Medusa Is No Myth After All

Marjorie Taylor Greene seems to have the mentality of a nine-year-old whose only mission in life is to say that all the people she doesn’t like have cooties. It’s her full-time job. She does virtually nothing in Washington for her country or anyone else.  She’s just a tantrum in high heels. JB

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More thoughts on Aging

As teenagers, many of us think we know everything there is to know about the world and the universe beyond. Of course, a young person’s “universe” is quite smaller than that of someone in his or her fifties (and beyond). As an “oldster” now I can say, while looking back, that I often thought my parents knew not nearly as much as I did (insert laugh here). Like so many others in their teens, I loved my parents but believed that they were often old fogies whose knowledge of the world was limited to taking care of our house, paying bills, and tending the garden. It didn’t really occur to me that those things had much wider consequences that my pea-sized brain could not yet grasp.

Now, of course, I see that the values I have about a wide range of responsibilities and attitudes about the world came from their experience, common sense, and an enormous struggle to help us mature into useful adults, who would never have to wear striped uniforms behind the bars of a prison cell.

Mom and dad would now be well over a century old, but the values they imparted to my siblings and me, I’ve managed to pass to many of the thousands of students I taught during my career as a high school teacher. Like so many others who have left their teen years in the distant past, I have been able to observe over and over again the metamorphosis of parental discipline from its origins of my resentment to a kind of wisdom that, if we finally understand and respect it, cannot only change our lives but also turn us into responsible adults, who pass it on to yet other generations. Thanks, Mom and Dad, and all the great teachers I had in school, for the wisdom that, at the time, was not always fully appreciated.  JB

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America’s False Idol

I continue to be puzzled by Donald Trump, or at least by those who seem to worship him.

During the 1920’s and 1930’s, many Americans both feared and worshiped Al Capone, Bonnie and Clyde, and other newsworthy criminals, who, despite tough times of The Great Depression, seemed to have the power, adventure, and money that eluded the brutal needs of those who were trying desperately just to feed their families. The undercurrent of envy in the face of very hard times was not unlike today’s struggles with inflation and the awful challenge so many working people feel as they break their backs just trying to get up the next rung on the ladder.

Though Donald Trump has, until now, escaped paying for his colossal skill at cheating the system that enfolds the rest of us, this icon of deception and apparent wealth remains for too many, a figure who seemingly knows how to beat the system for monetary gain. He is, beyond all reason, their “hero.”

His snide contempt for “suckers” who follow the rules, his general disrespect for women, his penchant for manufacturing endless lies to cover his misdeeds, and his making his underlings carry the brunt of his crimes have, in a way, divided the nation into Trump worshipers versus those who believe he should now face the music and pay for his career of deception and contempt for all those who have winked at his crimes and encouraged him to be an icon of privilege and open disrespect for all the honest suckers, who managed to build and maintain a great nation without a wall.  JB

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The Food We Eat, and The Price We Pay

I sometimes imagine that my stomach and tastebuds have minds of their own. They seem to remain quiet at a very low-key level through the oatmeal, fresh fruit, fish, and vegetables that I consume on a regular basis. However, as careful as I am (or try to be) about consuming a healthy diet, there are those moments of wild abandon when I crave something more unusual and dangerous than an apple or glass of skim milk.

For my birthday, a friend brought a beautiful, home-made carrot cake with a rich icing made with heavy cream. The chopped walnuts, carrots, and bits of orange rind led to the self-deluding conclusion that my consuming a slice would be astonishingly healthy (insert laugh here) and wondrously good for my physical and mental health.

I should have remembered the powerful but impatient attitudes of the picky and temperamental triumvirate of my spleen, liver, and gall bladder. I can only imagine that the splash landing of that first bite would cause the three to say in unison, “What the hell was THAT?”

To appease them, I immediately swallowed a One-A-Day multiple Vitamin tablet, but it was too late. The three maniacs continued to rumble and make a big, grumbly fuss until it was time for bed, and I knocked them all out for the night with a big glass of French Champagne. I knew then by the gentle sound of their snoring down there that further appeasement would arrive the next morning with a big, healthy bowl of oatmeal to leave them singing with joy until the cheesecake dessert I had plotted to have after dinner, when another internal drama would occur. JB

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The Balance Sheets of Aging

As I grow older, I (like most other people), notice mental and physical changes that are occasionally either comical or just terrifying.

