HOPE, CHANGE, AND REALITY January 26, 2016

After a very long, relaxing, productive break, I am ready and renewed to start yapping again. My plan for this year is to post at least once a week while keeping all of my posts as short as possible.

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On January 12, 2016, President Obama gave his final State of the Union Address. In it he presented, with stunning rhetorical mastery, an inspirational and optimistic message of hope for change in America. And, as always, most of what he said was not only true, but cogently argued and pragmatically and morally sound. In his summary, he said the following:

…our collective future depends upon your willingness to uphold your duties as a citizen – to vote, to speak out, to stand up for others, especially the weak, especially the vulnerable, knowing that each of us is only here because somebody, somewhere, stood up for us.

And in your daily acts of citizenship, I see the future unfolding. I see it in the worker…the boss who pays him higher wages instead of laying him off…the Dreamer…the teacher… the American who served his time…but now is dreaming of starting over – and I see it in the business owner who gives him that second chance… the protestor determined to prove justice matters…the young cop walking the beat, treating everybody with respect…the soldier…the nurse…the community… the son who finds the courage to come out as who he is, and the father whose love for that son overrides everything he has been taught. I see it in the elderly woman who will wait in line to cast her vote as long as she has to…the new citizen…the volunteers at the polls who believe every vote should count because each of them in different ways know how much that precious right is worth.

That’s the America I know. That’s the country we love…optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. That’s what makes me so hopeful about our future. I believe in change because I believe in you, the American people.

Finally, near his conclusion he repeated his admonition to America to stop seeing ourselves as black or white, gay or straight, Democrat or Republican, etc., but as Americans first. I only wish that he could have said as human beings first, even if some of us are just puppies!

These are wonderful and inspiring words. But this President has been obstructed in every step he has taken and vilified for every idea he has espoused, regardless of how morally sound or genuinely compassionate they were. His desire for hope and change has encountered the cold, durable wall of the reality too many of us create and support. As a result, he has accomplished much less than he could have had forces of undeniable malevolence not opposed him.

Of course many of these issues were genuinely disputable, and ought to have been discussed and debated at length. When I use the word malevolence I am speaking about those issues Americans ought to be able to agree upon, regardless of which race, party, or tribe we belong to. I think we could all agree, for example, that:

  • No race is superior to any other race, and everyone should be treated equally and have an equal opportunity to succeed.
  • Our criminal justice system is clearly unjust.
  • The War On Drugs was an abject failure and needs to be scrutinized.
  • Global warming and the human degradation of our planet is real.
  • Peace is preferable to war.
  • It is not a sin to be poor. It is a sin to be obscenely greedy.
  • The world is now and always has been too small to comfortably encompass tribalism, jingoism, intolerance, and xenophobia.
  • America must earn respect in the world not by flexing our muscles, but by rediscovering and embracing compassion.

These ideas make sense to me, but maybe I’m crazy. I don’t know. I’m just a puzzled puppy.

 NEXT: DONALD TRUMP’S AMERICA: A PREVIEW

 

 

 

 

SAN BERNARDINO VICTIMS December 5, 2015

I’d like to say how very sorry I am for the San Bernardino shooting victims and their families and friends. And for all of us. We may disagree, even profoundly, and our philosophies may severely conflict. At times our disagreements may even provoke harsh words and angry verbal exchanges. But when an opinion or a disagreement or a philosophy or a religion is used as an excuse for any kind of violence whatsoever, the perpetrator(s) of that violence deserve the full condemnation of all societies and prosecution to the full extent of the law. We must always have compassion, even for those who commit these disgustingly evil acts, but there is no room anywhere for excuses or justifications for violence. There is only room for swift, lawful, and decisive action by society.

May all of us, and the families and friends of the victims in particular, encounter compassion and receive the support needed to again find peace in our hearts.

At times like these, I’m truly a puzzled puppy.

HUMAN BEINGS October 22, 2015

 

Hi! My name’s Gizmo. I’m the Puzzled Puppy. And this is my first post on my new blog. Let’s take a walk!

