Demons Among Us

“They are not demons, not devils…

Worse than that.

They are people.”

Andrzej Sapkowski, Wieża Jaskółki

There are demons among us. The worst of these are those who would have you believe they are angels. Demons with fake angel wings instead of “wolves in sheep’s’ clothing.” Demons dressed in suits or suit dresses, welding their power over us. They are about to ruin my love for the horror genre…and my country.

MTG easing into the day, contemplating her next mischief

I love the horror genre…especially those with demons. Not slasher movies, I’ll explain why later. I do give a nod to the original “Halloween.” Demons don’t get any more malevolent than Mikey in his Captain Kirk mask.

I was hooked when Reagan MacNeil in “The Exorcist” brought new meaning to the term “projectile vomit” and laughed as the Pillsbury Doughboy did his Godzilla impersonation in “Ghostbusters.”

Present day its Paramount’s “Evil” with its horrifying yet humorous portrayal of demons being pursued by a Priest, a non-believing psychologist, and non-believing Muslim techy. “Good Omens” featuring an angel and a demon joining forces to save the world from the Apocalypse caught my interest too. Seems the unlikely pair found common ground. The secular world held their desire more than the post Apocalypse. A glass of a good wine with a meal in a swanky French restaurant beats hellfire and brimstone every time. It seems humor as much as horror dictates my viewing choices.

Latest Republican backroom meeting (a scene from “Evil”)

Even without humor, horror movies and TV programming do not scare me as much as the real world around me. Horror movies are not real. I know that. The January 6th riots were real and horrific, as real to me today as two years ago. Demons residing in the hearts of men…that’s real. There is no humor…that’s real.

Demons in the guise of angels defending what happened on that day and receiving top committee assignments in the new Congress. Demons laughing in our face.

Demons 2021, horns and all

According to Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, “A demon is a malevolent supernatural entity. Historically, belief in demons, or stories about demons, occurs in religion, occultism, literature, fiction, mythology, and folklore; as well as in media such as comics, video games, movies, anime, and television series.”

The belief in demons has been around as long as humans have been unable to explain the evil they encountered. The fear of being possessed by demons seems to be a common thread in most religions as if evil can’t be found in the hearts of mere men without possession.

Even the evil minions attempt to blame demon possession. David Berkowitz, aka the Son of Sam, is the most well-known example of a serial killer blaming a demon for their actions. He claimed possession by the demon possessing his neighbor’s dog, Sam. If Berkowitz had had a jury of QAnon followers, he would have beaten the rap.

Many believe that certain evils had to be perpetrated by a minion of the devil that had taken over some poor unsuspecting soul. It couldn’t be just man’s inhumanity to man. How can you rationally explain Berkowitz and an estimated thirty to fifty serial killers operating in the US at any given time? This is why I don’t like slasher movies and worry my enjoyment of horror will be diminished because the real world is becoming scarier. Too real…too close to the truth…demons walk among us.

As dangerous as serial killers are, I don’t fear them as much as those possessed into thinking they are doing good when they are not and that their way is the only way to save the world…or at least to make America great again.

Satan’s Demon Trinity

“Never trust a demon. He has a hundred motives for anything he does … Ninety-nine of them, at least, are malevolent.” ―  Neil Gaiman, The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes

As I watched our politics in “inaction“ for the last few weeks, I think of the above quote. Our political system has been taken over by malevolent demons…at least those fifteen or twenty on the far right who seem determined to hold our country ransom. They must be possessed, there can be no other explanation.

Vestiges of the Tea Party, or their minions, made a deal with Kevin McCarty and maybe the devil too. I’m sure there are some demons on the far left but Bernie Sanders doesn’t seem to be possessed…oh wait, the right believes “The Squad” is possessed and Nancy and Adam are devils incarnate…Lilith and Lucifer? Too high an accolade?

Once, during election leadups, those running for office attempted to pass themselves off as angels only concerned with the needs of their constituents, their silken, gossamer white wings spread wide, halos brightly polished to a blinding shine to ensure their followers couldn’t see their demon horns. Quickly they trade their angel regalia for those resembling a Dark Ages gargoyle as soon as they enter the hallowed halls of government.

I’m not sure that is true today. Many were gargoyle like from the beginning and were elected or reelected nonetheless. This scares me even more. How else do you explain Jim Jordan in shirt sleeves bellowing into a microphone. We have people blind to their demon’s malevolence…which makes me wonder about their own possession.

A Green Jim Jordan. I cut off his horns.

Maybe I’m being too dark. Maybe instead of little demons and devils I should start watching some Zombie programing…” The Walking Dead” or “iZombie.” Wait there are parallels there too, “Brains, I must have Brains!!!” Fine, but I doubt you will find any in the hallowed halls of Congress. Especially the right-side of the aisle.

***

Point: The notion that gargoyles were demonic was introduced in “The Horn of Vapula” (Lewis Spence, 1932), in which a demon familiar becomes a horned and goatlike gargoyle. Prior to this time gargoyles were thought to be protection against demons.

If you are a fan of “Ghostbusters” (1984) you also know that gargoyles appear as horned canine statues in the movie where they are possessed by the demonic spirits of Zuul and Vinz Klortho.

Point Two: While there is much to wish for regardless of party, I believe the Grand Old Party has sold its soul to the Devil.

To access Don Miller’s Authors Page, click on the following: https://www.amazon.com/stores/Don-Miller/author/B018IT38GM?ref=ap_rdr&store_ref=ap_rdr&isDramIntegrated=true&shoppingPortalEnabled=true

Political Merry-go-round

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”― Isaac Asimov

Many of the founding fathers believed that most of our population was too ignorant, or not intellectual enough, to trust with the running of our country. It was in fact, one of the reasons our constitutional republic is a representative democracy…an indirect democracy. Well. What happens when the candidates and elected officials act like a crazy uncle two thirds of the way into a quart Mason jar of white lightning? A crazy uncle sporting a rifle…or a hammer.

This seems to be where we have arrived at the point where the candidate that yells the loudest conspiracy theory is the one who gets elected. Candidates have always lied but we have a group who are following Hitler’s and Goebbels’ playbook. No lie too bizarre and we eat it up like a fried apple pie at the state fair.

Politics reminds me of a carousel…a merry-go-round featuring beautifully painted horses in various galloping poses. Beautiful, all shined up to take our minds off what is really happening. We ride them round and round to blaring, garish music, hoping for a chance to grab a brass ring. What do we get when the ride is over? Nothing. We are where we started, nothing has changed.

No matter which horse you decide to ride, you arrive right back where you started, no better than you were when you started. It doesn’t matter how beautifully painted or what pose attracted you. The music may change, you may change the colors of horses, but you end up right where you started and politically, we are in deep doo, doo.

Our political system is on a downward spiral. No matter who holds the power, there are only minor changes on a fundamental level. Fundamental change is too hard. It is easier to just slap a thin coat of paint over the horse you are riding and hope the termites and decay doesn’t cause the horse to crumble under you…just one more ride please.

