Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Word of the Day: FAREWELL


Today marks the final entry for The Keyboard Commentarian.

This is the end of a journey that began in the Summer of 2012 that has seen a number of events and changes here and abroad.  The tiny blip of history that this blog has covered has been a reiteration of the phrases Change is inevitable, Time marches on, and Life goes on

I would be remiss if I said I never imagined what would this final entry look like.  It hasn't been very often, but I have thought about it.  Conversely, I would also be remiss if I did not admit that what thought I did give it, as I sit here now writing this, was pretty much useless.  This is truly a you-never-know-until-it-happens moment for me.

Social media vis √† vis the Internet is an amazing tool.  It allows, among many things, the opportunity and the platform to express yourself.  That is a good thing.  Like almost any good thing, it can be abused, too, so the precarious balancing act of freedom of expression and being socially responsible is ongoing.

Putting yourself out there sometimes requires a healthy sense of ego.  This is not necessarily true for members of law enforcement or public servants such as firefighters, paramedics, and doctors, as they may be simply providing information.  More along the lines of performers, public speakers, and others who are the focus of attention, you have to feel, even if it's just to a small degree, that what you have to say matters and that what you have to say should be heard by others.  You can believe that and share what you have to say with a small number of persons, but putting it out there for the whole world to see requires a healthy sense of ego.  It is only when the intent is purely egotistical or even egomaniacal that a more careful look needs to be taken.

My own intention for this blog was not simply to get attention or to tell everyone how right I am and how wrong they are.  (Those who disagreed with my viewpoints may have felt I was doing the latter, and all I can offer is that such was not the goal.)  In fact, in my very first post on June 19, 2012, I offered the following clarification:
        "I do not think I bring anything necessarily unique to the blogosphere, save for my
        own voice.  I just thought it would be cool to have a place to air my opinions, to
        praise or to vent, to get things off my chest, etc."

In the years since, I added to that list shedding light on topics and issues that I felt needed more attention.

Similar to downloads in podcasting, there are two schools of thought on blogs: focus on the number of views or don't focus on the number of views.  Focusing on them could mean, although not a clear barometer, that you only want a high view count, along the lines of having more and more friends on Facebook or followers on Twitter.  Not focusing on views could mean, again not a clear metric, that your focus is on content over counts.  I am squarely in the latter of the two, as both my total views of 12,000+ since 2012 and my not posting with any regularity attest.

Allow me to address for the last time the point of my not posting on a regular basis.  There is no shortage of things on which to comment.  My feeling has always been that I have something to say and it should be put out there, but not everything grabs me strongly enough to comment on it.  By strongly enough, I mean I may have strong feelings about something, but I need to feel ... inspired (I guess is the word) to sit down at write about it.  Maybe compelled is the more accurate word here.  The words of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato -- although it is highly contested if they are, indeed, attributable to him -- have been my guide (and there are many variations of this):
The foolish one speaks because he has to say something.
The wise one speaks because he has something to say. 

Well, I hope I'm a wise one.

As an offshoot of counting/not counting views, my goal was not to make me feel good simply by getting a lot of feedback.  Still, one glaring omission over the years has been the scarcity of exactly that.  The small amounts I have received have been very much appreciated.  However, it is impossible to tell with any certainty if those of you who have ventured into my tiny piece of social media real estate did so out of finding my musings utter nonsense or something meaningful.  My hope was for the latter.

Speaking of nonsense, humor has not been at the forefront in this blog.  (Unless, as aforementioned, you only see this blog as nonsensical.)  What smattering of humor I have incorporated now and then has been two-fold: 1) my focus has been on pretty serious topics, so humor has not always be appropriate; and 2) humor is not a strong suit of mine.  My friends might find #2 odd since we joke around frequently.  I have found that when I want to be intentionally funny (trying too hard), I am just not funny.  What laughing my friends may do because of something I have said is purely an in-the-moment chuckle and not a result of a carefully thought-out routine.  In other words, stand-up comedian is not a career path for me.

I mentioned views earlier, and here are some of the more-viewed entries of this blog:
- A documentary about the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 on its twenty-fifth anniversary
- An expos√© on the ridiculous manner of firearms sales in this country
- A report on the Northern Peruvian Pipeline which showed problems with pipelines similar to our own
- A 2015 commentary on mass shootings averaging that year to very close to one per day
- A tribute to blues legend B.B. King at the time of his death
- A two-part piece on Meniere's Disease [part 1 - part 2]
- An explanation of the unsafe nature of hydraulic fracturing ("fracking")
- Some musings on human behavior and animal behavior

By far, very far, the most-viewed posting of this blog was the one about the military son of a friend of mine, Anthony Howell, who had served in the Gaza Strip with a multinational peace-keeping force and who had gone missing while stationed at the Army National Guard Base, 11 Bravo, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  The first post alone -- there were four total -- received over 800 views.  When you add the initial posting with the three updates, the total number of views reached over 1,150.  As I noted last Spring on the occasion of this blog's 200th post, Anthony is doing well, living in Tennessee with his wife Alexandra and their now two-year-old daughter Maisey.

