I Don’t Get It

I can’t believe we are planning to elect people because they did NOTHING! The House of Representatives has sent bill after bill to the Senate to help the economy and every bill gets stopped in its tracks. Every attempt by the President to hire people to fill posts related to the economy gets stopped in its tracks. How can we tell if Obama is a good President if Republicans sole purpose in Washington is to prevent him from accomplishing anything? Why would we elect people who care so little about America or the American people that they will not try to stimulate our economy? How can we pay off our national debt if we don’t grow our economy? Why do we want to “tighten our belts” if we don’t have to? If you elect people who cancel my Social Security and then won’t take care of me because it might be considered socialism, I don’t know how I’ll survive. Why would we continue tax cuts for rich people who have not done one thing to help us get through hard times?

While it might be helpful to elect Republicans to the Assembly in NYS so we can see Sheldon Silver take a step back I still don’t think, after listening to Republicans talk, that I can vote for a Republican even for what could be a good political reason. Please don’t go backwards. Keep the Democrats in the majority!

House Shopping XI

I have sought out a mortgage for my “1860” house and have been waiting patiently to hear whether I am approved or not. I assumed that if you were preapproved you would automatically be approved but apparently such is not the case. From time to time my mortgage guy e-mails me a piece of paper to sign. I print it, sign it, scan it, and e-mail it back. Sometimes the bizarre language used in the contract gets the better of me. It sounds as if I am signing my life away. Then I have to call my mortgage guy for reassurance before I sign. Because this is a 203K it is quite complicated and so there are more papers than usual.

I went over all my credit reports in the spring, but since then someone has slipped in a derogatory event on one of my credit reports, which, while not true, is holding up progress. My mortgage guy says we are on track. Each time I talk to him he makes a new prediction about when the deal will be done and he suggests the results will be positive. But I am starting to wake in the middle of the night again. This has got to be one of the longest real estate deals in history. Maybe today will be the day. I am trying to pretend this is just an ordinary day, but it’s not, it’s 9/11 and I don’t know if I even want my mortgage to be approved on this day. I guess by now I just want it to be approved on any day.

“Modern” vs. “Tribal” Societies

Can modern 21st century democracies coexist with tribal societies? We are certainly obsessed with our tribal global neighbors. I consider Afghanistan a tribal nation and Iran, and Iraq and most of the Arab nations. I believe that most countries freed from the Communist Bloc have reverted to some very ancient tribal rivalries despite their current form of government. And I consider many African nations to be somewhat tribal in nature with some being very tribal in nature.

There is definitely a clash of cultures between modern democracies and societies which are basically tribal. First of all, in the latter there is no tradition of strong central government and cooperation among tribal groups. Often, in fact, there are ancient and difficult-to-resolve animosities between tribal groups. These tribal cultures tend to be very patriarchal. Women do not play any political role and are often used as emotional “chips” in power struggles between tribes. They are defiled in ways that degrade a tribal group and are pawns as men try to punish and destroy one another. These acts of defilement undermine tribal and family unity, turn tribal groups into refugees and crush whole tribes for generations. Even in less extreme situations woman cannot take on the same roles they have in most “modern” societies.

Religious differences are very prominent in tribal wars and hostilities. Groups are assigned to a sort of hierarchical caste system, in which a group traditionally “dumps” on the groups that are lower down in the hierarchy.

Even though a country like America could be described metaphorically as tribal, the groups in America are, for the most part, too assimilated to be described as actual tribes. Most of Western Europe also does not fit the tribal model, nor does much of South America. India is perhaps still somewhat tribal, with some Asian countries qualifying as tribal and some not.

We are having a very hard time coexisting with countries where the actual political structures are tribal. We want to change these countries. They are anti-modern, in other words, they are antiques, seemingly supporting political relationships which are no longer appropriate in a world which values equality of opportunity, which values women equally with men, and which, purportedly, values all religions equally. It is difficult when there is not one leader to deal with or when the leader does not represent all of the people. Old techniques like “rattling your saber” or using “bluster” to scare the rest of the world to death do not go over well because we have to take them seriously and respond, perhaps even militarily.

There is no room for petty prejudices. There is no room to hold on to past hostilities. We expect everyone to mend their fences and extend their courtesies to each other and get on with the business of business, producing and consuming and tolerating as good 21st century global citizens should. But we might be dreaming. Can we coexist with tribal societies? For now, I think, we must, but they will try to dominate and we probably will be called upon to defend our hegemony from time to time.

