This old cliche’ could not be more relevant than today, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it” (George Santayana).
The current crisis in Syria is a good example of not learning from our past. The refugees that need asylum have become the Japanese, interned in WWII, of 2015. There are those that would love to round up all the Muslims in the U.S. and either ship them out or corral them. There are those that would bar all Syrian refugees from our shore, similar to what we did to the Jews who were trying to escape Germany in WWII. It is too easy to label Muslims as terrorists, much the same as we label Hispanics as illegal, blacks as criminals, those on welfare as lazy and druggies. Labels are easy, put a label on, place them in a box and we can feel superior.
Sadly this makes us no different than the Nazis who wanted to purge Germany, no different than ISIS who want to kill all but the faithful to Allah, no different than the trials in Salem that condemned to death anyone different, labeling them as a witch.
This is not who we are. This country was founded by those who escaped tyranny, religious persecution, and prejudice. Interestingly, almost every group that has come to this country found persecution, prejudice, and religious intolerance. Most survived and overcame these obstacles, but have we all forgotten our roots?
The Statue of Liberty has a plaque that reads, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” How many of our forefathers came from some other country? Unless you are native American Indian, guess what? You classify as a refugee or an immigrant.
Why have we forgotten who we are? The answer lies in several places but let me list a few.
First, we are lazy. It is easy to slap a label on anyone or anything different from ourselves and set them or it aside. Our stereotypes help us to not look at a person as a human being, but as category. The homeless are an excellent example of this. After you sit across a table from a homeless person and have a conversation, it is hard to not see the humanity beaming back at you, and come away with a different perspective. For those so adamant about the Syrian refugee issue, I would ask how many Muslims have you talked to?
Second, we are lazy. Rather than gathering facts, information, or truth for ourselves, we have become puppets to those we think have the answers. We would rather listen to those who think as we do, than to discover or even entertain a new or different opinion. Another fitting quote is from Jim Morrison of the Doors, “Whoever controls the media, controls the mind.” The best example of this is Fox News. Distort the truth, play on people’s fears, offer only one side to a discussion and you can control how people think. The number of people that rely on Fox for news shows how stupid some people in this country have become. On the other side are liberals who read only what agrees with their view, or worse get there news from Twitter. It is easier to continue with one’s prejudice than to challenge that prejudice with truth.
Third, we are lazy. Franklin Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” Thoreau had written in 1851, “Nothing is to be so much feared as fear.” We have become a nation afraid. We are afraid of people and things we do not understand. Yet, we do not want to take the time to understand , to do the research necessary to ease our fears. Instead we hide behind labels and cower. We are afraid of thinking for ourselves. We are afraid of having an open, intelligent discussion with those of opposing views. We are afraid of the truth. As Jack Nicholson said, “You can’t handle the truth.” What is the truth?
As our forefathers knew, not everyone in America is Christian, hence freedom of religion. Not everyone is going to agree with you, hence freedom of speech. Muslims have every right to be here as do Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Mormons, Atheists, or any other religious group. Everyone has a right to their own opinion, that opinion can be expressed on social media or any other soap box.
What our forefathers could not see, is a nation intolerant of any religion, any opinion, or a nation so lazy that we would be willing to forget our roots, and shut out refugees from any oppressed nation. It is easy to say I have mine, so stay out. One of our nation’s greatest symbols is the Statue of Liberty, whom some would want to see as a Statue of Intolerance.
There are those who would make Muslims register and carry special ID cards. Why not just tattoo a number on their wrists? Why not just round them all up and place them in camps as we did to U.S. citizens of Japanese descent in WWII? The mentality today of many, including some Christians, is the same as in a different time, different place, caused some to yell, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him!”
“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” America is at a crossroads, will we remain a symbol of freedom or become a symbol of suppression?
Halloween has passed, leaving three major events left for the year. November gives us Thanksgiving, then December will bring us Christmas and New Year’s Eve. These final three have one major theme in common: family, hope, possibilities, and tradition all rolled into the feeling that life is good and the future is bright. Okay, so maybe Thanksgiving is more about what has already happened, but the family and tradition parts hold.
