Though I know who, among the profusion of candidates still running, I absolutely do not want to be our next president, I haven't yet decided who I do want.
What I admire in Bernie, what I've waited for so long in a politician, is that here's someone, finally, who keeps his religion to himself. It was only recently when pressed on the issue that he declared himself to be someone with no particular affiliation. In other words he's a "None".
He doesn't make it his business to make sure everybody knows that he is a morally superior human being,
...which is a big clue that Bernie Sanders is probably a morally superior human being.
The worst thing about about all the self-proclaimed Christian presidential candidates who trumpet their faith at every opportunity is that they really do believe that they are favored by God and therefore can do no wrong. Everything they do must be right because God has chosen them. Whatever they do is God's will. And if they do get happen to get caught doing something wrong, well, that's all right, too, because God - and all their Christian followers - will either condone or forgive what they've done, so with God on their side they can be above human decency.
But I believe there's another psychological element to the all support these religious candidates manage to garner: I believe there's a element of fear they instill in their followers, the implied threat that if one rejects them one is rejecting God. And who dares be on the wrong side of God?
So never mind that one candidate is as mean as a snake and another brags of his own greed and sexual promiscuity. All any of them have to do is talk about what devout, Bible-loving Christians they are to get a pass on the worst behavior.
But in fact Jesus had words for their type in Matthew 23:27: "Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs that look beautiful on the outside but inside are full of the bones of the dead and of everything unclean",
As for Bernie Sanders, he may not have the religion juggernaut fueling his campaign, but surely his strength is of the strength of ten because his heart is pure.
1. "Voters warm to candidates who are not religious", By Cathy Lynn Grossman, Religion News Service, January 29, 2016
2. "Could Americans elect a non-religious president? Bernie Sanders wants to find out", By Paul Waldman, The Washington Post, January 28, 2016
3. "Christians Cringe at Donald Trump’s Sexy Past", By Betsy Woodruf, The Daily Beast, January 27, 2016
4. What do we know about the faith of the 2016 presidential candidates?" By Lucinda Borkett-Jones, Christian Today Features Editor 21 July 2015
5. "Trump believes in God, but hasn't sought forgiveness" By Eugene Scott, CNN 18, 2015
Yesterday while the Posse and I were sitting in Panera having our usual Wednesday morning assemblage over coffee, tea, and bagels a young panhandler who's become a regular at our Panera, or at least on Wednesday mornings while we're there, wandered into the restaurant and began making his usual rounds. A tall thin pale white man who appears to be in his early-to-mid-thirties, rather shabbily dressed in a hoodie, coat, stocking cap and jeans, he roams the restaurant asking for money, lingering at the tables of the old folks, of whom there are quite a few at our Panera in the mornings, some of whom I've seen reach into their wallets or purses and give the man money before he's spotted by a member of the restaurant staff and escorted out.
Yesterday he chose to zero in on our table. "Can't you ladies help me out?" he entreated, for all his shabbiness and twitchiness sounding quite normal and well-spoken. He hung over us as we looked at him and each other in uncomfortable silence, feeling embarrassed and guilty, not quite sure what to do.
He sat down at the table next to ours. One of my friends reached for her purse.
"What, are you going to give him some money?" I asked, reaching for my purse, too, figuring that if she was going to give him money, well, I guessed I would, too.
"No," said my friend, "but I'll buy him something to eat if he wants."
We agreed that was a good idea but the man declined our offer of food and drink. He needed bus money, he said forlornly, to get downtown to the shelter. After a while he drifted away from us to keep trying his luck at the other tables until a staff member finally escorted him out.
When one of the waitstaff came by our table we asked her about the panhandler. She said he comes in every day now looking for money. She said she feels bad for him, all the staff does, and they've told him he's free to sit in the restaurant and stay warm but that's not what he wants. He wants money so they have to tell him to leave. She wondered why he doesn't just get a job. She knew they were hiring at Chipotle.
Within the half hour the panhandler was back inside and this time he was quickly escorted out. A short time later a police wagon showed up and stayed parked for a while outside Panera.