“Politics: the art of using euphemisms, lies, emotionalism and fear-mongering to dupe average people into accepting–or even demanding–their own enslavement.”― Larken Rose

We’re two days away from the mid-terms and the end of political commercials that rely on fear and hatred of the other candidate rather than substance as to what you will do to correct what ails us as a country.  They rally their colors with buzz words used to insight anger, fear and division; fascist, communist, woke, Dumocrats, Repugs, etc. Just a little paint to cover our rot.

I don’t know who will win any of the elections this mid-term, but I know who will lose. We, the riders of this system. Our election system may be the best in the world, but it is flawed because we buy the dog and pony show that is being advertised. Geared to emotion instead of intelligence, our partisan two-party system is turning us into the “shithole” country that we so fear.

I’ve fretted about where we are heading as a nation, but fretting is just as bad as spending good money to ride the merry-go-round. We will either grab the brass ring or not, a brass ring that is worth little anyway. The Brass Ring is just a symbol and like the symbol we once were, it is becoming increasingly tarnished. It is a shame; the shining light is growing dimmer. The horses need more than just a coat of paint to keep the carousel from spinning out of control. Maybe a toilet is a better metaphor.

 “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.” – FDR

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Thunder Along the Copperhead is Don Miller’s latest novel. The year is 1933 and life around Copperhead Creek is harsh. Farm foreclosures, a looming textile strike in nearby Greyston Falls, and violence threaten both Lucas Perry and Sela Jean Morrow’s budding romance. Download or purchase in paperback at https://rb.gy/2s3wbx

Memorial to My Sense of Humor

“I have a knack for finding humor in all sorts of things, no matter how grim. My sense of humor is wry and a bit on the warped side. (Well, more than a bit, depending on whom you ask.)” ― Gerri R. Gray

Once I had a sense of humor…mostly teenage kind of humor, bathroom, potty mouthed, laugh at farts kind of humor. “Here, pull on my finger.” I would like to think I have evolved but I still get a good laugh when someone slips on a banana peel…I make sure they aren’t hurt first. I have evolved.

I found humor in the grim. You know, hiding my fear and pain behind a suspect joke at the expense of a dearly departed friend or family member. From my home state’s Department of Social Services, Greenville, South Carolina: Your food stamps will be stopped effective March 2013 because we received notice that you passed away. May God bless you. You may reapply if there is a change in your circumstances.

My problem is I’ve become too fearful or the grim has become too grim and I believe I’m not in a small boat in my thinking.

American politics were once a perfect target for humor. During the worst times, even our politicians could poke fun at each other. Their constituents could still laugh at them or themselves. Now any joke is taken as a challenge to a duel.

I’ve become too politically correct. No, I’ve always been too politically correct. I’ve never wanted to hurt someone’s feelings just for the sake of hurting someone’s feelings but “roasting” someone was always fair game. Now there is a movement that uses political correctness to become incensed over every little thing and another movement that uses its distain for political correctness to bully.

Americans have lost their sense of humor. I miss George Carlin’s, Dick Gregory’s, Lenny Bruce’s, and Richard Pryor’s sharp and irreverent wit poking fun at society and government in the Sixties and Seventies. We need Laugh-in’s “Laugh-in Looks at the News” or “The Wonderful World of Whoopee Award” or the political satire and irreverence of the Smothers Brothers. I miss Johnny Carson wise cracking, “There is a power struggle going on between President Reagan’s advisers. Moe and Curly are out. Larry is still in.” Somehow it was funnier when he said it, cha ching.

According to Mark Twain…or maybe Steve Allen, “Humor is tragedy plus time.” I don’t guess we have had enough time to find the humor of today’s tragic political environment. I fear in today’s environment, Mark or Steve would be cancelled the way CBS smothered the Smothers Brothers.

Now we have Laura Ingram, Sean Hannity, and Tucker Carlson…what do you mean? They aren’t comedians?

Even our politicians were funny…I’m not talking about their lawmaking abilities; some of those are quite hilarious. Some were funny not meaning to be, like Gerald Ford slipping and falling and Chevy Chase making a career spoofing it.

I swear I didn’t laugh until I knew he was okay.

I’m talking about the ability to turn a phrase or humorously bash their opponent. The comedic looking Winston Churchill for instance, speaking of politics in general, “Politics is the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn’t happen.”

My favorite humorous Churchill quotes involved Nancy Astor, Lady Astor, an American who married an English nobleman and had been elected to Parliament. They didn’t like each other very much and were always good for a humorous quip.

Lady Astor: “Mr. Churchill, you’re drunk!”

Winston Churchill: “Yes, and you, Madam, are ugly. But tomorrow, I shall be sober.”

I’m not sure that one would fly in today’s political environment. Still, it is funny.

Another and then I shall move on

Lady Astor: “Winston, if I were your wife, I’d put poison in your coffee.”

Winston Churchill: “Nancy, if I were your husband, I’d drink it.”

Politicians from another age knew how to think and realized well thought out words carried more weight than stupidly bludgeoning opponents. Simple barbs yet thoughtful that were more intelligent than name calling or disparaging someone’s wife.

Some favored quips

Bob Dole on Carter, Ford, and Nixon: “History buffs probably noted the reunion at a Washington party a few weeks ago of three ex-presidents: Carter, Ford, and Nixon — See No Evil, Hear No Evil, and Evil.”

Pat Buchanan on Bill Clinton: “Bill Clinton’s foreign policy experience is pretty much confined to having had breakfast once at the International House of Pancakes.”

Senator William E. Jenner on New York Governor W. Averell Harriman: “He’s thin, boys. He’s thin as piss on a hot rock.”

Texas Governor Ann Richards on George W. Bush: “Poor George, he can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”

Politicians were more creative…. about many things.

Maybe it is just me. I guess I should cremate my sense of humor and put the ashes in a pretty urn. I’ve let mass shootings, politics, the impending doom of Climate Change, inflation, etcetera suck the humor out of my humor. If it is a humor vampire, I’ll hang a bobble head of George Carlin around my neck instead of a cross to keep it away.

The truth is, we have lost the ability to poke fun at ourselves and the only humor we find funny must be directed toward what we perceive to be the opposition.

Don Miller’s latest offering is “Pig Trails and Rabbit Holes” and may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0yXYm7o67oNCZe580f0IHGFtOAndQ4-x_K4txNuTEUZlTfZIvoD-apLtU

Political Football…Woah Nellie!!! They’re Taking it to the House.

“You really do own your illiteracy, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I’m thinking about moving to America and running for public office.”
― Alexis Hall, Boyfriend Material

I coached high school football for twenty-nine years. I understood the game as it was played at that time, but I assure you I’ve never understood American politics. Just like football today doesn’t resemble the game I played and coached, politics do not resemble the “game” I grew up with. While American football has become more entertaining, Political football has not. It has become painful.

Politics has always seemed a bit dishonest to me, but today, politicians are hiding their dishonesty in plain sight. Politics is not about morals. It’s not about ethics. It’s not about governing. It’s about power. Win at all costs! If American politics were college football, both teams would have received the NCAA “Death Penalty.”

