The Heart of Courage

After yesterday, I was inspired to look up the etymology of the word courage. It stems from the latin “cor” which means heart. The word has been around since at least the 1300’s.

The heart/courage connection makes a lot of sense when you think about it. The two have been intertwined throughout history. We say, “She had the heart of a lion.” Being told you have a brave heart is a great compliment indeed. “Take heart, my friends,” means have courage in the face of adversity. Follow your heart.

The reason I am thinking of this right now is that it took great courage, yesterday, for all those representatives to vote to impeach Trump after having been locked in rooms for hours, clutching gas masks, while a mob was trying to get to them, many of whom talked of lynching and other forms of assassination. They could hear the guards screaming in pain as they were attacked. They could hear glass breaking and doors breaking and gun shots.

I would have been terrified. Americans usually don’t experience threats to their lives in their homeland, especially as perpetuated by fellow Americans. (Well, unless you count those who are forced to walk among fools who refuse to wear masks in public in the midst of a pandemic.)

When the congressmen emerged, it was to see destruction and theft and death and hate symbols and defecation. It was to see that one of the most honored buildings in this country had been trashed. It was to learn that they weren’t adequately protected, and things could have ended even more horrifically than they did. Whether they realize it or not, I’m sure that the entire congress now has PTSD, and that’s going to back up on them sooner or later.

And yet, those representatives showed up yesterday, to the very room that they had to be rushed out of during the insurrection. They impeached Trump. That took guts for miles.

Yeah, nothing will probably come of it. The senate isn’t cooperating, and there’s not much time left (thank God). But the importance of recording, for all the generations to come, that insurrection is outrageous and unconscionable, made them act, despite knowing that there are people out there who will surely want them to die for it. It took a great deal of courage, indeed.

I particularly admire the 10 republicans who chose to do the right thing. Not only are they risking their lives but also their livelihood. They will be the focus of hate for acting based on facts and their personal integrity, even if it meant they were forced to go against the majority of their peers. It takes a lot to speak truth to power. What heart! What courage!

I couldn’t be more impressed if I were twins. Even though we’ve seen the worst of America during that riot, perhaps there is hope for us yet. I’m heartened by that. Very heartened, indeed.

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A Letter to Congress

In light of recent events, I felt the need to reach out to my congressmen. In my case, these are Representative Adam Smith, Senator Patty Murray, and Senator Maria Cantwell. If you agree with my statement below, feel free to send it to your congressmen as well, either by letter or by e-mailing them a link to this post, as long as you give me original credit for the idea.

“First of all, thank you and all your colleagues for being public servants in these trying times. Your service should never put your life at risk. The insurrection in our nation’s capitol was unconscionable and should never be repeated.

“In light of that, I humbly request that the first paragraph of the preamble of the Democratic Platform should be changed. This paragraph should reflect a moral compass that all rational human beings can agree upon. This or a similar paragraph should always be included in every party’s platform.

“My suggestion is as follows:

“’As Democrats, we believe in the rule of law and the constitution. We believe that violence and terrorism are unacceptable, and that our democratic process should be inviolate. Anyone who disagrees with any of these tenets does not, and never will, speak for the Democratic Party.’

“I hope you’ll consider putting forward this suggestion, and as a fellow Democrat, I would encourage you to suggest that this should be made the first paragraph of the Republican platform, and indeed, any other party’s platform, as well. (If every party made this change at the same time, it would show unity and strength, and no one would have to feel that he or she is copying a political opponent.) It is high time we disavow the lunatic fringe. They do not deserve our endorsement in any way, shape or form.

“Thank you for your consideration, and, again, thank you for your service.”

Sincerely,

Barbara Abelhauser

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A Unique Opportunity to Cut Off Our Lunatic Fringe

I know you’ll find this hard to believe, but I genuinely believe that not all Republicans are bad. But if we have learned nothing else from the insurrection in the Capitol a few days ago, there are definitely some on the absolute lunatic fringe (as are some democrats, of course). Most of us watched their actions in utter horror. I genuinely believe that includes the average Republican, too.

There are many things most humans can agree on. Violence is unacceptable. Our democratic process should be inviolate. We need to protect our planet as it’s the only home we have. Basic human rights should apply to everyone. We need to improve our healthcare system and our schools. Murder is unacceptable, as is rape, sex trafficking, and theft. We need more invention and innovation. Hate gets us nowhere. Facts are facts.

