Friday, January 20, 2017. Some Thoughts Towards A Better World

Related posts: January 6, 10, 13, 24, 25, 28, Feb. 3, 9.
Today, an event is happening at the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C.
Some thoughts.
(click to enlarge photos)

Participants at Third Thursday divided into small groups to take a quick look at one of the three treaties under discussion. This is one of the groups.

Last night I was at a meeting of 27 people, sponsored by Citizens for Global Solutions MN. I’m VP of the group, so I know the back story of this “Third Thursday” progam. The program was recommended before the Nov. 8 election; it turned out to be a very interesting discussion around three important United Nations documents: “The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women”; “The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child”; “UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities”. (the links cited are very lengthy point of source documents. We worked from summary documents provided by the University of Minnesota Human Rights Center. See photo below).

At such conversations, you rapidly learn about how complex seemingly simple things are; and in two hours we could barely scratch the surface.
After the meeting, I gave Dr. Joe Schwartzberg a ride home. We debriefed the evening, and the implications of what is ahead. Joe is an International Emeritus Professor at the University of Minnesota, and an acknowledged expert of the United Nations System. His recent book, Transforming the United Nations System. Designs for a Workable World, would, in itself, occupy several weeks of discussion in a book club setting. I know, I participated in such a group a couple of years ago.
Such is how it went for me the night before todays inauguration.
We are a nation of very good people, generally. Look around you. Most recently, this fact was brought home to me in the January, 2017 issue of the Washington Spectator, a small publication to which I have long subscribed. You can read it here: Spectator001. We also live in a world chock-full of very good people. People in my group wonder what we can do now and later. Here is a guide. I’d suggest passing these along, and printing both out for future reference.
So, what to do today, being among the category of citizens some would call “losers”; and taunt “get over it”?
I looked on my always messy home office desk Wednesday night to see if there was something there which demonstrated my feelings at this point in our history. I found two items:
(click to enlarge)

Nobel Peace Prize Forum, Bloomington MN 2016, and button, Liberty and Justice for All, acquired at some time in the past.

Perhaps today would be a good day to relisten to one of the speeches given by Kailash Sadyarthi at last June’s Nobel Peace Prize Forum. You can access it here. You will note there are four separate talks available, including his keynote, plus other powerful talks from the same Forum. (Information about the 2017 Forum is here. They are always outstanding. If you can, attend.)
What will be today, will be. President Obama leaves office with a 62% approval rating; his successor enters with a 32% approval rating.
The first official acts by the new President will likely be as advertised: to begin the attempt to dismantle the Obama legacy: “Obamacare”, and on and on. It makes little sense, but what do I know?
I don’t know anyone who is going to DC for the inauguration.
I know two people, both women, one from Minnesota, one from New Mexico, who are going to Saturday’s Womans March. One, a grandmother, will be accompanied by her adult granddaughter. “Leaving early Friday morning for DC. On a bus. Turning around after the March/rally, and heading back home. My adult granddaughter is going with me, along with some friends. Gonna be wild and crazy heading east. Heading home, I expect lots of sleepy people. Me, for one.”
While I have soured a bit on the effectiveness of protests, we plan to join the St. Paul MN link – 10 a.m. at St. Paul College.
Those of us of the peace and justice persuasion possess an opportunity now. It is also a challenge. Too many of us have sat back and pretended that someone else would carry our message for us; and complained if it wasn’t carried exactly or as far as we had wished.
The ball is in our court now, in every place that we live, and in every group that we are a part of.

This is our country, too. And we are very big assets to this country’s quality of life. Let’s be witness to that.
I look around and without trying very hard I see hope. Two of many additional examples, just within the last day or so:

1. Tuesday came a long message from a young friend, Walid, who has set a course to make a difference. In part he said: “I really think hope is stronger than fear. There are a million reasons to justify killing, hate and crimes. As a refugee I tell you that I will have a better and more passionate crowd if I go out there and say I’m going to the middle east to fight, there are less passionate and more nay sayers when you say I’m going to the middle east to work for peace. Peace sounds too naive till it actually happens. The results of peace are far stronger than the results of hate. The process of creating peace is way harder and more complicated than the process of generating hate and wars.”
(NOTE: I have personally noted, too often, that even the peace and justice community seems sometimes to revel more in conflict than in seeking resolution, which requires compromise. It is something we need to own ourselves.)
2. Yesterday morning, my friend George, a retired teacher, among many accomplishments, stopped by the coffee shop and asked if he could have a couple of minutes. He made a proposal, too lengthy for this blog, but essentially described here*. He’s donated $500, I’ve put in $50…because he asked. And I’ve sent his proposal to 15 people who I thought would be particularly interested in it.
Succinctly, he learned of this project by a simple Facebook search to see if anyone was around who he remembered from an early teaching experience 48 years ago. He happened across this project, coordinated by one of his former students, who, like him, was also a former Peace Corps Volunteer.
That’s as simple as it gets, and we all are in proximity to similar opportunities frequently. We are all in many network.
There is lots of work to be done, and we can do it one small bit at a time.