You can plan on only about two posts a week for now, because I’m currently busy chasing my tail. When I get over that, I’ll post more.

As a puppy, I just try to live a quiet, peaceful life, but sometimes it’s not easy. And when I think about how much more difficult it is for most of the other puppies in the world, first I get sad. Then, quite often, I get angry. And sometimes I wander beyond angry and get pissed off no end. Then I become a mad dog.

I see war, exploitation, racism, intolerance, and puppies just generally getting kicked and I notice that some of us are trying to help and others really don’t seem to care. You’ve got three groups: the kickers, the kickees, and ones that stay curled up all the time, even if there’s a fire in the house.

I’m just little, so there’s not much I can do, but there is something. There’s always something. So I thought I’d get off the rug and start yapping once in a while. Maybe it’s not much, but the way I look at it, if I bark enough maybe at least one little mutt might wake up.

Okay. I’d like to start by posting an essay written by the Boss. He takes care of me and we talk quite a bit. This is what he wrote:

 

Human beings are funny little puppies. They commonly consider themselves to be the most intelligent of all species, so much so that the genius/species appellation Homo sapiens is commonly elevated to the level of a designation separating one kingdom from another: plants, animals, and people.

            “In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God.”  And no less so in other religions and myths, in high and in  popular culture, and in the hearts, minds, and psyches of most who walk erect on two feet.

            Yet these proud, highly intelligent, and prodigiously fortunate creatures seem the most to trouble themselves, day after day and hour after hour, about the intense and complex myriad of difficulties involved in putting one foot ahead of the other and drawing breath.

            They alone seem to love to destruction and to hate to the brink of extinction.  They alone analyze to distraction and inaction and act to an excess of mania and a mania of excess.

            They are the greatest of creators and the cruelest of destroyers.  They race to one laboratory to cure cancer and to another to create yet more potent weapons whose ultimate use is assured by these puppies’ constitutional inability to eschew any idea or opportunity, for better or for worse.

            They write poems to a love they are reluctant to verbalize.  They learn and internalize infinitely complex strategies designed to hide who they are and what they think and how they feel, while straining their shackles to the limits of their intellect and force to whisper crude fragments of the truth.

            They pay daily homage, century after century, to those who can perceive the simple and express it simply, using in these paeans of praise the most preciously complicated and convoluted rhetorical devices they can invent, rendering the obvious arcane and enveloping the profound in a mantle of enigma.

            They consider such expressions and small flowers and landscapes and comely faces beautiful, and drive their metal-tracked machines over the land in their quest to better what they have crushed.  They cannot leave a flower in the ground or a scent in the air; all must be plucked, pillaged, reconstituted, set straight or made convoluted, moderated, domesticated, bridled, broken, baked, broiled, tamed, harnessed, spit-shined, strip mined, or otherwise controlled by the searing forces of their aesthetic, ambition, and whim.

            They brand the earth and tattoo their bodies.  They label all things and place them in the taxonomy of their current mood.

They race away from themselves, through fire, through hoops, in circles, exhausting every cliché and all that they can invent in their search for who they are and why God or the Universe or the Powers or the Forces That Be bothered to create such an exquisitely delicate power to squander its days searching for a simple and true mirror in which to see its own reflection.

 

So the way I see it, the point is this: none of us is perfect – we begin by who we are, canine or Homo sapiens. Actually, even though it’s not completely logical, I kind of lump us together because we’re really family, even though most puppies tend to be simpler, quieter, and more humble. And people, like the Boss says, are pretty complex. (That’s why they need to listen to their pups.)

But what else I think is that human beings might have the imperfections the Boss describes, but they also have the intelligence and sensitivity he talks about and should be able to learn. They should understand that all puppies and all people ought to be able to expect respect, consideration, compassion, and justice from everyone else, and ought to give the same.

I said, “ought.” I know it’s not that way. But let’s work toward that goal. The big puppies in big ways and the little puppies like me a starfish at a time. I don’t know if we can do it or not. After all, I’m just a puzzled puppy.