I rather like the fact that my hair is gradually turning silver. The symbolism is, at least visually, a sign of wisdom, regardless of how one has spent his time in learning things. The stereotype is a charming illusion suggesting that simply being alive beyond one’s sixties is automatically a sign that those years have been spent absorbing truckloads of knowledge and understanding, just hanging around a bit longer. One week from today I will turn 78. That “extra time” to which Webster’s Dictionary also assigns the meaning of “a prison or jail time.”

I would like to believe that, however many years one lives, he or she will accumulate, along with silver hair (or a neatly polished bare scalp) a deeper understanding of the world, and especially of other people. Whenever I see someone with silver or white hair, my first thought is often about the person’s life journey. Beyond consideration of silver or white hair, I must say that the principal struggles of growing old aren’t visual, but rather based upon behavior and that winding road of change in our dealing with everything and everyone around us as the years accumulate.

My partner, Jim, a most intelligent (and mostly patient) man, lets me know when I forget something in an obvious way, like leaving a cocktail on a kitchen countertop, or asking the same question to which he gave his answer that very morning. My frustration about such things is probably just as frightening to me as it is to him. The only redeeming part for me is that sometimes, just shaking my head can erase the recollection of a recent gaffe (like shaking an Etch-A-Sketch from the 1950’s).

I still drive my car occasionally to the grocery store, to Walgreens and to visit a few friends locally, but not cross country as I was doing just a few years ago back and forth from Colorado.

This part of growing older is like moving to a strange new town daily and having to learn again each day where the rooms are and how to use the stove. When I reach that point, it will probably be time for Jim to find me a comfy room at the Fort Lauderdale Home for the Bewildered (Please insert laugh here). So far, those glitches of awareness are ones that only Jim and my other close friends notice. Thank goodness for love and patience as I move perhaps to that time of life when my journey each day may require new maps to find my way, even in my own town or my own home. Thus far, that scenario seems far down the road, but one can never tell when the danger signs may appear, and all doorknobs seem to open the same rooms.  JB

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Aging Is Not Child’s Play

Growing “old” isn’t something one notices all at once. He or she doesn’t gaze into a mirror and say suddenly, “Gee, I’m old.” A few gray hairs appearing all at once one morning  may be an early indication that one is reaching some kind of summit upon which he decides it’s all “downhill from here” or “uphill’ as the case may be.

American culture is perhaps one of the most unforgiving of that accumulation of years that can cause shudders of unrest or even disgust for some folks, even though hair color is probably the least disturbing of those shifts leading to final stages of one’s usually unpredictable time on earth. We are a youth-centered culture that has never really come to terms with aging, a part of life that should be considered mostly a time of increased knowledge, wisdom, and experience, though increasingly leaving out that imaginary comfort zone of  electronic devices, those symbols of modernity that can too easily fool us into believing that they are more important than they actually are in our collective quest for meaning and finding our way on that long human path.

I am only too aware that at age 78, though I am experiencing more memory glitches each year, none of those hijacked moments of recollection have proved at all dangerous so far. Being a codger comes with an automatic factor of forgiveness, which I plan to milk as long as possible. The time is approaching that will include, “Ah yes, poor John. You know he is getting on in years, but he can still walk into another room and remember why, and never forgets that there is water boiling on the stove for tea.”

It seems merciful to me that aging is gradual in most cases, my not yet having to wonder where I live or try to recall which is the brake pedal and which is the gas. Life doesn’t end when we blow out all those candles on the birthday cake, though I plan to have an air gun for my ninetieth celebration. Presumptuous? Probably, but presumption and daring are perhaps what can keep us going when those around us are ready to say, “Good night, Gracie.”  JB

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Some Thoughts on Aging and How We Treat Each Other

I remember that, as a child, I always looked forward to my birthdays, partly due to the fuss my family made with cakes, gifts and good wishes, but also because my un-mathematical brain told me that I was “catching up” to enjoy superior freedoms of those in their twenties and beyond.

I’m sure that all our views on aging vary greatly, based often upon entitlements at various stages, including a balance of responsibility in acting one’s age. The expectations for behavior of a two- year-old are quite different from those who are in their eighties, even though some folks in those later years can revert to infantile deportment through tantrums and demanding more attention with or without a bottle.

Self-control is something we learn as we age so that by the time we’re in fifth grade (or so) the rules are much clearer regarding tantrums and how we treat one another. “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” gives us a distilled comment about all behavior. The question “How would I feel if someone did or said that to ME” becomes a consideration too many of us gloss over when we want to justify behavior that we know, deep-down, is simply wrong as we attempt all too often to tweak or rewrite the Golden Rule to suit our own egos and needs of the moment.