I think both parties should add the above, with mutually agreed upon wording, to our national platforms. We should rename ourselves the Rational Republican Party and the Rational Democratic Party. If our members can’t agree with all of the above, then they should not be considered part of our membership. They should be rejected outright. “Your hate and violence are not who we are. You do not speak for us.” Let them form their own insane little cohorts and self-destruct.

Each party, of course, still has room for a lot of planks in their platform that the other party may disagree with, and that’s okay. But we have got to agree that we can no longer turn our backs on basic human morality. The lunatic fringe does not deserve our support.

I think if we did that, we might discover that we all agree on much more than we think.

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Living through History

We lived through history yesterday, and it was for the most part shameful. If you think killing a woman in the Capitol Building is acceptable or, worse yet, heroic, if you can say you love people who would do such a thing, if you call people who mounted an insurrection “true patriots”, then you are a moral reprobate.

A woman died. And she was a Trump supporter to boot. At what point do you admit that things have gotten out of control? At what point do you say enough is enough?

Our transitions of power have always been peaceful until now, even when the results stuck in the craw of the majority. Are you proud of yourselves? Do you have any idea what you’ve done to democracy?

The only reason I said “for the most part shameful” up above is that Georgia, a state I’d long since given up on, just managed to elect their first black senator ever, and also the youngest senator. That’s history, too. I wish that was what I could focus on, because it’s miraculous. But no. Shame on the insurrectionists.

Oh, and then, on top of everything else, protestors blocked my bridge for 15 minutes yesterday, too. 6 cars, blocking every lane of traffic, completely strangling the Seattle evening commute. I have no idea what they were protesting, and frankly, I don’t care. It accomplished nothing but ill will. It didn’t further anyone’s agenda. It was just negative energy. And it stressed me out and caused paperwork.

So, yeah, weird day at best.

I’ll leave you with this wisdom from a meme, in the hopes that it will cause you to untangle some pretzel logic if you happen to be experiencing it:

“You might be in a cult if you believe that:

You can’t trust the votes.

You can’t trust paper ballots.

You can’t trust judges at the polling places.

You can’t trust polling observers.

You can’t trust voting machines.

You can’t trust state canvassing committees.

You can’t trust state recounts.

You can’t trust 50 Secretaries of State.

You can’t trust the National administrator for election security.

You can’t trust Trump’s Attorney General.

You can’t trust Trump’s FBI.

You can’t trust the states circuit court judges.

You can’t trust US district court judges, including Trump appointees.

You can’t trust US Supreme Court judges, including Trump’s appointees.

You can’t trust the last ten Secretaries of Defense.

BUT you can trust Donald Trump.”

A Pig’s Head? Seriously?

If you’re the one person who hasn’t heard of this by now, two days ago some sick individuals vandalized the home of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. They painted graffiti all over her garage door. “$2K” with a line through it, referring to the stimulus check debacle (as if that were her fault rather than Mitch McConnell’s). “Cancel Rent”. Anarchist symbols. “We want everything”.

This, in and of itself, is outrageous. But the fact that there was fake blood, along with, I kid you not, a pig’s head on the public sidewalk, really puts it over the top. This is straight up insane. What if a child had come across that? Fortunately, the head was removed by 3 a.m., so the odds of some kid being traumatized for life are slim. But that was pure luck.

Things are really getting out of hand. And I’m not just saying that because I’m a democrat and she’s a democrat. I’d say that regardless of the public servant who was targeted.

Public service has become a bit of a full contact sport these days. The mayor of Seattle isn’t running for reelection because of the people who are constantly milling about her private residence, chanting. Her family hasn’t been able to live a normal life since she took office.

And make no mistake, these types of behavior are acts of violence. They say, “I’m willing to destroy your life as well as your property.” And if you’re capable of chopping off a pig’s head to make a point, how much farther would you be willing to go? I mean, it takes some effort to gain access to a pig’s head in metropolitan San Francisco. They’d have had to drive quite a distance with that thing in their vehicle. Plenty of time to think about what you’re about to do. And yet, at the end of the journey, they still seem to have thought this was a good idea.

Who does that? What kind of psychopath does that? How angry and stupid do you have to be? This message says a lot more about you than it ever will about your victim.

