Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Failure of the US Political Class

Republicans and Democrats are decrying the inhumanity of the budget proposed by the current administration as Draconian because pet projects, redistribution of wealth from those who work to those who don’t work would be curtailed, and the increase of so called “entitlements” would be slowed. 

The definition of “entitlement” is the “belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges”. Please understand that the ONLY things that American CITIZENS are entitled to are the rights specified by the Constitution. Nobody is entitled to health care, a university education, food stamps, a job, a “safe space”, a world free of controversy, free lunch, a car, a cell phone, a house, designer clothes, soda, Cheetos, alcohol, cigarettes, welfare, the Internet, a good grade, a raise, insurance of any kind, television, a computer, payments by the government for not working, disability payments, a living wage, Medicaid, subsidized housing, a drivers’ license, cable, free passage across national borders, heat, credit, respect, or a job.

It is unconscionable to expect taxpayers to continue to subsidize unprofitable enterprises or subsidies to operations that cannot survive independently. Businesses divest themselves of divisions that are not profitable. If farmers cannot make a go of operations without subsidies, so be it. It Medicaid cannot support free healthcare for persons of a certain state that the state cannot fund, it is not to the wealthier state or citizen to fund that.

Everyday I see people with physical challenges working at companies such as Costco or Walmart, contributing to their own welfare and society. Those are the people I am willing to help. God and most Americans would gladly help those who help themselves. But we are a people of “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” citizens that, for the most part, believe that people should fend for themselves. Too many people use the excuse of disability to avoid work because they don’t want to work for minimum wage. People of my generation and those that came before were taught that no work is dishonorable. Sacrifice was lauded. Making do the norm. People worked extra jobs to make ends meet. Society did not OWE anybody anything they did not earn.

Progressives preach that every human is “entitled” to basic human needs.In an idealistic society, that would be true. But we do not exist in Utopia. If society is meant to meet the needs of the most vulnerable, then society will fill the void that government does not fill.

Our republican government was not established with the expectation that the employed, motivated, educated, world focused citizenry would pay taxes to subsidize lazy, undereducated, uneducated, unmotivated, undocumented, unintelligent, disabled,  unemployed, underemployed, narrow minded, underemployed, entitlement minded people. The fact that politicians of both major political parties care far more about retaining their seats in Congress than governing with an eye towards fiscal responsibility, national security, common sense, and pragmatism means the system is broken and likely cannot be rehabilitated.

It is my greatest hope that the United States of America does not go the way of the Roman or British empires and trickle into obscurity as an abject lesson in failed governance. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Needs vs Luxuries in the 21st Century

There are reasons that affluent societies eventually fall. The people become accustomed to ease, forget the lessons of the past, lose the stomach for controversy, and believe they are entitled to luxuries. Hopefully, the America that we know and love will hit the reset button and revert to some extent to the values that created the greatest nation on earth.

There seems to be a belief among Progressives, Liberals, and apologists that every American, US legal resident or even illegal residents should be entitled to what those of us who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s  considered  luxuries.

Those of us who fall within the Baby Boomer Generation grew up at a time that was considered an affluent post WWII America. However, the affluence that everyday American’s enjoyed during those times would be considered abject poverty by today’s standards.

My husband, my friends and I came of age during a time where the average home had one telephone ( a black Bakelite rotary dial phone that was connected by a cord to the wall and then to the telephone lines outside). Long distance calls cost extra. We didn’t make long distance calls except on special occasions such as a birthday, Christmas, or a death in the family.

My family owned two cars. My parents paid cash. They saved their money to buy a new car every few years. If they couldn’t pay cash, they didn’t buy a new car. 

My family did not have junk food. We did not drink soda except on special occasions such as my Aunt’s wedding or when we visited Grandpa Copeland, or when we split one 7 Up on Saturday afternoons when Dad popped popcorn for lunch. We drank milk, water, or Kool-aid.

We did not have potato chips, candy, steak, fresh fish, Cheetos, Fritos, pizza, fast food, or desserts regularly. Mom cooked daily and stretched the meat by using rice, macaroni, or spaghetti with hamburger. After school my siblings and I were allowed 3 cookies each. 

Our house had one television with the basic channels — far less than 13. We played cards or board games or read books or visited with friends. There were no computers or video games. We played outside until it was dark. Our exposure to TV was limited. We couldn’t afford to go to the movies very often and snuck our own home made popcorn into  the cinema.

My siblings and I wore hand-me-downs and were grateful to have them when somebody with a “cool wardrobe” shared. A new outfit was a treat. We only bought shoes on sale. Yet we never felt deprived. And the fact that our parents were thrifty allowed us to go to college and travel.

