Civil Trade War

So now Trump thinks Canada is a security risk? Oh, come on. Those people won’t even jaywalk at an intersection. Seriously. There could be no cars for miles, and they’d still patiently wait for the crossing signal.

Trump imposing tariffs on Mexico, Canada, and the European Union is like walking up to your three best friends in the school yard and punching them each in the throat. Just ‘cuz.

As if we weren’t already convinced that this man is an idiot, he now decides to do something that has absolutely no upside, even for him. But oh, yeah, it certainly has taken our focus off of Russia, hasn’t it? He does like to stir shit up.

Smoke and mirrors. It’s all smoke and mirrors. The next election can’t come fast enough.

For some reason, though, a lot of people don’t quite get (yet) what a global pissing match Trump has just set off. So let’s scale it down a bit for easier comprehension.

Let’s say the Governor of Maine doesn’t like the Governor of Georgia. So Maine decides to impose a tariff on all peaches. This means that it gets a lot more expensive for Georgia to get their peaches to consumers in Maine. This causes the Governor of Georgia’s head to explode, and he says, “Fine! We are now putting a tariff on Lobsters! Take that!”

Well, messing with Lobsters in Maine is like touching the third rail. This cannot be borne! So Maine says, okay, now we’re going to put a tariff on airplanes. (You may not know this, but Georgia’s top export is airplanes.)

But hold on. Airplanes are also the top export in California, Arizona, Washington, Kansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, Ohio, Kentucky, North Carolina, Florida, and Connecticut. So they all sit up tensely and blink, too. What’s going to happen next? They all start looking around to see how they can hurt other states who might hurt them. Everyone is poised for battle.

That’s really how the civil war started. Only back then, the commodity was slaves. Not only won’t we buy your slaves, but you can’t have them either. And before we knew it, hundreds of thousands of Americans were dead.

This trade war? Worst idea ever. Thanks, Trump. Way to go.

https _edts523naz.wikispaces.com_file_view_boybullying.gif_419259468_304x288_boybullying

I wrote an actual book, and you can own it! How cool is that? http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Peace Day

If I were getting a masters degree in world history, my thesis would be an attempt to answer this question: Was there even one day in the recorded history of mankind when no one on the planet was at war? I’ve honestly wondered that my entire life.

Of course, you’d have to create a firm definition of war first. For example, America may have tried to call the war in Vietnam a police action, but I’m sure those covered in napalm were pretty convinced they were at war. Perhaps “non-peace” would be a better term.

By that definition, it would be easy to eliminate huge swaths of time. World Wars I and II. Civil wars. Revolutions. Invasions. Pogroms. Genocide. Hostile occupations. Coups d’etat.

After that, you’d be left with a patchwork quilt of time frames, and you’d have to look at each country and/or culture’s individual history. I’d suggest you go with the big and/or influential countries first. America. Russia. China. England. They are the troublemakers. They’d eliminate a bunch of dates on your calendar. (Of course, reconciling the various calendars so that we’re sure we’re discussing the same day would be an additional challenge.)

Then perhaps go to the more tribal areas of the globe. Whenever you create a scenario that is “us” vs. “them”, you are sure to have conflict. Should we count terrorist activity? If people are getting killed, I’d say yes.

I guess my point is, humans in general are a violent species. I want there to be a day that we can all look to and say, “See? We are capable of peace.” Just one day. I need to know that day exists to give us all hope that it’s really achievable.

I hate to say it, but I doubt we’ll find it.

human_peace_sign_crop

Start a gratitude practice today. Read my book. http://amzn.to/2cCHgUu

Rooting for the Home Team

When I was 10 years old I moved from my waspy, upper middle class New England house and wound up living in a tent in the rural South. It was quite the culture shock. But the biggest shock of all was finding myself in a public school where only 1 percent of the students looked anything like me. This was something I had never experienced before, and I got beaten up quite often as a result.

I also had a great deal of trouble adjusting to the backward Florida school system. It was several years before I started learning anything that I hadn’t previously been taught in Connecticut, and when they tested me and determined that I was reading at college level at the age of 10, they weren’t nearly as impressed by that as they were that I was voluntarily reading anything at all.

At one point my mother asked me if I even had textbooks. I told her yes, but that I did my homework in class, as it only took a minute. No reason to lug those books home.

Once, my teacher was talking about the Civil War and she asked whose side everyone would be on. “This is easy,” I thought. “Union, of course.” But I was stunned to discover that all the children of color around me chose the Southern side.