I asked the same table worker we'd talked to before if they'd often called the police on the man. She said that as far as she knew this was the first time they had called the police. She felt badly about calling the police on the guy but, well, he was getting to be a problem.
My friends and I and probably everyone else in Panera talked for a while about the young panhandler, how he must be an addict, how if he'd been a black man the police would have been called the very first time, within minutes, how giving him money would only be doing him harm, how free bus passes are available, how he must not have been hungry, how nobody needs to go hungry in this town, how there's food and shelter available for those in need, how we need more mental health resources in this country, how the guy could have at least sit in here and stayed warm if he'd wanted to, how if we'd thought giving him some money would have helped him, well, of course we would have, how none the less some people, when he comes up to their table, do always give him a few dollars, talking, talking, talking about the young man, talking away the pinging of our consciences until one of the Posse members sighed, "I guess that was our WWJD moment."
Our friend was right. And we, in truth, were clueless. Because if Jesus had been present I expect he would have cast out the man's demons out on the spot. But all we could think of to do was talk.
Have you heard about Zika? If you haven't yet I promise you that by tomorrow you'll be hearing about it, reading about it, talking about it and thinking about it.
Zika is a horrible little virus carried by a nasty little mosquito,
...that has been sweeping across South and Central America with such alarming speed that it is now predicted to be the next pandemic. And a terrible one it's shaping up to be: Zika has been causing microcephaly, a rare neurological disorder that results in an abnormally small head along with an array of physical and/or mental disabilities or death in babies born to mothers bitten by the mosquito and infected with the virus during their pregnancy. Though Zika is currently being transmitted in about 20 countries since the outbreak started last May, Brazil has been hit especially hard: since November 4,000 babies have born in that country with microcephaly and 46 of those babies have died. El Salvador, too, has been hit hard by the Zika outbreak to the extent that the government has announced a warning to Salvadoran women to avoid getting pregnant for the next two years.
The Centers for Disease Control has been urging pregnant women to avoid trips to the countries currently suffering outbreaks of Zika, though the World Health Organization predicts that the virus will spread to every country in North, South, and Central America except for Chile and Canada, as these are currently the only countries in the hemisphere where the Aedes aegypti, or some other species of Zika-carrying Aedes mosquito, does not live. The Aedes albopictus or Asian tiger mosquito is found in the southern United States.
As of now there is no cure for Zika and the only prevention is to avoid the Aedes aegypti mosquito. According to Science Daily, Emory University disease ecologist Gonzalo Vazquez-Prokopec has called the Aedes "the roaches of the mosquito world, perfectly adapted to living with humans, especially in urban environments". Spraying areas with insecticide is only moderately effective as this mosquito's habitats are so varied; the Aedes aegypti can breed in the water in a plant vase.
There have been recent cases of microcephaly in the United states, in Texas, Illinois, Hawaii, and Florida, in newborns whose mothers had traveled to to South or Central America during their pregnancies. None of the cases are thought to have originated here, though it's not yet known whether the imported cases are capable of transmitting within the United States.
But CDC researchers are already working on a vaccine and yesterday President Obama called for a speeding up in the development of tests, vaccines, and treatments for Zika. The British lab Oxitec lab has developed a genetically modified sterile Aedes mosquito capable of mating with other Aedes mosquitos and preventing them from reproducing. Oxitec is waiting approval from the FDA to conduct trials on the Aedes mosquitos in Southern Florida.
The Ebola virus was a truly horrible scourge. But Zika is a scourge with wings.
1. "Zika virus: President Obama calls for urgent action" , BBC, January 27, 2016.
2. "Five things you need to know about Zika", By Sandee LaMotte, CNN, January 26, 2016.
3. "El Salvadore's Advice on Zika: don't Have Babies", By Azam Ahmed, The New York Times, January 26, 2016.
4. "Zika virus to spread to all but 2 countries in the Americas, WHO predicts, By Emily Smith, CNN, January 25, 2016.
5. "To protect against Zika Virus, Pregnant Women Are Warned About Latin American Trips"
By Donald G. McNeil, The New York Times, January 15, 2016
...though it could well be that their parents are suffering even more.