Thanksgiving started as the celebration of a new land where the possibilities were endless. Newcomers were grateful for a place where each person had value, freedom to pursue their dreams, and follow the beliefs and traditions of their choosing. Well, in truth the first Thanksgiving was celebrated by Pilgrims who kept to themselves, took the land from the Indians, and did not want to be bothered by anyone else. Today, Thanksgiving is portrayed as either a time for families to gather together, or a day of rest before Black Friday. The gathering of family part is great unless your family is scattered and the possibility of getting together is remote or impossible. So we gather with the relatives available to us and try not to get depressed over those who we wish we could see, but can’t.
Christmas began as a sign of hope, promise, and love. Over time we managed to make it more about disappointment, one-upmanship, and depression. The days leading up to Christmas seem full of joy, the air filled with songs of family, tradition, and expectation. We are bombarded with scenes of families gathering around the fire, singing carols, trimming the tree, sharing gifts. While all the time, we start to reflect on family members no longer here, homes where gatherings never take place, carols that add to our sadness, trees looking bare, and gifts of no use. The world around us gives us an image of love and yet our reality is one of loss.
New Year’s Eve holds the promise of new beginnings, a fresh start, possibilities. We shake off the past turn our faces to the future and make lists of all we want to accomplish. It seems that it doesn’t take long for our promises to get set aside, our old habits return, and our lives are about the same as the year before.
While things may not be as dismal as I describe, the basic problem is one of expectation. Somewhere along the line we let the images of what all these events should be, blind us to the reality of what they are. Hence, people get depressed, suicide rates jump, disappointment rises. Thanksgiving is not as depicted in a Norman Rockwell painting, Christmas is not “A Wonderful Life” movie, New Year’s Eve is not the gala in Times Square. Many of us would love to go to sleep on Halloween night and not wake up until New Year’s Day.
The problem is that we have forgotten the basic meaning behind these holidays. The solution is found in the acronym KISS – keep it simple, stupid.
For Thanksgiving, this post I found on Facebook is perfect – when you wake upon Thanksgiving Day, realize you have clothes to wear, running water, food to eat, and that life is good, so just be thankful. The rest of the day can be with relatives or people you may not be happy to be around but hey, it is like going to the dentist, over before you know it.
Christmas is a little rougher to deal with. Don’t worry about getting the perfect gift, keep your gift giving to those closest to you, and remember Goodwill can use the gift you get that you have no clue what to do with.
New Year’s Eve is easy, just go to bed about 9 p.m. and you won’t miss a thing. As for resolutions, you just need one, no more resolutions.
As for the people you love who can’t join you on these festive occasions, just think Skype.
The only way to survive all of this is to accept what is and enjoy.
My two heroes in life are Mickey Mouse and Albert Einstein. Mickey reminds me to not take life too seriously and Al reminds me to question everything. While Einstein was a genius in the world of science, he seems to have missed the mark in predicting the future.
In reading Einstein’s writings, it’s interesting to see how people turned to him for advice on a variety of subjects outside of science. He thought it strange, but rarely hesitated to give his opinion. Since he approached life logically, as he did science, his responses were often illuminating for their simplicity.
In the book “The World As I See It”, Enstein addresses critics as a profession, definitely showing his since of humor.
“To see with one’s own eyes, to feel and judge without succumbing to the suggestive power of the fashion of the day, to be able to express what one has seen and felt in a snappy sentence or even in a cunningly wrought word – is that not glorious? is it not a proper subject for congratulation?”
In this same collection he addresses the condition of the world (1933) and looks forward to a better future. He states, free development“In my opinion, the present symptoms of decadence are explained by the fact that the development of industry and machinery has made the struggle for existence very much more severe, greatly to the detriment of the of the individual.” He does, however, foresee a brighter future when he says, “A planned division of labour is becoming more and more of a crying necessity, and this division will lead to the material security of the individual. This security and the spare time and energy which the individual will have at his command can be made to further his development.” He goes on to say, “…we will hope that future historians will explain the morbid symptoms of present-day society as the childhood ailments of an aspiring humanity, due entirely to the excessive speed at which civilization was advancing.”