I have taken pride in doing the best job possible with this blog.  When expressing my opinions, they have been purely my opinions, and when I have stated facts, I have researched them.  I have done my best to get it right, but I have not always done so.

After all this time, I have two clear insights stemming from the writing of this blog:
1)  We can do some wonderful, terrific, and good things.
and
2)  We can do some horrible, disheartening, and bad things.
The trick is to which one are we willing to give more of our time and effort, for each one brings about a different kind of world.

If nothing else, the main thing I hope you will have gleaned from this blog after all these years is that our best efforts need to be encouraged and our worst efforts need to be exposed and stopped.  In other words, even though this blog has not primarily been philosophical in nature (although philosophical points have been touched on from time to time), many of the themes covered, if not the topics themselves, point to the necessity of our making the world a better place.  Although not my original intent back in 2012, my hope is this blog will be seen as my small contribution to that goal.

I know I have said this before, but allow me to say it one final time... It gets harder as you get older, but you have to try and hang on to a sense of amazement about the world.  One microcosm of that is the Internet.  I know we take it for granted, but I remain amazed at how the Internet connects people from all over the world.  To that extent, seeing all of the different countries from where visitors to this site have come has remained mind-blowing.  To know that people from half way around the world in China and several places in-between have visited here is nothing short of incredible to me.

One criticism, if I may, that I would offer relates to the Internet and other means of connecting with others.  It has been said that the world has gotten smaller and it continues to do so.  We are becoming more and more connected to one another, and that is a good thing.  However, all of this electronic and digital connection does not necessarily bring us any closer relationally to one another.  (Although an argument can be made that enjoying successes or speaking out against atrocities in other parts of your own country and the world is a form of being relational.)  Long distances and responsibilities aside, we often replace face-to-face visits or even phone calls with texts, E-mails, and social media posts.  Showing me what you are about to eat for dinner does not make me feel closer to you as a person.  It is a paradox when what makes us connected sometimes makes us more distant.  It's what I would call interimpersonal.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may be asking why am I ending it.  Well, the short answer is simply burn-out.  I noticed early in the Fall of last year that my posts were becoming even more infrequent (i.e. none in September or November last year).  The death of my dear friend Ed in late October and a long list of personal issues I have been dealing with for some time have begun to weigh heavily on me, more so than usual.  While I have enjoyed writing this blog, and one can argue it is a form of distraction for me (even though not fully), focusing on myself personally is what is most needed.  To ease any concerns you may have, no, there is nothing health-wise that is problematic.  (Well, nothing, aside from needing to lose some weight.)

On one more personal note, my perspective on my life has not included many things about which I have felt a sense of pride.  A sad commentary in and of itself, to be sure, however this blog does not fall into that category.  I am proud of the work I have done on The Keyboard Commentarian.  And yet, my greatest wish is that any enjoyment and/or meaningfulness you have received from it far surpasses any amount of pride I feel.

All of this is not to say that I have nothing left to say.  There are things now and there will be things in the future about which I will have something to say.  As they say, "Never say never," so I may, at some point in the future, want to return to the blogosphere.  It may be under the banner of The Keyboard Commentarian once again or something new.  Should I make the decision to return, I hope you will be as welcoming and interested as you have been all these years.

And so, after six-and-a-half years and 225 posts, the end is here.  I have never taken you, dear readers, for granted, and I have tried to never let you down.  I hope that you have found this blog both informational and inspirational, and that it has added something good, something positive, and something helpful to your lives.  I cannot thank you all enough for your readership and support.  For me, calling you all dear readers was not merely a cordiality; it was meant from the heart.  My deepest thanks to all of you.

As I bid you all farewell, may you all fare well on this journey we call life.

Terry


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Phrase of the Day: TIDYING UP [Part 2 of 2]

PART TWO

I started this yesterday, and today is for finishing up tidying up.


Any humanitarian crisis is a tragedy and the one in Yemen is no different.

Yemen is the poorest country in the Arab world.  A war has been going on there for four years between the Yemeni government and the Houthi militia, with both claiming control of the government.  The tragic results are millions of Yemenis displaced, medical infrastructure all but gone, and roughly ten thousand dead, including death from famine, with the vast majority of those numbers being children.  The United Nations' coordinator for Yemen, Lise Grande, said in an interview, "I think many of us felt as we went into the twenty-first century that it was unthinkable that we could see a famine like we saw in Ethiopia," adding that those who die from starvation in Yemen could top 13 million.  (The Ethiopian famine from 1983-1985 claimed 8 million lives.)
 