I was normally quiet and kept to myself to avoid the inevitable beating. But this… I couldn’t handle it. “Are you guys crazy??? You’re supporting the side of slavery!” None of them changed their minds, however. I was speechless.

As an adult looking back, it’s a bit more understandable. In that school system, they were taught virtually nothing about history or human rights. Most of them were so poor that they’d probably never stepped foot outside the backwater town in which we lived. They were simply rooting for the home team, as if this were a football game. I have no doubt that every one of them came to their senses when they entered the real world.

It wouldn’t be the last time I felt like the only voice of reason in an insane situation. I feel that way now when I see people supporting Donald Trump or denying global warming. Forgive them. They know not what they do.

hometeam
[Image credit: theblaze.com]

The Tragedy That Is Damascus, Syria

Damascus, Syria is considered a UNESCO World Heritage site because it is the world’s oldest continuously-inhabited city. In the past 10,000 years, it has seen the rise and fall of Aramaeans, Assyrians, Persians, Seleucids, Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans. It is a city full of history and culture. Much of its rich archeology remains buried beneath modern structures as it had a population of more than 1,700,000 as recently as 2009.

Some of the historical sites, as per Wikipedia, include the Citadel of Damascus; the Straight Street referred to in the Bible; The House of Ananias, an underground chapel; The Umayyad Mosque, one of the largest mosques in the world and one of the oldest sites of continuous prayer since the rise of Islam, which includes a shrine that is said to contain the body of St. John the Baptist; the old city with its ramparts and city gates which date back to Roman times; and an untold number of churches, mosques, shrines, madrasas, khans, and old Damascene houses.

All of these sites spur the imagination and make me long to see them. I’d love to get lost in its twisting alleyways, and delve deep into the souks, surrounded by vendors who have been there for generations. By all rights, this city should be a hub of tourism and archeology. But for a variety of tragic reasons there is probably nothing left to see.

In October 2010, the Global Heritage Fund named Damascus one of 12 cultural heritage sites most on the verge of irreparable loss and destruction. At the time, one of the old souks had already been destroyed in only three days, and a traditional handicraft region was threatened by a proposed motorway. All in the name of progress. Also, 20,000 people had moved out of the Old City by 2005 in search of more modern accommodation, leaving many buildings abandoned and falling to ruin. So when that report came out, Damascus was, indeed, in danger. But little did they know.

Now the residents of this city, and indeed the entire country, are beleaguered by a civil war that has been going on since 2011. According to a recent article in Reuters, in some districts in Damascus, more than 3 quarters of the homes have been damaged. Some neighborhoods have been completely destroyed by Scud missiles, car bombs and air strikes. As food and supplies become scarce and more people abandon their homes, looters have run rampant.

It seems that what has endured for 10,000 years may well have been destroyed in only three by modern warfare. I weep for the people of Damascus, but I weep even more for the world, which has lost 10,000 years worth of history that can never be replaced.

umayyad mosque (1)

Umayyad Mosque and its surrounding, enticing neighborhood in better times. I wonder what it looks like now.

[Image credit: albumislam.com]

Mideast Syria

Here’s a recent image of a neighborhood near the Old City.

[Image credit: odf-syria.org]

“Those Towel Heads Can’t Be Trusted.”

Yup, that actually came out of a coworker’s mouth the other day while we were discussing the Boston bombings. And I must admit I went off. I couldn’t help it. I’m so sick of the ignorance and bigotry. This is what I said to him:

“Every sweet has its sour; every evil its good.”

                                                                  -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Naturally his response was, “Huh?” To which I replied, “Do you seriously think the Muslims are the only group with a lunatic fringe, a mentally deranged and evil element? Seriously? Okay, then how do you explain the following?”

