In God – or Guns – We Trust?

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America considers itself a Christian nation. We are also a nation armed to the teeth with guns to hunt food and guns to protect ourselves from other people with guns. We tell ourselves that we have the right to bear arms based on the Second Amendment of our Constitution. To protect ourselves against the tyranny of the federal government. How’s that all working out for us now, America?

It seems to me that it’s all out of control. We have the National Rifle Association as the largest lobby in Congress. In other words, they buy the votes of our Senators and Representatives. Millions of Americans are members of the NRA. We worship the NRA instead of God. We worship our guns instead of God. We worship the Second Amendment instead of God. Protecting ourselves against tyranny has become nothing but an excuse for gun ownership.

We’ve put ourselves in the position of having to own guns to protect ourselves – from each other. Does that sound like a Christian nation? A nation of people that love each other? Don’t kid yourselves! We even let the NRA run the legislative branch of our government.

The first guns I ever saw were a rifle and a shotgun standing in the corner of my grandparent’s bedroom. My cousins and I knew what they were for. They were for hunting. That was back in the day when hunting for food was still commonplace, even necessary. There wasn’t much hunting for sport. In fact, I can hear my grandfather ask who would kill an animal for such a thing as sport?

Our gun laws are so lax that mass murderers and the mentally ill buy guns and gun equipment. What Christian nation would allow that? What Christian would object to tightening up the gun laws so that would not happen? Remember Sandy Hook? Remember Las Vegas? Remember all the rest? Now remember the NRA? Who gave the NRA their power?

We did. The supposed Christians. Who has caused the mass murders? We have. The people. We have refused to support tightening up the gun laws. See that broken window in the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas? Who caused that?

All of us Americans in this supposedly Christian nation.

#SoCS – 9/2/2017 – The Flying Fish

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When I saw that the prompt for this week was the word “berth,” I was reminded of this.

He and I got on a ship in Bergen, Norway. It had been a wonderful trip across Scandinavia, ending in this beautiful city with all the fjords. Now we were on our way to the British Isles. That meant crossing the North Sea, always rough and always an adventure. Our ship was big enough, but not too big.

We set off on our journey to northern Scotland. It was an overnight adventure. In the salon, we had assigned seats, but otherwise, we could wander through the ship. During our wandering, we found a large room with lots of seating, gambling tables, food, and a group of elderly ladies. They invited us to join them. We talked with them, played some blackjack.

The captain of the ship came into the room and invited us up on the deck. He had something he wanted us to see. He warned us that the seas were rough that night. We already knew that. We climbed the stairs to the deck. When we got to the top of the stairs, the Captain pointed toward the sky.

“Look,” he said. We did. There was a sparkly glow against the dark. We went on up to the deck and leaned on the railing so we wouldn’t fall with the roll of the ship. Out of the water lept these fish. They glowed. In the sky, they sparkled and glowed and, amazingly, they were flying. The Captain explained their species of phosphorescence flying fish. It was a sight I never expect to see again.

Later in the evening, after drinking too much creme de menthe with the elderly ladies, we retired to our berth in the ship. The next morning, those fish seemed like a dream. My hangover from the creme de menthe was not a dream. I’ve never drank it again.

 

Coal Mining, Appalachia, and Alternative Industries

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I’ve written several articles on the plight of the Appalachian people and the occupation of coal mining always comes up. Many coal miners cast their vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. They will see no long-term benefit in their chosen occupation. It is a fact that Donald Trump dropped a regulation that stopped coal mine owners from dumping waste water into rivers and streams. It is also a fact that since he became President, a deep mine about 60 miles south of Pittsburgh came online. That mine contains metallurgical coal, not thermal coal and 90 percent of the coal mined in the U.S. is thermal coal. What’s more, this mine, the Acosta mine, was planned in September of 2016, long before Trump’s election. It created about 100 jobs.

Since Donald Trump became President, about 1300 coal mining jobs have been created. Even if he drops coal mining regulation after regulation, it will only stem the tide of the loss of coal mining jobs temporarily. The rise of natural gas as an alternative source of energy has seen to that as has automation.