 

 

The United States in involved in this war, plain and simple, in support of the Yemeni government.  It is involvement in a war that has never been approved by the U.S. government, which is the way it is supposed to work.  We had been engaged in airborne refueling of their planes, and we continue to sell bombs and other weapons to them and help the government's army strategically pick targets.  Since this has begun four years ago, our involvement began during President Obama's tenure and has continued during President Trump's tenure.  (If you know anything about recruitment tactics, you can imagine how our involvement is fueling more men to join terrorist organizations with anti-American positions.)

Our escalated involvement is why, on his first trip abroad as President, Donald Trump was lavished upon by the Saudis.

My feeling is summed up in this meme ...

We need to end our military involvement in Yemen now!


I think technology is a good thing.  (Consider my typing my blog on my laptop and it appearing on the Internet.)  I drive a car which has all sorts of technology throughout and I own a smart phone.  Technology is everywhere and it is supposed to be for our benefit, not our capitulation.  One example: I recall one of my Facebook friends posting the question of how often people charged their phones.  When I stated that I do so every few days, they were genuinely gobsmacked, citing charging their phones as often as two or three times a day.

I think my being a fifty-seven year old person who does use technology makes me an old fuddy-duddy because I prefer sitting down and typing thinks like this blog while on my laptop.  Not that my eyesight is poor, even though I do use a pair of off-the-rack magnifying eyeglasses purchased at a dollar store, but I just feel more comfortable sitting down and typing.  (Maybe being raised on typewriters has something to do with it.)

One of my more recent surprises with technology, although it's been several years ago, was when my mother was in the hospital for an overnight stay.  The nurse who came in take mom's last vitals before being discharged took what looked like a pen of some kind and pulled it across mom's forehead, as though she was drawing a straight line on a piece of paper.  When I asked her what she just did, she replied she had taken mother's temperature.  I was floored and replied something to the effect of No way! and That's 'Star Trek' stuff!  (Bones, of course, would think nothing of it.)

Getting back to smart phones, we have really become a society obsessed with them, haven't we?  There are videos everywhere of people driving while texting -- that, alone, got so bad that "DWT" (Driving While Texting) became a legal thing -- or walking into things, all with their heads bowed down (as if to create a kind of skeletal question mark out of their bodies) and their eyes glued to the rectangular screens, hypnotized.  What's on that screen is far more interesting that the world around you?  Really?  Those who might answer in the affirmative should, at the very least, consider their personal safety.  Paying attention to your surroundings is one way to try and keep yourself from harm.  You might say being on a phone is not as serious as a surgeon operating, but what if that surgeon was operating on you and allowed him/herself to be equally distracted?

Things like technology, and some would include entertainment and sports as well, can be huge distractions to what is going on in the world around you, but it is also a means by which things like the transhumanism movement have been gaining footing.  We have become so enamored -- not amazed, like I was when the nurse took my mom's temperature -- but enamored to the point of passive observers, with no other response than that of children who want to keep seeing something more.  Transhumanism is not about the androids from Isaac Asimov's I, Robot series, or even, more recently, Sophia.  No, its interest is in turning us, human beings, into bio-robots with immortality as one of the goals.

Additionally, why are we still so afraid of death, which is a natural part of life?


We really need to stop being hypnotized by technology and start paying attention to the world around us.  If we continue to be enraptured with the latest gadgetry, then the results will not be good for humanity.


One of my hopes in recent years was to continue this blog long enough to see, hopefully, the current U.S. President, Donald Trump, voted out of office.  I say "hopefully" because no one expected he would win the 2016 election, so I cannot say that a loss for him in 2020 is guaranteed.  Sad to say, the two years he has been in office, only half-way through his term, have been a disaster.

Any study of presidential history will show that the forty-fifth president is not the only president who has had scandals during his tenure: Warren G. Harding's Teapot Dome, Ronald Reagan's Iran-Contra Affair, Bill Clinton's extramarital affairs, Richard Nixon's Watergate, are a few examples.  And yet, we have never had a president whose words and deeds were so abhorrent, so unacceptable, and so un-presidential as those of the current resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Additionally, we have never had a president who has embraced enemies of the U.S. and given a cold shoulder to its allies, either.  Some might argue that was the case with Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama.  However, Obama's approach was along the lines of talking to our enemies can be done.  If something positive comes of it, great.  If not, then we have at least tried.  Hardly an embracing of our enemies.  Others may argue our involvement with various governments and military regimes by providing money and weapons may demonstrate that.  Believe me, I do not agree with the method or the reasoning, but they were done with the idea that a "good" side was fighting against a "bad" side, not an embracing of an enemy of the U.S., as misguided and ill-conceived as each instance of that was. 