  • Adolph Hitler was a Catholic.
  • Pol Pot was a Buddhist.
  • Stalin, responsible for the execution of hundreds of thousands of people, went to a Greek Orthodox Seminary.
  • Pinochet was a Catholic.
  • Vlad the Impaler, torturer of thousands, was Christian.
  • Baruch Goldstein, an Orthodox Jew, perpetrated the 1994 Cave of the Patriarchs massacre in the city of Hebron, killing 29 Palestinian Muslim worshipers and wounding another 125.
  • Eric Rudolph, the Olympic Park Bomber, was Christian.
  • Ted Bundy was a Methodist.
  • James Holmes, the shooter in Aurora, Colorado, was Lutheran.
  • David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam, called himself a born again Christian.
  • Sampson Kanderayi was a Christian who killed more than 30 people to appease evil spirits.
  • Andrew Kehoe, a Roman Catholic, blew up 45 people, 38 of them children, in a school in Lansing, Michigan.
  • Wade Michael Page, the man who shot six people in a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin last year, was a devout Christian.
  • Robert Oppenheimer, who oversaw the Manhattan Project which produced the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, instantly killing  150,000 men, women, and children and many many more in the years that followed, was interested in Hinduism.
  • Jeffrey Dahmer was baptized into the Church of Christ, the religion of his childhood, after he went to prison.
  • The Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, was an atheist.
  • Dylan Klebold, one of the Columbine shooters, was Lutheran.
  • Ivan the Terrible was Russian Orthodox.
  • Charles Carl Roberts IV, the man who shot all the Amish school girls, was a member of the Faith Church.
  • Torquemada, the poster child of the Spanish Inquisition, was, of course, Catholic.
  • Timothy McVeigh was a Roman Catholic.
  • Adolf Eichmann was raised Lutheran, and was an active member of the Evangelical Church until 1937.
  • Mao Tse-tung, who was responsible for 40-70 MILLION deaths, was an atheist.
  • Genghis Khan prayed to the Burhan Haldun Mountain, and consulted Buddhist Monks, Muslims, Christian missionaries, and Taoist monks.
  • Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook shooter, was Catholic.

And how do you explain the following?

  • The vast majority of the participants in World Wars I and II were not Muslims.
  • In Rwanda, where the rivers have run with blood, 56.9% of the population is Roman Catholic, 26% is Protestant, 11.1% is Seventh-day Adventist, 4.6% is Muslim, 1.7% claims no religious affiliation, and 0.1% practices traditional indigenous beliefs such as the Jabiyan ethno-religious belief system.
  • Angola, home to one of the most brutal civil wars in history, is a predominately Christian country.
  • 33 people died in the Salem Witch Trials, which were conducted by a Puritan government.
  • Very few Muslims resided in America during our Revolutionary or Civil wars.
  • The vast majority of the owners of slave ships that transported slaves to the Americas were Christians.
  • The Aztecs hadn’t even HEARD of Islam, yet still managed to perform their human sacrifices.
  • Apartheid in South Africa was perpetuated by the Afrikaner minority. This system was responsible for the death of thousands and the displacement of hundreds of thousands. Afrikaners are predominately Calvinists.
  • At least 110,000 Iraqis have died since we Americans declared war on them. Some say it’s more like 1,033,000. 4,486 US soldiers were also killed. Our main justification for that war? 9/11. The number of Iraqis who were involved in the attack on the World Trade Center? 0. Another justification for that war: weapons of mass destruction. The number of weapons of mass destruction found? 0.
  • The murder-suicides in Jonestown were conducted by the People’s Temple Cult.
  • It was Christians who gave blankets infected with smallpox to the American Indians.
  • It was the US Public Health Service that intentionally misled 399 black sharecroppers into thinking they were being treated for their syphilis when in fact they were not. (They wanted to see how the disease would progress. Nice, huh?)
  • The Crusades were started by Pope Urban II.
  • When the Chinese tried to stop opium from being brought to their shores by the British, the British started the Opium Wars.
  • Germans slaughtered 10,000 Nama in South West Africa.
  • 11 Australian men, 10 of European descent and one of African descent, slaughtered 30 unarmed Aboriginals, mostly women, children, and old men, like they were dogs. It was called the Myall Creek massacre.

Do you still think the followers of Islam have cornered the market on murder and violence? Give me a break. We’re equally bad. And equally good, but that’s a subject for another blog entry.

So the next time you’re tempted to spew your Islamophobia, at least now you’ll have some facts, which means you’ll have to admit, at least to yourself, that what you’re trying to convince yourself of is actually nothing but hatred and ignorance. No culture is composed entirely of saints or completely of sinners. Stay stupid if you want to, but at least have the backbone to own it.

“Every sweet has its sour; every evil its good.”

                                                                             -Ralph Waldo Emerson

PEACE-IS-GOOD-MASTER-5

(Image credit: peaceisgood.net)

Reliving the Battle of Olustee

On February 20th, 1864 the battle of Olustee was fought here in Florida. It was the largest Civil War Battle in the state, and the second bloodiest battle for the Union. 296 soldiers died that day, only 93 of whom were Confederates. In the end the Union soldiers retreated 40 desolate miles back to Jacksonville, their collective tail between their legs.