While this prediction is optimistic nothing has changed. This could be written today and be as accurate in its observation. We have developed even more machinery to simplify our lives but have allowed our lives to be increasingly complicated. He foresaw a future where people could spend more time in the arts, literature, and the pursuit of helping his fellow man. Instead, we seem to spend more and more time keeping up with technology.
The world, or life in general, is better now than in 1933. We have more labor saving devices, better living conditions in developed countries, and more free time. The speed at which new things are brought about is astounding, and it becomes hard to remember how we survived without the conveniences we so easily take for granted. But can we honestly say that we’ve bettered ourselves?
We read about the hours people spend glued to the boob tube, how we need to unplug from all the devices we now use as extensions of our appendages, and we do not need to look very far to see those in need around us. The spare time and energy Einstein was hopeful about, have been used more to promote the individual and less to the collective benefit of all.
One condition that Einstein notes is the lack of great men, leaders, in proportion to the rise in population. He felt that this would be corrected as the world found itself better off. We now have three times as many people in the world and far fewer great men and women. The current slate of presidential candidates as Exhibit 1.
So for all his abilities in the realm of science, Einstein fell short as a predictor of the future. His hopes were noble but he forgot how as much as industry and machinery may change, the human race does not.
He was also appalled at how, “in two weeks the sheep-like masses can be worked up by the newspapers into such a state of excited fury that the men are prepared to put on uniform and kill or be killed, for the sake of the worthless aims of a few interested parties.” Maybe he wasn’t as far off the mark as I think!
Did you know there are zombies in the Bible? Okay, not really zombies, but people who came out of their graves and walked through Jerusalem. Matthew 27:52-53 says that when Jesus died on the cross, the moment he gave up his spirit, “The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’s resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.” There are two things about this passage. One, they came out of the tombs when he died and hung around the cemetery for three days before going into the city. Imagine taking flowers to a loved one’s grave on Saturday morning and running into a bunch of dead people sitting around waiting for Jesus to come out of his tomb. Second, when did you ever hear this passage mentioned in a sermon? This is a hard one to explain since an event like this would surely have been the lead story on the Fox News version of Jerusalem’s media. To my knowledge there is no historical record of dead people walking around the city, not even in the writings of Josephus. This passage raises more questions than it answers.
Another passage not often preached about is Matthew Chapter 23, known as the Seven Woes (actually in Matthew there are only six in the original manuscript). This is the place Jesus rails against the Pharisees, the religious right, the fundamentalist of the time. He not only rails against them he curses at them. Matthew 23:33 – “You snakes! You brood of vipers!…” Those are not nice words. It is interesting that the only times Christ seemed to get angry, was when he was addressing the Pharisees. When he was dealing with “sinners”, he shows love, compassion, and forgiveness. Sadly, the woes he leveled at the Pharisees, are valid today for some modern day Christians.
All but one of the “woes” begins with, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!” One begins with, “You blind guides!” Just replace Pharisees or guides with fundamentalist/religious right and you have modernized these verses.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces.” This is the first woe. Does this happen today? Ask a gay person, a divorced person, an unwed mother, an addict, a homeless person, a woman considering an abortion,or a transexual, just how many churches open their doors for them.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one,you make him twice as much the son of hell as you are.” This is the second woe. Wow, Jesus isn’t happy here! Does this happen today? Ask a Christian who drinks wine, smokes pot, plays cards, doesn’t always go to church, doesn’t read the Bible much, is divorced, or who doesn’t tithe (gives ten percent of their income to the church), if they have ever been accused of not being Christian, or at the least, a “lesser” Christian. That last phrase has always cracked me up, you either are or you aren’t, like being pregnant.
