#824 – Dick Bernard: "Christmas" Mail; thinking ahead as the New Year begins.
This is a very long post, and includes very divergent opinions from several people. I pass it along because I think it is interesting, and of current interest and concern. I invite comments. I muse about how to break the ideological polarity that is slowly strangling us as a country. For those readers who do not know me: I was born in 1940, born and reared amongst the so-called greatest generation which survived the Great Depression and WWII, and is now most departed. I am a military veteran (Army 1962-63) from a family full of military veterans, documented at least as far back as 1862-63.
Among ample “Christmas” mail, were two e-items from people I know. The “forward” is printed in its entirety at the end of this post. Following it is an impassioned more personal letter from a friend I’ve known for most of my life.
A third comment, below, is a letter to the editor of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, written by a long-time neighbor two houses over from us, who’s a great guy, mid-80s, who if asked about us would say we’re great neighbors too, though it probably didn’t compute with him that he was, in effect, writing about us in his rant to the world, as we are “liberal” Democrats and active Catholics who might actually agree with portions of his letter. We never have we talked “politics” with him – one picks ones battles. The contents of his letter are not surprising, though it was surprising to see he’d actually written the letter. He and his wife are very nice folks, good to share a neighborhood with, as are we…. [Carol responds to this letter later in this post, before the “forward”.]
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I never decline the angry “forwards” – there are a few who send them regularly. I reply to them; most are false either in fact or implication, most are from people in my generation (older, social security and medicare recipients) and all are in one way or another seething with anger, resentment and full of fear.
But they’re worth looking at (at least so I think) and worth responding to. These folks are an ever smaller minority in this country, but they vote, and they are useful tools for those whose agenda is against their own selfish interests….
In the below instance, I sent the “forward” (“The typical U.S. household” one) to a number of friends, and got some interesting responses, which are passed along as received. I didn’t ask for responses, and I didn’t edit, or remove any. These are people sharing back their own feelings.
As for the folks who send along the angry and false stuff, I feel badly for them, but they simply energize me to do more to make sure their attitude does not result in the kind of “Tea Party Nation” we almost dissolved into between 2010 and 2014.
This is an election year, and if we want positive change, be aware of what happens when greed and anger prevail…. Become aware of the issues, register and vote.
My introduction to the “forward” as I passed it on: The guy who sent this to me is somebody whose Dad was an immigrant. He spent many years in the military, enlisted and civilian, and he’s in a network out west which seems to be heavily military oriented.
I might respond to the [originator] guy though, as with [my friend], who sent it to me, it is wasted words.
This is the bitter, angry, old fringe that still has a lot of power, fueled by anger and, as is said, money.
They believe their own propaganda. You know people like them, certainly.
The only antidote is to work like you’ve never worked to elect some viable alternative. I emphasize “viable”.
The responses to the “forward”, unedited:
from Joyce, a quote from Charles Pierce: “The Scary Liberal is still a formidable bogeyman to people terrified of their own best interests.”
from Jeff: I just delete this stuff… I am not sure what one can honestly say to it. If you posted a point by point rebuttal with reasoned thought, they would only delete it too. No generation deems worship… life goes on.
from Carol: There are no links to these guys, but could you pass this on??
I also am an “old geezer,” I guess (female variety). I voted for Obama. Twice. I don’t understand your reference to “tasting socialism.” As far as “seeing evil face to face,” yes – most any time we watch the news or pick up the newspaper. Evil has been around longer than you or I. I don’t happen to think “evil” resides in the White House (or in a President who happens to be of a different color than I am). I don’t choose to blame the Obama administration for the problems that started before he was even in office. Or those created by a greedy Wall Street.
People like you (and yes, it’s almost always old white men) make me sad. You deserve our nation’s greatest thanks for your military service/sacrifices. You deserve credit for your hard work, raising good families, and for voting. You do not deserve credit for your paranoia or racism. The world changes – with or without your approval. Your bitterness only serves to make people avoid you (trust me, I had angry old uncles…) Those outdoor biffies (my family had one) are gone – along with your “white bread” world. (Back then my German immigrant ancestors were treated with suspicion and persecuted here, by the way. There’s always somebody around we can find who’s scary, and to whom we can feel superior – if we choose.)