Donald Trump could do something to help coal miners. He could support retraining of miners and give tax breaks to alternative energy manufacturing corporations if they would locate in coal mining country. Former coal miners need stipends in order to feed their families while they learn new occupations. Firms like wind farms and solar companies could be promised tax breaks if they would locate near where the miners live. Those would be positive things that the President could do for the miners instead of making them empty promises. Alternative energy firms need tax breaks to locate in coal country because geographic access is difficult.

There is one thing that coal miners could do to help themselves. They could relocate. I understand their wish to stay in the place where they are, where their family is. My mother’s family came from Appalachia and I spent 27 years teaching Appalachian young people on a university level. Sometimes, you have to make hard choices and one of them is that you do not sit and starve in place. You learn the lessons of the past when there was an out-migration from Appalachia to find jobs.

Unless the world changes in a way we don’t expect, coal mining is a dying industry. If you are a miner or former miner, don’t die with it. There is something better out there for you.

 

Jiffy

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Jiffy How funny. When I went to the Daily Post to see what the “word of the day” was, this was a word I never expected to see. The word “jiffy” means a moment, even a second. Like “just give me a moment.”

When I saw the word “jiffy” this morning, I had an immediate flashback of my mother. My mother has been gone for almost 17 years. But, when I saw the word “jiffy,” I could see her standing at her kitchen sink, her back to me, and saying something like, “Supper will be ready in just a jiffy.” My mom is the only person I can ever remember using the word “jiffy” and it’s a good memory for me of her. It was nice, on this Sunday morning, to have a good picture of my mom in my head. That doesn’t happen often enough.

Interesting to me is that this is the colloquial use of the word jiffy. It is an actual unit of measurement in physics, computing, and electronics. It is a measurement of a unit of time in all three disciplines, this word that is very much used in the vernacular in the English language. Who knew?

 

A Fake Friend: An Essay

Not so long ago, a woman that I called one of my best friends lived in a city I had always wanted to visit. I’ll call her Maggie. She and her husband only lived there during the summer. All three of us were college professors and we taught the other nine months of the year. To my delight, Maggie invited me to spend a week with her one summer. I could manage five days away and took her up on her offer. We made our plans.

Maggie and I had met each other more than 15 years earlier when we were both students in a doctoral program at a major university. We were in training to teach on a university level and do original research in our respective fields. It didn’t take long for us to become friends. Maggie was a little hard to get to know, but over time, I thought we became good friends. We had a lot in common due to our careers and much that we enjoyed discussing. Maggie had some issues, both personal and family, that were unfamiliar to me. There were serious mental health issues in her family. She suffered from depression. That’s all I knew at the time and for years afterward.

When I went to visit, Maggie and her husband, Ron, picked me up at the nearby airport and we made our way to their home. Maggie was driving. I had seldom been with her when she didn’t drive. She was a self-proclaimed control freak about some things and driving was one of them. She seldom even let her husband drive. As we drove, Maggie complained about the big vehicles on the road. I don’t mean the very large trucks. I mean normal-sized SUVs. She said she didn’t like them and talked about their energy inefficiency, how their drivers were bullies, how they took up the entire road, and more. There I was, in the back seat of her van, the proud owner of a SUV. Something Maggie knew. I didn’t know quite what to think.

I didn’t understand why Maggie was difficult when we were at home. She talked very little to me. She shut herself off in her bedroom for hours on end with the door closed. Picked fights with Ron. If I tried to start a conversation with this woman with whom I usually talked so easily, she didn’t seem to want to participate. Ron was very quiet and only talked with me when Maggie did. I found myself wondering why I was there.

Before I took a shower on the third morning of my stay, Maggie asked me to please not wear cologne or use any shower gel or soap that had any scent. She said that all scents caused her to have headaches. I had been with Maggie hundreds of times. That was the first time she had ever mentioned this to me. She had stayed at my home. We had carpooled together and shopped together. Never had there been mention of this problem. I was baffled.