Woe to you blind guides! You say, “If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing: but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.” This is the third woe. There is more to it but it comes down to the same thing. Basically, Jesus is saying if you give your word, stick to it, don’t try to weasel out of it. One could say if your going to use the Bible as the word of God, don’t pick and choose which parts you apply and which parts you ignore. Does this happen today? I have always found it interesting how the Bible can be used as a rule book, as opposed to the love letter it was intended to be. How many people want nothing to do with Christianity because of the inconsistency of Christians?
The last three, and the one not in Matthew, all relate to making a show of one’s religion while not dealing with the more important matters of justice, mercy, and faithfulness. The Pharisees were so caught up in how they looked to the world and the rules, they had forgotten what God is about. Does this happen today? When was the last time your church opened its doors so the homeless had a roof over their heads? Or when was the last time your fellowship hall was used to feed the homeless? And I don’t just mean turkey at Thanksgiving. Has your church ever allowed any of those rooms that sit empty all week to be used for an AA, or other addict recovery meeting? If God is love, where is the love being shown to a world that struggles just to get by everyday?
The showing off of one’s religion has moved even to Facebook. How many times have you seen someone post their location on Sunday while at church? “Look at me, I am worshipping God!” Jesus would post back, “Woe to you blind guides!” And he would not be talking about your GPS.
The Pharisees set themselves up as the example of what it meant to be godly. The religious right has assumed that role today. If Christ was loving, forgiving, compassionate, and non-judgemental, where are his followers that emulate those traits?
The sun was breaking over the horizon, bringing a golden glow to the street. The sound of the waves breaking on the shore provided amusical backdrop. The air still as the wind had yet to stir. There in the middle of the street, a dead skunk. During the hours before light broke through the night, this small fluffy, black and white creature who had been foraging, had tried to simply cross the road. Fate had placed him/her in the path of an oncoming motorist, oblivious to the destructive power of a two ton vehicle.
Now the creature lay still, an impediment to the flow of morning traffic as drivers had to veer to keep from causing further damage to the lifeless body. As the sun rose higher and the day warmed, the odor from this poor soul began to waft, bringing awareness to its fate. By noon the fragrance was strong enough it began to permeate through open windows into the homes lining the quiet neighborhood. As windows were shut and the day grew warmer it seemed no one cared about the poor dead animal lying just outside their doors.
I had recently been introduced to and downloaded an app called Citizen Connect. It’s a service provided by Santa Cruz County to report problems, register to vote, pay taxes, or get information about county services. Going to the section on problems, I looked for a way to report the dead skunk. The list of reportable problems included abandoned vehicles, dead birds, pests, standing water, environmental issues, graffiti, illegal dumping, potholes, and illegal grow. I am assuming this last one meant marijuana and not uncontrolled ivy. Nowhere on the list was a category for dead skunks. I clicked on dead birds and added the location info with a message that this was a skunk. After about an hour there was no response from the check status section, nor had anyone called.
My next step was to Google getting rid of a dead skunk which led me to Animal Control. I called the main number and after patiently waiting through the automated message, I hit the appropriate menu selection. After about 15 rings and no answer, I looked at the web site again, and started dialing individual numbers for the different department heads. The general manager’s number went to voice mail, the field officer’s number said it was no longer valid.
It was time to call the sheriff. When the dispatcher answered, I explained the issue and asked who should I call to remove the skunk. The officer was very understanding and gave me the number for the County Road Department. I called them and was told they did not deal with dead animals because of the possibility of disease. They suggested I call Animal Control.
Going back on Google to Animal Control, I finally found a number to report roadkill. Dialing that number produced a voice mail, so I left a message as to where the skunk still lay and added that it was an additional hazard as cars were having to veer around it into oncoming traffic. It was now about 2pm.
Around 4pm I opened the door and sniffed. The skunk was still there. Around 4:45pm the odor had dissipated. I looked and the creature was gone. Who actually removed it, I have no idea but it had been disposed of and the air was clear.