The fans in red shout, “Push ’em back, push ’em back, wayyyyy back!”

It is political football season, and the United States is down late in the game and facing a third down and a taxi ride…third down and forever. For those who don’t understand “football-ese” there are no plays for third down and ridiculously long yardage that gives a coach any hope for success. Yet here we are facing what I think is a mid-term, third down, “Hail Mary” at best.

Our political system is broken, that shouldn’t be a news flash. The breakage has been going on forever plus a day and it is growing worse…on both sidelines. If the system were a football, it belonged to Tom Brady during Deflategate. It gets worse, both teams have lost their starting quarterbacks and are down to their third string linemen. Negative yardage plays are the rule not the exception. They should think about punting on first down.

What is the game plan? There doesn’t seem to be one. Let’s pull a play out of a helmet and see if it works. Punch them in the face and hope for a snot bubble. Games are not won by who yells the loudest and politics shouldn’t be about who yells the most heated rhetoric. But…here we are hurling insults at the other team…I mean political party. Just insults and no substance.

The cheerleaders in blue yell, “Shimmy up a toothpick, slide down a pine, look at the scoreboard and see who’s behind…YOU!!!”

My hopeful voice tells me it will be okay, brighter heads will prevail and the lamebrains will be voted out. Then a blond lamebrain already elected reminds me otherwise. My cynical voice tells me there is no way because we are playing a political game of football with selfish and mentally challenged coaches and ethically challenged players who only care about the numbers on the back of their jerseys. The fans? They only know the colors of the jerseys, red or blue, and their allegiance is to a color not the country.

Fans in red yell while pointing, “Kill ’em, Kill ’em we don’t care, we’ve got a graveyard over there,” they honestly mean it. This is not a metaphor. (This was a cheer at my college alma mater. There was a cemetery next to the stadium. It was metaphor.)

The political ad season is upon us. The political ad playbook is to misinform and propagandize and it works. Hitler’s big lie is alive and well and we swallow it like a greasy stadium chili dog washed down with flat beer…and we like it and ask for more. Research? This is football not a physics lab.

Our teams use every misdirection play in the playbook from reverses to flea flickers to lonesome ends, but our favorite is the hidden truth…I mean the hidden ball trick. Distract and confuse the opposition’s fan base who is also distracting and confusing their opposition’s fan base. Where has truth gone and why do we allow ourselves to be lied to? Is lying the first rule of political football? Is accepting lies the second rule?

Again, I hear the cheerleaders dressed in blue chanting, “Chewin’ tobacco, chewin’ tobacco spit, spit, spit. Ex-lax, Ex-lax, go team go!”

In my deeply red state of SC, I think I shall vomit into my facemask. Thank goodness I can DVR and run past the ads. One gubernatorial candidate, the incumbent, launches forward passes of “We don’t do that down here” while his liberal, Commie loving opponent brings up football as a metaphor.

It doesn’t matter that the liberal is not a Commie, the red team will win easily because it is easier to support the team rather than the truth and it is the fans’ fault because they could care less about the truth and just hate the word liberal. Being called a liberal in South Carolina is like waving a red cape in front of a bull. Nothing good will come of it.

Just a few South Carolina truth bombs. “Go Deep Henry!” Preferably out of the end zone, through the runway and out of the stadium. Take your ball home with you.

We rank in the top ten of the worst states for domestic violence, infrastructure, education, equality, and obesity according to the latest US News statistics. We rank in the bottom fifteen in public healthcare and access to healthcare, and despite a top twenty economy, rank in the bottom fifteen in economic opportunity. We rank 47th. of fifty in infant mortality.

None of those rankings matter as long as “We don’t do that down here” and thumb our noses at Washington. We will continue to vote against our best interest because “That’s how my daddy and his daddy voted.”

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t totally blame you, Henry. You are the quarterback but only as good as the players on your team and the fans that continue to cheer for their side regardless of truth.

The facts are this, the red team has been in total control of South Carolina, the Governor’s office, the Senate, and the House, for nineteen consecutive years. Yea team!!!! We rank forty-fourth overall among the fifty states. As we like to say, “Thank God for Mississippi.”

One blue fan base yell, “Go back, go back, go back into the woods, your momma dresses funny and your team ain’t no good!

The red counters with, Go back, go back, go back into the woods! Your breath smells like cat piss and your girl does too.” Infantile? Yes, we are.

We have abandoned all truths. We’ve abandoned those truths that made us what we were, and our political parties hold much of the blame for turning our country into the football game from hell. We the fans share the blame…are to blame. We allow it. We vote for the same old tired rhetoric our grandparents voted for. Our loyalty is to the team and not to the game. Ethics? We can’t spell the word because we rank 44th. in education.

In real football games, one team wins, and one team loses. In most cases, when the clock runs out, we shake hands and go to the local watering hole, forget our good-natured hazing, and raise a few whiles discussing what went right or wrong. In political football, no one wins except the politicians and their rich supporters, and we go to the local watering hole and try to bludgeon each other to death.

Let’s face facts about political football, it’s not about morals. It’s not about ethics. It’s not about governing. It’s all about power. A recent quote, “I don’t care if Herschel Walker paid to abort endangered baby eagles. I want control of the Senate,” from former NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch sums it up. She added that “winning is a virtue.”

Just like a football game where winning is the only thing, we really don’t care about lies and deceit and who paid how much for a blue chip QB. We just care about the W and the political National Championship.

How else do you explain a football great who is running for the Georgia Senate that obviously took too many helmets to the head or a woman in SC running for Superintendent of Education who has never stood in front of a classroom and has yet to meet the qualifications to run? These are just a couple of examples.

I don’t know what November must hold. There will be fumbles and interceptions. Crushing defeats and winning by the skin of our teeth. There will be bizarre plays and goal line stands. This will also be repeated in 2024.

I know, I will be glad when the political football season is over, win, lose, or draw. I would never say that about American football.

Interested in reading more of Don Miller’s thoughts? His authors page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3U-N4HtAUsEOnyjKd_cVNPL6ywvzooknWm93aa0gGRAVnaIpKPPzIjlDc

Rant Alert: Why Teachers Have it so Good

“Teachers got it good they [teachers] get a great pension they never pay in the social security they get free lunches they only work 9 months a year and have weekends off.” – Facebook PhD

Note to self, don’t read the comments, it will take time out of your life you can’t get back and cause irritations you simply don’t need. Mr. Facebook PhD, “Have you ever used commas or periods?” Names have been changed to protect the mentally deficient.

I feel the need to clarify…no, I feel the need to rant since Mr. Facebook PhD refused to engage. Remember, don’t read the comments!!!!

Teachers do have pensions. In South Carolina where I taught until retirement, we contribute seven percent of our salaries to have a pension. Seven percent. Even after I retired and “double dipped”, a misnomer, I paid seven percent into my pension which didn’t increase my retirement one penny.

We also contribute to our own healthcare after retirement to the tune of $100.00 per month on average. It is, with Medicare, great healthcare unless you are becoming deaf, going blind, or losing your teeth.

