When the cornucopia is empty

On the eve of Thanksgiving, we prepare to celebrate that most American of holidays. Most of us will enjoy children and grandchildren, in-laws, extended families and dear friends. Most of us will sit together at tables heaped with the traditional roast turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing, cranberry and other relishes, a token green vegetable, pumpkin and apple pies— well, you know, more than we can possibly eat.

IMG_0834Most of us, but not all of us. I was asked to write about hunger in America— a sobering experience. I met people at food pantries and soup kitchens; saw others lined up on the sidewalk, waiting for a lunch bag; and visited people who depend on Meals on Wheels for both sustenance and brief human contact.







 As We Celebrate Thanksgiving, Many Still Go Hungry

On the farmstands, harvest colors of crimson and gold compete for attention. The leaves boast their last, gorgeous hurrah, and the bounty of the fields compensates for the lengthening nights and intensifying chill. Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and with it anticipation of warm reunions with friends and family and the traditional groaning board.

But not for everybody.

Continue reading at Women’s Voices For Change

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Filed under American Society, Food, Income and Wealth Inequality

Fear and Hate in America


The fallout from the jihadist terrorist attacks in Paris continues to proliferate. Its poison has infected and inflamed the governors of 26 American states. These executives, all Republican, proclaimed they will not allow any refugees from the Syrian battlefields to take refuge in their states lest a terrorist be lurking in their midst. The Deep South, Texas, most of the Midwest, four states on the East Coast and four Western states all barred their doors.* Another five** haven’t denied the refugees safe harbor, but they want increased screening to deny entry to terrorists in disguise.

Although in fact governors do not have the authority to bar groups of people from their states, they are able to impose hardships on them. They can lock them out of state-funded English and job-training classes, for example.

Ted Cruz, Republican presidential aspirant from Texas, would admit only Christians, because “There is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror.” Really? Who engineered and carried out the Newtown School and Charleston church massacres, the Oklahoma City bombing, Columbine, and the many other shootings, bombings and bloodbaths on American soil? Not to mention the atrocities of the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacists — the list goes on and on.

Americans love freedom and democracy, but American history is rampant with shameful episodes of hatred and violence against the despised Other. (Xenophobia is not limited to America, of course; no nation is exempt.) Given the loathing of the majority of elected officials for President Obama and now the revolt of the governors, will America ever again welcome the wretched refuse of distant shores, the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free?

Has the golden door slammed shut?


*Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

**New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oklahoma and North and South Dakota.

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Filed under American Society, ISIS, Islam, Politics, Race

When refugees were welcomed

 Duy Linh Tu, a professor and director of digital media at the Columbia School of Journalism, remembers arriving in the U.S. with his family and nothing else:

I came to the US with my family as refugees after the Viet Nam War. When we arrived, we had nothing except for the kindness of strangers. Members of a Lutheran church in Avon, CT took in the five of us while others from the congregation helped my dad find a job, my mother night classes so she could get her nursing degree, and our family its own apartment.

Now, to read this nonsense that certain politicians don’t want to take in Syrian refugees is both infuriating and heartbreaking. When we lost our home in Saigon, and as the Viet Cong were rolling over Viet Nam, there was no other place my parents could imagine coming to. America. Land of the free. Home of the brave. Huddled masses and all that.

How far have we fallen? The story of America is the story of immigrants. When did we become a country that refuses to protect the most vulnerable? When did we become a place that closes our doors to those who yearn to breathe free?

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Paris yes, but why not Beirut?

Beirut 2015Signs of sympathy and support were seen and heard round the world, at least where Europeans or their descendants live. But where were their expressions of mourning for Beirut, where two ISIS suicide bombers killed at least 46 people and injured more than 200 hours before their ISIS henchmen hit Paris? Because its people are mostly brown? Ignoring them certainly won’t win friends and sympathy for the West.

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Weep for Paris

WeepForParisPray for Paris.