Still, my most vivid recollection of the Golden Rule’s enforcement by my parents goes back to the wooden paddle, kept on top of our refrigerator after the red rubber ball on string popped off. Red became the operative word to describe our “behinds” when we misbehaved beyond the limits our parents had set with great clarity.

I still wonder how many other homes across the nation had those paddles on their refrigerators then and now, and if there was a lasting effect on more of us than any of us could ever imagine.  JB

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Dead Military Veterans Are Not “Losers”

I remain perplexed by the deep and persistent devotion shown by Donald Trump’s worshipers and the blind loyalty shown to him by vacant-eyed evangelicals, as though he were some kind of holy prophet.

There are many disturbing examples of Trump’s boorish behavior, mega-egotism, and total disregard for anyone but himself. The blind, almost religious but hollow judgments his worshipers bestow on him must baffle any truly thoughtful person. Such followers, when it comes to their total devotion to this improbable idol, remind me of army ants that, by the thousands, follow their leader with blind but absolute intent. My steady but growing prejudice about such mentally skewed folks has developed in me a profound prejudice that assumes right away that at least fifty points can automatically be subtracted from the IQ of anyone wearing a MAGA hat.

I have not heard one criticism of Trump from his MAGA puppets, regarding his comment at an American veterans’ cemetery that he saw no reason to visit or honor in any way because they gave their lives and were, therefore “suckers.” I’ll never forget that moment hearing his comment, which seemed to freeze my blood for a moment, because those solders gave their very lives in a struggle against Nazi and Fascist tyranny. The bottom line for Trump seems to be “Think only of yourself. If you don’t, you’re a dumb cluck.” In believing this, he unilaterally eliminated any form of compassion, gratitude, or even kindness. It takes me back to my absolute confusion about Evangelicals’ rapturous regard for this selfish, cruel, oafish egomaniac and his mass-hypnosis of so many of his poor, blind, gullible worshipers.  JB

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Another Year

I began 2024 this morning as I do every January 1, with a tall glass of Mimosa (orange juice mixed with Champagne). Though I live in Florida, the temperature outside is a “frosty” 52 degrees, and the solar heated swimming pool is a chilly 69 degrees, so I believe I deserve another Mimosa (or two).

Fireworks in my neighborhood lasted until around 2;00 A.M. It was my 77th time welcoming a new year, being both thankful and amazed that I’m still here. The Christmas tree is still up, sparkling with ornaments left to me by my parents and grandparents. The old and the new for me seem to have a comfortable relationship, and my wonderful partner of seventeen years, Jim, is already preparing a meal of bean soup with sausage and beef for this afternoon. He doesn’t know how to make a bed or clean the kitchen, but his skill at preparing food is unmatched by anyone else I’ve ever known. Am I lucky, or what?

As the season winds down, making way for a rebirth in this new year, I can’t help but feel thankful for everything and everyone in my life and for that abiding sense that more wonderful people and experiences are on the horizon, as the palm trees outside my window wave in agreement, like beautiful plumes in the Florida ocean breeze.  JB

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Our New speaker of the House

At first sight, Michael Johnson, our new United States Speaker of The House seems like a quiet, modest person, willing to listen and to weigh data with great care in making his decisions. At least that’s the way I saw him at the beginning of his term. That demeanor seems now to be a comfortable, if misleading, façade, masking the reality that he wants to take The United States back to the year 1950. He didn’t begin pontificating until we had already judged him as a sensible, middle-of-the road fellow, willing to see even opposing views with an open mind.

Mr. Johnson’s far-right religious convictions are acceptable to most folks as long as those convictions are not imposed upon the rest of us, who have differing views on religion, including atheism upon which I can imagine Mr. Johnson’s judgment being that of deportation or being drawn and quartered.

He insists upon foisting off on the rest of us his fantasy interpretation of the Declaration of Independence statements about religion. Among the deists of our 18th Century forefathers, were atheists, who opened the door and laid down the welcome mat to both believers and non-believers. I wonder about Mr. Johnson’s narrow, far-right Christian dictum of religion versus the many other “Christian Church” views of our nation, not to mention those of other religions and of atheists.

He is definitely not casting a wide net to embrace believers and non-believers who are not on his page. When he insists that our forefathers were “religious,” he is speaking about his own, much narrower religious beliefs, not theirs. Does he applaud religious devotion by those who are Islamic, Hindu, or Roman Catholic? I don’t think so.

This man will have to widen his view of religious devotion. He is living in a past that has since widened to embrace more religion and disbelief than he is capable of understanding, let alone accepting.  JB

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