WAR TALK, QUiET PEACE

During most of 1954, I was part of a small team on the island of Kinman (Quemoy), located just 1.2 miles east of Amoy (Xiamen), a port city in Fukien Province on the east coast of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC). Together with the Chinese offshore islands of Tachen and Matsu, Kinmen was held by the Republic or China (ROC), — Chiang Kai-Shek’s government based on Taiwan – despite vulnerability to Chinese forces on the mainland.

This was during a time of tension called “The first Taiwan Strait Crisis 1954-55.”  Communist China stepped up artillery bombardments of Kinmen, and the ROC (Nationalist China) sent 58,000 troops to Kinmen in August 1954.  On September 3rd, we observed a huge bombardment of a small port town located on the southwest part of Kinmen.  More than 2000 heavy artillery shells dropped into the little town and port over a two-hour period.  Sadly, two U.S.Army colonels were killed during the attack.

In early 1955 Communist China forced the Nationalist troops out of Aachen.  The island was abandoned and taken over by the Communists.

All of this drew excited press coverage and political debate in the U.S.  It was happening just five years after Chiang Kai-Shek and his government fled mainland China and established themselves on Taiwan; the Korean War had been fought to a draw; and communist uprisings were afoot in southeast Asia. To get an idea of the depth of concern in America, consider the fact that on September 12, 1954, the U.S Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended the use of nuclear weapons against Communist China.  Fortunately, President Eisenhower turned down that idea

Researching conditions on Kinmen now, I find that the island is a tourist destination for visitors from Taiwan, and is used by Taiwanese as a means of entering Mainland China.  Travel between Kinmen and mainland destinations includes a regular ferry boat schedule for a 30-minute ride to Amoy.  Highlights for tourism are sightseeing, with special interest in buildings dating back several dynasties (though many were damaged in the bombardments), and surfing on beautiful beaches. There are several flights a day between Taiwan and Kinmen.

In other words, peace has broken out on the island of Kinmen, quietly and without a lot of press coverage in the United States. I think it’s wonderful that the governments of Nationalist and Mainland Chine have been able to do this.  Why didn’t I know about it before some research?  I’m something of a news junkie, so I should have been aware of such a development.

If there’s a lesson to be learned here for me, it’s probably to read beyond the front page, or the equivalent of whatever is used as a source for news.  With newspapers losing readership of actual paper, many now have picked up interest in online issues.  These online offerings often cover main stories with blue lines highlighting more information available, and some smaller stories in regular fonts.  It’s too easy to miss important information this way.  I’m trying to do better, following the blue lines and reading the small stories.

I want to hear more about peace.

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SAIGON 1973 -74 etc,

My last CIA assignment began in the autumn of 1973, a sudden, unwelcome move from a post in Europe to Vietnam, disruptive to my family.  My wife and five children moved to our home leave point near Seattle, while I embarked on an adventure taking me to the waning years of another ill-conceived venture, another creature of politics, U.S. style.

Soon after arriving in Saigon I attended  Sunday service at a Southern Baptist church, a congregation of Americans, some English-speaking Vietnamese, and the occasional missionary. I learned that the Southern Baptist Convention supported a number of brave missionaries in both North and South Vietnam.  Some would have a short break in their dangerous missions, coming to Saigon for rest and recreation.

I was attracted to this church, became a regular at Sunday services and joined the choir, attending choir practice once a week.  It was there I met a Baptist missionary named Bob, singing in the same section with him and sharing a cup of coffee afterwards. In our conversation he asked about my previous assignments abroad, wondering how I could find spiritual satisfaction in such a row of cultures.

“We found Christian congregations of a lot of faiths,” I told him, “with somewhat different approaches to the center of them all, Jesus Christ.  I started life as a Methodist, and since then have been a Free Methodist, a Baptist, a Presbyterian, an Anglican, and most recently a Lutheran.”

“Man,” my new friend commented. “I thought you were a believer.”

I did not then – nor now – quarrel with his one-note faith.  If anything, I feel envy for those who have such solid beliefs, thinking it would be more comfortable than living with questions.

Not long afer that I attended “The Seventh Annual Light at the End of the Tunnel New Years Eve Party,” an all agency dance and drink gathering in remembrance of an event some readers will be too young to remember.  As things looked dark concerning U.S. participation in the Vietnam War seven years earlier, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara thought to encourage people with his “light at the end of the tunnel” remark.  The party was a cynical reminder that the United States for the first time had lost a major war.  Combat troops had been pulled out of South Vietnam, and peace talks were underway in Paris. So much for top-level decisions.