It was the parents of Flint, Michigan who watched helplessly as their children's skin broke out in lesions and their hair fell out in clumps and they became sick with mysterious chronic illnesses that baffled the pediatricians. It's the parents who've anguished over the inexplicable slowing in their babies' and young children's physical and mental development and who are now sick with worry that their children will suffer irreversible brain and neurological damage from the neurotoxins in the water they've been drinking and bathing in.
Who in this country questions the water that comes from our faucets? And yet what parent in Flint, Michigan isn't now suffering the tortures of the dammed for having so trustingly given their children the poisoned water that their children so trustingly accepted from them?
But for all the harm done to their children, could there really be anything worse for these parents than knowing that their children's welfare was thrown to the dogs? That those state and local officials whose penny-saving safety-cutting measures poisoned the water didn't give a thought to the children of Flint?
When the residents of Flint complained about the foul water coming out of their taps they were repeatedly assured by government officials that their water was perfectly safe, while behind their backs these residents were being mocked, called "hysterical" and "The Anti-Everything Group" by the officials they came to for help. When Flint pediatrician Mona Hanna-Attisha held a news conference sharing her deep worry about the correlation between the water and the spike in the number of children with elevated levels of lead in their blood, she was publicly belittled and discredited by Michigan state officials who insisted that their own data showed that the water was safe. For 18 months state and local officials downplayed or denied every outside test, investigation and study indicating that the water flowing into the homes of Flint residents was high in lead and other sickening substances.
Clearly none of the public officials who closed their eyes to the danger in the water cared about the children of Flint, Michigan.
The grand irony in all of this is that the city of Flint switched its water source from the Detroit system to its own system using the filthy Flint River water to save money. To further save money the city cut corners on its water treatment, including leaving out the federally required chemicals that prevent corrosion in pipes.
And so the old city water delivery pipes of Flint quickly corroded, causing lead to leach into the water on its way to the homes of the people of Flint.
And now the city is about to be hit with a massive class action suit by the 100,000 residents of Flint. The city will be hit up for money to cover the possibly life-long medical problems and special needs of the children who will have developed physical and learning disabilities from the damage done to their developing brains and nervous systems from the city's lead-poisoned water.
...but in this case I can't dispute his call for criminal charges to be brought against Michigan governor Rick Snyder for ignoring Flint's water problems.
Except what good would that do the children?
1. "As Water Problems Grew, Officials Belittled Complaints From Flint," By Julie Bosman, Monica Davey, and Mitch Smith, The New York Times, Jan. 20, 2016
2. "Fouled Water And Failed Politics. Officials Dragged Their Feet as Evidence In Flint Piled Up", By Abby Goodnough, Monica Davey and Mitch Smith, The New York Times, Jan. 24, 2016
In truth all I really know about Stephen Hawking is:
2) what I learned about him from "The Theory Of Everything",
But the other day while roaming around the internet I came across an article from The Guardian with the most compelling title: "Stephen Hawking: 'If You Feel You Are In A Black Hole, Don't Give Up. There's A Way Out."
I was intrigued, and wondered whether Dr. Hawking was referring to physical black holes, those mysterious bottomless pits lurking somewhere out in the universe where space and time meet, sucking in anything that gets too close; or was he perhaps talking about metaphysical black holes, those deep feelings of dark despair into which can be lost one's hope, happiness, peace of mind and well-being?
Stephen Hawking, possessed of a superlatively brilliant mind in a body that was already failing him when he was diagnosed at age 21 with ALS, is certainly the world's expert on black holes, of both the cosmic and existential kind.
But the article was in fact about a lecture Dr. Hawking gave last year on his latest theory on black holes: whereas he'd previously concluded that information - by which he means the elements that come together to make up any physical or abstract entity - that is sucked into a black hole is destroyed, gone, lost forever, he has more recently concluded that information that falls prey to a black hole is not in fact destroyed because it's not in the nature of something that has ever existed to cease to exist. Rather, Stephen Hawking now asserts, for information that falls into a black hole there can be one of two outcomes: the information can either linger on the edge - known as the event horizon - of the black hole in a useless state or it can pop out of the black hole in a different universe. But what information that ends up in a black hole can never do is return to its original universe.
