A Balanced Education

A balanced education for future leaders, one in the middle between Classicism and Romanticism, could be a protection for our country’s future.  Writing this thought to my two little grandchildren in a small Chronicle Books item purchased for me, probably from Paper Source, a cool stationery store, I am making my letter a blog post.  The name of the slim writerly item is “Letters To My Grandchild:  Write Now.  Read Later.  Treasure Forever:  A Paper Time Capsule.”

In choosing an entry titled “My brightest hope for the future is . . .,” I realized anew that I have a fear for the future. My fear is the threat to Democracy that Donald Trump represents.  My little grandchildren do not have a hint of a clue about politics.  It is way beyond them that the language used by this particular political candidate disregards the tradition of restraint in public discourse.  Language is significant to knowing what motivates a person.  This is the letter I wrote to my grandchildren:

My Darlings,

You fill me with hope for our world.  At my older age as a senior, I’m witnessing something unimaginable in American politics:  the antics and bluster of a presidential candidate who seems to be unfit for holding the most powerful political job in the world.  In fact, he apparently has a thinking and language disorder preventing the high function of extended thought for problem solving, perhaps the major requirement of a national president.  That skill is the capability, the gift, the aptitude providing entree into the established cadre, those leaders esteemed for patient reasoning.  God help us if this nominee stays in the race and should wrangle a victory over Hillary Rodham Clinton.  The braggart’s name, the bully, is Donald J. Trump.

When I think of our country’s future, America, our “new” world created out of Europe, the “old” world, I believe that children like you, children receiving a balanced education, children who are recipients of deep care from parents and an abundance of love from people of integrity, that you will continue our country’s heritage of Democracy.  “Democracy” means each person has dignity and is worthy of respect.

As you prepare to take on responsibilities of adulthood, may you understand both Classical and Romantic approaches to living.  “Classical” means going by tradition: standing for established standards and things of lasting significance.  It is important to understand restraint, refinement, and formality.  “Romantic” means idealized, and expressive of love, which is imaginative and may be impractical.  Both approaches are in our human nature.  It is important to also understand your ideals and hold to them.

In closing, my two bright lights of my life, I will help you understand more about the world for as long as I live, so that you may shine as brightly as you may to light up the world.

Your loving Grandmama

2ND-TERM INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED STATES PRESIDENT, BARACK H. OBAMA

President Obama has increased in wisdom, from insights that disappointments bring, after four years in office.

President Barack Obama is one of seventeen presidents of the United States elected to a second term. January 21st is a holiday designated to honor the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968. The eloquence and passionate grain of voice of Martin Luther King, Jr. created discourse and action for civil rights. He will never be forgotten. Many Americans felt it apropros that our first black president be inaugurated for his second term on this day, January 21st, 2013. President Barack Obama is only half black, the offspring of Barack Hussein Obama of Kenya and Stanley Ann Dunham of Seattle, Washington who met at the University of Hawaii. His parents are obvious factors in the president’s commitment to the equality, dignity, and civil rights of every individual. In his inaugural speech, Barack

emphasized the old values of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” for each citizen. He emphasized that his oath of office is not that different from each citizen’s civil duty to country, that of serving country responsibly.

Merlie Evers Williams, widow of Medgar Evers, read a very long prayer enriching listeners’ thoughts

Merlie Evers Williams opened Inaugural Events with prayer.

toward the new administration spanning 2013 to 2016 under the leadership of Barack Obama. She is a gifted writer who without a doubt can speak from a heart of her race’s loss, through her husband’s assassination in Mississippi.

An openly gay young poet, Richard Blanco, read his original poetry that simply and warmly carried listeners’ thoughts to today’s ordinary concerns, commonplace concerns of people at work, notice of small elements of nature, horror of our country’s recent mass shooting in an elementary school, and more.

A hispanic clergyman of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Rev. Luis Leon, pronouncing the benediction, perfectly captured the positivity and possibilities of this inaugural moment for Barack’s second term.

Columnist Mark Shields speaking to Gwen Ifel on the evening news of PBS described Barack’s inaugural-day demeanor as “a happy warrior.” Mark’s cohort, columnist David Brooks, said Barack as a politician may be more associated with openness, progressivism, or a new liberalism for the 21st century, and yet by his personal makeup and character, he is a most traditional man, a family man, and the personalities of his two daughters, particularly how they conduct themselves in public, is admirable and noteworthy, manifesting good parenting (and likely influence by their grandmother, Mrs. Robinson, who lives upstairs). Commentators say that Barack, not having a traditional early family life, found “home” by marrying Michelle Robinson.

Michelle Robinson, First Lady, with her husband, the 44th President of the United States.

Divorce Our President? Will We Be Better Off Four Years From Now?