What I mean here, with regard to the current president, is the open embrace, rhetorically and literally, of leaders who are, in essence, dictators (as he touts their accomplishments and relishes their praises for him), coupled with the less-than-flattering language he uses about our long-standing allies.  No president before him, not a single one of his forty-four predecessors has done that.

He is responsible for the longest government shutdown ever, possibly looking to declare a "national emergency" in order to pillage allocated monies to fund an unnecessary wall.  He, his family, and his businesses (which he never fully disassociated from, something else none of his predecessors ever did) are under multiple investigations.  He was investigated by the FBI for possibly working on behalf of Russia after firing then-FBI Director James Comey (with the findings of that investigation having been added to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing Russian investigation).  He constantly lies and he flip-flops on what he will or will not do about as fast as a fish out of water.

I have mentioned before on this blog about how people need to strop voting out of fear, as they are being exploited by doing so.  Clearly, those who voted for Trump did so, in part, out of fear.  It appears, though, they also went to the voting booth craving bombast and attitude, both of which never solve problems.  They got it and the country is, on many levels, paying a steep price.


The Church, in general, speaks often of the chipping away at it by forces outside the church, a la good resides in here and bad resides out there.  To be fair, The Church has always had to deal with, and sometimes act or exist in contradiction to, the goings-on in society at large.  (Society at large doesn't always get it right, either.)

One of the hardest things to do is to critically look at yourself and identify and acknowledge the bad things about you.  The Church, when it speaks of things outside of it as the problem, is falling into the same trap.  It must look at itself, honestly and critically, to see where many of its problems lie.

I wrote just last month, once again, about sexual abuse by priests.  There are other wrongs within the broad banner of The Church.  Things like monetary abuses, such as the late Oral Roberts saying, in 1987, that God told him he needed the raise $8,000,000 or God would "call [him] home" and got it (over $9,000,000, in fact), or Creflo Dollar asking for $65,000,000 for a "necessary tool" private jet four years ago and got it, or Apostle David E. Taylor being under criminal investigation three years ago for financial misappropriations, including expensive cars, a mansion, and expensive clothes.

The last two examples above are examples of a phenomenon that has been around for a while called the "prosperity gospel".  Much of the Bible that speaks of prosperity, wealth, and riches speaks of them in terms of blessings from God or God sharing Heavenly riches. There is nothing about God raining down money upon ministers or God wanting ministers to receive ridiculous amounts of money from their congregations.  The only prosperity to be found in the prosperity gospel is that of those who promote it.

A sad side effect is so many smaller churches that do the right things and do good works end up being collateral damage from all of this kind of behavior.

These actions [sexual abuse by Catholic priests and bilking money] are just two examples of how The Church should really take a good, long, hard look within itself and start cleaning up its act before it can address how terrible the world around it is.  Many times, it is these very abuses that make so many willfully decide they want no part of it.


Okay, I think that is more than enough tidying up. 

As I have mentioned before, the end is near for this blog.  Yesterday and today were the last two posts before the final post.  That final post will be one week from today, on January 22, 2019.  See you then.

Terry

Monday, January 14, 2019

Phrase of the Day: TIDYING UP [Part 1 of 2]

PART ONE

I turned fifty-seven last month.  I nicknamed it my Heinz ketchup birthday.
Hardly an old age, except, perhaps, for that young child who came up to me at a coffee shop when I was in my early fifties.  When she asked how old I was and I told her, she said, "You're old!"  It's all perspective.

Looking ahead to the upcoming final entry in this blog, in addition to living almost six decades, I find myself looking at a lot of things.  All that time alive and all these comments have given me a particular perspective on things.  In putting this together, I found that I had quite a number of odds and ends, if you will, so I decided to split what I had into two posts.  Today, is the first part of my tidying up before this blog wraps up ...


If you look around, I mean really look around, you will find things of great joy and great sorrow, things of beauty and things of ugliness, equity and inequity, triumph and failure, and so on.  It is easy to focus on one thing, or type of thing, and ignore the other.  A lot of that is filed under focus, as in, what you want to focus on and give your energy.  Looking at both, it can feel like a never-ending spiral.
 
Really, it is more along the lines of the Chinese philosophical symbol of Yin-Yang, which symbolizes that opposite forces/energies/intentions may be connected to one another ... sometimes even bringing about one another.

In other words, there is good and bad in life and the trick is navigating both of them.


Look at the violence in schools.  Students bringing not only knives, but guns to school.  Guns!  Sometimes, to show off.  Sometimes, to send a message of Back off!  Sometimes, to murder fellow students and/or teachers.  This is a symptom of our losing our ability to disagree without violent conflict.  It used to be that the worst a student had to worry about -- well, aside from passing a test -- was a fistfight, flipping the bird, swearing, or mom insults.  (And there would be repercussions at school AND at home afterward.)