Nationwide, most teachers pay into social security although there are some teachers that don’t, about 1.2 million. Their states chose to roll the dice that their state offered pensions would pay better. A few rolled ‘seven come eleven’ and others have thrown ‘snake eyes’.

Free lunches? “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch” and most teachers have little time to gulp it down anyway. I’m sure there are school districts that provide teachers with free lunches but for over forty years I bought mine or carried a paper bag with a sandwich, yogurt, and a pack of Nabs. Oh, for those days of rectangular pizza slices with a side of corn and a cup of peaches.

I normally ate on the move making sure little Johnny or Jenny Sue didn’t do something stupid. My favorite duty station was restroom monitor…eating my turkey sandwich while breathing in ‘ode de urine’ making sure little Johnny wasn’t lighting up a blunt or flushing someone’s head in the urinal.

The final nail that caught my attention, the fallacy of having three months off in the summers and free weekends. “There ain’t no such thing as a free summer or weekend.” There are courses to be taken, instructional workshops to attend, standards to be reviewed, and yearly plans to be made during the summer…and now you must review your syllabus making sure nothing you teach or none of your reading material suggests CRT, Marxism, or why little Johnny has two dads or two mothers.

Weekends? Papers to be graded, grades to be recorded, and lesson plans that must be turned in first thing on Monday morning.

But what about your planning period? Parents to contact or professional learning communities or data meetings to attend…a quick trip to the restroom? Planning? Rarely does planning happen. Did I mention that most weekday evenings suck too?

As a side note, because many are confused, teachers are paid for the one hundred eighty days they teach and whatever planning days are added in. In our state, South Carolina, it is one hundred and ninety days. Federal holidays? Nope. Summer? Nope. Our one hundred and ninety days are divided into twelve months so that we don’t starve in the summer. Still many must take summer jobs just to supplement their families’ income if they can work it around workshops, we aren’t paid for…or paid little, to attend.

So, while we are paid over the summer, we are not paid FOR the summer. Further note, many school districts are moving to year-round school. Did the pay go up…nope, nope, nope, they are still on site for one hundred and ninety days.

Much is being written and there are myriads of opinions about teacher shortages. Good, experienced teachers dropping out, few new teachers entering the profession. Anyone who slept through my US History class has offered an opinion.

Many teachers have pointed to the increase in lack of respect from politicians, administrators, parents, and students. While lack of respect has certainly increased, it is not new. Teachers have never been recognized as ‘real’ professionals…we aren’t even recognized as real state employees unless it benefits the state.

When I first faced a class of smiling faces some fifty years ago, I was an anomaly of sorts, a male in a profession populated by females. At the junior high school there were only four males on staff. A principal, an assistant principal, a physical educator, and yours truly.

Male teachers were recruited to coach, not to provide mentorship in the classroom unless it was a blue-chip athlete. Coaches with history degrees were a dime a dozen which is why I added a physical science certification to put beans on the table…ridiculously small plates of beans. Yes, I was originally recruited to coach but am proud of my teaching career. I didn’t teach to coach, I coached to teach.

Why might you ask? Teaching was viewed as women’s work, a nice side job to keep the ‘little lady’ out of trouble and supplement the household income provided by the male who ‘did the real work.’ This was an improvement over the days when ‘schoolmarms’ had to quit if they got married. The view that teaching was a side job is one of the reasons teachers haven’t been paid as professionals until recently, if at all. Presently, women make up seventy-five percent of the nation’s teachers.

Another problem in what was once ‘textile country’, you don’t need to have much education to run a machine and uneducated workers don’t expect to get paid as much. “Keep ’em stupid, keep them poor” might have been a mantra.

That belief is a holdover from the textile days which ended in the Eighties and why we have a challenging time finding qualified technicians and engineers to fill our needs. We must recruit from other states and countries to maintain our 24th-place ranking in economic outlook.

Teachers tend to be looked down upon because of the “Those who can do, those who can’t teach” mentality which has been around much longer than the past decade. A family member once asked me in all seriousness when I was going to get a real job. Another asked me when I would graduate from teaching at a junior high school.

Public Education is in decline and parents, politicians and those who believe education should be used to fatten certain people’s billfolds (private schools) are throwing the dirt in its grave. With three hundred thousand teaching vacancies, many states are lowering their teaching standards to allow anyone who can breathe the opportunity to teach. Many parents believe this is fine as long as their schools provide free childcare and a couple of free meals during the day. One more slap in the face of dedicated teachers.

Public education hasn’t helped itself. Bloated administration costs, emphasis on testing instead of problem solving, passing everyone to elevate graduation rates, and a decrease in reading and math skills upon graduation have not endeared public education to certain groups, including me. We continue to lag in math and reading. There are more Facebook PhDs on the horizon, but these won’t be able to add and subtract either.

Add to this toxic brew, the politically motivated accusations of indoctrination, grooming, teaching CTR, teaching Marxism, etcetera, ad nauseum, I understand why good teachers are getting out and teacher education programs are sucking air. I had two choices of callings when I graduated from college. In this environment I would pick the other one.

I would like to emphasize three points that exemplify the problems found in South Carolina. This is an incomplete list.

We have formed a task force in South Carolina at Governor Foghorn Leghorn’s insistence to study teacher recruitment and retainment. There are no presently teaching teachers on the task force. These members are political appointees and the two who have taught haven’t in several decades.

A new state superintendent will be elected this November and one candidate running does not yet have the qualifications to run and no teaching experience. She has never stood in front of a classroom. I pray she will not meet the qualifications in November because in our state, she will be elected because so many people vote straight party ballots.

If education is fully funded in South Carolina this year, it will be the first time in over a decade.

If you want to know what is wrong with education try something different and it is not a task force. Ask a teacher and involve frontline teachers in problem solving…something we’ve really never done and probably won’t. Until then we will exclaim with pride, “Thank goodness for Mississippi.”

To sum up, a quote from former teaching peer, Brent Boiling, “Teachers at *** used to be like gourmet chefs…. creative and free to do their jobs as professionals. Now they’re McTeachers.”

Don Miller’s author’s page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR1pVsy-a3ZtRJ98EGHW-xrQS0R-IUosd_iDVGMICpugfL0tbofyolue8Yw

I’m Just Not Feeling it

“It’s not unpatriotic to denounce an injustice committed on our behalf, perhaps it’s the most patriotic thing we can do.”

― E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly

Happy birthday America! Two hundred forty-six years young. The grand experiment…the shining light on the hill…an example for the free world. I think we need a transfusion or take off our rose-colored glasses.

I’m just not feeling it. Oh, I went to the annual Bennett July Fourth eve cookout and gorged myself on ribs, pulled pork, and Carol Ann’s potato salad. But I’m not feeling the patriotism. Even after talking with a young man (57) who had spent the past eighteen years in China, I couldn’t feel it. It was just a backyard cookout to me, and I didn’t stick around for the fireworks. I’ll probably watch the fireworks on TV but then I will think about the fireworks on January 6, 2021,

I’m not feeling July 4, 2022. I am feeling a bit overstuffed from last night. That’s not a good thing either.