On that third night of my stay, one of Maggie’s neighbors was giving a cocktail party for Maggie and Ron and she asked me to join them. Of course, I said that I would. If it hadn’t been for the upcoming cocktail party, I was going to ask Maggie what was bothering her. Had I done something I hadn’t realized to upset her? Since we were going to the party, I didn’t say anything.

Off we went to the neighbor’s cocktail party. I met many of Maggie’s neighbors, all of whom seemed genuinely fond of Maggie and Ron. A man sat down beside me and struck up a conversation. Shortly after that, Maggie came over to me and asked to speak with me. Laughing, she said that she had been interested in that particular man. After that, I tried to stay away from him, but it felt like everywhere in the room I went, he appeared.

Soon, the party was drawing to a close. As Maggie, Ron, and I started to leave, the hostess asked me if I was Dr. Carlson like Maggie and Ron were both Dr. Smith. I saw Maggie’s face turn white. I told her just to call me Rosemary. I realized why Maggie looked so startled. Even though we went through the doctoral program together, she didn’t finish her degree. She had left the impression with her neighbors that she had and she was afraid I would blow her cover. Of course, I would never do that.

After that, we walked back to Maggie’s home and she was extremely angry with me about talking with the man she wanted to talk with. I knew that most of the problem was her fear that I would tell someone she had not finished her degree.

The night ended with Maggie and Ron going into their bedroom and not coming out. It was clear to me that I was not welcome there and I didn’t want to make Maggie uncomfortable. I got my things together, called a taxi, and left for the airport.   It took eighteen hours to get on a standby flight.

When I got home, there was an email waiting for me from Maggie. She told me that she had no desire to continue our friendship and she gave me a list of my “sins.” I wrote her back and got a nastier email in return. It was like talking to a stranger.

I still don’t know why Maggie was upset with me. She issued the invitation and then, clearly, she didn’t want me there. Our so-called friendship ended. I was left feeling like we were never friends at all. I’ve never heard from Maggie again. My contention is that this experience was a function of Maggie’s depression. Unfortunately, I’ll never know.

Trump: The Apprentice or The Imposter

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There are moments when I feel sorry for Donald Trump. Most of the time, it seems so obvious to me that he is involved in something – something – that is way over his capacity to cope. Something big. A tiny percentage of the time, I look at his face, and his pout, and wonder if he is the incarnation of The Apprentice. He is an apprentice regarding his job. No big-time career as a businessman prepared him to be President of the United States and all the complexities of that job. He could truly yell, “You’re fired,” at people as a businessman and hire another competent person to fill the position. He becomes the President of the United States and he has to justify his actions. He can’t just fire the FBI Director because, guess what, Jim Comey was investigating HIM. The Donald. That is not kosher for a President to do. Maybe it never occurred to him when he was acting out the first half of his dual role as The Apprentice or The Imposter?

Those of us who really think about it say, “Nah.” Anyone would know that. We are the ones who think he is The Imposter. I fall 99% in this category and 1% in The Apprentice category. But, is there a rule book called, “How to be President of the United States?” I don’t really know the answer to that question, but my guess is no. Many presidents rely on their predecessors for advice. Trump can’t do that. He’s too busy rolling back, or trying to roll back, every program President Obama implemented, just because he implemented it. So, he doesn’t have the wisdom of someone who was President for eight years. He doesn’t even have George W. Bush to brainstorm with since Bush has made no secret of his disdain for the President. Bill Clinton? Well, we know why he can’t talk to Clinton. Let’s not go there.

As a result, Trump is flailing around in very deep waters like a person who doesn’t know how to swim. He doesn’t know how to work with Congress. Not that Congress works. They do so little. Yes, they just sustained a terrible tragedy, but let’s be real here. They have been obstructionist for a long time. It appears that they are going to try not to be obstructionist with President Trump since he is their only hope. What do you do with a President who is so focused on and scared of whether or not he is being investigated for crimes against the State that all he does is watch Cable TV all day and use Twitter. He doesn’t appear to have much time to do things like suggest legislation. Instead, he finds it more convenient to sign executive orders, even those which mean nothing. He looks like The Apprentice.