How quaint those things seem now.

I find it heartwarming, even encouraging, when I see teenagers in Florida survive a horrific domestic terrorist attack by a former fellow student and then turn that into the largest massacre prevention movement in this country since the horrors of Columbine High School twenty years ago and Sandy Hook Elementary School six years ago.  Alternately, I find it discouraging when there are forces willfully trying to allow such horrors to continue.  Still, the #NeverAgain movement has brought about the most positive change on this issue and I hope that continues.


Many times, as the saying goes, those who do not remember and learn from the past will repeat it in the future.  Sometimes, that comes in the form of warnings not heeded ...


Other times, it may be a willful ignoring of how things were done before ...

Images from the first ever preemptive strike by U.S. military

Speaking of war, I find it, at worst, humanity's greatest disgrace, and at best, illogical.  World War I was known as the "war to end all wars".  World War II, often referred to as "the big one", has also been called "the great war".  Tell me, what war is "great" really?  Sure, the victor(s) can savor a great victory, but at what cost?  Before anyone misunderstands me, I understand, in the case of World War II, that a great enemy, Adolf Hitler, needed to be stopped.  I am not arguing that he should have been allowed to continue his evil plans, not at all.  (Such was part of the path former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain took, much to his disgrace.)  Still, look at what the result -- granted, it was deemed good versus evil -- was: violence, murder, and destruction met with violence, murder, and destruction.  Hate begets hate; violence begets violence.  In the spirit of the phrase You won the battle, but we won the war, we may win a war, but what we had to do to win it is, at best, a sad commentary on humanity.  It is, truly, a sad commentary on the human condition and a downward spiral with an inhumane result.

Instead of warring against a people or a country, we have (in the interest of furthering the military industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us about) been at war for the past seventeen years against an activity ... terror.  Look on a map ... you won't find any country with that name and no people named Terror, either.  The financial cost for the War on Terror so far is estimated at nearly six trillion dollars.  Six trillion!  By warring against an activity, perpetual war is guaranteed, and those kinds of dollars could be spent far more wisely.


Does anyone remember what an actual democracy looks like?  I understand there are those who say there hasn't been a real democracy in the U.S. for a very long time, that certain groups of individuals around the world run (or at least have their hands in) things like politics, world finance, and social structure.  (I'm not big on conspiracy theories, but I do agree with that belief.)  As the late comedian George Carlin once quipped, we only have the illusion of choice.  At the very least, we seemed to have a democracy.  To whatever degree we did or did not have a democracy, now there are those who are willingly destroying it in plain sight.

In Wisconsin, the POT lost big time in that state as part of the Democratic "blue wave" (which was more like a slow roll of molasses).  Before leaving office in January, those POT members passed legislation that limited the incoming Democratic leadership of some of its power, which the voters of Wisconsin had voted to give them.  Outgoing POT Governor Scott Walker signed the legislation into law.  In Michigan, the POT state Senate passed legislation that would limit incoming Democratic State Attorney General Dana Nessel.  It would give their party the right to intervene in any lawsuit brought against laws passed by the POT in the state legislature.  (Surprisingly, POT Governor Rick Snyder vetoed the bill.)  Again, the voters had voted to give Nessel the position of state Attorney General and all of the power that comes with it.  Finally -- for now, that is -- South Carolina is likely going to vote in the Summer on canceling the state's POT primary, slated for February 29, 2020.  President Trump handily won the state in 2016 -- 55% Trump, 41% Clinton -- so it is likely he would win the state's primary again, but what about the voters' will being tabulated and recorded?

The United States of America's form of government is listed as a constitutional republic, but it is also listed as a republic, a democracy, and even a democratic republic.  Fact is, there is no one term to fully describe this country's form of governance.  (That is, aside from "terrible".)  The democracy part is gone.  If you did not believe it before, look around.  If you were someone who ascribed to the U.S. being a democracy, that very democracy is gone.  What good is it to call it a democracy when the will of the voters, as expressed by their votes, is going to be taken away?  When an election is held in another part of the world and it is likely the results will not have the import they should, it is highlighted in the news and there are several entities that monitor those elections.  We condemn the fact that the people's votes may not matter in other countries, and we should here, too.  In a true democracy, all votes matter, and that can be emphasized as ALL votes matter and all votes MATTER.  What has been a gradual erosion of our democracy has now become an overthrow of it.

Two more notes on the election process itself:  One, get rid of the Electoral College.  And no, I am not saying that because I voted for Hillary and she lost in 2016.  I am saying it because it is outdated.  As much as some argue removing it would provide a less equitable representation in presidential elections, we have that now with it in place with elections coming down to one or two states.  It needs to go.  Two, and I've said it before on this blog, everyone must stop voting out of fear.  The powers that be have been exploiting that fear and taking advantage of this country because of it.