A really terrifying thing is that I came across one article that published Pelosi’s address. Online. You can’t unring that bell. It’s out there now. How must that feel?

What did these people think they were going to achieve? Is Ms. Pelosi capable of issuing the $2K checks that so many people desperately need? Obviously not, because she was in favor of it, and it’s not going to come to pass. The Republicans rejected the plan twice, even though Trump is also in favor of it. Can she cancel rent? No. Can she give whomever this is the “everything” they feel they so richly deserve? Stupid.

And these people, whomever they may be, are now walking through life knowing that they did this thing. I’m sure they feel justified in their own minds, or they wouldn’t have done it in the first place. But that rot, that poison, will forever be inside of them. As long as they live, deep down, they will forever be people who left a pig’s head on a public sidewalk. That is who they are. I’m sure they’ll never admit that domestic terrorism to anyone, even a prospective partner. And that secret will add to the rot. Well done, you buffoons.

We need the best of the best to run for public office if we want the best democratic results. If this is the type of thing that one can expect for making this sacrifice, do you really think the best people won’t think twice about stepping forward? It’s hard enough, being under constant scrutiny, without having to worry about pig’s heads. This act was a violation of Pelosi, but it was also a blow to democracy itself.

Disgusting. This behavior just reinforces my belief that some humans are really lower life forms and have a long way to go to earn the designation “civilized”. We forget that we, too, are animals, and unfortunately not all of us are domesticated. And this belief of mine has nothing to do with race, creed, politics, economic status, origin, or education level. It’s based purely on the choices you make and the actions you take. By those will you be judged.

To the vandals: If your mother would be proud of this, then clearly the f***ed up apple hasn’t fallen too far from the twisted tree.

End of rant.

Justice Despite Roadblocks

In the 1880’s the US government gave the Jesuits 525 acres, scattered here and there in South Dakota, according to this article. The purpose was to make churches and cemeteries on the land. But that land has become more and more sparsely populated over time, and the Jesuits found no use for it after a certain point. The mission stations they built were serving no one, and nothing further was being constructed.

As per usual out west, the government really had no right to give away this land in the first place. Every single plot of land is located within the Rosebud reservation. The Rosebud Sioux are part of the Lakota people, and currently about 15,000 of them live on the reservation.

So the Jesuits decided it was time to return this land to its rightful owners. (One wonders if they would have done so if the had been able to find a use for it, and also how much money, if any, they’re saving in property taxes by getting rid of it, but that’s just my cynicism coming out to play.)

Apparently the property transfer will conclude in May, but the Jesuits have been trying to do this for at least 5 years. The efforts kept hitting brick walls in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. It beggars the imagination if there is a more obstructionist governmental bureaucracy on earth, in my opinion.

But, regardless of the motivations, it is nice that, when all is said and done, the right thing is finally going to happen. Finally, a returning is taking place. As the great Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

And now, a tiny bit more land.

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Prince Philip’s Mother

The ultra rich fascinate me in the same way that looking at amoebas through a microscope fascinates me. What makes them tick? How do creatures that are so foreign to my existence live their lives? (I don’t envy them, though, and I’m not only referring to the amoebas.)

Having buckets of money is quite liberating in that you don’t have to concern yourself with the daily sturm und drang of survival. If your food and shelter is assured, you can focus on allowing your true nature to come out and play. Most of the time, unfortunately, this does not yield positive results. (See also: Jeff Bezos and Donald Trump.)

It amazes me that wealth seems to increase greed, not diminish it. That makes no sense to me. When do you feel like you’ve got enough?

Fortunately, there are a few examples, here and there, of a rich person’s better angels of their nature coming to the forefront. They could be as bad as they want to be, but they choose to be good. These people are my heroes.

Case in point: Prince Philip’s mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg. I wish the British Royals spoke more of her instead of sweeping her to the attic of their history. Yes, her daughters married Nazis, but she didn’t. In fact, when she was living in Greece in World War II, she told a visiting German general to take his troops out of her country. That alone would make me love this woman, but there’s so much more to her.

For a start, I strongly urge you to check out a blog called History Undusted, and especially a post entitled The Deaf Princess Nun. That talented blogger will go into a lot more detail about Princess Alice than I will.