My country has been involved in one war or another since I graduuated high school in 1945, thirteen conflicts according to one Internet source.  The necessity of our involvement in many – if not most – of these conflicts has been disputed, certainly to include Cuba, Vietnam, Panama, Granada and Iraq.  Even as I write these lines, President Trump has successfully managed the assassination of a revered figure in Iran’s political structure, General Qassem Soleimani.  His decision. calling for a drone strike that accompliahsed the deed, seems to be typically absent consultation with his cabinet or Department of Defense officials. It has raised the hackles of the usual anti-Trump politicians and even some Republicans, and is considered by some to be a call to war with Iran.

With my own anti-Trump feelings, my knee-jerk reaction is to condemn the decision.  But in honesty I really don’t know how dangerous or how needed the decision might have been.   What I do believe is that any way you look at it, murdering a highly popular Iranian figure should follow a careful strategic plan that considers the aftermath. I haven’t heard that such a consideration was made.

I just hope that somewhere in the future, seven years from now, some U.S. agency personnel will not be holding a dance with the title “Seventh Annual I’m Not Interested in Starting a War with Iran New Years Eve Party.”

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SURVIVING IN ALICELAND (DC)

The last several weeks of political shenanigans in our nation’s capitol rival the craziest-oddest-wierdest fiction one might imagine, though “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” do spring to mind.  It’s with that sorry thought that I share my feelings of despondency about our country as we enter into this holy season of Christmas, celebrating a time when wise men appeared to shepherds and a great light announced the coming of a redeemer.

In my long life I’ve come to realize that for me, despondency is equated with feeling sorry for myself.  And that I’ve been blessed through my life by people pulling me out of that self-absorption.  Sometimes it’s been the most unlikely people who have done the most good.  Christmas 2019 has been no exception.

One of the Holiday Season events that Jan and I enjoyed for more than three decades was hosting a Santa Lucia party in our home. For non-Swedish friends, St. Lucia is the Italian goddess of light, adopted by the Swedes as a symbol of light in a country dark in wintertime.  The celebration of Santa Lucia is typically in the Swedish home, when the eldest daughter arises early on December 13th, dons a crown with candles and leads her siblings to the parents’ bedroom with cookies and beverages.  The Santa Lucia festival is a large example of that sweet tradition.  Unfortunately, we’ve missed this activity the last three years due to downsizing our home.

This year friends urged us to join in a Santa Lucia festival at Our Redeemers Lutheran church in Seattle.  They saved seats for us in the back of the chapel, where I sat on the aisle and enjoyed the pageant, this one a service held in both English and Swedish.  An attractive teenage girl walked slowly down the aisle, wearing a white robe and crown with real candles, followed by about ten young girls each carrying a single candle, all singing the Santa Lucia song.

After the singing ended at the altar, Lucia’s girl attendants filed back down the aisle, standing there quietly for about ten minutes of further ceremonies at the altar.  The leader of this procession was an angelic blonde girl about five years old, like the other attendants dressed in a white robe with a tinsel crown.  The lights over the pews were off, so the main lighting came from their candles and those at the front.

I watched this lovely young girl stand remarkably still as the ceremony continued and her candle burned.  She spent the first five minutes staring at the candle flame, her expressions reflecting thoughts mysterious to me, but apparently a range from deep to amusing.  Having completed that half of her stationary time, she turned her attention to those seated nearby.  Part of that settled on a boy about her own age, who she favored by balling up some of the wax in her candleholder and throwing it at him.  Beyond that she solemnly studied me and my neighbors, and finally started looking for the signal to lead the procession out of the chapel.  As remarkably poised as she was for most of that time, she after all was a five-year old girl.

That was the signal I needed to remind me that however dark a situation might be, there is always hope.  In whatever form, a renewal is possible.  This year it was a young girl with a candle who showed me once again that there are lights in the darkness, even in the situation we find ourselves with our nation.

And that is my Christmas message to all my good friends, along with good wishes for a wonderful New Year.

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NONAGENARIAN

That’s me. In my nineties.  I’m here thanks to good genes, good doctors, and a wife who made me stop smoking before she’d marry me.

I’m here with memories and regrets. Today I’m thinking how it’s only God who can determine how much longer I’ll be on this planet called Earth, and that makes me regret not being able to know how things will turn out.  I regret not being able to know the developing lives of my grandchildren and great-grandchildren, nor if the sea level really will really rise twenty feet after Greenland ice melts.  In other words, I cannot see into the future.