This is purely observational and not from a place of my never making mistakes -- I've made more than my fair share -- but can we all, please, start being and acting responsible again?  Sure, we can look at the current political climate (and politics in general) for just one example but, good God, avoiding responsibility has become a national obsession.  Politicians being irresponsible to their constituents ... parents being irresponsible to their children ... businesses being irresponsible to their employees ... friends and family members being irresponsible to their friends and family members ... humanity being irresponsible to the planet ... I mean, it just goes on and on and on! 

Yes, sometimes people make honest mistakes and may have to pay unjustly for them.  When that happens, it must be dealt with to try and correct it, but let's be honest, that is not what we do the majority of the time from which trouble arises.  Whatever happened to taking your lumps for things you did wrong?  Mind you, it is not every single person on the planet who acts that way, but it seems to be a case of what can be described as either an epidemic (or, perhaps, a pandemic).


Unnecessary and unwelcome returns have become a thing now, instead of occasional occurrences.  Not that these ever fully went away, but we did what we could to try and eradicate them, at the very least to the point where any of these are rare. 

Thanks to the research of Dr. Jonas Salk and others, polio (full name: poliomyelitis) was defeated, with the last case being almost forty years ago.  Polio is contagious and can cause severe breathing difficulties, paralysis, and even death.  Polio has been brought into this country by travelers coming here who already had it, but as a national epidemic, it was defeated through regular vaccinations.  Cases of a polio-like virus, called Acute Flaccid Myelitis, have been surfacing for the past four years.  Not to mention the increase of cases of measles, after that was declared to be eliminated (no continuous transmission for a period of longer than twelve months) almost twenty years ago thanks to vaccinations.  The anti-vaccination movement wants a return to early twentieth century or pre-twentieth century medicine.

Another unwelcome return is the meteoric rise in racial hatred as well as nationalism and neo-nazism in this country.  Yes, they have always been there, but proponents have been emboldened by the actions and rhetoric of President Trump and other politicians, other types of leaders, and fellow citizens.  Still think the words of the President don't matter that much?  For these people, second-class citizen status is reserved for non-whites, and three Reichs just aren't enough.


And now, for the shortest piece in this post:
Two years after Franklin Delano Roosevelt's death in 1945, during his fourth term in office, Congress passed the Twenty-Second Amendment. They did that regarding presidential terms in office, but not their own.  Now, why is that?


And that ends part one.  More tidying up to be done tomorrow.

Terry

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Phrase of the Day: STAY STRONG


Farewell, 2018.  Greetings, 2019.  My sincerest wishes to all of you, dear readers, for a wonderful new year!

Two years ago, when we were bidding farewell to 2016, many of us, myself included, bemoaned how terrible of a year it was in terms of the number celebrity deaths.  While the number of celebrity deaths may be a little lower than two years ago, it has still been a rough year for other reasons.

Last year, in looking back at the stories of 2017, I wrote a line that I think remains applicable to looking back at 2018:
"[M]any of the stories had me wanting to eschew profundity for profanity..."
Yep, still true.

Much of the good that happened this year, and there was a lot, was overshadowed by the bad.  (Sadly, this is the norm.)  It was certainly a rollercoaster ride, but there was plenty of both. 

The fight to get medical marijuana, which has been proven to be beneficial for certain individuals, legalized in this country continues to slowly move along as does the fight to reduce or cut medical benefits.  The Democrat's "blue wave" washed over the House of Representatives with a gain of forty seats while voting rights and actual votes cast were cut.  We reached for the stars with NASA and SpaceX, even landing on Mars, but far too many of us here on Earth continue to die from hunger.  Boeing launched a business jet capable of the longest flight time ever while even the briefest of human connections became just a little briefer. 

Ireland repealed its abortion ban while some American politicians continue to try and legally define abortion by re-defining what a living human being is at earlier and earlier times in a woman's pregnancy.  Whether you call it neo-Nazism or nationalism, it rose (and not just in the U.S.) while the unnecessary harassment and murder of innocent persons, mostly black, remained relatively unchanged.  South Korea hosted its first ever Olympics Games, but the question of whether the money spent for the Games could be spent more wisely, either for the Games or elsewhere, remains.  (I think it can.)  The election of Miguel Diaz-Canel as President of Cuba ended nearly six decades of rule by a Castro, while many in this country want our current President out of office after just two years.

A rollercoaster ride, indeed.