* – A little more about the proposal. Ten kids need to raise $30,000. They are from the Greenway School district, which is, according to George, a series of tiny communities between Grand Rapids and Hibbing MN on the Minnesota Mesabi Iron Range. Their communities include such places as Taconite, Marble, Calumet, Pengilly, Trout Lake Township, Iron Range Township, Greenway Township, Lawrence Lake Township and Nashwauk Township. More than 53% of the 1,000 students in pre-K to 12th grade qualify for free or reduced lunch.
I dropped Joe off at his home. We said good night. He waved good night; upstairs I saw his partner, Louise, wave as well. Great folks, great friends.
Back home, an e-mail came from Arthur Kanegis concerning his now complete film, “The World Is My Country” about “World Citizen #1”, Garry Davis. This is a film that everyone who cares about making a difference should watch for and promote. The website is here.
For those interested about todays center-of-attention:
1. 1999 Thoughts from conservative icon William F. Buckley, as reported in Red State.
2. Just Above Sunset for Jan. 19, 2017. Always a good summary of current events.
SATURDAY, JAN. 21Just Above Sunset summarizes comments on inauguration day.
from Kathy: Today I am caught between appreciating the “peaceful transfer of power” mentality, which I appreciate and respect and the urgent need to push back, speak out, etc. weird day…so sorry to see grace and wisdom lift off in the helicopter.
from Robert: Thanks for sending “my thoughts on inauguration day” and related thought-provoking items. You should have been a prof at UM leading philosophical seminars, etc., as you excel at such. America will survive Trump and cronies but will be damaged in many ways, large and small, as will the world. 2020 can’t come soon enough.
Best wishes for a winter filled with discussion with passion.
from Richard: Thanks for sharing. I agree with you 100, maybe even 110 %. I think, unfortunately, you and I, and many other geezers, dreamers, of our age and history, simply don’t get it. We completely misunderstand the modern world, the connectivity, the lack of interest in “facts”, or “truth”, and the fascination with entertainment, action, the fight, and the inability or interest in processing words.
Make your argument to me on pinterest, or youtube. If not, you are simply meaningless. [Some years ago, my teachers union] sent me to Yemen, with [a colleague], and then to Egypt. I was happy to survive, and after looking at classrooms of 160 kids in [a large Middle Eastern city], that don’t even exist anymore, I was never more humbled, and still feel that way. Our issues are small blips on the radar screen. Glad to know you are well, and still busy in retirement. I admire the commitment! Keep at it, but recreational travel is also a good idea.
Response from Dick: Great to hear from you, a “voice from the past”!
I do “have a life” beyond the blog, etc., and I understand completely your frustration about communicating across the generation and informed citizen gap, and today’s fascination with (really) nothingness as opposed to substance. Indeed, we came from a time in the relatively recent past where informed citizens and idealism seemed to be more acceptable than now (at least from the public information/disinformation frame). I have one former friend who keeps me well stocked with disinformation. I don’t block him, only so that I can see the subject lines – what the alt right is spreading via YouTube, etc. Horrible stuff.
Folks who know me well, now, would probably agree that I remain in the struggle and a main objective is to get young people (like we were, once) very actively engaged in their own future. After all, it is THEIR future.
There are lots of Walid’s out there. We just have to get them engaged, and get out of their way! (I am reminded of a retired Pastor friend, Verlyn S., who in the 1960s found himself as a minister to/with college students in varied college and university settings. This was in the turbulent years of Vietnam, etc.
Late in his life (he died a number of years ago), he received a distinguished achievement award, and I was in the audience when he gave his brief remarks. He said something I’ve never forgot, though I can only paraphrase from my memory: back in his young Pastor days, he wasn’t protest oriented, though he was a supportive pastor to the students of his faith. He said, from his recollection, that back then, like now, the vast majority of the students were mostly about the business of surviving college – just like today. Perhaps two percent (2%), he estimated, were activists, the protestors of the day. He said this to an audience who was getting discouraged. It didn’t then, and doesn’t now, take 100% to make a difference. As Margaret Mead so famously said years ago: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”
From Christina, to her kids: I like Keillor’s thoughts on religion [link here]. I have shed more tears during this transition period than I want to even admit. I cried when Obama gave his farewell speech, I cried when he had the farewell ceremony for Joe Biden. I cried at the inauguration listening to Trump say things will now be different. It won’t be just talk but no action, thinking of all the things Obama has done. How Trump was able to walk into a much better place than what Obama walked into when he was inaugurated. I cried when the Obama’s left on the helicopter for Andrew’s air base. I cried when I saw the group that met them when they got there. I pray that God will Bless him for all he has done and I thank God that He Blessed us with 8 years of of his presidency.
from Emmett: On the plane ride home from Palm Desert, I was reading through information on the seven deadly sins that I had collected to support the notion that humans are a very unique life form when it comes to morality. Few of any of those sins relate to any other life form on earth. In any event, as I was reading through the material, the thought that was running through my head was: How can the people that support Trump and the GOP leadership consider themselves as religious conservatives? They represent the worst of humanity. We have Paul Ryan wanting to take away health care and funding for the needy. And then there is Mitch McConnell whose actions indicate a complete void in principles. And then Trump himself. I was visiting with a doctor from the VA this morning and he was telling me about an interview of Trump and his daughter. The daughter was asked what she and her father had in common and answered “Real Estate and Gold”. When asked the same question, his response was “Sex”. I had not seen that interview, but had seen one where he was talking about one of his granddaughters and commented something about hoping she will have nice breasts. They talk about draining the swamp, which they may eventually do, but first they have to collect enough scum from the swamp to fill those 3,000 to 4,000 government jobs to complete his administration. And when I was watching the Walid Issa film, I was thinking the same thing about Netanyahu as being as scummy as Trump.

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