So Far Away

I know I already had an encounter with a brainwashed conservative nut at the auto repair shop but yesterday I had another one at the doctor’s office. This woman moved to town from Long Island. She has travelled. She is fairly sophisticated and somewhat well-off. But she is a FOX news clone. Why?

Yikes! I have never encountered such an effective news apparatus. This woman is very upset. She really believes Obama is a socialist. She spouts off about health care gone awry, but admits that she has such great health care that she doesn’t have to pay a cent. She is so worried about losing our freedoms and the government getting too big and taking over everything that she is making herself sick and will need her great insurance policy.

I hit her with all my best arguments but she said it was making her sick to her stomach and she couldn’t talk about it anymore. Well that was OK with me because my stomach was starting to ache again and I couldn’t talk about it anymore either.

How did we get so polarized in America that we can’t even speak with each other? It’s a little bit scary. I think we’re being manipulated, and some of us are being manipulated more than others. I think that woman was the one being jerked around, but she thinks it is me. Maybe if we turn off our TV’s and begin to think for ourselves we will close the gap.

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“Mean Girls”

June D___ died this week. She is one of three sisters, Harriet, June and Freida from a small town in New York. These sisters are my mom’s cousins. They were my mother’s “nemesi” (what’s the plural of nemesis?)(apparently its “nemeses”). They were the nieces of mom’s mother. Mom’s mother married “beneath her” and her family pretty much snubbed her for the rest of her life. So these girls were more affluent than my mom and, as she recalls it, they referred to her as “poor Velma.” She pretends she doesn’t think they were the “B” word (plural), but I know that’s what she thought (and still thinks) because I know those little tones mom gets in her voice.

Not only did the D_____ girls have money, they were “beautiful girls,” to quote my mom who never has felt beautiful enough. They were nicer to mom after she married my handsome and handy father. June, however beautiful, had a mental disorder (unknown) that caused her to be institutionalized from time to time. So my mother felt equal measures of sympathy and envy for June. But those other two sisters remained still beautiful and still snobby. These women are all in their upper 80’s and 90’s. I guess you don’t have to be in your 20’s to play “mean girls”.

We went to the funeral. The two remaining sisters were very sweet to mom and June did, indeed, look beautiful. Freida told a great story about June, who was not the greatest driver. She rode out of the drive-in with the speaker still in her car window, and then they all drove back and tried to bend the pole and speaker back to an approximately upright position. Children and grandchildren were laughing and crying and it was very touching. June was obviously loved. What more could one wish for?

My Soapbox

Citizens registered as an Independent, Democra...Image via Wikipedia

I still do not get the point of voters who want to switch out Democrats for Republicans in the mid-term elections. It’s not like they are switching out the President (which, I think, is where they really want to go). I guess it will allow the Republicans to say “no” better, or say “no” more often, or say “no” and mean it. But what are Republicans promising? Small government? Business as usual (as in give the lion’s share of our tax money to Wall Street and Big Business)? Is that the Wall Street that just ripped us off? Is that the “Big Business” that just left America and left us in the lurch? We can’t expect Wall Street or Big Business to fix the American economy. This time, they are the ones who broke it. “We, the people,” have to fix the American economy.

The Democrats are the party of “we, the people.” The Democrats have been the party of “yes.” They have been the party of let’s try to rein in health care expenses, let’s try to rein in unscrupulous business practices. They have been looking for ways to stimulate the economy. All the Republicans seem to be saying is “let’s tighten our belts and suffer years of no economic growth while we pay down the national debt, and let’s keep giving our money to those who already have money because we need them to save us. The Republican backlash movement is totally fueled by fear. Maybe it is time to be afraid, but acting out of fear doesn’t usually “win the day.” I say pick the Democrats, stay with them. Give Democrats such a strong majority that we actually get work done.

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Books – The Last of My Sci-Fi List

Here is the rest of my sci-fi “hits” list.

Carlos Castenades – becoming a “warrior”

The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge
A Separate Reality: Further Conversations with Don Juan

Journey to Ixtlan: The Lessons of Don Juan
Tales of Power
Second Ring of Power
The Eagle’s Gift
The Fire from Within
The Power of Silence: Further Lessons of Don Juan
The Art of Dreaming

Kim Stanley Robinson

Red Mars
Green Mars
Blue Mars

Aldus Huxley

Brave New World
Brave New World Revisited
Doors of Perception

George Orwell

1984
Animal Farm

These authors wrote books for children but they have many adult followers.