Call me an old curmudgeon, but I worry about the future for The United States   We’re said to be living under the longest surviving constitution in the world, made possible by the ability to make amendments, some twenty-seven since it was ratified in 1791.  A Martian presently visiting our planet might conclude that there are only two amendments to our founding document: the First and Second.  The little creature from Mars could  understand from the media that the First Amendment has to do with free speech (actually includes freedom of religion and the press) and that the Second Amendment concerns the right of the individual to keep and bear arms.

I mention the First and Second amendments because of current political tensions about them that rock a media all too hungry for news during the run-up to the 2020 election. The political drumbeats are wearing me out.  The signatories to our constitution were men of reason, many of whom had to ride long distances on horseback to discuss and govern.  Can my readers imagine today’s congress and administration being able to discuss a new amendment to the constitution?  It’s always been difficult; in today’s world of politics, politics, politics instead of policy making, I believe it would be impossible.

A couple of my respondents have suggested that I’m too pessimistic, mentioning that one still sees acts of kindness in our society.  That’s true, but how many do you see in Congress?  Other than rote statements written by his staff, how much kindness do you see in President Trump’s style of governing?

So I’m an old curmudgeon.  Pessimism is part of my job description.  But I’d sure like to see a 2020 election bringing people of reason to govern our country, and some sign that the United States will continue into the future as the oldest country still functioning under the oldest constitution

Make me happy.

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     AURAS, VISIONS, AND NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCES

As Jan and I were sitting together on a recent evening, reading separately, she asked if I could guess what eighty-year-olds mostly think about   I hadn’t a clue, so she told me what she’d just read: death.  A short time later we had occasion to think more than usual about the topic because we had a guest who knows much about that and other things in this title.  That’s because she has an inborn trait, educational studies through graduate school, and experience with such things

But first, let me tell you about my experience with the paranormal.  My late wife, Eunice, suffered a cardiac arrest in 1974, saved  after  forty-five minutes of CPR and professional help that kept her heart beating artificially. I sat at her hospital bedside for five days as she lay in a coma with many tubes attached and a full facemask for oxygen.  She never moved or showed any other activity.

On the third day I saw tears running down her face.  Her eyes opened, she looked at me and said “I love you.  But there are so many people over there, so many pople.”   With that she dropped back into the coma, awakening after another couple of days.  Somewhat debilitated by a lack of oxygen during the cardiac event, Eunice lived twelve more years before succumbing to another cardiac arrest.  She was rarely happy during that time, often regretting her recovery from the first cardiac arrest.  The reason: she wanted to return to the real peace she found while in that near-death experience.

Elke Macartney, our visiting friend, had a similar experience watching her husband while he was on the other side of death.  For her that side of death is so real that she was the intermediary in arranging for an acquaintance to talk with a recently departed dear friend.

That is only part of Elke’s experiences with the occult.  As a little girl she saw colored auras around everyone.  Her parents convinced her that this was no more than childhood imaginations.  The auras went away until she was twenty-one years old, and have been there through her sixties in age.  Elke says she can tell much about a person by observing their aura.  Sometime she also sees the figures we think of as ghosts, describing them as lost souls.

In life Elke is a regular, nice, convincing person, extremely bright with a career focused on helping others through counseling, coaching, leading seminars and writing very well about dealing with problems of life and how to solve them.

I imagine that many of my readers are disbelievers when hearing about the paranormal, or reading the experiences above.  Having written this, I think it’s only fair that I end by informing you about my beliefs regarding Elke and the information she shares concerning the spiirit life.  Before I witnessed Eunice’s near-death experience I scoffed at stories of the paranormal.  With a university degree in biology, my scientific mind told me not to accept such unproven claims.

Now most of my long life has been involved with people more than science.  Hearing Elke talk so intelligently about her life in the spirit realm, having experienced Eunice’s cardiac event, I’m tempted to believe at least parts of the paranormal that are widely discussed.

So I think of myself as neutral on these matters, neither a believer nor non-believer.  But it’s hard to stay negative about them when I remember Eunice’s tears of sadness at being saved during her cardiac event, brought back from a place she wanted to be, a place she thought of as truly peaceful.

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 ONE PLUS ONE EQUALS ONE

Bear with me.  I’ll explain the math in a moment.