Adjust. It’s really not your/my world anymore. You act like “mostly the young people of this nation” had no right to vote for Obama – or maybe to vote at all, without your permission? Befriend someone who doesn’t look exactly like you (maybe one of those feared “immigrants”). You may get a whole new outlook on the life you have left.
from Peter (see also additional response in “responses” section): I’m always a little puzzled when you talk about “viable” candidates. There are several reasons for this. I understand that in your life you have worked in a domain where cooler heads were essential to progress, and moderation could actually work. At the national politics level, however, I don’t think anything works as designed anymore; it has been broken, maybe purposefully, so that now (as your correspondent below believes) money is key. So it boils down to this: money equals viability as a candidate. But we can’t win that game by trying to out-spend the opposition, especially when the opposition is not confined to party lines in the least. We’re playing tennis, while they play football.
That situation is so antithetical to democracy that until it is resolved I don’t consider that we have any vestigial shadow of the thing left to us. It is decades beyond time for national strikes and massive demonstrations, and these have been forestalled, so far, largely by convincing people that they are futile, and the rest by the simple expedient of news blackout. How many of the massive turnouts on the DC Mall this year reached the ears and eyes of, say, 20% of Americans?
What I think we disagree on here is that I believe working to elect a candidate who is “viable” is a dead end, that Obama is doing pretty good for a guy who certainly wouldn’t survive a full term if he stood up to the banksters and the fanatics, but a President is not the real power in the country, nor is Congress, any more. We are now non-voting shareholders in a wholly-owned subsidiary of what Jane Stillwater calls “War Street.” We all need to catch up to this, or we will continue in the downward spiral we see unfolding now. Under that scenario, when enough of us have died off from poverty and pandemic disease that the climate can stabilize, humanity may yet survive. In some very stunted form.
“They don’t think it be like it is but it do.”
Dick’s response to Peter about “viable”: Since 1787, the U.S. has been governed by people elected by rules in place at the time. In order to make any difference at all, you need to be elected, which means you need a majority of the people who vote, to vote for you. There is no alternative. The Tea Party types got in more because more reasonable people didn’t go to the polls in 2010. We got the bitter, anger, selfish folks we deserve, and we’ve seen the results – the Congress with the lowest approval ratings ever in 2013.
I always remember the advice I gave my sister when she was elected to a school board years ago. She would be the only liberal on what sounded like a very conservative board: “remember, that to get anything accomplished, you first need to find someone to second your motion; and then you need to find two more members who will also vote with you”. It’s simple common sense. And she ended up serving two successful terms. Governing by influence of money and raw power is how things work now. We are the ones who have to change that.
from Bob: Actually, it’s worse than “bitter and angry,” it’s downright stupid! It’s really too bad that some that close to the military is so ignorant. Apparently, when he listed his studies, it noticeably did not include civics, and his history teacher failed miserably. He hasn’t a clue what socialism is.
Then he says the very people who aren’t interested in voting actually elected Obama. And those are the same people traitors like him are trying to suppress in the voting process. He also has to understand the Constitution before he starts spouting off about patriotism.
Then he laments “No jobs, lost mortgages, higher taxes, and less freedom,” most of which have been caused by the Bush/Cheney crowd who I assume he adores.
To put it mildly, this writer is a moron. I’m a “geezer,” but I’m sure not a friend of his.
from Howie: I am not sure why either you or Dick are forwarding this message to anyone. In doing so, you run the risk of putting it into the hands of other crackpots who are teetering on thinking in the same way. I get from one to several of this kind of rant every week. Some I critique and return to the person who sent it to me as a way of cauterizing the infection. Others go right into my “trash” file. I suggest you do one of the same. There is no need to tell others that there are crazies out there. We know. Ten minutes of Fox News accomplishes that goal.
from Carol: Dick- Sometimes I think it’s amusing/amazing to google a line from things like that “old geezer” rant you sent out. This one is all over the place – inc. versions with some interesting edits (below). But check out the end for part of a long online rebuttal… 🙂
from Carol, Jan 4, 2014, responding to Letter to Editor above: Interesting that your (really nice) neighbor blames the “degenerate liberal culture” and Democrats for the law since the state senate voted for it unanimously. And he’s pretty paranoid about it being targeted only against the Catholic Church – not the Boy Scouts, etc.