Too many people living in the USA today believe they are entitled to luxuries paid for by the taxes of those of us who have worked hard, paid our dues, studied, worked crap jobs for less than minimum wage, fought to break barriers for women and people of color, endured hardship, overcame abuse or bad marriages and survived the vagaries of life. We deserve to keep what we have EARNED! If we have achieved a certain level of income through sheer determination, it is unjust to take our earnings to redistribute to those who are able bodied but unwilling to put in the same effort. Our parents were children of the Depression and knew deprivation. They were thrifty in adulthood and passed their experiences on to us. They washed and recycled plastic bags and tin foil. 

Most of those on public assistance today live far better than many of us who came of age during the age of Camelot. That is why I have no tolerance for 21st Century “Entitlements”. It just isn’t just!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Rituals of Death, Burying Mom’s Ashes & Remembering the Past

Before Mom died I never really focused on the rituals surrounding death in Western society beyond how to accurately portray mourning in the mid-19th Century as a Civil War Living Historian. While I experienced the loss of innumerable friends and family members over the years, I often grieved at a distance because of geographical distance, money, time, the passage of years separating us, thoughtlessness, not knowing what to say, or psychological inertia.

Funerals provide us with a ritual that allows us to publicly acknowledge a loved one has died, bring together the community of those who want to give love and support, to remember a life, to process the death, and give an opportunity to openly grieve. People come together to console one another and share remembrances.

Because Mom chose to be cremated and my dad didn’t want Mom to be buried in the cold, we waited until Mother’s Day to bury her ashes — approximately 4 1/2 months after the funeral. We had learned many years ago never to forget Mother’s Day; so it was appropriate to celebrate her life on this day. I was fearful the burial would serve to rip the scabs off the gaping wound in my heart and return my heartache to ground zero. But that isn’t what happened. Instead, my Dad, my brother, my sister, my husband, my parents’ neighbors of 58 years and a close family friend gathered at Mount Hope Cemetery in Logansport, Indiana to bury the urn that contained her ashes. We scattered rose petals on her grave and the beloved relatives nearby, including my baby brother Bruce, Grandpa & Grandma Conroy, Aunt Lerna and Aunt Esther. There were no tears. Dad placed the urn in the ground. I tossed a bit of earth into the hole. But we ultimately concluded that Mom wasn’t there. She wasn’t in the urn. She wasn’t in the hole. Instead she was living in our hearts and at one with the Universe. 

Over Mother’s Day weekend she gave us signs that she was in a good place. Pennies on the sidewalk or a chair; a Black Hills gold bracelet appearing on the dresser; the owner of the house next door that Mom had wanted to buy and tear down for decades coming by to offer the property for sale; and even a sign that she was looking out for the little girls who had been murdered 20 miles away in February.

The next day my husband, my sister and I went back to the cemetery to look for the graves of family members who had passed many years before — my maternal great grandparents, Aunt Kate, Uncle Mart, Uncle Al and Aunt Marguerite. That is when it struck me that the rituals of death, burial, headstones and  memorials provide us not only with solace, but also a window into the past, a reminder of those who came before. There is something peaceful and fascinating about looking at tombstones of those who walked this earth in another time, reminding us of the continuum of time, the power of the Universe, the vagaries of life, the knowledge that life is finite and to celebrate each moment we have. I am reminded to be grateful for each day. Perhaps that is the gift of the ritual. 

I love you Mom and miss you every moment of every day. But we are better for having had you in our lives and know you will be with us in our hearts as long as we live. 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Landscaping Therapy~

When we purchased our home on a rocky ridge at the edge of the Shenandoah Valley in 2006 it never occurred to us that 11 years later we would still be wondering if it were possible to tame this wild land. After much trial and error we ultimately learned that to give a perennial, shrub or tree a fighting chance at survival it would be necessary for use to rent a bobcat with an auger, create holes that look as if a herd of gargantuan moles have invaded, supplement the microscopic particles of soil that have hidden amongst the shale with peat moss, organic matter, and various chemicals, invest in native plants that flip evil deer the finger, spray fungicide and deer repellant copiously, and pray.

This spring it was decided that if we want our outdoor environment to provide the lushness we envision while we can still ambulate to the back yard / deck, it was time to accelerate the plan. Over the last month we removed the rudimentary stone walkway that had become overgrown and replaced it with a professional quality flagstone path and retaining wall that caused me to think I may have been a stone mason in a prior life.

This weekend - trees and shrubs that are appropriate for the landscape, planting zone, sun exposure and infertile soil. Plaintiff is therapy for me. Creating an outdoor space that is filled with beauty as a result of our collective vision and physical labor brings a feeling of accomplishment like no other. Whenever a plant successful roots and thrives I feel such an abundance of hope and positivity and wonder at the miracles of our Universe.

Landscaping, plaintiff, gardening, digging in the soil, smelling mulch or harvesting rocks rests my brain and soul. I completely forget about the stresses of my regular job, heal, and recharge. There truly is no better therapy.