Those of us fortunate enough to still be living at an advanced age are less fortunate in that we have fewer and fewer friends   The losses of those who depart the earth accelerate, then taper off as the number of friends dwindles.  Each loss hurts, some more than others.

As this edition of “Saturday with Vaughn” is posted, I will be attending a funeral service for my oldest and dearly held friend Ramon Gould.

I was in my early high school years when a new church came to our Seattle neighborhood, along with the founding of a Methodist Youth Fellowship. The MYF group was led by a unique couple, Cecil and Grace Bullock.  Cecil was Vice-Principal of Roosevelt High School at the time; Grace was a University of Washington graduate in music and an unusually fine singer.  She led the choir in the new church, and Cecil was the organist.  They recruited members of the MYF group for the choir, further cementing relationships growing in that young group.  Ray Gould was a bass in the choir and first president of the MYF, while I was a tenor  and followed him in that position.

It was not long before we all noted that Ray was partnering  with Sue. a fine young girl member of the MYF.  I can’t certainly remember Sue’s maiden name, lost to memory when she and Ray married during their college years.

And that is how one and one became one.  I have never known married friends more devoted to each other and their children. Nor have I ever known a couple more devoted to the welfare of their community and state.   During their time on earth with us, they served in more capacities than I can list completely here.  Among those in my memory for Sue are being a strong supporter and member of the League of Women Voters and  the Edmonds School Board; and she was a two-term State Senator as one of the earliest women to break into that traditionally male group.   Ray served as an Edmonds City Councilman, a Charter Board Member of Community College District 5, and was on a Sound Transit Citiizens Oversight Panel.  He was also an ardent fly-fisherman, and built highly valued bamboo fly rods.

The particulars of their community service are less important than the obvious dedication to others.  That they accomplished that and continued to be outstanding parents, neighbors and friends, stands as an example for all of us at a time when civility and common decency have all but disappeared.   I pray that there are others like Ray Gould,  others like the Ray and Sue team, who will step forward and help take us back to an era of civility and good governance.

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 MY FRIEND DAVE – AT IT AGAIN

In March 2018 I posted a blog titled “My Friend Dave. ”  Dave is an old friend in both of the meanings:.  Our friendship began in Taiwan sixty-six years ago.  The resson for my writing about him last year was to tell readers about Dave’s community and political activism, which exceed those of anyone I know

Dave’s  action on matters affecting the welfare of his fellow citizens shows little sign of slowing down.  What sparked my interest in writing this blog were articles he published in a a couple of local newspapers about marching with 5thDistrict Democrats in the North Bend 2012 Mt Si Festival Parade.  The most newsworthy part of the event was that Governor (and U.S. Presidential candidate) Jay Inslee marched along with the Democrats in the parade. There were not many in that group, offering each an opportunity to chat with the Governor.

It will be no surprise to readers that those chats centered on global warming.  I had the pleasure of enjoying lunch with Dave after that event, when he spoke of Inslee’s passion, “a real prophet on the subject” as Dave has described him.  Jay Inslee has been in the forefront in calling for notional and international attention to the cycle of heat waves, drought, wild fires, flooding and cyclones, moving ever upward in severity. Now Governor Inslee is using his campaign for the presidency as a platform calling for action on global warming.

As a resident of Washington State I feel pride in our Governor ‘s leadership, calling attention both to the problem and the need of action for steps that can be taken to save out planet.  Ironically, we in Washington State suffer less than those in many other states from the extreme results of global warming.  But Jan and I have a home in Ferndale, Washington, which is  a waterfront cabin facing the San Juan Islands. Located on a long, low-lying spit of land, It is subject to occasional damaging storms that come at high tides, tides that are getting higher.  Our problem is a minor example of what we face if nothing is done.

The gradual rise in sea level is a direct result of global warming. This is caused both by the expansion of salt water as the sea is warmed by higher temperatures, and by the melting of arctic ice and glaciers.  We have already had seawater spill over our property and onto a road behind us.  It will not take much more rise in sea level for that to become a common occurrence.

It might be a generation before that’s a problem.  But if nothing is done about global warming it’s pretty much a certainty.  And what awful results will be seen as extreme weather grows in severity?  I’m proud of Governor Inslee for leading the charge for action on global warning.  I think we all need to listen to his message and do what we can to support his efforts.

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FAMILIES, CLANS, TRIBES AND NATIONS

“They’re being tribal again.”  —  “Does he really belong to that tribe?”

Wonderful.  Politicians in the nation’s capitol have rediscovered s word they can use to lob at each other in the internecine conflict that defines our current congress and administration,  As usual, the print and TV media add their obsession with a term that has caught imaginations.