Let’s take Trump’s recent comments on Cuba. Does this mean no one can go to Cuba? Trump would like for his base to stand up and cheer and most of them did, but SURPRISE! His remarks meant very little. We won’t really know the impact of Trump’s remarks until 90 days have passed and the regulations about Cuba are released. However, the major impact will be on any dealings with the Cuban military.

In the meanwhile, Cuban Americans will worry about whether they will be able to see their relatives on the island and cruise ship operators and tour guides/travel agencies will not know what to do about booking travel. It has looked like Trump only tackled the Cuban issue because Obama did. Apprentice or Imposter? I say Imposter with a dash of, “Take that, Obama,” thrown in, since Trump appears to be acting like a petulant child.

Then we have the tweets. The Tweetmaster. Soon, the hole Trump is digging for himself with those tweets will go all the way to China. Only The Apprentice would not realize you can’t, as President of the United States, go around threatening to fire the people who are investigating you. The tweets are becoming increasingly irrational. They sound like they are written by someone who either thinks he is King, as opposed to President, or that he is scared to death. Again, the Apprentice or the Imposter? I don’t even like him and I want to tell him just to put down his phone. Quit digging that hole. He seems to listen to his daughter. Can’t Ivanka do something? Can’t someone do something? Many of the tweets are about the Russian investigation. Doesn’t he realize he’s making himself look guilty? I’m surprised he isn’t putting the tweets in a bottle and tossing them into that giant hole he is digging for himself.

What will happen if Trump is found to have obstructed justice or other charges and is removed from office? Presumably, Mike Pence will become President unless it is found that he knew about and was complicit in some of the seemingly shady dealings going on in the White House. If Pence can’t become President, Paul Ryan is next in line and Mitch McConnell is next. Please no.

It is difficult to consider that we have elected a President of the United States who is less than honest, who may have ties to a foreign power who is our adversary. I want to believe none of it is true, but the evidence that it is all true is mounting rapidly.. The Apprentice or The Imposter? The jury is still out.

#SoCS – 6/10/2017 – US Political System

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I am tired of our political system in the U.S. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not tired of our democracy. I’m not even tired of capitalism. I support both. I am tired of politicians refusing to admit their real positions on issues and what they have really done. I am tired of lies and deceit in politics that are destroying the U.S. political system.

Although I am a news and information junkie, I’ve started tuning out the news as I listen while I work each day. We have no idea what the truth really is. We can’t even believe politicians as they testify under oath because they have no respect for the oath.

There are two things, and two things only, that give me hope. As I’ve listened to the hearings, I have heard just a few young politicians question witnesses. Not the rich, older, white men we are so accustomed to but some new names and faces. New and young politicians from both sides of the aisle. They have seemed sensible and not yet jaded. Perhaps they are our hope for the future?

My second source of hope is the American people. My own opinion is that we got it wrong during the 2016 election. I think I am backed up by the polls since the President only has an approval rate of around 36%. That leaves a huge percentage of the American people dissatisfied. Perhaps in 2020 one of the fresh young faces will run for office. Even if they don’t agree with my point of view, they will be steeped in the ways of government. Perhaps we can reclaim our position in the world and in NATO. Perhaps the checks and balances of our political system, wisely put in place by our forefathers, will work during the next three and a half years and too much damage will not be done. Maybe one of those fresh young faces can re-establish some sense of political sanity and dignity to the U.S. political system and get Russia out of our affairs forever.

Tender Betsy

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Three nights ago, I woke up, rather groggily, to a loud banging in my bedroom. I thought of my little dog, Betsy, and immediately turned to find her. She was in her steel crate, with the door open, having a seizure. The banging was her little, tender   body, stiff and jerking, banging against her crate.

I leaped up and went to her. By then, the seizure was almost over and she was in the latter stages. The paralysis that happens after. Her legs were stiff and her head and neck were stuck backward. She stayed like that for ten or fifteen minutes before she could move again. This was her second seizure that I know about.