That “local attorney” has been filing these types of cases for like 30 years (the law firm where I worked was involved in the huge “Father Porter” case). If becoming rich were his goal, he probably arrived there long ago.
I see it’s everybody’s fault but the Catholic Church.
“There are those who want to destroy and change this land we love but, like our founders, there is no way we are going to remain silent and allow them to do it without a big time bloody fight.
This land does not belong to the Marxist puppet in the White House nor to the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.
We didn’t fight for the Socialist Communist States of America, we fought for the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.”
on-line response from someone from “Youth Fix-it Brigade”
“So, Gray-Haired Geezer, please don’t stampede to the polls with your walker and your equally delusional friends. As noble as you think your sentiments are, we know they aren’t true. You’ll keep on voting to extend Social Security, to keep Medicaid around so I can subsidize the continuation of your artificially preserved life and you’ll keep sending back the same losers you’ve been sending to congress for the past 50 years. And, you’ll either cause an accident on your way to the polls or drive so slow getting there that you’ll prevent five members of my generation from getting to the ballot box on time to cast their more informed votes.”
* * * * * *
The “forward”, received January 2, 2014 from Robert, via Steve, via who knows how many others:
“The typical U.S. household headed by a person age 65 or older has a net worth 47 times greater than a household headed by someone under 35, according to an analysis of census data released Monday. If all of us “old farts” have all of the money, then let us try to elect someone who might be near honest and not be after feathering their own nests.
They like to refer to us as senior citizens, old fogies, geezers, and in some cases dinosaurs. Some of us are “Baby Boomers” getting ready to retire. Others have been retired for some time. We walk a little slower these days and our eyes and hearing are not what they once were. We have worked hard, raised our children, worshiped our God and grown old together. Yes, we are the ones some refer to as being over the hill, and that is probably true. But before writing us off completely, there are a few things that need to be taken into consideration.
In school we studied English, history, math, and science which enabled us to lead America into the technological age. Most of us remember what outhouses were, many of us with firsthand experience.
We remember the days of telephone party-lines, 25 cent gasoline, and milk and ice being delivered to our homes. For those of you who don’t know what an icebox is, today they are electric and referred to as refrigerators. A few even remember when cars were started with a crank. Yes, we lived those days.
We are probably considered old fashioned and out-dated by many. But there are a few things you need to remember before completely writing us off. We won World War II, fought in Korea and Viet Nam. We can quote The Pledge of Allegiance, and know where to place our hand while doing so. We wore the uniform of our country with pride and lost many friends on the battlefield.
We didn’t fight for the Socialist States of America; we fought for the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.” We wore different uniforms but carried the same flag. We know the words to the Star Spangled Banner, America , and America the Beautiful by heart, and you may even see some tears running down our cheeks as we sing. We have lived what many of you have only read in history books and we feel no obligation to apologize to anyone for America.
Yes, we are old and slow these days but rest assured, we have at least one good fight left in us. We have loved this country, fought for it, and died for it, and now we are going to save it. It is our country and nobody is going to take it away from us. We took oaths to defend America against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and that is an oath we plan to keep. There are those who want to destroy this land we love but, like our founders, there is no way we are going to remain silent.
It was mostly the young people of this nation who elected Obama and the Democratic Congress. You fell for the “Hope and Change” which in reality was nothing but “Hype and Lies.”
You have tasted socialism and seen evil face to face, and have found you don’t like it after all. You make a lot of noise, but most are all too interested in their careers or “Climbing the Social Ladder” to be involved in such mundane things as patriotism and voting. Many of those who fell for the “Great Lie” in 2008 are now having buyer’s remorse. With all the education we gave you, you didn’t have sense enough to see through the lies and instead drank the ‘Kool-Aid.’ Now you’re paying the price and complaining about it. No jobs, lost mortgages, higher taxes, and less freedom.
This is what you voted for and this is what you got. We entrusted you with the Torch of Liberty and you traded it for a paycheck and a fancy house.
Well, don’t worry youngsters, the Grey-Haired Brigade is here, and in 2014 we are going to take back our nation. We may drive a little slower than you would like but we get where we’re going, and in 2014 we’re going to the polls by the millions.