And yet, though his was a discourse on quantum physics, the symbolic - and inspirational - element of it all was not lost on Dr. Hawking. Perhaps it was for the sake of those of us whose minds exist on a lower cerebral plane that he concluded his lecture with a life metaphor : "The message of this lecture is that black holes ain't as black as they are painted. They are not the eternal prisons they were once thought...So if you feel you are in a black hole, don't give up - there's a way out."
It's good to be reminded of this by someone who knows.
These beautiful and poetic words fill me with hope, optimism, and the feeling that we human beings, most of us anyway, really want to do the right thing. It's just that it takes us time, years, centuries, millennia, to figure out what the right thing is. There are so many obstacles to overcome, so much haze and uncertainty, not to mention generations of longstanding social and religious norms, inbred, rock-solid beliefs often fueled by self-interest or, more often, the self interest of our political, religious and/or social peer-group leaders whom we humans, sheep-like, follow, thinking not or wishing not or daring not to stray.
Which is why I believe that the long arc of the moral universe is a actually more like an evolving scavenger hunt. A few people with an evolved morality and a keen conscience recognize an injustice, whether inflicted upon themselves or others, embedded in the norm of their society. These are the ones who find the cause, start the movement and bring the light, and over time the norm shifts and the law changes, and even those lagging behind the ethical curve are dragged along, kicking and screaming.
I believe the arc of the moral universe will continue bending slowly through time, past one discovered and discarded injustice at a time. And what more valuable gold could we find at the end than the words, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you".
Last week after my first viewing with my sister of "The Danish Girl", the thought-provoking movie about transgender pioneer Lile Elbe and her wife, artist Gerda Wegener,
...I was talking about the movie with a friend of my sister's who posed this rhetorical question: it's been the better part of a century since Lile Elbe received the first gender-reassignment surgery in history; what progress has been made in all the time since then in the acceptance and acknowledgment of transgender people in society?
But it was when I went to see "The Danish Girl" a second time that it occurred to me why a similar movement of acceptance and understanding of transgenders could not have taken root, grown, and spread from the place and time of Lile Elbe's groundbreaking event.
I was watching a preview before "The Danish Girl" of a trailer for a film set in a Nazi concentration camp when it hit me: the Third Reich is what happened to transgenders and those who would have advanced their cause in Lile Elbe's time. Lile Elbe's gender reassignment surgeries were performed in Dresden, Germany in 1930 and 1931; Adolph Hitler came into power in 1933.
And it was in that year that the Nazis publicly burned the writings and research library of Magnus Hirschfeld, the physician who supervised Lile Elbe's surgeries. Hirschfeld was renowned in the 1920's and early 1930's for his growing body of research in transgender and other issues of gender and sexual orientation and for promoting a growing interest in this field of study among the European scientific and medical community.
But the the nascent transgender movement of Magnus Hirschfeld's and Lile Elbe's time died along with the many millions, Jews, gypsies, Slavs, Roman Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses, people of color, gays, lesbians, transgenders, and all the others, who were declared subhuman by the Third Reich.
Nazi Germany conquered Denmark on April 9, 1940.
I've seen this movie twice already, and if it stays in the theaters another week I'll probably go see it again.
The role of Einar/Lile is wonderfully played by Eddie Redmayne, while Gerda is played, equally wonderfully, by Alicia Vikander.
,,,as she discovers herself and, supported by her wife's strength and love, transitions from man to woman.
But the "Danish Girl" is Gerda's story as well, because it's Einar's transformation to Lile that brings about Gerda's transformation as an artist; Gerda brings Lile to life, and Lile brings Gerda's artistic inspiration, and subsequently her career, to life.
And yet there's loss and pain for both Lile and Gerda in the trade-off each makes to live her life as herself. Still their love transcends the loss and pain and runs deeper than gender or orientation.