J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
The Chamber of Secrets
The Prisoner of Azkaban
The Goblet of Fire
The Order of the Phoenix
The Half Blood Prince
The Deathly Hallows

Margaret L’Engle

A Wrinkle in Time
A Wind in the Door
Many Waters
A Swiftly Tilting Planet

The Sufi Commune

A Sufi Dancer in Cairo, EgyptImage via Wikipedia

In the 1970’s one of my friends joined a Sufi commune. Sufi’s combine elements of most religions in their beliefs and ceremonies. They also believe in dancing their way to enlightenment. The whirling dervishes in Turkey are Sufis. Needless to say they were a lighthearted group. Although they were almost all hippies, they did not use any drugs. They lived in a beautiful Shaker community among all those graceful, sublimely simple and beautifully crafted buildings. Every building was a different shade of naturally weathered wood. The tiny architect in my soul could not drink in enough of it.

The commune had a huge kitchen where everyone, including guests, helped prepare meals. They had a farm, organic of course. They had a bakery. Using only whole wheat bread, honey and other counter-culture health food items, they made the most fragrant and toothsome bread, the moistest cakes, and other stellar baked goods. They also had an auto repair shop called Heart/Love or some such very non-mechanical moniker. It truly was an idyllic place.

My friend married a gorgeous Jewish-Sufi man under a chuppa made of fresh flowers and we were served a spectacular salad and other vegetarian delights after which we were treated to one of those whole wheat wonder cakes in full wedding regalia.

Tonight, as we, my mother, my sister and I, were getting ready to grate 1½ giant zucchinis to freeze for zucchini bread, I was suddenly back in the sun-dappled courtyard among the perfect houses, barns and kitchens of the Sufi commune, waiting to eat that miraculous wedding cake. Those of you who bake with whole wheat flour will understand how difficult it is to achieve moist, fluffy cake – thus the miracle.

It probably was not as wonderful to live there. There was financing to worry about, and plumbing and building upkeep and plowing, planting and harvesting. There was no air conditioning in summer and the winters were probably brutal in those lovely hand-built buildings. After all the Shakers were a pretty austere sect. There were even power struggles and arguments. But I can suspend the moment to that incomparable summer wedding weekend and just enjoy the spirituality of that elegant place and those surprisingly grace-full people.

I guess being around my mom and sister so much this summer is making me feel very communal.

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More Science Fiction Books

Search Amazon.com for wheel of time

Robert Jordan – The Wheel of Time Series
Although the plot moves with glacial slowness, the characters are engaging, and it’s a great story.

  • The Eye of the World 
  • The Great Hunt 
  • The Dragon Reborn 
  • The Shadow Rising 
  • The Fires of Heaven 
  • Lord of Chaos
  • A Crown of Swords 
  • The Path of Daggers 
  • Winter’s Heart 
  • Crossroads of Twilight 
  • Knife of Dreams 
  • The GatheringStorm
  • Towers of Midnight – not out yet 
  • A Memory of Light – not out yet

Why Glenn Beck Gives Me a Stomach Ache

I do not understand what Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, or the Tea Party mean when they say we have lost our “honor.” Are they talking about having an African American president, who they have not worked well with for one minute? They imply he is a Nazi, a Socialist, not an American citizen, a Muslim (i.e., a terrorist). These are not your garden variety criticisms, and they say more about the conservative right than they do about Obama.

They imply that the state’s rights are being trampled by the federal government, but I don’t think the states have the financial resources to fund all the things that our forefathers defined as state’s rights. If we want the states to be empowered to do all the work that is not designated to the federal government, then we should pay the bulk of our income tax to our state of residence, and not to the federal government.

No one has touched anyone’s guns, so I don’t understand where the fear of gun control is coming from.

This is the moment, perhaps, that I have been dreading, the moment when someone tries to turn America into a fundamentalist Christian nation. This is the moment when we decide if we want the Christian version of the Taliban in America. Since women lose the most freedom in a fundamentalist society, I am especially concerned.

We have, perhaps, instead of losing our “honor,” lost our center, our faith in America’s transcendence, but I really believe this issue is more economic than moral. If we can get our economy back to robust health we will feel our confidence growing. If we can, somehow, restart a robust economy that also takes climate change into account, our confidence as a nation will soar.

Let’s hang on to our center, hang on to our American can-do spirit and please let’s not get scared enough to turn America into a fundamentalist religious “cult.”

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