Sunday, May 1, 2016

Overcoming Bias

Dueling Governors: LePage makes Chris Christie look almost gaunt.
I am tired of reading about what a racist Maine's Governor Paul LePage is. He was elected the first time and then re-elected four years later, so if anyone's a racist it must be all those Mainers who pulled the lever for him. The same can be said of Donald Trump who seems to have earned that moniker as well, although I'm not sure why. But that's besides the point; if Trump is indeed a racist and yet has risen to become the Republican front-runner in the campaign for president, blame his followers, not him. After all, he's only one man and they number in the millions.

I assume that just writing the preceding paragraph makes me a racist to those who see things in black and white, no pun intended. And just what is racism, anyway? People base their feelings about others who differ from them on a lifetime of experiences that cannot be legislated away. If your best friend was murdered by an African-American in a robbery, you might tend to shy away from African-Americans. Seems like that's your prerogative, and a visceral response can take years to overcome. The fact that our President, a soft-spoken gentleman who I imagine would not even swat a fly, is also African-American should help to quell those feelings over time. (We can only hope.)

The thing is, everyone is different and has come by their beliefs first-hand. If all people were nice to all people, there would be no such thing as racism. All these years later I still know many Jews who don't trust Germans! I am not one of them, but believe me, I've met them and they are numerous. And by the way, if your entire family was wiped out in the Holocaust by Germans and now you won't even eat a bratwurst, is that racist?

I can honestly say I am not a racist except when it comes to the obese, who sort of are like another race if you think about it. In fact, that's why I don't like Governor LePage -- he has obviously had way too many whoopie pies. Meanwhile Donald Trump is looking pretty porky these days too, as is Hillary Clinton. I say, vote for the thinnest person running.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Brian Wilson and Me

The songwriter shopping, in the old days.
I keep looking for a place to fit where I can speak my mind. I've been trying hard to find the people that I won't leave behind. They say I've got brains, but they're not doing me any good. (I wish they could.) Each time things start to happen again and I think I got something good going for myself, it goes wrong.

Sometimes I feel very sad.  Can't find anything to put my heart and soul into.  Every time I get the inspiration to go and change things around, no one wants to help me look for places where new things might be found.

Where can I turn when my fair weather friends cop out? What's it all about? I guess I just wasn't made for these times.

(Lyrics to "I Guess I Just Wasn't Made for These Times")

Friday, April 29, 2016

What Should I Do With My Life?

An article in today's paper woke me up with a jolt this morning with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson's Self-Reliance: "Prayer is in all action." The author went on to explain, "No farmer wakes at mid-morning and says, 'Gee, I wonder what I should do today.'"

That concept of mindful action hit close to home as I struggle with the quandary daily, being unemployed. (No matter how menial, a job does fill up one's time, which is one big reason why so many people want one even when they don't need the money.) And since I'm not given to prayer, at least not in the conventional sense -- dovening over a bible or counting my rosary beads -- I cast about for some sort of meaningful activity to justify my very existence.

Farmers may work hard, but in one sense they have it easy. Milk the cows, plant the crops, feed the chickens, harvest the corn. No need for yoga classes, YouTube or Game of Thrones when you've got a list of chores a mile long waiting for you each day.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Thank Yelp

Jackson, are you singing?
As I do every now and then, I checked the Internet to see if Jackson Browne, my favorite performer of all time (except for all the dead ones) would be heading my way anytime soon and struck gold. Yes, in fact, he is giving a concert right here in Portland this June! Visa card in hand, I was eager to buy tickets while I still could, but then I stopped and considered the venue: The Maine State Pier? What's that?

Turns out to be an actual pier, "a municipal-owned deep-water marine facility and music venue" right on the water in downtown Portland, where they put out bridge chairs and erect a stage and jam it full of people, many of whom pay to be in what is called the "General Admission Standing Area." Thinking that could be iffy -- a sudden rainstorm, annoying seagulls overhead, drunken throngs lined up at the porta-potties, passing trucks belching pollutants all but obliterating the quiet troubadour's angelic voice and soft guitar -- I needed more information before I plunked down hundreds of dollars for a potentially disastrous experience.