I probably should be happy with whoever started that fad, since it sent me looking into its usage and how it fits into related words.  In a really simplified description, the ascending words are:

  • Family – parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins – in other words blood relations
  • Clan — an extended family
  • Tribe – a group of clans that share basic cultures and beliefs
  • Nation – a group of tribes

These thoughts about the building blocks of society have come to me as Jan and I spend most of the summer at a beach house, a setting on salt water with lovely views of mountains and sea.  It’s a setting that is sunny more often than not at this time of year, with a comfortable veranda and seating for a lot of people.

It’s a setting that is conducive to conversations that find comfort and trust in the surroundings, often about family.  They can be more open, more frank, more emotional.than in our Edmonds home.  Taking part and listening to this talk at my advanced age, I find myself placed in the role of patriarch of our family, receiving expressions of respect but realistic in understanding that the position is given to the oldest in the family who is still functioning at a somewhat useful level.  Ten years younger than I, Jan lends a woman’s perspective, along with the experience of more than twenty years of teaching in public schools, and a year’s study of the art of counseling.

A recent example of these conversations was in the afterglow of a party, just Jan and I with a young married couple.  He’s part of our family, she from another clan. We knew him fairly well, she not so well because of a sweet but shy personality.  On that warm evening on the veranda, the moon reflected in waters between us and the San Juan islands, they both offered their histories as we had not known them.  Both had experienced some tough childhood years that continue to influence them; both were seeking answers and help in moving forward with their lives.

I hope they learned something from ideas Jan and I shared that evening.  I know I learned something.  I was struck most of all by the responsibilities we older folk have towards those in following generations.  Somehow we have drifted away from frequent contacts with family members, stopped hosting what was once a traditional marker–- the Sunday dinner. “Blue Bloods,” a long-running TV series centered on a large police family in New York City, features a Sunday dinner in each episode, a productive time for family unity.  We watch it with envy, not able to organize such an affair for our widespread family.

These thoughts have encouraged me to find more ways for meaningful contacts with family members.  As a patriarch it’s my duty.  As a person of advanced age (old), “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Weak or not, I’m going to do my best to find more opportunities to share useful time with those who eventually will be counting me an ancestor. .

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HISTORY LESSONS

My wife and I spend many companionable hours together reading books, often based on separate interests.  Sometimes, though, we share books the other partner might want to read.  That happened some some time ago, when Jan introduced me to Ginny Dye, the author of a series of novels collectively known as “The Bregdan Chronicles,”

This southern-born, northwest transplant, has written a remarkable collection of historic fiction books starting with the lead-up to the Civil War.  In fourteen books so far released, her fictional characters have lived through the war years, and are now involved with the economic, political and human turmoils of a nation not certain of itself during reconstruction. Ginny Dye is a fine storyteller. Not being a historian, I don’t have resources to judge the accuracy of her narrative as a record of history, but she seems to have carefully researched the times and events fictionalized in her books.

As Jan and I reflect together on books we’ve read, and especially those shared, we often discover truths about our own life histories  A recent such thought came about when discussing Ginny Dye’s books.  We found ourselves truly interested in the history lived through her characters, and wondered why neither of us developed much interest in history during public education in elementary and high schools. Our experiences were similar, though I attended large urban schools in the Seattle area, and Jan was in far smaller schools in rural Whatcom County.  The conclusion drawn was that the public schools placed little emphasis on teaching history, giving the classroom teacher assignment to whoever was available, regardless of training or interest.  Our memories of national and world history education come down to rote learning of many dates long forgotten now, and being able to recite Lincoln’s Gettysburg address.

Time does not seem to have healed this gap in public education as we’ve observed it in Washington State schools.  On a recent December 7th gathering I talked with a couple of local high school girls, both known as excellent students.  When I asked if they knew the significance of the date, their reply was “Of course!  It’s only seventeen days before Christmas”.  I then asked if they had heard of Pearl Harbor.  “No.  What’s that?”

U.S. News rates Washington State as sixth in the nation for quality of education.  I can’t challenge the accuracy of that rating, though I think it must be based on a rather low standard.  Having lived in Europe for nearly fifteen years, with children in elementary school there, I was impressed at the difference in quality of education compared to our schools.  In particular, kids in secondary education had a far better knowledge of their world and the events that shaped it.  Some recent high school graduates I knew were able to name all the separate United States and their capitols as well as their own geography and history.