Journalists are writing many articles about the coming presidential election, just a few  weeks away. For many weeks, The New York Times writers have captured perceptions about the two presidential candidates. Journalists think of metaphors to use that help readers advance their thinking about the subject of voting for the president. This type of writing, objective writing, is not supposed to reveal which way the journalist would vote. Jim Rutenberg (presumably a journalist) filed one such nonpartisan article in The New York Timeson August 31, 2012 from Tampa, Florida, the Republican National Convention in Tampa having closed the night of August 30th. His article had a good hook: if Mitt Romney wins, we have divorced our president, a serious matter worth some reflection.

Former Governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama

The term “divorce” used in the sense of making President Barack Obama a one-termer got my attention, because I have never experienced divorce, having worked to keep my marriage, wanting very much to see the big picture of things. I compromised when I could not get what I wanted, and prayed hard for evolving integrity to endure together with the husband of my youth.

I believe my party has the better candidate in the big picture. A difference in me and many others who follow politics is that I entertain the idea that I may be wrong. It would be really nice to go back to a more familiar American economy in which the word “jobs” did not dominate the media. A good job is so important (that’s why I do not hold one; no goodjob available). Mr. Romney is smart and religious. He has done a lot of business over more than two decades.

After the last debate between presidential candidates finished, the wives and other family members congratulated the two men.

Governor Romney got to do some business in our most culturally advanced state:  Massachusetts. It is a Democratic state, for the most part. He may have a short-term fix. But I like Barack and I trust my party right now more than I trust the Republicans (I once voted Republican). I am not afraid of Barack’s motto:  Forward.

It is a big world. I have read a book cover-to-cover, scanned others, and read several articles about Barack’s parents and other influences. I am proud of what Barack Obama brings to the presidency: exceptionally high intelligence; devotion to father role; charisma; life experiences in Indonesia, Pakistan, Kenya; in problem-solving style an introvert, confident, and patient; and last but not least, moderate in party politics. I want to see him at work for our country another four years. I want him to be a two-termer, and we need to hold steady.

Barack greets his wife lovingly after his last debate with his opponent.

President Obama reveals tenderness for Michelle, his wife. I snapped this photo off of the TV screen as the last debate between presidential candidates went off the air.

Holding steady in a relationship can bring reward. In regard to the marriage metaphor, I have received what I ultimately sought in a life partner. In regard to electing Mitt Romney, let’s read Jim Rutenberg of the above-mentioned article “A Suitor Seeking Acceptance Must Make a Case for Divorce.” Consider this line he wrote:

“And, Republican strategists acknowledge, they have to contend with a general sense in polls of swing voters that Mr. Obama inherited an economy in dire shape, and that his policies could improve the economy more substantially if given time.” Reading this, I thought it was the best way to look at whom to elect.

 

This blog being designed for my writerly self, especially love of the essay, I am posting a recent lightweight one dealing with a strong emotion about wanting a change. I wanted to change where I live. The reason? Too many trees and wildlife. I wrote this shortly after returning from a Brooklyn and New York City vacation. I do not really want to move right now, but it was Spring 2012, I am primarily a city-slicker, and the dozens of grey squirrels and red chipmunks were madly traversing our property, worrying us, and putting some plantings at risk. But I am over it. The spring lushness and fully developed families of squirrels are not so much in my face now at the end of summer.

The essay may serve to demonstrate that desire for change can pull at our minds and hearts and feel like extremely strong pressure. I say take a deep breath and give feelings time to level out. As the British say, “Keep calm and carry on.” The good, bright things hidden behind strong, dark emotions, when one is faced with major decisions such as buying and selling a piece of property, or electing a president, may come back to awareness with calm breathing.

 

Who Wants To Live In A Forest? Not Me!

Printed on notecards. Published by Chronicle Books, 2010.

Forest, light, by Lisa Congdon

During Memorial Day holiday weekend, still thinking about the week-long Brooklyn and Manhattan vacation my husband and I had in mid-May, a gentle time of year for travel, I walked in my Memphis neighborhood. I  realized, while tuned in to my local environment, that I am sick of all the tall trees full of grey squirrels,

Sciurus carolinensis, Familiar Eastern Grey Squirrel

Sciurus carolinensis is a wild animal with few natural enemies that self-regulates to the natural food source. The squirrel is especially dependent on the supply of acorns.

Forest on notecards by Lisa Congdon; Chronicle Books 2010

Forest, dark, by Lisa Congdon, published on notecards by Chronicle Books

jittery critters that clatter down the tree trunks and scamper about yards fearlessly.

 

I’m also sick of the burrowing chipmunks who make a subuniverse of connectedness in the yards of my neighborhood, especially my own! If we say Brooklyn has an underground system, meaning the subway trains, then I say Memphis has an underground system– a separate communication system created and maintained by four-inch-small, reddish-brown chipmunks that hollow out perfect tubes four inches under any yard or garden, visiting with their reproducing relatives in nearby green acres.