Suffice it to say that Princess Alice devoted her life to helping the less fortunate. She helped Greek refugees while she herself was exiled in Paris, all while being abandoned by her husband and raising 4 children on her own. That would be difficult at the best of times, but then add the extra layer of complexity that she was deaf, and one wonders how she managed at all. She did have a nervous breakdown and was institutionalized against her will for a time, and a weaker person might have called it a day at that point, but she didn’t.

After she was released from the institution, she eventually returned to Athens, even though many of her royal relatives had fled the country because of the war. During that time, she hid a Jewish family in her home. She also worked in soup kitchens, delivered medicine, and established orphanages.

When the war was over, she founded a religious order called the Christian Sisterhood of Martha and Mary. A picture of her in her nun’s habit, with Prince Philip by her side, is below. She lived with her son in Buckingham Palace for the last two years of her life.

She was a formidable woman with an unwavering moral compass. She demonstrates that it is possible to allow your decency to flow freely despite all temptations. That’s why I’m thrilled to know that Princess Alice is now considered one of the “Righteous Among the Nations” by the people of Jerusalem. She definitely deserves that honor.

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A Hateful, Clueless Meme

You may have seen this disgusting meme floating around on social media. A friend (Hi, Jen!) pointed it out to me, and I was instantly repulsed. The message it seems to be trying to get across is, don’t follow the mask-wearing sheep of the world. Resist. Do what you want. As if not wearing a mask makes you some kind of hero.

This meme seems to be quite popular amongst the foolish people who think that by not wearing a mask, they’re exercising a constitutional right. That is patently absurd. None of us have the right to put the lives of everyone we come in contact with at risk. We all have a responsibility to maintain public health. If that weren’t the case, we’d be pooping on the public sidewalks with impunity. Because holding it doesn’t feel good.

There are certain standards that have to be maintained in order to have a healthy society. You don’t have to like it. You just have to do it. Selfishness does not pair well with being a member of a community.

But even more offensive is the fact that this historical photograph has been appropriated to make an ignorant, hyper-conservative meme with its own agenda, when the man in the photograph was anything but a poster child for that ideology.

Let’s start with the one indisputable fact about this photograph. It was taken in 1936, during the launch of a German military training ship called the Horst Wessel. All the witnesses to the launch are giving the Nazi salute except for this one man, who defiantly keeps his arms crossed. That must have taken a great deal of courage.

Historians now think that this is a photograph of either Gustav Wegert or August Landmesser. More and more people are starting to believe it was Wegert, as there’s more evidence that he was working at the time at the shipyard. Alas, if it is Wegert, it isn’t as compelling a story. Wegert never experienced Nazi persecution. He wasn’t imprisoned. He survived the war. He was simply against the Nazi salute because he was a devout Christian. This is admirable, but not particularly exciting.

If this is a photograph of Landmesser, on the other hand, it makes for a fascinating tale. Landmesser did join the Nazi party in the hope of gaining employment, but he was later kicked out of it when it came to light that he was engaged to a Jewish woman, Irma Eckler. They were married, but the union wasn’t recognized under the Nuremburg Laws. They had two daughters. He was thrown in jail for “dishonoring the race.”

He was released from jail in May, 1938 for lack of evidence, as they argued that nobody was sure that his wife was fully Jewish. But two months later he was imprisoned again, and sent to a concentration camp. His wife was also sent to prison, and in fact gave birth to their second daughter there. She was then sent from one concentration camp to another until she finally died in 1942.

Landmesser was released from his concentration camp in 1941, but in 1944 he was drafted into a penal battalion and forced to fight. He finally died in battle in Croatia eight months later. He was 34 years old. His daughters grew up in an orphanage, and later in foster care. His oldest daughter published a book about the family’s persecution for “racial disgrace”.

Whether the defiant man in the photograph is Wegert or Landmesser is irrelevant to the message, as far as I am concerned. It is evidence that somebody was willing to stand up for their principles at a time when a lot of people were being brainwashed and following blindly or acquiescing due to fear. This photograph gives me hope. But when I look away from him and at all the others, it makes me despair. That’s why the photo is so powerful to me. It shows me that I can hold both feelings at once.

The very idea that this picture has been twisted around to make doing the wrong thing, the selfish thing, the life threatening thing seem heroic is disgusting and outrageous, and insults the memory of the man, whoever he may have been, who was brave enough to be on the right side of history.