The Fourth of July is supposed to be a celebrated, a day to commemorate independence, a day of freedom…”let freedom ring.” It took seven years of war to gain that independence and when the gunpowder cleared there were many still not free. Should I dwell on that?

I try to take comfort in the history of our nation. We’ve rarely been totally united as a nation. Our history is rife with examples of discord, and few examples when we all marched together, in step for a cause. Somehow, we’ve muddled along despite the discord. Well, there was that four-year period during our Civil War. The best I can say is we have a voice that is allowed to express our discord.

The thought really is only responsible for a small portion of my malaise and indifference. I’ve been in my malaise since 2016 and it is darkening. It isn’t my malaise; it is my country’s malaise, my country’s failure to come together on anything. Rare is there common ground. It is us versus them and them are the traitors.

Malaise: an indefinite feeling of debility or lack of health often indicative of or accompanying the onset of an illness. A vague sense of mental or moral ill-being. That is according to Merriam-Webster and sums up how I feel about my country. I fear we are on our death bed.

A post came across one of my social media platforms that gave me pause, “I don’t think America deserves a birthday celebration this year.” That’s what I’m feeling. I’m also feeling that there might not be many more birthdays to celebrate…at least in our country’s present form. America the Beautiful may have an incurable illness and facing life support.

I read a quote made by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “When a whole nation is roaring patriotism at the top of its voice, I am fain to explore the cleanness of its hands and the purity of its heart.” Fain is a somewhat archaic word that means pleased or willing.

I hear and see posts from people who, by their own voice, call themselves “patriots” and point fingers at people with opposing opinions calling them traitors. This accusation is not even implied, it is boldly printed or yelled. It is on their standards as they march on city streets, wrapping themselves in Old Glory, their faces covered lest someone might see who the “patriots” are. I never thought I would be accused of being a traitor for doing what I thought was right…even if that thought was wrong.

These people are wedges. If you ever spent time splitting wood, you know the function of a wedge…to split. I believe people are being indoctrinated, nay…groomed to be wedges. Whomever is responsible is doing a bang-up job. I’ve never seen us so splintered…not since 1968 and I think 1968 falls short of the mark when compared to present day, July 4, 2022.

On a personal note, I used the words indoctrinated and groomed purposely. I see it all the time when reading about the educational shenanigans in my home state. Mostly they are directed toward my former peers, teachers.

Along with Critical Race Theory and the word “woke,” these are dog whistles or buzz words to further turn people against each other. They are used to wedge apart teachers and parents and liberals and conservatives.

To what end? To destroy public education in favor of for-profit private schools? That is what I think. Just “follow the money.” Propaganda ads reigned supreme as “big money” from out of state fueled one of the sides and our deep red state ate it up. The same is true when the government gets involved. I am so happy I’m a retired teacher. I guess I could retire as an American.

Last quote and I’ll quit beating a dead mule.

“… patriotism lies in supporting the values the country is supposed to cherish: equality, life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. When our government compromises, undermines, or attacks those values, it is being unpatriotic.” Howard Zinn, WW II vet, historian, playwright.

I believe January 6, did just that. January 6th compromised, undermined, and attacked our democracy. As I have watched the congressional committee my depression has grown. I consider myself to be a sane man most of the time. I don’t know how anyone could watch the videos from the January 6 Insurrection and not believe it was exactly that…an attempted insurrection.

It was an attack on our democracy and I believe on some level, planned. I don’t know how you can question what occurred.  I don’t know how you can question what the congressional committee has unearthed.  

Yet people do. They question the election, the motivations, come up with more and more bizarre theories. My malaise grows when I think that many applauded as they watched it unfold on their televisions.

Happy Birthday these dis-United States of America. I’m not sure you were ever as great as I thought you were but I’m damn sure you are not as great as you could be.

Some will say, “If you are so unhappy, maybe you should move to another country.” Well, my retort is unprintable.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that over half our population lost the right to control their own bodies this past week. I fear more losses will occur.

Don Miller’s authors page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR2YOthoDURrlEvGPVx2PXKdydIqxQqHnp9KNhjdK8ez-tm8sQjz8C4gUPo

Culture of the Gun

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” – attributed to Albert Einstein

As a retired teacher I have suffered over the deaths at Uvalde…and Columbine…and Sandy Hook…and…so many more. Late in my career I participated in “active shooter” drills and helped to produce strategies to counter an attack. We locked our doors even though the only thing between us and an active shooter was a five-eighth piece of sheet rock.

Since the brutal deaths of nineteen students and two teachers in a Texas school, barely a week after the shooting of six, one killed, in a California church, and ten killed in a New York grocery store many have opinions on what needs to be done to ensure the safety of our children and ourselves.

Most of the reactions follow a familiar path, “thoughts and prayers”, media outcries for change, pro-gun rights folks debate anti-gun rights folks including deflection, time passes with nothing happening except more guns are bought until the furor dies and we are again shocked with the next mass shooting. The debate begins again and honestly…we don’t seem to be as shocked as we once were.

I’ve seen suggestions from arming teachers, my least favorite out of myriads of least favorites, to we must “harden the targets.” That sounds like something from a war zone or a “sh!th@le” country. All ignore the underlying issue. A culture that embraces violence over diplomacy and access to weapons to execute that violence.

Another suggests “evil exists, and laws will not change that.” The next time a highway patrolman pulls me for speeding I think I’ll try that one out. No, I’m not equating speeding to murder, but the comment has me wondering why we have laws at all. Laws are for honest people?

Let me be fair. It is not just about school, church, or supermarket shootings. It is the drive by in LA, or gang violence in Chicago or Baltimore, or the drunken good ole boy who decides to William Tell a PBR can off his friend’s head and misses a bit low with his hunting rifle.

It’s about four students wounded while walking to their prom. It is about gunfire due to road rage and looking cross eyed at the wrong person. It’s about good old boys strapping AR-15s to their back when they get a coffee at the local coffee shop. It is about a lack of empathy and ignoring the sanctity of life in favor of an amendment.

In 2020, gun violence became the leading cause of youth death’s surpassing automobile accidents. Most were suicides. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2020, 54% of all gun-related deaths in the U.S. were suicides (24,292), while 43% were murders (19,384). The numbers came from the CDC and were backed by other sources. According to CNN, personal safety tops the list of reasons why American gun owners say they own a firearm, yet 63% of US gun-related deaths are self-inflicted.

It is a fact that it took a finger to pull the trigger, the gun didn’t do it on its own, and these Pew and CDC statistics do not reflect accidental gun deaths or where guns were a contributing factor but not the cause of death. It is also true that we live in a gun rich environment. Five percent of the world’s population owns 44-46% of the world’s civilian firearms depending on the study you might be reading. According to a recent CNN study, we own more guns than we have people, one hundred-twenty guns per one hundred people.

According to a Scientific American study in 2015, assaults with a firearm were 6.8 times more common in states that had the most guns, compared to the least. More than a dozen studies have revealed that if you had a gun at home, you were twice as likely to be killed as someone who didn’t.