She slowly got up and left her crate, wide-eyed and shaky. She kept coming to me, looking at me as if to ask me what happened. I had no answers. I just cuddled her. The next stage was the pacing. She paced through the house, wide-eyed and frightened for an hour or two. After that, she collapsed on the couch. She didn’t move for maybe eight hours.

Betsy is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. A breed of dog that is docile, sweet, and tender. To watch her go through something like a grand mal seizure was a horrible thing. It took two and a half days for Betsy to be Betsy again.

There is an innocence and trust in all dogs. We can’t explain to them what happens to them when it happens and we don’t know how much they understand. As their companions, all we can do is get them good medical care and love them unconditionally. We have to show that love to them, cuddle them, make them feel safe. If a person is a good person, dogs bring out the best in us.

Dogs love us no matter what we do. Deserve their love.

The Mongrel

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I already had the most wonderful dog, Eliza, a Cardigan Welsh Corgi. She was my baby, my friend, my protector. One Saturday, I went to the pet store to stock up on supplies for Eliza. Saturday is the day the pet store invites the Humane Society in, and some of their rescued dogs and cats, in case any of the patrons want to adopt a pet. If I’m there on a Saturday, of course I have to see the dogs. I am a dog lover.

As I was walking down the aisle of rescued dogs, I came to a large cage. Lying in that cage was a large dog with the saddest eyes I’d ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of sad eyes.  Something about those eyes stopped me in my tracks. I leaned down in front of the cage and there was a big dog, obviously a collie/shepherd mix. Immediately, a name jumped into my head – Murphy. I have no idea where that name came from. I sat there and talked to him for a while. He didn’t really respond. He just looked at me. There was just something about that dog. But, when I got up to leave, he looked up at me and whined. Everything in me told me to take this dog home with me.

I found one of the Humane Society workers and asked them about the dog. He was a stray they had picked up. He was hard to capture, very afraid. He acted like he had been hurt or abused. He was a biter. They were afraid he was vicious and were not sure they should even have him there for that reason. Something in my heart told me he would not be vicious with me or Eliza.

I left the pet store. I had to think. I ran some other errands. The Humane Society worker told me they thought he was an older dog. So did I. There was something about that dog that was pulling at me. He needed a home for his last years on earth. I thought he needed my home and my care. He needed Eliza as his friend. But I had never had a large dog and I lived alone.

I went back to the pet store and set up the adoption process. I was going to adopt him or at least give it a try. I just had a strong feeling it would work out. The Humane Society was going to neuter him. I could pick him up in two days. I bought a big, cushy bed for him, healthy food, a toy and chew bone, and then I went to tell him he was coming home with me. Maybe I was imagining things, but he stood up in his crate and seemed to brighten up.

Two days later, I went to pick up Murphy, his new name. I had also bought a new collar and leash for him. We walked out to the car. He was very good but didn’t understand cars. I taught him to jump in the back of my SUV. We had a 70 miles trip home. Murphy never made a sound.

We got home. I guess the rest is history. He and Eliza got along famously. I had to housebreak Murphy, but it only took one time. He lived in the house with Eliza and I and spent lots of time on his new bed, which he seemed to love. I don’t think he’d ever been in a house. He was the sweetest dog to me and became my protector. He loved my girlfriends, but he hated men. I had to be very cautious when any man was around because he would have attacked them. Obviously, someone had hurt him. During the entire time Murphy lived, that never changed though I tried.

Murphy was healthy. My vet thought he was at least eight years old which is getting on in age for a large dog. Eliza and I loved Murphy for three years. During those years, Murphy developed hip dysplasia. He had the beginnings of it when he came to us. Finally, he couldn’t get up anymore without great pain even though he was on medication. At about 11 years of age, I had to have Murphy sent to the Rainbow Bridge, but I was gratified. His last three years had been wonderful. It was apparent he never forgot the first eight years of his life, but I could always tell he was so appreciative of his last three years.

I loved that big dog. He loved hugs so much. Was Murphy a mongrel? Not in any negative connotation. He was a mixed breed but he was my Murphy and one of the most wonderful dogs I’ve ever had.

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