That's where Yelp comes in, the tell-it-like-it-really-is website with reviews written by real people with no agenda. And what I learned was that, according to numerous reports (certainly enough to convince me), attending a concert at the Maine State Pier is fraught with problems, including all of my imagined worries and then some.

Unlike so many of our politicians, Yelp delivers.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Country Life, In Case You Wondered

Garrison Keillor would have a field day around these parts. Like last week over at the college in Brunswick, just about ten miles from Freeport as the crow flies, a group of students had a tequila party. Some of the attendees got into the spirit of things and wore sombreros. That turned out to open up a hornet's nest, with several of the school's Hispanic students finding the sombreros to be offensive. Next thing you know the school officials are dreaming up punishments for the students who came up with the sombrero idea. Who knew hats could be racist?

The big news over in Yarmouth, seven miles south, is that the old Handy Andy's general store is now selling Holy Donuts. You might not know, but Holy Donuts are a real big deal down in Portland, a clear twenty miles away, so to be able to get them in Yarmouth is worth talking about. They put out about 250 donuts first thing in the morning and I'm not sure when the last one goes, but by noon there's not a donut in the place. The thing about Holy Donuts is that they're made from potatoes, which is what they grow up in Aroostook County here in Maine. Lots of potatoes. In fact, they grow so many that the schools close every year for a few days so the kids can help with the harvest. So it's lucky they can find a good use for them, especially since Mrs. Obama decided that French fries could no longer be included in school lunches.

We got about four inches of snow yesterday. It started at about nine in the morning and came down steady until almost three. Our vegetable garden, newly planted with peas and carrots, was completely under snow, and several of our blooming plants that were forgotten out on the screened porch didn't make it, what with the overnight freeze. But then today the sun came out and temperatures went up to where they should be this time of year, and finally the pansies and primroses that were buried under the snow poked out again, none the worse for wear.

One Teeny, Tiny Question for Hillary Supporters

Last night I watched Hillary Clinton scream at her supporters for close to an hour in what was supposed to be her victory speech after winning four out of five of yesterday's primaries in the Northeast. Shrieking is her first language, let's face it; around our house we call her Shrillary. It is beyond my comprehension how she is considered to be the one and only Democrat who could be our next president.

Hillary's entire televised rant was about how much things suck now and how much better they will be when she gets into office. Again and again she screeched about how bad life is for the poor, how pathetic things are for the middle class, how unfair it is that the wealthy get all the money. She will raise the minimum wage! College debts will disappear!! Everyone will have a job!!! Every last immigrant will be welcomed!!!!!! Instead of a wall keeping them out, she will install water slides at our borders so they can get in easier and have a damn good time doing it!!!!!!! The government will provide health care for every last person still breathing!!!!!! Social Security benefits will rise, every one of our students will be brilliant because all our teachers will be excellent, and best of all there will be no more racial bias, and in time under her rule we will all be the same color!!!!!!!!!!

As Brad Pitt so memorably asked of his Jewish recruits in the film "Inglorious Basterds," after describing how they were going to murder every last German they could find, "Sound good?" Sure does, except for one teeny, tiny detail: We already have a Democrat in office and have for the past eight years. In fact, Hillary herself was part of the current administration when she botched Benghazi as Secretary of State, and as a Senator before that. She helped create the very problems she now says she will eradicate.

So my question for the candidate and each of her compliant, complacent, cracked and confused followers is: Did you all forget that the very party Hillary claims will fix all our country's current ills is already in power and has been for the past eight years?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Please Call Me by My True Names

A poem by Thich Nhat Hanh

Don't say that I will depart tomorrow—even today I am still arriving.
Look deeply: every second I am arriving
to be a bud on a Spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings, learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower, 
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry, to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death of all that is alive.

I am a mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river.
And I am the bird that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.
I am a frog swimming happily in the clear water of a pond.
And I am the grass-snake that silently feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones, 
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks.
And I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate.
And I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.

My joy is like Spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.
My pain is like a river of tears, so vast it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughter at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names, so I can wake up
and the door of my heart could be left open,
the door of compassion.