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.


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





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