If you created this meme, shame on you. I added the x to the meme so it couldn’t be copied and used. Not from this blog, anyway. Not today.

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Prolepsis

I learned a new word today. Prolepsis is seeing the reality you’d like to have in the world. It’s anticipating. It’s a Greek word that means, literally, “a taking beforehand”.

Debaters use it to address rebuttals that haven’t happened yet. “I know you’ll say this, but…”

People use it to budget and plan for the future.

Writers use it to flash forward.

I don’t consider myself a particularly optimistic person. I see optimism as magical thinking. Optimists seem to have to overlook certain starker realities in order to maintain their worldview. To me, the difference between optimism and prolepsis is that optimists assume that the future is going to be full of rainbows and unicorns, but they do nothing to make it so.

On the other hand, prolepsis is more about having that vision, and then working toward bringing it about. I envision a world where we use a lot more green energy and the environment is all the better for it. But I don’t think it’s just automatically going to occur. A lot of scientists have to come up with ways to make this happen, and the stupid politicians will then have to be convinced that it’s more important than getting money from the fossil fuel lobby. (Vote!)

Prolepsis is all about being the change you want to see in the world. One of my favorite dear readers (Hi, Lyn!) once said, “What we don’t change, we choose.”

I couldn’t agree more. But making different choices to make a change, in many cases, has to do with anticipating the consequences of those choices. And that type of forward thinking is impossible if you don’t make room for a little prolepsis.

Practice prolepsis every chance you get. Don’t get caught up in the Trumpian negativity. Don’t think that the world is going to go to sh** if we don’t build walls and fear everything that is different from ourselves. Instead, think, “Yes, we can.” And then imagine what that would look like. And then do something to make it happen.

Let’s imagine that door, and then pave the long and winding road that will lead to it. Make the world a gift we want to receive. Onward!

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Things to Be Thankful for in 2020

First of all, Happy Thanksgiving. This is my favorite holiday. Good food, no pressure to give gifts, and, if this were a normal year, an opportunity to see loved ones.

I realize that most of us are not getting to celebrate it in the manner in which we are accustomed, but maybe it’s a blessing in disguise. We can all focus more, if we choose to, on the many things we have to be thankful for. And we get to avoid all those awkward political conversations that would surely be happening right now if this were a non-pandemic year. Maybe we should view this as the time and space this country needs to heal its rifts.

Here are the things I’m thankful for in this crazy year:

  • My loved ones value my health enough to stay away, and are staying safe themselves, even if it’s hard.
  • Everyone I know personally that I have crossed paths with since March has had the decency and the sense to wear a mask, and because of that, so far, I am COVID-free.
  • I am quick enough on my feet to back away from the maskless strangers that I encounter, thus protecting myself and my husband.
  • I’ve had the opportunity to spend even more time with my dogs than usual.
  • I have a renewed sense of how important people are to me, and how precious life is.
  • I take nature even less for granted than I did before.
  • I am more focused on exercising than I ever have been in my entire life. (It’s a great way to work off COVID stress.)
  • I am constantly reminded of the importance of patience. It is a lesson that I have always struggled with, but I’m definitely getting more practice this year.
  • It is very easy to tell who cares about others and who only cares about themselves these days, and that information comes in handy.
  • I’m feeling very patriotic because I’m doing my part to maintain public health.
  • I’m also proud of the fact that so many of us voted for the first time, and I’m proud that no evidence of election fraud has been presented, and that just saying does not make it so.
  • I’m glad that this year is almost over.
  • I’m touched by the amount of generosity I’ve seen. Times have been tough on everybody, but they’ve been even worse for some, and I’m glad that people are stepping up and helping out at a time when the government is not.
  • I’m grateful to still have a job.
  • I’m looking forward to hate being something that is less acceptable and comfortable in this country again.
  • I value all that this year has taught me.
  • I’m grateful for all the front line workers who have seen so much horror and done so much this year, and yet still keep showing up for all of us.
  • I am grateful, most of all, for those of us who have managed to survive thus far. It’s taking a village, but we can do this.

This has been a long, exhausting year, and we’re all on the ragged edge. No doubt about it. But I hope that you, too, can still dig deep and find things to be thankful for. Post some of those in the comments, if the spirit moves you, dear reader, and know that I am thankful for you, too.

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