Research from the Harvard School of Public Health tells us that states with higher gun ownership levels have higher rates of homicide. Data even tells us that where gun shops or gun dealers open for business, killings go up. There are always exceptions to the rule, but some politicians would have you ignore the overall data and quote the exceptions rather than the rule.

In an article by Fortune Magazine published by Yahoo, Gun rights groups spent $15.8 million on lobbying last year, compared to just $2.9 million in lobbying from gun control groups. Beyond lobbying, gun groups have contributed $50.5 million to federal candidates and party committees between 1989 and 2022, with the vast majority going to Republicans. They spent especially heavily in the 2020 election, with $16.6 million in outside spending.

Oh, but the Second Amendment…. I’m not going to debate it except to say that one side always ignores two words, “well regulated.”

Will there be a change after Buffalo and Uvalde? If history repeats, why would I expect there would be change. I don’t believe I am an overly cynical person but why would I expect change? Guns are as much a part of our culture as mom, apple pie, and Chevrolet. Other than exchanging duck and cover drills for active shooter drills little has changed.

Our history is rife with violence, mostly involving a gun. Our country was born from violence and expanded using violence. Do we have a greater propensity for violence than other countries? I don’t know but other countries have done a better job of curbing theirs.

We have violent games, violent movies glorifying the gun and the heroic figure welding it. I’m just as guilty. Several of my novels include violence…gun violence but the good guy with the gun always saved the day…unlike real life. 

When I read my comic books, Zane Grey, or Louis Lamoure, I knew it was fiction. James Arness or John Wayne wasn’t really gunning them down in the streets. After I became a history student, I found out their fiction was…based on fiction. There were few gunfights in the streets and the Gunfight at the OK Corral lasted about thirty seconds. My novels are no different.

Other cultures have violent games, movies, and literature, but they don’t have real-life violence like we do here. Maybe we should work to keep guns out of the hands of the violent. Maybe we should look at the underlying issues that lead to violence and attempt to correct them.

It is mental illness. I believe someone who goes out and kills nineteen children is mentally ill…but that doesn’t give him a free pass. Other countries with much lower murder rates have mental illnesses too. Could it have something to do with our health system? Maybe we should work to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.

It is parenting. Probably but why? Single parent homes? Parents having to work multiple jobs leaving their children to their own devices. Cycles of poverty? We don’t seem to care much once a child is born.

Criminals will always find a way…yes probably. Why are we not cutting off access at the source? Gunmakers and smugglers? Everything is done after the murder instead of trying to prevent it. Could it be gunmakers and politicians are making too much money off the sale of legal and illegal firearms?

Maryland was one of the outliers in the Pew study. Strict gun laws but a higher number of gun deaths. Sixty-five percent of the guns used in violence in Maryland that could be traced came from other states with laxer gun laws. I don’t know the numbers but the same can be said about Chicago, I’m sure. Just something to ponder.

Cain killed Abel with a rock. Yep, if the Bible is to be believed. I would rather confront a killer walking around with a bag of rocks than a bag of thirty round magazines and a rifle or pistol to put them in.

Along the same lines, “We’ve taken God out of … fill in the blank.” There are many countries who aren’t considered “Christian Countries” who have much lower gun homicide rates. Research Shinto Japan and while you are at it research their gun laws. Japan has a very violent history at times. Somehow, they decided to overcome it as did other less Christian countries.

It does seem we have lost our appreciation for the sanctity of life…all life. Our hatred for others leads us to violence. Disagreement has become life threatening. Some Christians will say it is because we have become Godless, I will say that some Christians have driven me from organized religion because they are Jesus-less. If you can’t appreciate the Earth and the people who live on it, I want no part of you.

I don’t expect any of this will change anyone’s mind about guns…or violence…or mental illness and I don’t believe any effective change will occur. Gun violence is too engrained in our culture, and we pass it on to our children. I fear it is who we are.

***

For clarification, Albert Einstein had many thoughtful quotes, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results” was not one of them. The quote, or a similar quote, first appeared in an Al-Anon article in 1981. There is no evidence Einstein ever said it.

Research cited


https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-science-is-clear-gun-control-saves-lives/

https://www.cnn.com/2021/11/26/world/us-gun-culture-world-comparison-intl-cmd/index.html?fbclid=IwAR2vEhlMbsPbVhwBEXTyXtC6iUkx2VAkGf37uCdLzyMABlHEDSPSANOacV0

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/lobbying-gun-rights-groups-hit-152634408.html

Caught in a Trap…Again

If we’re being Honest…Sometimes it’s the “Church Folk” that run People away from the Church.” – Adam Hopkins

I’ve run away…and not because of Jesus.

Christian Zealotry masquerading as a man of the cloth was the trigger. Is Zealotry even a word? Must be, my spell check didn’t alert me otherwise. After being told I was on a slippery slope to hell due to my leftist leanings, the trigger took me back to a previous pig trail I followed. I’m guessing I am still following it. The path leads away from organized religion.

The original motivation for this occurred six years ago from a sermon I heard.  I wrote about it then and have retitled and rewritten in the present. What I haven’t done is changed my beliefs. We “Church Folk” have done much to destroy the Christian Church.

My original was written in a time before Donald Trump’s Presidency, before the pandemic, before Qanon, before the Capitol riots, before Joe Biden, before recounts, and before the more recent plague of wildfires, earthquakes, hurricanes, more wars, and rumors of war…and Hunter’s laptop.

My trigger, a former student now a minister, believes some of these are God’s will, others the work of Satan or Democrats, (to him and his minions…err, church members, they are the same). He also believes he is free to mix and match strips with plaids or linen and cotton, but alternative lifestyles are damned. (Leviticus 19:19)

Before times that try men’s souls”, I did not find comfort in my words then and I still do not. Times are still trying men’s souls and the words are still “trending” in my head. In other words, the trend still applies…to me.

“As Christians, we do a better job of promoting what we are against than what we are for.” This was a quote from my minister on a Sunday morning six years ago as he presented his sermon and for once I was paying attention.

Had I titled his message for him, the sermon would have read, “THE TRAP THAT IS RELIGION.” He referred to this “trap” a couple of times and his sermon provided a “thoughtful feast”…although some of his servings might have been a bit bitter.

Later in the day, as I thought about the “trappings” of religion, my thinking ran along another pig trail to a rabbit hole. Not the trappings my minister was talking about. It was “my church is bigger than your church kind of things”. Fancy eye-catching robes, repeated liturgy in unison, fireworks, and lightshows, long, long altar calls, and other public displays. It was about my God being better than your god and if you don’t believe it, I will beat you over the head with my Bible, Quran, or Dead Sea Scrolls.

My pig trail led to wealth gospels, faith healers, QAnon followers, and a video of a Baptist minister preaching about “How Women These Days are Just Not Hot Enough.” My pig trail led me to our hallowed halls of government where I see little modeling of Jesus despite my trigger’s nonvalid point that “we are a Christian nation” versus my valid point that “no, we are a constitutional nation.”