One weekend a year each February, thousands descend on the Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park to observe a reenactment of this battle, and in 2005 I bore witness to this event myself. The irony is that I live in Jacksonville, so heading out there I sort of experienced a reverse retreat. And I’m here to tell you that that section of Florida is still pretty darned desolate. I could only imagine the hellish journey amongst the snakes and swampland and sharp-leafed underbrush.

And the thing about that part of Florida is that the deeper you get into, well, absolutely the middle of nowhere, the more you can’t shake the feeling that you’re traveling back in time, and not in a good way. There’s this feeling of free floating anxiety that you can’t quite put your finger on. I wouldn’t want to be there after dark during that weekend. And I wouldn’t want to be there even in broad daylight if I were black. And indeed, amongst the throngs of people and reenactors I only saw one minority face, that of a black union soldier. This just isn’t an event you want to attend if you’re not a WASP, because for this one weekend a year, people who are proud of the south and its history, in all its ugly and misguided glory, get to celebrate. There are confederate flags everywhere, and there’s beer. Lots and lots of beer. That’s never a good combination, if you ask me.

I must say, though, they really pull out all the stops. While you’re there, you can visit the confederate and union camps, and check out a lot of the historic armaments and medical tools, which is kind of interesting. There’s also an arts and crafts fair, a fun run, and even a square dance.

I’m glad I experienced this once, but have to say I’ll never go back. Not only because I came down with the worst case of sun poisoning in the history of mankind, complete with turning a dark purple and vomiting for 48 hours, but also because, more than anything, I got the feeling that here was a crowd of people that were longing for those days, wishing they could have back what so many feel that the south lost when they lost the civil war. Instead of witnessing a battle and thinking, “Never again”, they were thinking, “Yeah Buddy! The South will RISE AGAIN!!!!” And that sort of made me sick. You’re supposed to learn about history so as not to repeat it, not revel in its darkness and long for it to return.

So would I recommend that you go to the Battle of Olustee? Yes, with caution and a rather large companion. But that’s a decision you’ll have to make on your own. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with some of the pictures I took while I was getting sun poisoned.

IMG_0312

IMG_0317

IMG_0327

IMG_0338

When Did “Intellectual” Become a Dirty Word?

I really want to try to avoid getting political on this blog. I really do. I would like to demonstrate that there are many things we can all talk about without arguing or debating. But walking up to work today, I swear to God, I thought my head was going to explode. One coworker was convinced we were all going to be in the midst of a civil war tomorrow. Another was lamenting the funding of libraries. Not the LACK of funding. The funding. He feels that there’s no more need for libraries, now that we have the internet. A third thought all senior citizens were going to be put in concentration camps. I wanted to say, “If we can’t afford libraries, how will we afford all these concentration camps? And where are all the family members who would allow granny to be trundled off like this? Sitting in the libraries, or off to civil war?” But I bit my tongue.

stupidity

I bite my tongue a lot lately. There’s no sense in arguing with these people, because they have one thing in common. Anti-intellectualism. They think the intellectuals are the source of all our ills, and that people with college degrees can’t be trusted. As if knowledge and learning in general are sources of evil. It’s impossible to have an intelligent conversation with someone who thinks intelligence is a problem.

Excuse me, but isn’t that what groups like the Taliban condone? They won’t even allow girls to go to school. Isn’t ignorance what we’re trying to get AWAY from? Lack of education and training is one of the very things that keeps third world countries in the third world. Is that really what we want to emulate?

My mother is probably spinning in her grave. As a first generation American, she prized learning above all else. Without an education, how are you supposed to lift yourself up out of poverty? She was preaching college to me from the age of six. It never occurred to me not to go. Many people come to this country so that their children will have a better life, so they can go to school, so they can do better than their parents did. People die every day trying to get to this country for those very reasons.

And yet there is an ever increasing number of people in this country who are holding up ignorance as if it were a goal to be strived for. If that’s the case, I weep for the future.

The most depressing thing about this particular blog entry is that I have no solutions. I wish I did. And I suspect that people who take the time to read blogs are most likely not the people that need to be convinced. But who knows. Even a blind pig finds an acorn every now and then. So I will leave you with this definition, for those who have never looked at a dictionary, courtesy of dictionary.com:

in·tel·lec·tu·al

[in-tl-ek-choo-uh l] adjective

1. appealing to or engaging the intellect: intellectual pursuits.

2. of or pertaining to the intellect or its use: intellectual powers.

3. possessing or showing intellect or mental capacity, especially to a high degree: an intellectual person.

4. guided or developed by or relying on the intellect rather than upon emotions or feelings; rational.

5. characterized by or suggesting a predominance of intellect: an intellectual way of speaking.