But there's more to "The Danish Girl" than the love story, which is why I say everybody should see the movie. The film presents a real ambiguity, not so much in the relationship, but in the physical attraction between Gerda and Einar and Gerda and Lile; Einar is attracted, or behaves as if he were attracted, to Gerda when he's a man, but can no longer sustain that physical attraction as a woman. Gerda, on the other hand, seems equally attracted to Einar/Lile as a man or as a woman and yet realizes that she can only have this person as Einar, and so wants this person to keep part of herself alive as Einar.
The film critics interpreted the lack of clarity in the attraction between and feelings of these two characters as a weakness in the film, but I believe it was a strength, as in real life we humans are complex and can experience all sorts of ambiguity of attraction and feeling and, as we're learning, even gender and sexual orientation can be fluid in a person. Do you always feel and think as a man is supposed to feel and think? Or as a woman is supposed to feel and think? Do any of us, when we look into our souls, really know exactly who or what we are?
The first leg of my Portland-to-Columbus trip home last Saturday was Delta flight 943, a
filled-to-the-max 2 ½ hour flight from Portland to Minneapolis.
My seat assignment was an aisle seat – for which I was exceeding grateful, being an aisle-sat aficionado – in the very last row. It took me a while to get to my seat as I’d been at the end of the line boarding the plane and just about every other person in front of me had a bag to stow. Then the lady sitting next to me, perhaps thinking that the seat would remain empty, was using it as a holding area for her stuff. So by the time my seatmate and myself got our belongings sorted and organized, I was about the last person seated on the plane.
As soon as I sat down I realized there was something realized wrong with my seat. I squirmed and shimmied and tried to settle in, but the seat listed leftward and through the back of the seat cushion protruded a great uncomfortable, though invisible, lump. I stood up and tried to pat out the problem but to no avail. I sat down again. I was uncomfortable. Very. It was a 2 ½ hour flight.
I was hit with the recollection that I’d paid over $800 for my round-trip ticket from Columbus to Los Angeles, then another $400 to get the airline to switch my return ticket from Los Angeles-Columbus to Los Angeles – Portland – Columbus. And for that price I was stuck in a cock-eyed seat with a sprung seat cushion! This aggression would not stand, Dude!
I called the flight attendant and explained to him that there was something wrong with my seat. He removed my seat cushion and saw that one of the sides of the bottom of the seat frame had come detached and was sloping downward. He managed to re-attach the piece but as soon as I sat back down the seat re-tilted itself and the cushion was still lumpy.
Now, I don’t know what I hoped to accomplish by continuing to complain about my seat. The plane was about to take off and there was not another empty seat, and there was really nothing the flight attendants could do other than to offer me the option of leaving the plane, which one of them did when I continued to complain. One of the attendants tried the seat and declared it just fine. My seatmate tried it and admitted that it was crooked but then added that the lumpy seat didn’t bother her. “But then,” she observed, “I’ve got more padding than you.”
Of course I was going to capitulate –eventually – I just needed to get a little more griping in before resigning myself to the 2 ½ hour ride from hell. However in the meantime an attendant came hurrying back and said that another passenger had offered to switch seats with me. I refused, of course, in no way wanting to make someone else take this awful seat.
“Believe me, it’s fine, it’s all right, she doesn’t mind, she’s right up there in the front row. Please,” the attendant said tersely, directing me up the aisle, “you’re holding up take-off.”
So, feeling like a big schmoe, I collected my things and dashed up the aisle – God forbid a flight should ever be two minutes late taking off, right? The passenger I’d been directed to switch seats with was a pretty young lady sitting in the aisle seat of the first row behind first class. I told her the seat she’d offered to take was awful and she really didn’t have to take it, I’d return, it was my seat, after all, and I didn’t want her to have to sit in it, either. But the girl seemed not the least put out out, in fact she she seemed more than happy to switch with me. So I took her seat, which, besides being a vast improvement over mine, had quite a bit more leg room, too. I felt like a double schmoe.
So I spent the first hour of the trip in this state of internal schmoey-ness, ticked at the airline for charging a small fortune for seats then allowing the seats to fall into a state of disrepair, ticked at the flight attendant for putting another passenger in that bad seat just to shut me up, ticked at myself for allowing it.