My cynicism toward organized religions has grown to epic proportions. I haven’t been able to return “to the little white church in the vale” even as my fear of COVID passed. My loss? Their loss?

After hours of self-reflection, I realized I have problems with public displays of faith, and it may be my lack of substance. Little Donnie having problems should not mean you should, unless they are empty displays, and I should clarify.  I do not mean modeling Jesus; I mean chest and Bible thumping, a handheld above the head, snakes being handled, calls for hellfire and damnation…all while hating your neighbor because they choose a different lifestyle or hating another religion because…because it is not your religion. Having the trappings without the substance.

I should clarify further, it is my problem, not anyone else’s problem. If you wish to handle a snake to prove your faith and piety, go for it, just alert me so I may be absent.

I also have a problem with the “my way or the highway” point of view of many religions, and not just reactionary Christianity.

My religious beliefs are private, personal, and hard for me to express, certainly hard for me to put into printed words. Is it because I’m not religious enough? Am I not filled with the glorious “light of the Son?” Why do I freeze when asked to pray publicly? Has my pig trail run me off a cliff?

I know some Christians believe that public displays are part of the trappings and are necessary. They are comfortable with them…I am not. I wish I were. I want the God and Christ in one to make me more “public” but, yet, they have not eased my struggle. They are busy elsewhere. They should be and profoundly so.  I do not blame them for their silence and still believe in their teachings…most of their teachings, some of their teachings, which is another part of my trap.

When I thought about the “trap that is religion” I could not help but remember the lines from the Buffett song “Fruitcakes.” The lyrics went, “Where’s the church, who took the steeple? Religion is in the hands of some crazy-ass people. Television preachers with bad hair and dimples. The god’s honest truth is it’s not that simple. It’s the Buddhist in you, it’s the Pagan in me. It’s the Muslim in him, she’s Catholic ain’t she? It’s the born again look, it’s the WASP and the Jew. Tell me what’s goin on, I ain’t gotta clue.” Like Jimmy, I really don’t have a clue.

The line about religion being in the hands of some crazy-ass people is what gives me the most pause. I believe religions have done much good…and much damage.

I am concerned about followers of reactionary American Christian Religions whose piety allows for racism, bigotry, and misogyny.

I fear zealots, especially those who wrap themselves in the United States’ flag calling it patriotism. A zealot by any other name is still a zealot whether it is religious or political. I fear those who have combined the two into one nationalistic ideology.

Locally, I am concerned when a deacon displays a “Let’s go Brandon” sign prominently on his home…that might have been “what broke the camel’s back.” I worry about and question the sincerity of some. While it is not for me to judge I find myself falling into that trap too. “Judge not lest ye be judged” and I would not want to be judged.

Where in the Bible does it say to weaponize the word of God and use it to bludgeon non or contrary believers into submission? While I don’t wish to judge, I do and find some relief from a friend’s quote, “Judge not lest you judge wisely.” I’m not sure that is Biblical, but I am sure it is not a trap.

Sorry if my ramblings resemble those of a blind pig.

More of Don Miller’s ramblings may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR1YR8au-BVuOSJ_WJlJAWc2sZShmp9F8UTvlrr9cmNiW957CDUbTdNsivE

Hooray For Me…

And the hell with everybody else.

I grew up in a world where people were supportive of each other, regardless of political viewpoint.  If you were a liberal, conservatives might look at you side-eyed and shake their heads, but they supported you as a human being. They might talk about you behind your back, call you a ‘quare’ bird, but it was usually in whispers and in all honesty, where I grew up there were few liberals…still are few liberals.

I don’t know where that world has gone.  I hope, pray, that it is just a vocal minority but they seem to have developed a loud “hooray for me and the hell with everybody else” attitude.  Sounds selfish to me but then who am I to accuse?  I’ll just say if the shoe fits wear it. It is my opinion.

The most vocal don’t believe that falling sick to Covid is worse than getting the vaccine or the “jab” as they like to call it.  I detest hearing “I don’t need it. God will call me home when he deems it is time.”  I hate hearing “It is no worse than the flu.” Some three hundred and fifty thousand more were called to their heavenly home in 2020 than in 2019 and we seem to be on a similar schedule for 2021.

Where does free will fit into this?  If I choose to roller-skate on a crowded boulevard during rush hour and am crushed by a beer truck, is that God’s will?  Where does “data” figure into this? “Oh, don’t waste my time with data, my mind is made up. There is a chance I’ll survive and if I don’t, it’s God’s will.” Not my god.

It appears that some of the same vocal minority believe storms, wildfires, and changes in climate patterns are a symptom of an angry god rather than the prodrome of a sick planet. Yep, science is for sissies, and New York got flooded because of liberal leadership despite the fact Ida traveled from New Orleans to New York over several conservative states.

Somehow the liberal media and all the world’s liberal leaders have figured out a way to keep a secret.  A worldwide plot to eradicate conservatism with facemasks, vaccines, windmills, and solar panels.  Covid and Climate Change are all hoaxes or a plot.  All we must do is take vitamins, exercise, eat well, and sweep out our forests.  If that doesn’t work, animal dewormer…yeah, I know they make it for humans too…for parasites. Just say no to windmills and solar panels while you are at it.

I’m trying to picture my parents, Ernest and Eldora Miller, members of the “Greatest Generation”, standing in a picket line, or screaming at a school board about the evils of Satan’s mask mandate and waving placards denouncing returns to Marx’s virtual learning. I can’t picture it because it would have never happened.  It is almost too humorous to consider.

Lord help us if someone mentions “lockdown.”  Oh, that slippery slope toward communism.

How did wearing a mask or getting a “jab” lead us to arguments about freedom?  Do you want the freedom to infect your family, friends, and the old guy you passed in the checkout at Wally World? 

Why are we not supportive of humankind?  Somehow humankind has become a triggering word too.  Why should we worry about people in other parts of the world not named Afghanistan?  That pesky, “Love thy neighbor” thing in the Bible? 

Does this mean my parents were unaware at best or stupid at worst?  No, they were concerned about their family, friends, neighbors, and people they had never met.  Old Ernest and Eldora saw a way to make life better for all.  They were concerned about the human collective except the most vocal will take offense to me using the word collective.  Collective is just too close to communal, and we all know where communal leads. To the great communist devil hiding under our beds.

Somewhere in the dimly lit past, I remember loading up after church into our 1953 Ford Customline and driving to our small school, standing in line with all the people I had just been in church with at the cafeteria.  My parents, grandparents, brother, and me.  Why?  To eat lunch? No. To receive the Salk vaccine on a sugar cube.  No one was protesting and polio disappeared.  Imagine that and I grew up in a most conservative place.  There was no discussion of mandates.  There didn’t need to be.

What happened to us?

Commander Spock of Star Trek fame uttered these words in the movie “The Wrath of Khan,” “Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” Captain Kirk answers, “Or the one.” I agree with Spock even though he was a fictional character.

Many will say that Spock’s utterance is too utilitarian, the doctrine that an action is right if it promotes safety and happiness, and that the greatest happiness of the greatest number should be the guiding principle of conduct.  I certainly believe sacrificing oneself for the greater good is an individual choice but no one, not me or anyone else, is asking you to sacrifice your life.  I believe the data supports that and they are not going to take your guns either.