I would like to offer something personal as, hopefully, a reminder for the rest of us.  Without getting too mired with all of the details, I found 2018 to be a year that I felt alone.  There is a difference between being alone and feeling alone.  Being alone can be a good thing.  Sometimes, you may want to be alone to recharge your batteries or decompress from a stressful situation.  I try to find times when I can be alone from time to time, and I find it necessary.  Feeling alone is where you feel, rightly or wrongly, that you have no one to help, no one has your back.  It may be something you feel in general or it may be in terms of something particular. 

For me, it wasn't just the loss of a dear friend just over two months ago, but there were moments near the end of the year (and more than just this year, to be honest) that showed me I have no one on whom I could rely.  There have been a few moments throughout my lifetime where I have felt this, so my goal is to try and see this as nothing more than the latest occurrence.

Even if successful in meeting that goal, it still hurts.  Honestly, no one should have to feel that.

We are all in this thing called the human experience together.  The less we are there for others, the greater the fabric of this shared experience gets tattered.  This is not advocating for making friends only with people who can benefit you; those are more utilitarian acquaintances than friends.  One of the pieces of the nature of friendship is helping each other out when needed.  Not that all of a person's friends are able to just drop everything to help, but when none do so, it is a horrible feeling.

So, yes, we are all in this together.  Be there for one another.

For the past several years, I have ended my New Year's post with a video of a song that usually points to the the year gone by, but more importantly, to the year ahead.  As this blog will wrap up later this month, this will be the fifth and final year for that.  With that in mind, I thought I would end with not one, but two videos.

The first song is Rachel Platten's hit 'Fight Song'.  I hope we all find some fight still inside of ourselves this year.  The second song is from a group called Playing for Change which works at connecting and inspiring people through music.  It is their first video, which was released ten years ago, and speaks to the last point I was making above.  It is a reworking of the classic Ben E. King song 'Stand By Me'.



Terry

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Poem of the Day: WHEN THE SONG OF THE ANGELS IS STILLED

Howard Thurman was a theologian, civil rights leader, philosopher, educator, and prolific author, probably best known for his 1949 work Jesus and the Disinherited.

Many years ago, I was introduced to a poem by Thurman titled 'When the Song of the Angels Is Stilled' and it has stayed with me all these years.  I'd like to share it with you today.


When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.


Terry

Friday, December 21, 2018

Word of the Day: REPUTATION

The long-running (and still far from over) Catholic Church sex scandals are well-documented and well-known around the world.  In the United States alone, there are roughly 165 dioceses with at least one accused priest in them.  Within the diocese where I live -- I am no longer Catholic -- there have been more than fifty priests accused, including the one who tried to abuse me almost forty years ago.  (Fortunately, it did not get very far because I walked out, but I was still shaken by it.)  Some have died; some were defrocked; some were sued; some cases were settled.  Some of the priests abused one individual and some abused more than one.  Some of the abuses were over shorter periods of time and some went on for decades.

Globally, sexual abuse claims have been made in approximately twenty countries, excluding the U.S.

The 2015 Oscar-winning film 'Spotlight' looked at the sex abuse scandal that rocked the Archdiocese of Boston in the early 2000's when the Boston Globe newspaper uncovered a decades-long pattern of relocating priests who were accused of sexual misconduct in an attempt to keep the abuses quiet.  (It is a well-done film which I recommend seeing.)

Prior to his stepping down over five-and-a-half years ago, Pope Benedict XVI had written a letter in the Fall of 1985, when he was still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, to a Bishop in Oakland, California, regarding the possible removal of a priest for such accusations.  At the time, Cardinal Ratzinger was the head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is in charge of the promotion and defense of Catholic doctrine.  In his letter, Cardinal Ratzinger argues against the removal, citing "the good of the Universal Church" and the "detriment that granting the dispensation can provoke within the community of Christ's faithful".  As if putting salve on a wound, Ratzinger suggests providing the one petitioning for the priest's removal "as much paternal care as possible".  However, in the same sentence, he adds that the Court (within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) is "accustomed to proceed keeping the common good especially before its eyes".

This past Summer, the Pennsylvania state Supreme Court released a report stating more than 300 Catholic priests in that state had sexually abused children over the course of seven decades and, like in Boston, church hierarchy had done what they could to cover it up.

And just two days ago, the Illinois State Attorney General Lisa Madigan released a preliminary report that says there are more than 500 Catholic priests who have still not been identified by the church.  Accusations have been made, according to the report, against 690 priests total, but church officials have said only 185 stand accused.  Only.  Madigan said that the Catholic Church cannot continue to "prioritize criminal clergy or ... the preservation of their assets."  Not only are the actions of these abusers immoral and illegal, but the investigation also showed that none of Illinois' six dioceses have any policies in place that would hold any church official involved in covering up such abuses accountable for doing so.  None.  Not one.  Zero. 

And that is just one state in one country.

You might draw a parallel to the idea of shareholder value in business, which basically means that a company's greatest success is in how much it benefits its shareholders.  Imagine the Catholic Church is the corporation and the Pope, the cardinals, and the bishops are the shareholders.