In the United States we are seeing attempts to change the school systems, particularly with the drive for more charter schools.  I don’t applaud this movement, because it strikes me as anti-democratic, often concerned more with demographics than with the quality of education.  Whatever the public education in our country, I hope change will lead to a better understanding of history.  Any solution needs to consider the use of teachers who truly understand history and how to teach it.  Equally important are the materials used in history classes. Unfortunately, this is a controversial topic and dependent on geographical areas.  I hope that school board members everywhere will come to the understanding that storytelling similar to the style of Ginny Dye can be an effective way of teaching.

Jan is a retired early childhood educator, still teaching as a substitute,.  She is in agreement with what I’ve written here, but adds a comment.  In today’s rules for teachers, “teaching to the standard” is common: i.e. standards set by the school system come before doing anything else.  The teacher must be sure that the class is educated to those standards, and anything creative like using their own ideas for storytelling must come later.  She would like to see more time allowed for teachers to use creative ways for captivating young minds in all fields of study, certainly including history as one of those.

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HELL OF A WAY TO RUN A RAILROAD

This week I finished reading an excellent police procedure novel, “Faceless Killers,” written by the popular Swedish author Henning Mankell.  It’s one of the best books in his series featuring Kurt Wallander, a police detective in southern Sweden.  The plot includes much about police and citizenry struggling against a great flow of refugees coming through open borders, poorly controlled by the Swedish government.  The book was published in 1991.  In the real world, Swedish authorities  have replaced border checks and limited grants of asylum, but complaints about refugees continue.

It was an apt choice for reading at this time, as chaos rules in deciding what to do about all the migrants at our southern border, with Old Bone Spurs saying he’s going to close the border now or maybe next year.  He’s getting lots of criticism about the  decision regarding separation of children from families trying to gain asylum.  Complaints are heard that the same thing was done by the Obama and Bush administrations. It’s not a fair comparison but that’s not my point, which I think is well described by the title of this piece, “Hell of a Way to Run a Railroad.” It  was the caption on an American cartoon of the 1920s, showing a signalman coolly surveying a number of trains colliding beneath his box.*

Readers will know that I am no fan of President Trump.  Now I’m beginning to understand how much deeper are the problems in governing our country than his inept leadership.  I’m tempted to say that among those problems is a do-nothing Congress, but that would be unfair.  Our Congress is busy, sadly much busier on political issues than on governance.  The number of House investigations having to do with Trump and his administration is so high that it’s no wonder our re[resentatives don’t have time for much  fruitful legislation.  Democrats inside Congress and out are obsessed with Trump, alongside a media that over-reports the man and his allies

Are we really to believe that America doesn’t have the brainpower to fashion an  immigration policy that is humane, that helps serve the needs of the downtrodden outside our borders, that regulates the intake in fair, sane ways?   Among us in our country is an untold number of brilliant thinkers, many of them immigrants, many in organizations called “think tanks,” many in Ivy League schools, and many serving in less known institutions.  Of course the ability to achieve a great immigration policy exists, but our government can’t seem to do it.  I am enough of a cynic to believe that the leadership in Washington DC stands in the way of achieving greatness.

There is certainly no easy solution to the problems of a government that through the years has accumulated too many customs that have lost their relevance, too many lobbyists wielding too much power, an antiquated presidential election system and far, far too little concentration on what is best for the people.  Among possible solutions I’m an advocate for the need to rid all states of voter restrictions based on race, religion, lifestyle preference or anything other than citizenship, and doing away with gerrymandering or other attempts to collect votes by residence.. We need a well-rounded education in history and current events as a base for having educated voters.

The last item above might be the hardest to achieve because of geographic and political biases in our large, diverse country.  Even so I believe it’s a worthy goal.  My public education in the 1930s and 1940s included civics and history classes that were required.  My wife has teaching materials from those times that include “Current Events, The National School Newspaper,” dated  in months surrounding the opening of World War Two.  A check on the existence of that newspaper today shows that old copies are for sale on Ebay.  It looks like “Current Events” hhs gone  the way of so-many other newspapers in the United States, people having more reliance on TV broadcasts for their news.

We can’t bring back “the good old days,” but we can promote current events and  knowledge of history for all, especially the young people who will include our future leaders.

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*   From “Dictionary of Catch Phrases: American and British from the   Sixteenth Century to the Present Day” by Eric Partridge, updated and edited by Paul Beal, Scarborough House, Lanham, Md., 1992.