Do some people have potentially deadly issues with the vaccine and is it worth the fear?  Sure, but a very small percentage, 0.0017 percent have died after taking the vaccine through June 14, 2021.  People died from the polio vaccine.  Look up the Cutter Incident and it was caused by a mistake. 

Do the vaccinated still catch Covid? Yes, but look at the vaccination numbers versus unvaccinated and the recovery rate.  YOU LOOK IT UP. The data shows you are much more likely to recover if you do get it and are less likely to get it, period.

For those from the “Don’t confuse me with the facts group”, it would appear, logic has disappeared, worse, it appears logic is purposely being distorted. That worries me the most. People are getting sick. People are dying because hospitals are being filled with the unvaccinated.

To be clear.  Do mandates take away freedoms?  Of course.  What I’m saying is, we shouldn’t even have to mention mandates.

Don Miller writes on various subjects, mostly uplifting non-rants. His author’s page may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR1smB-fmScUP0JbtXJZaCzDQXYPuJKLT-n4oLUE6ojWkNkHcug5ZFWD8DE

Of Birds, Grandmothers, and Eisenhower Republicans

Continuing to write chapters in my head from the unwritten book entitled Pig Trails and Rabbit Holes, I find myself meandering along a twisting path and disappearing into Alice’s rabbit hole, again. Maybe I’ll encounter a hookah smoking caterpillar. The Mad Hatter has already taken up residence in my head.  A bit of hashish might calm him.

It is a dark, raw, and dreary day here in the foothills of the Blue Ridge.  It is the kind of day rabbits and wild pigs should be tucked safely in their burrows, huddled together for warmth.  I am warm, sitting in front of a fire, watching my birds gorge themselves on sunflower seeds and suet. You can add a squirrel or five and an occasional “Chester”, a name my wife has given to the ground squirrels that seem to be multiplying at an alarming rate.  All are eating me out of house and home.

I’m drawn to thoughts and mental photos of my Grandmother’s bird feeders.  I don’t remember squirrels in attendance but there were plenty of little chipmunks around. 

My grandmother would be proud of my collection of avian acrobats.  Cardinals, woodpeckers, titmice, nuthatches, chickadees, and sparrows have been joined by gold and purple finches, their spring mating colors beginning to show. Cardinals are pretty but they are mean.  They take nothing off anyone, not even the squirrels.

Below the feeders, towhees, robins, doves, and a brown thrasher dig, waiting on “manna” from heaven to fall from the feeders.  Same with two chipmunks.  Where are the mockingbirds and catbirds?  I really must get a platform feeder with some fruit offerings.

On clear days my Red Tails cavort, riding the thermals and gleefully whistling to each other. But it is not a clear day.

Yeah, Nannie would be proud…until the impeachment trial lit up on my TV screen.  I doubt she would have any pride in anything I watched and I should have stayed tuned into the chipmunks.

My grandmother was an Eisenhower Republican.   Maybe I am too…or a Kennedy Democrat.  I know that Eisenhower nor Kennedy would recognize their respective parties today.  I also know the transition didn’t occur over night. It has been a treacherous highway we have traveled and appear to continue to travel.

As I researched “Ike’s” childhood and early life, I realized how similar my grandparent’s forefathers and mothers resembled the President’s.  Their forbearers, German, Scot, Irish and English, probably arrived in the New World via Pennsylvania like my forbearers.  My forefathers and mothers headed South through Virginia, North Carolina, to finally South Carolina and a hard scrabble existence as farmers, drummers, and cabinet makers. There might have been a huckster or two among them.

President Eisenhower’s forbearers headed to Virginia and then west to Kansas, south to Texas and then back to Kansas.  His family lived in poverty as hard times struck the mid-west.  Ike worked on a dairy along with his brother, helping his mechanic and dairy farming father scratch out a living.  There are a lot of similarities when faced with a hard scrabble life.

When I was a child, my grandmother forced me to read.  My grandmother’s tutelage was fully supported and enforced by my parents.  Sometimes quite painfully enforced. During summer vacations I would be led to meet the county bookmobile and forced to pick books to read.  It was decided I would pick three, all to be completed before the ancient, converted school bus returned two weeks later. Over time I found myself picking four or five books on my own.

I remember one choice chronicled Eisenhower’s early life.  How he almost lost his leg to a freak football injury.  Refusing an amputation, he somehow survived and grew up to be General Eisenhower of WW II fame and the Thirty-Fourth President of the United States.

He was a heroic figure and, despite the warts we all have, I understand my grandmother’s adulation. He certainly wasn’t perfect, and with twenty-twenty hindsight, it is easy to see missteps as he dealt with the recovery from WW II, the escalating Cold War, and building Civil Rights movement.   It should also be easy to see his positives. Despite not being able to stop nuclear proliferation, it was one of the most prosperous times both economically, scientifically, and artistically.  In some ways it might have spoiled us.

The first election I remember was the 1956 election, Eisenhower running for a second term against Adlai Stevenson.  It had no significance for a six year old. I was still playing cowboys and outlaws. I remember it because my grandmother seemed to be concerned.  She left her radio on all night awaiting the election news.  From my bed in the corner of her room I remember her whispered prayers. She shouldn’t have been worried.  It was a landslide for Eisenhower.

Despite the duck and cover drills in case of nuclear attack I experienced as a child, I can’t help but wish an Eisenhower incarnation had been elected to deal with Covid-19 and the social unrest we are experiencing.  I liked his attitude of diplomacy first. I know today’s responses would have been different and so would the outcomes. 

I remember or studied later his responses to Polio and the Salk vaccine, Sputnik, McCarthy, fireworks in the Middle East and Asia, carrying out Truman’s executive orders desegregating the military, an interstate system…even if was built to move the military rapidly from one place to another.  A response might have been the wrong one in hindsight, but there was a response, usually with diplomacy first. There was no inactivity. 

Then maybe I’m deluding myself.  Is it the differences in Presidents or the differences in Americans? 

I still think I’ll characterize myself as an Eisenhower Republican…or a Kennedy Democrat.  I just heard a squirrel land on my bird feeder…or was it my grandmother spinning in her grave.  She was not a Kennedy fan, at least at first. He was a rich, Massachusetts’s Catholic after all.  Unlike Eisenhower, my grandmother grew up in a world so different from Kennedy’s it might well have been another planet. I doubt she was a Nixon fan either as history played out.

Oh well. The rain has slacked off and my bird feeders need to be refilled. It is another day and there will be no trial coverage. Since there is a chance of winter weather on Tuesday my grandmother would agree that I need to make sure my wood stores are replenished. “Yes ma’am, I’ll get those bird feeders first.”

For more pig trails and rabbit holes https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3oAjNYooKiVzCcXTBVNofhw-T3ZwvoWeD90Y-Uv_KI1Y8lpyLBOC-HK2M

The image of Eisenhower is from Wardlaw Museum, University of St. Andrews.