All posts filed under: The Times We Live In

Addressing the challenges of our polarized times

A righteous warrior to the end

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — who passed away Friday on Erev Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish High Holy Day commemorating the beginning of the new year — was a trailblazer, role model, force for the rule of law, truth teller, believer in democracy, and warrior for gender equality. By any standard, hers was a remarkable life. Many accounts of Justice Ginsburg’s passing noted that, according to Jewish tradition, one who dies on Rosh Hashanah is a tzaddik, a person of great righteousness.* That seems so right when applied to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Supreme Court justices can be the most isolated and aloof members of our governing elite. But it was not that way with Justice Ginsburg. Her humanness was on display in many ways and in different places, not just in her majority opinions and in those famous dissents for the court. Stories abound of interactions with her, large and small, that had profound impacts on those in her presence. She became “a feminist icon in her octogenarian years for millions of little girls …

The struggle between tyranny and freedom

America faces great challenges in 2020. It is even tempting to call these times unprecedented, but they are not. Harry Truman, of course, made this point in very plain language: “It was the same with those old birds in Greece and Rome as it is now. . . . The only thing new in the world is the history you don’t know.” As Samuel W. Rushay, Jr. wrote about Truman’s understanding of history and the threats to democracy in the 1940s, “(H)is understanding of history provided him with a wider perspective on communism, whose assault on democracy was, in the words of historian Elizabeth Edwards Spalding, the ‘current form of a timeless struggle on earth’ between the forces of tyranny and freedom.” We have seen that struggle between tyranny and freedom over and over again here in America. I was reminded of that feature of American life during my summer break, as I read of one particular moment in that struggle as told in Edward Achorn’s fascinating new book Every Drop of Blood: The Momentous …

Choose your leaders wisely

A poem appropriate for our time, by Octavia Butler. Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought.To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears.To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool.To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen.To be led by a liar is to ask to be told lies.To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery. More to come… DJB Image by Mario Aranda from Pixabay

Taking a summer break

Here in the heat of July, I’ve decided to give the staff at More to Come the rest of the summer off. Yep — all the writers, editors, photographers, graphic designers, and those amazing headline writers — every last one of them will get almost seven weeks off with pay. Wow! What a boss!* Seriously, this seems like a good time for a break. I’m getting tired of considering all the draws being made on the U.S. Strategic Stupid Reserve, and there doesn’t seem to be any letup in sight. There will be plenty of material, unfortunately, on this topic after Labor Day. Also, there are some other projects calling for my focus, including that long-promised gap year book. So this is it until the Tuesday after Labor Day (8 September for the international readers). Well, this is it unless the feds in the unmarked vehicles and camouflaged uniforms come and lock me up, then all bets are off. Should you want to take this time and explore some of the things you might have …

The long haul

Only a few weeks into the pandemic, Leonard Pitts, Jr. — a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist with the Miami Herald — noticed a change in the behavior of certain segments of the country. In the response to COVID-19 and the question of when and how the nation’s economy should be reopened, he observed that as a country, “(W)e seem to have tapped the U.S. Strategic Stupid Reserve. The result has been a truly awe-inspiring display of America’s matchless capacity for mental mediocrity.” Leonard Pitts, Jr., Miami Herald, April 24, 2020 This is one strategic reserve where the well never appears to run dry. Heck, in April we were just beginning to draw down on the stupid. I don’t have enough patience to cover even 1% of the calls upon this reserve since then, but one recent examples will suffice. Who would have thought back in April that this administration was going to smear the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the press while the president “was praising the public-health stylings of …

Rest in Peace, John Lewis

America just lost one of its most clear-eyed, moral leaders. John Lewis — civil rights hero on the front lines from lunch-counter desegregation in Nashville to Freedom Rides through a hostile South, the last remaining speaker from the August 1963 March on Washington, U.S. Congressman for 34 years, an activist to the end, and conscience for a nation — passed away Friday night after a six-month battle with pancreatic cancer. Representative Lewis was a hero to many because in this age of nonstop blathering nonsense, he spoke plainly about the hope for an America that — as Langston Hughes wrote — is the America that the dreamers dreamed. And he not only spoke, but he walked the talk, most famously when his skull was cracked more than fifty years ago while trying to walk across an Alabama bridge working for justice.  There are many wonderful tributes to John Lewis pouring in. I recommend the statement of President Obama, who — when given a ticket to his history-making inauguration as the nation’s first Black American president …

In praise of teachers

As we debate schools reopening in the midst of a pandemic, this seems like a perfect time to say a few words of praise for teachers who work in our public and private school systems across the country and around the world. Teachers have been very important in my life. I am married to a retired teacher. One sister is a librarian (another form of teaching) as was my mother, and the other sister trained in education and used those skills in various ways with preschoolers. My sister-in-law is a retired teacher, and I have nieces who are currently public school teachers. In almost 20 years of formal education and 65 years of informal learning in the world, I’ve had many teachers — a number of which I remember very fondly and a few of which changed my life. Every now and then I find a link that sends me to Twitter and today was one of those days. Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, author, and professor who lives in Cleveland, Ohio.* She …

Tone deaf and tiresome

Daniel Snyder is — with apologies to Judith Viorst — the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad owner of the Washington National Football League (NFL)  franchise. As sports columnist Martin Fennelly chronicled back in 2018, there are many instances one can point to of Snyder’s terrible stewardship of what many foolishly consider to be a community asset. (Those who think this way definitely do not include NFL owners.) With so many to choose from, where does one start? Well, one of the worst examples could be when the team’s cheerleaders said they were used as escorts on a trip to Costa Rica where stadium suite owners and sponsors could “check out” those women topless. Then there is the sycophancy. Like other bosses who thrive on obsequious behavior from their staffs, Snyder hires sycophants in his operation and runs through coaches like — oh, I don’t know — White House chiefs of staff or press secretaries. But many considered his most egregious behavior to be his defiant refusal to consider the impact of Washington’s stereotyped racial image …

A plethora of pithy proverbs

Late last year I showcased a series of pithy proverbs — those bursts of truth in 20 words or so — in a new blog feature entitled More to Consider.* Six months later, I’m back with the ones I’ve highlighted since that original post. My love for the short and to-the-point adage comes from my Grandmother Brown, who was known to say things such as, “Some folks are born in the objective mood.” Grandmother did not have a lot of patience with folks who were always complaining and objecting to what others did.  Both my grandparents, as well as my father, always had a positive outlook and attitude toward people. I wonder what they would think of our president? Well, let’s don’t go down that rabbit hole! Instead, here are the More to Consider proverbs, quotes, adages, and sayings from the last six months, beginning with the one that is on the blog at this moment, from African American poet Langston Hughes. In this time of reconsideration of our nation’s direction, it seemed especially appropriate …

The lens is not the landscape

How did you respond when you first discovered the many ways there are to view the world? For some, this isn’t a problem. From an early age they have looked at the world through a particular set of glasses, assuming that their view is the correct one. They learn how to describe what they see in terms that others who wear the same glasses understand. And unless they have some life-changing jolt — perhaps a worldwide pandemic that doesn’t care about their nationality, religion or political ideology; or an especially graphic picture of systemic racism that refuses to be ignored — they never ask questions about the things that are not clear. But for those who see another perspective or choose to try on different pairs of glasses, all of a sudden they realize that their world view is not the only one. They have to choose how to respond. Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh describes this broader existence when he notes, “While living the life of a wave, the wave also lives the life …