All of this happened on a Friday. On Monday I got a call from Citizen Connect regarding my report. I explained that it had all been taken care of, after having made numerous calls to the different agencies, The man from CC said they did not deal with dead skunks and that I should call the County Road Department. I explained that I had and told him their answer as to why they don’t pick up dead animals. I told him that Animal Control actually is the place to call, even though I never did connect with anyone. He said he was glad it was resolved and glad that Citizen Connect was able to help. He said goodbye and hung up before I could react to that.
Who removed the skunk? I have no idea, but if sadly, this ever happens again, I will simply grab my shovel, a couple of garden trash bags and remove it myself. Oh, and a pair of disposable gloves so I don’t get infected by any “disease” it might be carrying. While the skunk may give off a pungent aroma, it is nothing compared to the stench of dealing with government bureaucracy.
Any place one lives has its positive and negative aspects. When you consider Australia, it is no exception. Sure there are towns like Wagga Wagga where spiders fall from the sky en masse and cover the area in spider webs. Then there are the, as one Aussie called him, “wanker” politicians like Barnaby Joyce, who gave Johnny Depp fifty hours to take his dogs back to America or he would have them killed. Yes, they do drive on the wrong side of the road, but I would have to say that for me the positives outweigh the negatives, which is why I would love to live in Australia.
The list of positives starts with mandatory voting. Anyone 18 or over must show up at a voting site or they will be fined. In the United States the voter turnout in 2014 was 36.4%. That means about one-third of the population is deciding which idiots run the country and what laws affect all of us. Maybe the results would not change, but I would like to think that the more voters who turn out, the better off we all would be. Another aspect to mandatory voting is that it seemed to me that Aussies were better informed as to what they were to vote on. If you make people vote, they just might pay more attention to what they are voting about. I am sure some Aussies just tick off a box so they can say they voted, but my impression is they are in the minority.
Another positive is mandatory vaccinations. With the exception of medical reasons, every child must be vaccinated. The U.S. has not required vaccinations, and California is still debating the issue. Even if California passes a bill, the only other states that make vaccination mandatory are Mississippi and West Virgina.
While, as I said, Australians drive on the wrong side of the road, I think I could adapt. They do have an abundance of is roundabouts, as opposed to four way stops. Roundabouts are more efficient in moving vehicles through these intersections. There are also more traffic cameras to discourage speeding. We all know that speeding is a major cause in many accidents.
They, like the rest of the world except the U.S., Liberia, and Burma, use the metric system. Kilometers, kilograms, Celsius, are the measurements for distance, weight, and temperature. The metric system, based on ten, is far easier to use than ours. When I went into the deli section of a supermarket and was about to buy salami, I felt like a dunce when I had to ask if anyone knew how many ounces were in a kilogram, but the store clerk was very friendly and knew the answer. I can only imagine the look a Safeway clerk would give a customer who asked the reverse here.
Which brings me to one of the biggest reasons to want to live in Australia. The people are extremely friendly. There seems to be a spirit or attitude that says life is good down under. Maybe because most people are in better physical shape and are enjoying life more, they are friendlier. Whatever the reason, it just felt good to be around them.
Part of that feeling has to do with their pride in being Australian. This is probably best shown on ANZAC day. This is like our Memorial Day except they do a better job of honoring those who have fallen. ANZAC day is the anniversary of the landing of Australian and New Zealand troops on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey on April 25, 1915. If you want to know more about this, Peter Fitzsimons book Gallipoli is an excellent account. The day is a combination of reverence (in the morning) and celebration (in typical Aussie fashion, a lot of drinking).
That brings me to the final two reasons to want to move there. The weather is awesome and they do drink a lot. Sydney has on average 340 sunny days per year, but more importantly, the water temperature ranges from about 66 degrees to 75 degrees. Oops, sorry, that should be 19 to 24 degrees Celsius. As for the drinking, they have more holidays than we do and therefore more opportunities to imbibe.
Given all of the above, it would not take much for me to move to Australia. Whether or not that will ever happen, I do know that just thinking about it reminds me to take life a little easier, enjoy every day, and to stay stress free.