. CNBC.com. April 25, 2017.



Lakoff, George. 2006. Thinking Points: Communicating Our American Values and Vision. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

Lakoff, George. 2004 and 2014. The All New Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing.

Lakoff, George, and Elisabeth Wehling. 2012. The Little Blue Book: The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic. New York: Free Press, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Lord, Steve. 2017. Aurora named one of America’s most diverse cities. The Beacon-News. May 4, 2017.



Perez, Lauren. 2017. The Best Cities for Living the American Dream in 2017. SmartAsset.com. May 23, 2017.



Salerno, Jessica M., Liana C. Peter-Hagene, and Alexander C.V. Jay. 2017. Women and African Americans are less influential when they express anger during group decision-making. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations. May 16, 2017.



White, Daphne. 2017. Berkeley author George Lakoff says, ‘Don’t underestimate Trump.’ Berkeleyside.com. May 2, 2017.



Yerak, Becky. 2017. Caterpillar to close Aurora plant, cut 800 jobs. The Chicago Tribune. March 31, 2017.



© 2017 Rosemary A. Schmidt

Rose Schmidt is the author of “Go Forward, Support! The Rugby of Life” (Gainline Press 2004). The views expressed herein are solely those of the author, and do not reflect the views of any other agency or organization. Use of individual quotes with proper citation and attribution, within the limits of fair use, is permitted. If you would like to request permission to use or reprint any of the content on the site, please contact me. Twitter: Rosebud@GainlineRS


Radio Broadcast © 2017 Jumana Hashim and Ellen Iorio and Rosemary Schmidt. For permission to re-print or re-broadcast the radio shows, please contact the radio hosts and/or WBCA-LP 102.9 FM Boston for permission. The views expressed in the radio broadcast are those of the hosts, and not any other agency, entity or organization. Every effort has been made to give proper credits and citations for material quoted/cited. Any errors or omissions are not intentional and every effort will be made to make corrections as soon as they are brought to our attention.


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