Having been away from my property on vacation for a week, a week when the sun shone in Memphis and beckoned the chipmunks to come out and expand their subterranean subdivision, I feel I am fighting a losing battle. The holes in our backyard are too numerous to count. The small critters have multiplied, and the scary part is that they seem to be more intelligent than the tree squirrels. The ground-skittering pests seem to taunt us by running across the deck when we are inside looking out through the glass doors, run across the driveway when we come out the back door, run everywhere. They could actually set up house in the storerooms of the carport  by running under the doors, if they so chose!

What can be done about it? Not much. Now and then a stray cat walks through the yards, which we like. A sticky glue trap brand-named “Tom Cat” has been strong enough to hold one or two of these dozens of pests that dig up the yard, and it seems a bit cruel, if you stop and think about dying from exhaustion. A “flood ’em out” with water spray wedged into one of their main encampments was a recent strategy. Then, two large chipmunks ran out at me, gave me a fright!, and then disappeared. Strategy failed. The chipmunks still dig and disturb. The Memphis soaking rains quell the little rascals’ activity, but when things dry out, here come the invaders! I need a yard professional, it seems.

In spring in Memphis, give me a hotel-type abode. Free me from life in the renown hardwood forest of the mid-South. Give me concrete and open sky. Brooklyn, bring me to you! May I live among your high buildings, narrow flats (barely affordable even with just a few hundred square feet), streets full of purposeful walkers and bikers, and honking traffic? May my daily life experience not be dominated by worry over yard maintenance and repair of damage done by pesky wildlife?

 

President Obama’s American Jobs Act

New York Times Drawing By Paul Sahre & Erik Carter, June 19, 2011

Severe Bipartisan Disagreement

On television this evening at 6 PM Central Time, viewers heard President Barack Obama address a joint session of Congress in the U.S. House of Representatives.  The speech was not a state of the union address, but rather an urgent dealing with a stagnant economy in a time of severe partisan disagreement, a “political circus,” to use Mr. Obama’s words.   The first such speech, in the past, was about health care.  The purpose of tonight’s speech was stated by Mr. Obama to be “Put people back to work; put money in their pockets.” He also stated that our economic recovery will be “driven by business and workers.”  He asked, “Can we actually do something to help the economy?”  His plan is titled American Jobs Act.

Unfolding the specifics of the American Jobs Act legislation tonight, and it incudes writing by Republicans, the president said he will give a tax cut to small businesses if they hire, and also if they give raises to employees.  A comment by a political analyst after the speech put a damper on that– reminding that businesses hire based on business rather than tax relief; i.e., if businesses get more business, they hire.  However, Representative Eric Cantor, R, VA, Majority Leader, stated to CBS’s Bob Schieffer that he could agree with the president on small business tax relief.

Other specifics Mr. Obama mentioned were getting teachers back to work and hiring veterans.  Also, that young people need the hope and dignity of a summer job.  Middle-class taxpayers will again receive a $1,500 tax cut, if Congress passes this legislation right away, which they should do, Mr. Obama repeated many times.  He stated that he will release a debt plan one week from Monday September 12th, saying, “We have to reform Medicare/Medicaid to strengthen it.”

The anecdote about Warren Buffet added interest, in that he asked the government to fix the unfairness of his paying taxes at a lower level than his secretary, attributable to tax breaks and loopholes.  Mr. Obama stated that government should not give an advantage to big corporations who can afford lobbyists.  Instead, give an advantage to companies who put people to work.  “Keep loopholes for the wealthiest? he asked, “or help the middle class?  We can’t afford to do both.”

Talk of returning manufacturing to the United States had the sound of the ring of truth, an idea whose time has come (back).  The president wants to speed up the patent process for inventors.  He wants South Koreans to drive Fords, Chevys, and Chryslers.  He has brought together a Jobs Council for developing ideas, such as training ten thousand engineers per year so that we are competitive with China and Europe for the long haul. Just as Abraham Lincoln, in the middle of the Civil War, initiated construction of transcontinental railroads, created the National Academy of Science, and thought up land-grant colleges, so must we now let go of a rigid idea of government and look farther down the road.

Mr. Obama closed with the assurance to big business that although he will allow deregulation if the regulation does not pass a common sense test, he will not wipe out basic protections Americans have counted on for decades.  He is a definite “NO,” to stripping away collective bargaining rights.  It was an effective half-hour speech wherein the president said what needed to be said.  Some of his closing words were “Let’s meet the moment!”, and “Let’s get to work!” Bob Schieffer’s last comment was that in regard to President Obama’s tone, Mr. Obama believes the people are with him.

Happy 50th Birthday, Mr. President!

President Barack Obama has Greyed Some After 2-1/2 Years In Office

President Obama yesterday experienced his fiftieth birthday, and I hope that he had some pleasantries to take his mind off trouble in the country and the world.  The job of being the American President right now is a big one.  Having a birthday can be fun, at any age.  May he enjoy some fun in honor of his life for the coming days, and even, as a close friend says, celebrate for the entire “season” of your birthday!