A report was commissioned by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and compiled by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice which studied sexual abuse by priests and deacons between the years 1950 and 2002.  Released in 2004, the lengthy report showed that the percentage of priests accused of sexual abuse ordained in the 1980's had dropped to 8% (from a high of 23% and over 25% of those ordained in the 1950's and 1960's, respectively).  It had dropped even further among those ordained in the 1990's, down to 2%.  While even 2% of those ordained possibly committing sexual abuse is still too high, if this downward trend has continued, it is one positive sign of progress.

That same U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops were, at their fall gathering last month, going to address how to deal with allegations of sexual abuse.  The Vatican's Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (nicknamed the Dallas Charter), which was released sixteen years ago, addressed what to do regarding accusations of clergy, but gave no guidelines regarding accusations against bishops.  The Conference was going to address allegations against bishops.  One of the proposals was to give authority to a lay commission to investigate allegations against bishops.  What was the Vatican's response?  Ordering the Conference to not consider any proposals of how to respond.

There appears to be several reasons for this.  First, since it sees the issue of sexual abuse by clergy as a global problem, the Vatican feels it should be dealt with globally.  Just two months prior to the fall gathering, Pope Francis had called for the presidents of all of the Catholic bishop conferences in the world to assemble in Rome in late February of next year to address this serious issue.  Second, having the laity involved in this kind of oversight is a non-starter for the Vatican.  (So, lay persons serving as Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist, one of the sacraments of the church, is fine, but serving as faithful overseers is a no-go?)  Third, the move by the Conference may have been seen as an overreach or usurping the authority of Rome.  I think the proposal of a lay commission is a good one.  Why couldn't such a proposal, if passed, be brought to the February 2019 conference in Rome as a proposal there?  That is not usurping authority, but this third point smacks of an it-only-counts-when-the-boss-does-it mentality.

There is and has been a lot of talk of keeping the reputation of the Catholic Church untarnished.  There is nothing wrong with wanting your entity to have a name in good standing.  In fact, that should be a goal, whether it be through involvement in your community, providing good service, rectifying any problems, and putting forth your best efforts in the first place.  There are, however, other means of trying to do so that are deceptive, fraudulent, or even downright nefarious.  How this epidemic has been allowed to fester, mostly untreated, has been due to nefarious practices.

I think, in the most basic sense, that wanting problems to go away is not a bad thing.  Honestly, who wants more problems to come their way?  Dealing with them to correct mistakes and trying to cover them up are means to a common goal, but the two are not comparable.  Even though institutions, including The Church at large, are made up of people and people make mistakes and nothing is ever perfect, society does hold those institutions to a higher standard, rightly so.  When something goes wrong, those institutions had better deal with those instances swiftly and properly.  The Catholic Church did not do so regarding sexual abuse by its clergy.

If the Catholic Church was concerned about its good name, it needed to deal with this head-on ... no short cuts, no deceptions, no hiding.  Sure, some of its faithful might have left at just the news of sexual predators being among the ranks of its clergy out of fear or disillusionment.  That is not unusual since that kind of behavior is not welcome in society.  The Catholic Church acted out of fear.  How many times have we seen that responding out of fear can have devastating results? 

Had the Catholic Church shed light on the problem, addressed it right up front, perhaps even sought counseling for clergy that had committed these abuses, or perhaps who were contemplating it, it would have shown that straightforwardness and compassion, not shadows and cover-up, were right practices.  It would have shown that such behavior was unacceptable in the church, as in society, and that the faithful would know their religious leaders had their backs.  The Catholic Church could have been one of the beacons in the world by shedding light on this issue.  Yes, it would have lost some of its numbers, but its reputation would have been untarnished.  Instead, it put its proverbial lamp under a basket.

This is the legacy the Catholic Church has brought upon itself. 

Terry

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

A note to my readers regarding this blog

Dear readers, let me begin by saying I hope your holiday season, whatever holiday(s) you celebrate, is going well.  I wish you a happy remainder of the season.  (Hard to believe there's only a couple of weeks remaining in the year.)

The saying All good things must come to an end is attributed to the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer, first appearing in the mid-fourteenth century.  Fast forward to the early twenty-first century, and the same is true here.

After six-and-a-half years, the time has come for The Keyboard Commentarian to end.  The above saying is that all good things must come to an end, and I hope this blog has been a good thing for you readers.  It has been for me.

That end is not today, however.  That will be sometime next month, January 2019.  I do not know how many more posts there will be between now and then, but it will not be a case of writing this post and then the New Year's Day post and that's it.  (At least two or three that I can think of off the top of my head.)

As sad as I am that the time has come, I look forward to the next few until next month.

Terry