Pray for all of us.

We grieve and we rage. As we did for Madrid and London and New York. And Beirut and Sbrenika— how many more? When? Where? How? Who will be next?

They have not taken away our resolve, but they have succeeded in terrorizing us.

This is not new— some of us remember the fear of a nuclear attack (knowing what we did to Japan) or the skyjackings and hostage-taking. But the danger was not so immediate, not so personal.

There was no Facebook, no Twitter. No agonized cries, no bloody visions, no harrowing, personal accounts confronted each of us all over the world, directly and instantaneously, as the terror played out.

There are no good old days. Evil and hatred, anger and vengeance conspire to redress old wounds, and the blood-letting doesn’t stop.


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Filed under ISIS, Shooting

Politics, war and philosophy

JohnAdamsI must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.                                        

John Adams US diplomat & politician (1735 – 1826)

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Notes on the 4th GOP Debate

I have to start with Carly Fiorina. CarlyFiorinaI just can’t abide her condescension. Forever stabbing her finger at the audience, she presumes they know nothing and talks down to them as if they were still in elementary school. I don’t want to imagine such a mean-spirited scold in the White House. Fiorina accuses HRC of lying while she herself tells whoppers— touting, for example, her record as CEO, which alone should disqualify her. She twists everything, from Benghazi (Clinton and Obama lied) to Dodd-Frank (“how socialism starts”). Really?

TrumpListeningThe Donald is losing steam— his bubble has been pricked, and the hot air is leaking out. Nick Kristof tweeted, “Donald Trump raises the IQ of any room by leaving it.” Trump trumpeted his intimacy with Putin (they were on “60 Minutes” together), reminding me of Bush 43’s assertion that after looking Putin in the eye, he “was able to get a sense of his soul.”

RandPauldownRand Paul landed a well placed shot, reminding Trump that China is not a party to the Trans Pacific Pact, as Trump implied, and that it will be to China’s advantage, not ours, if the TPP is not ratified. (Trump calls the treaty a “disaster,” the worst ever.)

Paul would not drag us into another war as Rubio and Trump are itching to do. They want to invade Iraq to eliminate ISIS. In truth, ISIS is a threat. It is trying to reestablish the Caliphate by beheading and crucifying non-believers. Right now, there is no good course of action for the dilemma in the Middle East. Allow ISIS to expand murderously and unchecked? Or put American boots on the ground again? Really? Remember what happened the last time we did that?

TedCruzMuch has been made of Ted Cruz’s “oops” moment when he enumerated four of the five government agencies he would eliminate, naming Commerce twice. Yes, I noticed it, but, much as I dislike Cruz, he clearly is smart (even if supercilious and oily) and he was nervous. His flub is way more understandable than Rick Perry’s blooper.

FL Sen. MarcoRubioPhilosophers were dinged, notably by Marco Rubio, who said we need “more welders and less [sic] philosophers.” As it turns out, philosophy majors make almost twice as much as welders. “Plato has the last laugh,” tweeted Nick Kristof. Rubio’s remark was a neat, tacit nod to the know-nothings’ disdain for the educated “elite.”

Rubio and Cruz once more reminded the audience of their humble beginnings and immigrant Cuban fathers. Enough, already! Better than dwelling on the plight of their immigrant origins, focus on the one percent and devise a plan to pull income inequality back down to pre-Bush and even Clinton levels. (What are the chances of that happening?)

JebBushGOPdebateBen Carson visibly tried to keep his eyes open, as he must have been advised to do, but he still slumbered. When Egyptian archaeologists were asked what they thought of Carson’s assertion that the Biblical Joseph (of the coat of many colors) built the pyramids as storehouses for wheat, they reportedly said, “Do we really have to answer that?”

As for Jeb … he’s not the Jeb! he wants to be. It’s more like Jeb? (Nick Kristof)


Filed under American Society, Income and Wealth Inequality, ISIS, Politics