After an hour I walked back to check on the girl in my bad seat. I asked her how she was doing. “Great,” she said cheerfully. I asked her how the seat was. “Fine, it’s good,” she said brightly.
“It’s not uncomfortable for you?” I asked, “because we could switch back for a while so you could have a break.”
“No, no,” she chirped, “it’s fine!”
I thanked the girl for her kindness and in truth I felt relieved that she appeared not to be minding the bad seat, though I did still wonder about the whole situation, especially after I realized that the seat I’d taken from the girl was in Economy Plus – the area between First Class and Economy. That girl had given up a seat she’d paid more for in exchange for a cheaper and ‘way more uncomfortable seat. Why? Had she been so worried about making her connection that she’d do anything to make sure the plane took off on time? Was she a super-soft-hearted human being? Had the flight attendant gotten authorization to offer her compensation for giving up her good seat to take a crummy seat? ( If so, why hadn't they just offered me the compensation? I'd have taken it and shut up). Was she a saint? Was she a martyr? How did she even know about the conflagration going on in the back of the plane when she was in the front of the plane?
I called over the attendant who’d directed me to switch seats with the girl and asked her, straight up, why she thought this girl had given me her seat.
The attendant, whose bad graces I sensed I was still in, hesitated for a moment then explained that the girl in my seat was an employee of the airline, had just worked a long shift, was exhausted and anxious to get home. She’d heard from the attendants in the front of the plane about the problem in the back of the plane and volunteered her seat.
The attendant and I chatted for a few more minutes, me apologizing for being troublesome, she apologizing for the bad seat, me thanking the attendant and asking her to thank her co-worker again for me, she assuring me not to worry, it was all fine.
And so, I suppose it was.
Except that I say Delta Airlines has some ‘splainin' to do about that broken seat.
I would have sworn there was no way to improve upon the challah-and-crushed-cornflake French toast served at the Portland breakfast spot Mother's,
...until the following morning when I heaped my doggie-bag Mother's French toast with fresh fruit.
I feel like maybe I ought to let Mother's know about this development.
As Romaine had work to do on Thursday and Friday and, thankfully, the weather had warmed up and the sun had even popped out, I spent the days strolling around Romaine's Southeast side neighborhood snapping shots.
It's my theory that, because Portland is a located in a temperate rain forest where it rains much of the year, Portlanders have compensated by filling their town with cozy cafes,
... painting their houses in bright, cheerful colors.
...and adding touches of whimsy here and there to their neighborhoods.
And, of course, there are so many fantastic eateries in Portland well worth braving the rain for, such as two of my must-eat-ats when in Portland, The Laughing Planet,
...where this time I got the Chicken Paleo Bowl (don't know what the green sauce, called "Killer Green" was, but it was good!),
...and Romaine got the Korean BBQ Bowl. which she likewise declared delicious.
And then there's my other must-eat-at, Dick's Kitchen,
...where I love, love, love (and have vowed to try and make myself someday), the Kale Caesar Burger Bowl.
Romaine had the Caesar Turkey Bowl, which also looked (and, according to Romaine, tasted) wonderful.
And yet, with all the great places to eat in Portland, I just learned via a comment on yesterday's post from my super son-in-law Miguel,
...about still another Portland eatery where the fare is reputed to be to die for, Tasty n Sons.
I looked up Tasty n Sons online and discovered that the brunch menu offers such delicacies as Chocolate Potato Doughnuts, Maple Bacon Wrapped Dates and Kabocha Squash Enchiladas.
What do you say, Romaine? Is this a job for Second Wednesday?
by Patti Liszkay
Buy it on Amazon:
by Patti Liszkay
Buy it on Amazon:
"Equal And Opposite Reactions"
by Patti Liszkay
Buy it on Amazon:
The Book Loft
of German Village,
Or check it out at the Columbus Metropolitan Library
I am a traveler just visiting this planet and reporting various and sundry observations,
hopefully of interest to my fellow travelers.