This land does not belong to the man in the White House nor to the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. It belongs to “We the People” and “We the People” plan to reclaim our land and our freedom. We hope this time you will do a better job of preserving it and passing it along to our grandchildren. So the next time you have the chance to say the Pledge of Allegiance, Stand up, put your hand over your heart, honor our country, and thank God for the old geezers of the “Grey-Haired Brigade.”
This is spot on. I am another Gray-Haired Geezer signing on. I will circulate this to other Gray-Haired Geezers all over this once great county.
Can you feel the ground shaking???
It’s not an earthquake, it is a STAMPEDE.
Dec 17 letter from someone I’ll call Jim, who I’ve known near 70 years, who is fond of sending “forwards”, mostly false, but this time, spoke personally to me:
“Mr. Bernard . You call yourself a catholic and you support the democrats and Obama. They support abortions even late term abortions. They also support gay marriage. Gay men have anal sex.(Sodomy) and call it love. Sodomy is one of the capitol sins that calls to heaven for vengance . And Obama says after his speech God bless America. I don’t think God listens to him. Israel is under the protection of God. How else could they have won all those wars with the Arabs when they were greatly outnumbered and out gunned. God has said if you support my people I will bless you and if you are against my people I will curse you. Israel can not be taken. Its under the protection of God. Things in our country are getting worse and worse since we took God out of our schools and public places. If kids don’t know the laws of God they will not keep the laws of men. Obama care is a joke and will not work. Hopefully the democrats will loose control of the senate in the elections coming up. Your are not getting any younger you better change your way of thinking before its too late. The last pope said to the Europeans you need to straighten out your moral house or your financial house will never get better. I think this applys to our country also. I suppose you say happy holiday instead of merry christmas.”
I responded, respectfully.
Haven’t heard from him since, but chances are in the near future will come a new batch of “forwards”, churned out wherever such things are churned out, most likely false or so put together as to be false.
Human beings respond to life as they see it. This world-view is constituted in language, as patterns of neuroactivity in the brain. We are wired up such that whatever comes in must be fitted into the world in one’s head, or it is actually invisible. That’s the science.
We cannot convince people of anything they don’t already “know.” What is possible, however, is for them to have the insight that we are each stuck, as it were, in our individual virtual realities. Once a person sees that in all it’s glory, it becomes possible to lighten up on positions that had been “The Way It IS.”
A person does not gain right-ness; they gain a healthy skepticism of being right.
I know you have had that insight yourself. My own view, that the political system is too corrupted to fix through the normal process of moral suasion and voting, is just a view of the world. In a sense it is also a democratic approach, if democracy has a greater context than a mere legal structure. We may find out; or we may have lost it by now.
After experiencing my first year of retirement (qualifying me as a geezer), my viewpoint is no longer focused on the corporate work environment, but rather on the “Big Picture” of life. Society in general changes to reflect the world as it is now, not the “good old days” of my youth. (BTW – if you look into the real world of the fifties, life was not so “good” for a lot of people – ask an African American or a gay man or a single mother who lived during that time.)
Our government reflects our society, and highlights the good and the bad. We learned to question our elders during the Vietnam War forever changing our trust in those who govern us. As we prospered during the 1990’s, we learned the love of greed and the power that accompanies greed. Then 2001 happened and we brought the extreme fear of our fellow man into our American lives. All of these lessons resulted in the insidious infestation of intolerance.
I detest intolerance on every level. We all must play in the playpen together without pulling each other’s hair out!
My biggest concern with the “Big Picture” is that we will never overcome the intolerance that cripples the crabby old neighbor as well as the leaders of our country, churches, schools, corporations, organizations, etc…..
Intolerance has been with us since the dawn of time (ask a Neanderthal how he liked his Homo Erectus neighbor). But I want to believe that we have learned that we are all humans who live in this world together and need to like each other as God’s creations.
How to fix this is the great question of our time. As Peter, you and others have written, our political system is broken and we need to fix it – all of us – together – somehow!
Maybe a huge effort to teach toleration so that it becomes the norm is in order. If we start here, perhaps our actions will influence the rest of the world.
I can dream!!!
Many thanks for your response. I have sent this post to the guy who forwarded the “geezer” post, and I’ll see if there is any response. In a day or so I’ll be writing some thoughts about what I think constructive folks can do to make a difference in 2014 and beyond. Again, thank you for the comments.